With “Game of Thrones” hurtling toward its May 19 finale, will the HBO fantasy series follow in the footsteps of other adored TV shows and throw in a surprise return of one or more favorite characters in the process?
(Warning: Spoilers follow for the entire run of the series to date.)
There’s a slight problem here, because “GoT” is famous for its unforgiving body count — and it appears certain to chalk up a few more memorable fatalities before its run ends. Exits from the show usually are guided through death’s door.
But bringing back the dead isn’t a far-fetched notion for a show whose current male lead, Jon Snow, was resurrected after a mutinous band among his Night’s Watch mates put him through the Julius Caesar workout in the Season 5 finale. And the series has featured another comeback kid in the form of maybe-really-dead-for-sure-this-time fiery swordsman Beric Dondarrion.
Final-season cameos are more plausible for living characters — think George Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross on “ER” and Steve Carell’s Michael Scott on “The Office” — but the dead can always return to the screen on series via flashbacks, hallucinations, dream sequences and paranormal experiences. And Bran Stark’s mystical Three-Eyed Raven abilities give "GoT" an easy way to revisit any of its characters’ pasts, making the Game of Encores endlessly ponderable.
Here are a few possibilities:
Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark
Last breath: The Ward of the North, played by Sean Bean, was executed by order of the cruel, teenage King Joffrey Baratheon in Season 1.
Why he should return: As the show’s original symbol of honor and scruples, Now-Headless-Ned cast arguably the longest shadow over the fortunes of its characters, especially the Starks of Winterfell.
Why he shouldn’t: Each of Ned’s remaining offspring has taken a tortuous path into adulthood in the seasons since his shocking beheading. It’s their story now.
Lady Olenna Tyrrell
Last breath: The scheming matriarch of Highgarden knowingly drank from a poisoned wine goblet offered by captor Jaime Lannister in Season 7, Episode 3.
Why she should return: Because she’s played by Diana Rigg, who rose to fame on television’s “The Avengers” (a spy show not to be confused with the Marvel movie franchise) and as a co-star of the 1969 James Bond flick “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Why she shouldn’t: While this fan favorite chewed up the screen every time she appeared, with Rigg channeling Katharine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter,” the fall of House Tyrell was a rare “GoT” storyline that was wrapped up comparatively neatly.
Lord Tywin Lannister
Last breath: The cold commander of Casterly Rock was hunted down in the privy by his horribly mistreated, crossbow-wielding youngest son in Season 4, Episode 10.
Why he should return: Tywin, skillfully played by Charles Dance, was the most influential figure behind the ruthless reign of his daughter, Cersei. The worlds of his three children are now poised to collide in a way that could end the Lannister bloodline. A callback to his character would remind everyone just how much culpability he has for this mess.
Why he shouldn’t: As if Lannister family reunions aren’t already complicated enough.
Lady Catelyn Stark
Last breath: Enemies slit the throat of Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) at the notorious “Red Wedding” in Season 3, Episode 9.
Why she should return: Catelyn carried a heavy burden as the go-it-alone Lady of Winterfell from the moment her husband was pressed into service at King’s Landing — yet it’s Ned who seems to get all the credit for shaping those steely Stark kids. Any final callback to Ned would be unfair without acknowledging her, too.
Why she shouldn’t: There’s this whole other matter of Lady Stoneheart, the terrifying, reanimated corpse of Catelyn Stark who appears only in the George R.R. Martin books upon which the series is based. The show avoided that storyline — and whether or not fans agree with that decision, it’s too late to start that now.
Last breath: The Dothraki tribal leader’s life was snuffed out with a pillow by wife Daenerys while he was in a vegetative state in Season 1, Episode 10.
Why he should return: The arranged marriage between Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen had an unexpected consequence: the two actually fell in love. All along on her journey to becoming a conquerer, she has reminded those around her how much Drogo was a part of her.
Why he shouldn’t: “Aquaman.”
Of course, there’s the possibility that “GoT,” which often delights in dodging viewers’ expectations, won’t roll out any fallen favorites for its final bow.
Any characters you’d like to see return to the fold in the last two episodes? Add your own thoughts on Ohio.com.
Joe Thomas is a Beacon Journal deputy metro editor and co-host of the “Seven Minutes in Westeros” podcast on Ohio.com. Listen Monday as Joe and Dan Kadar chat about Sunday night’s episode.