NOTE: Let it here be affirmed on this date of publication – 4/24/2019 – that all predictions made as part of the folly below were offered with absolutely no advance notice of how the respective battles in “Game of Thrones” and “Avengers: Endgame” might or did play out this weekend, and are the intellectual property of the author insofar as they might, with the full benefit of hindsight, be worthy of nonstop ridicule, or, assuming pigs fly, reluctant praise from the smarter marks among ye. Enjoy the shows, all. ‘Tis a heady time to be a geek.
Dear occasional reader/confused tourist,
In case the rock you’ve been hiding under is wired for neither cable nor internet, the (as of press time) upcoming final weekend of April marks the happy, if terrifying, convergence of the two arguably most popular ongoing properties in all modern pop culture, HBO’s armies + dragons + zombies medieval fantasy phenomenon Game of Thrones and the 21-blockbuster (and counting) Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) of quirky, quippy, cooperative superheroes. The following mash-up post operates under the questionable assumption that, in spite of, ahem, Stark surface differences, there is considerable common ground between not just the franchises’ respective fan bases but the two creative behemoths themselves, in terms of characters, motivations, and high, high stakes, and seeks to explore and exploit them for the amusement of its author and entertainment of its readers. Mostly the former. After hour upon hour of explosive exposition and careful world-building, spanning the better part of a decade and more, both GoT and the MCU have reached their Waterloos. For Game of Thrones, it is the season eight arrival of a literal army of undead, looking to enforce nothing less than the end of humanity on a wintry northern battlefield. For the MCU, it is literally Avengers: Endgame, where half of all life in the universe has already been eradicated and the ragged survivors, still in shock and mourning, are left scrambling for any way back. Both scenarios feature hardscrabble casts of intrepid fighters intent on winning the day against impossible odds, and since the laws of commerce all but dictate victory on at least some level, yet history – from both Endgame’s grim predecessor, Infinity War, not to mention GoT as a bloody whole – suggests a constant, rolling redefinition of the term “acceptable losses”…yes, I’m taking bets.
For simplicity’s sake, please consider the following post one giant spoiler. Thanks for reading, even if this time you had a built-in excuse as a superfan of one franchise or the other to only read half. I’ll see you on the other side…
MCU Hero (Alter Ego) / Game of Thrones Hero / Prediction on both:
Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) / Danaerys Targaryen – For all the hot takes, think pieces, and incessant general kvetching, whether well-intentioned or trollish in nature, that preceded their respective ascensions, women certainly do run and/or rule at least two prominent fantasy worlds at the moment. Mother of Dragons (among the eighteen other appellations whose ritual announcement I’ve strangely missed since her arrival in Westeros) Danaerys Targaryen prepares to battle incumbent Queen of the Seven Kingdoms Cersei Lannister, while a disproportionate number of her figurative sisters outlast the living dead to support her in that GoT endgame, or at least as I sketch it out below. Her superpowers: weaponized dragons and belligerent, applied birthright (with a pungent hint of white exceptionalism). Meanwhile, the not-yet-officially-dubbed Captain Marvel tends to pressing matters in the far reaches of space while intergalactic Bond villain Thanos redecorates. Even if Nick Fury’s ancient beeper lacks the signal strength to summon her back from the outer limits, you’ve gotta figure the sudden and instant liquidation of half the inhabitants of whatever planet she’s currently off liberating would make a compelling clue. Twenty-plus legit Avengers/adjuncts and two entire Wakandan armies couldn’t quite stop Thanos the first time around, but Carol Danvers is the not-so-secret weapon primed to tip the scales. Her superpowers: From what I can tell, you name it.
Prediction: (+1 / +1) I’m sorry to have to treat the existential battle between living and dead that the show has spent its last two seasons building to as any sort of formality, but, truly, the most audacious final trick Game of Thrones could spring would be to invest eight seasons in expansive, superior character development, intricately plotted political machinations, big ticket CGI exhibitions, and perhaps the most immersive world building in the history of television only to see every human life on not just the front lines but the entire continent snuffed out over the course of two battles set months apart. We’ve finally reached a bleakness bridge that will not be crossed, though a hell of a lot of folks are probably going to be hurled from it to their deaths in the attempt. Therefore, Dany lives. She’s got an uncomfortable throne to sit. Moreover, if Captain Marvel somehow dies during Endgame and happens to stay dead, I will eat the hat of your choosing. As promised in my review of her uneven if still promising maiden voyage, she’s the MCU’s new Iron Man, or at least she will be.
Captain America (Steve Rogers) / Jon Snow – It’s a testament to how generally well-written these two ridiculously popular properties are that each squad’s designated do-gooder is still also among its easiest to root for. That may seem counterintuitive. Someone conditioned to digesting demonstrably lesser motivations on a weekly basis – a professional wrestling audience member, say – would likely boo these two out of the building for being too whitebread, then pat themselves on the back for heroically defying the hype. In truth, the Captain and Commander are the closest analogues on this list, not to mention about as close to foundational, indispensable characters as their massive worlds can boast. They are, frankly, kind of amazing. Still. More’s the pity then that they’re both about to die.
Prediction: (-1 / -1) Not to disparage my favorite Avenger, but Jesus. Cap’s no doubt heroic death in Endgame has already been telegraphed if not underlined in just about every pre-release trailer, Hollywood Reporter article, and related clickbait blog or Youtube post released for the better part of a year now. Chris Evans isn’t coming back to the franchise, and so neither is Steve Rogers. Nothing much I can add, so I’ll segue to more unsettled matters. Call it my post-March Madness hangover, but here goes nothing. Somebody ultra-prominent on GoT simply has to die in this war with the undead – preferably multiple somebodies (I’ve picked two here, plus some ancillaries) – if for no other narrative reason than to validate the dire threat they pose, and I have decided to both go big and likely go home by ascribing that fate to the newly revealed Aegon Targaryen, rightful King of the Andals and the First Men yada-yada, yet possessor of several fewer cool titles than the aunt he’s now spent the better part of a full season macking on. There are, however, numerous narrative reasons for the former Jon Snow to perish heroically – to prove his underlying loyalty/fealty to the North once and for all; to prove his love for Dany; to prove his love for his (adopted) family and/or Night’s Watch brethren; yes, Jon is rightful king but he doesn’t want it; etc., etc. – if not ones that’ll in any way assuage the grief of his legions of fans. Kindly remember what you convinced yourself about Jon’s uncle Ned before the headsman’s axe fell back in season one. I predict, as one of two licensed dragon riders on the continent, that Jon gets the wyrm dramatically shot out from under him at high altitude and, following a terrific plummet and crash, grievously wounded, gives his life defending it against being revived by the Night King. Suitably cinematic sequence, wouldn’t you imagine? Then, in one of the series’ cavalcade of Return of the King-worthy ending vignettes – something has to explain those extended runtimes – we see him interred in the crypt beneath Winterfell beside his mother. Hero’s journey complete. Cut to black.
Iron Man (Tony Stark) / Jaime Lannister – Two formerly powerful and dashing men of surpassing ego and appetite, the reformed arms dealer playboy and semi-reformed incestuous general blackheart run along roughly parallel tracks of redemption toward their respective dates with destiny. Both enter these all-important final frays having traveled long distances to get there – with Jaime essentially exiled from King’s Landing and his royal sister’s “good” graces, and Tony somehow returning from outer freaking space – and go to war as the closest facsimiles of three-dimensional men they’ve yet been at any point on their journeys.
Prediction: (-1 / -1) Now that Jaime has cast his lot with the living, I’m of the opinion that the only real questions about his fate are: 1) just how grand his sacrifice will be, 2) for whom/what shall it be made, and 3) will Cersei hear about it before the final battle for the Iron Throne begins? If so, perhaps the corner of her mouth might twitch almost imperceptibly in sorrow. (If – IF – he should happen to survive the battle in the North – and maybe either way if Tyrion’s droll, drunken fantasy of the newly raised ice zombie Lannister brothers paying Cersei a visit comes to fruition – I almost guarantee Jaime ends up punching her ticket.) Elsewhere, though audiences that were somehow blindsided by the spontaneous ashen genocide that marked the end of Avengers: Infinity War should condition themselves to be ready for anything this time around, I’m sure they still hope against hope that all their favorites will emerge unscathed. I just feel that can’t possibly be the outcome. Endgame is three hours long and looks set to rewind the tape to the point that the Black Panther, Spider-man, and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises, among others, can continue as if nothing ever happened. It can’t be some elaborate top-to-bottom fakeout. I therefore think the pump is primed for the end of Tony Stark, the man whose epiphany in a dusty cave kickstarted the MCU over a decade ago, not because I necessarily want to be rid of him but because, given what he’s up against here, survival would seem to indicate we’ll never be rid of him. People who downplay the possibility of Iron Man’s heroic sacrifice – you’ll remember Doctor Strange thought him important enough in the final analysis to essentially gift Thanos the Time Stone and thus serve up Infinity War on a silver platter – are prognosticating while wearing rose-colored glasses. Robert Downey, Jr. is an irreplaceable central presence, but at some point the MCU has to move on.
Thor / Brienne of Tarth – A tricky comparison, sure, but if Brienne could shatter one glass ceiling by being duly sworn a knight of the Seven Kingdoms on last week’s place-setter episode of the same name, who’s to definitively say she can’t stand on more or less equal footing with a literal god?
Prediction: (+1 / +1) On a field full of heroes, and in assiduously keeping with her story progression up to now, Brienne seems sure to set herself apart with both honor and valor. After multiple harrowing close calls, and so many brief asides for dramatic stock-taking and goodbyes that the famously stoic warrior finally allows herself a tear, she survives the battle more or less intact. There’s always the possibility she might sacrifice herself to save Sansa or Jaime (sorry, Tormund, she’s just not that into you), but I think she’s too much of a feel-good story to extinguish, even on a show where that sort of character is anathema and offing them second nature. Killing Thor isn’t wholly out of the question either, since brother Loki bought the Asgardian farm in Infinity War. His death would certainly deal a seismic blow to both Avenger morale and firepower whilst running already unsteady audience expectations through a shredder, but I just don’t see it. Besides Thor being a deity, Chris Hemsworth is the member of the original trio of standalone adventurers who seems most recently pleased with his lot in the MCU. I could easily imagine a fourth Thor outing set deep into Phase Four, laying the groundwork for serious further shenanigans.
Rocket Raccoon / Tyrion Lannister – The lone surviving O.G. of the Galaxy and the once and current Hand of the King/Queen have more in common than their small stature. They are routinely underestimated at every turn, often ridiculed. Though both largely survive on their wits, they have demonstrated facility with more conventionally lethal weapons when pressed into service. I would also gladly buy either a beer or more, however unlikely it is I’d still be conscious at last call. And though the odds seem insurmountable, both will probably end up surprising you, just wait.
Prediction: (+1 / +1) Beside pathos – despite his varmint heritage, he’s always been among the most human of the Guardians – and two hilariously itchy trigger fingers, it’s difficult to grasp exactly what Rocket brings to the fight against Thanos, but I’ll bet that he not only finds his niche but skates through unharmed. This has more to do with straight pragmatism than any personal preference toward anthropomorphic talking raccoons. I don’t want any part of a Guardians sequel that doesn’t feature the little tough guy, and I’d say you don’t either (To wit, Vol. 3 has recently been greenlit for an apparent 2022 release). As Dany has already ordered him to the Stark family crypt to wait out the battle, Tyrion will be even more hamstrung against the Night King than Rocket will be against Thanos. This isn’t his fight, however. He will survive, as will at least some portion of the human army, to face down his sister for the Iron Throne, and it’s there that his supreme tactical prowess will likely come to the fore in some unimaginably devilish way, doubtless devastating his house. I’ll wait for such a potential payoff, though admittedly not long.
Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) / Arya Stark – Each squad employs a cunning resident assassin, even if their respective emotional arcs seem to be running opposite one another lately rather than in tandem. Natasha Romanoff has spent numerous guest appearances across multiple MCU movies becoming incrementally less decisive, if no less badass, and even developing potentially messy feelings for a couple of the many, many men surrounding her, whereas Arya Stark has evolved from a rebellious tomboy chasing alley cats to a calculating, cold-blooded killer putting the Winterfell keep on edge, a droll but legit terror still tiny enough that I can’t have been the only viewer a bit unsettled by her pre-battle assignation with Gendry (seeing as Arya began as a nine-year-old in A Game of Thrones, I have to wonder how George R.R. Martin might write a similar scenario in A Dream of Spring). Expect neither to act like a lady, but, rather, like they’ve been here before.
Prediction: Martin thought enough of Arya to follow her across the Narrow Sea and back again on adventures that seemed completely divorced from the greater narrative but were of significant importance in charting her personal growth. Those efforts are paying off now as Uber-Arya-Black struts around the North like she owns the place (when she’s actually at least third in line). She’ll take to heart Jon’s long ago junior swordsman advice to “stick them with the pointy end” and probably take a number of wights and White Walkers (back) to their graves. I actually have the most confidence she’ll survive as any of her fellows. In a disappointing non-surprise that is part and parcel of Marvel Studios’ fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to periodically announce upcoming movies, Natasha will not only also kick ass but definitely survive Endgame on the way to her own long-awaited starring vehicle, to be released in the early stages of Phase Four.
Bruce Banner (Incredible Hulk) / The Hound – Each squad also has its designated brute, albeit one that has lately engaged in a bit more wandering and pondering than actual fighting. Though the Hound seems to be positively spoiling for a fight, the problem is that it’s with his brother, a reheated potato in the guise of the famous “Mountain That Rides” currently guarding Queen Cersei in King’s Landing. Cynical if not quite nihilistic, he might therefore see the upcoming war with the undead as nothing more than a means to an end. Bruce Banner’s inconvenient identity crisis has featured heavily in his last two MCU appearances, and though it was kind of a kick to see him piloting the “Hulk Buster” super-suit in Infinity War instead of getting beaten up by it, you’ve got to figure that the inevitable moment when his big green Mr. Hyde finally agrees to renew acquaintances and hostilities will be a clear highlight in a movie already littered with them.
Prediction: (+1 / +1) I presume The Hound survives his sojourn North for no other reason than because he has unfinished business with his inflated ghoul of a brother, though, quite possibly, as both Arya and Brienne have recently come to understand, he may just be too ornery and stubborn to die. With Jaime gone, it’d be a solemn group indeed making the trek to King’s Landing otherwise, and by that point he’ll at least have had lots and lots of practice skewering the rampaging undead. Marvel Studios hasn’t seen fit to entrust another standalone vehicle to the green galoot since his own reboot under MCU auspices fizzled, preferring to portion out his mayhem in controlled doses. Hulk definitely serves a purpose, however, brightening most any room he enters before inevitably demolishing it. I don’t see that changing any time soon, especially with so much other notable turnover at the top.
Hawkeye/Ronin (Clint Barton) / Davos Seaworth and/or Grey Worm and/or Jorah Mormont and/or Beric Dondarrion – We continue the not-technically-Loser’s bracket of this exercise with the oblong consideration of a quartet of reserved but capable men of action – three older men wise beyond their years yet weathered beyond their wisdom and a young, near-mute eunuch – and the MCU’s most ordinary, and therefore possibly most relatable, hero. Only one of our intrepid foursome (Jorah) are native Northerners, which places them at a strategic disadvantage only partially recouped by their battlefield experience. Moreover, only Jorah and Grey Worm could be said to have much to fight for in the first place – that being the favor of two women, one apiece, situated firmly inside the “friend zone” and out, respectively. Conspicuously absent from Infinity War if never exactly missed, one imagines Clint Barton nonetheless spent that film’s climax watching his beloved family disintegrate before his eyes. Such things change a man, of course, and I doubt the mysterious, newly christened “Ronin” will require much outward cajoling to join the fight.
Prediction: (+1 / push) Hawkeye has been a slippery sort since his introduction to the MCU, which I always forget was in the original Thor and not The Avengers, and his absence from Infinity War, coupled with his neon punk makeover as Ronin, suggests the sort of principled but tormented freelance hero content to spend the rest of his days walking the earth in search of justice in between periodic guest appearances in other people’s movies. So he lives. To sort out the potential Westerosi zombie fodder, I fall back into March Madness Bracketology mode, at which I’m demonstrably excellent, where my gut tells me that, despite the extreme occupational hazards inherent in leading an infantry charge directly into the gaping maw of the dead, Grey Worm, who does bear a passing resemblance to Steph Curry, pulls out the 5-12 upset, living long enough to eventually lead the three dozen other surviving Unsullied against Cersei’s Golden Company and perish nobly at King’s Landing. I mean, somebody’s got to. That’s part of the reason I also reluctantly wave goodbye to the great Davos Seaworth (much as it pains me to say, Dany only needs the services of one former Hand, and Davos has his pick of notables to save in or around the Winterfell crypt) but see Ser Jorah emerging intact. Sometimes a redemption arc doesn’t guarantee a hero’s death but, rather, clears the way for an unexpected chance at life instead. To balance out my bracket, and despite Beric the Red’s historical inability to die and remain that way, I’ll take Jorah’s Valyrian Steel over a flaming sword, given the circumstances.
Ant-Man (Scott Lang) / Theon Greyjoy – The ex-con looking to do good and the turncloak looking to prove himself, you’d be forgiven for not picking Scott Lang and Theon Greyjoy out of a crowd as anything except easy targets, but you’d also have to admit they’re at minimum intriguing wildcards. I don’t doubt that each has a crucial part to play in their respective wars, especially if Lang can ever reliably wrangle and deploy all that temperamental Ant-Man tech. For example, why not just fly into Thanos’ nostril and immediately super-size until the brooding purple world eater’s head explodes? Way shorter movie, I guess. Dead Avengers still all dead. The Wasp is the one that flies? Okay, scratch that.
Prediction: (+1 / -1) Whether or not his tear-optional reunion with Hope van Dyne is another one of Endgame’s inevitable avalanche of closing vignettes, I just get the feeling Ant-Man probably has another standalone sequel left in him. He therefore lives to electronic drum again. Since abandoning ship when his salty, shitty pirate uncle abducted his sister, Theon has been on something of a redemption kick lately, spearheading an expedition to rescue Yara (I still call her Asha, eh book readers?) and then forgoing an easy, royally sanctioned path back to the Iron Islands to remain in the North and fight for the adopted home he once so cruelly and comprehensively betrayed. Kid seems pretty resolute in his search for a greater cause to which he might offer and, invariably, sacrifice himself, and it might as well be Winterfell. Once the scene shifts south, there’s realistically not much place for him. Theon punctuates a self-serving, thoroughly unheroic life with a selfless, markedly heroic demise – the kind his nieces and nephews may one day sing of around a roaring hearth on Pyke – the particulars of which I’ll leave to the folk who actually get paid for this stuff.
Okoye / Sansa Stark – If King T’Challa had not succumbed to the unstated rule that the Infinity Gauntlet’s powers only apply to second generation Avengers, it would obviously be him commiserating with Sansa Stark here. Instead, fresh from arranging the public ambush and execution of former Baltimore mayor Petyr Baelish on charges of treason, The Lady Who’s Red will need to make due, for the sake of this pairing, with Black Panther’s fierce but stone-faced captain of the guard. Both are women who have risen through the ranks in spite of their gender (for a republic in oft-repressive modern day Central Africa, Wakandan gender policy seems to have been written by a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate) to a position of prominence but still insufficient power. Okoye obviously suffers from being one of only three ostensibly normal human Avengers but still has much to offer in the trenches. I’m more interested to see how Sansa’s arc plays out, not just with this battle raging but in its aftermath. She’ll probably be invaluable in keeping the famously headstrong North bound to Dany’s cause, assuming there remains any North after the Night King’s ruinations left to claim.
Prediction: (-1 / +1) Think of what Sansa Stark has endured over the course of her life – trading in a loveless arranged marriage to a sadistic, narcissistic psychopath (emphasis on narcissistic) for a loveless coerced marriage to an even worse sadistic, narcissistic psychopath (emphasis on sadistic) only to watch both die, reunite with her scattered siblings, and attain renown as the newly installed Lady of Winterfell – and then ponder her dying some ugly, ignominious, battlefield-adjacent death. She has simply been on too much of a personal upswing lately for me to lend such a fate much credence. Okoye originally survived my Endgame lottery because I like what the character brings to the overall Wakandan dynamic and because I figure actress Danai Gurira must have had some backup plan in mind when she sensibly decided to finally sever ties with The Walking Dead. For the record, these are among the reasons she will probably survive anyway. Chalk up my eleventh hour decision to clip her to what I’ll call “Fan Fiction Writer’s Disease”, a harmless but still kinda tragic confluence of artistic bloodlust, god complex, and degenerate twist hunting, coupled with two barrels full of straight overanalysis. Basically, I looked at the Avengers roster post-Thanos and the number of dead folk didn’t quite compute, so I took another one out. Unfair, sure, but, I assure you, neither arbitrary nor legally binding. My apologies anyway. I have been watching a lot of Sopranos back episodes lately.
War Machine (James “Rhodey” Rhodes) / Tormund Giantsbane – I agree that any comparison based on personality between Tony Stark’s understated best friend and the boastful, gregarious last Wildling standing holds the least water of any on this list. Twelve is a much rounder, and therefore more aesthetically pleasing, number than eleven, however, so I’ll connect the two tenuously on the basis of pure destructive potential, which is, on the surface, significant. “Rhodey” boasts his own tricked-out, two-toned gray Iron Man armor and, hence, a lot of firepower that will likely be of limited use against Thanos but may chop up his minions at an impressive clip. He’s great for air support. Conversely, the mouth that roared will most certainly be on the front lines of the The Battle of Winterfell, if for no other reason than because he couldn’t possibly imagine himself elsewhere, and properly equipped with his standard boundless self-confidence and a mini-arsenal of Gendry’s finest dragonglass weapons, could really wreck some shop.
Prediction: (-1 / -1) The two are linked in one further way, which is their likely mortality. With the Avengers as we know them already being blown up in the process, War Machine really has no future in the MCU without Iron Man to caddy for, and, in a movie full of tough choices, he’s probably the most easily facilitated loss in terms of pure audience investment. I sense he’ll sacrifice himself to save Tony, his effort perhaps crystalizing in Tony the desire to give his own life to defeat Thanos and restore the fallen. Meanwhile, further north, after holding his own valiantly as part of the vanguard, I see Tormund being swarmed and finally overwhelmed by the onrushing undead. With the Night King preoccupied elsewhere with trying to assimilate Bran or revive an only theoretically dead dragon, the mortally wounded Tormund is spared undeath long enough to have a somewhat tender battlefield moment of recognition with Brienne, who let’s just say is going to be even busier than most of our heroes, regardless of her eventual fate.
Nebula / Lyanna Mormont – Diminutive, perpetually feisty, and loath to ever be seen bending the knee or backing down, the adjunct Guardian of the Galaxy and most impressive member of House Mormont (on a show that hasn’t really lacked for contenders) are easy enough to overlook while still enlivening the margins in interesting ways. Largely lost in the carnage otherwise, I expect both will be granted one big moment apiece, and that for only one of them will it be a death scene.
Prediction: (-1 / +1) Nebula is working a redemption angle of her own and seems primed to see it through, maybe via another weird “life-for-a-life” exchange to resurrect Gamorra? That’d bring closure between the sisters…well, of a sort. If Nebula is probably already living on borrowed time, young Lyanna Mormont has her whole life ahead of her, which, on a show like Game of Thrones, might comfortably buy her forty-five minutes (Remember Shireen Baratheon!). Never fear, though. The miniature scion of Bear Island will return there to rule again once the smoke clears, having killed at least one opponent in single combat, and will eventually be named new Warden of the North by Queen Danaerys, who, like me and the late Whitney Houston, clearly believes the children are our future.
Dead Avengers (post “Endgame”): Captain America, Iron Man, Okoye, War Machine, Nebula
Surviving Avengers (post “Endgame”): Captain Marvel, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Rocket, Hawkeye, Ant-Man (plus all their resurrected friends!)
Dead Westerosi (post Night King): Jon Snow, Jaime Lannister, Davos Seaworth, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Greyjoy, Tormund Giantsbane (plus Dolorous Edd!)
Surviving Westerosi (post Night King): Danaerys, Brienne, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, The Hound, Jorah, Grey Worm, Lyanna (plus Sam, Bran, Missandei, and [maybe] Gendry…oh, and Varys!)