If you're anything like us, you're either about to embark upon (or are already in the middle of) an epic Game of Thronesrewatch ahead of the final season in April.
But a recent fan theory involving Littlefinger will completely change your perspective, and – as it has the potential to ruin some big surprises in the final season if true – we need to hit you with a massive POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING.
(Is it a spoiler if it's speculative, though?)
Yep, this theory doesn't just twist your perspective on the programme, it could reveal who'll be on the Iron Throne at the end of the show.
That's because it suggests that Littlefinger is the true hero of Game of Thrones, and he's the one who'll wind up the winner at the end of it. (Always supposing there is a "winner" at the end.) Allow us to explain.
Littlefinger is dead, yes, short of Bran changing space and time to rescue him (unlikely, as Bran's presumably the one who handed over the information that led to his death – what with that whole "chaos is a ladder" reference in episode four of season seven), so how can he possibly pop up in season eight? Well, what if he's not dead?
In season seven, episode four, 'The Spoils Of War', Littlefinger realises that Bran's on to him – using the dagger as a trigger, Littlefinger gets the "chaos is a ladder" reference. Bran knows that Littlefinger sent the assassin to kill him (even if the show hasn't revealed it yet), and Littlefinger knows that he's in mortal danger as a result.
You can see his reaction when Meera enters the room – he holds his gaze on her, as he thinks he's going to be killed there and then. He's clearly relieved when he isn't.
In the next episode, Littlefinger is seen talking to a young girl, who whispers to him: "Your time is up." Then he hands her something, something that looks a lot like an iron coin, ie the currency of the Faceless Men.
Indeed, Littlefinger is constantly referred to as the 'Master of coin' – which would have a delicious irony if this theory turns out to be true.
It'll be ironic because the theory posits that this scene is the last time we see the true Littlefinger, and that from this point on he's been replaced by a Faceless Man.
It makes sense on a rewatch: Littlefinger seems off after episode five, like he's not quite himself. Baelish is always in control and calculating – even when he's facing death. For some reason, that changes at the end of season seven.
He doesn't beg for his life when Ned's strangling him in season one, he doesn't try to bargain when Cersei orders her men to cut his throat in season two, and – tellingly – when Sansa threatens to order Brienne to cut him down in season six, he calmly says this: "You want me to beg for my life. If that's what you want, I will. Whatever you ask that is in my power, I will do."
Sansa replies: "What if I want you to die, here and now?" Littlefinger: "Then I will die."
Sansa wants him to die in season seven, and so he does – or at least someone who looks like him does – begging for his life as he does so. The last word on 'his' lips? "Sansa."
But why would a Faceless Man replace him, knowing they'll be killed? "Only death pays for life" – a phrase that Faceless Supremo Jaqen H'ghar says on the show. Dying is part of the deal for the Faceless Men, as Littlefinger well knows.
Littlefinger's great grandfather was from Braavos, home of the Faceless Men, so the scene in season seven, after Sansa asks him if he's heard of the Faceless Men, and he says "Only by reputation" feels a bit disingenuous – especially after Sansa says "they're killers", and he gives a little smirk like he knows something she doesn't.
Littlefinger shares a lot of qualities with the Faceless Men. He has Braavosi blood, he's a "no one" (in the early seasons people constantly discuss how he built himself from nothing, even creating his own sigil – the mockingbird, a bird that has the ability to mimic other bird songs and sounds nearby so precisely they can trick listeners into thinking they're the originators; much like a Faceless Man!), and he loves playing and discussing games, much like Jaqen H'ghar.
Oh, and an association with the Faceless Men would explain that weird Irish accent that actor Aidan Gillen occasionally threw in.
Den Of Geekasked Gillen about his changing accent, following the season seven finale, and he had this to say: "He's a player, he pretends he's other things all the time so you know, it's just not defined. And yeah, it has, it has changed with him. I have done that intentionally, but it's not radical. He does things and I do things to wrong-foot people, the other characters or the audience even and it's part of my job. So yeah, I don't have that much more to say about it than that."
Hmm, wrong-footing the audience is part of Gillen's job, is it? But why? There's been no big twist that he's had to misdirect people away from using his accent – has there? Maybe it's still to come...
"He's definitely playing the Game Of Thrones. To what end, only Littlefinger knows."
Showrunner Dan Weiss said about Gillen: "There's something impenetrable to everything he does. It's like you keep peeling away the skins and there's never an end to the masks." Wait, WHAT? You mean… Like a Faceless Man?
According to George RR Martin: "Littlefinger is the player in the shadows. He's (pause) definitely playing the Game of Thrones. To what end, only Littlefinger knows. But he's moving the pieces around, he's manipulating events, he thrives on chaos, because in chaos there's opportunity for advancement, so he creates chaos, while pretending to be everybody's friend. Always helpful, always smiling, always joking, he's very, very charming."
One of the reasons George says "only Littlefinger knows" is we've never, as readers, got into Littlefinger's head. He's the only major character without a perspective chapter in the books. What if George is saving that for the end of the final book, where we finally find out what Littlefinger's been thinking for all of this time?
"I think a lot of fans will be disappointed and a lot of fans will be over the moon. I think it will be really interesting to see people's reactions," Sophie Turner has said about the ending of the show.
As someone who's suffered most from Littlefinger's machinations, Sansa probably would be sensitive to how divisive Littlefinger's victory would be – he's essentially used her the most during his Game.
And the theory actually makes a lot of pieces fall into place. Every confusing moment (why did Littlefinger hand Sansa over to Ramsay Snow if he was in love with her?) every odd scene (why did we get that massive sexposition monologue about his backstory so early in the show?), every inconsistency (why did he beg and plead for his life, when he's never seemed afraid of death before?)... It all makes sense if this theory is true.
We'll find out who actually ends up on the Iron Throne when season eight is done – assuming there's a throne left – but we'd be prepared to bet good coin that it'll be Petyr Baelish. After all, as George RR Martin puts it: "The protagonist doesn't have to be likeable, or moral, or a good guy. He just has to be interesting."
And if there's one word we'd use to describe this theory, interesting would be it.
So, during your epic rewatch, consider this – if Littlefinger really is the hero of the show, does Game of Thrones make more, or less sense? Considering the fact he's involved in every major event of the series, we'd wager it's the former.
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