After just 30 minutes in a Northern Irish taxi, Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray unwittingly learned these massive spoilers for the final season of GOT…
WARNING: This article contains potential spoilers for the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones fans, our watch has begun in earnest: on 15 April, the first episode of the show’s final season roared onto our screens, bringing with it a plethora of questions. Will Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Arya (Maisie Williams) finally acknowledge their love for one another? Is Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) shaping up to be the show’s biggest villain? Is Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) actually pregnant? And just how closely are Daenerys and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) related anyway?
One thing’s for sure, GOT fans are well and truly hooked. And none more so than the people of Belfast, in which the majority of the show was filmed.
You will no doubt already be aware that Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones have, for the past decade, shared a pretty beautiful relationship – something which was made very clear at the European premiere for GOT.
As Bernadette Caulfield, the show’s executive producer, put it: “We are honoured and fortunate to call [beloved Belfast] our home… you were there with us for every single step, and for that we are forever grateful.”
Caulfield and the show’s producers may be grateful, but their feelings aren’t a patch on those of Belfast locals. Every single person I spoke to in the Northern Irish capital has a story to tell about HBO’s adaptation of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Indeed, a lot of them have even been lucky enough to star in the show as extras (take a closer look at all those people wandering around in the back of shot next time, eh?) - and one man I met, who is a member of his local archery club, has been in the show some whopping six times and counting, each time fighting underneath a different banner.
It makes sense, then, that locals would know a lot about what’s been filmed for the final season, and nobody more so than the cabbies who serve the local area. After all, who hasn’t shared at least one deep and meaningful conversation with their taxi driver? And, likewise, what taxi driver wouldn’t feel the need to prod the tall bearded man they picked up from outside Titanic Studios (where GOT is filmed) for clues about the biggest show of the century?
Lucky enough to be invited to the European premiere, I called for a cab when I arrived at Belfast International, promising myself I wouldn’t be that smug person who bragged about their ticket of a lifetime. As soon as Paul* turned around and asked me “what’s the craic?”, though, I folded.
“I’m going to the Game of Thrones premiere!” I squawked excitedly, words spilling from my mouth before I could stop them.
At this, his eyes lit up. “Kayleigh, I love Game of Thrones. I absolutely love it.”
And then, without any further ado, he proceeded to tell me the following secrets about the HBO show (all of which are unverified and presented with a healthy pinch of salt).
With that in mind, then: the night is dark and full of spoilers…
“I’m in a threesome with a dwarf”
Perhaps my favourite story of the journey, Paul revealed that he first heard about Game of Thrones when his wife’s cousin (a “beautiful, red haired model” who is prone to “talking absolute shite”) informed him that she was working on a new series, and that she predicted it would be the biggest TV show ever made. Naturally, he and his wife laughed it off (as previously mentioned, this red headed cousin talks “absolute shite” on a daily basis), but she kept on and on about it. When she mentioned that she’d gone for drinks with the show’s cast, they began probing her for names. Peter Dinklage? Never heard of him. Lena Headey? Likewise. But Sean Bean? That’s when their interest was finally piqued, and they asked her for more details. “We had just had the Lord of the Rings,” Paul reminded me, “and we were like, can there really be another so soon?”
It was when they asked her what role she’d be playing in the show, though, that the deeply religious couple lost their minds.
“She told us, ‘I’m a prostitute in a threesome with a dwarf,’” said Paul, laughing at the memory. “And me and my wife were like, ‘A threesome with a dwarf? A threesome with a dwarf? Sky would never show a threesome with a dwarf!’”
Sky, however, absolutely did show a threesome with dwarf - and the scene came in the very first episode of Game of Thrones, too. Paul and his wife, despite their misgivings, watched it to support their relative - and have been, since that moment, absolutely hooked.
And his wife’s cousin? She has been in the show since then: in the controversial rape scene between Ramsey Snow and Sansa Stark, she acted as Sophie Turner’s stand-in.
Tyrion’s luck is about to run out
Paul informed me that he picked up an extra from the Game of Thrones set, who wasted no time in telling him what his role in the show would be. “He said he was the Unsullied who arrests Tyrion,” he said, laughing at my surprised face.
It’s a shocker if it’s true, sure, but it kind of makes sense. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if Tyrion is put on trial for the third time – on this occasion, for betraying Jon and Daenerys – and loses his head as a result?
To back this theory up, Peter Dinklage recently revealed that Tyrion is 100% jealous of Jon and Daenerys’ relationship.
“It’s complicated,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
“A lot of the time with Tyrion, it’s professional and personal. Obviously, he has feelings for Daenerys. He loves her – or thinks he does. She’s awe-inspiring. He’s questioning that because he doesn’t have a good track record for falling in love. There’s jealousy wrapped up in there.
“And he loves Jon Snow, too. They’re the two people he has the most in common with, in a way. They’re both outsiders in their own families who have refused to follow the path their family has taken, and hopefully for the better.
“He’s wondering how smart of a move [Jon and Dany getting romantically involved is], because passion and politics don’t mix well. He knows the two of them getting together could be very dangerous.”
Throw in the fact that Tyrion didn’t look at all happy to see Jon riding a dragon in episode one of the eighth season, and you have a surefire recipe for impending doom.
Kit Harington and Rose Leslie are so in love
“I drove past them there once,” Paul told me, pointing at a spot on the pavement. “She had her arms around him and one leg in the air. They were like teenagers in love.”
Jon Snow spotted on TOP of King’s Landing?!
We all know that King’s Landing scenes are filmed in Dubrovnik. We all know that, just like we know Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen. But, according to Paul, the show’s set designers built a second King’s Landing behind Titanic Studios. And, when he drove past it on a job, he spied Jon Snow on top of it.
“I don’t know if that means he takes King’s Landing,” he said. “They might have filmed it as a decoy. But I know what I saw, and I saw him there.”
And on THAT note… King’s Landing is destroyed
According to Paul, locals received letters warning them not to be afraid if they heard any explosions coming from Titanic Studios (although, as he readily pointed out to me, “the people of Belfast are used to explosions”).
He’s taken this to mean that King’s Landing has been built solely to be destroyed - a theory which I can absolutely get on board with. Why? Well, because the historic sets in Dubrovnik have been used for a decade now, and they’d only cease to use them if they planned to film something potentially destructive (you can’t blow up a UNESCO site, can you?). Because it makes sense that the Night King would take the battle to King’s Landing. Because there would be some poetic justice in Cersei avoiding the fight up North and seeing it brought to her door. And because the show’s location scout recently revealed that they were forced to build an entirely new set for the filming of this year’s big finale, albeit one which they hoped would feel familiar to viewers at home.
“I’m hoping that the fans don’t even notice the biggest amount of work that we had to do in this season, but you’ll know it,” they said, when asked about the set on the Still Watching Game of Thrones podcast.
Hmm. Then again, as Paul reminded me in the cab, set designers can destroy and rebuild a set in 48 hours. This could all be a big expensive decoy to keep fans off the scent… but that hardly seems likely, does it?
The Battle of Winterfell really will be the biggest thing ever seen
Paul saw six coaches of extras parked outside Titanic Studios, with hundreds of bearded men shipped in from all over the country for the bloodiest battle in Game of Thrones history.
Where? Winterfell. When? Just as the Night King and his undead hordes are passing through. With who? Well, a lot of bearded men, apparently, but Entertainment Weekly previously confirmed that Tyrion, Brienne, Arya, Sansa, Jon, Jorah, The Hound, Gendry, Samwell and Dany are all participants, making it the largest gathering of main Game of Thrones protagonists in once sequence since the very first episode of the show.
Essentially, this means that some of our favourites won’t make it out alive. But, when I prodded Paul for further details, he mimed zipping his mouth shut and refused to tell me anything more.
Sansa is the only Stark to survive
Paul wouldn’t really confirm or deny how he came up with this theory (at this point, I’m willing to believe one of the producers left a script in the back of his taxi), but he seemed pretty convinced that Sansa will be the only Stark to make it to the bitter end. “Jon, Arya and Bran are already dead or immortal,” he said, “and the balance has to be restored at some point.”
We WILL get Cleganebowl
Paul asked me what I thought would happen to the Hound and the Mountain, and I promptly dived into the Cleganebowl theory: namely, that Sandor Clegane will kill his brother in an almighty battle to the death.
“I know something about that,” he said, twinkling at me in the rearview mirror, “but I can’t say. That’s a good theory, though. That’s a very good theory.”
I wanted to tell Paul that all of my theories are good (I spend a lot of time researching this show), but I simply smiled back. Was he leading me down the garden path? Or was he confirming, without saying anything, the epic brother-on-brother battle we’ve all been waiting for?
Gendry has a better claim to the Iron Throne than we might think
At this point in the conversation, I became convinced that Paul knew exactly who I was, had read all of my fangirl theories about Gendry Baratheon, and had decided to fuck with me. But he seemed such a nice man, and I don’t want to believe he’s as twisted as all that (even if he DID fondly dub Littlefinger, that conniving and Machiavellian monster; a “rascal”), so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. “I know some things,” he said, tapping his nose, “so I can’t say anything too much. But Gendry is King Robert’s son, remember.”
Oh Paul, I remember. And you can all read my theory about Gendry Baratheon here, if you so wish. But it’s worth noting that another of my local sources claims that Joe Dempsie himself has been wandering around press junkets and telling everyone who will listen that Gendry dies this season.
Hmm. So Dempsie is either the Tom Holland of the Game of Thrones franchise, or, if we put our trust in Paul, a very canny chap indeed.
Game of Thrones has made Belfast locals enormously proud of their city
This I didn’t need Paul to tell me: it was clear in his enthusiasm for the show, and his passion for the work it’s given the people of Northern Ireland. But he did, all the same.
“It’s changed our image,” he said, pointing out that the country used to be known for “bombs and the Troubles”.
“I’ve never been prouder to be a Belfast local,” he said, looking wistfully at me. We had just arrived at my hotel, and were bidding one another farewell at this point. “What I wouldn’t give to be in your shoes tonight. I hope I see you again, but if I do…”
He paused, as if locked in some sort of eternal struggle. “If I see you again, I don’t want you to tell me anything,” he finished. “I want to see it all happen for myself.”
Ah, the irony. I made my promises, thanked him profusely for a riveting ride, and bid him farewell. And I truly hope, for Paul’s sake even more than my own, that the series finale lives up to fan expectations. There’s a lot of love for Game of Thrones out there, and a lot of Northern Irish locals to please. Roll on the rest of final season, eh?
Of course, Paul doesn’t work for Game of Thrones, so he doesn’t have any real inside knowledge. But, knowing what I know about taxi rides (we all tend to talk to our cabbies as openly as we would priests in the confessional booth), I’ve no doubt that they contain, at the very least, a kernel of truth.
* names have been changed