In which we sample the new Game of Thrones beer and discuss crazy fan theories

Jul 10, 2017 Web Exclusive By Austin Trunick Bookmark and Share


Premiering on July 16th, the seventh season of HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones is just days away. Not only does that mean your Sunday nights will be spoken for until summer’s end – lest you enact a weekly, self-imposed ban from the Internet until the situation is rectified – but there is a new wave of Game of Thrones-licensed products on shelves, from Westerosi-themed wines to adorable vinyl figures commemorating the show’s most violent battle.

We’re here to talk about one of our annual favorites: the latest GoT-inspired brew from Brewery Ommegang. Since 2013, the Cooperstown-based brewery has crafted limited edition, thematically-flavored beers in large format collectible bottles tied to each new season of the show. This year’s, Bend the Knee, is a golden ale brewed with honey. Does it compare to previous years’ tasty recipes? The kind folks at the brewery were happy to send us several bottles for research purposes.

To gauge exactly how Game of Thrones-y this particular ale is, we’ve recruited the help of two local experts. “Steve” is our film writer Stephen Danay, who – when he wasn’t banging out reviews as our staff’s resident action movie expert – ran a regular Game of Thrones trivia night in Brooklyn. “Rob” is Rob Guzman, a friend who works in the publishing industry and who, since S1E1, has been the person I’ve turned to whenever I’ve had trouble sorting my Robbs from my Roberts and Brans from Briennes. Both are obviously book readers. I am not.

These Bend the Knee bottles are big (750 ml) and their ABV high (9%), so it’s not the sort of beer you’d want to throw back quickly. For that reason, our secondary topic of discussion throughout the evening’s libations was a rundown and evaluation of some of the craziest-sounding Game of Thrones fan theories I was able to find on the Internet going into season 7. (Chances are, they may sound a lot less crazy the deeper we get into our bottles.)

But first, we’ll address the beer itself. Bend the Knee is a very fragrant Belgian ale with a strong honey flavor on its front end. It’s rather sweet, and very foamy. It goes down smooth without any bitterness, and is far easier to drink than many of its high-ABV peers. (Watch out: this is one that’ll sneak up on you.) From a Game of Thrones point of reference, it’s pretty comparable to the mead you see the folks on that show chugging now and then. If you’re a fan of strong beers, you’ll want to grab a bottle before the season premiere on Sunday.

And now, on to those fan theories. We’re approaching them from least to most crazy-sounding. For a better description of each individual theory, we’ve linked to the source where we found it in the descriptions.

The show seems to have pretty much confirmed the long-held rumor known as R+L=J. (Basically, that Jon Snow is secretly a Targaryen.) But there are people out there who believe Tyrion is a Targaryen, too.

Steve: That’s an insanely contentious theory. People hate that theory. It’s super plausible, but it’s also super crazy, depending on who you talk to. 

Rob: After Jon, it probably makes the second-most sense.

Steve: Martin’s set up a lot of evidence for it.

Rob: What were Tywin’s last words? “You’re not my son,” or something like that?

Steve: And there’s this whole thing where Aerys was obsessed with Tywin’s wife.

Rob: And there was opportunity for Targaryen sex with Tyrion’s mother. And [Tyrion] killed her during his birth, which is something that’s known to happen with Targaryen kids.

Steve: Oh, god. [Frustrated groan.] It would make sense, because you need the three heads of the dragon, and the three main characters are Jon, Dany, and Tyrion.

Rob: And Tyrion loves dragons.

Steve: People hate that theory, though, because they feel like it undoes a lot about the character. People think if he’s not actually Tywin’s son, it validates Tywin’s hatred of him. I don’t dislike the theory because of that, but I dislike it because it feels like there are then one too many secret Targaryens.

Rob: And then, what would be the point, other than to let him potentially ride a dragon or commune with them?

Steve: If it is true, I like the idea that Tyrion and Jaime killed each other’s fathers. That’s an interesting twist.

Rob: Oh, wow. Well, that clinches it. That can’t be a coincidence.

Steve: I don’t know. I’m like 50-50 on Tyrion being a Targaryen.

Rob: I’m at, like, 90 percent likely it’s true.

Littlefinger will marry Cersei and become king of Westeros.

Steve: No.

Rob: No.

Steve: Littlefinger is interesting. He’s always kind of been there and he’s always explicitly been a villain, but I don’t think he’s ever going to take the throne. In the show, maybe, because they care way less about who has any claim to the throne. Cersei taking the throne at the end of season six makes sense for the show, in terms of her character arc, but realistically she has no claim to the throne. She’s the queen regent, but she has no blood claim.

Rob: And women can’t take the throne.

Steve: Littlefinger has even less claim. There would need to be complete batshit chaos for him to get anywhere near the throne.

Rob: And nobody likes him! Cersei really hates him.

Steve: Littlefinger is going to back Sansa until she figures out what a bastard he is and then kills him. That’s the only possible ending Littlefinger can have. He’s definitely not going to wind up on the throne.  

I don’t know how much this matters since the characters are both dead, but there are Redditors who believe a theory that Tywin signed off on Joffrey’s poisoning.

Steve: I see the argument for it, for sure, but I feel like Tywin was arrogant enough to think he could control Joffrey. And there’s just so much evidence for the Tyrells doing it.

Rob: In the book, it doesn’t really make sense because the poison was part of a jewel that’s in Sansa’s hair. It’s Olenna Tyrell who adjusts Sansa’s hair in the book, and she’s diametrically opposed to Tywin. While it seems like he would benefit from Joffrey’s death, I think it was indirectly. There was more evidence that the Tyrells were responsible, and it would have benefitted them more than it did Tywin.

Steve: I would say no.

Rob: No.

The theories start to get crazier now. Some fans think that the White Walkers are actually Game of Thrones’ good guys.

Steve: I fucking hate that theory.

Rob: [Laughing] You’re familiar with this?

Steve: So in the books we have no idea where the White Walkers come from or what their purpose is. So, yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, that they were created by the Children of the Forest to fight the first men. A thing that people always use as evidence to support this is a quote by Martin from a long time ago where he says the dark lords are boring – like, Sauron, or whoever. Beings that are evil for the sake of being evil. So, people are like, “Oh, the White Walkers can’t really be evil.” I don’t buy it. I wouldn’t be surprised if their origin was more complicated, such as being a doomsday weapon created by the Children as a last ditch effort that backfired.

Rob: Because it did backfire on them. Eventually they did ally with men to fight the White Walkers, and helped build the wall.

Steve: But I don’t buy that the White Walkers are secretly good, or are fighting for their own cause, because they’ve done too many terrible things and are just so horrifically evil. They just want to destroy all life.

Rob: You could argue that’s not evil in and of itself, if you want to be a philosophy major about it. But for most of us, that’s not good.

Steve: People think that since the books and show are so grim, that Martin’s going for this cynical ending. But Martin’s actually a pretty big romantic – he’s just down and dirty about how he does it. The whole point of the books is that all human conflict is meaningless because there’s this giant, looming supernatural threat. So, to make the White Walkers good, or just another race that is both good and bad, doesn’t make any sense.

Rob: They’re the only ones who aren’t gray, in some sense.

Steve: I feel people want everything to be in shades of gray, because that’s sort of what the series has trained them for. But, you need an ultimate villain at some point. So, I don’t buy it. I get why that theory exists, but I feel like it’s a pretty big misread of what the series is going for.

Our next theory contends that Ned Stark is actually still alive.

Steve: Oh, that’s total bullshit. I’m going to start getting angry.

Austin: The rest of these are probably going to make you angry, then. The theory posits that Ned Stark had the ability to warg into animals and other people, like Bran Stark, and warged into his executioner, Ser Ilyn Payne, right before he died.

Steve: That’s kind of a fun idea, but it’s not the case.

Rob: People would be pissed if Ned Stark were still alive and it was through some not-previously-established bullshit. 

Steve: Game of Thrones’ first book is kind of like if Star Wars: A New Hope had been told through Obi Wan’s perspective until he died. Ned’s kinda like the Obi Wan character for the Stark kids.

Rob: I was thinking more of Uncle Ben, because Uncle Ben has to die for the rest of Spider-Man to happen.

Steve: His kids are the main characters, not him.

Rob: It was never hinted at that Ned had warging abilities. And, it’s been established that it’s hard to warg into humans because they can fight back mentally.

Steve: Ned Stark’s dead. 

Our next theory is that Arya Stark is dead.

Steve: Wait, what? Like, she’s been a ghost this whole time? [Laughs]

Austin: The theory, summarized, is that the waif from the Faceless Man school, killed Arya during their final battle, and then took her face.

Rob: So the idea is that the waif disguised herself with Arya’s face, then went back to the House of Black and White and just, like, peed in their cereal? Why would she do that? She would just go back and be like, “Mission accomplished, guys. Now let’s go fuck up the Starks but kill some of their enemies first so that the viewers don’t figure out it’s me!”

Steve: I think that’s all just down to the Arya stuff last season not being very well-staged or thought out. They were just treading water, and I think people are trying to find excuses for mediocre storytelling.

Rob: And that would only work for the show. The waif isn’t in the books very much, nor is she much of a fighter.

Steve: The antagonism between her and Arya isn’t present in the books.

Rob: She just needed an enemy for the show. That’s not the show’s sloppy storytelling, but different storytelling.

Steve: They simplify a lot of things.

Rob: That’s a crazy theory. I never would have thought of this one. It’s more out there than the Ned Stark one.

Steve: I’ve never even heard that one.

One element of the books that many readers were surprised was left out of the show was Lady Stoneheart, the zombie version of Catelyn Stark. Some people believe she was left off the show because if Starks were resurrecting left and right, it would take away from Jon’s return from the dead. This would mean she could make her debut in season 7.

Steve: That’s…. plausible? It’s not crazy. I don’t know, I could see it going either way. She’s been gone long enough that it might have some weight to it. If they had followed the books, she would have come back at the end of season four. It’s plausible they could still do Stoneheart, but they have so little time left that to introduce it now would be kind of weird.  There’s not a ton of space to introduce new stuff.

Rob: It’s possible, not probable. That’s how I’d see it. I think they’d have done it already, if they were. They’d have found any excuse to get Catelyn Stark back on the show.

While we’re on the subject of zombies, there are some people who are guessing that the zombie Mountain has Joffrey’s head.

Rob: Oh, that’s an interesting one. The Mountain’s body is definitely alive, but they sent his skull back to Dorne, so he doesn’t have The Mountain’s head.

Steve: In the show he clearly has a head, and people have thought that it’s either Joffrey’s or it’s, like, Ned Stark’s, which is really stupid. I think in the books he has no head. He’s just an empty helmet.

Rob: Someone has a nightmare about that: a knight with a helmet, and there’s nothing in it.

Steve: In the book he wears a slitted helmet, so there could very well be nothing inside it.

Rob: In the books, he’s much more like Jason from Friday the 13th. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t eat, no one sees him go to the bathroom. That’s mentioned. He’s mostly a walking body.

Steve: Everyone in the books thinks he’s super creepy.

Rob: He’s Kingsguard, too, which is just crazy.  This headless body. The Kingsguard is, historically, a very prestigious position. I mean fantasy historically, not real world historically.

Bran Stark caused the Mad King to go mad. The idea is that, basically, Bran went back in time and tried to tell Aerys to burn the White Walkers, but he burned King’s Landing instead.

Rob: Oh, so they’re thinking he did the Hodor thing another time.

Steve: I don’t know. That rewrites everything having to do with Robert’s Rebellion.

Rob: And Targaryens are known to go crazy. That’s in their blood. I don’t think they’d pull the traveling back in time and giving an order that backfires twice. Plus, Hodor was a simple stable boy, and this other guy was the King. So, yeah, I’d say no to that one. Personally, I’d be pissed if that one was true. 

Steve: There are also so many theories that Bran will become evil. That’s a very popular theory tree.

Our theories are now passing out of the realm of faint possibility and into total insanity. I’ve read a theory that Bran Stark traveled back in time, warged himself into Jaime Lanniester, and then pushed himself out of the window to prevent the apocalypse.

Rob: [Laughs himself to the edge of tears]

Steve: Jaime already had all the reason in the world to do it!

Rob: Why would he still cripple himself? I would have just told myself, “Go find the Three-Eyed Raven, but climb carefully down the tower. And then you can walk while you’re doing it!”

Steve: [Groans] People come up with this stuff.

Rob: It’s like, Bran Stark can time travel, what’s the craziest shit he could do with that? In that timeline, Bran went back and crippled himself so that Hodor would have to carry him around for a long time, and then went back in time again to get Hodor killed. [Laughs] We need to get a Back to the Future-style blackboard in here to figure out all the ways this doesn’t work. That theory is bullshit.

This one’s just silly, but a lot of people seem to think that Dragon Glass might actually be dragon shit.

Rob: [Laughs]

Steve: It’s obsidian.

Rob: [Still laughing.]

The last theory we’re looking at is both the craziest I’ve read, but probably the most popular as well. Is Lord Varys a merman?

Steve: That one goes back so far. It’s like, a really well-designed joke theory, I think. I don’t think anyone ever thought it was true.

Austin: The Reddit wiki on this theory had, like, 30 bulletpoints to support it. It’s so well-supported in the books that it seems like George R. R. Martin had to have read it at some point and then wrote it into later books to play with the fans. It sounds insane, but after reading all of the evidence readers have dug up, I’m half-convinced that Varys is a merman.

Steve: This theory’s been around for so long. I first read the books around 10 years ago, and this theory was old then. I think that was just someone joking and it took off, because it’s insane.

Austin: So, as someone who hasn’t read the books, I’m thinking, “Wait – there are mermaids in Westeros?” Can you explain that?

Rob: Yeah, it’s World Book shit.

Steve: They’re mythical. The Manderly’s have the Merling King as their sigil. So, the World Book is this big, 400-page coffee table book they released three years ago. It has a bunch of artwork, and is mostly just in-world history. One thing that came out of nowhere in that – and you have to read the whole thing to get – is that there are lots of structures built out of an oily, black stone that dates back to before the First Men.

Rob: Pre-, pre-history. They can’t even explain it.

Steve: A lot of them are wrapped up in legends of people from the sea who may have built these structures. None of this is even mentioned in the novels themselves. I think it really just comes from George R.R. Martin being a big Lovecraft fan, and liking to include creepy shit like that. None of it has anything to do with the story.

Rob: I just think that Varys’ entire goal being to have Dany’s dragons melt the ice and cause global warming doesn’t make sense.

Steve: There’s another crazy Varys theory to go along with the merfolk one, and it’s that Varys is really just three kids standing on each other’s shoulders.

Rob: I would believe that more!

[Everyone laughs. All three bottles of Bend the Knee have been empty for an hour.]

***

Game of Thrones: Season 7 premieres on July 16th. To find Bend the Knee near you, try out the “Find A Beer” function on Ommegang’s website.



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I would believe that more!!