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In season 1 of Game of Thrones, master swordsman Syrio Forel said as he trained Arya Stark, “There is only one god, and his name is Death.  And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today.'”  When it comes to this television series, such pleas, while heartfelt, can simply be in vain.  For many, their game of thrones ends abruptly in death.

This season contains only seven episodes resulting in the uncertainty of last week’s episode. It could have unfolded like a past Episode 5 or 7 and concentrate on plot. Alternatively, it could have had a much higher death rate like past eighth episodes. As the opening credits ended, we learned the writer to be Dave Hill. He’d previously written only two episodes containing a total of 8 deaths giving him the highest average deaths per episode of any writer, which says more about his small sample size than his death rate.  Keep in mind, all but one major death in the series has occurred with David Benioff & D. B. Weiss as episode writers.  As Dave Hill’s name came on screen, the series’ major characters almost seemed to say, “Not today” to Death.    

What about this week?  First, we don’t have to wait for the opening credits.  Hold onto your seat so you don’t get thrown from the game. Benioff and Weiss wrote this Sunday’s show.  In the previous six seasons, Benioff and Weiss wrote only two sixth episodes. Don’t expect a characteristic Episode 6, which has resulted in a lower number of deaths and only one major character’s death, as shown in the graph below.

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Sunday’s show is the next to last episode of the season.  With this in mind, consider Rolling Stones (http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/game-of-thrones-inside-four-of-the-biggest-battles-20160620) bloodiest battles of the series,

  • Battle of Blackwater (season 2, episode 9), directed by Neil Marshall
  • Massacre of Hardhome (season 5, episode 8), directed by Miguel Sapochnik
  • Battle of the Bastards (season 6, episode 9) directed by Miguel Sapochnik
  • Watchers on the Wall, (season 4, episode 9) directed by Neil Marshall

Notice in this list how epic battles occur before the season finale, often in the next to last episode. Looking at battles beyond Rolling Stones’ list, consider the Battle of the Green Fork from Season 1, Episode 9, which you may not remember. Why? Tyrion Lannister was knocked unconscious, resulting in the battle happening essentially off-screen. The Battle of Yunkai occurred in Season 3 and the Battle of Castle Rock in Season 4, both in the ninth episode.  

Ready for a battle?  It’s quite possible but not certain.  It wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without some unpredictability; the same is true with the data.  This week’s episode is directed by Alan Taylor, who hasn’t directed since Season 2.  His only battle was the Battle of Green Fork.  Could Taylor extend his directing credits for an onscreen battle?  

Sunday is coming.  The White Walkers step closer and closer to completing their march to the wall. If the battle between the living and dead commences, the data tells us one thing.  Major characters may fight to fend off death for another day.  But, major characters often die in the next to last episode. There is only one easy prediction when it comes to the episode.  We will be talking about it on Monday and eagerly awaiting the final episode of the season.

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