On Sunday night, Ian Cole put on his House Stark T-shirt and settled in to watch the finale of Game of Thrones' penultimate seventh season.
"I thought it was a really good episode," said Cole, who is a huge fan of both the HBO original series and the novels that the show is based on, George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire." "Was it the best episode of the show? No, it wasn't. But I think it laid a lot of really good groundwork for the final season."
It was a blast having him recap the Season 5 finale, titled "Mother's Mercy," so I asked him to do it again for the Season 7 finale, titled "The Dragon and the Wolf." Read ahead for the defenseman's thoughts on the episode, plus his theories and predictions for Season 8.
Most of the episode was set in King's Landing, with a meeting between most of the main characters in the Dragonpit. What was it like seeing everyone come together and what was your biggest takeaway from that scene?
Cole: It was kind of cool seeing everybody back together. It was fun to see Podrick and Tyrion and Bronn and all these people reunite that you thought might never cross paths again. They had little vignettes, similar to what they had when Jon and his little band of misfits were running around north of the wall. They gave some backstory and had funny little conversations and checked in with each character, so that was kind of cool. When the Hound kind of tumbled the wight out of the box, I mean, you could see the people who hadn't seen it from King's Landing were like, what the…? I think it certainly sent a message for sure, but the first time and the second time Cersei said yeah, we'll help you for sure, I was so skeptical of that.
Were you? I was going to ask if you ever truly believed she would actually agree to join forces with Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen to fight the Night King and the Army of the Dead.
Cole: No! No. Cersei will not do anything unless it benefits her. She won't do anything for the greater good, she won't do anything. No. So when she eventually said 'Jaime, you've always been the stupidest Lannister' and all of that, I was like, I knew it. There was no way that she was going to do anything beneficial for anyone else. The only person she's doing anything beneficial for is for herself. I don't even think she's pregnant. I think she's totally full of it. I honestly think she's using it just to play her two brothers.
Do you think she was ever scared of the wight? Or do you think the entire time, she was just playing everybody?
Cole: I think she was afraid at first, but I think she's so calculating and plays the game of thrones so well, that for her, she's like what's in it for me? What benefit do I have of going north to fight these things? I'd rather just sit back, let these people all kill each other while we take back the lands that we want, and then we'll be stronger whenever they come back down, whichever side wins. So I think that for her, she's only thinking about No. 1, and that's herself and her family. But obviously not Jaime.
That was my favorite scene, watching Jaime walk away from her. I couldn't believe he finally did it. What were your thoughts on that whole interaction between the two of them and Jaime just finally being done?
Cole: I thought she was going to kill him. I was like, I think she's going to do it. When she gave that little nod, I was like oh no, this is it, Jaime's dead. But I think he finally realized she is very similar to the Mad King in the sense that she wants her family to rule and she wants the Iron Throne for herself and if that's not going to happen, then she would just rather have the world burn and have nobody rule. I think Jaime kind of finally realizes that, or fully realizes that, and I think he's like man, this lady's crazy, I'm out of here (laughs).
He starts heading north, where Sansa, Arya and Bran are at Winterfell. Sansa and Littlefinger have this whole exchange about Arya. Sansa calls Arya into the Great Hall, where she says, 'You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges… Lord Baelish?' What was your reaction to that and his execution by the Stark sisters?
Cole: I loved it. I loved it. Littlefinger is such a little snake. Again, talk about somebody who really plays the game of thrones well. That guy came from nothing, made himself into a lord who's been running the show in the Vale for a while now. When Arya and Sansa were going back and forth for the two episodes before this, I was like what is going on? Why are these two doing this? I don't get it. I get that they maybe had some leftover animosity from childhood, but they've both been through so much, there's no way that they're still this spiteful of each other. I didn't see it. I was like man, I just hope that they're pulling the wool over Littlefinger's eyes because this whole thing is just ridiculous. And then it finally happened, and I was like, thank GOD. Because Littlefinger, I think, is just such a little snake. I'm glad it finally caught up to him. And quite frankly, it's about time Bran did something, because he's just been sitting there staring off into space. This guy supposedly knows everything, and he's just been staring off into space for like two seasons now. It's like bro, you know all this stuff, why don't you help these people out? He's almost the worst character on the show, the most evil, because he knows all this stuff but doesn't go help anybody. Like are you kidding me, man? But I don't think that with everything she's gone through, I don't think Sansa would kill Arya for that. I just don't think that. There's just no way.
I know Arya is one of your favorite characters, so I had to ask if you breathed a sigh of relief when you realized her, Sansa and Bran were going to stick together and be a pack and not turn on each other.
Cole: I was so pumped. Arya is one of my favorite characters, as soon as she met Ja'qen H'gar, I was like, she's going to go be an assassin, and it happened. I was super pumped about that. They're a pretty formidable team up there as long as Bran can open up his mouth every once in a while and let them know what's going on.
That transitions into the next big reveal, with Bran and Sam Tarly talking to each other about Jon's true parentage. They divulge that Jon's father, Rhaegar Targaryen - who is Daenerys' brother - and his mother, Lyanna Stark, were married in a secret ceremony before he was born. Which means Jon - whose real name is Aegon Targaryen - is the heir to the Iron Throne. What implications do you think this is going to have?
Cole: I don't know as far as implications for Jon. His name's Aegon Targaryen, he's the rightful king of Westeros as far as lineage goes. I don't know what kind of wrench that's going to throw into the new path him and Dany have. So I don't really know what's going to happen as far as that. It's something that they've pretty much spelled out for a couple seasons now, who Jon's real parents were, and then the fact that they mentioned Rhaegar's first marriage was annulled. You could kind of see where they were going with it and projecting it forward, you kind of figured it out. Like, oh man, he's the Prince that was Promised. It's tough to say what's going to happen as far as Jon and Dany go, because I think there's starting to be some fireworks there with that little scene on the boat (laughs).
How do you think they'll react when they find out the truth?
Cole: It's tough to say because not only do Targaryens tend to do that, but Jon is very honor-bound. If the law of the land says the throne is rightfully his, and he's already bent the knee to Dany, they're pretty much a package deal, I feel. It makes the most sense just to be king and queen and beat the White Walkers and both rule simultaneously. That's at least what I see happening.
Going on to the final scene of the episode, is that how you thought the Wall would come down once you saw Viserion the dragon die and sink into the lake? And what did you think of that final shot of the Army of the Dead finally marching south?
Cole: I did not think that was going to be how the Wall went down. I knew they were certainly going to use the dragon in some way. I didn't know the dragon was going to be powerful enough to bring the Wall down. I just hadn't thought about it. I hadn't thought about how they were going to get past the Wall. I figured they had some plan or some way to do it, but I knew as soon as that dragon eye opened up and turned blue at the end of the last episode, I was like man… that's going to be a big-time game changer, for sure. Obviously that was the case. He came and blew that Wall apart pretty good (laughs). Unfortunately, I don't know what happened with Tormund. We didn't necessarily see him die, so I'm hoping he's still alive. He's just an all-time beauty. I really want to see him and Brienne get after it so they can make these huge, hulking babies. I'm hoping he and Beric Dondarrion ran far enough along the Wall to get away from the collapsing portion. I'm really hoping that. Maybe it's wishful thinking, I don't know.
What are your theories and predictions for the final season of Game of Thrones? Where do we go from here?
Cole: At this point, Theon, I just find him very annoying. I think the only reason that he's there at this point is because he's going to do something big as far as figuring out where his uncle is, figuring out what his uncle is doing, letting them know, sacrifice himself to blow up the Iron Fleet - I don't know. I don't know what his game plan is, but he's going to be doing something big to redeem himself. He has to at this point. I just don't see his storyline working out any other way.
I think Jon is going to find out his true parentage. Hopefully. We've known for two seasons and he is still in the dark about it. That'll be interesting to see how he and Dany hash that out and figure that whole thing out.
I don't know what's going to happen with Jaime. He's not exactly the world's best fighter now that he has one hand. He has to fight left-handed. I don't know how much help he's going to be against the White Walkers. I was under the impression he was going to kill Cersei, or vice versa, or both kill each other, and that obviously didn't happen, but there's still time. I'm interested to see how that all works out.
Game of Thrones airs during your offseason, so do you and your teammates ever talk about the show, or not really?
Cole: There's definitely some Game of Thrones talk in the locker room. Just about random things or whatever comes up in conversation. There's a lot of news coming out, just show updates and what's going on, and the boys are all very aware of that. We're definitely talking Game of Thrones, for sure.
Who are the most knowledgable apart from you?
Cole: That's a good question. Dumo watches it a lot, Sid watches it a lot. I don't know about anybody else. I would say Dumo has a pretty good handle on it, I know Sid has a pretty good handle on it just talking with him. I would say those two guys.