MAJOR "GAME OF THRONES" SPOILERS AHEAD!
The parallels between "Game of Thrones" the television show and "Game of Thrones" the Telltale video game series are undeniable, and often unfortunate. Both versions of the story prominently feature noble houses from the North struggling against impossible odds, and often failing in the face of those obstacles, despite their pure intentions… and usually because of them.
Just as Ned Stark's head was lopped off at the behest of a wicked boy king, House Forrester patriarch Lord Gregor lost his life via epic betrayal — at the notorious Red Wedding, no less. Just as Ned's oldest son was murdered at the hands of Roose Bolton, Gregor's youngest son was stabbed and killed by Roose's bastard son Ramsay. House Stark is all but a ghost in the wind these days, and judging by current events, House Forrester will soon follow suit.
As if the horrors surrounding the family at the heart of Telltale's "Game of Thrones" couldn't possibly get worse, along comes this week's penultimate episode of the series, called "A Nest of Vipers," with a catastrophic event that makes Jon Snow's death look like a Ser Pounce Twitter account — super happy and filled with cat GIFs, in other words.
In Telltale's "Thrones," players are tasked with controlling a handful of unique characters, much like readers experience George R.R. Martin's novels through various different points of view. Two of those characters are Rodrik Forrester and Asher Forrester, the eldest sons of the late Lord Gregor.
Rodrik survived the Red Wedding, just barely, and has spent the ensuing months doing everything in his power to keep House Forrester alive, despite the best efforts of their Northern rivals House Whitehill.
Asher, meanwhile, is Rodrik's younger brother, an exiled sellsword fighting his way from Yunkai to Meereen. When he learns of his family's dire situation, Asher leaves Essos with an army of pit fighters, intending to use them to crush House Whitehill once and for all.
Except, it does not happen like that, because this is "Game of Thrones," and instead of getting Ser Pounce blogs, we get Jon Snow levels of horror.
Just to yadda yadda through the complicated parts, Rodrik and Asher finally unite after going through their own rigorous trials and tribulations at the hands of Whitehills, Meereenese slavers, and even dragons. And the reunion ends quick. As soon as they meet, Rodrik and Asher are immediately ambushed by House Whitehill, in the cold light of day, with almost no chance of surviving the assault.
Almost no chance, I say, because there is one way… but only if Rodrik or Asher sacrifices their life so the other brother can live.
There's no getting around it. The only choice you have is choosing which of your two main characters dies. Do you sacrifice the exiled sellsword with something to prove, the man who crossed the Narrow Sea with a small army of ruthless killers, all in service of protecting his family and earning back some honor? Or do you sacrifice the man who has been at the forefront of the Whitehill conflict, the same man who walked away from the Red Wedding with half a face and a broken heart? Both men will leave behind loved ones — Rodrik's lover Elaena, Asher's sister and comrade Beskha, and all their various family members in between — and both men will leave behind greatly unfinished business. How do you possibly decide?
In either event, there's nothing ambiguous about what happens next. If you task Asher with the sacrifice, he'll tell Beskha to serve his family as she has served him, and then he proceeds to get stabbed in the stomach worse than Jon and riddled with crossbow bolts just like Robb Stark. Same deal if you let Rodrik stay behind. And neither of them have secret Targaryen blood flowing through their veins. There are no Red Priests nearby. Resurrection ain't happening. Dead is dead is dead.
Rodrik/Asher's death is arguable the most stunningly brutal display of the cruel and unfair nature of Westeros across all the various versions of "Thrones," because the choice of who dies is ultimately yours. Imagine if Jon Snow had been at the Red Wedding, and the episode ended just before Robb died, and there was a hotline you could call to vote for either Jon or Robb to walk away alive, but only one could live. That's the magnitude of the event here in Telltale's "Thrones." You have to decide which one of your two beloved heroes dies in a courtyard, surrounded by Whitehills, butchered in front of their loved ones, without a single shred of hope that they'll come back to life. It's awful. Absolutely, utterly awful.
There's still one episode left in the Telltale tale, so a happy ending for House Forrester isn't off the table just yet — but even at its happiest, it will be a bittersweet ending at best.