'Game Of Thrones': What Does That White Walker Ending Mean?

For once, 'Game of Thrones' bamboozled book readers just as much, if not more, than show-only viewers.

WARNING: Like winter, spoilers are coming. Do not read on if you haven't seen the most recent "Game of Thrones."

Well, that was crazy.

Last night's "Game of Thrones," titled "Oathkeeper," ended with a huge left turn for both viewers of the show as well as those who have read the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels the HBO series takes its cues from.

More often than not, "Game of Thrones" adheres to George R.R. Martin's books as much as possible. But the White Walker-infused ending was something that has not yet been featured in the novels -- and it's a chilling sign of things to come.

Let's revisit the scene, shall we?

At Craster's Keep, the Night's Watch renegades decide to honor Craster's old tradition of sacrificing newborn baby boys to the Others. A White Walker, the same one we saw at the end of season two, takes the abandoned baby to a stunning ice castle in the far north, and delivers the child to another White Walker who looks kind of like Pinhead. The White Walker King Thing touches the baby's cheek, and the baby's eyes turn ice-blue -- and now, it seems, we know how White Walker babies are made.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of this scene. For starters, the HBO series tends to shy away from high-fantasy concepts in favor of the more grounded political story lines. Even Daenerys' dragons are sparsely used, and we've only seen the Others a few times. Introducing the White Walkers' home, and a character who appears to be their leader, is a powerful signal that the fantasy elements of "Game of Thrones" are about to get more and more important.

Beyond that, the White Walker ending indicates that "Game of Thrones" is ready and willing to make revelations that the books have not yet made. Martin has only written and published five out of seven planned novels in his "Ice and Fire" saga, with no indication of when the sixth book, "The Winds of Winter," will hit shelves. Book readers often (and rightly) worry that "Game of Thrones" will catch up and surpass the release schedule of the books, revealing crucial story points well before Martin is able to make revelations on his own terms.

But it always seemed like a future-problem. After all, after season four ends, there are still two published books' worth of material to cover, with enough story to carry across two seasons. At worst, season six would be the year to start worrying about "Game of Thrones" moving ahead of the books.

The White Walker ending changes that. Martin's novels haven't come anywhere close to revealing the back-story, purpose, or even the location of the White Walkers. They remain a distant threat, inching ever closer to the central story. Now, on "Game of Thrones," we know where they live, and we know what they do with children. We know they have a leader, and it even appears we know who the leader is -- yet another major revelation (and, frankly, a potentially huge spoiler) for fans of the books, assuming this is the same direction Martin's novels are driving toward.

It's a unique situation for "Game of Thrones" viewers who self-identify as book-first fans. These are the same people who knew about Ned Stark's execution and the Purple Wedding well ahead of schedule. But last night's "Game of Thrones" dropped a major bomb that rocked both show-only and book-reading fans alike. It won't be the last explosion, either; after all, we're only four episodes into season four. Expect the shockwaves to continue for weeks and years to come.

What did you think of the "Game of Thrones" White Walker ending?

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