The dramatic ending to the “Game of Thrones” Season 5 premiere happened the same way as it did in George R.R. Martin’s novel “A Dance With Dragons,” except with one major twist: In the book, Mance Rayder wasn’t actually burned at the stake.
Sadly, that’s not the case in the HBO adaptation. Mance, played by Ciaran Hinds, is well and truly dead, and he’s not coming back by any magical trickery. So book readers, put your theories away, because he really isn’t going to reappear in future episodes.
In “A Dance With Dragons” the red priestess Melisandre switches Mance with another person before she burns him, and then keeps the change a secret from Stannis Baratheon. The King Beyond The Wall’s journey continues when Jon Snow later sends him on an important mission.
Hinds for one isn’t sweating the book deviation, even though it means he won’t be on the show anymore. “I guess people might be miffed that you’re not following the books, but it’s not possible. No book can be translated word-for-word into a different medium,” he tells Zap2it.
The 62-year-old Irish actor got an email from “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss alerting him to his upcoming demise before the Season 5 premiere script went out. Hinds hasn’t read the books — “My life is busy enough,” he quips — but he can understand why Benioff and Weiss made the change.
“They have to keep kind of confounding people by what they might do and how bold they might be with it,” Hinds says. He imagines Benioff and Weiss want to subvert audience expectations, specifically those of people who have read Martin’s novels: “Of course in the tradition of this story and the possibility of not how they deviate, but how they have to corral their episodes from the huge books, anything could happen I guess.”
It helped that Hinds expected it was his time to die while shooting the last season. “I had a feeling the end of Season 4 when Stephen Dillane [Stannis] and Liam Cunningham [Davos] turned up outside my tent, I had a kind of feeling that I wasn’t going to be long for this world,” he says. “Those two guys were on a mission.”
Mance’s death came about because he refused to bend a knee to Stannis, thus giving the contender for the Iron Throne the command of Mance’s people, the Wildlings. He chose to burn at the stake instead of place his followers under another ruler, since the big reason the Wildlings live beyond the Wall is because they don’t believe in Westeros’ monarchy.
Asked whether he thinks Mance made the right choice to die instead of join Stannis, Hinds says it’s not that simple. “I think nobody makes a right choice,” he notes. “People make choices. That’s what I think this is about, is about people making choices. Are any of them right? Most of them are wrong.
“I think he genuinely believes or hopes for something greater — not particularly for himself, but for the people he represented,” Hinds continues. “I think he realized ahead what would happen to those people if he did bend the knee, and they would become subject yet again to someone else. I don’t think he was interested in that. Whatever his legacy was, it was a man who was, I suppose, true to what he was, for better or worse.”
Since Hinds only filmed the Season 5 premiere, he doesn’t know what’s coming the rest of the season. In fact, he doesn’t even have a prediction of how the series will eventually end.
“I have a feeling it could never end. It could just keep going. People keep changing themselves and disappearing, because you can recreate these characters as George R.R. Martin has. He’s resurrected them and he’s made them … change souls and transform, so really anything is possible. Anything,” Hinds says.
So would he ever come back if one of those opportunities present themselves? “I would for sure, only to see who else I might meet, to see what’s up with them.”