There are more Game of Thrones fan theories than there are faces on the Many-Faced God. It makes sense, given how rich and complicated the lore is on the hit HBO show, and how many dangling plot threads and tantalizing mysteries there are. One such mystery, one that’s been haunting some fans ever since Season 1, has finally been solved. And, well, it’s pretty underwhelming, but that really shouldn’t be a surprise.
In the penultimate episode of Season 1, “Baelor,” Ned Stark, the supposed “main character” of the show, dies when King Joffrey orders his execution. Before Ser Ilyn severs Ned’s head with his own greatsword, Ned mumbles something, but there’s no audio so viewers couldn’t make his final words out. That’s prompted a bunch of theories, like that Ned was saying “I kept my promise” or something else that might allude to Jon Snow’s true parentage. Or, maybe he was just saying “valar morghulis.” There are much more insane theories too, like that Ned was communicating with a time-traveling Bran Stark, or that it wasn’t actually Ned, but a shapeshifted Jaqen H’ghar in his place.
The exciting possibilities are endless, but they’re all wrong, because the answer is not exciting.
According to Bean, in an interview with HuffPost, in the moments before Ned’s death, he was “just saying a prayer.” Here’s Bean:
I couldn’t be too specific, because I don’t know if religion [like that] was around in those days, whatever they were. I just thought, ‘What would you do if this were really gonna happen?’ You probably would pray. You probably would murmur some words and you’d keep it quiet. You’d keep it to yourself.”
“It’s quite subtle in that many people wouldn’t pick it up,” Bean continued. “It was an interesting thing to do for me at that point. There’s not much you can do really, you’ve got your head on a block. That’s about the only thing you can do is murmur.”
That underwhelming answer sure does make a lot of sense! After all, Ned was a pretty devout follower of “the Old Gods.” It’s not as exciting as, say, Ned giving time-traveling instructions to Bran, who is actually the Night King, but it’s far less stupid. Ned’s final words were a quiet prayer, a bit of character work that’s far more responsible for Game of Thrones being good than the most outlandish theory.
Game of Thrones’s final season won’t premiere until 2019.