This Sunday, April 6th, Game of Thrones' fourth season is set to get real. Really real. Real to death. And when HBO plays the Game of Thrones everyone wins, except maybe the cast. NO SPOILERS or anything but -- in the spirit of keeping it real -- everyone knows by now that no one in this high fantasy saga is "safe" by any meaning of the word. In a recent interview Scottish actor Rory McCann, who portrays Sandor "The Hound" Clegane in the series, claims to cautiously read through the ninth episode script for each season while quaffing a glass of whisky, prepped for death and distress not unlike that major drama bomb that dropped back in S1E9. Of course it doesn't help that the show's writers sometimes insert fake death scenes into scripts just to freak out their already nervous troupe, prompting stars to worry in advance about life and work after landing a hit series. British actor Kit Harington, John Snow on the show, explains, "We all flip through the scripts when we get them to see if we live or die, but the writers are very cruel; they sometimes write fake scenes to kill someone off and then that actor will be kind of out of a job and scared." Even hunky Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa, undeterred by the premature demise of his beloved character, Khal Drogo, in season one, has attempted to write his own way back on to the show, saying, “It’s a fantasy world, sweetheart. You never know!” Yeah, no.
To give non-readers an idea of just how much death the series deals in, on the left is an image of the five (of the planned seven) published books, collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire, with each death marked by a brightly colored post-it, like a bizarre murder rainbow. It's difficult to assess who is more relentless, author George R.R. Martin or whoever went through the trouble of tallying every death in the books. At the moment, the HBO series is only halfway through that green book in the middle, A Storm of Swords, which means that the seasonal thinning of the cast will be no less brutal than anything we have previously seen. On a more positive note, the scope of the show stands to expand further this season, revealing new faces and places on the map we've only ever heard mentioned before while also returning to some of the previously established family seats n' things that have been out of play for a while.