The final episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season was full of bloodshed, carnage and, oh yeah, lots and lots of death. However, there was one tiny exception: The part where Samwell Tarly walks into a library—specifically, the giant library of the Citadel, where Sam will study to be a maester.
It was the ultimate Belle in Beauty and the Beast moment, giving us one of the purest moments of joy we’ve ever had on the series. But what purpose did it serve? After all, it didn’t really match any other scenes in the episode, let alone the whole season.
According to the actor himself, it could be because of the gyroscopes.
It’s impossible to miss them; they’re the giant golden chandeliers hanging over the library, with lenses that look just like the ones our bitter librarian dons in an earlier scene. They also happen to have been featured in the show’s opening credits, ever since the very first episode back in 2011, hovering over the map of Westeros and Essos that serves to show viewers where the stories are taking place.
In an interview, John Bradley said the towering gyroscopes may play a bigger role in the series itself than just looking cool.
“I only became aware of that after I saw the episode. On the day, it was all green screen. It’s only after I saw the episode and people started telling me about the gyroscope. I think it could mean any number of things. One theory is that what we’re seeing now and how we’re experiencing Game of Thrones is Sam telling the story of Game of Thrones. If you take the logic of the story now, the story of Westeros and the story of the battle for the Iron Throne, it would be a book in that library. The visual motif of that is you’re about to be told a story — the sense of an idea of being told a story, and people gaining that knowledge, the way Sam is absorbing knowledge in the library.”
This theory, that Sam is an outside figure conveying the story of Game of Thrones to someone (the audience? Maesters-in-training? Little Sam?), is one other fans have also suggested ever since the finale aired. Here’s a fun question, though: If Sam is actually the one recounting the great war for the Iron Throne and the invasion of the White Walkers to people, can we truly trust his account? Is Jon Snow’s heroism real? Are the other families of Westeros really that lustful for power, or is their portrayal a result of Sam’s pro-Jon bias?
We’ll probably never know the answer to that question, but we won’t have too much longer to wait to see if the final shot of the series is Sam working the gyroscopes while explaining the recent history of Westeros to the Citadel’s newest would-be maesters. Only two shortened Game of Thrones seasons remain.