Because winter is coming, it’s time to engage in speculation.
During the early seasons, the HBO show earned its reputation for unpredictability: Viewers were warned not to get attached to a favorite character because no one was safe. Since we’ve moved beyond the George R.R. Martin books on which the TV show is based, however, things have gotten a lot more predictable. That could be a product of the showrunners, but more likely it is just that the time of reckoning has come and the bastards are getting what’s coming.
The monsters are starting to pay the price — even the monsters we like (like Olenna Tyrell). Ramsay Bolton endured an ironic death, Littlefinger’s schemes have come to an end, and Lord Tarly has paid for his disloyalty, both to his son Samwell and to House Tyrell.
But there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, relations to be consummated, and characters to be killed. And we especially need to find out who wins the Game.
So here are some unscientific predictions for the final season. And consider yourself warned, because the night is dark and full of spoilers.
At this point, Tyrion’s death would be like Ned Stark’s death. Well, hopefully it won’t. His plot armor is strong. But he’s starting to show loyalty, or at least affection, for his family — and he’s also questioning Daenerys’ leadership style. That might cause him some trouble. Still, the imp is a survivor. He’ll make it.
It is now apparent that Jon, er Aegon, is the hero of the story. As the show has evolved, it has become more conventional, and it now seems to be firmly entrenched in the classic “Chosen One” trope. Jon can survive a knife in the heart, being overwhelmed by undead, and nearly drowning, so there is no way he doesn’t make it to the end. Especially since he’s a favorite for the Iron Throne.
They teased us briefly during Littlefinger’s trial, but a girl is safe. Apparently Martin’s wife made him promise not to kill her. And considering her popularity with the fans, the showrunners will likely honor that.
Someone has to write down the history of what happens during the war of the Seven Kingdoms. Sam criticized that bland name for the course of events. So we suspect he's thinking of calling it A Song of Ice and Fire. He’s got a Valyrian steel sword, so he should kill a White Walker at some point, and with the Wall falling, his watch has ended, leaving him free to assume the now-vacant seat as the head of House Tarly. Plus, Sam is George R.R. Martin’s author insert. You wouldn’t expect Martin to kill himself off.
Robert Baratheon’s last surviving bastard has an important role to play. He’s not a swordsman, but he is a master blacksmith – and he apprenticed under one of the few smiths left who may know the secret of Valyrian steel, one of the few things that can slay the White Walkers. And as the last surviving Baratheon, he could be legitimized and rebuild the House.
With Jon actually being Aegon, he no longer has a solid claim to Winterfell. Someone has to keep the north in order, and while Lyanna Mormont is more than capable, she is still a little young. And Sansa has demonstrated organizations skills that will serve the North during the war.
Brienne of Tarth
She is the ideal knight. It might be touch and go while she battles White Walkers, but ultimately Tormund will save her life.
Someone will need to rule the Iron Isles. Theon, having found his figurative stones in the finale, will face down his uncle and rescue his sister.
That which is dead can never die, but will rise up again, harder and stronger. He has shed his Reek persona and is on the path to redemption. He’ll rescue his sister and kill his uncle, but he may take on a more mystical role. An incarnation of the Drowned God, perhaps?
No way the Lady of Bear Island dies. Fandom would riot worse than after the Red Wedding.
The cynical sellsword is a survivor. And he still needs to get his castle.
She’s toast. It’s only a matter of who will do the deed.
Jaime is the Kingslayer — would that also apply to a queen? Jaime however, has a few shreds of honor, especially when it comes to genocide by fire.
Cersei is also on Arya’s list, and a girl was heading south to King’s Landing after butchering House Frey. Remember the nameless chambermaid who walked in on Cersei and Jaime? The one whom the camera lingered on? Could she be the face Arya will wear when she makes her attempt?
Tyrion may be the subject of speculation due to Maggy the Frog’s prophecy (see below), but the past episode made it clear that he does care for his family.
Even the crazy, murderous members.
The Hound doesn’t really have the motivation, but if he makes an attempt on Cersei it would certainly provoke a much-anticipated Cleganebowl.
We’d love to see Daenerys roast Cersei, and given her penchant for burning her citizens, it would be a poetic end. Dany’s mind is on other things though, namely zombie Viserion and her nephew’s sexy butt.
The prophecy of Maggy the Frog may hold some clues. In A Feast for Crows, readers learned of Cersei’s visit to the fortuneteller, where she receives three prophecies.
1. She will marry a king and rule as queen until a younger, more beautiful one will take what she holds dear.
2. Her husband will have 16 children, but she will only have three, whom she will outlive.
3. She will be slain by the valonquar — a High Valyrian word for “little brother.”
There are a lot of possibilities in these three prophecies.
The first seems to indicate that Dany will take the throne. But Cersei is also pregnant. Could it mean that Dany will slay her unborn child? By the second prophecy, she will only have three children.
The word valonquar is problematic as well. It seems to indicate Tyrion — who is little in both age and stature.
The Hound is also a little brother, so he may have a role.
But we also learned this season that High Valyrian isn’t a gendered language. So the valonquar may be a little sister, like Arya.
Or like Daenerys.
However, Jaime is the most likely candidate, as he was born a few minutes after Cersei, and especially after his departure from King’s Landing at the end of the most recent finale. Viewers have been waiting for him to show his noble potential since he threw Bran Stark out the window in the show's premiere, and he’s frustrated us at every turn. What better chance than now, with his sister casting him aside for Euron Greyjoy and reneging on her word to support the armies of Dany and the North?
Jaime’s disappointed us before, though.
There are several others who are marked as well. Here are some more bodies we expect to see pile up.
The Night King
Obviously. There’s no way he gets to destroy Westeros. He will die at the hands of the Prince Who Was Promised. It’s only a matter of determining who that is (see below).
Gregor Clegane is already a zombie, so someone just needs to finish the job. Preferably the Hound. We almost got Cleganebowl during the finale, with the Hound and the Mountain facing down in the Dragonpit like Mayweather and McGregor at the pre-fight weigh-in. The Hound’s cryptic statement, “You know who’s coming for you,” seems to indicate the fight is still coming. It also seems to indicate that someone else may be the Mountain’s final executioner (more on that later).
He may kill his brother, but it will probably be mutually assured destruction. He has come back from the dead before, and his nihilistic streak could indicate that he will be safe, however.
No way that crazy pirate gets to keep the Iron Isles. Theon has to redeem himself for his cowardly inability to save his sister.
We’d love to see the Giantsbane make giant babies with Brienne, but it won’t happen. He’ll die defending her from White Walkers, which is almost as good an end for the fire-kissed wildling
He seems resigned to never winning Dany’s hand, so he has to make a noble sacrifice for her. That’s why he was cured of his greyscale.
The Spider has already claimed to foresee his death. He will live to see the satisfaction of ushering the new age that he has worked towards since the death of the Mad King, however.
And then there’s the matter of Arya’s list. There are still a few more who are marked by a girl.
The Red Witch has already foreseen that she will die in Westeros.
With Thoros’ death north of the Wall, the constantly reborn Berric is on his last life. Which is Arya’s for selling Gendry to Melisandre.
He was Ned’s executioner. He’s also kind of vanished since then. Perhaps something will draw him out?
Arya left the Hound for dead several seasons ago, but he survived or was resurrected. Is he still on the list?
Could Arya be the one coming for him that the Hound alluded to? Will Cleganebowl even happen? Will Arya kill the Hound, take his face, and then kill the Mountain? This could be the most entertaining entry on her list.
Unfortunately, we don't think Arya is going to get a chance on this one. Cersei’s life belongs to Jaime.
We’re not completely convinced she makes it. The speculation is that she is the fire, and Jon is the ice. But incest is squicky, and she’s taken to burning alive those who won’t bow to her. Not good qualities if you are looking to distance yourself from the previous administration. We love her, and with good counsel she can be a great queen, but she’ll need to keep those baser impulses in check to survive.
He’s the Kingslayer, so he still has an important role to play in the final season, but his past sins won’t necessarily go unpunished. He’ll find redemption and have an awkward conversation with Bran, but whether he survives is still up in the air.
Does he die? Does it matter at this point? He certainly isn’t all there anymore. He is the Three-Eyed Raven, which seems like an important position. But will it still be important after the Night King is killed? His life also seems to be linked to the Night King, so it is conceivable he won’t survive either, especially if other fan theories turn out to be true. (See below.)
Will They or Won’t They?
Well, they did. But will they keep doing it knowing they are nephew and aunt? Tyrion seems concerned about it. Did he get a raven from the North informing him of Jon’s birthright? Or is he worried that Dany might not be as barren as she thinks she is?
Whether or not the pair keep at the love that dares not speak its name, there are a couple other ‘ships that needs resolved.
Tormund and Brienne
Tormund wants to put aside his she-bear and make giant monster babies with Brienne. She hasn’t really seemed that interested in the prospect, although some of her comments and glances seem to indicate she may be warming to the idea, or at least a little curious. Of course her crush, Jaime, is back in the picture, and Tormund might be buried under the wreckage of the Wall (he probably isn’t, though).
Arya and Gendry
Does a girl have a place left in her heart for Westeros’ finest blacksmith and rowing champion? He once said she would be his lady, but that may have only been a reference to her noble birth. That concern could be removed if he is legitimized as a Baratheon. It would cement relations between the great houses as well.
Missandei and Grey Worm
They’ve overcome the biggest obstacle in their relationship and don’t seem to have a problem with the lack of it. Once the war ends, it would be nice to see them settle down, even if offspring are out of the question.
Sam and Gilly
They already are lovers, they just need to make it official. He gave up his title and swore to take no wife when he joined the Night’s Watch. But the Wall has come down and his watch is over. So he can reclaim House Tarly and take a Wildling wife.
Tyrion and Sansa
He was the only husband she had who treated her with any sort of decency. He’d also make a better catch than Robin Arryn.
Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand
This probably won’t happen, but they both are technically alive, and they were cruelly interrupted just as things were getting interesting.
There are several other mysteries and prophecies looming over the story. Here are a few guesses about other outstanding questions.
Who Are the Dragon’s Three Heads?
We know one of the Targaryen dragon’s heads is Dany. The second is mostly likely Jon, even if he hasn’t mounted Rhaegon and commanded him yet. But who is the third?
Probably the fan’s favorite contender. The Mad King had a thing for Tywin’s mother, and is believed to have raped her multiple times. A deformed child, who was told pointedly by his father, “You are not my son” could well be a Targaryen bastard. He does have an affinity for dragons.
It has also been suggested that Tywin was impotent, which raises the possibility that Jaime and Cersei are Targaryens as well. They do have blond hair, and a penchant for keeping it in the family, two of the most prominent Targaryen traits. Cersei also displays the same pyromania that afflicted the Mad King. She won’t make it to the end, however, so that leaves Jaime.
No matter which Lannister is actually a Targaryen, neither will have a dragon of their own, because of the final candidate:
The Night King
After raising Viserion, he has a dragon, so maybe he is an ancestral Targaryen as well. It’s a stretch, but this is all speculation anyway.
Which brings up another question…
Who Is the Night King?
One of the most unusual theories floating fandom is that the Night King is actually Bran Stark. He’s shown the ability to interact and affect events in the past. Is Bran actually all the famous Brans in Westeros history? Was the Three-Eyed Raven who instructed him actually his future self through some sort of time warp? And the biggest question: Did he somehow travel back in time and become the Night King, starting the whole process? Are Bran’s actions as the Three-Eyed Raven an attempt to correct the mistakes he made as a young Three-Eyed Raven not fully at ease with his powers?
Regardless, he is expected to fall at the hands of Azor Ahai, the Prince That was Promised.
This messianic figure is sought by the followers of the Lord of Light. Born “among salt and smoke when the red star bleeds,” this prophesied hero will wield the fiery sword Lightbringer to defeat the darkness, and “will wake dragons out of the stone.”
There are several possibilities as to Azor Ahai’s identity. Melisandre has devoted herself to finding the fabled hero, and has left a trail of bodies and false prophets (Stannis Baratheon) in her wake. There are still several contenders. The key elements seem to be some sort of death and rebirth and a connection to fire and dragons.
Melisandre may be the biggest champion of Azor Ahai; unfortunately, she’s been wrong before. Most recently, she threw her support behind Jon Snow, resurrecting him after he was assassinated by the Night’s Watch. He is a true-born Targaryen, giving him a connection to fire and dragons.
Missandei revealed this season that "prince" is a poor translation, and that it could be a prince or princess. Once the misgendering was corrected, the clues point to Daenerys, who was reborn on her husband’s funeral pyre with a red comet in the sky, and has woken dragons. But Martin and the showrunners have been known to defy expectations in the past.
A longshot, but he does fit in the abstract. He did appear to drown after Bronn saved him from Drogon’s fire. This happened when Drogon was bleeding from the ballista bolt. He has a strong connection to fire, both in slaying the Mad King and in his suicidal attack on Daenerys this season.
He’ll find redemption and have an awkward conversation with Brann, but whether he survives is still up in the air. Admittedly, he is a longshot. But he was horribly scarred in fire as a child and was seemingly left for dead by Brienne and Arya, only to return last season. Could he be the Lord of Light’s hand? Probably not; it sounds like he has another fate in store for him.
Another longshot. He was Stannis’s hand before joining Jon. He also experienced a metaphorical rebirth in salt and smoke when he survived a near-drowning during the Battle of the Blackwater.
It’s not even clear if “Lightbringer” is a real sword or another prophetic metaphor. But it could hold the key to defeating the Night King. The sword is prophesied to be created when it is bathed in the blood of its wielder’s beloved. That has led to some unpleasant scenes (Stannis sacrificing his daughter), and points to an unsettling conclusion.
So Who Wins the Iron Throne?
He may still know nothing, but that’s about to change. Now that he’s legitimized, he has the strongest claim to the throne as the true-born son of the heir, even if he doesn’t want it. Jon has a Stark’s sense of duty though, so he will step up and take the crown. Tyrion will be his Hand, and Arya will be the Mistress of Whispers. Samwell will be his Maester.
He will also be revealed as Azor Ahai, slaying the Night King after his beloved Danaerys sacrifices herself to transform his sword Longclaw into Lightbringer.
That’s assuming the story follows the conventional fantasy tropes. But we learned with Ned Stark just how much Martin follows conventional tropes. And who knows, maybe the next book will come out and invalidate all this speculation.
Regardless, we’re in for a long winter during which we can only dream of spring — or at least a new season of the show.