Theorizing the final season of Game of Thrones

And with that, Game of Thrones season seven is finished. Only one season remains, a six-episode race to the finish-line due out sometime in 2019. The show is taking a year off, presumably to justify the massive budget HBO is giving the final few hours of its biggest show; the finale reached a record twelve-million viewers (the number bumps up to sixteen when you count those who streamed it legally), not to mention the millions more who viewed it through…shall we say “less than official” means? Yeah, that.

HBO promises a massive final season, where each episode will be “around feature length” similar to the ninety-minute season-seven finale last week. That adds up to about 540 minutes of screentime, coming in just under a standard ten-episode, sixty-minute each season like we had for the first six years of the show. Even with the extra-long finale this year, the seventh season only ran about 450 minutes, and it was obvious that the writers were in crunch-time, racing from one plot point to the next in order to get everything in place for the finale. The show, which used to pride itself on letting its characters breathe, interact and just experience the journey from point-A to point-B was forced this year to just hit the high points. It made for a year with some amazing moments, but some frustrating segments in between them. Hopefully next year sends the show out on a high note worthy of its legacy.

With that said, let’s speculate wildly about the fates of each of the major characters and plot points remaining. Since we no longer have any books to fall back on, everything below is pure conjecture. The best we can do is try and examine clues laid out by the show’s previous seasons to figure out what and how the ends may be. As a wise man said, “From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork.”

Let’s get it on.

THE NIGHT KING WAR

It seems like the show is setting it up so that there won’t be much of a prolonged war for the Iron Throne, but instead we’ll have most of the season focused on the so-called “great war” against the White Walkers, the latter half of which will probably overlap with a fight against Cersei, leading to a dual-climax that resolves both plot-points around the same time. Let’s say that the first half of the season takes place in the northern part of Westeros, mainly “the North” and Riverlands.

One of the forgotten inspirations of the series is George RR Martin’s anti-war beliefs. He wanted to use A Song of Ice and Fire to depict war as ugly, ultimately pointless and lacking in the romanticism that many fantasy writers give it. It’s why all the honorable knights Sansa dreams about don’t really exist in reality. They’re all killers and rapists, as the Hound told her years ago.

So I think it’s really fitting that the White Walkers are going to be invading Westeros and raising those who died in Robert’s Rebellion and the War of the Five Kings. Those corpses were never burned, only buried in hasty makeshift battlefield graves. They’re going to rise to fight against the people who killed them and even against the rulers who led them to their deaths in their quest for glory.

The fallen from war will literally come back to haunt the living. It’s a powerful metaphor and I hope the show allows itself a moment to reflect on that.

In the end, I expect the show will go for a pat finish. I won’t predict that for Martin’s book series, but the show has been going for the conventional conclusion to many plotpoints lately. So I don’t think there will be any twist like The Hound being Azor Ahai or The Night King actually being a good guy that everyone makes peace with, or even the Night King winning in the end. There may be a more cerebral final battle, maybe between The Night King and Bran, but it could just as easily end with Jon driving a magically-flaming sword through The Night King’s face.

We’ll get a happy ending, but with enough death on the side of the good guys to call it “bittersweet.”

THE GAME OF THRONES WAR

As said, I think if they were going to fight the two big wars individually they would have wrapped up the war for the Iron Throne first and then had the walkers invade. So we’re going to get overlap and the war for Kings Landing will probably wrap up in the final episode, the same as the Night King War (though I can see the Night King going down in the penultimate episode too). Cersei looks to hold on to the throne as the last villain to be ruler, but who will take her out? A lot of people want her dead. I can envision a scenario where any one of Tyrion, Jaime, Jon, Arya or Daenerys could take her out and no one would cry foul. Easy money is on Jaime though. It would offer the greatest bit of drama to it. Tyrion killing her feels too redundant. Jon killing her lacks much story (unless she kills Dany midway through season eight). At this point, Arya killing her would be fan service but nothing more. You want to maximize the emotion that these big moments offer, and Jaime killing his love, perhaps as an act of service to the realm—in a mirror of his killing of The Mad King—would be poetic and powerful. If Jaime goes down with her, that’d be even sweeter.

As for who sits on the throne in the end, my prediction is no one does. Jon has the claim but there’s nothing about his character that implies he would want the chair. So either he wins in and rejects it for Dany to claim it, or no one sits on it, and democracy comes upon the land, breaking the wheel as Dany once promised to do. Isn’t it interesting how there are so few rulers of the major regions left? Dorne seemingly has no ruler, nor does the Reach or the Stormlands, or Casterly Rock for that matter. The Riverlands have Edmure Tully maybe still farting around. Sweet Robin is still sucking his thumb in the Vale I guess but he’s just a boy and as of now his banners have sworn allegiance to the North. All that’s left is Euron running the Iron Islands, and Jon Snow as “Kingadanorf.” Euron is as good as dead so he’s out. There’s not a lot of people left to wear a crown anymore. Maybe democracy is the way forward.

RANDOM BIG MOMENTS

Shotgun predictions, in no particular order, for some big events that I’d like to see, that I think we’ll see, and that we have to see:

  • Beric and Tormund survived the wall coming down, but Beric dies dueling the Night King in the first episode.
  • Drogon vs undead Viserion (“The Dance of Dragons” 2.0) will happen and it’ll be epic. Cersei brings down Rheagal mid-way through the season.
  • The Hound vs The Mountain will happen, it too will be epic, and in a bit of poetic justice, the Hound will get his revenge by burning his brother to death.
  • Weird creepy Qyburn dies at the hands of a Wight he had captured and was experimenting on. He’s really the The Bishop of Hereford to Sam’s Friar Tuck.
  • Jaime will join team-Jon/Dany, and an awkward moment between he and Bran will ensue, though Bran will probably thank him for pushing him out of the tower since it led him to becoming the Three Eyed Raven.
  • Sam will return to the Citadel in or near the end, and will earn his Maester’s chains. He’ll end up the Samwise Gamgee of the story, as his namesake implies, and he’ll put the cap on the whole history book chronicling the war for the dawn.
  • Daenerys will die in the second to last episode, at the hands of the Night King, just before he gets put down for good by Jon.
  • Jon learns his parentage, but refuses to wear the name Aegon. Conflict between he and Dany happen in the early episodes but are resolved when the Night King sacks Winterfell (see below) and the heroes are driven south.
  • The Golden Company fights for Cersei, led by Daario. They are talked up for months by executives leading up to the premiere but are taken out with little fanfare and a shrug from the audience.
  • Greyworm dies.
  • Theon dies rescuing Yara from Euron. He and Yara kill Euron though. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and predict all three of them die.
  • Arya kills Melisandre. I refuse to believe the writers included this cryptic scene and never intend to pay it off.
  • Along the same lines, Varys will die, perhaps as a result of a betrayal. You don’t have a red witch predict a character’s death and then not follow it up.
  • Arya and Gendry leave Westeros in the end to explore the unknown lands west of the continent.
  • Tormund and Brienne never hook up, but he does die saving her life. Many tears are wept inside my TV screen and out.
  • Jaime kills Cersei and the Mountain kills Jaime, bang-bang. Then the Hound kills the Mountain. No one watching will draw breath for a solid ten minutes during all of this.
  • Undead Hodor wrecks Winterfell (see above) and breaks the internet.
  • We never see Howland Reed and fans comfort themselves on the promise that George made that we’d meet him in one of the last two books. And then fans cry on the liklihood that we’ll never read A Dream of Spring.
  • We never see Cersei’s baby, nor do we ever see Dany’s, though both are with child when they die.
  • Sansa The Survivor is the last woman standing, and lives out her days as Lady of Winterfell.
  • Jon goes north, to the (former) lands of always winter, riding off into the proverbial-sunset like Shane. Tyrion remains behind to implement the new democratic government of Westeros.
  • Drogon and Rheagal get it on (dragon genders and sexual reproduction techniques are not fully explored, though much fan theorizing will be uploaded to YouTube, guaranteed) and we find out Drogon laid an egg before dying, leaving us with the promise that magic is not ended (a subversion of the Lord of the Rings ending, which basically said that the world of magic was fading away into the boring affairs of plain ole men).
  • There’s still one more HOLY COW moment we’re still waiting on. According to the show’s writers, George Martin told them the big points still to come so they could plan the series accordingly, and three events elicited a HOLY COW reaction. The first was season five’s burning of Shireen, the second was the “Hodor/Hold the Door” death from season six. We’re still waiting on that last shoe to drop. What could it be? People are speculating that maybe Bran is somehow the Night King; that he went back in time and warged into the man that the children of the forest turned into the first Other, maybe in an attempt to stop the war before it started. Connected to that is the idea that Bran just goes scorched earth on his time traveling and gets inside the heads of past kings in order to warn them of the White Walker threat; this causes Aerys to go nuts and start talking about “burning them all” which kind of became his catchphrase and helped kick off Robert’s Rebellion. Bran being responsible for basically every bad thing that happened is a pretty far-out theory, but, despite being openly speculated in a lot of places, it would be a sufficient shock. Other than that I have no idea what it could be.
  • And finally: The Winds of Winter is released next fall, and includes a promise from George that “A Dream of Spring” will be out in “three or four years” and we never hear of it again.

Those are my theories, what are yours?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to catch up on all our Game of Thrones coverage while we await season eight!

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