Now that the dust has settled on another spectacular season of ‘Game Of Thrones’, the realisation is setting in that we all face an extremely long wait before it returns one last time for its eighth and final run. Recent reports are suggesting that it could well in fact be 2019 before the show returns to our screens. It’s a long time to wait for our questions to be answered, so long in fact that the next book could even be published in the meantime.
For us fans, this unwelcome downtime between seasons provides a chance to mull over our favourite theories, contemplate what the events of season seven truly meant and look ahead to what we expect to be resolved when the final season does eventually arrive.
Here’s a look at the most tantalising loose ends the show still needs to address in season eight:
1. Who will sit on the Iron Throne?
Let’s start with a big one. Once the battles have been fought and the political games played out, who will be left sitting on the Iron Throne? As Cersei wisely pointed out back in season one, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” How right she was too as since the show began, we’ve seen plenty of contenders for the throne meet with a sticky end, from the noble (Robb Stark), to the righteous (Stannis) to the just plain evil (Joffrey).
Entering the final season, the major claimants to the throne are the reigning monarch Cersei, her Targaryen rival Daenerys, and the unknowing Targaryen, Jon Snow (aka Aegon). In sheer narrative terms, there’s a case to be made that any one of these three could win out. Cersei plays the game better than anyone and has already seen off plenty of rivals. Daenerys has been set up since day one to be the next big hope for Westeros, offering a taste of justice and freedom to the realm’s downtrodden masses. Then of course, there’s Jon. Last season he metaphorically bent the knee to Daenerys, but that was without him knowing his true identity and of his own strong claim. Given that he is half-Stark, half-Targaryen too and therefore quite literally ice and fire, his centrality to the story cannot be overlooked.
In practice though, it may not be as straightforward as one of these three simply taking sole control of Westeros. Perhaps instead we’ll see a north/south power share arrangement of some kind involving Jon and Dany, though this is definitely a scenario that would be complicated further by their incestuous relationship continuing to bloom.
Alternatively of course, the White Walkers could still kill all of Westeros off before the battle for the throne can ever be concluded and this may all be a moot point.
However the great game plays out, it’ll be fascinating to see who prevails when the dust has finally settled.
2. Can the White Walkers actually be stopped?
The White Walkers finally made their way to the Wall at the end of season seven after many years of surprisingly slow progress. The Night King was clearly just biding his time, waiting for that perfect moment where somebody provided him with a creature than can breathe molten blue flame before he made his move.
With the Wall brought down and the undead marching into Westeros en-masse, the fight against the Whites is clearly going to be a huge part of the final season. So much so that the battle for the Iron Throne may take a bit of a backseat while this far more pressing battle unfolds. The question is; can the White Walkers actually be stopped at all?
Clearly, this is going to be one hell of a task and even if all the armies of man can work together, and that’s certainly a big IF, they may not have the numbers or the resources to take the army of the undead on. They do at least have a sizeable stash of dragonglass now, plus a handful of Valyrian-steel swords and two remaining dragons, but will that actually be enough?
The key to stopping the White Walkers and their army of whites may well have been hinted at in the season seven episode “Beyond The Wall”. Here it was revealed that if you kill a White Walker, then the whites whom it reanimated die too. In other words, take out the Walkers, and the dominoes begin to fall. Perhaps therefore what the whole show is building towards is a simple battle to the death between the Night King, and one of our Westerosi heroes.
However they do it, it’s going to be a big ask to hold back the forces of darkness. The Walkers seem hell-bent on turning every living thing on Westeros in to one of their resurrected acolytes and who knows; maybe they cannot be stopped. Maybe they will lay waste to all comers and spread icy death across the realm. Though, even George R R Martin wouldn’t be that bleak. Would he?
3. Will there be a Prince that was Promised and if so, who is it?
One of the most popular theories on the show revolves around the much-discussed “The Prince that was Promised”. This is a prophecy of considerable prominence in the books, which has its roots in the religion of the Lord of Light. Their take on the prophecy is that a mythical figure called Azor Ahai, who halted a similar threat many centuries earlier, would be reborn as the aforementioned Prince and would save the Seven Kingdoms from darkness.
For a long time, the majority of references to the Prince came from the Red Priestess Melisandre who bestowed the title upon Stannis Baratheon. After his dramatic fall from grace however, her allegiances noticeably soon shifted and she conveniently now backs Jon Snow for the role instead.
The prophecy came to further prominence in season seven when it was revealed in a meeting between Melisandre and Daenerys that in the original High Valyrian in which the prophecy was written, the word used for Prince was gender neutral and could also refer to a woman.
While not all prophecies are destined to come to pass, this one feels too big to simply ignore. In both books and show, it’s been a recurring part of the narrative that has been broached now by multiple parties. Daenerys and Jon are the two obvious contenders for the role; yet neither of them firmly fit the prophecy’s outline exactly. Arguments have been made for several other characters too, including the likes of The Hound, Tyrion and Jaime Lannister, but given their positioning as the show’s two central heroes, the two Targaryens certainly seem the most likely candidates.
It’s not too much of a stretch however to assume that if someone does wind up fulfilling the role of the Prince that was Promised, while it would make them a bona fide hero and saviour of all the land, it could require them to make a fairly hefty sacrifice to do so.
4. What will the repercussions be when Jon finally discovers his parentage?
Season seven saw us finally receive indisputable confirmation that Jon Snow was indeed the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Not only that, but we also learned that Rhaegar’s previous marriage to Elia Martell was annulled and that he re-married Lyanna, thus making Jon legitimate. At some point in the next season therefore, this choice nugget of information needs to be passed on to Jon himself. One imagines that the honours will be done by one of Bran or Sam who pieced together the mystery between them, with more than little bit of help from Gilly of course.
Once it becomes common knowledge, the repercussions of this revelation will be extremely interesting. Firstly, will it put an end to Jon and Daenerys’ burgeoning romance? The pair are in fact nephew and aunt and while there is a rich Targaryen tradition of incestuous relationships, it may still prove a bit of a stumbling block.
Secondly, there is the impact it has upon Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne. He is arguably now the rightful heir as Rhaegar’s legitimate son, leaping ahead of Aunt Daenerys in the queue. Will he stick to his word and support her claim? Or will he become a rival claimant after all?
5. Who will Arya kill next?
Arya has become quite the deadly assassin in recent years, taking out the likes of Polliver, Meryn Trant and Walder Frey in memorably explicit fashion. Those three characters all also happened to be major names on her infamous kill list. Other names that appeared on that list have died by other means, including big names such as Tywin Lannister and King Joffrey. There are however still some important characters on there who could still yet fall victim to Winterfell’s angel of vengeance.
Cersei is still on there for her role in Ned Stark’s death, Melisandre is on there for stealing Gendry away several seasons back, Beric is still on there for his role in that enterprise too, and lest we forget the Hound is on there for what he did to the Butchers’ Boy in season one.
While the latter two names would appear to be relatively safe given their allegiance to team “good guys”, the former duo seem far less secure. Melisandre pointedly told Arya that they would meet again the last time their paths crossed, and also made clear to Varys in season seven that she believed she would die in Westeros. It doesn’t take too grand a leap to put those two facts together.
Perhaps the obvious candidate for Arya’s next big hit though is Queen Cersei. It would be extremely fitting if Arya were to kill the Lannister Queen, after all, Cersei played a key role in the death of her father, mother and brother as well as the systematic mental torture of Sansa at the hands of Joffrey. It would be a wonderful cathartic moment for both her and us as viewers and from what we’ve seen so far, it’s certainly not beyond Arya’s capabilities.
6. What role will Bran have to play?
Since he returned to Winterfell and engaged in the most awkward family reunion in TV history, the artist formerly known as Bran has gone to great pains to stress he is not really “Bran Stark” at all any more. From hereon he is simply the Three-Eyed Raven.
The full extent of his powers do sometimes seems a little vague though. On the one hand he sees all and knows all and can travel to any point in time, but on the other hand he had to have Sam point out that Rhaegar remarried and that Jon is therefore legitimate. Whatever his limitations may or may not be, it’s safe to say that Bran remains an extremely powerful person whose unique abilities will surely be put to much further use. Nevertheless, the exact role that Bran will still yet perform is the source of much debate.
There are a whole host of theories out there centred on Bran’s time-travelling powers. One theory suggests that he may have already played a part in Westerosi history and was in fact one of the voices corrupting the mind of the Mad King. Another posits that Bran will use his time traveling skills to unearth information on how to defeat the Walkers, or indeed stop their creation in the first place. Alternatively, some have argued that Bran will go back in time and become the mythical “Bran the Builder”, the Stark who built the Wall centuries earlier. There’s also the fairly outlandish suggestion that Bran will in fact become the Night King himself, as well as the far more grounded proposal that he’ll simply use his warging powers to take control of a dragon.
In reality alas, most of these theories seem a little too grand to explore properly in six remaining episodes. Perhaps Bran’s role will ultimately be something slightly less convoluted and more straightforward. Maybe he will simply be used as a one-man historical Westeros Wikipedia, ducking back into his mind vaults to clarify matters for those around him and provide us all with some timely backstory. I for one am more than happy to witness further footage from the era of Robert’s Rebellion.
7. What does future hold for Jaime?
The redemption of Jaime Lannister has been one of the most intriguing character arcs on the entire show. In early seasons he was the cocky and conceited rich boy who pushed Bran out of the window and viciously killed his own cousin while they were both held prisoner. Since then of course, he has lost a hand, learned valuable life lessons from Brienne and, barring one woefully misjudged scene involving Cersei and Tommen’s tomb, has become a far more likeable and moral character in general.
Since embarking on this path to redemption, his relationship with Cersei has unavoidably proven to become increasingly strained. On the one hand he clearly still deeply loves his sibling and the possibility that she is carrying his baby will certainly be preying on his mind. On the other (solid-gold) hand however, he has clearly grown a conscience in recent years and after the big showdown in the dragonpit, he seemed to be fully behind Cersei’s commitment to send Lannister troops to fight the undead. When Cersei revealed that she was in fact faking and had no such intentions after all, he was outraged and it appeared to be the final nail in their proverbial relationship coffin.
It remains to be seen therefore what Jaime will do next. In the immediate future, the finale appeared to show him saddling up and riding off to join the good fight in the North. Despite Tyrion being there to vouch for him to some degree, it’s still very doubtful he will be welcomed with open arms given his chequered past.
While his immediate plans are a little unclear, it looks increasingly likely that we have witnessed the seeds being sown for an eventual showdown between the Lannister siblings further down the line. There was of course a prophecy given to Cersei which stated she would one day be killed by her younger brother. Given that the same prophecy predicted her three children would die, it’s certainly not one to be taken lightly. While long assumed to be referring to Tyrion, it could in fact be Jaime who kills his increasingly unhinged sister. After all, what better way to complete his redemptive arc than to kill his evil twin and become a two-time demented-monarch slayer?
8. What role will the Golden company play?
Their name had been brought up in passing a few times already but the season seven finale also revealed that Cersei had employed the legendary sellswords, The Golden Company, to come over and fight on the Lannister’s behalf. The Golden Company are a well-respected and much feared group of mercenaries who tend to operate over in Essos. Undoubtedly, these guys will go some way to making up for the distinct lack of allies currently appearing on Team Lannister.
The Golden Company are far more prominent in the books and it is strongly emphasised that unlike other sellswords, they have never broken a contract, leading to their motto becoming, “our word is good as gold”. In the source material, they arrive in Westeros serving Jon Connington and the supposed Prince Aegon Targaryen (a character in the books who it would appear we won’t be seeing in the TV show) and proceed to take several key castles with considerable ease.
While the presence of an army of the undead may test their motto to breaking point, should they stay true to their word, they could certainly prove to be an extremely major factor in the final battle for the Iron throne.
9. Will Theon save Yara?
Poor Theon. He’s not had the best of times over the course of the seven seasons thus far. Granted he brought some of it on himself with his ill-advised Winterfell power grab, but his treatment at the hands of Ramsey was truly harrowing. Mentally and physically tortured and completely broken down, Theon barely survived with any semblance of sanity intact. He did of course muster just enough courage to help Sansa escape, an act of heroism which was also the only reason that Jon let him live when the two were reunited on Dragonstone.
Since escaping from Ramsey, Theon has thrown his lot in with his sister Yara and supported her claim to the throne in the Iron Islands. He then sailed with her in service of Daenerys too, only for the pair of them to be attacked and overpowered by their Uncle Euron and his forces. Unfortunately, a glimpse of the old Theon returned when Yara was taken prisoner and he froze up before abandoning her to save his own skin.
At the end of season seven however, Theon showed that his own path to redemption wasn’t quite over yet when he announced his intention to set sail and rescue his sister from Euron’s clutches. The complication here though of course is that Euron isn’t sailing home at all, but is in fact off on a mission to escort the dangerous Golden Company to Westeros.
It remains to be seen therefore whether Theon can indeed complete his final chance at absolution and complete an extremely daring and dangerous rescue, or whether Ramsey’s actions will prove impossible to overcome once more.
10. Will we get Cleganebowl?
It’s the duel that fans have been clamouring to see since season one, The Hound vs The Mountain. Sandor has always hated his older brother Gregor with the years of childhood bullying, including the horrific burns he still carries, understandably fuelling this animosity.
Since the early days of the show, the pair have taken wildly different paths. Both started in the service of House Lannister, but The Hound has gone on something of a journey of atonement since those early days. He became a surrogate father figure to Arya, showed genuine remorse at his previous actions and then played a crucial role in the all-important raid north of the Wall. Meanwhile, his big brother took the complete opposite path, crushing Obery Martell’s head in with his bare hands and then being resurrected as an emotionless half-dead zombie.
The two brothers find themselves on opposing sides of the Game of Thrones divide right now and when they finally met in the Dragonpit we got a brief taster of the hostility to come when Sandor stepped up to his big brother and assured him “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” Cleganebowl is on the cards, and it is going to be truly epic.