Season seven is just behind us and the eighth … well, it’s very far away ahead of us, but it will arrive someday. Now, before there are any production spoilers to ruin our baseless speculation, we bring you our early predictions for the last season of Game of Thrones.
Who will live and who will die? Is that a fair metric we should use to judge the show? How conventional or subversive should we expect the conclusion to be? Will our craziest theories come true? We try to answer all of that and more — below the cut.
Luka: Each year, before there are any spoilers, I dutifully write my predictions, and then modify them as information comes in, so I can piece together the story as best as I can. But my initial predictions are always fun to look back on. So this is an exciting time.
Petra: We get to put on our tinfoil hats! I’m horrible at making predictions, though. Let’s just get that out of the way. So, everything I’m about to say is going to be wrong.
Luka: Don’t worry. Maybe, out of all of your wrongness, we’ll get to triangulate the truth!
Luka: The White Walkers have breached the Wall. In “Dragonstone”, Jon declared that Eastwatch, Last Hearth and Karhold must be manned because the Night King was last seen in Hardhome; these Northeasternmost strongholds will be the first line of defense. Eastwatch has fallen, so I’m afraid young Ned Umber and Alys Karstark and their respective ancestral homes will be the next casualties in this new War for the Dawn. I don’t necessarily think we’ll get to see the castles fall, but I bet we at least hear about it.
Petra: There could be a montage of these strongholds falling to the White Walkers and these minor characters dying at the same time, though it wouldn’t really happen that way. That’d be a pretty tragic way to open: poor little Ned’s and Alys’ last stand.
Luka: We might see something like that as part of a minor time jump of a few weeks, as we did with the taking of Casterly Rock and Highgarden. The showrunners might want to show these showdowns in some way, in a filmically interesting montage, though certainly not in an expensive, elaborate battle sequences. After all, as unfortunate as the deaths of Alys and Ned would be, we can’t say these are characters we care about, beyond the fact that they are blameless children. But there are major characters in immediate danger as well. What fate do you believe awaits Beric and Tormund?
Petra: I think they’ll be okay… for a short while. They probably won’t make it to the end. But it’d be very silly if they narrowly survived the Wall falling at the end of season seven only to be killed off in the opening scene of season eight, wouldn’t it? They can die in the premiere, but not the first scene. Will we just open on Tormund and Beric’s dead faces?
Luka: They may survive the opening scene, but I’d bet they’ll die early on nonetheless. Soon after watching the finale I’d have thought they’d survive for a good while, because Beric and Tormund would be the ones to go to Winterfell and warn them about the Wall. Then I realized that, of course, Bran saw it all through the ravens. So there’s no need. There are six episodes left and they might want to start off with a bang, and here we have two relatively expendable characters who are already in quite a pickle.
Petra: I like both of them. It’s gonna be sad.
Luka: We’ll be losing two of the great voices, by the way.
Petra: Oh, yeah! Maybe they can still sing and play with the Brotherhood Without Banjos.
Luka: In this strange show, most of the cast has shared a location only three times: Winterfell for Robert’s arrival in “Winter is Coming”; the Red Keep for Joffrey’s wedding in “The Lion and the Rose”; and the Dragonpit summit in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Yet another congregation of characters may be right around the corner, in the very next episode. The Stark children were the only main characters missing at the summit, but now all of its participants are heading to where the Starks live, except for Cersei and her ever-dwindling retinue. Speaking of whom: Jaime, of course, is heading North, having deserted his sister at long last. What do you think our oathkeeper will find there?
Petra: Some means of redemption, hopefully. It’ll be an interesting callback to season one if Jaime returns to Winterfell. It would add some poignant circularity to his story if becoming a better man entails returning to the site of his greatest crime (in addition to potentially having to kill his second mad monarch, but I’m sure we’ll get to that later.) Anyway, I don’t have a clear idea of what might ensue once he arrives in Winterfell.
Luka: As I see it, Jaime will offer his services to Daenerys, and probably be quite ready to admit the attempted murder of Bran and face the consequences. Plenty of people will call for his head, but Bran will declare some weird raven shit about his fall from the tower being crucial in his journey to raven weirdness, thus exculpating Jaime. And then Tyrion and Brienne will intervene on his behalf regarding his intentions going forward.
Petra: It could be a pretty powerful summation of Jaime’s arc if, in one scene, all these characters, particularly Brienne, come forth to testify to how much he’s changed.
Luka: Now that they aren’t on opposite sides of a war, hopefully Jaime can be more forthright about his feelings. A happy ending for them may not be likely, but I hope they get to be happy together, in some form, before one of them perishes — probably Jaime.
Petra: I’ve got a good sense of where Jaime is going, and but we’ll get to that later, but I’m not sure about a conclusion for Brienne. I love Gwendoline Christie’s idea that she founds a finishing school for “unconventional young ladies” but that’s unlikely to become canon. I can’t really think of a satisfying or else poetically tragic ending for her.
Luka: After all these years, Arya will reunite with Jon, Gendry and Sandor!
Petra: I’m excited to see how Arya reacts to them — or to human society in general. Arya’s ability to accept affection (or lack thereof) is something I expect the show will delve into as her arc comes to a close. Part of me wants a reprise of Arya jumping into Jon’s arms, as she did when they last saw each other, but that’s not going to happen.
Luka: I think it might! I believe the reunion will be exactly what you wish could happen. When Arya heard from Hot Pie that Jon was back in Winterfell as King in the North, we saw Arya’s Faceless facade melt, we saw little Arya return for a few minutes there. We’ll get that again times a thousand when she actually gets to see Jon. Later, it’ll probably get a bit awkward as Jon realizes Arya isn’t the little girl he remembered anymore.
Petra: I like the idea of Sansa and Arya staying together, ruling side by side to the very end. But I’m thinking we’ll get something more along the lines of what was implied with Nymeria. She loves the people that she loves but her place isn’t with them anymore. In the books she might die, but in the show I think it’s more likely that she leaves to see what’s “West of Westeros,” as she told Lady Crane she wanted to in season six.
Luka: Something like that would be a nice, melancholic ending for a character like Arya. Sadly, as a fandom, we tend to discuss the possibility of characters dying or surviving as happy and tragic endings respectively, but there’s more nuance to it than that. Death isn’t the only sad outcome, not by a long shot. Arya being unable to adjust to civilized society and leaving her family once they’re safe would be a good example of that.
Petra: She’s been through a lot of trauma and killed a lot of people cold-heartedly. I don’t know how an ending in which she gets to live happily with her family can be earned.
Luka: To be fair, there’s a middle ground between leaving the known world forever and staying in Winterfell, perfectly adapted to the domesticity of what’s expected of a Lady. She may just turn out to be the strange but beloved relative in the family, you know? The “cool aunt” type who’s still around, who’s still home when it matters but, more often than not, is out hunting or exploring with her direwolf and pack of wolves. That’d also be a fitting end for Arya, in my view. By the way, do you think Nymeria will return?
Petra: It depends on Arya’s fate. I don’t know. I like the bittersweetness of never seeing Nymeria again, but only if it ties in with Arya realizing she can’t stay with her family.
Luka: You’re picturing Nymeria’s return strictly as an endgame scenario, I see. That’s curious. Maybe this is a bit cliché, and one deus ex machina too many, but I’d love it if, just as Arya is about to be killed by a White Walker, Nymeria suddenly jumps in to save her, kind of like the eagles in The Lord of the Rings, or the creatures from the Forbidden Forest coming to the defense of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
Petra: The wolves should play a more proactive role. Including Ghost, hopefully.
Luka: I mean, he has to return, right?
Petra: I’ve got to think he’ll at least have a cameo, just so we are reminded he exists. If there’s a battle in Winterfell, I’d love it if we had literal wolves fighting for it!
Luka: Jon has just bent the knee to Daenerys … in more ways than one. [Laughs] So, how do you think the Stark sisters will react to both of those things? We already saw that Sansa wasn’t particularly pleased to hear that Jon had pledged allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen, though of course it had a lot to do with not being consulted first.
Petra: They’re not gonna like it, at least at first. For some reason, when I imagine characters meeting for the first time, I always picture them eating breakfast together. It makes no sense, but I always picture them in a kitchen, at a circular table, eating cereal. So I have this mental image of Daenerys, Sansa, and Arya in that awkward setting, and Sansa or Arya being like “So, you’re my my brother’s new girlfriend?” I don’t think Sansa and Arya are going to be happy that Jon bent the knee to a foreign invader.
Luka: I think Arya will focus on trying to determine whether this Dragon Queen can be trusted with Jon. You know, the archetypal role that is sadly expected of older brothers regarding their sister’s boyfriends: “What are your intentions with my brother?”
Petra: That would be amazing! I would absolutely love that.
Luka: That said, I hope and expect Arya’s and Sansa’s suspicions are eventually defused. Daenerys will prove her worth to both of them in some way or another, I’m sure.
Petra: When do you think Jon and Daenerys will find out they’re related?
Luka: If the first big meeting between the Starks and Jon and Dany is in White Harbor, there’s good narrative justification for leaving Bran behind — he’s not comfortable traveling, and “there must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” So the revelation to Jon could be delayed for a short while, even though that’s not my first instinct.
Petra: I’d love it if they found out while they’re spooning in bed, all sweaty. “Hey, I’ve got a message from Bran. Should I read it aloud?” There’s this 80’s fantasy novel, The Mists of Avalon, a retelling of the Arthurian legend from the women’s perspective, in which Morgaine and Arthur find out that they’re half-siblings immediately after they have sex, and it’s just this … chaos. I so want that to be how Jon and Dany find out. [Laughs]
Luka: I hope Sam is the one to break it to Jon. Bran’s not very sensitive right now!
Petra: [Laughs] Can you imagine Bran telling them, given how straightforward he is?
Luka: As of now, we’ve only discussed things that I hope most people agree are reasonable and, to an extent, predictable. Now I’m going to switch gears and mention something I want to happen … even though I don’t particularly expect it too. But here it is: I want Bran to have a vision of Rhaegar and Lyanna meeting for the first time. I want this to happen in the context of Rhaegar being sent by his paranoid, mad father to arrest the Knight of the Laughing Tree, a mystery knight who fought in the Tourney at Harrenhal in defense of Howland Reed. We are told Rhaegar only found the vanishing knight’s shield by a tree but, if the very clever ASOIAF theorists are correct, that knight was in fact Lyanna, and he caught her. This would’ve probably been the first time they met properly, in private, and certainly the first time Rhaegar took notice of Lyanna; at the end of the Tourney, he chose her as the “queen of love and beauty” and gave her a crown of blue winter roses, as Littlefinger recounted to Sansa in season five’s “Sons of the Harpy.” A flashback to that meet-cute would be a great way to give us a sense of what Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship was like, beyond the fact that it produced Jon.
Petra: I would love that so much.
Luka: I’m aware that showing the Tourney at Harrenhal itself may be too expensive for a mere flashback that isn’t truly necessary. It’s been set up in the books so we’ll probably get a confirmation in either The Winds of Winter or A Dream of Spring, but this mystery hasn’t even been established in the show. There’s no real need to introduce it now, other than to contextualize Lyanna and Rhaegar’s relationship. But I still want it to happen!
Petra: It’s odd to hinge such a major plot point on a relationship we know nothing about. For the poor casual viewers, who haven’t read the books and aren’t part of the fandom hive mind, there was no buildup or explanation for Lyanna and Rhaegar’s romance. I do consider it necessary to show some context about this scandalous love affair.
Luka: I believe we are bound to see Rhaegar and Lyanna again in season eight, as their relationship flourishes. There’s very little doubt about that in my mind. But I’m just not sure whether it will be in the context of the Tourney at Harrenhal or not.
Petra: What other conversation could they have that would be half as interesting? It’s not just the romance. We’d learn a lot about Lyanna if she’s revealed to be this cool mystery knight, and we’d learn a lot about Rhaegar if he decides not to unmask her.
Luka: True! And if they don’t show the tourney proper, it could be an inexpensive scene that contains a lot of character development and context for Jon’s parentage.
Luka: Speaking of Jon, how do you think he’ll react to the news? If Daenerys isn’t present when Bran or Sam reveal the truth, do you think Jon will tell Dany immediately?
Petra: They’re in a romantic relationship. I can’t imagine him delaying for very long.
Luka: And Jon is Jon. He’s too honest not to tell the truth, no matter the consequences.
Petra: True. I’m interested to see what strikes him the most: the fact that he is related to Daenerys, or the fact that he’s the heir to the Iron Throne. What do you think?
Luka: Honestly? I’d say neither.
Petra: Oh, of course! It will be the fact that his dad was his uncle and his aunt was his mom, right? I keep forgetting how much more I know than Jon.
Luka: I’m sure Ygritte would agree. [Laughs] Everyone else who learns about this, including Daenerys, will likely focus on Jon’s paternity and what it means politically, but I’d bet what that’ll strike Jon like lightning will be the identity of his mother, which he always wanted to know; the realization that Ned wasn’t his actual father; and, of course, the bombshell that Ned, Jon’s mentor in honesty, lied to everyone to save his life.
Petra: I picture everyone who knows arguing about the political implications, but when they turn to Jon, he’s not there. He’s down in the crypts, looking at Lyanna’s statue!
Luka: He must have passed her statue dozens of times. Now he’ll see it with new eyes. He’ll finally have a tangible connection to his mother. I could see him turning to Ned’s statue, too, and asking, like Luke in The Empire Strikes Back: “Why didn’t you tell me?” I’m sure Ned’s lie to the realm and Jon’s Targaryen nature will haunt him for a while before he can reconcile himself to the truth. I don’t think his conversation with Theon in “The Dragon and the Wolf” was just for Theon’s sake. Jon’s words that Theon can be both a Stark and a Greyjoy will be thrown back at him: “You’re a Stark — and a Targaryen.”
Petra: I’d love that.
Luka: Of course, Jon’s identity crisis may go deeper than that: Ned, whom Jon admired for his honesty and tried to emulate, lied to everyone, including Jon, and that’s likely to shock him to his core, much deeper than his parentage. Here is where Meera could come in, if she returns with her father Howland, the only person currently alive who remembers the events at the Tower of Joy. Maybe Howland will help Jon make sense of Ned’s decision to raise him as a bastard and lie to absolutely everyone about it, particularly since Howland was probably present when Ned made that decision.
Petra: Honestly, I just want to meet Howland Reed. As a book reader, the allure surrounding the guy is reason enough to bring him into the plot. And it could give Meera the opportunity for a more cathartic ending than she got in season seven!
Luka: Let’s talk about this, because they laid it pretty thick: Dany’s so getting pregnant.
Petra: It certainly seems that way. Do you have any thoughts about where this is going?
Luka: Narratively, I see the pregnancy serving two purposes, one that is thematic and I’ll get to when we discuss the ending, and one that’s more plot-relevant: Daenerys getting pregnant will likely expedite their marriage, which has been an unspoken possibility since Jon bent the knee. Though the news that they’re related will surely create some drama, I believe they will still get married, for a number of reasons. For starters, it would legitimize their baby, as Jon would never let his own child grow up a bastard. It might also soothe Northern discontent if Jon marries the foreign Dragon Queen he bent the knee to and goes from being King of the North to King Consort of the Seven Kingdoms, rather than demoting him to Warden of the North. Hell, Jon and Dany could even sort it out in such a way that he may keep his original title too, I’m sure. Of course, this is only important in the long run if both of them survive, which seems unlikely.
Petra: Dany’s fate is a bit of an open question for me. It’s interesting they’re building more and more parallels between Cersei and Daenerys: they’ve both lost children; they’re both pregnant by a blood relative; they both have predilections for fire; and they’ve both been denounced as the Mad King’s true successor, by characters and fans alike. So, my predictions for Dany’s and Cersei’s stories are starting to overlap a little bit.
Luka: Do you believe these parallels are there to make the point that “they are not so different after all”? Personally, I see it as a subversion to contrast the characters.
Petra: I don’t know, because this Mad Queen thing with Daenerys needs to pay off in some way. They set it up, then defused it, then set it up again, and then defused it again. Much as I hate the idea of Daenerys becoming a villain, this has to be building to something but, short of tinfoil theories, I can’t think of what, exactly.
Luka: Come on, go crazy! Wear that tin foil hat!
Petra: Well … if you insist! I can imagine Daenerys becoming completely unhinged if she loses all three of her dragons and, in lieu of dragonfire, resorting to wildfire instead. That’d be the ultimate parallel between both her father and Cersei. It’d be interesting if the burnt down King’s Landing throne room from her vision in the House of the Undying was caused by her, instead of Cersei, as the usual theory goes.
Luka: Daenerys could ignite Cersei’s wildfire and destroy the Red Keep, but I can only see it happening unintentionally. Her first instinct has always been to attack King’s Landing with her dragons instead of taking the more indirect approaches that Tyrion suggests, so I can imagine Dany finally succumbing to her worst impulses — which aren’t madness or bloodthirstiness, despite what many might say, but a rigid sense of justice executed with fire and blood. Her intent would be to get rid of Cersei once and for all, but instead the Red Keep and perhaps most or all of the capital blows up by mistake.
Petra: That would be more in keeping with Daenerys as a character. The full-fledged Mad Queen mantle has never made sense for Daenerys, despite the foreshadowing.
Petra: I wonder if Dany will be the one to kill the Night King.
Luka: Hmpf… the confrontation between Jon and the Night King has been set up so explicitly, at Hardhome and the Frozen Lake, that I can’t see it not taking place.
Petra: When I try to picture the actual showdown at the end of the series, it feels very conventional to me at this point: Jon kills the Night King in single combat and every White Walker and Wight falls dead, like the Chitauri in The Avengers or the Droid Army in The Phantom Menace. The one thing they could do to change things up would be to have Daenerys kill the Night King instead and perhaps die in the process. It would be poetic if our Fire Queen died from being stabbed through the heart with an ice sword.
Luka: If there really needs to be a twist in the end, and I’m not completely sure there does, it could have more to do with the structure of the story than what actually happens. This might be too strange or anti-climactic for some people, but what if Jon and Daenerys defeat the Night King in episode four or five, and only then are they forced to face Cersei? What if the showdown with Cersei is the real climax of the story?
Petra: That’d be very unexpected.
Luka: I get why my suggestion has issues. Unpredictability is fine, but it can go too far. After all, the Scouring of the Shire was cut from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings for very good reasons. In the books, the sequence made a crucial point but cutting it made structural sense for the film, as the story really was over by then. Even so, I can see Cersei surviving until the end, which I would have never predicted a few years ago.
Petra: What do you think Cersei would do? What’s the climax you have in mind?
Luka: First of all, we’d have a climax focused entirely on human characters in the aftermath of defeating the apocalyptic supernatural threat. As for what Cersei would do, my theories aren’t revolutionary: her madness will have reach such a self-destructive zenith by that point that all of King’s Landing will be in danger, and Jaime will have to kill his sister as he killed the Mad King, perhaps dying in the process. At some point, Sandor will face off against Gregor, who he may defeat using fire, thus overcoming both his fear of fire and the one who instilled that fear in him at the same time. And Daenerys could die around this point too, if she isn’t already dead by the Night King’s hand.
Petra: That’d be great. Despite our conversation last week about the underrated dramatic value of the White Walkers, it would be very Game of Thrones if the great threat is defeated yet the characters still have to deal with their own human shit.
Luka: The last episode of a Game of Thrones season has rarely included the climax — it’s usually in the second to last episode with the finale serving more as a resolution. In this final six-part season that we’ve got, we could have our battle for the fate of humanity in episode five. Then, for the first half of the series finale, Cersei’s story could come to a close, with at least another thirty or forty minutes left for a proper denouement.
Petra: That would be great!
Petra: I think most people agree about Cersei’s ending: Jaime will kill her. I’ve been trying to think about how the “younger, more beautiful queen” will factor into it. I’d love it if her prophesied bane turns out to be “Brienne the Beauty,” if she’s the one who kills Cersei, perhaps in order to defend Jaime … though that’d compromise the Valonqar prophecy from the books. But Daenerys is the obvious candidate, of course.
Luka: In terms of predicting the end for these characters, Cersei has always been the easiest for us nerds, and I mean that in a good way: Cersei’s story is heading somewhere very particular, and if it’s well executed it’ll be somewhere very dramatically satisfying. It’s a beautifully tragic ending for her, isn’t it? Maybe they’ll surprise us, but if they do, I hope Martin or D&D came up with something just as fitting and emotionally resonant.
Petra: Aside from her ending, how do you think the rest of her story will go?
Luka: Euron will return soon with the Golden Company, because these mercenaries wouldn’t have set them up so explicitly if we weren’t going to see them on the field. There are believable ways for Theon to learn that Euron isn’t heading to the Iron Islands, but I can’t see that confrontation taking place before Cersei gets her shiny new army. Anyway, tragedy aside, I expect it’ll be a very fun season for Cersei. Assuming she loses the baby, she’ll be completely unhinged, vindictive and self-destructive. Moreover, with Jaime gone, she has no calming influences left. The few people still at Cersei’s side will only fuel her fire of madness: her Hand is essentially Doctor Mengele; her protector is a remorseless killing machine who already was a remorseless killing machine before becoming an obedient zombie; and, of course, her suitor and foremost military commander is a psychopathic pirate who happens to be just as mad as her, except in different ways. This Red Keep of Horrors will be a darkly fun watch, while it lasts!
Petra: If we’ve got a few episodes with Euron and Cersei together, and she gives him what he wants, that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. Just imagine an actual sex scene between those two! I just enjoy watching those maniacs on-screen together.
Luka: I hope they develop a completely twisted, depraved relationship.
Luka: Speaking of Euron, how do you think things will go with Theon?
Petra: I’m not completely sure about Theon. His and Yara’s storyline is so divorced from the main plot at this point that I wonder if both of them are going to die. I can’t really see them integrating back into the main plot once Theon saves Yara. If Theon dies and Yara survives, for example, I don’t know what narrative purpose she would serve.
Luka: I believe Yara will be one of the endgame characters who represents the next generation of rulers, the ones who are eager to change things up for their people. Remember, Yara was quite critical of Balon’s pointless Northern conquest, and she agreed to Dany’s terms to refocus the ironborn way of life in a productive direction. Yara could do much good in the world to come, after this near-apocalyptic cataclysm.
Petra: I can see that. I’d like it! I have some ideas about how the rescue mission could go. I’d love it if, when Theon finds Yara, she’s delirious or semi-conscious, uncertain who this guy trying to her rescue is, much like Theon was in season four. So, to assure her that he’s her brother, Theon leans in and says, “Don’t die so far from the sea.”
Luka: That’d be beautiful! Though, to be honest, it could be a bit problematic, because, I don’t know about you, but I’m imagining all of this taking place in a ship, at sea. [Laughs]
Petra: Yeah, me too! [Laughs] I don’t know how they’d make the line make sense, but it’d be nice. Since they’re really emphasizing the parallels between Theon and Yara’s captivity, I’d appreciate it if, assuming they both survive, Yara’s torture has long-term consequences and she has to lean on Theon as much as he leans on her, that they have to help each other. Maybe Euron cuts out her tongue so Theon has to speak for her. I’d find it really moving if these two siblings who couldn’t stand each other in season two conclude the series broken but empathetic, dependent on each other to get by.
Luka: I really like that. I honestly hadn’t even considered the possibility that both would live, but I find your idea to be such a fitting end for them that you may have changed my mind completely. Whether Theon dies in the attempt or not, I do expect him to save Yara and kill Euron. Perhaps the kraken siblings could kill their mad uncle together.
Petra: We know that Melisandre and Varys will die, because Melisandre told us so, but I cannot think of how that will happen for either of them. The only scenario I can cook up for Varys is that he confronts Daenerys, just as she told him to if he ever thinks she’s failing her people in “Stormborn,” but Mad Dany perceives it as betrayal, so she executes him via dragon fire. Now, this far-fetched scenario would depend on Daenerys going “bad” which, as I shall say for the umpteenth time, I do not want to happen.
Luka: I don’t think that’s how it’ll go down but, then again, nothing else has been set up. As for Melisandre, she prophesied she’d re-encounter Arya, who is very ‘murdery’; or the Red Woman could simply die of old age, as she’s supernaturally old and, once she believes she has done her duty to her god, she (or R’hllor) may decide it’s time to rest. Regarding the rest of her story, she went to Volantis and teased her return, and I cannot imagine it won’t be a glorious one, with not only other Red Priests but an army of faithful former slaves to back Daenerys and Jon as the Princess and Prince That Were Promised. In the books, the Red Temple of Volantis has a thousand fire-themed elite slave guards. The Fiery Hand would be quite a sight, even if they’re toned down. It’s funny that all our characters had left Essos behind as of season seven, but now Essos is coming to Westeros, with the Golden Company and whoever Melisandre brings back.
Luka: We’ve talked about the major players and their fates, as well as the general course of the plot. So let’s move on to discussing the actual ending! The climax and resolution.
Petra: Daenerys wanting to be the Queen of Westeros for so long only to become Queen of Westeros by the end may seem appropriate, but it could be trite too. That’s why I predicted her death. Jon never wanted to be the king, neither in the North nor of the Seven Kingdoms, so there would be a novelty to it, along with some nice dramatic irony.
Luka: Jon has been all too eager to sacrifice himself for the cause, as we’ve discussed. The signs are clear. Jon and Dany dying as they save the realm together would be fitting. However, you’ve convinced me that a subversion of that could work great: I could see Jon ending up as a reluctant king — perhaps not the kind of feudal king we’ve seen before, but a king nonetheless. Daenerys will probably still die saving the realm in some way or another, though. There is always the possibility that both of them survive and rule together, but it would have to be handled with much care. Endings can still be bittersweet without the characters dying. Both Jon and Dany could live so long as it’s not framed as an ending in which everything is solved by the sole virtue of their rule. That would be too much like The Return of the King, but not the mere fact of them making it through. That wouldn’t doesn’t necessarily make it like Tolkien’s “The correct bloodline has been restored to the monarchy and now there is peace in the realm.”
Petra: Yeah, I’d like the show to avoid a The Return of the King scenario. What about their child together, though? Do you think he or she has any future?
Luka: I could see the baby becoming a symbol for the next generation — the generation that, after this hard-won War for the Dawn, will get to actually live the “dream of spring.”
Petra: To be honest, I hadn’t even considered the baby coming to term. I like what you said about it becoming a symbol for a brighter future. That could be a cathartic ending. Still, a Targaryen heir — whether it’s Jon, Dany or their baby — surviving this story throws a wrench into our idea that we’ll see the development of a proto-democratic system inspired by the Night’s Watch and the ironborn in which the leader is elected, as Tyrion suggested in “Beyond the Wall.” I believe that will develop due to a lack of alternatives, not because of the goodness of the characters’ hearts.
Luka: I mean, I know you’re from the United States, which is a republic, but that’s not the only form of democracy. There are democracies with kings! I live in one!
Petra: I KNOW THAT!
Luka: [Laughs] My point is, regardless of whether the Iron Throne survives or not, and it probably won’t, I see Westeros maintaining its hereditary monarchy, but with an elected Hand. Or, if that position remains appointed, an alternative step towards the people’s representation could be to have a new kind of Small Council that isn’t so small anymore and is elected in some indirect way — essentially, a proto-democratic parliament.
Luka: As for why I believe Westeros will continue being a monarchy in some form, regardless of the great political changes I expect, I just think it’s more realistic. If in this new system there isn’t a king at the center, at least nominally, every ambitious lordling with a single drop of Targaryen or Baratheon blood will fight for his flimsy claim to the throne, and the people will follow, because monarchy is the only system they know.
Petra: Oh, that’s true. There has to be a monarch, at least at first, to ensure stability. Still, why would the new monarch and their council revolutionize the rest of the system if they don’t have to? I know Dany wants to break the wheel, but what is the incentive for a completely new form of government that is untested on such a huge scale?
Luka: I get that. Despite the shitty “Great man theory” of history, which purports that it’s influential individuals who shape history, that’s not really how the world works. It’s an attractive idea, because it makes for satisfying stories, but these great societal developments usually happen because the environment — nature, technology, previous societal shifts — finally allow for it, and there’s someone there to take advantage of it. But I would argue there is plenty of environmental incentive for political change: the Seven Kingdoms will have just gone through a continental war and a near-apocalyptic conflict; half the Great Noble Houses are extinct, so if there is a time to meddle with the estates of the realm, it’s now; two new cultures have been introduced into the realm, both of which have rather fluid notions of leadership compared to Westeros; the religious center of the realm has been wiped off the map just as a new religion is making strides, in particular when Melisandre returns with what I’m sure will be an army of believers; and, of course, at the center of it all you have a monarch who wants to break the chain of injustice. Even if Dany isn’t sure about how she’ll go about it, and even if she dies, which seems likely, there are very clever people around her who will be willing and able to follow through with her dream in these very special circumstances.
Luka: Who do you think these clever people will be? When you picture one of the last shots as humanity prepares to move forward, who do you imagine sitting at the table?
Petra: Inexplicably, Missandei and Grey Worm are still there, in my mind. Yara and Theon, whichever one survives, if either of them do. I’m confident about Tyrion, too.
Luka: And Sam, of course, for reasons not too dissimilar to Tyrion. I would also add Sansa, for sure, even if she physically plans to stay up North ruling it.
Petra: Those last three —Tyrion, Sam and Sansa —are the only ones I’m 100% positive will survive. I like the idea of the cripples, bastards, and broken things being all there.
Luka: Exactly! The next generation of rulers will be the unlikeliest of people; in a way, those who didn’t “play the game of thrones,” or at least not in the same way the likes of Cersei or Littlefinger would (and did) describe it. It will be the Unlikely Small Council!
Petra: Yeah. I agree.
Luka: Just as the cripples, bastards, and broken things who survived the winds of winter prepare to become the generation of rulers who will break the wheel, they look back on all that was lost and look forward to the dream of spring. That is an ending.