There are, once again, no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season — which, as you might have heard, is the final season — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts/dragon enthusiasts, Josh Kurp and Ryan Harkness, will answer your eight most pressing questions.
1. Is Sansa right to be distrustful of Daenerys?
Wouldn’t you? The north doesn’t play well with outsiders (note the pointed look Missandei and Greyworm give each other upon their arrival to Winterfell, like they just rode into the get-together from Get Out), and Sansa is specifically wary of anyone with endless titles, including “Protector of the Seven Kingdoms.” (It didn’t help that Daenerys tried to win the Lady of Winterfell over with flattery. Sansa sees through your pretty words, Dany.) She’s concerned that Jon abandoned the crown because he’s not thinking with his brain, but with… another part of the body, the one that Tyrion likes to make jokes to Varys about. But! Think back to Arya’s conversation with Jon by the weirwood tree. “Now you’re defending her? You?” “I’m defending our family.” Arya is speaking like someone who hasn’t seen the Night King in action. Jon has, and he’s right to put the safety of the realm before his family. Sansa’s distrust is excusable (she’s the one in charge of feeding an entire army) but it’s also misplaced. — Josh Kurp
2. Why is Jon Snow able to ride a dragon?
It’s 50 percent because of his Targaryen ancestry and 50 percent because the Game of Thrones showrunners realized they needed to get Jon on the back of a dragon. Like, right now. How else will we buy it when he ends up flying one like an airshow stunt pilot during the upcoming attack on Winterfell? Jon is lucky that the metaphoric “blood of the dragon” flows in his veins, because Daenerys isn’t going to be winning any teacher of the year awards from what we saw.
It took the Mother of Dragons three-and-a-half seasons and a ring of assassins to finally prod her onto Drogon’s back. He then flew her to the middle of nowhere and refused to fly her home. Fortunately, all those kinks have been ironed out over season six and seven. Daenerys has the confidence of an established dragonrider, and based on the books, that confidence seems to play a big part in Targaryens showing dragons who’s the boss. (It’s not Angela.)
While we’re who knows how long away from The Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin did recently release Fire & Blood, a detailed history of the Targaryens in Westeros. It spans back all the way to Aegon’s conquest, and casually includes a ton of Targaryens as young as 15 claiming the various dragons hanging out around the Dragonpit in King’s Landing. And it’s not only the pure bloods borne of incest pulling it off, either. The Targaryens inter-married with many great houses, and those children could fly dragons too. Even lowborn bastard Targaryens known as Dragonseeds claimed dragons from time to time. — Ryan Harkness
3. What is the Golden Company, and why do they matter?
While the Night’s Watch have been around for thousands of years, it’s only in recent centuries been the go-to place for criminals, disgraced lords, and their knights. Side with the wrong faction in a regional squabble or full-blown rebellion, and you’re likely to get a choice between the Wall or death. Those that didn’t like those options tended to jump ship and head to Essos, which is how the Golden Company, currently captained by Harry Strickland, was formed by remnants of rebels that backed the bastard Blackfyre Targaryens a hundred years ago. Selling your sword to them is still a tradition that runs to this day — even Jorah Mormont was a member for a time after fleeing Bear Island.
At this point, it’s unclear whether their origins will play a part in the remainder of season eight. And don’t assume they’ll side with Daenerys because of their shared Targaryen roots — Dany’s ancestors were the ones that sent them packing to Essos in the first place. The key facts in play right now are that they number 20,000 soldiers, 2,000 horses, and zero budget-saving elephants (much to Cersei’s dismay). They also come with a reputation for never breaking a contract. Now we’re just left to wonder whether Cersei was smart enough to make sure they signed that contract with her and not Euron Greyjoy. — RH
4. So… is Cersei pregnant, or not?
For someone who’s supposedly pregnant, Cersei sure didn’t go easy on the wine. Then again, Cersei gonna Cersei. The queen isn’t the most trustful person in the world (now there’s an understatement), so there was already doubt when she told Jaime last season that she was expecting with his kid. That made Euron’s plea that he was going to “put a prince” in her belly all the more uncomfortable. As I see it, the three most likely scenarios are:
1. Cersei was never pregnant (Maggy the Frog’s prophecy only covered three kids: Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, all of whom have died, as was foretold)
2. Cersei will get pregnant by Euron (nah)
3. Cersei had a miscarriage (there’s a passage in A Feast for Crows that lends credence to this theory: “To break her fast the queen sent to the kitchens for two boiled eggs, a loaf of bread, and a pot of honey. But when she cracked the first egg and found a bloody half-formed chick inside, her stomach roiled”)
I happen to subscribe to option number one, but am willing to buy number three. There’s another (book-only) part of Maggy’s prophecy worth discussing: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” The word “valonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother,” which refers to Tyrion, right? Probably, but the prophecy is vague enough, as prophecies tend to be, that it could mean any “little brother,” including Cersei’s new partner in crime, Euron (he killed his big bro, Balon, in season six). That’s a long shot, though. Tyrion makes more sense, especially if turns out that — to return to the initial question — Cersei was lying to him about being pregnant. “You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality,” Tyrion once said about his sister. She knows full well how to manipulate him — and it worked, considering he’s going along with her plan to help the Starks and Targaryen. But if he were to learn she was never carrying, well, Tyrion has already killed one family member. Why not two? — JK
5. What did Arya ask Gendry to make for her?
Before answering this important question, I am going to pose another one: which Arya Stark smile was your favorite? My ranking goes something like:
5. Arya at Jon
4. Arya at Gendry
3. Arya at Jon, again
2. Arya at a dragon
1. Arya at Gendry, again
Arya looking at Rhaegal and Drogon is relatable (although I would have added some Kermit flailing arms in there, too), but Arya giving the ol’ Tormund-looking-at-Brienne eyes to Gendry is more significant. For one thing, it’s the first time she’s seen her shirtless crush since halfway through season three, when Melisandre takes him away from the Brotherhood Without Banners. The blacksmith now works forging weapons to defeat the White Walkers in the bowels of Winterfell (it’s a nice place to live, except for the cold — and the ever-encroaching zombie army). But aside from the playful flirting, Arya has a job for Gendry: make her… some sort of pointy thing. It’s unclear what the tool of destruction is, exactly, (Tommy Dunne, the so-called “Thrones weapon master,” referred to it as a “showstopper”), but based on Arya’s scribbled design, it might be a dragonglass-tipped spear that doubles into a javelin-crossbow hybrid.
Here’s what it looks like in combat in the season eight trailer.
Whatever it is, nice work, Gendry. All that rowing and running paid off. — JK
6. Did Samwell make the right choice in telling Jon?
Well, he didn’t have much of a choice with Creepy Bran staring him down from that cozy spot in the middle of Winterfell’s courtyard (“I’m waiting for an old friend”). The decision to potentially blow up the budding romance between Jon and Daenerys was also made easier after Dany goofed up and didn’t realize Sam Tarly was related to those other Tarlys she annihilated in season seven. Whoops. Still, he did the right thing … just for the wrong reasons. Why is everyone still bickering about pointless titles when the Night King is mere days away from attacking? Jon Snow must feel like he’s taking crazy pills.
As for the question of Jon Snow being the true heir to the Iron Throne, that’s debatable. Male heirs in Westeros do tend to find their claims honored even when there are better female heirs hanging around. And while Dany’s strategic moves of late have us questioning her leadership, she’s still the better heir. She’s the daughter of the “Mad King” Aerys, brother to Rhaegar Targaryen (more on him soon). That puts her ahead of Jon, especially once you consider the fact that Rhaegar died before Aerys and was never more than a prince.
Go far enough back in the history books of Westeros and you’ll find similar spats between Targaryens on who gets the Iron Throne. This isn’t the first time the children of uncrowned heirs have been told they should rule instead of aunts or uncles. This typically leads to a whole lot of bloodshed, which just proves claims are worthless and in the end, might makes right.
Right now, the Night King looks poised to end everyone. — RH
7. What message was the Night King sending with the Umber boy?
The White Walkers certainly do love to make grisly collage art using the bodies of their enemies. They’ve been doing it since the first episode of the series (one of many callbacks to “Winter is Coming”), but what’s really interesting is they’re not the only ones who use that particular swirl design. You can see the same swirls made from stones in some of Bran’s visions of the Children of the Forest. They also pop up in cave art on Dragonstone alongside drawings of the Others.
But what does it all mean? We obviously don’t have the answers, but of course there are theories. Endless theories! Some think it’s a bitter calling card from the White Walkers referencing the Children who created them. Others believe it’s a reminder that the White Walkers aren’t just mindless undead – they have an intelligence that is displayed through their creepy aesthetic that implies deeper motives than killing all humans. There’s also the possibility that the spiral is connected to magical power. The Children created the first White Walker near a weirwood tree that sat at the center of a spiral, and weirwoods are connected to the reach of the Children’s magic. When the weirwoods were cut down in the south by the First Men, the Children lost their ability to see there. Using sacrificed bodies to create their own similar symbols may be the Others’ way to cement and increase their power as they march further south, no different than setting up cell towers. Can you hear me now? — RH
8. Did Jaime make a terrible mistake coming to Winterfell?
Jaime Lannister is trying to do right in this world, but it might be too little, too late. The Kingslayer, who left King’s Landing (and his sister) in anger last season after she plotted with Euron behind his back, is now in Winterfell, where he was greeted by the all-knowing meme lord who he once pushed out a window. Awkward. He’s grown a lot — and lost his hand, and been humbled, and got a new hair color — since the very first episode of Thrones, but a Three-Eyed Raven never forgets. And neither does Daenerys Targaryen.
Jaime got the flattering nickname “Kingslayer,” which he’s tried to live down like a student who ate a booger in first-grade ONE TIME and still goes by Snot Mouth in his senior year, after he killed Aerys II Targaryen, a.k.a the Mad King, a.k.a. Daenerys’ father. Daenerys has said, more than once, that she’s nothing like her father (he did lots of terrible things; fire was involved), but it’s hard to imagine she’ll warmly greet the now-grizzled man who killed her pops. Maybe the other Lannister in Winterfell, Tyrion, will show his brother compassion?
Look, murdering the person you’re sworn to protect doesn’t look great on a résumé, but Aerys was a petty, paranoid, power-hungry nut; Jaime was right to kill him. A redemption arc isn’t out of the question. But the only one who might realize that is the kid he crippled, the one with the greensight. Remember, Bran has seen the Mad King in action — is it possible that he knows the Kingslayer saved countless lives when he plunged his sword into Aerys and could do the same in the imminent fight against the dead? Maybe, but he’ll have a hard time convincing Dany of that. Jaime’s best course of action is telling Jon, Daenerys, and Sansa that Cersei’s promise to join forces was a ruse. Otherwise…
Also, where’s Brienne? — JK
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