There are, once again, no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season (the final season!) and things could get confusing. To help you out, in anticipation of the finale, two resident Thrones experts/dragon enthusiasts, Josh Kurp and Ryan Harkness, will answer your eight most pressing questions.
1. Whose forces are still left alive and where do their allegiances lie?
It can sometimes be hard to tell with Game of Thrones these days. The week after the Battle for Winterfell, I would have sworn Daenerys’ Dothraki screamers were largely wiped out. Yet there they were in great numbers for the sacking of King’s Landing, even after Euron Greyjoy’s fleet sunk the ships they were traveling to Dragonstone on. So keep what I’m writing here with a grain of salt. The Golden Company was seemingly routed last Sunday, but if Harry Strickland’s white horse managed to get back up and ride Arya out of the city, who is to say others survived and aren’t regrouping in the background?
That being said, it sure seems like they’re done for. Euron’s pirate fleet went up in flames, and the majority of the Lannister army and Gold Cloak city guard either surrendered or were burnt to death or both. As far as armies go, the only battle ready forces left are Daenerys’ Dothraki and Unsullied, and Jon Snow’s Northern forces. Way too far away to help in theory but who knows in practice are Yara Greyjoy’s fleet currently in the Iron Islands (the opposite side of the continent to King’s Landing) and the forces of Dorne (far though the mountains to the south and led by a mysterious new prince no one knows much about).
Those are the only armies left that have been mentioned thus far, but with so much focus on Winterfell and King’s Landing only, there are other kingdoms in the Seven Kingdoms that could be calling their banners and marching to the Crownlands to declare for Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen. Keep in mind that Varys dropped his typically slick and silent Spider routine to scrawl out as many “Screw Dany, Jon/Aegon for King” letters as possible before he died, and who knows how many forces could show up next week. If this wasn’t clearly the series finale, I’d almost expect several surprise new armies to show up because that’s just a very George R.R. Martin thing to happen. — Ryan Harkness
2. Is there any chance Jon and Daenerys both get out alive or does one of them have to die?
Game of Thrones made its name off being one of the few shows willing to ruthlessly kill off its main characters, and while it hasn’t turned the act into a predictable season finale ratings stunt (*cough* The Walking Dead *cough*), it has leaned into death as the ultimate resolver of story arcs. So when in doubt, I’d say it’s safe to assume a character is more likely to die than not, and bookies are putting heavy odds on Daenerys biting it during the final episode.
Then again, it’s just as likely that the show flips the scripts and murders Jon Snow instead, leaving Dany as the tyrannical ruler of Westeros. Since when have the good guys ever come out on top in this show? Realistically, Dany has a bigger army, and they’re lifelong killers rather than the mix of soldiers and farmers recruited in Winterfell during the threat of the Night’s King. She also has a dragon which could have ended the entire conflict with Cersei two seasons ago if Daenerys hadn’t tried to do things the humane way first. So, in summary: one of the two Targaryens has to die. The only question is which one it’ll be, and how they’ll go. Which leads into our next question quite nicely… — RH
3. What is Arya’s next move?
She and Horse Bran are going to kill Daenerys, obviously.
But seriously, the horse wasn’t Bran (or death incarnate), it was a moment of beauty surrounded by horrible carnage, and I don’t think Arya is going to be the one to kill Daenerys. It would be pretty unsatisfying for two main characters who have barely shared any screen time to finally have a moment together, only for one of them to die, but considering all the other storytelling issues this season, I fully expect this to happen. (Even if it should ideally be Sansa who kills Dany.) And what a letdown that would be. Arya already had her moment in the sun (dark) when she killed the Night King all of three episodes ago, and going after Daenerys would mean siding with Melisandre (“I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me: brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever”) over what Sandor Clegane told her: “Look at me. You want to be like me?” Don’t let revenge consume you, in other words.
So, that’s what I think will happen. But what I want to happen? For Arya to finally learn “what’s west of Westeros.” I would also accept Arya using her face-changing skills, which she hasn’t used lately, to turn into Khal Drogo, reminding Daenerys of the horrors she’s inflicted on the world since the moon of her life died, only for Arya/Drogo to rip out her heart, or something. That would be cool. Anyway, at least one Stark should have a happy (?) ending, and for Arya, that would be getting the hell away from that cursed continent. — Josh Kurp
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how screwed is Tyrion Lannister?
Oh, he’s screwed at an 11.
Honestly, it’s kind of shocking that he’s lasted as long as he has. Objectively speaking, he’s been a terrible Hand to Daenerys. He made a deal with the slavers of Meereen that allowed them to organize the near assassination of his queen. He counseled restraint and trust with Cersei Lannister on multiple occasions, leading to the loss of Dany’s first dragon during that little wight hunt north of the Wall and the Night King’s invasion of the North. And he let the cat out of the bag regarding Jon’s true parentage rather than clamping down on that biz with brutal efficiency like any other functional ally of Dany would have.
The release of his brother Jaime is undoubtedly the last straw, if there even needed to be a last straw. You saw Dany’s reaction when the bells of King’s Landing sounded, a signal Tyrion devised to tell her the city had surrendered. Crazy or not, she clearly did not believe her enemies were vanquished and what followed was the act of someone who had no trust whatsoever left in the Hand that led her up to that point.
I’m expecting Daenerys to deal Tyrion a fate similar to Varys, an act that will confirm that she has indeed become the Mad Queen or intends to rule as such until the Seven Kingdoms fall into line and stop talking about Aegon goddamn Targaryen. There is, however, a potential wildcard that could save the biggest little Lannister’s life — the possibility that he’s another secret Targaryen. Theories regarding Tyrion’s parentage have swirled for years, and there’s convincing evidence hidden in the books that suggest Tywin was sterile, and all three of his children were sired by the Mad King Aerys. Tyrion has been shown to have a Targaryen-like affinity with Dany’s dragons in the past, so could this twist save him in his hour (or rather 80 minutes) of greatest need? — RH
5. Are there any characters that could ride into this mess and save Westeros from turning into a horrific dictatorship?
Once again, after the events of this season, I have to admit anything is possible. But following the old chestnut from Chekhov — that a gun showing up in the first act is going to be fired by the end of the third — we’d say keep your eyes open for Gendry Baratheon, the new Lord of Storm’s End. The Stormlands are located just south of King’s Landing and we all know how fast Gendry gets around when he puts his mind to things. It’d also be hella ironic for Dany to fall at the last minute due to a sneak attack by the one person she lifted up from bastard to lordship.
At this point it feels like a futile hope, but as usual I feel like the world would benefit from a bit of Three-Eyed Raven action from Bran, something beyond him being a creepy all-seeing weirdo. Fans continue to read Bran’s influence into plenty of happenstance. That white horse that came and rode Arya out of King’s Landing? Clearly Bran! Just like the theory Bran gave that Valyrian steel dagger to Arya knowing she’d kill the Night’s King, we’d say maybe yes, maybe no. It’s totally possible that Bran is the puppet master, but just as likely he’s more useless than a frozen potato. But given the very wide scope of his apparent powers, you can never count out a surprise power move from Bran during the clutch events of the final episode. — RH
6. Which main characters will appear in the finale? And which won’t?
With so much death and destruction this season, let’s take a minute to remember who’s still playing the game. There’s Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, obviously; Sansa, Bran, and Arya represent the Starks; Tyrion is the final living Lannister that matters; Gendry is still heartbroken about Arya turning down his marriage proposal; Bronn is out there somewhere, fuming about Highgarden; Greyworm finally snapped and started killing without mercy after the bells chimed; Ser Brienne of Tarth has already moved on from Jaime (I hope); and my dude Davos is serving soup and good advice in equal measure.
Otherwise, Cersei: dead. Jaime: dead. Theon: dead. Euron, Missandei, Varys, the Hound, the Mountain, Qyburn, Jorah, Melisandre, Beric, Lyanna, the Night King, that dope Harry Strickland: all dead! I don’t expect Tormund and Ghost, who are off on their own adventures, to appear in the finale, nor do I think we’ll see a cameo from the long-missing Edmure Tully or Daario Naharis. I can, however, imagine Samwell (perhaps with Gilly) popping up to tell Jon or Bran about something he read in a book. Or how about Yara? Otherwise, her final scene was anti-climatic. Or maybe it turns out everyone is actually Jaqen H’ghar in disguise, which is apparently what much of the Game of Thrones fandom wants/believes. Hm, maybe we don’t deserve a good finale. — JK
7. Can a marriage save the realm?
So much of Game of Thrones has revolved around marriages. Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark (which led to the events depicted on the show). Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. The Red Wedding. The Purple Wedding. Could there be one more, minus any stabbings, in the finale? It’s the easiest, most crowd-pleasing way to unite the realms — to quote Tyrion, “These are perilous times. The crown must forge new alliances, and these alliances must often be sealed in matrimony.” There has never been a more perilous time than right now; the Army of the Dead was defeated, only for Daenerys to going a little (very) fire crazy, killing thousands of innocent people with her dragon.
For a marriage to fix some of society’s woes, two things would need to happen: 1) Daenerys has to die, and 2) Sansa and Tyrion would need to get back together (although they might still be legally married). There’s approximately 73,485 things wrong with this, namely that they were forced together against their will, but this scene, from earlier in the season, was clearly meant to remind us that Tyrion was decent to Sansa, and that they’re still fond of each other. I’m not saying I want this to happen, but a Stark ruling with a Lannister as her second-in-command would back many of the show’s themes, including the downfall of political patriarchy and the rise of Sansa as a presence to be reckoned with. It’s not the unity we want, but it might be the unity the Seven Kingdoms needs. Another possibility: Gendry with Sansa (or Arya, although she’s already said “nah, bro” once), which would be a direct callback to Robert Baratheon wanting to unite the houses in the first episode of the series.
Speaking of Gendry… — JK
8. And finally, who will end up on the Iron Throne?
With King’s Landing still on fire and the Red Keep collapsed in on itself, it’s unclear whether the Iron Throne even survived the carnage, but I understand what the question is asking. It’d be very Game of Thrones to have the seat everyone is fighting over destroyed and whoever wins becoming the literal lord of the ashes. But for as much controversy as the showrunners have courted over season eight, it’s clear they want to give people the big moments they’ve been craving for years, if not decades. That means the show will undoubtedly close with someone on the Throne, and I’d put my money on Gendry.
As dark and realistic as Daenerys winning would be, it would cost too much to wrap things up with her on the Throne. You wouldn’t just have to kill Jon and his northern forces. You’d have to murder off his allies, including Arya, Tyrion, and Davos, and imply that Sansa, Bran, and everyone else in the North is gonna get what’s coming to them down the road. I just can’t believe a show that’s engaged in so much fan service of late would have the guts to go that route.
At the same time, it certainly doesn’t feel like they’re setting up Jon Snow to be the ruler. As he’s said about a dozen times over the past few episodes, he doesn’t want it. He’s clearly terrible at being in charge, and Westeros would be worse off if he did end up being forced onto that throne. I fully expect him to perish in some heroic yet tragic way, possibly killing Daenerys and weeping with her in his arms as they both die, Jon still blissfully unaware that a lot of season eight’s carnage was a direct result of his dumb actions (as discussed here).
That brings us to Gendry Baratheon. The bastard son of King Robert Baratheon, raised up by Daenerys Targaryen (whoops!) but with strong Stark connections. Blacksmith to the Brotherhood of Banners. Hero of the hunt beyond the Wall. Hero of the Battle of Winterfell. Arya might have shot him down, but I don’t think Westeros would. At this point, I think the lords and common folk are going to be completely over the idea of Targaryen rule. Why not roll things back to a simpler time when King Robert was, well, king and a soaring deficit was the worst concern the Seven Kingdoms had? — RH
I hear what you’re saying, Ryan, I really do. But there’s only one way for Game of Thrones to end: with Davos on the Iron Throne. Is it possible? I mean, technically yes, in the same way that it was possible for Laura Roslin to become the president of the Twelve Colonies on Battlestar Galactica. For Davos to reign supreme, it would mean nearly everyone else on the show has to die, beginning with the Starks, Targaryens, Baratheons (sorry Gendry!), Lannisters, Martells, and so on. Would that be so bad? Daenerys solves problems with fire, Jon Snow is a klutz, the Starks had their chance, and Tyrion is a Lannister, and while the Lannisters pay their debts, they’re bad at ruling. So, why not Davos? He’s the only decent person left alive in Westeros, but he’s also a smuggler, which is neat. Davos comes from humble beginnings, takes care of the common folk, has experience in politics having served as Stannis Baratheon’s Hand of the King and Jon Snow’s advisor, he’s not afraid to tell it like it is, and he can read, which will come in handy while overseeing the Seven Kingdoms.
“If we don’t put aside our enmities and band together, we will die,” a great Onion Knight once said. “And then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.” There’s only person I want to see on the Iron Throne: Davos Seaworth, hopefully with his skeleton, skin, and everything else intact. — JK