Everything We Know About ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8
Cersei Lannister tried to warn Ned Stark right before he died in the first season of Game of Thrones: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”
This simple and iconic turn of phrase only complicated as the stakes of the seriesramped up over 67 episodes. Medieval kings and queens made political plays; Jon Snow discovered some truths; Daenerys learned how to govern; the two leaders found each other and struck up a romance; and now the dead have breached The Wallin order to kill us all.
In this living document, we’ll keep track of every theory and predict the most likely outcomes for the winner of Game of Thrones as we battle towards Season 8, which is officially arriving in 2019. Some will see their chances of dominating the heap dwindle away over time. Some may be added if their power ranking increases (we see you, deadly and politically motivated Sansa Stark). Some will definitely die. But how does it actually end? Here are the most plausible ways it could all go down.
Jon Snow (a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen) wins
Picturing a version of Game of Thrones where Jon Snow ends up “winning” isn’t that hard — even a bunch of daggers to the heart couldn’t keep him down for more than two episodes. Every time Jon Snow faces an intimidating force in battle, he beats the odds. He’s King of the North! And a secret Targaryen named Aegon, who is actually the person with the rightful claim to the throne.
If Jon Snow is the prophesied Azor Ahai reborn, the great warrior who will save all men, then there’s not much more he can suffer besides the loss of those he cares about. Jon has convinced Davos to gather some lesser Northern houses, like the Mormonts, by talking about the Great War against the dead. Then he wooed his aunt at Dragonstone (and wooed her even more on a boat) to add the Targaryen armies to his side. Bending the knee in Season 7 may have even cost him some status as King of the North, but that’s how Jon Snow rolls. If he manages to arm all of his soldiers with cool new anti-Wight weapons built from mined dragonglass, he’ll probably defeat The Night King. All he needs to do is reveal his true parentage and unseat Cersei… and pray it goes over well with Dany. To the people of Westeros, he’d be their savior. Even if he decides to abdicate the seat at King’s Landing to his Aunt Daenerys, that’s a win for Jon Snow.
Game of Thrones as a series seems to be paving the way for Daenerys Targaryan to seize control of the Seven Kingdoms and become the benevolent ruler worthy of…a proto-Democracy? “Break the wheel,” as she puts it. To do so she’ll have to deal with the Lannisters and the raging Euron Greyjoy. She’ll do it with the help of her army of Unsullied, a horde of Dothraki, and any surviving stragglers from House Tyrell.
Unfortunately, most of her a fleet of Greyjoys are caput after Euron’s surprise attack, which also left the Dornish Sand Snakes dead. The threat of the White Walkers also forced her to pivot away from fighting Cersei to fight the Night King, which could come back to undercut her efforts. All this and she’s down a dragon after Jon Snow’s fruitful if ill-advised trek North.
Basically, Dany will need to use the power of her remaining two dragons to burn back The Night King’s army of the dead when the undead leader campaigns south of The Wall. Considering everything that is involved with killing White Walkers, and wights’ strong association with dragons (obsidian equals dragonglass, valyrian steel equals steel forged in the fire of dragons, fire equals… fire), if anyone is going to have the methods needed to defeat the dead, it’s probably Dany (even Cersei thinks so!). In her visions in the House of the Undying, she saw snow fall on the Iron Throne, but that might have just been a metaphor for the Night King’s attack coming to King’s Landing. There, Dany can hold the city and protect the people (instead of the last time a Targaryen – The Mad King – tried to hold King’s Landing) and claim the Throne, with the future of Westeros at her fingertips.
Miracle Baby Targaryen Wins
The final two episodes of Season 7 had a lot of talking about babies between the young, attractive leads on the show. Daenerys continued to insist she was infertile and Jorah Mormont told Jon Snow that he should keep his sword to give to his children. It seems like we’re building to the reveal of a miracle baby, born of light Targaryen incest. This kid would have the two most extreme warrior-leaders as parents and if Jon and Daenerys are successful in the fight against the Army of the Dead, the miracle baby Targaryen would be the next in the line of succession.
George R.R. Martin has teased that the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire would be “bittersweet” so miracle baby probably wouldn’t get to live a long life with both parents around. Maybe Jon dies in the battle with the White Walkers. Perhaps Dany gives birth but dies taking back King’s Landing. It’s possible it could be thrust into leadership at a very young age with someone like Jorah or Tyrion serving as the Protector of the Realm while miracle baby came of age. Sure, we don’t know if it exists yet, but Miracle Baby Targaryen is at least on the board, which is more than we can say for, like, 90% of the characters on the show.
For everyone else on this list, having someone with their House name end up on the Iron Throne is the same thing as “winning” the Game of Thrones. Not to Cersei. The first queen of the Seven Kingdoms to ascend to her position by blowing up all of her son’s political rivals (including his queen) has one priority: whoever she perceives as her family at any given moment. In the Season 7 episode “Dragonstone,” she mentions making a dynasty for two; in the finale episode, it looks like that second party won’t be Jaime Lannister like we thought, but their next child. The winning conditions for the eldest Lannister involves holding the Iron Throne (which she already does) and to keep her children safe from the undead and her own family. That likely means killing her longtime lover. Who would put it past her?
Cersei also gets joy in crushing her enemies and — hey! — that seems to be working out well this year! She’d still have to face the incoming Army of the Dead, although they’d be worn down from fighting everyone up North. Considering that she’s conquered every other obstacle fate has put in her path, maybe all she needs to do is put Qyurn’s mind to a solution. Or she could mount a large scale attack against the Army of the Dead with any leftover wildfire, since we know that King’s Landing has quite the stockpile. It would be quite the surprise if both Jon Snow and Daenerys failed to stop The Night King, then Cersei lobbed a catapult of green death down onto him. She may be the living villain of the series, but she’s fierce about holding onto that throne and willing to kill everyone but Jaimie to keep it.
Tyrion Lannister wins
There are a few ways it would make sense for Tyrion Lannister to go home victorious. The most distant possibility, but one that cannot technically be proven wrong yet, is that Tyrion is also a secret Targaryen. The show hasn’t made much mention of it, but the books tell that the Mad King Aerys lusted after Tyrion’s mother and possibly could have fathered Tyrion. It would make Tywin’s hatred of his dwarf son even more complex, because he’d also be covering up what happened to his wife. Tyrion Targaryenwould be able to ride a dragon, in theory, and he did manage to unchain them in the show without getting barbecued.
Secret Targaryen or not, Tyrion is currently the Hand of the Queen and a Lannister killer, plus he has experience running King’s Landing and Meereen as a ruler. It’s hard to imagine Tyrion seizing the Throne while Daenerys still lives, unless Dany installs him as a king because the war with the Night King dissuades her from aspiring to the throne. It’s easy to see Tyrion making a better king than Jon Snow after the Great War to Come, especially if Jon has to sacrifice himself to end the Long Winter.
Baby Lannister wins
There is another incest child besides the hypothetical Targareyen that could end up winning the Game of Thrones: Cersei’s kid! Presumably the war between the Night King and the armies of Jon and Dany will take some time and Cersei will get to bring the child to term. Cersei doesn’t need to be alive after the conflict for Baby Lannister to have a legitimate claim to the throne (at least as much as Cersei does as the Lannister-born, ex-Queen-Regent).
This would require both of the baby’s parents to pass away, which would actually fit into a long fan theory about how Cersei is supposed to die. As part of the prophecy from Maggie the Frog we saw in the first episode of Season 4, the novel’s interpretation includes an allusion to Cersei dying when a “valonqar” kills her. That’s valyrian for “little brother.” Many people take this to mean Jaime (her twin born moments after her) and Tyrion (her actual little brother), but if Cersei were to have a boy, that boy would be the “valonqar” to her previous children. Prophecies have been vauguer!
Euron Greyjoy wins
Euron Greyjoy was the surprise MVP villain of Game of Thrones Season 7. A late addition to the Thrones ensemble, Euron now controls the Iron Fleet, which makes him an asset to Cersei. In exchange for helping Cersei win her wars, Euron has been promised that he can marry her. If Euron does marry Cersei, that makes him a King, and then anything that happened to House Lannister after that wouldn’t matter as House Greyjoy would control the Throne.
With the other armies marching North to fight the Night King, Euron is sailing to get the Gold Cloaks, a mercenary group in Essos who have supposedly never broken a contract. That doesn’t stop Euron from making a side deal with the armies in transit, or just making them a better offer once he realizes Jaime Lannister has abandoned his sister. We’re living in a Westeros where the dead have breached the wall, the Gold Cloaks breaking their first contract wouldn’t be the most unexpected thing given current apocalyptic circumstances. Then, Euron can choose to fight the Army of the Dead, or wait until they wipe out most of the mainland before going in for the Night King instant-kill. Embrace the Storm, Euron! Winning it all is within your grasp!
Bran wins (and has always been winning)
This call is coming from inside the Thrillist house, but was given more credence during the events of Season 6’s “The Door.” Bran’s traveling into the past and warging into Hodor set off a time loop that changed history, or more accurately, has alwaysbeen changing history. As Bran becomes the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s more detached from his physical and temporal presence and unmooring himself from the events of time in this series. If Bran can change the past in small ways, then there’s one choice that he could undo that would save almost everyone: have Ned Stark refuse to travel South to King’s Landing to become Robert’s Hand. Ned would have eventually told Jon about his true parentage and the drama in King’s Landing could have occurred without Starks at the center of it. If Bran’s time travel abilities can’t change history that drastically, but can provide portals between time periods, Bran could call upon his namesake, Bran the Builder, and bring some of his knowledge of how to defeat the Night King from the previous Long Night. On top of that, Bran is the oldest living male Stark and the rightful heir to Winterfell and Warden of the North. If Daenerys fails in breaking the wheel, the Stark rung could rotate to the top of all Seven Kingdoms. This theory wasn’t helped by a shot of Bran warging right before we saw the Night King take down The Wall, but don’t tell that to Bran fans.
The Night King wins
The Night King has fans. The thinking here is that, since the one thing the Great War to Come is sure to have is a lot of new bodies, the Night King manages to doom the entirety of Westeros with his cold plague and this winter is the last any of the great houses ever see. As we know now, the Night King can ride the undead Viserion without being a Targaryen (unless he’s an ancient ancestor before the age of actual Targaryens, but that’s a can of worms). Let’s just say: he’s got skills. The dragon also had the capability of burning a hole in The Wall causing enough of a collapse to let the entire Army of the Dead march through. We thought the Night King was wasting time marching around North of the Wall when really he just needed to wait for a dragon to kill.
The only thing between him and the Iron Throne Daenerys, Jon, and their her two remaining dragons. Sure, dragonglass and Valyrian Steel can kill White Walkers — but who is to say The Night King can be killed that way? There’s a shard of Dragonglass in his heart that makes him who he is. With one miscalculation on behalf of team Jon Snow, and a little luck in the great dragon-on-dragon battle to come, the Night King could ride a dragon straight into King’s Landing and sit on the Iron Throne…freezing it. End of Series.
If the series finale really will be bittersweet, the sweet to this bitter might be the Children of the Forest finally cleansing Westeros of man, and given what we’ve seen man do over the course of the series, is it really that horrible?