The 15 Best Game of Thrones Season Eight Finale Theories
The popular R + L = J theory (which correctly posited that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were Jon Snow's real parents) can be traced all the way back to a blog post on September 18, 1997. This is a little over a year after A Game of Thrones—the first book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga—was published. Since then, the internet has become a far more advanced place for fans and critics alike to share and write about theories for how this immensely popular series could end.
For more than two decades, fans have written millions of words and countless blog posts dissecting both the show, Game of Thrones, and Martin's source material. The books and show have built a vibrant and passionate community that has dedicated literal decades to unraveling the secrets within this vast and detailed fantasy universe that Martin has built.
After years of reading and watching and discussing, the Esquire staff has put together their favorite predictions for what will happen in the Game of Thrones series finale.
Varys Already Poisoned Daenerys
It was a seemingly throwaway line that many Game of Thrones fans missed. But in the early moments of Episode Five, one of Varys’ little birds came to him (as he was writing letters about Jon’s true parents) to let him know that Daenerys wasn’t eating. “We’ll try again at supper,” he told her.
This seems like a clear sign that Varys was attempting to poison Daenerys, which could come to play in the series finale, and could even explain her sudden madness in Episode Five. —Matt Miller
The White Walkers Will Rise Again
Game of Thrones was always known for blowing up everything at the last minute—like when Cersei literally blew up the Sept of Baelor or the Red Wedding. This was a story known for cataclysmic moments. There's nothing more cataclysmic than the White Walkers and the Night King somehow rising again. Many fans felt it was far too easy for the humans to dispatch the Army of the Dead. So, what if they didn't? Perhaps the theories about Caster's babies-turned-Walkers are true, and the Night King's fall didn't wipe out his kind entirely. And it won't be so easy to unify to defeat them this time, what with Dany gone mad. Plus, the GoT creators are being coy about it. —Sarah Rense
Troops Are Coming to Take Down Daenerys
Before his execution for treason, we saw Varys writing letters about Jon’s true Targaryen parentage. He seemed to burn at least one note before Dany’s soldiers took him away, but we never saw whether or not any of his missives made it out. But what if they did? Dany may have toppled Cersei, but she doesn’t actually hold much of the Seven Kingdoms. Her supporter Yara has the Iron Islands and Varys mentioned in Episode Four that the new prince of Dorne backs Daenerys, but there are still plenty of regions that might decide that they don’t want to be ruled by another mad tyrant, especially if alerted to the fact that Jon might be another option. This show loves a deus ex machina, and could very well end with armies from places like the Reach and the Riverlands coming to dethrone Dany. —Gabrielle Bruney
Jon Snow Will Die
When Jon Snow was resurrected it was so he could serve his purpose for the Lord of Light. Now, as we reach the end of the series, Jon has yet to show what that purpose was (he’s been pretty useless in the final season). That purpose must be to sacrifice himself in stopping Daenerys from becoming another tyrant sitting on the Iron Throne (or what’s left of it). It would be far too expected for Jon Snow to survive and become the next king of Westeros. That’s not the Game of Thrones style. George R.R. Martin has made it clear that our heroes must die. And in the end, Jon Snow must, too. —Matt Miller
Daenerys Will Die
Even for Game of Thrones, it would be far too cynical for the Mad Queen to end this series on the Iron Throne. No, the only fitting ending must be a tragic, yet, satisfying conclusion. And considering there’s no redemption for Daenerys after she slaughtered thousands of innocent people, she’s gotta go right? Plus, with the conflict with the Night King done, the only villain left to be vanquished is now Daenerys. The final confrontation between her and Jon snow will, ultimately, a human conflict of the likes that has always driven George R.R. Martin’s stories. Ending the series with both of the characters who were once this story’s ultimate protagonists would have perfect Thrones-ian symmetry to Ned Stark’s death in Season One. —Matt Miller
Dany Was Pregnant All Along
Game of Thrones was fairly heavy-handed in making sure Dany informed everyone she can't become a mother, but maybe that was a feint. Imagine now if Dany told Jon she was pregnant with their child. He might show mercy to the woman he loved to protect their baby. Then, that child might continue the struggle between Stark and Targaryen for years to come. Or, it might bring Dany to her senses. Either way, it'd give the show a bridge to the next generation. It doesn't seem impossible, considering Cersei's pregnancy was on the same timeline. —Sarah Rense
Bran is Evil
The youngest surviving stark sibling hasn’t exactly been super helpful this season, but maybe he’s purposely been holding back from lending a hand in the battle against the Night King or the fight for King’s Landing. Bran’s the only character we’ve seen be touched by the Night King and come away from the encounter no worse off—the babies from Craster’s Keep were turned into Wights at the touch of his cold hand, and Viserion rose as a zombie dragon after the NK touched him. When the Night King grabbed Bran back in Season Six, the Night King may well have turned the kid evil or begun of a process of transforming him into the next Night King himself. If the White Walkers do rise again, this could be a way to make that happen. —Gabrielle Bruney
The Prophecies Mean Nothing
One theme throughout the entirety of Game of Thrones has been the misreading of prophecies. Look no further than Melisandre, whose many mistaken visions led to the tragic downfall of the Baratheon brothers, led by her ruthless attempts to prove Stannis the Prince That Was Promised. Then there’s Cersei, whose entire life was dominated by protecting her children from the fate that was prophesied by Maggy the Frog. That self-fulfilling prophecy eventually became Cersei’s ultimate demise. Now, here we are with only one episode remaining and none of the main prophecies have come to fruition. Azor Ahais and Princes That Were Promised and Houses of the Undying and Valonqars—all of these have been misread not only by characters within the story, but fans who have studied them for decades. —Matt Miller
Arya Will Kill Daenerys
This comes from the beautiful scene of Arya with the white horse at the end of Episode Five. This horse is a reference to a biblical apocalypse, it's a reference to some of the visual imagery in the episode, and a nod to some of the more prominent prophetic language of George R.R. Martin's book. This could all point to Arya being the harbinger of death coming for Dany to avenge the destruction she saw first-hand at King's Landing. So if that’s the case ...
Princess That Was Promised Is Arya
And if Arya does in fact kill Daenerys could that make her the Princess That Was Promised? When that possibility was initially put into place back in Season Seven, many fans thought this was a clunky hint about Daenerys being the Princess That Was Promised. Now that Dany has become a villain, it’s unlikely that she’s this story’s ultimate hero. But, what if, as the Azor Ahai theory says, Jon Snow must sacrifice himself for Arya to kill Daenerys? This would make sense if—in the end—Jon Snow must die so Arya can use his face to get close to Daenerys and kill her. —Matt Miller
Prince That Was Promised Is Jon Snow
Given how lazy the writing in the past two seasons have been, it’s still entirely possible that the writers will go with the easiest conclusion. Since the beginning, George R.R. Martin’s story has pointed toward Jon Snow being the ultimate hero of A Song of Ice and Fire. And that’s still absolutely a possibility here—that Jon must sacrifice Daenerys, at once killing his lover and the ultimate threat to humanity, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Azor Ahai. —Matt Miller
Sansa Kills Dany
At this point, Sansa appears to be the only person of any actual intelligence left alive. She hasn't seen any type of combat yet, but she's ready to do whatever it takes, just like she learned from the murderous Cersei. Given the chance to kill Dany, she would, she'd take it. And she'd do it with the little dagger given to her by Arya that she carried during the Battle of Winterfell—the one that got a lot of screen time and no action in the crypts. It could symbolize the pact between her and Arya: They know Dany must go if the Starks will survive. —Sarah Rense
There Are More Dragons
The dragons of Westeros are often likened to the nukes of our real world. These things are weapons of mass destruction that are impossible to defend against. Almost. After the seven seasons of build-up of dragons as the ultimate weapon, we’re now only down to one lonely Drogon. But, having researched a little bit about dragon biology and reproduction, fans have an interesting theory that Drogon could potentially be female and could have potentially laid eggs when she was missing in Season Five. This would be a terrifying prospect. But, considering dragons could be loyal to Jon Snow as well, he could use one of these other dragons to fight back against Daenerys. —Matt Miller
Sansa and Tyrion Create a New Form of Government
Only Game of Thrones could have a satisfying conclusion in which no one wins the game of thrones at all. What if, in the end, no one is sitting on the Iron Throne because there isn’t one at all? As we know based on George R.R. Martin’s extensive history of Westeros, this realm has mostly been at constant war with a never ending rotating cast of tyrants and dynasties. If Jon and Dany do indeed die in the ensuing battle, could it be possible that Sansa and Tyrion could pick up the pieces to form a new, democratic form of government? One in which power doesn’t reside in a single person, but in the people as a whole? It would be a shockingly positive way for things to wrap up. —Matt Miller
Samwell Tarly is Writing the Story
This theory has been around for a long time. Considering Samwell Tarly is the best at reading and writing—briefly trained in the Citadel—and has often been presumably the story’s avatar for George R.R. Martin himself, is it possible that, in the end, he’s writing this story? Could A Song of Ice and Fire be the detailed historical documentation of this War of Five Kings, this War With the Dead, and the Last of the Targaryens? I’d love to see the final scene of this show be an aging Sam sitting by a fire with Gilly and all their kids reading what he wrote about his friend Jon and how they saved humanity. Not unlike this. —Matt Miller
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.