This article contains spoilers for all of Game of Thrones, including season 8 episode 5, “The Bells.”
It could’ve been so easy. She sits there on her steed, her child, and her weapon of mass destruction. The battle Daenerys Targaryen believed she was destined to fight—and convinced an entire global audience to root for her in—ended before it barely begun. As it turns out, if one ignores the inexplicable ridiculousness of Rhaegal’s death last week, dragons are still the ultimate trump card in a game of thrones, and Daenerys used hers to vanquish King’s Landing’s defenses like it was nothing. But it wasn’t enough.
We can parse out the exact reason why she gave in to her father’s legacy, but at the end of the day she did and the Stormborn brought the storm to her ancestral home by raining hellfire down on the guilty and innocent alike. She thus murdered thousands. Maybe tens of thousands. This was the bitter ending to the climactic battle Game of Thrones has always been building toward, and it’s one that feels true to George R.R. Martin, if more so in concept than execution given the shortcomings of season 8. Still, that leaves one last episode—a finale to the whole series that must wrap up all the story threads we’ve been following for at least nine years. It seems an unenviable task that I’m already lowering my expectations for. However, there is no denying that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have successfully thwarted my early, rosier predictions for the Game of Thrones endgame.
Now, here at the end of all things, we figured that we would take one last shot at trying to anticipate what will come during the final ever episode of Game of Thrones…
A Queen, a King, and No One
When the dust and ash settle on King’s Landing, almost nothing will be left. The city that Daenerys Targaryen swore never to rule as a tyrant was taken with every ounce of the bloodthirstiness that Aegon Targaryen showed when he melted Harrenhal to ruin 300 years ago. She made good on her father’s dying request to burn them all, and it was a grimly illuminating juxtaposition when the remaining caches of Aerys II’s wildfire looked like tiny green sparklers next to the devastation wrought by Daenerys and Drogon’s dragonfire.
King’s Landing has fallen and Daenerys has succumbed to her family’s worst impulses. She is now technically Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but it doesn’t seem destined to last for even a whole episode. Jon Snow, as has been well established to Daenerys’ anguish, has a better claim on the Iron Throne by his legal name of Aegon Targaryen. Arya Stark also barely survived Dany’s carnage only to be drenched in the blood of innocent children. She looks numbed and more bewildered than any time since she endured the spectacle of seeing her brother’s body sewn to the head of his murdered direwolf. Arya came to King’s Landing to kill a queen; it just worked out to be the one she didn’t expect.
All of which seems to portend that Arya is now on a mission to do to the genocidal dragon queen what she did to the Night King, shutting Daenerys Stormborn’s eyes forever. On a certain level, it would make sense and add extra irony to the fact that in Arya Stark’s early prayers of vengeance before going to the House of Black and White, she simply referred to Cersei as “the Queen.” Perhaps she didn’t understand how fittingly nondescript that was? But I do not think this is meant to be, if only because it would be too clean a resolution after Arya’s ninja skills were used for the surprise victory over the Night King just three episodes ago. Instead something more tragic is due.
When the finale begins, it is easy to imagine that Daenerys will step foot in the ruins of the Red Keep’s throne room which will probably eerily mirror the vision she had in the House of the Undying during season 2. Back then she and audiences assumed she was seeing snow fall on the Iron Throne (and maybe it still will in the form of one Jon Snow), but it could’ve just as easily been ash. It almost certainly will be when Dany walks through those doors and sees the roof has caved in and the ash of the thousands she burned drifts on the beloved seat of her forefathers. But after giving into her demons, it won’t be enough.
Likely a major aspect of the finale will be Daenerys trying to sew up her final support and dissent, and most likely debating whether to execute Jon Snow who will be disgusted that his queen turned out to be a hypocrite and mass murderer. It likely won’t help that Varys’ will will be done. We did not see how many raven letters he wrote revealing Jon Snow’s parentage before his death, but one imagines that in the days he had between episodes, it was more than the single piece of parchment he burned. And what was the significance of him taking off his rings before his execution? Perhaps a code for his remaining spies to carry out his last act?
No, it will be common knowledge early next week that Jon Snow is not really Ned Stark’s bastard. Daenerys will use this as excuse enough to summon Sansa Stark to King’s Landing where I suspect she is more likely to attempt to kill the Stark girl who betrayed her than the brother/cousin who keeps bending the knee. When the time comes for her to order Sansa’s execution, Arya (perhaps in the face of an advisor or guardian) might approach the Dragon Queen, but for maximum soap opera angst, we predict it will be Jon Snow who kills Dany to save the other Starks. His murder of the queen will mirror that of Jaime Lannister’s own monarch-killing from about 25 years prior, and Jon will hence be known as much as the Queenslayer as the Last Targaryen. And if it is also Arya who is on the chopping block, it won’t even be a difficult decision for the Bastard of Winterfell.
I would like to hope the show will delicately handle the potentially abhorrent image of the main male character being forced to kill the main female character… but given how many other aspects of season 8 have been rushed and unsatisfyingly conveyed, I would not count on it. Similarly, I expect Drogon to simply not be present for his mother’s death. Hopefully a clever reason would be established, but more likely something unsatisfactory, such as him flying off after Dany has died or (worse) Arya somehow sneaking up on him with a scorpion could easily occur. Both of those choices would be lazy, but so was how Rhaegal died.
With that said, if there was ever one moment for Bran’s warging abilities to matter in the final season this is it. What if he takes control of Drogon and forces the dragon to drown itself?
Who Gets the Iron Throne
Yet even if Daenerys dies, be it by Jon or Arya (or maybe even her own hand?), the question remains who gets the Iron Throne. The obvious answer would of course be Jon Snow, as by this time next week, his parentage will be common knowledge across the realm. However, I do not think that is actually the ending that is coming. When Jon Snow says he doesn’t want the throne, he means it, and frankly he shouldn’t have it. Beyond the rather unfortunate meta-context of the white male hero killing the last clearly viable queen and then assuming her position, the fact remains Jon would be a lousy ruler at least in the south. He, like Ned Stark, does poorly around people as ruthless as the Lannisters or Targaryens. He couldn’t even see Ser Allister Thorne’s betrayal coming in the Night’s Watch, never mind Dany’s heel turn that left thousands barbecued.
Killing Daenerys will be the last straw for the one-time King in the North when it comes to crowns and power plays. Assuming that he does not die in the finale, I actually think Jon will actually do what he wished to Tormund Giantsbane last week: follow the Free Folk to the True North. While I was as upset as everyone else that Jon did not pet Ghost goodbye, there is a very small chance that this is because it wasn’t their true farewell. Until season 8’s awkward plotting, Jon Snow has been the only Stark to keep his direwolf close. Maybe his reward is to realize that like his direwolf, he belongs in the north, living a simple existence? It’ll be bitterly cold, but I imagine he’s already had his fill of the south after only traveling down there a handful of times.
But if Jon Snow abdicates the throne, who actually gets it? When it comes to the Iron Throne, I have to say… no one. And I’m not talking about Arya. That seat has caused nothing but heartache and tragedy for centuries. Whether it’s Dany, Jon, or who I think will ultimately get the highest seat of power in the land, the order will come to melt those metal swords into history. But whoever gets it done, the final ruler when the series ends will be… Sansa Stark.
It is easy to see that makes the most sense now. She is smarter than Jon Snow ever was and saw Daenerys Targaryen for the threat she is. Also Sansa has been well prepared in a school of political treachery by the likes of Cersei, Tyrion, Littlefinger, and Ramsay. While she is thus the darkest of the Starks (going full metal when it came to executing Ramsay, and also playing Tyrion in order to further delegitimize Daenerys), she still has the North’s best interests at heart. My guess is that Jon’s contempt for Sansa’s role in Daenerys’ downfall, after breaking her promise to him, will be one of the final reasons he forsakes the throne to her. But as the most eligible cousin of the last living heir to the Iron Throne that has abdicated his crown, it will be hers for the taking.
Except it will no longer be the Iron Throne formed by the Targaryens. To show that the Age of dragon rule is truly over, she will abandon the King’s Landing she came to hate and which is already in ruins. She will move her capital and seat of power to where she is most comfortable: Winterfell. With this decision, the entire political landscape of Game of Thrones will change, and Sansa will build a new order that is more in line with the Starks’ values. One of honor, integrity, and heavy woolen cloaks. Sansa will be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, First of Her Name, and maybe she’ll even be able to build a better system of governance that gives some power back to the people by way of a rudimentary parliament. Of course that could only happen if a certain Lannister lived long enough to repeat that bit of advice he once offered to a disinterested Dragon Queen…
The Last Lion of Lannister
Which brings us to Tyrion Lannister. Perhaps more than any other character, Peter Dinklage has been the heart and soul of Game of Thrones through the years, which also makes his fall in recent seasons so bitter. Ever since becoming Daenerys Targaryen’s Hand, he has made nothing but a string of bad decisions, right up to believing that Dany would not sack King’s Landing if they surrendered in time.
As consequence matters very little these days, the happy ending would be that Sansa and Tyrion’s intellectual kinship allows them to reestablish their political marriage, if only a little out of practicality. Sansa said it herself that Tyrion was “the best of them”—not that this is too difficult to achieve when his competition is Joffrey, Littlefinger, and Ramsay—and a union of marriage between Stark and Lannister would most definitely end these years of intermittent war. There is something pleasant about the Wolf and the Lion tying the knot out of mutual respect and advantage, even if the age difference is uncomfortable (although not by feudal Westerosi standards).
With that said, this show is clearly not about giving audiences what they want, and a shipper’s delight will likely be denied. There is a small bit of hopefulness in the concept of the series ending in a bittersweet wedding, but more likely Sansa will rule alone for now, which is also befitting a young woman who has endured as much hardship as she has from the patriarchy. Instead Tyrion will probably be dead before even Daenerys’ downfall. For I predict that Tyrion Lannister is going to be executed by the Mother of Dragons for freeing Jaime Lannister in the previous episode. While his actions did not end up harming her at all, it is just one too many screw-ups she’s had to endure from him, particularly as her soldiers will report Jaime disappeared after the Hand of the Queen sent them away.
Tyrion’s loyalty to Dany will doom him as much as it did his buddy Varys, and honestly after what happened to King’s Landing, he might welcome the flames.
A Dream of Spring
Nonetheless, if Jon abdicates and seeks a simple life, and Sansa rules after Dany and Tyrion have met the Many-Faced God, what of everyone else? In all honesty, this might be another case where more episodes would have been advantageous. While the battles of the wars to come are over, a full epilogue episode after Dany’s inevitable downfall would’ve been nice. I have a bad feeling that at this point, too much shorthand and montage will be used to convey the fates of everyone who has never or will never wear a crown.
But if I had to guess what those potentially glossed over revelations might be: Arya Stark will make good on her initial idea of escape in season 6 and build a strong ship to sail west in search of a New World. She isn’t the first to have tried, as a woman named Elissa Farman stole dragon eggs from the Targaryens in order to sail west herself in search of land past the setting of the sun. She never returned, yet it proved a fortuitous voyage since the dragon eggs she stole likely were the ones that ended up as fossilized rocks in Daenerys’ possession several hundred years later. Now Arya will finish what Elissa started and be the willful young woman and iconoclast who sails west to discover what dreams may come on the other side of the world.
Gendry will meanwhile happily bend the knee to whoever is left in the ruins of Westeros as the newly minted Lord of Storm’s End. And Brienne? As a knight she will gladly serve as the head of Sansa’s Queensguard and never need a man again to define her value to the realm or herself. Likely with Podrick as her second in command. Bran will then at last just keep on doing what he does and sit in the corner making cryptic proclamations to no one in particular as the “Three-Eyed Raven.”
As for imporant right-hand characters, I’d like to imagine Ser Davos goes off and lives in happy retirement far away from the games of kings and queens. However, if one wanted to up Daenerys’ bodycount, he’d be an easy target that would keep beloved Starks alive. Similarly, Grey Worm seems doomed after giving into the kind of nihilism that the Hound warned Arya to avoid. He slaughtered men who had thrown down their arms and turned their backs and led the sacking and slaughter of a city. The likely outcome would be for him to be killed by Jon Snow or Arya. Mayhaps Arya even wears his face to get closer to Dany. But I would enjoy the show depicting some sympathy, even for this war criminal. He did things in war that are unforgivable, but he could learn to live with that and his bitterness. I would much prefer the ending for the final major person of color in the cast to be Davos agreeing to sail him away from this cursed continent that brought him nothing but sorrow, maybe going to Missandei’s homeland and keeping her memory alive by still being the shield that protects Naath from crueler powers.
As for Sam and Gilly. With any luck, Sansa or whoever rules will dismiss him of his vow to serve the Night’s Watch for life. At this point, the Night’s Watch will prove fairly fruitless anyway. As such, he’ll become de facto Lord of Horn Hill, which will give him lots of time with his mother and sister, plus time to sit down and finally write. While he doesn’t want to just study the achievements of greater men, Sam will get his wish and achieve academic notoriety by writing the definitive text of these great and terrible days. He’ll begin to pen “A Game of Thrones.” Presumably, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins will look over his shoulder and nod in approval at the naming of the title.
So there you have it. Our final predictions for the final episode ever of Game of Thrones. Will we be right? Probably not, but summer child, the answers will come as quick as the snow in just one week’s time.