Who Wins, Who Dies? 25 Game of Thrones Fan Theories, from Pretty Probable to Totally Nuts

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Who Wins, Who Dies? 25 <i>Game of Thrones</i> Fan Theories, from Pretty Probable to Totally Nuts

Of all phenomena spawned by the Internet, fandoms might be the most freaking irritating. Sorry. They are. I mean… c’mon. So, naturally, I’ve been polling the mob for predictions and theories about how Game of Thrones will end. Like, I’m totally fascinated. Why? I’m not sure. The plasticity of the story is pretty amazing, and there are relatively few characters who can’t or won’t surprise you at some point. I mean, the Night King would have to work pretty hard to become a sympathetic character, but even he gets an origin story moment that makes the White Walkers seem more… human.

As we move into Season Seven, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up. Who wins, who dies? Who comes back? Who wins the war? Will the surviving Starks (including Jon) figure out that all Starks are wargs? And OMG: Who will finally kill Littlefinger? (Game of Thrones logic favors Sansa, but neither Jon nor Arya can be ruled out. Hell, there’d even be some poetic justice to it if he ran afoul of Brienne of Tarth.) Given the ambiguity level of the show overall, even the most wackadoodle theories can be convincingly backed up; these are the perils of inhabiting a universe where there is time travel, shapeshifting, and coming back from the dead. Without further ado, here are 25 Game of Thrones fan theories, ranked by plausibility.

1. Jaime will kill Cersei!

I’m going to go ahead and say this is not wackadoodle in the least. In fact, if it doesn’t happen it might be the biggest letdown in all of television. He pretty much has to do it what with that whole Valonqar prophecy and all. Welcome back, Kingslayer. Plausibility factor: Overwhelming.

2. “You have to send me away.” Jorah Mormont will be cured of greyscale by Quaithe, the masked woman in Quarth.

This theory also scores zero on the clownshit-crazy scale; it seems all but certain. We know that she has mystical powers: She seems clairvoyant, and we see her tattooing a man’s back to protect him on a voyage through the ruins of Valyria. If she can prevent greyscale, maybe she can cure it. Pretty sure that’s where Jorah’s headed, anyway. Plausibility factor: Extreme.

3. “I read about it in a very old book.” Sam will figure out how to defeat the White Walkers.

I don’t have to explain this one, do I? Plausibility factor: No Duh.

4. “It’s time for you to become the man you were meant to be.” The “Prince that was promised” is not Daenerys or Jon Snow. It’s Jaime Lannister!

As much as the series seems to be whittling down to Jon and Dany, this theory has my endorsement. There’s too much poetic justice here to ignore. And there have been many moments that seem to tip a hat to the idea that Jaime is much more than he appears. If you want to be the reborn Azor Ahai, you need to be: Reborn “amidst salt and smoke.” You will probably need to “wake dragons from stone.” And you will wield a flaming sword. You will probably also have to temper this sword in the blood of your most dearly beloved. Salt and smoke? Check. Jaime gets his final reality check when he comes home to find his sister has blown up a large chunk of King’s Landing with wildfire, prompting their last remaining son to commit suicide. Smoke, and tears. He’s conspicuously shown in the Season Seven trailer carrying Widow’s Wail, one of the two Valyrian steel swords re-forged from Ned Stark’s sword, Ice. This sword has already been made twice. The original Azor Ahai of legend remakes Lightbringer a third time, finally tempering it by putting it through the heart of his wife. You’re with me here, right? I don’t think he’s met the “wake dragons from stone” thing yet, but it seems likely he will be sent to have a chat with Dany at Dragonstone. I mean, it’s definitely possible that Jaime isn’t the Prince That Was Promised. But it would be awesome if he were. Plausibility factor: High.

5. “You’re no son of mine.” Tyrion Lannister is a Targaryen!

There are also those who believe Cersei and Jaime are the result of Joanna Lannister’s inability to fend off amorous Targaryens, but for my money, it seems at least as likely that there was a deeper level to Tywin’s utter hatred of his youngest child. In one scene he even says, “I raised you as my son, because I could not prove that you weren’t mine.” Dude, Tywin’s a world-class asshole, but he’s not stupid. The idea that Tyrion “killed” his mother by being born is absurd, as Jaime points out. We are also left to assume that Tywin despises Tyrion for being a dwarf—Tyrion certainly seems to believe that. But it does seem more likely that his father hates him because his real father is Aerys Targaryen. Plausibility factor: Medium. (But more interesting problems get solved if Tyrion is in fact Tywin’s and the twins are not.)

6. “Finally a girl is no one.” Arya Stark is actually dead!

This seems far-fetched in the extreme at first, but it’s so brutal it can’t be ruled out. As always, if you don’t see someone get totally brained, beheaded, burnt to a crisp and cut into pieces in this universe, you cannot assume they are dead. Hell, even if you do see that, you can’t assume they won’t come back. We don’t see what happens once Arya water-dances the flame off that candle and faces the Waif. How can we be sure it’s actually Arya who comes out alive? Personally, I can’t imagine why the Waif would have any interest in knocking off people on “Arya Stark’s funny little list,” so the scene with Walder Frey becomes hollow and confusing if you go with this theory. Some people will even say Jaqen is the Waif / vice versa and basically the takeaway is: Faceless Men are fucking confusing. I think Arya is Arya. You lose too much dramatic tension otherwise. Plausibility factor: Technically Possible, Dramatically Lame.

7. “The seed is strong.” Gendry: Not bastard! Baratheon!

In Season One, Cersei tells Catelyn Stark about her first-born son, a “black-haired beauty” who died in infancy. Some will tell you that baby was Gendry, which would mean there was a full-blooded, trueborn Baratheon still in the mix. The evidence? All circumstantial, but she could have replaced him with a dying child (King Robert was hunting and Grand Maester Pycelle has done a baby-switcheroonie before, in the books). We definitely know that someone in a high place got Gendry his armorer’s apprentice gig. Someone managed to get him out of the city when Joffrey started having all Robert’s bastard children killed—how’d he end up headed for the Wall? Robert, Ned and of course Jon Arryn are all dead when this happens, so safe to say it wasn’t them. And Mellisandre certainly seems to think he’s a big deal. We haven’t seen Gendry since Davos had him sprung from the Hoosegow at Dragonstone. Seems like a serious loose end, and there are unanswered questions. Plausibility factor: Kinda Kooky, but Not Off the Table.

8. “Every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin.” Jaime and Cersei are Targaryens!

Fans of the books know that the long-dead Joanna Lannister was a lust object of the Mad King’s, and there’s some evidence that Aerys might have managed to impregnate her. It’s tasty to imagine the twins were the result of that incident (incest is a famously Targaryen trait, and Cersei has certainly morphed into a fire-mad mass-murderer). As much as I am a fan of symmetry, I can’t help thinking Tyrion is equally likely to be the fruit of such a union. Then again, maybe all of them are! That would mirror the (not) Baratheon children nicely. Dunno. Plausibility factor: Anything Can Happen in Kings Landing, but I’m Not Sure That Did.

9. “This one is called Missandei.” Missandei is a Faceless Man!

I’ve seen some assertions that Missandei’s knowledge of a shit-ton of languages and her implacable facial expression (and her tendency to refer to herself in the third person) are marks of the Faceless Men. Sure. But the whole third-person thing is common among enslaved characters (the Unsullied all do it). And anyway, if Missandei were a Faceless Man, why would she remain enslaved by that guy in Astapor? What massive international conspiracy would she be part of? And what plot purpose could possibly be served by this? It has big writ-large implications, but I’m not sure what they are. Plausibility factor: I Guess…

10.“I always thought about what I wanted; never about what I had.” Jon Snow and Sansa Stark will get married!

A theory that’s popped up here and there suggests that Sansa will have a Targaryen suitor. Jon’s the obvious one, and there’s a political alliance to be forged by it. But is it likely? Technically, Sansa is still married to Tyrion, isn’t she? Though that was also the case when she married Ramsey Bolton, so… OK, technically they have no shared parent, but they grew up as siblings and are cousins. So it’s not really incest, though it is weird. It would definitely flip the Littlefinger to Petyr Baelish, and it would create a pretty ironclad claim on the North. Plausibility factor: Weirder Things Have Happened.

11. “You win or you… warg?” Ned’s not dead because he warged into Illyn Payne before he was beheaded!

Yes: Though Bran’s the Big Three-Eyed Raven Kahuna, all the Starks are wargs, whether they’re aware of it or not. So that’s a thing. And Ser Illyn has had his tongue ripped out, so he ain’t sayin’. Still: Can you imagine him doing that and then disappearing out of everyone’s lives? Like, not even a raven-scroll? “Dear family: I am inside Ser Illyn Payne. I am well, though it is pretty stanky in here. Winter is coming. Regards, Dad.” I mean…? Plausibility factor: Let It Go, Guys, Ned’s Been Dead Since Season One.

12. “The First Sword of Braavos does not run.” Ned’s not dead because Syrio Forel was a Faceless Man and wore Ned’s face to the chopping block!

Specifically, the idea is that Syrio not only took one for Team Stark for… some reason… but that he is/was actually and specifically the inscrutable Jaqen H’ghar. I admit there was something a little weird about Syrio Forel, and he died off screen, which is always suspect in Westeros. But this theory reeks of wishful thinking. Faceless Men don’t serve the Realm or the greater good or The Lord of Winterfell: They serve the Many-Faced God and they kill for money. And if anyone’s really dead, it’s Ned Stark. Plus, Benioff and Weiss have gone on record saying Syrio is dead. Some people hope that in the book series, from which the show deviates significantly, Syrio will have a different fate, but… Plausibility factor: Through the Floor.

13. “The Gods aren’t done with you yet, Clegane.” The “Prince that was promised” is The Hound!

Sandor Clegane is scared shitless of fire, so the Irony Quotient would definitely be satisfied. And if anyone is owed a redemption story, I’d say this dude’s next in line after Jaime. He’s “reborn” a number of times, most recently by an Ultra-Niceguy septon whose entire congregation is promptly wasted by the Brotherhood. There’s salt, there’s smoke. What there isn’t is narrative justification. The Hound is an under… um, dog, and we love those guys. We want them to feel the validating glow of glory. I’m hoping something awesome happens to him just once before they kill him off. I don’t think “savior” is going to be it, though. Plausibility factor: Nah.

14. “Burn them all!” Bran drove the Mad King mad!

In Season Six, Bran touches a weirwood tree and it unleashes a flood of images, one of which is the Mad King in his famous “Burn them all!” moment. It’s fleeting. But given what we know about Bran and warging and green-seeing and time travel, some folks posit that the “burn them all” voice is actually Bran’s! And that he’s not referring to the civilians of King’s Landing but trying to put Aerys II wise to how you stick it to the Army of the Dead. Hmmmmm. Plausibility factor: This Card Is Definitely in the Deck. But I’m not sure what that really means.

15. “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” The Night King is a Stark!

The White-Walker-in-Chief is a pretty formidable dude, but is it possible he is a Stark ancestor? Sure, it’s possible. There does seem to be a connection between them. The Wall and Winterfell were built at the same time, after the first defeat of the Walkers. My favorite (I think) iteration of this one concerns a line that has always bothered me because it seemed like it must mean something bigger than it seemed to. Upon entering the cave, Bran is told by the Three-Eyed Raven: “You will never walk again. But you will fly.” Most people seem to theorize that Bran will warg into a dragon. Some think it just refers to his future as the replacement 3ER. The wackiest one I’ve heard: He means time travel. And, specifically, time travel to a really fucking long time ago. We’ve seen Bran simultaneously exist in the past and the present. Check this out: Bran is the Night King!!!! (I know, I know.) Plausibility factor: Huh.

16. “I’ve won every battle, but I’m losing the war.” Robb is alive!

M’kay, define “alive.” Because lots of dead people are alive in the GoT universe. But some people actually think Robb Stark warged into his direwolf and then warged into “something else” before the Frey and Lannister asshats Sent Their Regards to Grey Wind and cross-bowed him and cut off his head and sewed it onto Robb’s thoroughly decapitated body. Wouldn’t that be nice? Plausibility factor: Don’t Quit Your Day Job.

17. “I am the storm.” Euron Greyjoy will marry Cersei!

Let’s be real here: In terms of the TV series (there’s more in the books), we know very little about Euron Greyjoy, other than that he’s a fratricidal freak show who plans to capture Daenerys and, more importantly, her dragons. We know he’s coming back in Season Seven, we know he’s going to have a much more significant part to play in the Great War Still to Come. And it does seem that Euron is a blood-magic kinda guy who might be a warlock and who wants the Iron Throne pretty bad. Cersei, as we saw at the end of Season Six, is pretty much out of allies. One theory is that Euron will win some battles, capture some Sand Snakes and bring them to Cersei as an offering. Cersei would of course be pretty psyched to have her way with the ladies who bumped off Myrcella and probably her relationship with Jaime is already going to be a family therapist’s nightmare by then. OK, so you can make the case. But somehow it doesn’t seem all that likely to me that they’d actually tie the knot. Plausibility factor: Pretty Damn Low.

18. “Blood of my blood!” The Prince that was promised is Jorah Mormont!

If you’ve read the books, you know that technically, Ser Jorah fulfills many of the requirements of the Azor Ahai prophecy if you take a broad and metaphorical interpretation—which you should always do with prophecies, by the way. I think there is a spectacular self-sacrifice in the offing for Jorah—survive greyscale, die for Dany anyway—but I have a hard time imagining he’s really going to turn out to be the Dude Who Defeats the White Walkers. It’d be nice, but it might also involve him putting a Valyrian steel sword through Daenerys’s heart. Ser Jorah is also on the list of characters who deserve a little redemption arc; I mean, he’s seriously sorry about the whole spying thing! But prophecy-wise: Killing the Khaleesi? Sure, he wants to impale her, but not like that. Plausibility factor: Not Effing Likely.

19. “I’m not talking about owls and shadowcats.” The Night King will ride a dragon!

An undead ice-dragon, in fact. In fact, Dany’s dragon Viserion, who gets killed and becomes an Army of the Dead Dragon. For many seasons, fans have wondered who would ride into battle as the embodiment of the prophesied three-headed Targaryen dragon. Dany herself, obviously. Jon Snow seems an obvious contender, and consensus seems to favor Tyrion for the third; I mean, he does have an affinity for those guys. But there’s a significant groundswell of support for the Ice Dragon Theory, largely because ice dragons are mentioned in the books and at least once on screen in a story Old Nan tells Bran Stark. Hodor’s great-grandma spins a compelling winter’s tale, all right, but is it enough to prefigure an Undead Viserion and a mounted-up Night King? Plausibility factor: It’s Not Well Supported but It Wouldn’t Not Make Sense.

20. “Where is my sister?” Meera Reed is Jon Snow’s twin!

This “Luke and Leia” theory posits that Lyanna actually gave birth to twins and Ned took Jon to raise as his, while Howland Reed took Meera. The super-compelling evidence: They both have curly hair, they were born the same year, and both men were at the Tower of Joy when Lyanna died. My main question is “Why?” Plausibility factor: Some People Have Too Much Time on Their Hands.

21. “I’d say my parts are mixed, my lady.” The Prince that was promised is… Ser Davos!

Dark Horse Savior Alert: The Onion Knight has certainly come a long way from his humble origins as the son of a crabber in the slums of Fleabottom, but The Chosen One? People who favor this theory cite the following potential references to the prophecy: In Season Two, he casually picks up the flaming sword Stannis has left on the beach. He is (metaphorically) born (or reborn) amid “salt and smoke” when he improbably survives the wildfire attack on Stannis’ fleet in Blackwater Bay. There is a red comet in the sky (the prophecy refers to a “bleeding star”) when Davos comes back from the almost-dead. And it is Davos who really resuscitates Jon Snow, which might fulfill the “waking a dragon from stone” clause. Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos, noted in a Conan O’Brien interview that Ser George Martin had made him privy to a secret that no one else knew, which is probably the strongest evidence for the Davos Theory except it has no basis whatsoever in the text or the show so far. Could it be true? I guess. My main question here is “Yeah, and?” Plausibility factor: Grasping at Straws.

22. “I can still feel what he did. Right here in my body, talking to you now.” Sansa is preggers!

It occurred to me more than once that Sansa might get knocked up while doing her tour of duty as Ramsey Bolton’s bed-slave-er, spouse-and when she told Littlefinger about his abuse, saying that she could “still feel” what he did to her, I got a weird feeling for a second. But I will be surprised if that’s a thing. Precisely because it occurred to me so many times while she was stuck in Winterfell. It just seems too obvious for these guys. Plausibility factor: Remote.

23. “There’s plenty out there worse than me.” The Hound and The Mountain will finally battle to the death!

CleganeBowl is already a memetastic, hashtagged, subreddited Megatheory, that’s how many people think the Hound and FrankenMountain are destined for a Trial by Combat. I mean, sure. That’d be cool. Vengeance is a big deal in Westeros, and Sandor Clegane has good reason to want it. Whether it will be an official trial by combat (Tommen banned them, but why would that stop Cersei?) or simply the Hound duking it out with his monstrous zombie brother once and for all is not clear. It’s also not clear why it would be essential to the plot. It would be satisfying at a character arc level, for sure. Hmmm. Plausibility factor: Why Not?

24. “This isn’t the end. Not for you.” Brandon Stark is every Brandon Stark!

Brandon Stark is a rather unruly Three-Eyed Raven, having been pushed into the gig way before he was ready (which was kind of his own fault, wasn’t it?). He can definitely time-travel and affect events in the past (sorry, Hodor). So now there’s a lot of momentum gathering for the notion that Bran has basically caused this entire situation, including the idea that he and the legendary ancient “Bran the Builder” are one and the same, and that he built the Wall. The implications? Um, I guess that he’d have some special insights into how to subdue a White Walker incursion, but doesn’t it seem like he’s going to have that anyway? Because omniscience? Anyhoo. Maybe he already had them and went back 8000 years to build the Wall. In fact, maybe he was the original hero who defeated the Walkers and maybe he was bord amid salt and smoke and we should move him up the leaderboard in the Prince That Was Promised mystery. Once you’ve established a rulebook like this, nothing’s really off the table.

Except for Ned still being alive. Plausibility factor: Sure, Why Not?

25. Blue-Eyed Giant Factor: This entire shebang is a story being told by Sam Tarly!

In the “sure, why not” camp is the theory, mostly seemingly held aloft by the astrolabe chandeliers in the Citadel library, an image we’ve been seeing in the title sequence from the beginning. The idea is that Samwell Tarly is essentially telling the story of the fight for the Iron Throne and the battle against the White Walkers. And hey, maybe the sky is blue because we all live inside the eye of a blue-eyed giant named Macumber! There’s no reason not to accept this most meta-theoretical of theories, even if it’s unclear precisely why that matters. If it’s true, it would also echo another fan theory: That Westeros is Middle Earth (think of Frodo writing down the whole saga in the last scenes of Lord of the Rings). Plausibility factor: Anything’s Possible.

Season Seven of Game of Thrones premieres Sunday, July 16 at 9 p.m. on HBO. But you knew that.

Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.