The Paste Guide to Who’s Definitely, Probably, Possibly Going to Win the Game of ThronesPhotos: Helen Sloan/HBO TV Features Game of Thrones
Melisandre said it: Prophecies are dangerous things. So are fan theories. At this point, I have collected Secret Targaryen theories and Luke and Leia theories, Azor Ahai theories and Valonqar theories and Iron Throne theories, resurgent undead-Stark theories and earnest insistences that every character from Missandei to Syrio Forel is actually a Braavosi Faceless Man. Will Bran warg into a dragon? (He might!) And, for that matter, why can’t he warg into the Night King and end the whole war? (This might be a thing, too, or at least he might try to rewrite the past to prevent the whole Long Night redux, but obviously there are some thorny issues with manipulating the past: Ave atque vale, Hodor!) Has Tyrion secretly betrayed Daenerys in that off-screen meeting with Cersei? (Likely; the whole cutaway was freighted and weird and she’s getting awfully difficult.) Is Cersei really pregnant? (I think she is indeed the oldest mommy-to-be in Westeros, but prophecy is prophecy and my money’s on a miscarriage.) Was Littlefinger’s death faked? (Some insist it was; I think it’s a hell of a stretch.) And seriously, are the three Lannister children secretly bastard Targaryens? (Sigh.) Will the mythic dragon-binding horn emerge and bring Zombie Viserion back to the fold? (I mean, why not?)
Some of these questions might go unanswered until it snows in Dorne. Once you have characters who can (a) resurrect dead people with a snap of the fingers, (b) change the past and see the future and© become any other character in that universe, a case can be made that nothing, no prediction of any kind based on what the show has offered us so far, is at all meaningful. Once literally anything can happen, you’re setting audiences up to feel underwhelmed by whatever does. Yes, underwhelmed. Even if there is a grand battle that outdoes the Battle of Helm’s Deep and took 55 all-night shoots to complete. At this point it’s almost entirely pointless to speculate on what will happen: No fan theories, no matter how crackpot, can be conclusively proven wrong at this point. And indeed, dead fan theories are being resurrected like Zombie Viserions all over the place, so what we have conclusively proven is that I am not Maggy the Frog.
In my ranking of fan theories at the end of Season Seven, I said Gendry’s parentage was reasonably declared irrelevant. It’s not.
I said it was time to let go of all the Secret Targaryen theories. But don’t, because any and all of the Lannister children (not to mention Sam Tarly) might be secret Targaryens and it might indeed matter.
I said it was wack that anyone was hanging onto a “Luke and Leia” thing about Jon Snow and Meera Reed but now folks are arguing that there’s a Luke-and-Leia thing with Jon and Daenerys. Like her being his aunt isn’t incest-y enough?
And I said, vehemently, to cut it out with the Lady Stoneheart thing or any ideation around dead Starks coming back (Ned, we hardly knew ye). And then that trailer came out with Arya uncharacteristically scared shitless in the Winterfell crypts and now I’m guessing there’s a Zombie Catelyn sitchmo because Arya is too badass to run from much of anything else.
We’ve already laid odds on who’s going to die in Season Eight and who will turn out to be Azor Ahai, or The Prince That Was Promised. Let’s talk about who wins.
Azor Ahai’s role is the defeat of the ice monsters and walking dead folk and eternal midnight—not politics. So there’s also the actual game of thrones to settle. And as with the Prince(ss) Who Was Promised, there are a number of contenders for the chair forged from the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies.
Cersei Lannister: 0%
Forget it. Cersei is toast. The only question is who will kill her. I hope it’s Jaime. It could be Tyrion. Or Arya. Or Bran?
Jaime Lannister: 0%
No way. But I will go out on a limb and say if I were a betting man I’d put my money on these two things: He will, in spite of everything we know about this show, hook up with Brienne of Tarth just once, shortly before her tragic, heroic death. And if he survives the battles of Winterfell and Kings Landing, he will take the one oath he has not yet taken, and become the 1000th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, eating his mocking words to Jon Snow in the beginning of Season One and acknowledging that with his twin, his children and his very tall girlfriend gone, the realms of men hold nothing more for him.
Bran Stark: 30%
Brandon has said, in a diffident monotone, that now he’s the three-eyed raven he “can’t be Lord of anything.” But I’ll point it out again: Maggy the Frog said Cersei would never wed the Prince; she’d wed the King. Tormund scoffed at following a southern king and Davos pointed out that Jon Snow wasn’t a king. The Prince Who Was Promised Is a Prince… or Princess. Not a King. And perhaps the three-eyed raven cannot be a Lord and that also doesn’t preclude an omniscient, dispassionate weirdo sitting on the Iron Throne. Apparently this is the theory preferred by odds-bigwigs in Las Vegas, and there must be a reason for that. The question is more whether it could be Bran or whether it could be Bran as the Night King, because lots of otherwise reasonable folks seem to feel they will fuse into one being before this is over. It’s certainly true the Night King is more interested in Bran than any other person with working cardiovascular organs and non-necrotized skin. It’s also possible Bran was literally correct, that the three-eyed raven gig is like monkhood or the Night’s Watch, a higher calling that ignores the lure of earthly power in service to the greater good. But the likelier that seems, the more we have to entertain the possibility that he’s going to fishtail like crazy and glue himself to the throne.
Daenerys Targaryen: 40%
Dany is currently looking pretty strong. She’s also starting to look like as much of a tyrant as Cersei, so there’s that. On the one hand, she’s been grooming for the gig since the pilot, and she’s come a hell of a long way. On the other, she’s a little too damn convinced of her birthright and I’m not sure she doesn’t see “being queen” as an end in itself, which is not good. Daenerys is not actually a hero; as Daario Naharis points out, she’s a conqueror. That’s what Robert Baratheon was, and it didn’t work out all that well for anyone. I’m reminded of Cersei’s various spin-doctor speeches and how they have shifted from the first season: Her “Lord Stark was returning drunk from a brothel” story after Jaime had his men killed was an egregious and cruel falsehood. By contrast, in Season Seven, when she tells the Westerosi lords that Dany has committed atrocities against the noblemen of Slaver’s Bay and “when she grew bored of that, she set her dragons on them”—well, it’s actually not much of a lie. It’s told in a somewhat prejudicial way, but it’s technically true. Power corrupts, folks! It’s Game of Thrones, so her potential ill-suitedness for power actually stacks the odds in her favor. On the other hand, it’s Game of Thrones, so anything’s possible.
Jon Snow: 40%
If this were a straight-up hero’s journey story, Jon would be king already. But it’s not, so it’s just as likely he will die. (Again.) If we are looking at visual cues, we have to note that in the vision Dany has in the House of the Undying, she walks into the throne room, with its ceiling blown out and snowflakes falling, and approaches the Iron Throne. But she doesn’t quite touch it. There is snow on the Iron Throne. Snow. Is covering the throne. Also, if you stop the frame as she’s reaching for it, you can see the snow-coated pommel of a sword that is almost certainly Longclaw. He has the real birthright, as he is certainly about to discover. Jon Snow doesn’t want to be king, which increases the odds that he could be. But he’s also high on my list of characters likely to die in this fight, so…
Daenerys and Jon: 40%
Jon Snow and Dany together would be hard to beat, which is probably the real reason for the stricken look on Tyrion’s face when he sees Jon go into her cabin at the end of the finale—sure, he’s besotted with Daenerys, but a guy who’s been around the track as much as Tyrion Lannister wouldn’t necessarily act like a spurned tenth grader because the woman he liked was getting it on with someone else. He’s probably jealous, sure, but I think what he’s really worried about is that an unbeatable alliance might have just formed and that heir he was nagging Dany about might just have Jon Snow’s brooding good looks. The two of them might break up, however, after learning that their relationship is incestuous, in which case Jon has the stronger claim to the throne and the support of the people, and Dany is hosed.
Sansa Stark: 50%
With all the flash and spectacle around Jon and Dany and Jaime and Cersei and Tyrion, it can be easy to overlook Sansa Stark—a reality she seems to be using to her advantage. She has quietly endured tragedy after tragedy and learned from her enemies and become the slyest politician in the Seven Kingdoms. If she survives, it seems obvious that Lady of Winterfell is her designated gig, but you never know. Maybe she’s bound for the Iron Throne. It’s not her birthright, but a whole lot of people with one of those are going to die or be found unfit or both. And she might not do it directly, but as she always dreamed of as a girl, perhaps older, sadder, wiser Sansa will in fact marry the King.
My personal draft pick is the kid with the deltoids. Why? Riddle me this: Why would they keep Gendry around if not because the last standing progeny of House Baratheon could be a contender for the throne? This is Westeros, and they brought him back for a reason. Of course, the reason might be that Tobho Mott taught him to rework Valyrian steel and his smithing skills will prove needful in the Great War. But consider this: Not only is he a Baratheon: He might be a legitimate Baratheon. Remember when Gendry was mysteriously packed off from Kings Landing ahead of the purge of Robert’s bastards? Remember when Ned Stark met him and Gendry said all he remembered of his mother was that she had yellow hair? Remember when Cersei told Catelyn she had lost her firstborn child, “a little black-haired beauty?” Yeah. I’m not saying this is conclusive proof that Gendry is the legit child of Cersei and Robert, but I am saying Cersei probably wouldn’t have been able to murder her firstborn just because he wasn’t Jaime’s, and that it is at least plausible that she had someone hide him instead. Even if that is as far-fetched as it sounds, Gendry has the kind of dark horse story this show loves, and he’s oddly regal for a Fleabottom brat. Melisandre told him he would “make kings rise and fall” and maybe all she meant was that party trick with the leeches, but maybe not.
Oh, and if that’s even remotely a thing, watch for an Arya-perplexing alliance with Sansa. Baratheon and Stark together again!
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.