Theories die. Theories are born. At the close Game of Thrones Season Seven, the Game of Face-Savers and Face-Losers stands thusly:
Who wins? No one yet, but Jon and Dany at least got lucky. Cersei won a battle but not necessarily The Great War to Come, and Jaime has very little to lose at this point.
Who’s dead? The jury is out on Gendry, Berric and Tormund, who could not possibly have survived the Night King’s attack on Eastwatch—which is exactly why they might have survived it anyway. Ditto Benjen Stark, who was arguably dead already (but not), and Ellaria Sand, who’s definitely not getting out of King’s Landing alive but might or might not have starved in the black cells yet.
Anyway. Confirmed casualties include Everyone Named Frey (Arya), Olenna Tyrell (poison), Randyll and Dickon Tarly (dragon), Petyr Baelish (as I predicted, Arya-with-Sansa-Watching), Viserion (White Walker; currently at large as Ice-Zombie Killing Machine), Obara and Nymeria Sand (Euron), Nyene Sand (Cersei), and Thoros of Myr (combination of hard living, mauling by undead bear, and freezing). Also dead: A very large portion of the Wall. Thanks a lot, Zombie Viserion.
Fan theories conclusively proven wrong at this point?
Arya not being Arya.
Anything having to do with Ned or Robb Stark being alive.
I’m gonna swing the sword on Gendry’s parentage having anything to do with anything.
And let’s kill off any still-swirling Lannisters-who-are-actually-Targaryens theories. There is no reason for it to be a thing with this few episodes left. You know who’s a fer-realski Targaryen? Jon Snow, though he’s not quite inbred enough for the clearly-recessive silver hair and purple eyes thing. So there’s that. Dany’s already his aunt and his girlfriend.
Jorah’s alive and swinging at wights, but it wasn’t thanks to Quaithe of Qarth: Sam Tarly scored fifty points for audacity and scrupulous hygiene and is now trading insights with Bran Stark around a Winterfell fireplace. We’re done there.
Sansa is clearly not pregnant with a Baby Bolton. (Was everyone else expecting Cersei to get knocked up? I wasn’t.)
Oh, and does anyone actually still think Missandei is a faceless man? Cut it out.
Now, to update our ranking of the theories that are still (at least, uh, theoretically) in play:
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.
Update: On the one hand, she’s apparently knocked up. On the other, she also fucked him over. As of the end of the season, Jaime has officially declared for himself. There is some rhubarb over Cersei dying in childbirth like her own mother, but while there is some satisfying symmetry in that, and while even in the world of Modern Medicine things can get hinky when you’re birthin’ folk in your reproductive dotage and Cersei was 40 when Joffrey died, it does fly in the face of the Valonqar prophecy, which insists Cersei will be taken out by some interpretation of a “little brother.” She has one literally and one figuratively little brother and they both have serious reasons to do it at this point. I think Tyrion’s days as a Lannister-killer are on the wane, personally. I refuse to abandon this theory until forced to do so. Jaime’s face was the first thing Cersei saw in the world, and it will be the last.
I don’t have to explain this one, do I? Plausibility factor: No Duh.
Update: Sam has now teamed up with Bran, which means between them they are a veritable Army of the Dead Facts, resurrecting truths and clarifications and laying waste to ignorance and misunderstanding with ruthless precision. Sam is holding the books that have the goods on Valyrian steel; he’s found the cure for greyscale, and he’s found a massive source of dragonglass weaponry. I’m pretty sure the Three Eyed Raven can fill in any gaps. Keep hanging out with the omniscient dude, Samwell Tarly!
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.
Update: I have yet to be proven wrong. And there is something about the (slightly forced, honestly) “chemistry” between Jon and Dany that seems to weaken both of them. Jaime for the win.
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.
Update: Based on the lingering shots of Kit Harrington’s alarmingly sculpted butt cheeks and the “Whoa, Drogo never did that!” look on Dany’s face, I think it is safe to say that Jon Snow does not have marrying Sansa on his agenda. And it officially serves no political purpose. DEAD THEORY.
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.
Update: So, Clegane has moved up the leaderboard here, after it became clear that he could see visions in flames. He’s headed for a fight for sure. And quite possibly a glorious exit. And that scene where he buries those peasants’ mummified remains? OMG. But Azor Ahai? Longshot.
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.
Update: Still not off the table. Still not that exciting.
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.
Update: No reason to discard, no reason to dwell.
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.
Update: Possibly the most shocking thing about the Season Seven finale was Cersei’s actual, holy-shit, fuck-you-Jaime alliance with Euron. I think they won’t get married because Euron is toast, Cersei is pregnant by Jaime, and Jaime will kill her before they can get his-and-hers leather wedding togs made. What I am wondering is whether Jaime will feel bound to make sure the baby can be saved before he ends the ultimate toxic relationship. Jaime would probably like to be an actual father to his actual child. One more fulfilling experience he will never have while his sister breathes.
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.
Update: Nothing conclusive yet, but I’m ready to call time of death on this one. Once Sandor Clegane is a more plausible Azor Ahai than you are, you need to find another story arc. I’m sure Jorah’s exit will be a tearjerker.
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.
Update: BOOM! Kooky theory officially validated. Viserion is dead; long live Zombie Viserion, new ride of Mister Night King, Smoker of Night’s Watchmen and Breaker of Ice Walls. Why did Dany name one of the dragons after her dipshit brother anyway? Seemed inauspicious.
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.
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.
Update: Davos, please don’t die. We love you.
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?
Update: Venue announced for CleganeBowl! Dragon Pit, here we come!
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 born 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?
Update: Sure, why not?
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.
Update: Taking this down a peg, actually. I don’t think Sam’s narrating this, because I think he’s too busy saddling up to save the world. Not with a mystical sword and a prophecy. Just with regular brains and stuff.
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.