WINTER IS HERE
‘Game of Thrones’ Series Finale Predictions: Will Jon Snow Kill Daenerys?
Our resident GoT expert Melissa Leon breaks down what’s likely (and unlikely) to happen during this Sunday’s final episode of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ [Warning: Spoilers]
The final hour (and 20 minutes) of Game of Thrones is upon us and, seven hells, what a mess it’s got to clean up.
Daenerys Targaryen, breaker of chains, has broken with sanity and razed Euron’s fleet, the Golden Company, and the soldiers and civilians of King’s Landing to the ground. Cersei, Jaime, and their unborn Lannister baby are dead. That leaves Dany closer than ever to the Iron Throne but, even through fire and blood, she’s unlikely to sit pretty for long. Who’ll be left standing by the end of Sunday night? Who will rule? Let’s examine the odds for what the future of Westeros looks like, both in the series finale and beyond.
Who will kill Daenerys?
The Mother of Dragons sealed her fate the moment she succumbed to her bloodline’s worst instincts and murdered more innocent people than her Mad King father ever did. She may explain her rationale in the finale—a show of indisputable force against the capital of Westeros is the only guarantee that she’ll never have to raze another city, perhaps—but it won’t be enough. She was losing allies’ confidence before she burnt thousands of men, women, and children alive. And from the looks on Jon’s and Tyrion’s faces as they realized their queen had snapped, she’s unlikely to benefit from blind loyalty much longer.
Tyrion, for one, knows too well what happens when a person with as much power as Daenerys chooses fear over love: “Yes, you need to inspire a degree of fear,” he told his queen in Season 7, “but fear is all Cersei has, it’s all my father had, Joffrey…It makes their power brittle, because everyone beneath them longs to see them dead.” The lesson didn’t stick, but it still rings true for the new Queen of the Ashes. If Dany takes the Iron Throne, her new King’s Landing subjects will loathe her the way they did Cersei. The lords of Westeros will mistrust her and perhaps even plot against her. And in the shorter-term, Sansa, Jon, Arya and Tyrion understand now that Dany has been corrupted by power and is unfit to rule.
Deposing her, unfortunately, probably means killing her—she’s already betrayed her own principles to get this far, she won’t walk away without a fight. Jon may not long to see his Dany dead, but he is Ned Stark’s son, adopted or otherwise, and we know he shares Ned’s belief that “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Will he finally live up to that Azor Ahai prophecy the red priests were always going on about and forge a “burning sword” to drive “the darkness” from Westeros (in this case Daenerys’ reign of terror) by plunging it into the heart of his beloved? Maybe!
Or he’ll putter about and short-circuit while calculating the most honorable course of action: killing the queen to whom he bent the knee or saving the realm from her. While he wrings his hands, a more decisive, less sentimental killer just as capable of sneaking within arm’s reach of Daenerys can do the deed: a Faceless Arya.
Maybe she kills Grey Worm or finds Missandei’s face lying around and sidles up to Dany. Or (and this is a crackpot theory, but I’d love it to death) she takes Cersei’s likeness and turns the tables just before Dany executes her. Melisandre predicted that Arya would forever shut eyes of brown (Walder Frey’s), blue (the Night King’s) and green—with the emerald-eyed Lannister twins now dead, Dany’s death now seems like the inevitable conclusion of that prophecy.
What becomes of Jon Snow?
If Jon survives the attempt to murder his ladylove, it would leave him with the strongest claim to the Iron Throne. Lil’ Aegon has gone blue in the face this season repeating and reiterating his lack of desire to rule. Still, the Master of Whisperers Varys died practically shouting Jon’s lineage from the rooftops, believing that since “the best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule,” Jon is a natural fit. Reluctantly taking on outsized responsibilities is kind of Jon’s whole thing, after all—he didn’t want to become Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or King in the North, yet he did. (With a spotty track record of success once actually in power, but people on the show tend to hand-wave those details away.)
However wonkily this season’s surprises have been handled, though, there’s just no way Jon Snow ends up on the Iron Throne. He and the entire Thrones viewership would hate it. More likely, with Daenerys gone, Jon will abdicate his claim and remove himself from the picture, too, leaving Sansa in charge of the North and retiring someplace where his last name will never come up again, like another Targaryen—Castle Black maester Aemon Targaryen—once did.
“This is farewell,” Jon told Tormund at their parting in Winterfell, to which the redheaded wildling cocked an eyebrow and said, “You never know. You’ve got the North in you. The real North.” He meant the Land of Always Winter, north of the Wall, where Jon’s wildling buddies and a certain one-eared, very good boy are now scampering about in the snow. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has said his story ends with a “victory,” but a “bittersweet” one. Jon watching another girlfriend die, rescinding his claim to the throne, and leaving his family behind to live out his days with Ghost might fit the bill.
Does Tyrion get torched?
“The next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me,” Daenerys said to Tyrion minutes before he failed her again and freed Jaime Lannister. The minute the Targaryen queen rides back into camp and discovers her turncoat prisoner missing, she’ll know exactly who set him free. Dany has long suspected Tyrion of purposely feeding her bad strategy to advantage his family. Now that she’s beyond the moral point of no return, it’s hard to imagine her hesitating to sic Drogon on her Hand of the Queen for treason.
Tyrion has to see this coming. Will he preempt his queen’s move and help Arya and Jon take her down? Or will his execution be what prompts the Starks to kill Dany? My money’s on the former, if only because the latter would be redundant. We know what Dany is now. Executing Tyrion would tell us nothing new.
Is Bran going to do something or not?
Bran has stayed safely out of harm’s way ever since his sister shanked the Night King and brought the White Walkers’ supernatural threat against Westeros to an abrupt end. Though he had a hand in helping Arya save the day—he gave her the Valyrian steel dagger she used for the job—he’s had no active part in the plot ever since. Sure, he’s essentially just a talking library with no desires of his own. But a vision of his from several seasons ago hinted at Dany’s destruction of King’s Landing. (He saw a dragon’s shadow fly over the city in Season 4 and again in Season 6.) Couldn’t he have tossed his siblings a heads-up? Is there some greater design he has in mind, explaining why he didn’t? Does he even care?!
For fans who want the Night King’s anticlimactic demise to pay off in at least some spectacle, there is hope worth clinging to in what the previous Three-Eyed Raven once told Bran: he’ll never walk again, but he “will fly.” Bran warged into a flock of crows for a minute during the dragon battle near Winterfell but who knows what purpose that served, if any. It’s a long shot, but wouldn’t it be thrilling to watch Bran warg into Drogon? Maybe he’s the one who kills Dany? Or maybe this is how Drogon flies out of the picture once his mother is toast, over the sea and back to Valyria, perhaps, where dragons were first discovered thousands of years ago.
Or not. Bran would have to want to do that, or at least feel it necessary. And as he tells Tyrion, “I don’t really want anymore.”
Who will sit on the Iron Throne?
By the same measure that Varys deemed Jon the heir most likely to put the people’s interests over his own, Bran is a natural fit for the Iron Throne because he has no desires. With Tyrion as Hand and a council of lords at his side, maybe Bran’s long con wins him the throne. (Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to think this is the most likely scenario.) It’d be a bit dull, sure. But apart from Bran, who else is in a position to win should Dany lose and Jon abdicate?
The end of Season 7, just before Jon and Dany slept together, featured a sudden outbreak of Westeros baby fever. Jorah Mormont, Tyrion, Jon and Dany herself started dropping heavy hints about heirs, fertility, and the chain of succession should she take the throne. But as far as we know right now, Daenerys isn’t pregnant. (Plus, judging by Cersei’s two-season-long pregnancy which culminated in barely a bump, even if she were, it’d take far more time than we have left for her to give birth to an heir.)
So Secret Baby Snowgaryen is unlikely. What about Sansa Stark? She’s evolved into a sharp, uncompromising, pragmatic leader, and commands the loyalty of the people in the North. She’d make a wise and stable queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Imagine it: Brienne as head of her Queensguard, and Arya as her spy/super-assassin/protector. There’s just one problem: Sansa herself despises King’s Landing and has been vocal about never wanting to return. She’s fiercely loyal only to the North and has worked diligently to ensure its continued survival.
Tyrion, if he makes it out of the finale alive, feels unlikely to assume that responsibility either. For one, he’s yet to make a strategic decision all season that hasn’t backfired on him, boding ill for his potential reign. Second, he’s got no more love in King’s Landing than Daenerys does now or Cersei did before her. Remember the play Arya watched in Essos, starring Lady Crane? It reflected how common folk view the events we’d watched over several seasons—and in it, Tyrion was a scheming, backstabbing, cowardly runt who killed his own father and ran. Now he turns up at the dragon queen’s side just before she razes the city? It’d be a mess.
There’s another dark-horse candidate with a stronger claim to the throne, however. Thanks to Daenerys, Gendry Baratheon is no longer a bastard but the lord of Storm’s End. Sure, no one’s clear on whether he’s even literate, but he’s a relatively harmless choice. Who knows?
Or will the Iron Throne be destroyed?
The ending that feels the most fitting for a story about the corrupting influence of power, though, is one where the symbol of that power gets dismantled. No one should sit on the Iron Throne. That hideous thing shouldn’t exist. If Martin’s biggest influence in writing his story holds any sway over the show’s ending, the throne will meet the same fate as J.R.R. Tolkien’s One Ring—another universally corrupting piece of metal that tempts the heroes of the story, leads to a few tragic downfalls, and ultimately must be destroyed to restore long-lasting peace.
Let the lords of Westeros rule over their own kingdoms again, the way they did before Aegon the Conqueror forced them to bend the knee, before he set in motion the wheel Daenerys once talked about breaking. It’d be a melancholy, but fitting way to end the show: granting her wish and leaving the world better than she found it—just not exactly the way she imagined.