Some Game of Thrones fans are nurturing an improbable theory about who will wind up on the Iron Throne: Robert Baratheon's bastard son, Gendry.
Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead!
Game of Thrones is a series full of twists and turns, strange plot developments and sudden shifts in power dynamics. Still, a theory rising in popularity pushes the boundaries of this trend by suggesting that Gendry, the bastard son of the late King Robert Baratheon, will sit on the Iron Throne when the series is all over.
As fans know, Gendry — played by Joe Dempsie — was introduced back in Season 1, when Ned Stark discovered he was the king's only true son. A talented blacksmith, he was sent away with Arya for a season, then joined the Brotherhood Without Banners. From there, he was sold to Melisandre who intended to sacrifice him, until Ser Davos set him free. He rowed away on a boat, giving rise to one of the show's most enduring memes.
Gendry returned last season to join up with Jon Snow. To some fans, this comeback seemed timely as the series finale approaches. They speculate that Gendry will return Westeros to order after a generation of war by taking his father's place on the Iron Throne when the war for the dawn is over.
There are a few key pieces of evidence for this theory. For one thing, fans see Gendry as indispensable thanks to his expertise with Valyrian steel. Gendry was trained by Tobho Mott, and can therefore re-work existing pieces of Valyrian steel, though he cannot create new pieces of it.
Fans also point to an interview Dempsie gave with Digital Spy last year, implying that he would survive the many battles of the upcoming season.
"Not even necessarily just from a character point-of-view, [but] from a personal point of view – to be there on the set when they're making that ending... that end game," he said. "So yeah, I'm very happy to be involved and be on set for Season 8."
There were also the promotional posters released in February, showing 20 different characters sitting on the Iron Throne. Fans noted that Gendry did not get a poster, and took this as a misdirect from the series' creators.
"They didn't do a poster with Gendry on the Iron Throne because it's been his the entire time, kingsblood [versus] everybody,” one fan tweeted.
Finally, the last, and perhaps most subtle fuel for this fan theory fire is the enduring presence of the Baratheon family crest, the stag, in the opening credits sequence. Game of Thrones' opening theme has changed from season to season and even episode to episode, showing the locations and great houses with the most dominance. Yet even though Gendry has been the last surviving Baratheon since Season 5, the stag has never disappeared from the title card.
"The only part of the opening sequence to never change is the Stag on the throne," one fan tweeted. "[Gendry] is the last Stag."
Gendry governing the seven kingdoms in the end would certainly be a twist, though perhaps one right in line with the show's history of surprises.
Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres on Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.