As the final season of Game of Thrones approaches, many fans are holding their favorite fan theory close for comfort.
Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead!
In less than a week, fans will see the first episode of Game of Thrones' shortened final season. That means that in a month-and-a-half, the saga of war, politics and bloodshed in Westeros will be over, and fans have strong feelings on how it should end.
Game of Thrones is a show that lends itself very naturally to theorizing and speculation. The series is known for its brutal twists and turns, its harsh treatment of main characters and its unapologetic sleight of hand. Of course, this only inspires many fans to work twice as hard as guessing the outcome before it arrives.
One of the unique things about Game of Thrones is that there is not one type of answer to the question "how will it end?" The show does not necessarily have to end with one person on one throne. As it stands now, the fictional world of the series could be completely wiped out, or changed forever by the war against the White Walkers. On top of that, the political structures that the show has traced for a decade have changed, so much that there is no real sense of normalcy they have to return to in the end.
The show could have a high concept ending with lots of magic, or it could have a simple military conclusion. It could end as precariously as it began, with an unsteady monarch on the throne, or it could promise us generations of prosperity to come. Either way, there are fans arguing passionately for their theories online.
Here are some of the top theories about how Game of Thrones will end next month.
King Jon Snow & Queen Daenerys
A big question among fans is who will land on the Iron Throne in the end, and many believe it will either be Daenerys Targeryan or Jon Snow. Some theorists -- perhaps those who cannot choose between these beloved monarchs -- are asking why not both. In Season 6, Jon Snow was named King in the North by his people, and while he technically surrendered that title to Daenerys last season, he will still be the ruler of the northern kingdom, which is as big as the other six combined.
Jon and Daenerys could easily end up ruling Westeros from two seats of power son the two ends of the continent. Alternatively, many fans think that the two will wind up married after they hooked up at the end of Season 7. In that case, they could share the Iron Throne as equal partners, as long as the truth of Jon's ancestry does not bother them.
While this theory is popular among fans who want to see everyone survive the wars to come, it does seem a bit too cheerful for this show. In particular, this ending would fly in the face of the cast's repeated promise that the ending is "bittersweet."prevnext
Many theories revolve around the hard-to-define powers that Bran Stark now wields as the Three-Eyed Raven. The young lord is now somewhat omnipotent, though he still has to sort through his infinite knowledge to make sense of it. In Season 6, we also saw that Bran can effect the past in his visions, as evidenced when he gave Hodor permanent brain damage so that he would one day hold off the White Walkers for him.
This has spawned a whole genre of theories about how Bran will use his powers to either see the solution to their problem in the past, or nudge history a little to create a better outcome. For example, some fans foresee Bran going into a vision of Season 1 of the show and stopping his father from travelling south, thus preventing the entire war and better arming the realm to withstand the White Walker assault.
Others think Bran will go all the way back to The Long Night -- the first war against the White Walkers fought thousands of years in the past. They imagine that Bran will try to prevent the Night King from being created, or at least see how the First Men defeated him in the hopes of doing it all over again.prevnext
Bran is The Night King
A stand-out theory about Bran is that he himself is the Night King, trapped in some kind of time travel loop. Fans believe that Bran will go through time warging into the minds of people in history, as he did to Hodor. In the course of his travels, he will revisit the vision where Leaf showed him the man that she and the other Children of the Forest turned into the Night King, and Bran will enter his mind.
Here, Bran will get trapped as the previous Three-Eyed Raven warned him he might.
“It is beautiful beneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you’ll drown.”
As popular as this theory is, it may put too much on Bran's shoulders, which seems unlikely at this point, especially for a character who was dropped for an entire season.prevnext
Jon Snow's Dragon
While Jon Snow himself doesn't know it yet, fans now know that he is the true heir of House Targeryen. He also has some of the same natural warg abilities that Bran has, as evidenced through his connection to the direwolf Ghost. Therefore, many fans expect Jon to become a dragon rider in the final season, and there is one way in particular that this could be a huge benefit.
The Night King was able to break down a portion of The Wall by bringing Daenerys' dragon, Viserion back from the dead. Viserion now breaths blue flames -- perhaps frost, which could make him an ice dragon. If Jon can somehow reach out to whatever is left of Viserion's mind and reclaim him from the Night King, the living would then have fire and ice on their side. This would not only remove of the the Night King's greatest weapons, it would unite fire and ice in the motif of the series.
Sadly, there is probably a big difference between an ice dragon, which George R.R. Martin has written about in his book The World of Ice and Fire, and an undead dragon like Viserion. Still, fans can dream of seeing Jon take to the skies like Daenerys.prevnext
Tyrion on the Throne
Game of Thrones has shown that the most apt ruler almost never sits on the throne themselves, yet many fans are asking why not. The show could have a poetic ending if Tyrion Lannister, the idealist who has given everything for the people of Westeros several times over, were to inherit the throne himself.
This plays nicely into a long-standing theory that Tyrion is actually the son of Aerys "The Mad King" Targeryen, Daenerys' father, as in the books Aerys coveted Tyrion's mother. However, there is likely not enough evidence in the show to support this idea.
Still, Tyrion is close enough to the seat of power that he could sit on it himself when the war for the dawn is over, and Westeros would likely prosper under his leadership.prevnext
No More Throne
As she campaigns for the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targeryan has talked about changing the power structure in Westeros fundamentally. Last season, the dragon queen even spoke of destroying "the wheel that has rolled over rich and poor to the benefit of no one but the Cersei Lannisters of the world."
To many fans, this means that by the end of the series, there will be no more all-powerful monarchy in the way there there was in the beginning. If Daenerys truly follows through on her promise to rule justly and fairly, the systems that keep the crown in power will likely deteriorate, giving rise to something new.
Asked who he sees ending up on the Iron Throne, former cast member Harry Lloyd echoed this sentiment, saying he would like to see a democratic system take hold in Westeros.
“I kind of want no one on it, to be honest," he said according to WinterIsComing.net. "I just want it to become a really nice, kind of democracy.”
As far-fetched as this might sound, remember that Tyrion pitched this idea to Daenerys last season. He pointed out that the Night's Watch elect their own leaders, while the Ironborn choose them through a kind of religious election ceremony. Daenerys did not discount these ideas, though she said that they needed to focus on winning the throne first.prevnext
Seven Separate Kingdoms
The more negative flip side of this theory suggests that all the wars and strife will cause the seven kingdoms to truly break apart into seven kingdoms again. In the history of Westeros, the seven kingdoms have only been united for about 300 years, when Daenerys' ancestors flew over to make them so. Now, after two generations without a unifying Targeryen leader, some believe the kingdoms will separate again.
This might not be a bad thing, after everyone we have seen on the show. On the other hand, separate kingdoms mean more perilous travel, and probably more wars in the future.prevnext
If nothing else, there needs to be a theory that sets the bar as low as possible, and this one might be it. Some fans have imagined that the entire series over the last 10 years has been a dream that Bran has been having in his coma after getting thrown off the tower in the pilot episode.
Proponents of this theory point out that Bran and the others are essentially living out the stories that Old Nan told him when he was a boy -- with giants, wargs, White Walkers and dragons roaming the earth again.
Still, if a young Bran somehow awoke safe in his bed at the end of the final episode, HBO would likely have a riot on its hands.prevnext
At the moment, Cersei is sitting comfortably on the Iron Throne, so we have to at least consider the possibility that she will stay there. Over the course of the story, she has become a complex figure. While she is undeniably a villain, she is probably the most sympathetic of the show's antagonists.
It could be that Cersei will keep her seat on the Iron Throne, which now rules over virtually nothing anyway. The queen has herself carefully ensconced in her holdfast with a mercenary army on the way from overseas to defend her. When the dust settles, she could be the last one standing.prevnext
The Night King Wins
Finally, we cannot put it past this show to go the darkest route possible. The Night King is marching the Army of the Dead south, and every battle they win only swells his ranks. As we consider every possible way he could be defeated, we have to at least consider the possibility that he won't be.0comments
Some fans feel that the show is dark enough to simply let the Night King win and end on a tragic note. Others have suggested that he might conquer most of the continent before winter comes to an abrupt end, freeing the remaining humans to repopulate Westeros. Either way, we have to consider the possibility that the Night King and his armies could get much, much farther than we want them to.
Game of Thrones returns on Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.prev