Game of Thrones is wrapping up its historic run this year with its eighth and final season. The show faces the tough prospect of tying up all of its loose ends and sprawling plot lines in just six episodes instead of its usual ten. Granted, each one will reportedly be at least 90 minutes long, making it more like a series of six movies, but it will still be a marvel to pull off.
The show has told a lot of stories within its grand Manichean plot line, and some stories have been left to simmer for years at a time. Now, in order to create a satisfying ending, the writers have to find a conclusion for all the old grudges, foreshadowed promises and lost heroes.
How that will go down is anyone's guess. Of course, fans have flocked to the internet to posit those guesses ahead of time. Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and many other platforms have filled with fan theories for Game of Thrones. Some have more traction than others, but all concern mankind's final battle against the Army of the Dead.
It goes without saying that these ideas are based on pure speculation. Many do not care for fan theories, including author George R.R. Martin himself. For those of us that do like to try on our tinfoil hats now and again, here is a look at some of the top fan theories heading into Game of Thrones Season 8.
Warning! Spoilers and potential spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead!
Fans were ecstatic when King Robert Baratheon's bastard son, Gendry, returned last season. The adventurous blacksmith was last seen rowing out into the fog by himself, and some feel that his comeback must signal a higher purpose.
Early in the series, Gendry described his mother as a "yellow-haired" woman who sang to him. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei told the Starks that she did have one true son with Robert, a "little black-haired beauty." She claimed the boy was stillborn, however, some speculate that she may have disposed of him on purpose so that she could have Lannister children with Jaime.
If Gendry turned out to be a true-born Baratheon, it would give him some claim to the Iron Throne. At the very least, it would allow him to take over Storm's End as a high lord. Even the actor who plays Gendry, Joe Dempsie, alluded to this theory in a recent interview with Men's Health.
"I just wanted answers about my character. I was the most curious as to what we might find out about Gendry's parentage," Dempsie said of Game of Thrones' upcoming season. "Obviously, we know that he was the bastard of Robert Baratheon, but who might his mover have been?"
"It's one of those things where you go, 'Do they usually write lines that don't mean anything, or lines that seem to have significance that [are] never addressed again?' I was kind of intrigued to see what that might mean, and what impact that might have on Gendry's clout politically," he concluded.
In fairness, detractors of this theory feel that it would too closely mirror the story of Jon Snow.prevnext
Crypts of Winterfell
Another popular theory wonders what will happen when the Night King and the Army of the Dead arrives at Winterfell, where generations of Stark ancestors lie in the tombs beneath the castle. Some fans foresee the icy magic raising the old northern kings and queens from their mausoleum to fight against the living.
This is a versatile theory with many interpretations. For one thing, the Starks are portrayed as an innately magical family, so there is a possibility the reawakened Starks would actually join the side of the living. They could also respond to Bran rather than the Night King, since he has the most advanced abilities as a Warg.
Additionally, many fans see this as the perfect opportunity to give a nod to Lady Stoneheart. In the books, Catelyn Stark is raised from the dead by Thoros of Myr. Unable to speak with her slashed throat, she wanders the countryside taking vengeance on Lannister troops.
If Catelyn returned in the final season, it would be a nice homage to the show's source material.prevnext
Some fans are laser focused on a tiny moment in the trailer, when shadowy legs can be seen flashing across the snowy ground. At first glance, they look like horse hooves, but some fans suggest that they might actually be wolf paws — or even direwolf paws.
In Season 7, Arya Stark returned to Westeros and found her pet direwolf, Nymeria, still alive. She led a pack of wild wolves scavenging the countryside after the War of Five Kings left so much in ruin. Arya could not re-tame the wolf, but some fans think she might come running when she senses her master in danger in the final war.
It is worth noting that in the books, Arya never loses contact with Nymeria. When she sleeps, she often occupies Nymeria's body, even in from across the sea.prevnext
One way or another, Arya is likely facing a blast from the past this season. The young assassin left the Faceless Men's House of Black and White in a hurry, stealing their ancient shape-shifting technique on the way out. It seems likely that she will have to face consequences for this crime, and fans have a wild idea about the form her punishment might take.
Arya was led to the faceless men by Jaqen H'Ghar, a prisoner deemed dangerous by the Lannisters and sent to The Wall with her. For years now, fans have theorized that H'Ghar was Arya's sword teacher, Syrio Forel, who was last seen fighting for his life in the Red Keep.
Now that Arya has foresaken the Faceless Men, they could send Forel himself to exact vengeance. Seeing her old teacher would give Arya pause, and make it hard for her to strike back. If Forel turned out to have been a Faceless Man all along, he would have no such hesitations.prevnext
Another seeming inevitability this season is a showdown between Sandor and Gregor Clegane — also known as The Hound and The Mountain. The show has teased a fight to the death between the two brothers since Season 1, and some fans think they have figured out how it will happen.
The trailer for Season 8 begins with a terrified Arya running through shadowy hallways with blood on her face. It takes a lot to hurt Arya these days, and fans speculate that the zombified Mountain could do it. Even with her newly acquired assassin skills, Arya would be hard pressed to take down an armored giant who can't feel pain.
Enter The Hound. The burn-scarred brute has developed a begrudging affection for Arya, and he is in the middle of a reluctant redemption arc. There is a chance that we will see Arya running from the Mountain as in the trailer, only to have the Hound interceded to save her.
Some claim this theory is ironclad, as clever editing on the trailer gives a better look at the figures chasing Arya. However, it is still too indistinct to be sure.prevnext
Aegon Targaryen IV
The next theory is a contentious one. Fair warning, it contains some huge spoilers for the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire!
The trailer shows ranks of golden-clad soldiers riding on longships with the combined Lannister and Greyjoy banners flying overhead. At their head, HBO has confirmed, is Harry Strickland, played by Marc Rissmann. In the books, Strickland is introduced much earlier as the leader of the Golden Company, an army of sell-sword knights.
Last season, Cersei confirmed in two conversations that she had hired the Golden Company to help her re-conquer Westeros.
However, by this point in the books, the Golden Company follows a mysterious young man going by the name Griff. Through Tyrion's perspective, the reader learns that Griff is actually Aegon Targaryen, the lost son of Daenerys' brother, Rhaegar and the true heir to the Iron Throne.
There is too much involved in that book-exclusive plot to summarize here. Most fans had assumed that the show was ignoring that contender for the throne altogether, since he has not shown up yet. However, seeing the ranks of golden warriors lined up has some people thinking that a version of Aegon may land on Westeros before Season 8 is over.prevnext
Lightbringer and Azor Ahai
As the final battle against the Army of the Dead approaches, many fans are wondering if any part of Melisandre's prophecies will come true. The red priestess has spent the entire series trying to bring about the rise of the legendary hero Azor Ahai and his magic flaming sword, Lightbringer.
Fans noticed what may be a nod to that prophecy in the trailer for Season 8. One clip finds Gendry hard at work on a weapon. Given the smith's apparent importance in the war, could he be the one to forge the sword?
This would be an interesting twist, especially considering Gendry's history with Melisandre. As for Azor Ahai, Jon Snow still seems like the best candidate for the title. However, knowing Martin and the series' treatment of magical doctrine at this point, it is likely that the prophecy won't come to pass exactly as Melisandre understood it.prevnext
Jaime vs. Cersei
Finally, the future looks incredibly uncertain for the incestuous Lannister twins Cersei and Jaime. Fans have been holding their breaths waiting to see how things end for the two, as they have been on divergent paths for years now.
One popular theory states that Jaime will complete his redemption arc by killing Cersei himself. The disgraced knight already carries the title "Kingslayer" for murdering the "Mad King" Ares Targaryen before the show began. As Cersei herself seems to be slipping away from sanity, Jaime could be called to that duty again.
There is also a prophecy to consider in this case as well. As fans saw in one flashback, Cersei visited a woods witch when she was young. The witch correctly predicted many aspects of her life, including her marriage and the deaths of her children.0comments
In the books, she also warned Cersei "the valonqar" would murder her. Valonqar is the High Valyrian word for "little brother," leading Cersei to suspect that Tyrion would kill her all along. However, fans have noted that Cersei is older than Jaime by two minutes, meaning that she could just as easily meet her death at his remaining hand.prev