Just when we hoped the Battle of Winterfell might tie up the life-threatening loose ends in Game of Thrones, the eighth and final season began to prepare us for the biggest series finale of all time – especially if these rumours are anything to go by.
Fans of the HBO juggernaut have been speculating on who will finally seize the Iron Throne for years, and seeing as the television series plot outstripped the narrative of creator George RR Martin’s books several years ago, there’s scant evidence to go on.
The eighth and final season has been based on what exists of Martin’s forthcoming Thrones novels (The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring) but even Thrones writers DB Weiss, David Benioff, Dave Hill and Brian Cogman allege to have worked on on an altogether different ending.
Weiss and Benioff are directing the final episode of the series, while the first five have been split between the gore-familiar and action-heavy David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik. Filming began in October 2017, finished in June 2018, and mostly happened in a top-secret – if enormous – studio in Belfast, where previous series have been based.
The biggest rumours, as you might expect, concern who wins, dies and climbs atop that infamous (albeit potentially destroyed) Iron Throne. Much of which we've predicted correctly as the weeks go on.
As for the rest? Down to pure fan speculation and online flotsam.
Put your chain-mail on: there are plenty of bonkers fan theories to wade through below and, naturally, spoilers abound.
Latest season 8 finale fan theories
Mad Queen Daenerys is going to die
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it seems fitting that the series' assumed protagonist (the Mother of Dragons herself) took a Skywalker turn towards the dark side.
Fans have long theorized that, in a story based on morality's shades of grey, nothing made more sense than the most destructive villain take the form of a power corrupted heroine.
Daenerys has long shown merciless judgment in her quest for the Iron Throne. One that was bound to intensify if she lost the counsel of advisors Jorah (RIP), Varys (RIP) and Tyrion (please no RIP). Even in season 8's premiere she feigned little remorse when Samwell Tarly found out she murdered his family.
Following the absolute bonfire she made of King's Landing and all its innocent residents, there will be little 'good' left to hold on to for those who supported Daenerys' claim to the Throne. In the wake of mass murder Jon is incredibly likely to be 'outed' as the rightful heir and she will, yet again, lose more. She may even try to dracarys the heroes (our bet's on Sansa) who try to defy her. If Jon or Arya don't kill her to protect the greater good, it's likely someone will.
Tyrion is the illegitimate son of Mad King Aerys
From day one, Tyrion has been the black sheep of the Lannister clan. But one fan theory is that he isn’t really a Lannister at all: he’s actually the illegitimate son of Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen.
Throughout the books and the television show, Tywin always showed contempt for his youngest son. From putting him in the vanguard in the Battle of the Green Fork, to sentencing him to death for Joffrey’s murder, it seems as though the Lannister patriarch wanted to get rid of Tyrion. This seems bewildering, considering that Tyrion that is technically the Lannister heir: Jaime gave up any claim when he joined the Kingsguard.
Tywin is said to hate Tyrion because he killed Joanna during childbirth. But this doesn’t quite match with the reasoned logic that Tywin displays in most other situations. “Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colours – since I cannot prove that you are not mine," Tywin told Tyrion in A Storm of Swords. This hints heavily that Tyrion may not be a Lannister at all.
In the books, Aerys was infatuated with Tywin’s wife, Joanna. This was a constant source of friction between the King and his Hand. But perhaps the infatuation went further than we’ve been led to believe. It’s thought that Tywin resigned as Aerys’s Hand when Jaime was appointed to the Kingsguard, leaving Tyrion as his sole male heir. But what the reason for Tywin’s anger is that Tyrion wasn’t really his son?
This theory is supported by the fact that Tyrion has never exactly looked like a Lannister. In the books he’s described as having a mixture of hair that is black and “so blonde it seemed white”. The latter is a hint at Targaryen blood. Since childhood, Tyrion has had an almost obsessive interest in dragons. Not only that, but he has shown an affinity with the creatures, and he managed to get up close and personal with Daenerys’ dragons without being incinerated. This would be a complicated twist to work into the final series, granted, but weirder things have happened in Game of Thrones.
What is likely is that Tyrion will meet his end in season eight, unless Peter Dinklage, the man who plays him, is just messing with us. Asked about Tyrion’s fate by Vulture, Dinklage said: “I feel very, very – I’m trying to find the right word. I think he was given a very good conclusion.
“No matter what that is – death can be a great way out.”
Daenerys will sacrifice herself to destroy Westeros…
Or, at least, her human self. Because there’s a surprisingly convincing theory knocking around that Daenerys may transform into a dragon. Over the years, the Game of Thrones cast have become adept at delivering tedious quotes about the show. But Emilia Clarke may have slipped in a clue when she discussed Daenerys’s final scene: “It f----- me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavour in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is.”
The key word here, as Reddit user Khknola pointed out, is “what” – she didn’t say “who”.
“I think she’s a dragon trapped in human form,” the user suggested. A vision regarding Daenerys spoke of “three fires you must light: one for life and one for death and one for love”. If someone was to attempt to kill Jon Snow in the aftermath of The Last War (Greyworm, perhaps?), Dany could sacrifice herself by getting in the way of the man she loves. This could be the third prophesied “fire”, potentially transforming her into a dragon.
As with all good Thrones theories, there are other snippets in the literature and show’s history to back this up. Remember the time when Olenna Tyrell told Dany: “You’re a dragon. Be a dragon”, or the slightly creepy passing comment in the books that Dany’s stillborn child “was scaled like a lizard, blind, with the stub of a tail and small leather wings like the wings of a bat.”
She’s not the first Targaryen to suffer from such a fate, either. Rhaenyra, another Targaryen lost to the grisly family history, had a dragon-like baby too: “a stillborn girl, twisted and malformed, with a hole in her chest where her heart should have been and a stubby, scaled tail."
…or she’ll take the throne alongside Jon Snow…
This would be a real fairytale ending. Perhaps too much so. Two characters who started the show in the shadow of their more prominent siblings, overcoming adversity and jointly claiming the Iron Throne.
From the beginning, many fans had suspected that Jon might not be Ned Stark’s bastard son. In season seven, it was confirmed that Jon is a Targaryen: the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar, Daenerys’ eldest brother.
The series of books on which Game of Thrones is based is actually called A Song of Ice and Fire. Jon is a mix of the Starks of the North, a family with an obsession with winter, and the dragon-owning Targaryens, whose motto is 'Fire and Blood'. Jon is the living embodiment of this story.
Sure, Jon’s true parentage means that his ongoing dalliance with Daenerys will raise a few eyebrows, but incest isn’t unheard of in the Westerosi monarchy.
It feels as though the entire show has been building towards the moment the Khaleesi ascends the Iron Throne. Even if she led questionably in the war against the Night King and his army of White Walkers and burned all of King's Landing to a crisp. The balance of power and judgment may make them an effective pair.
…and she’ll free the people of Westeros forever
Daenerys has long promised to “break the wheel”. For the conquered lands in Essos this meant an end to slavery, but what would it mean for Westeros?
It is believed that Daenerys is infertile, thanks to Mirri Maz Duur’s use of black magic back in season one. If true, it would mean that even if she did manage to secure the Westerosi throne, her legacy and family name would die with her. A lack of an heir could also plunge the Seven Kingdoms back into war.
If Daenerys is really serious about “breaking the wheel”, it wouldn't be wrong to assume she’ll replace the monarchy with lots of little democratically-elected cogs.
Arya will be the “last woman standing”
Maisie Williams interrupted the heatwave of 2017 with a cryptic photograph of some (fake) bloodied sneakers and the caption: “goodbye belfast. goodbye arya. goodbye game of thrones. what a joy i’ve had. here’s to the adventures to come #lastwomanstanding”.
Now there was a hashtag to set tongues wagging. Headey, who plays Cersei, added to the speculation by commenting: “QUEEN”. It’s most likely that the cast are all just having a little fun, confusing fans from behind the fortress of NDAs that constitutes the Game of Thrones set, but perhaps Arya really will survive over Cersei, Daenerys and even her own sister Sansa, to clamber onto the Iron Throne.
Williams has given other clues, telling the Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson that the scene she shot last was “beautiful. I ended on the perfect scene. I was alone – shocker! Arya’s always bloody alone.” She added that season 8 “was quite big for me. I had a lot more to do. Mainly because there’s just [fewer] characters now, so everyone’s got more to do."
A tad modest for the Night King killer, all things considered.
What can be construed from this? The last scene Williams shot may or may not have been Arya’s last scene in the script, but the scene was certainly filmed in Belfast (where Winterfell and the North are set). Arya is a Stark, so perhaps we see her return home in the end. Hopefully with #lastmanstanding Gendry; the duo are a practically perfect pair to break the 'wheel' of gender, class and family limitations that have ruled the Seven Kingdoms for so long.
But isn’t Sansa more likely to sit on the throne…?
Sansa has made quite the transformation over the past seven series; submissive princess, to ruthless warrior, to Lady of the North. It’s been no secret that Sansa doesn’t end the show in her native Winterfell; actress Sophie Turner told Digital Spy in July that she wrapped in Spain after an emotional departure from the Stark seat.
“The director, David Nutter, called me into the courtyard, because he knew it was my last day on set. He said to the whole crew, ‘Sansa Stark is leaving Winterfell for the last time.’”
In Spain, though, Turner spent five days shooting her last scene, which left her and her mystery cast-mates “all quite sweaty, and bored by the end”. There’s a good chance that this was at the Roman ruins of Italica in Seville, otherwise known as the Dragonpit. Just a handful of the cast – no extras, though 500 of them were busy in Belfast for a scene in which Winterfell was set on fire… – were present for a whopping four weeks.
How does Sansa get there? There are various tangled theories, but one of them did involve her marrying Gendry up until, erm, her sister Arya decided to have a roll around with the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. So, we can safely say that theory is no longer in the mix. Former husband Tyrion, however...
Bran Stark ended the Targaryen dynasty – and built the Wall
We all know that Bran can warg and influence the past – poor Hodor’s fate in the now infamous ‘Hold the Door’ episode is a prime example. What’s to say that Bran isn’t behind all (or at least some) of the events in Game of Thrones?
This particular theory hangs on the literature. In the very first book, Old Nan offers to tell Bran the story of Bran the Builder and the construction of the Wall. She is always insisting that this tale was his favourite. Except it never was. Bran wonders if he is confusing her with another Bran – perhaps his uncle and namesake, Brandon.
He tells Old Nan that he hates her “stupid stories”, but she retorts that they aren’t hers: “No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are before me and after me, before you too.” This aligns with what the Three-Eyed Raven later tells Bran: “The past is already written. The ink is dry.”
This seems to indicate that the Game of Thrones universe operates in a closed loop. What’s more, Bran is the one who can complete these loops, as exemplified in Hodor’s case. Old Nan may be a messenger ensuring young Bran is aware of how to build the Wall, should he travel back in time. After all, the builder of the wall was named Bran.
Another element of the Game of Thrones plot that may have been affected by Bran’s time-travelling and warging is the madness of King Aerys II. Jaime Lannister claimed early in the series that the Mad King died screaming “burn them all."
It’s assumed that Aerys wanted to burn his people using the wildfire he’d hoarded under King’s Landing. It’s possible, however, that Bran drove the King mad by showing him the White Walkers and that they could be the party he wanted to burn. We’ve already seen wildfire used by both Cersei and Tyrion to vanquish their foes; perhaps it’ll come in handy once again?
(They’ll have to find a pyromancer quick, though, as Cersei used up the last of Aerys’ stores blasting the Tyrells and half of King’s Landing to smithereens.)
Democracy will prevail
Could the noble houses fall and the realm, at large, prevail? Varys and Tyrion often suggested this course of action is their preference and any major shifts in their allegiance to Daenerys had the power to set them on this path. Particularly Tyrion, who has now seen all he loves burned to the ground.
Be it by death or diversion, the eventual pursuit of republic or a democracy is a fan theory favoured by those who want to see the Throne empty for the long haul. Or at least for the finale.
The Azor Ahai is Jon...or Daenerys...or Arya...
This legendary figure in the religion of R’hllor, also known as the Lord of Light, defeated the Great Other using his sword Lightbringer. A prophecy foretells that Azor Ahai will be reborn as The Prince That Was Promised.
Finding the next Azor Ahai has been a bit of an obsession for Melisandre. First, she thought it was Stannis who was The Prince That Was Promised. Once that didn’t work out, she switched her attentions to Jon Snow.
It makes sense, Jon returned from the dead – an indication that the Lord of Light still had big plans for him. Perhaps it is to defeat the darkness, embodied this time by the White Walkers.
According to the legend, the original Azor Ahai only gained the power to defeat the darkness once he had plunged Lightbringer into the heart of his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa. Perhaps Jon’s newest love interest, Daenerys, will fulfil this tragic role. It would be a pretty underwhelming end for the Mother of Dragons, though.
In the third and fifth novels, Melisandre declared: “When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. The bleeding star has come and gone, and Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn!”
It’s true that as a volcanic island, Dragonstone is a place of smoke and salt. But Stannis wasn’t born on Dragonstone. Daenerys, on the other hand, was. She has also already woken dragons out of stone. Naturally, Mel switched gears once again.
In season 7, she told Dany: “The Long Night is coming. Only the Prince Who Was Promise can bring the dawn…I believe you have a role to play, as does another — the King in the North, Jon Snow.”
So, is Arya Azor Ahai? She went ahead and assassinated the presumed "Great Other", The Night King, yes. But not with the Lightbringer, not after raising dragons, and not with the birth lore which so succinctly connects the prophecy to Daenerys.
If we're not throwing the layered prophecy out the window, these inconsistencies could very well mean the actual Azor Ahai has yet to fulfill their destiny.
In the end, the Stark pack will survive…
Sophie Turner revealed a tattoo after filming her last scenes as Sansa Stark: “The pack survives”. It’s taken from the Stark family maxim: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survive.”
Winter is already here. Could this suggest that the remaining Starks are going to rally together to survive?
The best fan theories that have come true so far
Who Jon Snow's real parents are. As small plot points hinted at Jon's true parentage as early as the first book, many fans theorized that Jon was the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Internet archives track the theory all the way back to 2001 - six years before Bran's visions confirmed it in season 7.
Tyrion becoming Daenerys' Hand. Though they were unlikely allies, there was an entire Reddit thread dedicated to the theory - and how it might play out - back in 2013.
Jon coming back from the dead. When he was killed in A Dance With Dragons (the fifth and as-yet final book in the series), many fans hoped Red Woman Melisandre would be to resurrect Jon, based largely on her ability to do so for Thoros of Myr.
Arya serving Walder Frey his extended family. A book-only character, Manderly, fed some of the Freys relative-filled pies in the novels and years-old theories began to build as soon as Arya set off with her kill list.
Bran becoming the Three-Eyed Raven. Five years ago fans began to wonder if Bran was being groomed to succeed Bloodraven and, though the young Stark had only just met the mysterious old greenseer at that point, he went on to do so many years later (telling basically anyone he could of his new role in season 7).
Jon Snow riding a dragon. Rhaegal, in particular. As Targaryen lore suggests, dragons are closely tied to one person and only let that person ride them. As Jon is technically Targaryen and the Night King is off riding Viserion, the Mother of Dragons' invite to climb aboard Rhaegal couldn't come soon enough. For many, it was the highlight of season 8's premiere.
Arya kills the Night King. As we suggested (above), Arya is very likely to have taken the face (or lack thereof) from a murdered White Walker to sneak up on the Night King and kill him, saving all of humanity.
Mad Queen Daenerys. Though bonfiring King's Landing was relatively unexpected, the breaker of chains has not had a completely clean record. She was born into a mentally unwell family, killed on demand, and experienced enough loss and heartbreak to send anyone over the edge.
What rumours do you think are most likely to come to fruition? Do you have your own fan theory? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.