Warning: Spoilers ahead for the season 7 finale.
Though it contended with the VMAs, Game of Thrones was the clear winner Sunday night—because when it comes to Game of Thrones, everything is a competition in which, as they say, you win, or you die. The series closed out a record-making seventh season with its most-watched episode so far, bringing in 16.5 million viewers for the season finale. It’s all the more impressive considering the commitment: Episode 7 was practically a feature film, clocking in at an hour and 20 minutes and with a gnarly plot that primarily served as exposition for the eighth and final season.
Here’s where we’re at. In the first hour, Jon Snow unveiled his high school science project—a wight he had transported from north of the Wall as proof the White Walkers are roaming free and out for human blood—to much success. A gold star for Jon Snow, who succeeded in unnerving the notoriously unflappable Cersei Lannister. But it wasn’t until the last quarter of the show that the real action began. First, Sansa and Arya Stark unmasked the thirsty, and power-thirsty, Lord Petyr Baelish. (Then, Arya cut his throat.) That was followed by a not-entirely-unexpected tryst between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. (Once more for the people in the back: They’re related.) And as the season drew to a close, it ventured north to the Wall once more, where Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane stood watch over the north. A horde of White Walkers began to emerge from the forest—and then the newly reanimated zombie-dragon Viserion swooped in with the Night King on his back. In a burst of blue fire, he took down the Wall, and the White Walkers began marching through. The end.
“The Dragon and the Wolf,” as the episode was titled, didn’t resolve as many plot digressions so much as it set up for Season 8. As a result, many of the hypotheses we anticipated for the finale remain possibilities for the final six episodes. The show has a lot of wrapping up to do in those last hours. But the finale also presented even more evidence for convoluted theories, conspiracies, and fan predictions—so here’s where we’re anticipating Season 8 of Game of Thrones to be heading.
Jon Snow: Soon to find out he’s boning his aunt. But it’s okay, because he’s a Targaryen. (His name, as revealed in the finale, is Aegon Targaryen—quite a namesake, considering the most famous Aegon was the one who constructed the Iron Throne in the first place.) They just do that. Anyways, as far as degrees of related-ness go, their romance is certainly not as bad as Cersei and Jaime Lannister’s own sibling-incest relationship.
Daenerys Targaryen: There probably wasn’t any rule that Daenerys can only have three children at any one time, but with the death of her dragon Viserion specifically, some are speculating she is not as infertile as she believes—and she might end up having her nephew’s child.
Sansa Stark: “I just wanted to give the impression, as much as possible, that one of them is going to die. But you’re not sure which one,” Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor told the Huffington Post the week before the seventh season finale. “Something is coming very soon between them, and it will be violent but surprising.” He may have been alluding to the finale’s sudden reversal—with Arya’s murder of Littlefinger—but it’s been a while since a fan-favorite character departed the show. One of the Stark sisters’ time might be running out.
Arya Stark: While Arya’s fate might be just as uncertain as that of her sister, now that she’s killed Littlefinger, we’re hoping she will add his face to her collection of serial killer mementos. Perhaps a Petyr Baelish-shaped disguise will come in handy when it comes to crossing off the rest of the names on her kill list—which she’s got to complete before the show can write her out. (Other Reddit users propose Arya will kill Jaime—perhaps after he’s finished off Cersei—and use his face to advance her violent ends, but that’s not quite so poetic.)
The Most Pompous Entrances and Rudest Exits on Game of Thrones Season 7 So Far
Olenna Tyrell may have been served poison after her army had been defeated and her grain stores raided, but she didn’t go out without making a gut-punch of a reveal: It was she who poisoned Joffrey Baratheon, not his uncle Tyrion Lannister, three ago. Good thing Cersei is again pregnant by her brother, because their incestuous brood has dwindled considerably since Joffrey’s death.
Melisandre might have made her graceful exit when she incited Stannis Baratheon to roast his own daughter Shireen on a burning pyre, but no—it’s taken her two more seasons to take her leave. She left Dragonstone bound for Volantis, but never fear. She’ll be back, because, as she promised, she has to die in Westeros. As does Varys, apparently.
Not Bran Stark precisely, but at least, his social skills—since he became the Three-Eyed Raven, these have quietly bid him adieu (as Meera Reed says dramatically, “You died in that cave”). Even his sister Arya, who has undergone her own transformation into a girl with no name (it’s Arya. her name is Arya.), has taken note. The Three-Eyed Raven might be the biggest drama queen in Westeros, and it’s a land filled with high drama. “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark,” he tells Meera. “But I remember so much else now.” Including, apparently, “everything that’s ever happened to anyone.”
Speaking of Meera Reed, Bran Stark’s faithful companion north of the wall takes her leave once Bran (sorry, the Three-Eyed Raven) is securely installed back at Winterfell.
Nymeria (Stark?), Arya Stark’s direwolf, had been AWOL since the first season, but she returned earlier this year for a brief mystical encounter with her former mistress in the forest. Just as quickly as she appears, Nymeria vanishes again into the woods, because a wolf has no master.
The latest victim of Cersei Lannister’s revenge tour—an odyssey that gives Arya Stark’s murder list some real competition—Ellaria Sand and her daughter were chained in the basement of the Red Keep, where Ellaria was forced to watch her daughter die of the same poison with which she poisoned Myrcella Lannister.
Euron Greyjoy didn’t make a literal return this season, because after he dropped in on the Iron Islands last season, he never really left. But when he arrived at King’s Landing earlier this season, intent on seducing Cersei Lannister—or at least securing the power and authority that comes with marrying her—he did so with a new look. Meera’s departure from Winterfell may have been meme-able, but it couldn’t compare to the stir Euron’s Rick Owens makeover caused on Twitter.
Thanks to Samwell Tarley, Jorah “no one glowers like you” Mormont has been reintegrated into society, free of greyscale at last. It remains to be seen if that’s a good thing.
Dickon Tarly, gone too soon. While he made a prominent entrance at the beginning of the season and spent the first four episodes currying favor with Jaime Lannister—seeming to secure his future on the series in the process—it turns out, he allied himself with the wrong team; this week, he was promptly incinerated alongside his father.
The Night King, still freezing hearts and taking names, is back, and Jon Snow and co. are running straight for him.
Certainly our favorite blacksmith-hammer-wielding bastard, if not our favorite bastard, Gendry Baratheon, the illegitimate son of King Robert Baratheon, made a grand re-entrance, joining the cause of the King in the North.
First Ranger of the Night’s Watch Benjen Stark makes a grand entrance swinging a ball and chain wreathed in fire. He sends Jon Snow on his way, and we last see him falling beneath a dog pile of wights. (Zombies. They’re zombies.) Local hero Benjen Stark seems to always show up at the right place at the right time.
Don’t call her Dany. That’s all.
The Brotherhood Without Banners is dwindling; Thoros of Myr has been eviscerated by a zombie bear. (Zombies, everywhere.) For the uninitiated, Thoros is the one without the eyepatch. The other one is Beric.
To anyone who isn’t Daenerys, her three dragons—her “children,” as she tells us again and again—might appear interchangeable. But with the death of Viserion by the Night King’s ice javelin, we lose the dragon named for her psychopathic late brother Viserys Targaryen. But where we lose a dragon, we gain a zombie dragon, which definitely seems like an upgrade as far as fantasy scenarios go.
Honestly, it’s impressive Littlefinger survived this long. Nobody wanted him around, least of all the sisters Stark, who wrought his demise. But as they say, one man’s death is another woman’s death mask. Arya, here’s a face for your morbid collection of tokens.
Tormund Giantsbane: No character on Game of Thrones is dead till you’ve seen the body—and even then, dead bodies have a nasty habit of reanimating. Though the Wall fell with Tormund apparently standing watch along its edge, we’re anticipating he’ll be back, undead or alive.
Cersei Lannister: The eldest Lannister is just going to keep sitting on the Iron Throne drinking wine. Towards the end of Season 7, Cersei revealed to her brother Jaime that she was pregnant again; then, in the finale, she gave her youngest sibling Tyrion a not-too-subtle hint by placing a hand on her abdomen. She also pledged, and then retracted, and then pledged again her support for Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen fending off the Night King’s army descending from the north—while requesting that the usurper Euron Greyjoy bring in the 20,000-strong mercenary army, the Golden Company, to defend her position as Queen. This double-cross caused a rift with Jaime, setting up the once-blissful sibling couple for a fan theory that prevailed throughout the seventh season: that Jaime will be the one to kill Cersei, but perhaps not before she has had the opportunity to sic the Mountain on Tyrion.
Jaime Lannister: For Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the middle Lannister sibling, the biggest fear is that Jaime will be a casualty of the war against the Night King’s army—and that he will be reanimated as a zombie. “I’m going to read the scripts, and that’s what they’re going to say, and I’m going to face five hours of makeup every day,” he lamented in a recent interview with Indiewire. But it’s more likely he will end up bringing about his sister’s demise, as the lingering Season 7 theory proposes.
Tyrion Lannister: While his brother and sister were feuding, Tyrion and his sister were, separately, feuding. Fortunately, Tyrion was able to reason with his sister, ostensibly bringing her around to the fight against the Night King’s army. (Little does he know, she’s commissioned mercenaries to her defense.) But Tyrion, the show’s intellectual authority, also has an envious side, it appears. In the season finale, Tyrion is spotted lurking in a hallway, a shadow of disappointment crossing his face as Daenerys and Jon Snow get it on in the next room (and Bran Stark narrates how they’re actually related). According to George R.R. Martin’s original pitch for the series, as Vanity Fair explained over the weekend, Jon Snow was supposed to fall in love with his adoptive sister Arya, rather than his aunt. Tyrion, too, was intended to become hopelessly infatuated with the youngest Stark daughter, prompting hostility between the two former allies. So now that that particular plot has been transferred to Daenerys in the television adaptation, Tyrion could be heading for a darker, more jealous turn in the show’s final season.
Theon Greyjoy: Who would have thought that whole castration plot would eventually work to Theon’s advantage? At the end of Season 7, the artist formerly known as Reek set out to rescue his sister from the grip of his uncle, Euron; some proposed ahead of the Season 7 finale that Theon would emerge the seagoing champion of the Drowned God, the patron deity of his native Iron Islands. Six episodes remain for Theon to level up.
Gilly: If there is justice in Westeros, Season 7’s MVP will finally get her due. Though Samwell Tarly revealed Jon Snow was the entirely legitimate heir of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark at the end of the Season 7 finale—a twist his wife, Gilly, actually uncovered in the archives of the Citadel—in Season 8, it’s Gilly’s moment.
The Mountain: Gregor Clegane was stymied not once, but three times during the season finale in his quest for blood and head-pulverizing. Cleganebowl has been deferred yet again, and he was denied the privilege of killing either of Cersei Lannister’s brothers. All that tension adds up—and, hopefully, it will be released next season in a cacophony of zombie-on-zombie death-matches as the White Walkers march south. Give the people what they want.
Kit Harington auditioned for Game of Thrones with a black eye, which probably got him the part: