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.)
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: