Winter Is Here: Ten guesses about the end game of Westeros

Well, here we are. In a few short weeks, the final six episodes of Game of Thrones will begin airing on HBO, bringing the story to a definitive ending. This is a unique situation, in that the series has outpaced its source material, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin gave the writers of the show an overview of where his books are ultimately going, but the series is also free to adapt that material any way it wants, so it’s anyone’s guess as to where the series is diverging from Martin’s story and where it’s incorporating upcoming material. However, we can glean enough at this point to sense where things are headed in both the TV series and the books. (Martin’s final two entries in the story, “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring,” are also ostensibly due at some point in the alleged future, theoretically).

Here are ten guesses as to the end game of this fantastic tale, some for the show, some for the book, some for both.

Tyrion is a Targaryen (books/TV) — In the novels, a vision of Rhaegar tells Dany that “the dragon has three heads.” Fans have oft-speculated that this means there are actually three Targaryens of import in the world, one for each dragon. While Dany and Jon are clearly the first two, the third remains a mystery. So, how exactly can Tyrion be a Targaryen? The books reveal that the Mad King fancied Tyrion’s mother Joanna, and the situation grew uncomfortable enough over the years for Tywin to resign as Hand of the King. Tyrion is said to look more like a Targaryen than a Lannister, and his dwarfism would be in keeping with the Targaryens’ history of physical and mental impairments due to inbreeding. In both versions of the story, Tywin hopes that Tyrion is not his biological son. And in the series, Tyrion has been shown to have a predilection for dragons, and Dany’s took to him with little issue. There is also the fact that Dany, Tyrion, and Jon share many traits (their mothers all died giving birth to them, they each either directly or indirectly killed the person they loved, etc.), some of which overlap with the Azor Ahai prophecy. It’s possible the prophecy may describe more than one person.

There’s a cogent argument to be made that this twist would subtract from the revelation about Jon Snow’s lineage, as well as undoing the character dynamics between Tyrion and Tywin. However, there’s more significance to Jon than being half-Targaryen (more on that in a minute). As for Tywin, Tyrion doesn’t need to be related by blood to take after the man he called father. For better and worse, Tywin will always be part of him.

That being said, Tywin and Joanna were first cousins, so Tyrion is still very much Lannister.

Young Griff is not really Aegon Targaryen (books) — This storyline was bypassed in the TV adaptation, but in the books, a young man named Griff is purported to be Aegon Targaryen, the son of Elia Martell and Rhaegar. (Yes, Rhaegar technically had two kids named Aegon. The Westerosi aren’t very creative when it comes to names). Supposedly, Varys smuggled baby Aegon out of King’s Landing before it was sacked, swapping him with a different infant who was then killed by Gregor Clegane. Meanwhile, Aegon was taken to Essos and given to the care of the disgraced knight Jon Connington (who’s been raising Young Griff under the guise of Griff Sr). With a little help from Varys from afar, Griff/Aegon has been groomed his whole life to one day return to Westeros and sit upon the Iron Throne, and to take his aunt Daenerys as a wife. Even in the novel, many are suspicious of Young Griff’s claim, and some prophecies refer to a false or “mummer’s dragon” (the mummer in question possibly being Varys). Since the show has already confirmed that Jon Snow’s true name is Aegon Targaryen, in all likelihood Griff will be revealed to be nothing more than a contingency plan.

Jon Snow will display the power of ice and fire (books/possibly TV) — Jon Snow is the result of the love between Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar, making him literally the union of ice and fire. Since both bloodlines inherently carry magic — albeit in different forms — Jon represents something which has never existed before, or at least not for millennia. In magical terms, he’s a combination of two polar opposites. Given that these forces are due for a showdown in the climax of the story, it seems only logical that both will in some way come to life within Jon. That said, the TV series has downplayed the Northern magic of the Starks. In the book, all of the Stark children can warg, whereas this power is given almost exclusively to Bran on the show. The mystical implications of Jon’s return from death have also not really been addressed in the series, at least not so much as it relates to his potential abilities. Though the book version will likely explore this topic, it may not play too much of a role in the HBO adaptation.

Euron Greyjoy and the third force of magic (books/possibly TV) — While we’re all well aware of the impending battle between ice and fire, the novels have toyed with a third magical foe in the form of Euron Greyjoy. Both the book and TV versions of Euron present an amoral psychopath with delusions of grandeur, but the novel goes much further, establishing Euron as essentially the Antichrist of Westeros. He has an interest in all things magical, and cherrypicks various occult and religious totems . . . not because he believes in them, but to further his ultimate goal: toppling civilization and erecting himself as a god. Is it possible that, under the sea, a third (and chaotic) magical force is swirling to life, with Euron as its emissary?

This may sound farfetched, particularly given what we’ve seen on the series — and it’s doubtful the show has enough time to touch upon this in its final season — but in the books there’s ample evidence. Euron is repeatedly alluded to in prophecies, seen in some visions as a Lovecraftian monster with tentacles. Varys states that krakens have been glimpsed in the ocean again; the kraken would be the appropriate mythical creature to accompany this force, a la dragons and direwolves. There’s also an indication that, as a child, Euron may have been watched by the Three Eyed Crow, demonstrating he possesses some magical significance. Not to mention, the books also feature Patchface, a creepy clown who serves as Shireen Baratheon’s best friend. According to his backstory, Patchface was on a ship which sank in a great storm, only for him to wash ashore three days later, returning to life on the beach. He speaks in childish riddles and claims to have encountered something at the bottom of the sea. We’ve already seen people resurrected by fire (Jon, Beric, and the book version of Catelyn), ice (the wights, Visarion, Benjen), and science (Ser Gregor). Maybe there’s something to the Drowned God after all.

Patchface will kill Melisandre (books) — It’s been confirmed by the show’s producers that Shireen’s horrific fate will eventually feature in one of the upcoming novels. Considering that Patchface is fiercely loyal to Shireen — and considering that Melisandre fears him due to visions she’s experienced — it’s doubtful that Shireen being burned alive as a human sacrifice will go over particularly well with him. Besides, Melisandre meeting a gruesomely random end at the hands of a half-zombie jester would be fitting for a character who is otherwise a step ahead of everyone.

Stannis is still alive (TV) — This one is a long shot, but not unfounded. We never saw the corpse of Stannis, or at the very least the aftermath of his death . . . a very rare occurrence on a show like Game of Thrones, which often goes out of its way to demonstrate that a character is absolutely dead. It’s true that Brienne was hellbent on killing him for his murder of Renly, but it’s also true that Brienne has consistently been one of the most thoughtful characters in the story. By the time she’s cornered Stannis, he’s been broken physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He’s lost everything, and killing him is practically a favor. She’s won even before she swings that sword. So it’s at least within the realm of possibility that Brienne would realize that Stannis might still have some value, both as a human being and as a political figure, in a world that’s teetering on the edge.

Jaime kills Cersei (books/TV) — Many have guessed this, as the scenario practically writes itself. Cersei was told in a prophecy that she’d be killed by a figure referred to as “little brother,” always assumed by her to be Tyrion. But for dramatic purposes, the most Shakespearian culprit would be Jaime, who emerged second during their birth and technically could be considered younger (albeit by just a few moments). The story is already pitting them against each other in both book and show form, so this stands as highly plausible.

Jaime dies right after Cersei (books/TV) — And an equally plausible idea is that Jaime is already mortally wounded when he kills Cersei, dying not long after her. They entered this world together, and they leave it together, in both cases him following her.

Bran wargs into a dragon (books/TV) — This idea often gets lumped into the “dragon has three heads” concept, with people believing the prophecy foretells three dragon riders. But while it may indeed indicate there are three significant Targaryens at play, it’s unclear if it literally refers to them riding dragons into battle. The show has complicated this further, now that Visarion is undead and in thrall to the Night King. But these ideas may not be one and the same. Even if Tyrion is actually the son of Aerys, there’s a significant chance Bran will still warg into one of the dragons. The books also add another possibility: Euron has obtained a horn called Dragonbinder, which according to lore will call a dragon to the owner’s bidding.

No one sits on the Iron Throne (books/TV) — This story, both in novel and televised form, is nothing if not a critique of power and authority. Therefore, it would seem a bit incongruous if it ends with the Targaryens retaking the throne and bringing peace to Westeros. As we’ve seen, no one family or title — let alone one person — has all the answers, or is fully immune to human failings or the temptations of power. The Iron Throne is an illusion, continuing the fantasy that all the world needs is one wise/strong/cunning leader to put things right.

The Targaryens themselves are as associated with atrocity as any other royal Westerosi bloodline; their motto is “fire and blood,” for R’hllor’s sake. Probably, this final battle will be the end of all magic, and the Targaryens are needed to bring the fire that can counter the Night King and his minions. But does this mean they’re destined to rule? The Mad King Aerys is not that far in the past, and the Targaryens themselves conquered Westeros because they wanted to, not because everyone in the Seven Kingdoms was cool with it. Dany has declared her desire to break the wheel, but sitting on that throne would not be breaking it at all. If she really wants to reset the horror story that Westeros has become, her dragons need to do one thing: melt that fucking throne in dragon fire, never to be rebuilt. An ending where Danaerys has the chance to ascend the throne, but destroys it instead, would be in keeping with both her character arc and the grander theme of the story. It would also give the kingdoms of Westeros a chance to truly break free of the oppressive systems of power to which they’re all chained, and find a new way of governing that no longer allows the worst of humanity to flourish. A dream of spring, indeed.

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