[WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Season 6]
Game of Thrones just ended its biggest, most spectacular, and most dramatic season yet, preparing the way for its final two (partial) seasons. What makes this endgame all the more exciting is the fact that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss will be arriving at the sprawling, convoluted narrative’s conclusion literally years before author George R.R. Martin does, even though he’s been writing his Song of Ice and Fire book series since 1996.
This means, of course, that no one knows what to expect – except, well, we have our fair share of guesses, based upon several close readings of the novels and a few in-depth rewatches of its television adaptation. While we can’t claim to predict a number of specifics with anything near certainty, given the story’s penchant for taking unexpected twists, we can confidently sketch out the bigger-picture elements, particularly given our recent deep dives into the world’s wonderfully realized 12,000-year history.
So, here we go: Our 15 Predictions for Game of Thrones’s Seventh and Eighth Seasons.
(Please note we get into some material from the books that has yet to make its way into the television show, though it may end up never doing so. Nonetheless, some viewers may view these as spoilers, so please proceed accordingly.)
15 Revenge of the Faith Militant
Even though Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) seemed to have eliminated every single one of her political rivals in one fell swoop when she obliterated the Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire in the sixth season finale, there is due to be no uncertain amount of fallout for her rather extreme actions; the smallfolk will undoubtedly grow to look at their new queen with much the same dread as they did at Mad King Aerys, the last of the Targaryen kings, 20 years ago, fearful that any wrong move can set off her murderous fury.
And then there’s the Faith of the Seven itself. Yes, probably the entirety of the Militant’s soldiers were felled in the Baelor attack, but it’s sure to provoke a groundswell of support for the reborn movement – and there are still thousands of septons and septas located throughout the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, who will undoubtedly be eager to spread the message for vengeance against the self-avowed sinner that now sits the Iron Throne.
This could easily make Queen Cersei’s reign a thoroughly rough – not to mention a thoroughly short – one.
14 Lady Stoneheart = Arya
In A Song of Ice and Fire, the brotherhood without banners comes across the stripped and abandoned body of Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) three days after the Red Wedding. Taking pity on her, Lord Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) opts to transfer the magic keeping him alive to Catelyn; Catelyn, for her part, takes command of the brotherhood, transforming them from a “people’s army” to an organization hellbent on one task alone: tracking down and executing every last member of House Frey that was responsible for the brutal murder of her family. (For more on this storyline, see our in-depth explanation.)
It is safe to assume now that Lady Stoneheart, as Catelyn comes to be called by her new followers, will most certainly not be making an appearance in Game of Thrones: it’s been three years(!) since the Red Wedding, Beric is still clinging to his second life, and, most importantly of all, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has returned to Westeros and begun the task of murdering every Frey she can get her face-changing hands on.
If Arya has, indeed, taken her lady mother’s place in the story, then don’t be surprised to see her attempt to get revenge against Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as well – something which “The Winds of Winter” might have already established.
13 The White Walkers invade… finally
Ever since the first scene of the first episode, a clock has been counting down to the moment when the greatest danger that Westeros has even known returns to its backdoor: the White Walkers, those mysterious and supernatural creatures that will only be happy once all life and warmth has been conquered. After six years of spotting the Walkers’ undead horde moving ever more closely to the Wall, we expect them to finally arrive in force sometime in season 7, probably in the last batch of episodes (if not in the finale itself, as that would make for the ultimate cliffhanger ending).
Such a development would hold a dual purpose. On the one hand, it would allow the ever-more-fragile state of affairs in Westeros to degrade even further, as the War of the Three Monarchs kicks into overtime, milking every last bit of drama from the turn of events as possible. On the other hand, this would leave the entirety of the eighth and final season to deal with the Second Long Night, giving it the dramatic weight that it all but demands after seven slow years of buildup.
Speaking of which…
12 The destruction of the Wall
The Wall was created eight thousand years ago, upon the conclusion of the first war against the White Walkers, by the First Men (with some assistance from the original inhabitants of Westeros, the children of the forest and the giants). Constructed of ice and bound by magic, it was designed to withstand any type of sustained attack by the supernatural ice zombies – but George Martin has been hinting for most of his book series that it’s nonetheless vulnerable, and even Game of Thrones seems to have dropped some foreshadowing that the Wall isn’t long for this world.
In the novels, there is a magical artifact called the Horn of Winter that, according to legend, is capable of flattening the Wall if it is ever blown. While this item has been conspicuously absent from the HBO series (just like Lady Stoneheart), the Night’s King (Vladimir Furdik) has shown the surprising ability to unleash a devastating magical attack that is capable of rupturing the ground and, just possibly, making structures crumble. Now that Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has allowed himself to get marked by the leader of the White Walkers, he may have just opened the figurative door to the Night’s King to lay waste to the Wall…
11 The end of the brotherhood without banners
With ice zombies flooding into Westeros, it seems only likely that the brotherhood without banners, an organization formed in order to fight for and protect the smallfolk from the privations of the warring lordlings, would get involved in the fray. Their effectiveness as a fighting force is, of course, led by Beric Dondarrion’s inability to die (thanks to his friend and red priest resurrection machine, Thoros of Myr) and is greatly aided and abetted by the presence of Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), the former Hound and a man who is now apparently in need of a new purpose – and meaning – in life.
But these individuals, as able-bodied as they are, can only go so far; there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of wights out there to contend with, which isn’t to speak of the many White Walkers themselves. Don’t expect the rabble that is the brotherhood to stand long against the undead – but also don’t expect the Hound to be willing to end his life right here and now in order to save the Seven Kingdoms; he still has a score to settle with his brother, after all.
10 Meanwhile, back in Essos…
With Daenerys Stormborn having spent a whopping six seasons at various points across Essos – from the Free City of Pentos to the Dothraki Sea to, of course, the Slaver’s Bay city of Meereen – it would seem to be a waste of all that time and world-building to simply let most of its various narrative components be left hanging in the storytelling winds (although this is the series that lets characters dangle for years at a time – we’re still waiting to see whatever came of Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son that was last seen rowing across the narrow sea back to Westeros). This is especially true considering that one of these leftover characters is Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman), Dany’s ex-lover, and the other is Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), whose relationship with the khaleesi is one of the most complicated on the show.
While it seems impossible for either to have a happy ending – Jorah is doomed to die from the greyscale that is slowly consuming him, and the odds of Daario making it out of Meereen alive are similarly slim to none – it’ll be enough to have one final hurrah with either. The only question here is whether Dany will be afforded the same courtesy. Given all the battles that await her in the Seven Kingdoms, our guess is no.
9 Daenerys will try to kill Jon
There is an important character from George Martin’s books that has been excised from Game of Thrones: Aegon Targaryen, the son of Crown Prince Rhaegar (that’s the bloke who “abducted” Lyanna Stark, fathered Jon Snow, and then was felled in battle by Robert Baratheon). He was secretly spirited away from King’s Landing by Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), who has been working on a Targaryen restoration since before Robert’s Rebellion was ended, and has been in training for the past 20 years to be the perfect king. By the end of the most recent novel, he has landed on Westeros with a small army (mostly of sellswords) and has begun the war to take back his home country.
There is some debate in the literary fandom as to whether this Aegon is really a Targaryen or not, and his absence from the show seems to confirm the theory that he isn’t. Either way, it is our belief that Jon Snow, newly revealed to be a long-lost Targaryen prince himself, will take the character’s position in the narrative – which means that when Daenerys herself finally makes landfall, she’ll find herself fighting Jon, the King in the North, believing him to be a pretender and a threat to her claim to the Iron Throne.
8 Jon will join Dany in battle
But this conflict between King Jon and Queen Daenerys isn’t destined to last long. Once Bran Stark, the new Three-Eyed Raven, makes his way to Winterfell and shares his knowledge of ancient Westerosi (and Essosi) prophecies, we think the two will make common cause against the true enemy of the White Walkers and will recognize the other for what he or she is – a fellow dragonrider.
This is where yet another dropped storyline from the source material may very well pop up: the ancient Targaryen prophecy that the dragon will have three heads, which, in the present day, has the more literal translation of individuals who will be able to ride Dany’s three dragons into battle. With Daenerys eventually accepting Jon as truly being her long-lost nephew and, thus, an ally instead of a rival, two of the three components to saving Westeros and defeating the White Walkers will be in place.
7 Westerosi resistance
Forget the Walkers – the biggest threat to the Targaryen alliance of Daenerys and Jon may just come from those houses not aligned with either the northernmost or southernmost portions of the continent.
Should Queen Cersei Lannister still be sitting the Iron Throne as the ice zombies arrive and the other two (major) monarchs join forces (and that’s a big if, given the resistance she is likely to face from nearly every quarter), it’s impossible to think of her suddenly taking a big-picture view on Westerosi developments – especially when she learns that her hated brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), is serving as Dany’s Hand of the Queen. And even if she is pressured into halting hostilities and throwing her resources behind the defense of the Seven Kingdoms, expect her to attempt to emulate her late father, Lord Tywin (Charles Dance), even more by plotting a Red Wedding-style ambush on Jon Snow and the khaleesi.
On the flip side, don’t expect all of the Targaryens’ supporters to be happy about the truce; Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), for instance, is more likely to take her thousands of troops straight to King’s Landing for a surprise attack than have them fight alongside House Lannister. This, of course, will only add to the subterfuge and intrigue.
6 The second – and final – Long Night
With the destruction of the Wall, the presence of dragons (for the first time in a battle against the undead), and the participation of nearly every quarter of Westerosi society, from the wildlings to the Great Houses, don’t think for an instance the resulting war against the White Walkers will be anything other than their last stand – especially now that Bran knows the secret of their origins, which will, more than likely, also be the key to their undoing.
But there’s another ramification to the new status quo beyond dramatics: the years-long seasons that have plagued Earthos (as fans call George Martin’s fictitious parallel world) for the past several millennia. Martin has gone on record saying that there is a supernatural impetus behind the irregular seasonal calendar, and our guess it has to do with the presence of the Walkers. Once they’re gone, winters should go back to being months instead of decades – and the Starks can stop obsessing about their impending arrival all the time.
5 And now their watch is ended
The Night’s Watch was created by the First Men eight thousand years ago, after the first Battle for the Dawn is won and the Wall has been created. Neither of its two missions – to be on the perpetual watch for the Walkers’ return and to keep the hated wildlings out of “civilized” land – will be needed at the series’ conclusion, when the Night’s King will be killed and the wildlings will have earned their place in the Seven Kingdoms (and – oh, yeah – once the Wall is no more).
This has a whole host of implications for our cast of characters, specifically, and for the institution of the crown, generally. It’s the latter that, perhaps, is the more intriguing – and is almost certainly destined to happen largely off-screen: perhaps, with the area beyond the Wall (including the Lands of Always Winter, where the Walkers dwelled) now wide open, the Seven Kingdoms will become Eight – or 10 or 100.
4 And he lived happily ever after
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) may currently be safe all the way down south in Oldtown, where the maesters’ Citadel resides, but it’s doubtless that the black brother will end up getting involved with the battle against the Walkers – he is sure to come across some obscure piece of information that will help the combined Targaryen army survive their encounter with the supernatural beings (or, at the least, to donate his family sword, Heartsbane – which is Valyrian steel and is, therefore, capable of slaying Walkers – to the cause).
What’s important to note here is Sam’s character arc across his six season thus far: gaining just enough courage – and falling just enough in love – to protect his adopted family of Gilly (Hannah Murray) and Little Sam from the White Walkers, from his brothers in the Watch, and even from his biological family. We expect this to result in a rare case of good deeds getting rewarded; once freed from his Watch vows, he’ll be able to marry Gilly and adopt her baby for real, taking up residence in Horn Hill as the master of House Tarly.
Hey – someone’s gotta have a happy ending, right?
3 Clegane Bowl
For all of Game of Thrones’s many unexpected – and often tragic – twists and turns, the series also has a number of storylines that accrue enough narrative momentum to play out more or less exactly as one would expect. The tale of the brothers Clegane is certainly one of these (the Hound and the Mountain That Rides weren’t both brought back from the dead for nothing, after all).
Although, at first glance, both Sandor and Gregor Clegane would appear to be two sides of the same amoral coin, the two are actually polar opposites from one another, with their current, post-death selves showing the ultimate manifestation of their core personalities (the Mountain being a mindless automaton that can only obey the Lannisters’ commands, and the Hound learning how to join his penchant for violence with a moral construct). But the hatred between the two of them will not have lessened any, and Sandor will absolutely get his life’s wish of killing his brother – or, at least, die in the attempt.
2 “King” Theon
Not every culture within the Seven Kingdoms is destined to survive the narrative intact, if at all; the north is already undergoing an accelerated evolutionary process, bringing in both the wildlings and the Knights of the Vale to create a new societal landscape.
The Iron Islands are more than likely the next people on the chopping block – Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), the current king, will never accept the authority of anyone sitting the Iron Throne (dragonrider or not), and his niece, Yara (Gemma Whelan), has already agreed to a fundamental shift in the ironborn’s culture in order for Dany’s support in claiming the Salt Throne for herself. In short, neither is long for this life.
That just leaves the broken Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) behind, the man who has now rejected the call of power altogether. Given the bravery and self-sacrifice the character finally manages to learn during the depths of his captivity and torture, and given his inability to have sex any longer (thus removing one of the more self-destructive urges leaders of all peoples everywhere are prone to), we fully expect Theon to come full circle and to eventually get what he initially thought was his birthright all along: being the Lord of the Iron Islands. Only he can bring his people to a more sustainable, prosperous future.
1 The death of Cersei
Game of Thrones may have brought most of Maggy the Frog’s (Jodhi May) prophecy to a young Cersei Lannister (as seen in the fifth season premiere, “The Wars to Come”), but there’s one key component that was left on the page (for dramatic reasons, we believe, as opposed to a change in the overarching story): after Cersei’s three children all die, she, too, will perish, at the “hands of the valonqar.”
It takes Cersei many years before she realizes that valonqar is actually High Valyrian for “brother,” but she instantly jumps to the conclusion that that brother is none other than Tyrion, the dwarf that she has always hated for her entire life. And while this may still hold true – especially if the two of them find themselves on opposing sides of the War of the Three Monarchs – there’s every reason to believe this will actually be Jaime, a man she is growing increasingly apart from, particularly now that she’s gone off the deep end and seemingly made a grab for absolute power. For the former Kingsguard, it may very well prove to be a repeat of his assassination of Mad King Aerys, who was intent on leveling all of King’s Landing in a massive wildfire blast.
Did we miss a salient plot point in our rundown of predictions? Do you have your own prognostications to add to the list? The comments await.