The Game of Thrones series finale is almost here, and after the shocking events of "The Bells", it looks like the finale is going to come down to a battle between Daenerys and the people of Westeros - but who's going to be the one to bring down the Mad Queen? In the last episode, Daenerys fully embraced her dark side, and burned King's Landing to the ground. Then, Cersei joined the Night King in death as a result of parts of the Red Keep collapsing. Those left standing are Daenerys on one side, and presumably Jon Snow on the other.
This final Targaryen v Targaryen fight is likely to be the focus of the Game of Thrones series finale - as Jon (and Tyrion, for that matter) are so appalled at Daenerys' Mad Queen transition that they may no longer stand by her side. It's also probable that Daenerys isn't going to survive this final battle, as she has made it clear that she will not stop until she is ruler, and the only way that would happen is if she burns the entirety of Westeros to ashes - which is a bit too dark, even for Game of Thrones.
It certainly isn't the bittersweet ending fans have been promised. There are plenty of people who could kill Daenerys, but given the show's love of circular storytelling and the references to the history of the Targaryens that have been a huge part of the series, the past could point to the most likely person to take her down: Gendry Baratheon.
Previous Historical References In Game Of Thrones
Since Game of Thrones season 1 and the talk of Robert's Rebellion, the history of the Targaryens has been woven into the story of Game of Thrones. Initially, this was all about setting the scene for the characters, but in the final season, it has become about actively seeing history repeated. Bran's visions of Daenerys originally showed shots of her and her dragons alongside those of the Mad King - something that seemed, when it first appeared, to simply be re-telling the history of the start of the rebellion. However, in retrospect, it's clear that the Mad Queen is actually repeating the mistakes of her father - by "burning them all", even using the caches of wildfire that he had stored under the city.
Two of Daenerys' dragons were also killed in a way that has been seen before - in the death of Meraxes. Ridden by Queen Rhaenys, Meraxes was one of the original dragons that was part of Aegon's conquest, and who was shot down over Dorne by a scorpion; the same kind of scorpions that shot down Rhaegal. Another callback to the original conquest is in Danerys and her dragons themselves - the "three heads" (three dragons), the same number that Aegon himself came over with (and he also started his attacks by burning a major castle to ruins). Parallels on parallels, which suggests that the final showdown may also have some parallels to the history of the Targaryen family.
Where Will The Final Showdown Take Place?
Assuming, of course, that things do end in a final showdown, not in Daenerys' death by some nefarious means (like Varys' poison plan) or something truly disappointing (like Cersei's pile of bricks), where is it likely to take place? King's Landing is a ruin, and Winterfell certainly took a beating as well. The most likely spot for the two to meet is somewhere between the two - somewhere that Jon and Tyrion can run to in order to marshall their forces, aided by Sansa and the letters that Varys was able to send out before his untimely death. The most logical spot? The Inn at the Crossroads. From a practical perspective, this is a great spot to marshall an army on short notice, as it brings together roadways from all over Westeros. It's also far enough North to give them space to plan, but close enough that a final battle can take place within the same episode.
A final battle in the middle of the country also allows for all the characters who have been missing or forgotten to reappear; not only those major characters whose stories can't quite be done yet (Tormund, Sansa, Sam, and so forth), but the minor ones that are currently loose ends (Edmure Tully, Robin Arryn, and Yara Greyjoy). Everyone can come together for the last moment - which would be a fitting end. From a storytelling perspective, this is also a great place to wrap things up. It was a huge part of season 1, and has appeared in multiple seasons since, in-keeping with the final season's love of references to the past. It also gives fans a chance to see Hot Pie again, but more than this, it's a location that is a perfect reference to the most important battle of Robert's Rebellion, and the last fall of the Targaryen rulers.
A Repeat Of The Ruby Ford
This battle was, of course, the Ruby Ford, where Rhaegar Targaryen met his end. This was the last major battle of Robert's Rebellion, where two relatively evenly matched armies met for the last time. At some point in the fighting, Robert and Rhaegar ended up meeting on the field of battle, and after a fight, Robert won - driving his warhammer into Rhaegar's chest, killing him (and dislodging the rubies on his armor, thus giving the ford it's new name). Robert himself was wounded, leaving Ned Stark to lead the rout of the remaining Targaryen forces, who turned tail and ran at the death of their leader. It was after this victory that King's Landing fell, and that Jaime killed the Mad King. The final kicker? This battle happened after the Battle of the Bells, which would be a fitting name for the battle of the last episode.
Should Game of Thrones be looking to place the final season showdown at the Ruby Ford to allow history to repeat itself, there are some clear characters that will come into play: once again, we have a mad Targaryen's forces up against a Baratheon and a Stark in open rebellion, with a Lannister ally (Tyrion), who is simply interested in ending the reign of a mad monarch. And who is the current Lord Baratheon, who wields an impressive warhammer? Gendry. Robert's bastard (now legitimized) son was noticeably absent from the battle of King's Landing, and hasn't had a huge amount to do so far in a series where he is a relatively major character. This final battle may be Gendry's moment, as he brings that incredible hammer (that the series has made a point of showing off) onto the field, and strikes down Daenerys herself, thereby leaving the Starks to manage the rout of the army after her death.
This would not only make a beautifully fitting (and circular) end, but it would bring the story back to George R. R. Martin's original focus on "bastards and broken things." It still subverts the idea of Jon as the obvious hero, references history that has been discussed since the pilot episode, and gives Gendry something significant to do.
Game Of Thrones Ends With Breaking The Wheel
There's another reason that Gendry may be the one to kill Daenerys at the crossroads - in order to fulfill her dream of breaking the wheel. She has originally used this to mean that she would break the wheel of warring houses by putting the Targaryens back on the throne and destroying the rest - returning to a time where her house ruled for hundreds of years. However, Game of Thrones includes plenty of examples of characters misinterpreting major statements, and it may be that a wheel of changing rulers is broken: by the death of House Targaryen, and the splintering of Westeros back into smaller kingdoms.
King's Landing, the city built into the capital by the Targaryens after the Conquest, has been destroyed. The Iron Throne itself may have also been destroyed by her mad swathes of dragonfire in "The Bells". The nearest and most likely new capital is Storm's End, now held by Gendry. Should he kill Daenerys on the field, he could follow in his father's footsteps, taking rulership of the Southern lands. However, as someone who wasn't raised to rule, he may not be too concerned with keeping every kingdom under his command, allowing Yara to rule the Iron Islands and Dorne to keep its own counsel. The North, meanwhile, would come under the rulership of the Starks - and Jon, already declared King. The wheel is broken, because Westeros is re-divided, and the wheel itself wasn't the various houses fighting for supremacy, but the Targaryen rule, from Aegon's conquest to Daenerys' arrival. Bittersweet indeed, as Daenerys achieves her goal, but only by losing her life to the son of the man who de-throned her family.