Game of Thrones season 8 theories analysed, from Bran Stark is the Night King to Littlefinger faking his death

As the eighth and final season of the fantasy drama approaches, Nick Hilton breaks down the most convincing, and most outlandish, internet theories

Sunday 14 April 2019 16:40 BST
Game of Thrones Season 8 trailer - 'Aftermath'

The final return of Game of Thrones is here, and the internet is abuzz with rumour and conjecture.

Everyone is making their predictions – will Jon and Dany break up when they realise they’re family? Will Arya tick Cersei’s name off her list? Will we finally get to see #Cleganebowl?! – but the hardcore fans are more interested in the theories which have been teased since the show’s earliest episodes.

So here is a breakdown of some of the internet’s most popular theories about Game of Thrones’ final season, and how likely they are to transpire…

Bran Stark is the Night King

Ok, this is the biggie, the one that would transform everything we think we know about the world of Game of Thrones. The theory asserts that Bran, using his Three-Eyed Raven powers, will travel back in time to try and prevent the southward march of the army of the dead.

First, he’ll visit Aerys Targaryan – the so-called Mad King – who at the height of his insanity stockpiled wildfire under King’s Landing. Theorists believe that Bran will inadvertently drive Aerys into his murderous lunacy by whispering into his ear to “burn them all” – the phrase Jaime Lannister says Aerys repeats over and over again before his death (we know, via Hodor, the damage that Bran’s time travelling can do). The wildfire illustrates that he knew he would need to bring the heat in order to defeat the White Walkers.

Next, the theory – which, like so much of Game of Thrones’ fandom, is painfully comprehensive – has Bran travelling further back and become Bran the Builder, the legendary figure who built The Wall. Then another great leap backwards sees him warg into the Night King at the moment the Children of the Forest create him, in order that he might one day be able to avert disaster.

Plausible? There are certainly elements of it (the Mad King and Bran the Builder particularly) that fit like a glove. It’s not without problems and inconsistencies, but this could be the final piece in the puzzle and the big reveal that Thrones fans are waiting for.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tyrion is a Targaryen

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister (HBO)

There’s an element of recycling to this theory, which posits that, because Tyrion’s mother died in childbirth (à la Lyanna Stark), there’s something mysterious about his parentage. The key information cited by supporters of this theory ranges from the tenuous – Tywin’s dislike for his son, coupled with the slightly off-gold colouring of Tyrion’s hair – to the more plausible, particularly the rumour that Aerys had a fling with Tywin’s wife, Joanna.

Whilst I find this theory broadly unconvincing, there is the small matter of the dragons. Targaryen lore has it that there must be a rider for each of the creatures. Dany rides Drogon, and Jon will presumably ride Rhaegal (named for his father), which leaves Viserion without a Targaryen jockey. The fact that Viserion is now a big flying zombie, however, probably provides sufficient explanation.

Rating: 3/10

Daenerys will become the Night Queen

If there’s one thing you can rely on the internet to provide, it’s extremely convoluted readings of Song of Ice and Fire arcana. This theory holds that The Prince That Was Promised – the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, held up as the messiah by followers of the Lord of Light – is not Jon Snow, as is commonly assumed, but Dany. The issue is that in order to re-forge Lightbringer, Azor Ahai’s legendary sword, The Prince That Was Promised needs to kill his paramour. Jon, mistakenly believing himself to be Azor Ahai reincarnated, will kill Dany, inadvertently turning the actual Azor Ahai into the Night Queen.

This might well turn out to be part of George R.R. Martin’s plans for the two remaining volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, but there’s surely no way they could introduce and resolve this plot point over the course of a mere six episodes.

Rating: 1.5/10

Littlefinger faked his death

The death of Littlefinger, at the hands of newly minted master assassin Arya Stark, was deeply unsatisfying. It was preceded by Littlefinger’s “imagine the worst” speech, which plumbed new lows for writing on the show (why would the series’ smartest player sell himself out using his own logic?) and brought to an end one of the show’s best characters.

Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger
Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger (HBO)

A scene, just prior to Littlefinger’s death, shows him giving a coin to a blonde woman. Believers propound the idea that she is in fact a faceless man (Littlefinger has been ruminating on their order since the early days of the show, and claimed, in season four, to have a Braavosi great-grandfather) and the coin is the special iron one that commands the loyalty of folk from Braavos. The Littlefinger whose throat Arya slashes, therefore, is thought to be a faceless man wearing a Petyr Baelish mask. It would be gratifying to find the show hadn’t wasted such a great villain on such a hammy sequence, but it would also require an awful lot of exposition. And would it be worth it, to return a character who isn’t going to have much of an impact against the onrushing dead?

Rating: 4/10

Sam Tarly is the author of Game of Thrones

This theory would be a nice little touch, though it doesn’t give us much of a hint as to the outcome of the wars (though it suggests that Sam survives, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing). George RR Martin has, on a few occasions, compared himself to Sam, and whilst that might be because he too is a portly bookworm, it could hint at Sam’s work as the man who lays down the history of the War of the Five Kings and beyond.

Last season hinted towards the veracity of this theory. Firstly, the citadel, where Sam goes to study, contains a mobile of moving shapes that looks a lot like that from the opening titles of the show, suggesting that this learned place is the source of the text. And, perhaps more on the nose, in a conversation with Jim Broadbent’s Archmaester Ebrose, Sam turns his nose up at the boring titles of Westerosi histories in favour of something, as he puts it, “more poetic”. Something, I suspect, like A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin loves Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo is seen to author There and Back Again, and it seems very plausible that Sam will be seen, in the dying moments of the series, writing the words “A Game of Thrones” on a piece of parchment.

Rating: 8/10

Nick Hilton is convening a day-long conference on Sunday 14 April with talks and panels looking at the critical and cultural legacy of Game of Thrones. It’s at The Book Club in Shoreditch and you can get tickets here.

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