Game of Thrones Season 8 Predictions
You know the saying: “dark wings, dark words”. A messenger raven arrived today bearing the troubling news that we only have five episodes of Game of Thrones remaining. Season 8 Episode 1 provided us with all of the charming reunions and aimless political tension of the Season 7 finale, without anything as significant as the fall of the Wall. Things will have to speed up considerably to satisfactorily tie up some of the loose ends in Westeros. Let’s slurp up some of that sweet finger blood and gaze into the future Maggy-the-Frog style!
The Stark-garyens will lose the Battle of Winterfell
The short version: The Night King wins the Battle of Winterfell; Theon encourages Stark-garyen forces to retreat south and evacuate to the Iron Islands (and probably dies); The Night King attacks King’s Landing
Let’s start with the most urgent (yes Joffrey, it’s urgent) business. The Night King and his army of the undead has marched past Last Hearth. In show travel times, he could be anywhere from two days to two seasons away from Winterfell at this point, but with only five episodes left he’ll likely arrive soon. There are five major players remaining in the titular “game of thrones”: the Starks, the Targaryens, the Lannisters, the Night King, and, inexplicably, the Greyjoys. Unless something changes dramatically, we’ll see the Night King engage the Starks and Targaryens (the Stark-garyens) before anyone else meets in battle.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s rate battles on a five-point scale. The impending Battle of Winterfell has five possible outcomes:
Overwhelming Night King victory
Narrow Night King victory
Prolonged siege - draw
Narrow Stark-garyen victory
Overwhelming Stark-garyen victory
With two Stark-garyen dragonriders, it’s hard to envision an overwhelming Night King victory. We don’t have enough series left for a prolonged siege. A narrow Stark-garyen victory would leave the forces of the “good guys” unable to effectively attack King’s Landing, essentially ceding the Iron Throne to the Lannisters. As much as George R.R. Martin enjoys ripping our hearts out, I don’t see the series ending without deposing the original family on the throne. That leaves us with either a narrow Night King victory or an overwhelming Stark-garyen victory.
In the words of the recently eaten Ramsay Bolton, “if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” There’s no way the Night King goes out with a whimper after seven seasons of buildup, allowing the Stark-garyen forces to march south and unseat Cersei with ease. That gives us the narrow Night King victory outcome, and two escape paths for the remaining Stark-garyen forces. They can retreat into the massive network of Winterfell’s crypts, which are considerably larger than the castle itself and have been featured heavily in the season’s promotions and new intro, or they can search for an ally with whom they can hide and lick their wounds. I think we’ll see a combination of both: some of the major players without the ability to make a quick getaway (think Bran, Sansa, Sam) will retreat into the crypts, while the other survivors will head south to somewhere safe from wights.
With that in mind, Theon’s winning of a ship in last season’s finale and surprisingly effortless rescue of Yara last week suddenly become very important. We know the wights can’t swim, and Yara conveniently reminds Theon that “Daenerys will need somewhere to retreat if they can’t hold the North. Somewhere the dead can’t go.” Theon*, intent on fighting for the Starks, is headed for Winterfell with a new escape plan to propose.
*Quick note: I think Theon dies in Winterfell in the coming battle
The Night King has his own dragon, but with Jon and Dany both airborne, they should be able to help Yara defend the Iron Islands well enough for their army to recover. The effort will require a Dunkirk-esque evacuation, but if the Night King deems the target unworthy of his time, he could turn his attention south and east and do a number on the Lannister forces, balancing the odds and bringing winter to King’s Landing as seen in Dany’s vision..
Now let’s get weird: the Night King will raise someone interesting in Barrowton
The short version: pursuing the Stark-garyen forces south and west, the Night King and his army cross through Barrowton, where he raises a significant figure (the First King of the First Men, a King of the Giants, Ned Stark?)
Okay, this is much more of a stretch with the clock winding down on the series, but let’s assume I’m correct about the prediction above. The path from Winterfell to the coast nearest the Iron Islands crosses directly through the area of Barrowton, whose name is derived from ancient burial mounds in the area. House Dustin controls Barrowton, and their castle is built on the Great Barrow, which is rumored to house the remains of either the First King of the First Men or a notable King of the Giants. Given what we know about the connection between the First Men and the Night King, he may have some deeper interest in Barrowton than modern humans do.
An even stranger possibility involves the family ruling the area, House Dustin. The current Lady of Barrowton is Barbrey Dustin, whose husband, Lord Willam, accompanied Ned to the Tower of Joy. Along with everyone besides Ned Stark and Howland Reed, Lord Willam perished in the battle against the Kingsguard defending the tower. Ned and Howland used stones from the tower to make cairns for the fallen, which never sat well with Lady Barbrey. She wanted her husband’s remains brought north to rest in Barrowton, and she voices her displeasure in the books, telling Theon Greyjoy that she will never allow Ned’s bones to pass through Barrowton and reach Winterfell. Shortly after arriving in King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister sent Ned’s bones to Riverrun as part of his efforts to atone for some of Joffrey’s cruder behavior. Catelyn Stark sends the bones north from there, but we never learn their ultimate fate.
So, what if Ned’s skeleton made it up through the Neck and reached Barrowton? Lady Barbrey may have held firm to her intention and waylaid the bones, burying them somewhere in the area. In that case, depending on the mechanics of the Night King’s revivification powers, Ned Stark’s wight could appear in the battles to come.
Jaime will fulfill the valonqar prophecy
The short version: Jaime kills Cersei before or after she utilizes wildfire to blow up much of King’s Landing
The photo we chose for the cover of this series is of a woman known as Maggy the Frog. She charges a young Cersei a small bit of finger blood for a vague vision of her future. The show omits one key aspect (in bold below) of the prophecy, which I’ve paraphrased here:
You will never wed the prince, but you will wed the king
You will be queen, but only until a younger, more beautiful queen takes your place
The king will have 16 children, and you will have three - gold their crowns and gold their shrouds - and when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you
Nearly all of these prophecies have come to pass, but not in the ways Cersei expected. She thought Maggy meant Rhaegar Targaryen would be the king when they wed; instead, Robert Baratheon killed him at the Trident and she married Robert. The king did have 16 children, all of them bastards; her three children were all Jaime’s. All three of her children were blonde (gold crowns), and she’s outlived all three of them (gold shrouds). She assumed the younger, more beautiful queen was Sansa Stark when she was betrothed to Joffrey, Margaery Tyrell when she married Tommen, and now Daenerys Targaryen.
As for the valonqar: in High Valyrian this word means “little brother”. Cersei has always assumed this to mean Tyrion, partly explaining her enmity towards him. Jaime also fits the prophecy, and would represent another miscalculation by Cersei. Jaime is her twin, but he was born just moments after her. Add in Cersei’s fondness for detonating wildfire in King’s Landing (something Jaime sacrificed his honor and reputation to prevent), and you have an easy path to poetic justice.
There are plenty of other candidates for the prophecy, of course. Maggy says “the valonqar” rather than “your valonqar”, which would make Jon Snow (Rhaegar had another son, also named Aegon), Sam Tarly (RIP Dickon), Tyrion, and the Hound valid candidates, among others. Jaime killing Cersei after all they’ve been through just seems like the perfect Thrones-ian ending.
Now let’s get weird: does it have to be a brother?
The short version: Arya uses her Faceless Man skills to become a character Cersei trusts
We’ve had some issues with gender translations in Valyrian before. Melisandre originally applied her favorite “Prince who was Promised” prophecy to Stannis Baratheon, and things didn’t work out so well for him. Maester Aemon interpreted the prophecy to mean Daenerys Targaryen after pointing out the lack of gender rigidity in Valyrian words. Could the valonqar refer to a younger sibling rather than a younger brother? If so, could Arya continue working her way through the list (the Mountain, perhaps?) and use a newly acquired identity to get close enough to Cersei to finish her off? I don’t know if it’s more likely than Jaime filling the role, but something to keep an eye on as our favorite assassin continues her journey.
Hiring the Golden Company will backfire on Cersei Lannister
The short version: don’t let Euron Greyjoy negotiate your contracts
At the end of last season, Cersei sneakily sent Euron Greyjoy over to Essos to draw up a contract with the Golden Company, a reputable group of mercenaries. In the Season 8 premiere, we saw their forces arrive, 20,000 strong, on Euron’s ships. Cersei certainly seems happy with the addition to her army, but she probably shouldn’t be popping any bottles of Arbor gold just yet. The Golden Company has a long history of trying to put Targaryens on the Iron Throne, and while Cersei sent her most trusted advisor to draw up the contract, her most trusted advisor is Euron Greyjoy.
Part of the reason Euron’s lie about returning to the Iron Islands was so believable is that he’s selfish. He’s only lending his aid to Cersei in the first place because he sees it as a winning bet with the potential payout of a crown. If things start to turn south in King’s Landing, he has no reason to continue backing the Lannister cause, and if he engaged the Golden Company personally, they’d be following his orders.
It might not even come to that! The Golden Company was founded by a Targaryen bastard, and their history involves a lot of scuffles and attempts to place a Blackfyre on the Iron Throne. While their reputation suggests they’ll never break a contract, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see them give their allegiance to Daenerys once they see her riding Drogon.
Now let’s get weird: could Euron Greyjoy fill Tywin Lannister’s role in a rehash of Robert’s Rebellion?
The short version: Euron sees which way the greater battle is going and decides to use the Golden Company to oust Cersei
At the end of Robert’s Rebellion, the Mad King Aerys’s childhood friend Tywin Lannister arrived with his armies and demanded entry to the city. Thinking Tywin had come to rescue him, Aerys opened the gates of King’s Landing and the Lannister army began sacking the city. Things are starting to line up in eerily similar ways: a large-scale war is rapidly approaching King’s Landing; Cersei has stockpiles of wildfire just like the Mad King; a late arrival (Euron/Tywin) represents a ray of hope for the incumbent monarch.
Also, just for fun: Euron is a younger brother, setting him up as an unlikely candidate for the valonqar prophecy.
Howland Reed will make his first real-time appearance of the series to convey important information
The short version: a living witness would really make this Jon-is-actually-the-rightful-king thing easier
Sam, with a nudge from Bran, finally told Jon the truth of his heritage: not only is he the son of a Targaryen and a Stark rather than being the son of a Stark and an anonymous woman, but his father was a crown prince and his birth was legitimate. Naturally, the show didn’t linger on Jon’s reaction to the news that he’s been fooling around with his aunt, but it’s clear he sees trouble on the horizon with this revelation.
I don’t expect Dany to have much of a problem with their newly revealed family ties, given Targaryen history, but she won’t be thrilled to learn someone holds a stronger Targaryen claim to the Iron Throne. I actually don’t think Jon will raise it as an issue until at least Episode 3, but when it comes up, she’ll quickly resort to denial, assuming Jon is only making this claim to deprive her of her birthright. In fairness, “the weird kid who speaks in riddles and the guy who read a diary full of initials told me I’m a prince” is right up there with Yogurt reading Lone Star’s pendant in terms of credibility.
There’s one person in the known universe who can provide living testimony to Jon’s parentage: Howland Reed. Meera and Jojen’s father has been conspicuously absent from both the show and the books, and his absence can be attributed in part to the need to preserve such an important secret. Should things come to a head (and should the action move south, as predicted above), Howland could appear to confirm Jon’s identity to a larger crowd.
Now let’s get weird: could Howland introduce our heroes to the Children of the Forest?
The short version: more information on the White Walkers would be very helpful, and Howland Reed might know who to ask
There are a few geographical anomalies in Westeros, but one stands out in relation to the greater conflict: in the middle of the God’s Eye, the lake behind Harrenhal, there’s a small island known as the Isle of Faces. According to legend, the Children of the Forest signed a pact with the First Men there to end their long war. It’s known for hosting one of the few weirwoods south of the Neck, but seems even more mysterious because it’s notoriously difficult to visit. Heavy winds blow would-be visitors off path, but Meera Reed tells Bran a story about a crannogman who visited the Isle in his youth, and most of the details suggest the crannogman is Howland Reed.
Knowing the Children of the Forest are responsible for creating the White Walkers, it’s reasonable to expect they have some idea of how to unmake them. If the living can’t stop the Night King and his army in direct battle, could they find another method by consulting with the Children of the Forest? I think so, and Howland Reed will be the key to gaining such information.