There are a few things we can confidently look forward to in the final season of Game of Thrones: there will be dragon riding, the Night King has a large army of the dead, and a lot of people will die. Outside of those near-certainties, fans and theorists have kept a watchful eye on physical production of the final season while combing through existing episodes for context clues on how things might end. Ahead, a handful of theories gaining prominence as we approach the final Game of Thrones episodes.
The Fall of Winterfell
One event HBO has allowed the cast members and directors to talk about in interviews so far is The Battle of Winterfell, which took weeks of night shooting to produce and will likely comprise the running time of an entire episode. Though when it will officially occur among the final six episodes is unconfirmed, Vladimír Furdík, the actor who plays the Night King, told a Hungarian fan convention the climactic battle will happen in the third episode, scheduled to air on Sunday, April 28. (For the record, Episode 3 will be the longest in the show's history, clocking in at one hour and 22 minutes.)
The Night King coming to Winterfell for a major battle so soon in the season poses just as many questions as it answers. Namely: What do The Others actually want? If their ultimate goal is to kill everyone south of The Wall, then a showdown at Winterfell midway through the season is a bad omen for the survival of the Stark family seat.
If the Night King is after the Throne, he has to go south to King's Landing; if he just wants to kill more dragons or attack queens, he doesn't need to decimate Winterfell...but probably will anyway.
Leave Room For Consequences
In the ninth episode of the first season, titled "Balor," Ned Stark was beheaded and actor Sean Bean, who had been the focal point of the show's marketing campaign, was no longer part of its cast. Game of Thrones is not here to play to any audience expectations and Season 8's abbreviated six-episode season could mean that the big battle between the White Walkers and the living could be over way before the ultimate or even penultimate episodes.
This has always been a show that is as much about the human consequences of the wars for the Iron Throne as it has been a show about ice zombies. Even if Jon and Daenerys manage to destroy the Night King and eradicate the White Walker threat, the Seven Kingdoms are far from united and the oldest families in Westeros are close to extinction. After the dragon fights are over, we might be in for some long scenes of politicking, betrayals, trials, and consequences.
Kings Landing Must Burn
At the end of last season, Cersei was confident that she would be safe in King's Landing, both from the White Walker threat and from Daenerys, who has come to take the Iron Throne. What this theory presupposes is, what if she's wrong? Everyone against Cersei has dragons, be they undead dragons or live ones.
Reports from outside the King's Landing set last year detailed a lot of fire and green screen work, as well as scenes with dozens of extras and bodies (but thanks to the magic of special effects, we don't know what color the fire that burns King's Landing will ultimately be). If you remember, the Mad King Aerys attempted to burn all of King's Landing with a hidden store of green Wildfyre underneath the city. Tyrion saw the stockpiles of chemical fire, then Cersei used the knowledge to blow up the Sept and all of her enemies. Will the Night King burn down the seat of humanity with blue fire? Will a Lannister torch the city in an ironic twist on the Mad King's history? Will Drogon get to breathe yellow fire on King's Landing until Cersei gives up the Throne?
Jon and Dany Have A Baby
Most fans agree that the resolution of the entire series has something to do with a pregnant Daenerys, who could have another Targaryen incest baby with her nephew Jon Snow after last season's concluding sea-ship coitus.
What happens after the baby's existence is revealed is still up for debate. If the Azor Ahai myth from the novels applies to either Jon or Dany, one might need to sacrifice the other to defeat The Others, and Jon Snow doesn't seem the type to give up the chance at a son just to continue his miserable life.
Or, the baby could be born and not live through the end of the season. Sad! Since we still don't know the Night King's true motivations for going South, and we know he has a penchant for turning babies, the threat of The Others would be just as real for the baby as any of the warriors on the show.
There's also been some subtle foreshadowing that Tyrion could turn to infanticide if the baby were to be born and threaten his view of a united Seven Kingdoms. This seems like a horrible turn for a character, but this is Game of Thrones: a show that is not afraid to murder babies.
Final Battle at the Trident
The story of Robert's Rebellion is embedded in conversations over the first season of Game of Thrones, mostly between King Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark when he was serving as Hand of the King. Jon Snow's real father, Rhaegar Targaryen, went to meet the rebel army led by Robert and Ned in battle at a geographical location called "The Trident." Robert Baratheon faced Rhaegar in battle, with Robert wielding a mighty war hammer (like the one Gendry, Robert's son, made himself) and Rhaegar in a suit of armor decorated with rubies. Robert killed Rhaegar, smashing him with the hammer so hard that the rubies fell from his armor into the river, giving it the name "the Ruby Ford" from then on.
After Robert won that battle, the Mad King decided to kill everyone with Wildfyre, and Tywin Lannister decided to turn on Aerys and sack King's Landing. That battle at the Trident flipped the switch from the Targaryen reign to the mess we're in now, and it since Game of Thrones history seems to be cyclical, a final battle between the forces of good and evil at the Ruby Ford could bring things full circle!
HBO released a season 8 teaser called "Dragonstone" that showed ice moving from north to south, freezing a Stark direwolf along the way. From the south, fire burns a Lannister lion as it moves north. The ice and fire meet in the middle of the map... at The Trident.
Sam Writes A Book
Would it be too much like The Lord of the Rings to have Sam write a book at the end, chronicling how his buddy Jon Snow defeated the Night King after being resurrected and discovering he was really a Targaryen?
Sam is a Maester and we saw at the Citadel last season that he takes issue with the official stance on the accuracy of the histories of Westeros, especially their disbelief that the Night King is coming.
If Sam makes it through the final season (and he better, or we riot!), he would be in the position to provide the ultimate chronicle of the series... but if the last shot is a book cover that says "Game of Thrones," then we also riot.
Game of Thrones returns Sunday, April 14 on HBO.
Dave Gonzales is a pop culture commentator and co-founder of the Storm of Spoilers podcast about Game of Thrones.