Guessing ‘Game of Thrones:’ 8 burning questions and 8 icy predictions for S8

Kit Harington portrays Jon Snow in season seven of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” (Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO via AP)
WTOP's Jason Fraley predicts how 'Game of Thrones' will end (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — With a combination of undead dragons and unwitting incest, “Game of Thrones” just set a personal ratings record, as 12.1 million viewers tuned into the Season 7 finale, up 36 percent over the 8.9 million folks who watched last year’s Season 6 finale.

Like past cliffhangers, we’re left with plenty of delicious questions to disect. But unlike past seasons, we can no longer rely on die-hard fans to provide insights from the source novels, as the television show has now outpaced the literary material from author George R.R. Martin.

Thus, theories are running rampant about how HBO will end its epic fantasy series, especially with just six episodes left to air in late 2018 or early 2019 (shooting begins this October).

Until then, here are eight burning questions — and eight icy predictions — for Season 8.

1) Are the White Walkers unstoppable? “We’re f****ed.” That’s how several characters reacted to the massive White Walker army marching from the North. It’s also how viewers felt after the Night King rode Dany’s undead dragon Viserion to topple The Wall, which had kept the White Walkers at bay for thousands of years. The gates of hell have officially been opened to these ice zombies, including Tormund and Beric, who presumably died during the wall’s collapse. Now that they’re on this side of the wall, might they also reanimate Stannis or Ramsay? Shudder. Is there any way to stop the relentless undead? Well, we know that White Walkers can be killed with either fire or dragon glass. We also know that dragons can be killed with a precision shot from a giant crossbow. So, it stands to reason that a dragon-glass arrow fired from the crossbow could do the trick, along with help from Dany’s remaining fire-breathing dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal. One thing is for sure: The battle will be epic.
2) Who is the Night King? In addition to the reanimated dragon, the mortals must also defeat the ominous Night King. The key could be Bran Stark, with his unique supernatural gifts of greensight (seeing past events) and warging (inhabiting other bodies). One fan theory predicts that Bran has actually been the Night King all along, using his warg power to enter the villain’s body. This is probably far-fetched: It’s doubtful that Bran would cause so much terror to his own family and friends, particularly his guardian Hodor (“Hold the door!”). Still, the Bran theory may be onto something. Perhaps Bran will use his greensight to reveal that the Night King is actually the reanimated Mad King. Or, perhaps he’ll use his warg powers to inhabit the Night King in a sacrificial, suicidal moment like Father Karras throwing himself down the steps in “The Exorcist” (1973). After all, it was The Exorcist, Max von Sydow, who passed the baton to Bran as the Three-Eyed Raven. Here’s predicting that Bran will momentarily inhabit the Night King and leap to his death from a tower, coming full circle to his fall in the pilot, only this time landing amid the flames.
3) Will Jon and Dany realize they’re related? “Game of Thrones” is now officially the most disturbing portrait of incest since Faye Dunaway blurted to Jack Nicholson: “She’s my sister and my daughter!” While the show began with the incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister (spawning the worst human ever in Joffrey), it’s now ending with the incestuous relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, neither knowing that she’s his aunt. Season 6 revealed that Jon Snow was not the bastard son of Ned Stark’s mistress but rather the secret son of Ned’s sister Lyanna, who left us curious with an ambiguous whisper as her dying wish. Then, Season 7 revealed that Jon’s father is actually Rhaegar Targaryen, meaning Robert Baratheon’s entire rebellion was built on a lie and that Jon is ahead of Dany in line to the throne. This revelation was intercut with a long-awaited sex scene between Jon and Dany that made us squirm. Next, expect Jon and Dany to realize they’re related, leading to some super-awkward regret like Luke Skywalker kissing Princess Leia. Then will come the real kicker: Dany is pregnant by Jon. Mark it down!
4) Will Cersei die at the hands of her brother? Everyone is rooting for Cersei to suffer the most brutal death possible, but who is the one to do it? The books suggest this prophecy: And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you. This “valonqar” (Valyrian for “little brother”) could prove to be the fan-favorite dwarf Tyrion, who just gave Cersei the chance to kill him, making her reluctance a fatal error if Tyrion comes back to whack her like Tywin. However, the more clever pick is her twin brother Jaime, who’s technically a few minutes younger, making him her “little brother.” This would be the stand-and-cheer culmination of Jaime as a likable fan favorite. Humbled by the loss of his hand in Season 3, Jaime has become increasingly altruistic, from saving Brienne of Tarth from a bear pit to helping Tyrion escape behind Cersei’s back. In the Season 7 finale, Jaime defied Cersei’s orders and stormed out to fight the White Walkers. Will he return to kill her? Let’s not forget, the King Slayer has killed a Mad King before, so he could kill Cersei if he deems her a Mad Queen. It’s doubtful he’d do this while she’s carrying his baby, especially after the heartbreak of losing Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella. If it does happen, it’ll be (A) after Cersei gives birth, or (B) after Cersei reveals that she’s not truly pregnant, leaving Jaime to strangle her “pale white throat” with his hand(s), as her eyes bulge like Nurse Ratched gasping for air. After all, Season 7 showed an overhead shot of the map of Westeros with Cersei standing on a region known as “The Neck” and Jaime standing on a region known as “The Fingers.”
5) Can Arya and Sansa outsmart the Many-Faced God? The most thrilling part of the Season 7 finale was easily the double-switch that outsmarted the ultimate strategist Littlefinger. Ever since Arya’s return to Winterfell, fans had become paranoid that her hostility toward sister Sansa would ignite a jealous battle, especially when Arya threatened her with a knife and showed her the cut-off face of Walder Frey. Instead, the Season 7 finale revealed that it was all just a plot to trick Littlefinger, thanks to a brilliant scene where Sansa called Arya to stand before her and asked, “How do you plead … Lord Baelish?” With a turn of the head to Littlefinger, he realized he’d been duped and his throat was promptly slashed (the layout of the room provided so many great echoes of Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned Stark in Season 1). What’s next for the Stark sisters? Will Sansa plot her revenge against Cersei? Will Arya turn Littlefinger’s face into one of her masks? Or will the Many-Faced God return with his own agenda? Just like Tom Cruise and Jon Voight peeling off masks in “Mission: Impossible” (1996), expect many tricks to be played on the audience in life-or-death situations. The only way we can try to outguess the writers is the method Sansa repeated to Littlefinger: “When trying to determine someone’s motives, I play a little game and always assume the worst.” Don’t trust anybody — not even the writers.
6) Did we just witness the rebirth of Theon Greyjoy? After a pep talk from Jon Snow, it seems that Theon Greyjoy has finally overcome his pitiful alter-ego “Reek,” the submissive name given to him by the late Ramsay Bolton, who relentlessly tortured and castrated him. In a masterful touch, Theon defeated Harrag in a beachfront fistfight by taking a few knees to the crotch without any pain. Afterward, he washed his face in the ocean for a symbolic moment of cleansing before launching a quest to go save sister Yara from their sadistic uncle Euron Greyjoy. I can’t wait to see Euron suffer a nasty death, not only because he appeared out of nowhere on that bridge in Season 6, but also because he was given such over-the-top sadistic close-ups this season while raiding Yara’s ship. Theon’s defeat of Euron to become king of the Iron Islands would mark the end of a long, hard road of redemption.
7) Will the supporting characters make it out alive? By now, we’ve grown so attached to so many characters that some of our most beloved favorites are indeed the smaller supporting roles (the mark of a great show). Who doesn’t admire the sword skills of Brienne of Tarth, who thawed Jaime’s heart before whacking Stannis Baratheon? Sadly, there’s a good chance she won’t make it out alive, either repaying the favor to Jaime or fulfilling her sworn-oath to protect Catelyn’s family. The show will also probably rip our hearts out with Jorah Mormont, who will show Dany his last full measure of devotion by sacrificing himself. As for The Hound and The Mountain, expect mutually-assured destruction in the so-called Clegane Bowl, which promises to be the biggest brotherly smackdown since Undertaker vs. Kane. Granted, if anyone dies, there’s always a chance that Melisandre’s spiritual witchcraft could bring them back to life like Jon Snow, whose resurrection not only changed the plot of the books but also (in my view) undercut the coolest thing about the show: that anyone can die at any time. It felt like a soap-opera cheat that reduced the stakes each time we subsequently saw a character in a life-or-death situation. Oh well, if anyone makes it out alive, it’s likely the lovers Grey Worm and Missandei, who will return to rule the Unsullied, or Samwell and Gilly, who will leave the Citadel to crank out 13 kids like Samwise Gamgee and Rose in “The Lord of the Rings,” their closest comparable.
8) Who will take the Iron Throne? “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.” After all the deaths since that seminal quote, from the Red Wedding to the Purple Wedding, who will emerge the final victor? Fans have long noted that while the initial book was called “Game of Thrones,” the entire book series is called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” For years, we’ve speculated that this refers to the show’s two main protagonists — Dany being the fire (Mother of Dragons) and Jon Snow being the ice (King of the North). Since Jon has both fire and ice coursing through his veins, he could very well emerge the victor. Or, since Jon just slept with Dany, she technically has ice inside her as well. It doesn’t matter that Dany thinks she can’t bear children — She once insisted, “The dragons are the only children I’ll ever have” — you might also remember the witch Mirri telling her that “only death may pay for life.” Since Dany lost one of her dragon children, that may open her up to have a human child, possibly already consummated by Jon. Optimists hold out hope that Jon and Dany will share the throne together, which is probably the happy ending that HBO execs are pushing for. Still, if George R.R. Martin gets his way, a more tragic finale might be more fitting for the show’s dark tone. The best bet is something bittersweet, as Jon and Dany both sacrifice themselves with angelic visions of their respective lovers, the Wildling girlfriend Ygritte (“You know nothing, Jon Snow”) and the Dothraki hubbie Khal Drogo (“My sun and my stars”). In their dying breaths, they’ll leave their newborn Jonaerys to be protected by the temporary king Tyrion (Martin loves rewarding the underdog) until the child is grown enough to take the Iron Throne. That’s right, Jon and Dany’s child is the song of ice and fire.

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