Let me indulge, purely for entertainment value, in some fan-speculation on what we will see on-screen after the Long Night is over and the final 6 episodes Of Game of Thrones are run in 2019. Let me first talk about the end-game aspects I think the books and the tv-series seem to be heading for, and then mop op the likely storylines leading up to that endgame. Of course I fully expect to be wrong on most counts, but putting my predictions out there will allow me to see in two year’s time whether I am more like Maggy in predictive powers or Melisandre. Feel free to add your own pet theories in the comment boxes.
- I expect the end-game of GOT to have someone of each major Westerosi house surviving. In the books, you have hints of this in the form of key characters leaving possible progeny behind that could survive the wars (eg. Theon Greyjoy having a ‘salt wife’ on the boat to Pyke after his release from Winterfell, which could have spawned the surviving Greyjoy in the books). In the TV series you have Gendry for house Baratheon and Sam for house Tarley being the last of their lines, a bit overly conveniently having made it. I am thus betting we’ll at some point hear of a surviving Martell (Oberyn supposedly slept with half of Westeros, so there must be some resulting kid that survived the carnage), and a surviving HighGarden (revealed in some Bran-flashback). Some minor Houses that have blown their right to exist probably wont have a hidden heir. No Freys and Boltons hence. The surviving Lannister might well be the child-to-come of Cercei plus Tyrion (I dont think Jamie will make it).
- The whole story is set up for the ‘pack’ of the Starks to survive. That probably means Sansa and Arya make it, perhaps Bran too (for the books the male line defines the family line, less so in the tv-series). Their survival implies the night-king and the army of the dead don’t make it. In turn, this means the wall and the night watch are probably no longer needed either, so Sam can rule Tarley and the wildlings can have whatever is still beyond the wall. It would be great to see Tormund and Brienne end up as King and Queen Wildling.
- The books are called a Song of Ice and Fire, which means John and Daenerys have a bit more singing to do before the end. Since a kid is almost necessary to be called a proper ‘Song’, I am expecting both a kid, and a wedding at Winterfell between John and Daenerys (or perhaps a rushed job on some battlefield), who both would want their child to be legitimate. I am betting on high-drama deaths of both lead singers. Some dreadful choices have to be made along the way that exemplify that Song (A pregnant Drogon having to burn the body of Rhaegar to prevent another ice dragon?).
- It would be an interesting end-game if Cercei wins and crushes the opposition when that opposition has spent its forces to defeat the army of the dead (in real politics, baddies winning and having their progeny rule for centuries is quite normal), but it simply flies against the Maggy prophesy that foretells of Cercei’s loss and death. So she is not going to win. I favour the idea that she dies in childbirth, spawning a valonquar herself that Tyrion then raises.
- Given GRR’s penchant for having revenge served cold, I think I am going to see a dragon or a Dothraki horde burn down the Iron Bank after the dust is settled in Westeros. Or perhaps Arya goes there for a bit of R&R at the end and snuffs the smirk off their faces.
6. Given how GRR doesn’t seem to believe in the progression of humanity (he has several ‘democratic experiments’ in Yunkai and elsewhere end quickly in a restoration of the old feudal order), I think the end-game in his books will leave Westeros pretty much as it started, but with far fewer people. No restoration of the dead to the living, no glorious democracy, no grand fraternising that lasts more than 10 minutes after the last defeat of baddies on a battlefield. So I think in the books, we’re going to end up with a ruthless ruler who knows when a massacre is in the interest of the population, presiding over a feudal system, and with wizened councillors who are of the same mind (Varys, Arya!). The more soppy TV-series is too soft for such an ending though and seems to be steering towards a ‘kind ruler plus democratic succession plan’ end-game. Perhaps Tyrion, aided by Varys and Bronn will end up on the Iron Throne in the tv-series.
7. One of GRR’s main messages is that all moralising do-gooders die. So John and Daenerys will die. The surviving Targaryen will leave Westeros with the surviving dragon(egg)(s) and go back to Volantis or perhaps Mereen. He/She will realise their place is not in Westeros at all, taking the Dothraki with them, burning that Bank along the way.
8. The Prince that was promised, born in salt and ash, can only be Theon or Yara: they are the only prince and princess left! Think about it: the rest is either a king (John, Euron), a queen (Daenerys) or not royalty at all (Davos, Tyrion). And who is born in Salt? The Iron Born. So I think the Prince(ss) that was promised has to be a Greyjoy. The question is when they will be revealed. I am expecting Theon to be the Prince in the books, but Yara in the tv-series. So in the tv-series, Theon redeems himself and rescue Yara.
9. Jamie too is on a redemption-arc, and he too should hence not survive. Clegane Bowl, another redemption of a formerly lost soul, will surely happen and probably lead to two deaths (after completing his destiny, the Hound is completely expendable for the story, so surely won’t make it).
10. Predicting battle-sequences and that kind of stuff is hard, because neither the tv-series nor the books follow any logical rules as to what battles happen and when/where they happen. The battles seem to follow the logic of the stories of particular people far more than the logic of power (why on earth did Daenerys not do some taxying and reconnaissance with those dragons at the start of Season 7? If you’re the only one with an air-taxi and surveillance plane, you use it!).
It for instance would make sense for the whole of the North to pack up and join the rest of humanity down South (forcing the army of the Dead to hit all humanity down South at once, thus unifying humanity anyway), and to hit the army of the dead with hails of dragon-glass arrows in ambushes. But, you just know they are going to do something more stupid like have a big battle at Winterfell. Similarly, the Night King should probably invade the dragon-free countries East of Westeros first and turn all them into zombies too (an unprepared opposition there!). He should then move on the least-guarded high-population centre of Westeros, King’s Landing, before bothering with the big armies. But, you just know he is going to be stupid and just meander down with his whole army at a snail’s-pace until he is opposed.
11. They are now building up Cercei to play it smart, but I think she will be dumb and hit allies hit allies associated with Stark/Targaryan before they are done with the Night King (why spend resources on something that is spending itself?). She should try to absorb the army of Dorne into her own, and perhaps move her court to some large unguarded island (Lys sounds rather nice!) where her fleet and armies build up. But you just know she is going waste forces and money before she needs to.
Yes, I think the four most important characters at the end of Season 7 (Cercei, Jamie, John, Daenerys) will all die before the end.
So let’s try and give scenario for the battle/death/resolution sequences of those 6 episodes. In episode 1 you get movement of main characters into positions (Theon finds out something so he knows his next steps; Golden Company lands in King’s; conclave of good guys at Winterfell, Bran finds out historical stuff (plenty of possibilities. He might whisper to Aegon, causing the Mad King; he might direct direwolves, or mis-inform Melisandre), Arya does something cool like put on the mask of a dead night walker).
In episode 2, a battle with the army of the Dead that the good guys lose but where John also flies a dragon. Most key characters survive, and some subplot gets played out (Theon makes some progress, Cercei moves on Dorne and burns the place down, the maesters start readings, Bran starts to mind-battle the Night King or Viserion, Melisandre returns and finds Theon).
In episode 3, more manoeuvres in the dark (John and Daenerys marry after finding out she is pregnant, guerrilla tactics help funnel the army of the dead towards Lannister territory, Greyjoy story gets resolved with Melisandre help, Cercei consolidates, maesters discover something, Jamie dies on some quest).
In episode 4, John dies in battle with the Night King, another dragon goes down, and there is total despair for a while, with Daenerys having to burn her own Rhaegar dragon. But then help arrives from unexpected corners, for instance Yara helps the good guys in the form of the promised Princess, all kinds of semi-prophesies come true (flaming swords, Melisandre dying), Dondarion dies, most forces die, but the Night King is finally defeated via a concerted effort of many. I am going to guess that Yara (or a merged entity of both Theon and Yara? Melisandre might have something up her sleeves) strikes the final blow.
In episode 5, the remaining human forces battle it out, Bronn flipping to the side of the good at the right moment. Cercei bites the dust in childbirth after hearing of Jamie death, and perhaps Daenerys gives birth and then dies in battle (due to being betrayed for love, for instance due to Tyrion warning Cercei to flee with her unborn child to save house Lannister?) after naming Tyrion her protector/successor of her line. We also get Cleganebowl, some sticky end to Quburn (Arya gets him!) and few more such loose ends wrapped up.
Episode 6 shows the aftermath and glimpses of the longer-run. Tyrion has babies with Arya, the Iron Bank gets burned (I really want to see that!), the remaining dragon and foreigners leave Westeros with a Targaryan to look after (Missande and Greyworm with baby Daenerys?), Pyke gets ruled by a surviving Iron Born, hidden heirs emerge and re-establish their houses.
The series end with a flash-forward to an old Tyrion, married to Arya, discussing progress with an old Bronn (still swearing), 40 years since the end of the Great Wars. They hear about all sorts of conflicts between the progeny of people we know (the wildlings are in conflict with someone; slavery has returned; noble houses are scheming and fighting, a new Bank has emerged, the Iron Born have started raiding again, etc.). We are left to realise that in Westeros, the Game of Thrones never ends.