SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains some spoilers for the books. Proceed at your own risk.
Ever since Game of Thrones first hit our television screens in 2012, speculation has been rife on how the series will end. Now, even with Season 8 due to kick off on April 14, the fan theories just keep coming.
Over the past seven seasons of George R. R. Martin’s epic saga, we have seen deceptions and lies, twists and turns, births, deaths, and White Walkers. With all to play for over the show’s final six episodes, we’re still ruminating over the fate of the remaining characters and how events will pan out.
There are those who are still asking who will end up on the Iron Throne. But is that still relevant with a war against an army of the undead coming? We’re more concerned right now with who will betray who, who will die, and which twists are yet to be uncovered.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the most compelling fan theories and assessed their likelihood of coming true, with input from Game of Thrones expert and member of Fandom’s Game of Thrones community, Kevin Carney aka Greater Good, who weighs in with his verdict, and bookmakers, BetVictor, who have slapped actual betting odds on each theory for us. Read on, and make up your own mind about what you believe will come to pass.
Tyrion is a Targaryen
This is a theory that’s been doing the rounds for a while, and seems to have dropped out of favour by a faction of fans. One Redditor even recently asked if the theory has been abandoned. For some, it’s still a distinct possibility.
The theory goes that Tyrion could be the illegitimate son of Aerys ‘The Mad King’ Targaryen. A Song Of Fire and Ice emphasises that Aerys’ had an obsession with Tyrion’s mother that continued long after Joanna and Tywin Lannister married, even going as so far as to say he only smiled when she was around. Aerys’ lust for Joanna was a constant source of friction between him and Tywin, and it is possible that, consensually or otherwise, Aerys slept with Joanna — resulting in Tyrion.
Without a doubt, this would not have escaped Tywin’s notice, and gives the disdain he displays for his youngest son throughout the show all the more significance. Tywin’s final words to Tyrion, before his son pierced his chest with an arrow, were: “You’re no son of mine,” which could have been as much about paternity as it was scorn.
In the books, Tyrion is described as having the trademark white-blonde hair associated with the Targaryen clan, and mismatched eyes of green and black (Targaryens, incidentally, are noted for their purple eyes), while his siblings have signature Lannister green eyes and golden hair. It is also worth mentioning that Tywin and Joanna were first cousins, which would strengthen Tyrion’s Lannister genetic code, making his contrasting appearance all the more remarkable.
Tyrion has always been singled out in the Lannister family. A fan favourite, he has continually been referred to as “dwarf”, “imp”, or “monster” throughout the series and has been subjected to intense verbal cruelty by his father, Tywin and sister, Cersei — who holds him responsible for the death of their mother in childbirth.
Time and again, Tyrion has used his wiles, as well as his sharp wit and quick turn of phrase, to rise above and to triumph where others would have failed. This in itself doesn’t mark Tyrion out as different to his Lannister family — Tywin, Cersei and Jaime can be just as quick with a smart remark. But the fact that Tywin, in particular — as his father — is so cruel, could be a sign that he knows Tyrion isn’t his. Mirroring Catelyn’s difficulties in accepting Jon Snow as Ned Stark’s bastard son, in fact.
In Season 6, we got an interesting glimpse at a moment that seems to support the theory that Tyrion could have Targaryen blood. When he meets Daenerys’ dragons for the first time, he doesn’t react in the way that perhaps most people would or, indeed, as we’ve seen most people respond. Dany has locked them away because they pose a danger to the citizens, but they’re not faring very well in captivity, and won’t eat, so Tyrion, in Dany’s absence, decides to free Rhaegal and Viserion.
He approaches the beasts with some trepidation, but largely without fear. He recounts a story about how he asked an uncle of his for a dragon for his name day, then cried himself to sleep because his father told him they had died out a century ago. Interestingly, one Quora user points out that in George RR Martin’s writings, it’s stated that “some young Targs were said to ‘bond’ [with] or ‘claim’ young dragons”; Tyrion’s story aligns somewhat with this.
Anyway, neither Viserion nor Rhaegal are aggressive towards him, and Tyrion is even able to touch them before he removes their chains. While it could be that they’re weakened from lack of food, and capable of differentiating friend from foe, it could also prove that they sense something else in Tyrion — Targaryen blood. Something that fans theorise Drogon was able to sense in Jon when he touched Dany’s main ride in Season 7. Crucially, Dany seemed surprised.
It was the Valyrian people that first tamed dragons, before a cataclysmic event known as the Doom all but wiped out both, leaving only the Targaryens and their dragons behind. If it’s the case that dragons will only allow Targaryens to get close enough to ride them, then it could well signal that Tyrion, like Jon, is of the bloodline.
Likelihood: In A Feast for Crows, Genna, Tywin’s sister, says to Jaime, “I once said to your father that Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. He would not speak to me for half a year.” Presumably, she meant that Tyrion is more like Tywin than Jaime is — his extreme reaction is a hint that there’s some deep pain there, possibly stemming from the knowledge that Tyrion is, indeed, not his son. Tyrion could very well be a Targaryen. Only time will tell.
Community Verdict: “The evidence presented does make this theory seem quite likely. Aerys’ obvious lust for Joanna has caused much speculation among fans about the paternity of Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion. Personally, I think it would be much more interesting if it revealed that Cersei and Jaime were fathered by Aerys and Tyrion by Tywin. It would be very ironic for Tywin to have given preferential treatment to the son who wasn’t his while treating his one true offspring as a pariah. It would also mean that both of the Lannister brothers have committed patricide [as opposed to offing each other’s fathers].”
Betting Odds: 5/1
Jaime Will Kill Cersei… And Be Revealed as The Prince Who Was Promised
One of the most popular theories is that Cersei will be murdered by Arya Stark, who placed the Queen on her kill list for the part Cersei played in her father’s execution in Season 1. But there are plenty of fans behind another candidate for offing the most detested woman in Westeros: her beloved twin, Jaime.
Cersei received a prophecy from woods witch Maggy the Frog as a child stating that she will marry the king, become queen, have three children, and watch all of them die. In the books, the prophesy also claims that Cersei will die at the hands of the ‘valonqar.’ Valonqar means ‘little brother’ in Valyrian. While the prophecy seems literally to fit Tyrion rather than Jaime, her twin’s arc over the course of the series, and his ability to ‘do the right thing’ would make this final betrayal all the more devastating.
In an interview with Esquire, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime, touched on the twins’ divide that exists by the end of Season 7, saying: “When he says, ‘I don’t believe you’, it’s not just that he doesn’t believe she’s going to kill him. For me, at least, it was more [like], ‘That’s it, I don’t love you anymore. You’re on your own.’ Why it took him so long, god only knows, but he got there in the end.”
He suggests that Jaime has finally broken free of the hold Cersei had over him, meaning there’s nothing to stop him killing her should it be the right thing to do. Just as it was the right thing to slay the Mad King when he posed a threat to the population, despite being bonded to Aerys by loyalty as a member of the Kingsguard.
Jaime may very well be the Prince Who Was Promised, the prophesied saviour set to rescue them all from darkness and the second coming of original saviour, Azor Ahai, who brought an end to the first Long Night many years ago. With Cersei standing in as Nissa Nissa, Azor Ahai’s wife. The legend has it that Azor Ahai forged the flaming sword critical to his victory by plunging it into his wife’s chest, tempering the sword in her heart and combining it with her soul.
So what evidence is there to suggest it’s Jaime? As one Reddit user pointed out in an interview: “So, the basic gist is that there is a seriously problematic translation error [within the prophecy] that, once cleared up, will shed light on the identity of the hero… According to the Valyrian dictionary, Valyrian words for lord and light are aeksio and onos. However, Valyrian words for gold and hand are aeksion and ondos. Just as we might suspect, the Lord of Light is a farce. Jaime Lannister — Gold Hand — is the hero of legend and prophecy.” Jaime, who lost his hand in Season 3, later had it replaced with a gold prosthetic, which he still wears.
Also consider the ancient cave paintings left by the Children of the Forest Jon shows to Dany in Episode 4 of Season 7. Of the three figures, one, like Jaime, has a cuff around the right wrist, and is wielding a weapon in his left-hand, which has many fans speculating on Reddit that the prophecy does indeed lead to Jaime.
Likelihood: Strong. The likelihood of Jaime being the saviour is high. Game of Thrones doesn’t skimp on its death count, and doesn’t shy away from killing major characters — and the possibility of Cersei being slain has always hovered around the show. While Arya is never reluctant to kill those who have wronged her, the escalating rumours are that Jaime will be the one to kill his sister/lover, especially since their rift in Season 7. This would be a devastating but oh-so-thrilling finale for the Lannister twins.
However, there are other strong candidates for the role of Prince Who Was Promised. Jon Snow has been a solid contender since his resurrection at the hands of Melisandre — the prophecy states that the hero will be “born again”. His union with Daenerys at the end of Season 7 has also provoked much speculation that their child will be the one to fulfill the prophecy. This will also refute the Mother of Dragon’s assumption that she is unable to conceive. However, many also believe the saviour to be Daenerys herself — because the prophecy is not gendered.
If Game of Thrones is indeed in part about toppling the patriarchy, Daenerys could certainly supersede Jaime. After all, the prophecy also foretold of the arrival of Dany’s dragons…
Community Verdict: “I could certainly see this one coming to fruition. Jaime’s love for Cersei is undeniable, but over the course of the series his trust in her has been repeatedly tested. He has grown to become more concerned with the welfare of the general population of Westeros, while she continues to care for nobody but those she holds most dear. They have always been two halves of a whole, but Jaime has begun to sever his link with Cersei and become his own person. The legend of Azor Ahai states that he had to sacrifice his beloved wife Nissa Nissa to ignite the sword Lightbringer and defeat the White Walkers. It would kill Jaime to sacrifice the person he loves most, but if he survives he could be reborn and be whole by himself.”
Betting Odds: 5/1
Arya Stark Will Die and Become Lady Stoneheart
Throughout the show, ever since the execution of her father and separation of her family, Arya has stopped at nothing to get her revenge, checking off names on her kill list with reckless abandon, and offing her victims with glee. She may have stepped too far over the line to survive the show, and with plenty of names remaining on her list, and still hellbent on vengeance, there’s every chance she’ll find herself in a situation in which she comes off worse. Including in a face-off with the dead.
On April 1, Maisie Williams appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and the pair played an April Fool’s prank, pretending to let slip that Arya dies in the second episode of Season 8. While it was framed as a joke, many think that she was actually telling the truth.
While her death might be a given, some fans are speculating that in death, Arya will become a version of Lady Stoneheart, the reanimated form of her mother Lady Catelyn Stark from the books, intent on revenge after her brutal slaying at the notorious ‘Red Wedding.’ Director of the Season 4 finale, Alex Graves, has gone on record as saying it wouldn’t have made sense to bring back Catelyn as Lady Stoneheart in the series, and author George RR Martin has also spoken about the showrunners’ decision not to bring Catelyn back from the dead… but Arya? Nobody’s said anything about Arya.
Likelihood: It is extremely unlikely that Williams would have gone on a popular late-night chat show, reveal one of the biggest spoilers on the biggest of shows, and not face repercussions (think of Mark Ruffalo’s incredible Avengers: Infinity War spoiler), and then be found to be telling the truth all along.
Also, this is in stark (pun very much intended) contrast to the #lastwomanstanding hashtag Williams used on Instagram last year, and what she told The Guardian last October following the filming of Arya’s final scene for the series. The article goes: “She will say, however, that her final scene was ‘beautiful. I ended on the perfect scene. I was alone – shocker! Arya’s always bloody alone.’”
The suggestion from Williams, then, is that Arya will survive the bloody conflict, and if she doesn’t die there’s no chance of her becoming Lady Stoneheart.
Community Verdict: “Whether or not Arya will die is completely up in the air, but I don’t see her becoming Lady Stoneheart. When asked about her in the past, the showrunners and writers had expressed reluctance to include Lady Stoneheart in the show as they felt that resurrecting Catelyn in any form would cheapen her death at the Red Wedding. She has been a divisive figure among fans of the book for that very reason, with some feeling that she detracts from a series that goes out of its way to avoid conventional fantasy tropes such as bringing dead characters back to life.”
Betting Odds: 25/1
Littlefinger is Alive, Revealed To Be a Faceless Man
The demise of Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish in Season 7 was a long time coming. Killed by Arya, as Sansa, the object of his lust, manipulation, and mental abuse looked on, it was quite the poetic end for one of the most devious characters in the show. Over the course of the series, Baelish betrayed Ned Stark resulting in his execution, sent an assassin armed with his own dagger to kill Bran, and murdered his bride Lysa, stopping at nothing in his quest for power. But before his apparent death, was Littlefinger replaced by a Faceless Man? Could Baelish still be alive?
According to one YouTuber, Littlefinger can be seen handing over an iron coin, similar to the one Arya used, to a Faceless Man in Winterfell before his death. The YouTuber pieces together various other bits of evidence, including the fact that Baelish reveals details of Braavosi heritage, to support the notion, indicating that he has a connection to the Faceless Men and the House of Black and White. Knowing that he’s in imminent danger, and very used to playing games — and reading people — the theory suggests the transaction we saw was him paying a Faceless Man to take on his identity, while he gets the hell out of Dodge (Winterfell). Meaning Arya slits not Baelish’s throat, but the Faceless Man’s.
This theory is gaining traction on Reddit, not least because of certain shared characteristics between Lord Baelish and these mysterious men. One of the defining characteristics of the Faceless Men is that they use cunning and deception, shapeshifting to go by unnoticed. Lord Baelish doesn’t physically transform (at least, we haven’t seen him do so!), but he does shift his identity, so to speak, depending on who he’s trying to manipulate at any one time. Nobody seems to know the real Littlefinger, though Sansa and Arya do appear to have got the measure of him.
Interestingly, Game of Thrones showrunner Dan Weiss said this about Baelish: “There’s something impenetrable to everything he does. It’s like you keep peeling away the skins and there’s never an end to the masks.” Perhaps he’s simply using the Faceless Men reference here as a metaphor. Or just maybe…
Likelihood: This would be quite the final scheme for Littlefinger to execute, and he is cunning enough to carry it out and carry it off. Factor in Baelish’s ability to remain unflustered in even the most stressful of scenarios, and his snivelling death in Season 7 is a hint that things may not be completely what they seem.
The final point in favour of this theory goes Aiden Gillen, who refused to rule out the theory, saying: “A lot of people have been talking about that theory, it is interesting, it’s a good one… But I can’t give anything away.” And let’s not forget the interview he gave the LA Times. When talking about his final episode, he says “Your time is up,” which some fans have pointed out is the line whispered by the girl he’s seen handing over a coin to at Winterfell. Concrete evidence right there, yes?
Community Verdict: “The reason that Littlefinger behaved the way he did in his final scene is that he was overcome with the realization that he had finally been beaten at his own game and had no chance of escape, hence he was literally pleading for his life. Throughout the series, we had always seen Littlefinger use trickery and manipulation to achieve his goals, his silver tongue being his greatest asset. There had never been any hint of him using supernatural means to get what he wanted, and as someone who took great joy in outsmarting others he would probably consider it cheating to do so.”
Betting Odds: 40/1
Jon and Daenerys Are Half-Siblings
While the budding relationship between Jon and Daenerys, which we saw consummated at the end of Season 7, simultaneously thrilled and grossed us out after learning that the Mother of Dragons is the King in the North’s aunt, another theory reckons they’re actually more closely related.
Digital Spy reported that one astute fan of the books pointed out a tiny detail remembered by Daenerys relating to her childhood — she recalls seeing a lemon tree when she was a child in Braavos. Directly questioning author George RR Martin about it via his Live Journal blog, the fan suggests that lemon trees wouldn’t grow in Braavos’s climate and asks if this is significant with regard to future revelations about Dany’s past. The author’s response fuelled speculation.
While lemon trees are unlikely to thrive in Braavos, they do grow in Dorne. Rhaegar — Jon’s father and the man Dany believes to be her brother — was married to Elia Martell before Lyanna Stark, Elia hailing from Dorne. Could Dany have been lied to about her childhood? Could she be a secret, legitimate child of Rhaegar and Elia? Factor in that the Tower of Joy — the scene of Jon’s birth — is also located in Dorne, and that both Daenerys and Jon were taken into hiding at a young age, required to travel in secret for their protection, then there’s enough of a kernel of a shred of a tiny piece of evidence to suggest that they are both Rhaegar’s children…
Likelihood: If this were true, this would be the reveal of the show. In an interview with Vulture, Theon actor Alfie Allen recounted how he asked George RR Martin for a scoop on the identity of Jon’s parents. He replied: “I can’t say who, but I can tell you that it involves a bit of a Luke Skywalker situation.” We all know what that means…
Community Verdict: “The big hole in this theory is that the people present on Dragonstone on that stormy night saw Queen Rhaella die giving birth to Daenerys. The mention of Dany seeing lemon trees as a child may have just been an oversight, and the “Luke Skywalker situation” that Alfie Allen referred to probably just means the kiss that Luke and Leia shared in The Empire Strikes Back before they found out about their familial relationship in Return of the Jedi. The fact that Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia so that he could marry Lyanna also seems to suggest that he did not want any of his children to be bastards, which Dany would be if she was born to someone other than his wife. Since Daenerys is only about a year older than Jon, it seems impossible for either Elia or Lyanna to be her mother.”
Betting Odds: 10/1
The Night King is Rhaegar Targaryen
The possibility of an epic showdown with the Night King has loomed large over Game of Thrones since we first heard of, then saw, the leader of the feared White Walkers. Yet nobody knows who exactly this menacing entity really was before he was turned into an icy general. What if the final season reveals his identity as none other than Rhaegar Targaryen?
One fan on Reddit posits a reeeeeaaaallly long and involved theory that involves greensight and warging, in which an attempt is made by the Children of the Forest to transfer — using the magical properties of dragonglass — the consciousness of Rhaegar, who they’ve identified as the best of men, into the mind of a leader of the First Men. With the intention being to create a good leader to command the First Men, and basically make them all nice. But something goes wrong, as we’ve seen happen when Bran uses his abilities, and voila — the Night King.
The Catspaw dagger has been really prominent in the series, and the fan speculates that it has a big part to play in this theory. It’s decorated with dragonglass in the series — which book lore suggests was used by the Valyrians to communicate with one another over long distances and enter the dreams and thoughts of others — and it could be the weapon that killed Rhaegar and the key to transferring his consciousness.
“We are told repeatedly about the mythic confrontation of Robert and Rhaegar in the shallows of the Trident River,” explains the Redditor. “There, in the frenzy of single combat, Rhaegar had his chest smashed in by Robert’s war hammer, and perished. Rhaegar’s elaborate breastplate — comprised of rubies arranged into the three-headed dragon of the Targaryen sigil — was splintered, and the rubies scattered throughout the waters, ever after named the Ruby Ford. We have also found out how unreliable these accounts can be, and I believe we will discover there was more to this confrontation than the folklore/Baratheon propaganda reveal.”
The Redditor continues: “The sheer act of Rhaegar’s death — an object being plunged into the chest — directly parallels the creation of the Night King, with the dragonglass/glass candle being plunged into the man tied to the weirwood tree. It may be this parallel in death with related means which allowed for Rhaegar’s mind to be transferred. The Catspaw dagger is Valyrian Steel, with a dragonbone hilt, but in the show the dagger is presented as Valyrian steel with dragonglass associated with the hilt. Indeed, an obvious picture of the dagger can be seen in the book Sam is reading about dragonglass (Season 7, Episode 1 – ‘Dragonstone‘).”
Likelihood: Hella unlikely, right? But we love it. What a finale, if the most feared leader was someone with a blood lineage to at least two of the show’s pivotal characters.
Community Verdict: “Not a chance. The Night King is eight thousand years old and Rhaegar was still a young man when he died, which was less than two decades before the events of the series. It is true that history is written by the victor and certain events may not be recounted as they actually occurred, but there were many present at the Battle of the Trident and a lot of them witnessed Rhaegar’s death. Barristan Selmy fought alongside Rhaegar in this battle and makes no indication that it happened any differently from the way that history suggests it did.”
Betting Odds: 25/1
We’ll find out exactly what’s in store when Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres on April 14.
Odds supplied by BetVictor.