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Ten Questions After the Battle of Winterfell

The Great War is over. Here’s what we’d like to know before our beleaguered heroes turn their attention to Cersei in King’s Landing.

HBO/Ringer illustration
Spoiler alert

The Great War is over; the Night King is dead; my predictions for the Battle of Winterfell are in the toilet. That really just happened.

In the Inside the Episode segment for “The Long Night,” co-showrunner D.B. Weiss said, “We thought it was important that, whatever the plan was, that it would not just work out because that would be kind of dull.”

Yet … the plan did work! Our heroes wanted to lure the Night King to the godswood by using Bran as bait, and while there are still questions about why exactly the Night King exposed himself to come for the Three-Eyed Raven, Westeros’s big bad fell for the trap hook, line, and sinker. Sure, the heroes probably should have planned to have more than Theon there for protection, but Arya arrived in the nick of time, plunging her Valyrian steel dagger in the exact spot where the Children of the Forest stuck a dragonglass blade to create the Night King eons ago. Just as Jon suspected, once the Night King was defeated, every creature he’d ever raised fell.

The plan didn’t go off perfectly, sure: Jorah, Beric, Edd, Lyanna, and Theon all gave their lives fighting for the living, and Melisandre, as she promised, didn’t make it to the dawn. Pour one out for each of them; their sacrifices were not in vain. Capital-W Winter is over. We can now dream of spring.

Well, not quite. We’ve still got three episodes after all, and Cersei waits in King’s Landing. Here are 10 questions about what comes next.

First off, where the hell is Ghost?

Jon’s long-missing direwolf showed up in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” for the first time since Season 6, and he was featured prominently on the front lines in this episode, running into the horde of wights alongside the Dothraki at the beginning of the battle. But while Jorah and some other Dothraki came running back to Winterfell, we never saw Ghost again.

Did they just kill Ghost offscreen? I’m here to tell you that—thank the Seven—they did not. Here Ghost is in the teaser for next week, hiding behind Sam:

Ghost lives!

So Cersei is the big bad now?

As Daenerys says in the teaser for next week, “We have won the Great War. Now we will win the Last War.” Her eyes are on Cersei and the throne she sits upon.

But of course, nothing on Thrones is that simple (except for killing the Night King; apparently that’s simple as hell). Thrones has always been defined by interhuman squabbles, and there are still fissures present between the survivors of the Battle of Winterfell. In all the blood and bombast, don’t forget this conversation among Sansa, Tyrion, and Missandei:

Tyrion: Maybe we should have stayed married.
Sansa: You were the best of them.
Tyrion: What a terrifying thought.
Sansa: It wouldn’t work between us.
Tyrion: Why not?
Sansa: The dragon queen. Your divided loyalties would become a problem.
Missandei: Yes, without the dragon queen there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.

There could still be a conclusion that puts some of our favorite characters—Jon, Daenerys, Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, etc.—on opposing sides. And the show just killed off the Night King halfway through the final season—who is to say Cersei couldn’t have her head on a pike by the end of the next episode? Evidently, big bads don’t have to live until the finale.

Speaking of complications, the next question is a big one:

What is the future of Jon and Dany’s relationship?

The realm still does not know of Jon’s Targaryen ancestry and potential claim to the Iron Throne, and he and Daenerys never had a chance to talk through the implications of his parentage. Jon may say the magic words, “I don’t want the throne” and nip this in the bud quickly, but that wouldn’t extinguish the questions about how the realm moves forward with Daenerys. Sam’s words about Jon’s giving up his crown to save his people still echo.

In the teaser, Daenerys appears to have won some of the hearts of the Northern lords, as is typical when your dragons save their skins:

Will they bend the knee to the queen who saved them? That question will be a lot more complicated if they learn Jon is a Targaryen with a claim to the throne. Just think of it this way: What will happen when Sansa, who still clearly has hopes for an independent North, finds out who Jon’s real parents are?

How many troops does the North have left?

Some of the later scenes in the Battle of Winterfell were oddly quiet, and Viserion was mopping up in the last few minutes. It’s safe to say that all of the armies present—the Dothraki, Unsullied, Knights of the Vale, and Northern forces—were decimated. In particular, the lack of horses inside the walls later in the battle indicates that no Dothraki survived. And the Unsullied looked to have only a handful of troops left. Most of the soldiers who retreated into Winterfell looked to be Northern or Vale forces, so there may be more of them remaining—but it won’t be anything like the 20,000-strong Golden Company that Cersei has in King’s Landing, even if the sellswords didn’t bring elephants with them.

When Daenerys first came for the throne in Season 7, she did so with massive armies at her back and alliances across Westeros. Those alliances are mostly gone, those armies mostly destroyed. Yet still in Dany’s corner: two dragons. Rhaegal took some licks in this battle, but both he and Drogon can be seen in the teaser for the next episode.

Is there a power imbalance heading into the back half of the season?

Famously, Aegon the Conqueror brought Westeros to heel with the help of three dragons and his two sister-wives. No one had ever united the Seven Kingdoms before Aegon. He did it with fewer than 1,600 men when he first landed in Westeros; the sole difference was that he had dragons and the Westerosi lords did not. Armies are no match for dragons.

So how will Cersei and Co. deal with Daenerys’s fire-breathing trump card? Last season, Qyburn unveiled Operation Big Crossbow, and despite the beating the Lannister forces took at the Loot Train Attack, Bronn did nearly kill Drogon with that weapon. While our heroes were fighting the Night King, Cersei may have been building hundreds of these crossbows. Or perhaps she’s found some other kryptonite for the dragons; in the books, Euron Greyjoy claims to have a magical horn called Dragonbinder that he could use to take control of a dragon. We may not see anything so magical on the show, but Cersei must be planning something to deal with Daenerys.

The Mother of Dragons, meanwhile, will be more tempted than ever to put her children to use in her quest for the throne. Without large armies at her back, what other options does she have? Tyrion and Jon repeatedly counseled her to avoid burning cities and killing innocents, yet Dany has occasionally acted like more of a conqueror than a liberator. Thrones has always entertained the idea of Dany becoming the Mad Queen while still positioning her as a just and benevolent ruler. It’s been a delicate act to balance; soon, we’ll find out which path Dany will go down.

Where is Bronn?

Speaking of the guy who almost killed Drogon, where is he? We last saw him in a brothel, with Qyburn promising him a wagon full of gold to head north and kill either Jaime or Tyrion. I’m still a fan of this theory:

But more likely than not, he’ll show up again. Remember Tyrion’s promise to the sellsword in Season 1: “Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll pay double.” The problem: Tyrion may not have double what Cersei is offering. Bronn’s loyalties may soon be tested—does he value gold or friendship? I tend to think he can have both: Qyburn said that Cersei pays up front. What is to stop him from now switching sides?

Cleganebowl? Get hype?

The Hound survived! And presumably, he’ll now head south, where his brother awaits. Thrones may be a dark show, but it hasn’t been shy about fan service in recent seasons. This has to happen now.

Is there anyone else who could help our heroes?

I’m still holding out hope that either Edmure Tully or Robin Arryn could show up this season, given that the actors for those two characters appeared on an early cast list for Season 8. Neither appeared in Season 7, either, so the idea that their names were lazily copy and pasted over seems unlikely. It could be a red herring, but often where there is smoke, there is fire.

The Knights of the Vale already fought for the heroes in the Battle of Winterfell, so it’s unlikely they have many more troops they can commit to Daenerys’s cause. Meanwhile, Edmure has been a prisoner of the Lannisters for nearly five full seasons now. Where even is he? If they can find him, the seed of Tully reinforcements has already been planted; Sansa tried to get the Tullys to help her reclaim Winterfell in Season 6—the Tullys may still be able to contribute.

As much as this pains me, I’m no longer holding out hope for the Reeds. If they had a role in this season, I believe they would have shown up by now.

Also technically in play: Before Euron destroyed Yara’s fleet in Season 7, she was headed to Dorne to pick up the Dornish armies there. We don’t know what happened to those troops—are they still waiting to be picked up?

What is the heroes’ next move?

A teaser for Season 8 showed that Jon and Daenerys end up in Dragonstone at some point. That’s one of the few glimpses we’ve gotten at anything past Episode 3 of this season. Dragonstone makes sense: Daenerys is familiar with it, it’s located near King’s Landing, and it’s where she was born. This could be where the heroes plot the next steps as Dany’s eyes turn toward the Iron Throne.

How will Bran’s powers affect the rest of the show? (Will they?)

What was up with the Three-Eyed Raven spending nearly the entire Battle of Winterfell warging into some ravens so he’d get a literal bird’s-eye view of the fight? He had nothing better to do than that? And what was up with his connection with the Night King? And the time travel? And just … all of it? That’s it?

I have no answers here, only more questions. It’s always been unclear what the show has intended for Bran. After Sunday night, I’ve never been more confused.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.