The Long Night is over. The Last War is over. The Dragon Queen is now Protector of the Realm, but she’s leaned into some of her worst impulses. King’s Landing is filled with ash, and the table is set for somebody to overthrow the restored Targaryen dynasty. We only have 80 minutes of Thrones left, but countless story lines left for the show to wrap up. So, here are some predictions that staffers have for the finale of the last piece of monoculture.
The Last Shot of the Series Will Focus on Sam
Zach Kram: Yeah, this isn’t an original theory, but the lack of surprise wouldn’t make it any less special. More specifically than just the idea of Sam’s writing the tale of Game of Thrones is the idea that the series will end, just before fading to black and credits, on a shot of Samwell Tarly, happy scholar and father, as he scratches the words “A Game of Thrones” (or “A Song of Ice and Fire”) atop a fresh roll of parchment. In Season 7, Sam balked at Archmaester Ebrose’s proposed title for the history, “A Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I,” with designs on “something a bit more poetic.” That poetry will begin at the close, as Sam—perhaps working with Bran, both to use the Three-Eyed Raven’s perceptive powers and to further his goal as the keeper of memory—starts to document the last eight seasons of prestige TV.
Gilly Will Be the Happiest Person in the Seven Kingdoms
Kate Knibbs: I expect most of our main characters to be miserable or at least adjacent to misery at the end of Game of Thrones—except for sweet, pregnant Gilly, who has emerged as the real victor of this wild little game called thrones.
Gilly has a nice, caring husband. Gilly has a huge house in a temperate climate. Gilly is going to have a non-incest baby. Gilly likes and respects Jon Snow, so I’m sure she’ll feel sad about whatever wretched thing happens to him, but he’s also Sam’s BFF, not hers, AND he has historically asked a LOT of Sam, and maybe it’s for the best if Sam takes a step back from that friendship to focus on his growing family.
Fans Will Continue to Riot
Ben Lindbergh: The past three episodes of Season 8 feature the three lowest IMDb user ratings in Game of Thrones history, and the two episodes before that rank right above them. A petition to remake the season with “competent writers” has accumulated more than half a million signatures, and dunking on showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss—not undeservedly—has become a coping strategy employed post-episode by legions of frustrated fans. It seems as if the discourse surrounding Season 8 has reached a critical critical mass: We’re so cynical about the season’s rushed pace, vis-à-vis D&D’s evident desire to move on to future projects, that the well for the finale appears to be poisoned.
Given the character choices and pacing problems that have propelled (and impaired) the plot to this point, it’s hard to imagine the last episode resolving the season in a way that addresses viewers’ major objections about previous events. It’s equally tough to imagine new objections not surfacing: With only 80 minutes remaining, there’s not a ton of time to settle the fate of the Seven Kingdoms while servicing the surviving characters. Even if the finale is a satisfying stand-alone product, despite those high hurdles, many fans have already made up their minds that this season sucks, so it would take some truly inspired TV to undo the damage. All of which suggests that being “very drunk and very far from the internet” when the episode airs may be the best bit of planning D&D have done this year.
Jon Snow Will Head North and Live in a Cave
Andrew Gruttadaro: There are two things we know about Jon Snow with the utmost certainty:
- He knows nothing
- He doesn’t want it
Jon has said that second one over and over again in Season 8, as more and more people have learned about his true parentage and rock-solid claim to the Iron Throne. “It” being the Iron Throne (and lately, behind closed doors with Daenerys, sex with her, his aunt). But whether or not he wants to be king may not even be one of the most pressing issues heading into Game of Thrones’ series finale. Dany has just torched King’s Landing and killed thousands of innocent people because … bells rang. She’s now about to claim sovereignty over the Seven Realms as a queen who is much madder than the Mad King. And so, once again, it will be up to Jon to begrudgingly do what is hard and what is right. He will have to end Dany’s reign before it truly begins (or at least help Arya do it). After all, we still haven’t quite found out why the Lord of Light chose to bring him back from the dead—for so long we thought he would have to kill the Night King, but it turns out there may be an even greater threat to humanity for him to extinguish.
So he will, for he is Jon Snow. And when he is done, he will put down his sword—that trademark whimper plastered on his face—and head back to the North, where he truly belongs. He’ll find that cave he and Ygritte had sex in and make it his home, forever tired of other humans. “I don’t want to leave this cave, Jon Snow. Not ever,” Ygritte told him once. As the credits prepare to run for one last time, Jon will understand he should have listened to her then.
The White Walkers Aren’t Fully Dead
Miles Surrey: When the Game of Thrones showrunners spoke with Jimmy Kimmel earlier this month—before enough of the fandom had fully turned on them—they were asked whether the White Walkers were truly defeated after the Battle of Winterfell. “Yeah, we’re not gonna answer that,” Benioff, husband to Amanda Peet, replies, undoubtedly thinking he doesn’t want to give the internet any bread crumbs to work with.
But Benioff’s nonanswer was, in fact, a lot more illuminating than the alternative. Like, we’d just seen Arya Stark kill the Night King and end the Long Night 2.0. That seems pretty definitive, even for a show whose protagonist came back to life. So let’s consider what the series finale could unveil: that the White Walkers aren’t gone for good. If late-era Thrones has demonstrated just how difficult it is to break the wheel, as characters continue to succumb to their worst vices—Daenerys Targaryen’s impulsive anger, Jon Snow’s being really honorable yet stupid—then what’s to stop the cycle repeating itself with the army of the dead?
If humanity is going to keep shooting itself in the foot with terrible leaders, Westeros needs the great equalizer back. I don’t expect another White Walker invasion or anything, but I want enough of a hint in the finale that, eventually, these dudes are going to return and wipe out these idiots for good. (Except for Ser Davos, who can smuggle himself to a much-deserved retirement holdfast in Essos.) This can’t come courtesy of the Night King, who blew a 3-1 lead, but whatever happened to that baby he was holding? Or maybe Thrones can take it a step further: reveal that Bran was having a staring contest with himself all along. If Thrones is gonna embrace nihilism, I’ll tag along for the ride—so long as it brings my pale, blue-eyed, emotionless sons back from an early grave.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.