In 23 days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Thrones will end. In less time than it seemingly takes Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?
Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These are Thrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies, and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but has yet to satisfyingly wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down the days to Thrones’ long-awaited conclusion.
The Loose End
The Wall, ancient and imposing, is one of the nine wonders of the Thrones world. Seven hundred feet tall and stretching 300 miles from coast to coast, it marks the northern border of Westeros, separating the realms of men from the wild icy lands beyond. The Wall, until last season, stood for thousands and thousands of years, since the Age of Heroes. Its origins are shrouded in mystery and myth. How was it built?
Legend has it that Bran “The Builder” Stark, the possibly apocryphal founder of House Stark and the First King of Winter, raised it. If the stories are to be believed, giants hauled blocks of ice into place and the Children of the Forest imbued the structure with strong magical wards to hold back the undead.
The maesters of the Citadel disagree. Dismissive of tales of spells and magical creatures, the maesters surmise that it was simply the First Men, the first human inhabitants of Westeros, who built the Wall. Using nothing more mysterious than muscle and elbow grease, the First Men cut blocks of ice from nearby lakes and dragged them into place using sleds.
Whatever the truth of it, one thing is certain: Whoever built the Wall was afraid of something terrible—the White Walkers—that they desperately wished to hold back.
Why This Loose End Matters
The longest summer in living memory—some nine years—is over. Winter is here. After a long hibernation the White Walkers have returned. At the head of the massive army of the dead is the Night King, riding a dragon—Viserion—whose sapphire flames shattered the Wall and its magical defenses.
To meet the enemy, to even dream of stopping him, the heroes will need all of their combined skills and experience. Both Dany and Jon have shown an ability to galvanize armies and unite disparate factions.
Daenerys’s followers include Dothraki horse warriors, who had never before crossed the sea; Unsullied spearmen, trained as slaves but freed under her regime; Varys, the former Master of Whisperers under King Robert; and Tyrion Lannister, whose sister is Dany’s sworn enemy.
Jon united wildlings and the Night’s Watch and, with much help from Sansa, the North and the Vale. He discovered the importance of Valyrian steel in the battle to come. And it was because of his insistence that dragonglass was mined from Dragonstone.
A few Valyrian steel weapons and dragonglass spearheads are nice. But with the odds our heroes face—an unknown number of White Walkers at the head of a vast and growing horde of undead humans, animals, a few giants, and one dragon—it’s not enough to suggest victory.
What would really level the battlefield, however, is an understanding of what humanity did to end the first Long Night, how the White Walkers were defeated, and how the Wall, which held back the foe for perhaps 8,000 years, was built.
How Season 8 Could Address It
Bran Stark—now in full possession, if not perfect control, of his Three-Eyed Raven powers—and Samwell Tarly will likely be crucial to discovering the secrets of the previous Long Night, including the construction of the Wall.
Through the weirwood trees, Bran can travel anyplace, anywhere in time. In Dorne, at the Tower of Joy, in the last days of Robert’s Rebellion, he learned the secrets of Jon’s parentage. In the Lands of Always Winter he saw the Night King and his minions in hibernation as the cold winds rose. And he’s traversed back to the time before the pact, when the Children of the Forest and the First Men were still at war. There he saw the Children, thinking they were making a weapon that would stop the spread of humans, create the Night King, paving the way for the cataclysm of the Long Night.
If Bran can manage to locate, in time and space, the actions that decided the Battle for the Dawn, and assuming he doesn’t lose another game of tag to the Night King, he could provide humanity with the edge it needs to stop the White Walkers. After that, observing the construction of the Wall would be simple by comparison.
Samwell left the Citadel with a trove of books and manuscripts. His natural curiosity has already served him and his friends well over the course of the story. Through his research, he discovered a cure for greyscale; learned that Dragonstone sat on a motherlode of dragonglass; and, with a huge assist from Gilly, learned that Rhaegar Targaryen had his marriage to Princess Elia annulled and that he subsequently remarried in Dorne.
With Bran traveling through time and Sam working the inkstained backpages of history, the question is what other secrets they could they discover. The recipe for Valyrian steel? What, if anything, is hidden in the Winterfell crypts? The true identity and motivation for the Night King? Sex God Podrick Payne’s confidential lady pleasuring moves? Who knows!
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.