In 18 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
Way back in Season 2, Dany, Jorah, and her infant dragons make a pit stop in the mighty city of Qarth, on the sprawling continent of Essos. The version of Daenerys who shows up looking for shelter is a far cry from the aspiring monarch we know today. She’s become the Mother of Dragons, yes, but she’s also freshly widowed, starving after wandering the Red Waste, and without any army to help her conquer her enemies. Which is why she’s vulnerable enough for a scrawny, blue-lipped warlock to kidnap her three “children” and hold them hostage in a haunted house.
The House of the Undying is the headquarters of Qarth’s warlocks, a group of magic practitioners (and shade of the evening imbibers, hence the creepy blue lips) who observe that their powers have been amplified since dragons came to Qarth. So they conspire with merchant Xaro Xhoan Daxos to abscond with them and lure Dany into their trap, because the dragons thrive most in her presence. Before Dany can barbecue chief warlock Pyat Pree and lock Xaro in his own vault, one of many troubling indicators of Dany’s tyrannical streak, she must endure a highly unpleasant, emotionally trying vision quest with potential implications for the rest of the show.
The Game of Thrones version of Dany’s House of the Undying journey is much more streamlined than the one that appears in the books: First, she walks through what appears to be the Iron Throne room, but empty, destroyed, and covered in snow. Then, she ventures beyond the Wall using the Castle Black gate we’ve seen various Night’s Watch members go through and, inside a tent, encounters what appears to be her deceased husband, Khal Drogo, holding their baby who never survived into infancy. Dany is tempted by the possibility of staying in this fantasy forever with her dearly departed sun and stars, but ultimately chooses to forge ahead, a real make-or-break moment on her hero’s journey.
A Song of Ice and Fire offers some two dozen discrete, mysterious visions to relentlessly theorize about. There are plenty of blog posts and Reddit threads parsing everything Dany sees in minute detail, and there’s too much in the A Clash of Kings passage to fully summarize here. Suffice it to say that Pree promises “many things that disturb you. Visions of loveliness and visions of horror, wonders and terrors. Sights and sounds of days gone by and days to come and days that never were.” Some are clearly flashbacks, whether to her childhood in Braavos or Mirri Maz Duur’s death by pyre. Some are literal predictions, like the “dead man with the head of a wolf” who sure sounds like Robb Stark post–Red Wedding. And some are more abstract, like “a blue flower [growing] from a chink in a wall of ice,” which many have interpreted as a reference to Jon Snow, the son of Lyanna Stark (who once accepted an arrangment of blue winter roses from Rhaegar Targaryen at the infamous Harrenhal tourney), ascending to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
The most substantial House of the Undying interlude, an encounter between Dany and the Undying themselves, offers the most to work with. They tell her that “three heads has the dragon,” and that she’ll know three betrayals: “Once for blood and once for gold and once for love.” It’s the most cryptic, and therefore most hotly debated, part of the House of the Undying sequence.
Why This Loose End Matters
Many of Dany’s visions, like the Red Wedding and an apparent reference to Renly’s murder by shadow assassin, have already come to pass. Others seem to have less relevance in the show than they do in the books. The question of who the third head/dragon rider may be in Game of Thrones, for example, seems to have been conclusively answered by the death of Viserion and his resurrection as an ice dragon: It’s the Night King! (Though at least some ambiguity remains: Jon may be a confirmed Targaryen now, but he hasn’t actually ridden a dragon yet, and some—including my colleagues—have speculated that Bran’s warging abilities put him in play. And all this is assuming “dragon head” is the same thing as “dragon rider.”) In the books, on the other hand, there’s still the possibility it could be someone like Tyrion or Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell who we learn is alive (if he is who he claims to be) in A Dance with Dragons.
But that doesn’t mean the House of the Undying is without potential for predicting how Season 8 could play out. The betrayals, for example, are an open question: The first one, for blood, is almost definitely Mirri Maz Duur, who killed Khal Drogo and Dany’s child using blood magic in revenge for the Dothraki’s massacre of her people. The second, for gold, is likely Jorah ratting out Dany to Varys in exchange for a chance at his birthright back. The last, for love, hasn’t gone down yet and has some intriguing possibilities: Dany’s had plenty of love interests, requited and not, over the course of the show. Keep an eye on Jon, Jorah, Tyrion, and even Daario in the weeks to come. (Daario doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d let a pesky ocean get between him and his beloved.)
Because the books don’t offer visual cues, the Clash of Kings version of the House of the Undying offers a lot more ambiguity and room for interpretation. The Game of Thrones one, on the other hand, feels a lot more clear-cut, probably because its main non-Drogo component seems in line with the events of the rest of the show. The seat of human power in Westeros, destroyed by some unseen force and in the grips of eternal winter? Sure sounds like the worst-case scenario for the human–White Walker conflict kicking into high gear. Hopefully, it’ll prove about as true as the whole “Drogo back from the dead” thing.
How Season 8 Could Address It
This one is black and white: Either Season 8 will include a real-life version of what Dany saw in the House, or it won’t. The preferred outcome is “won’t,” which fits with my personal interpretation of the House as feeding on Dany’s fears and insecurities in an attempt to scare her into submission. Meanwhile, the book version of the House mostly offers a few things to look out for, i.e., a potential traitor in Dany’s midst. Qarth is also where Dany encountered another loose end, Quaithe of the Shadow, whose prophecy continues to have implications for the endgame of this sprawling story. Maybe the House’s illusions will too.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.