In 11 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
In Season 1, Ned Stark retraces the footsteps of Jon Arryn, his father figure and predecessor as hand of the king, in an attempt to determine whether Arryn was murdered. This investigation leads him to a blacksmith’s shop on the Street of Steel, where Ned encounters young Gendry for the first time. Like all the Stark men, Ned was blessed with an abundance of moral rectitude but lacked the sense God gave a bag of hammers; nevertheless, he quickly realized that Gendry was the bastard of King Robert Baratheon. One of many, in fact, as Rawdoggin’ Rob was generous with his royal DNA.
Presumably suspecting that Gendry’s parentage might put him in danger, his employer sends the young apprentice away from King’s Landing after Robert’s death, though doesn’t tell him why. Gendry is therefore the only one of Robert’s bastards to survive Joffrey’s purge, in which Gendry’s unacknowledged brothers and sisters were slaughtered in a scene reminiscent of the biblical Massacre of the Innocents.
Gendry elects to join the Night’s Watch, where he encounters Arya Stark, then pretending to be a boy named Arry, among the other recruits on their way to the Wall. The two spend the next season and a half together and forge a friendship, so to speak, after Gendry protects her from bullies among the other recruits. Together, they’re waylaid by Gold Cloaks, who are looking for Gendry, initially unbeknownst to Gendry himself, and then by Lannister soldiers who capture the group and take them to Harrenhal. After Arya orchestrates their escape, they, along with Hot Pie, encounter the Brotherhood Without Banners, who give Gendry work as a blacksmith before handing him over to Melisandre. The Red Woman is interested in Gendry for the same reason the Lannisters and Gold Cloaks were—his royal blood. But instead of killing him on the road, she takes him to Dragonstone so she can extract said blood with leeches and use them in a ritual to kill Stannis’s rivals for the throne.
With Melisandre and Stannis planning to sacrifice Gendry, Davos Seaworth freed him, putting the boy in a rowboat and pushing him in the general direction of King’s Landing. Gendry stays in King’s Landing, and offscreen, until Season 7, when Davos, who’s in the area to smuggle Tyrion into the city for a secret meeting with Jaime, swings back to the Street of Steel to pick up Gendry and take him to Dragonstone, now Daenerys’s base of operations. In terms of a teenager being plucked from mundane origins and being thrust into an overwhelming and dangerous world of intrigue he barely understands, it’s not unlike Emile Hirsch’s character arc in The Girl Next Door, only translated into the vernacular of Game of Thrones.
Gendry has had to live in hiding or on the run for most of the show because his parentage makes him politically important. The inciting incident for the War of the Five Kings, after all, was the revelation that Robert’s successors—Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella—were not his actual children. A generation before, Westeros went to war in order to install a Baratheon on the Iron Throne, and in the War of the Five Kings, not one but three armies marched to prevent the Lannisters from controlling Westeros through Joffrey’s illegitimate succession.
Now that his father, uncles, and siblings are all dead, Gendry is the last person of Baratheon parentage who could stake a claim to the Iron Throne. It’s a complicated claim; Gendry is not only a bastard but an unacknowledged bastard, which is why he lacks the regional bastard surname of Waters. But bastards can be legitimized after the fact, which is how Ramsay Snow came to be Ramsay Bolton and inherit Winterfell. Even without being legitimized (Stannis offered it to him and he declined), Jon Snow came to be King in the North because he was accepted as a member of the Stark family. Gendry’s claim, though tenuous, should not be ignored.
Why This Loose End Matters
It feels like a million years ago that House Baratheon had a shot at maintaining the Iron Throne, back before Renly was assassinated, Stannis blundered his army to annihilation outside Winterfell, and Cersei ruled as a Lannister.
But it was only three seasons ago that Stannis’s army operated in Westeros under a Baratheon banner, and only one full season ago that Tommen, using the Baratheon name, sat on the Iron Throne. Gendry’s claim to the Iron Throne isn’t some obscure ancient genealogy, it’s from a few years ago. If the options are Cersei, who’s acting increasingly like the Mad King, and a restoration of the Targaryen dynasty, whose last monarch was the Mad King, there could be those in Westeros who’d be willing to crack open Door No. 3 if they knew such a door existed.
Proving Gendry’s lineage, getting him legitimized, and getting him into a political position to assert his claim to the throne and a military position to edge in between the Lannister and Targaryen armies would take some doing. But in a world where the Army of the Dead has raised a dragon, anything is possible.
How Season 8 Could Address It
Given how much emotional and storytelling heft Game of Thrones has given to Jon and Daenerys these past seven seasons, and given how little time the show has to wrap up the plot, it would be the televisual shock of a lifetime if Gendry stood up and told Daenerys, “Actually, the throne belongs to me.” It’d be incredible, but the odds of it happening are remote.
But given that Season 7 went out of its way to retrieve Gendry, and given that Gendry introduces himself to Jon as Robert’s son—against Davos’s advice—it seems likely that Game of Thrones will reckon with his claim on the throne in some fashion, particularly since Gendry, after learning his parentage and returning to King’s Landing, has embraced his heritage, forging a warhammer that resembles the one Robert used to carry.
At the moment, Gendry seems happy to serve Jon Snow, who has pledged himself to Daenerys while being unaware of his own parentage and his own claim on the throne through his father. The union between Jon and Daenerys—political, military, and carnal—seems to be in good health, but this being Game of Thrones, there’s no guarantee it’ll stay that way.
That does not, however, necessarily mean that Gendry will make a play for power himself. If the campaign to the North goes south, and morale in the Targaryen camp drops, it’s possible that someone could try to install Gendry on the throne through Robert’s bloodline, even if Gendry himself doesn’t seem too keen on leadership at the moment.
But maintaining Gendry’s allegiance with Jon would be historically poetic for two reasons. First, Jon’s adoptive father, Ned Stark, was the right-hand man to Gendry’s biological father, and having the next generation mirror that relationship would be a nice way to come full circle. Second, House Baratheon was founded by Orys, a Targaryen-allied general and bastard half brother of King Aegon I Targaryen. His family ruled Storm’s End (now vacant after Renly’s death) while a Targaryen sat on the Iron Throne; if Daenerys defeats Cersei and staves off the annihilation of mankind by the White Walkers, she could grant Gendry rule over his traditional family seat in exchange for renouncing his claim. Everyone lives happily ever after.
That’d be a tidy conclusion, but reading that back—particularly the parts about “everyone lives” and “happily ever after”—we have to acknowledge that this isn’t going to end without some bloodshed. More likely, Gendry, after cheating execution twice, then surviving the open sea and the Dirty Frozen’s expedition from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, will die heroically and cough out some platitude about Jon being the rightful king, which Jon will forget about 10 minutes after wiping his own tears, and flecks of Gendry’s blood, off his face. Let’s be real: When you play the Game of Thrones, you’re probably going to die.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.