In seven 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
If only she had been born in a different time and dimension, Cersei Lannister, with her quick wit and her bottomless capacity for self-absorption, could have been such a top-notch mommy blogger.
Picture it now: Cersei fighting in the comments with a user named MaggyThePepe420 over some sort of cryptic subtweet. Cersei processing grief by posting Shel Silverstein poetry and Valar Morghulis memes. Cersei livestreaming a gender-reveal party where pink-or-blue-tinted Wildfire™ pyrotechnics get carried away, killing dozens as she looks on serenely (#spon #ad #shorthairdontcare). Cersei generating a firestorm of online controversy thanks to a much-buzzed-about scene from the Season 8 Game of Thrones trailer that shows her sippin’ on vino and thus maybe not actually being pregnant, as she told her brothers she was at the end of last season. Cersei just happening to write a post absolutely raving about a book she recently picked up called Expecting Better by the economist Emily Oster that, among other topics, makes an empirical case that the dangers of drinking alcohol every so often during pregnancy tend to be overstated. Cersei typing “You can’t spell Westeros without Oster!” beneath an artful photo of the book opened to an aggressively highlighted page and positioned on a marble countertop next to a carafe of red wine. “A fascinating and informative read for all you wine moms on both sides of the Narrow Sea.” Cersei’s blog would be named The Lioness, and it would have incredible content.
We caught a glimpse of Cersei’s potential editorial voice back in Season 2, when she reminisced to Sansa about the agony of bringing bad seed Joffrey into the world. Her speech sounded a little bit like someone reading their wry, harrowing birth story blog post aloud and was prompted by poor, terrified Sansa—while being essentially held hostage by her father’s killers, who are also her betrothed and presumptive future in-laws—waking up to find she had gotten her first blood-soaked visit from Aunt Flo (or, in GoT parlance, that she had “flowered”).
Sansa: I thought it would be less ... less messy.
Cersei: Wait until you birth a child. […] Joffrey’s always been difficult. Even his birth. I labored a day and a half to bring him into this world. You cannot imagine the pain. I screamed so loudly I was sure Robert would hear me in the Kingswood.
Sansa: His Grace was not with you?
Cersei: Robert was hunting. That was his custom. Whenever my time was near my royal husband would flee to the trees with his huntsmen and his hounds. And when he returned he would present me with some pelts or a stag’s head, and I would present him with a baby. Not that I wanted him there, mind you. I had Grand Maester Pycelle, an army of midwives, and I had my brother. When they told Jaime he wasn’t allowed in the birthing room he smiled and asked which one of them proposed to keep him out. Joffrey will show you no such devotion.
Tough but fair! In the book A Clash of Kings, Cersei says something more. “A woman’s life is nine parts mess to one part magic,” she tells Sansa. “You’ll learn that soon enough … and the parts that look like magic often turn out to be messiest of all.” This would be killer social media copy for The Lioness, and it’s also a great description of Cersei’s current condition: seeing evidence of flying dragons and homicidal wights; juggling the alliances of her brothers and the marriage proposal of Euron Greyjoy; and pregnant on the brink of what could be an apocalyptic war.
Cersei’s pregnancy is the ultimate loose end: It’s a thread capable of tying everything neatly together but also of unraveling the whole sweater. There are three main questions for the show to explore, answer, or illuminate, and all of them have far-reaching ramifications. (1) Can Cersei be pregnant? (2) Is she? (3) And if so, who’s the dad?
Why This Loose End Matters
Cersei has a perplexing natal history beyond her three late kids. In the second episode of the whole series, she tells Catelyn Stark that she and King Robert Baratheon did once have a “little black-haired beauty”—the seed is strong!!!—but that he died of a fever in infancy. This doesn’t happen in the book, where she says, “My brother found a woman to cleanse me,” the one time she got knocked up by her husband, and that Robert “never knew.” So why change it for just some offhand reference in the show? (Gendry birther hive, assemble!!!) And if she did have that baby, why wouldn’t Maggy the Frog know about it? Producer Bryan Cogman posited that Maggy didn’t mention it because the baby was kept hidden, but … that makes no sense, both from an omniscience perspective and because, hello, it would have been a Royal damn Baby. (Idea for a spinoff: one-season series chronicling the life and times of whoever is the Westeros version of Janice Min.)
So maybe Cersei isn’t pregnant but genuinely thinks she is: She’s no spring chicken anymore, particularly when measured in old-timey years, and the onset of menopause can sometimes mirror pregnancy symptoms. (George R.R. Martin is said to have based much of the broad strokes of the series on the real-life War of the Roses, and it’s worth noting that the monarch who came to be known as Bloody Mary wrongly believed herself to be pregnant for months.) In Season 3, Lady Olenna remarks to Tywin Lannister that his daughter is getting up there in years and that “her change will be upon her before long.” This explanation might be the best one, if only because it will give us greater insight into the accuracy of Qyburn’s diagnostic capabilities and unleash a fresh wave of internet randos eager to weigh in with their expertise on women’s health:
Of course, it’s extremely possible that Cersei, a noted liar, was dishonest and manipulative when she initially told her brothers that she is expecting and seeks to use the specter of an heir as a shield from her brothers and/or Euron during a chaotic time of major conflict. Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, after all, said that Cersei would have three children with golden crowns and golden shrouds, and that’s already done and (dust-to-)dusted, which could mean she’s now barren. But in Game of Thrones, prophecies aren’t always gospel, or at least they don’t always mean what we think. When Daenerys lost a child after being once told she would give birth to the “stallion who mounts the world,” it felt like a refutation of fate, but maybe she just had the wrong horse: Jon Snow’s ass is definitely a member of the equine family too.
How Season 8 Could Address It
Let’s say the red wine in the trailer isn’t a red herring and that Cersei’s boozing really is a sign that she’s no longer expecting. In that case, it’s easy to imagine a quasi-“Lightning Crashes” scenario in which the ostensible end of Cersei’s doomed pregnancy is interspersed with glimpses of, oh, how about Dany learning that she is, improbably, with (human) child. If one subscribes to the sensible theory that the bulk of the recent trailer comprises scenes from the first half of Season 8, there’s a case to be made that Cersei’s bad news could be used as a bitter-cold open to Game of Thrones’ final season. If Cersei has not already become the “Mad Queen”—I would absolutely read that blog, too, if she chooses to rebrand her online presence to the unhinged reply-guy type—a failed pregnancy sure could be what does it. In her Season 7 conversations with Jaime and Tyrion, Cersei describes the prospect of progeny as one of her main motivations to fight. In the books, there are hints that Cersei might suffer a miscarriage: her clothes get tighter, and one morning she is served breakfast, cracks a boiled egg, finds “a bloody half-formed chick inside,” and loses her appetite. “Take this away and bring me hot spiced wine,” she demands.
Or Cersei could just be one of those pregnant ladies who loves to tell everyone that red wine is good for the baby’s immune system, or something. In that case: Is it really Jaime’s kid, as Cersei tells him? If so, will Jaime, having headed off to battle toward Winterfell, make tactical wartime blunders, distracted by thoughts of what could be a future heir? Would the baby’s name be, like, Tyson Waters, or would Cersei, who in Season 7 stopped hiding her relations with Jaime, call him Lannister? In the Game of Thrones universe, there is a long history of women dying in childbirth. The Targaryens famously had troubled pregnancies stemming from their predilection for inbreeding. Cersei has spent her life resenting and blaming Tyrion for killing their mother upon his arrival to the world. Could all of this suggest that she might herself perish that same way? Part of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy from the books, though not (yet?) present in the series, was the idea that Cersei’s death will come at the hands of a valonqar, a High Valyrian word which translates, roughly, to “little brother.” And this baby would technically be a valonqar, after all.
But then there’s also Euron, that leather-jacket-wearin’, Pacey-lookin’ schemer who ought to be back any day now bearing tens of thousands of mercenaries for Cersei as per her request. The alliance between the murderous Queen of Westeros and the also murderous seafaring King of the Iron Islands seems to be purely strategic, but who knows: Maybe there was an offscreen nooner in the midst of all those business meetings about subterfuge and the undead and doing crimes, etc.? (He did ask Jaime for a lil’ advice.) We know that in the past, Jaime has insisted on being there for the birth; what if he does so again and witnesses the delivery of, say, a non-blonde? A portion of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy—the portion that was left out of the show—is: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Tears are salt water, the domain of the maritime Greyjoys, and Jaime Lannister is the jealous type. Check and check.
Final note: Don’t sleep on the mad scientist Qyburn being somehow involved in all of this; there have been a few hints that he and Cersei have been using her body as his lab. Twice now, with Jaime in the room, Cersei has had shady sidebar conversations with Qyburn referencing mysterious “symptoms.” So maybe she’s gestating Westeros’s first test tube and/or monster baby, that one part magic to those nine parts mess.
Cersei has always been a character caught between free will and fate, a woman so fearful of the grim future once foretold to her that she has spent a lifetime both running from and fulfilling it. And even when her behavior is at its most erratic, it still has a devastating through line. “Love no one but your children,” Cersei tells Sansa in Season 2. “On that front, a mother has no choice.” Save the lecture for the blog, Your Grace.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.