WINTER IS COMING
‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8: Everything You Need to Know Before the Final Season
Get ready for the final season of HBO’s epic with this handy catch-up guide.
Keeping track of what’s going on in Game of Thrones is enough to turn a normal person into Charlie from It’s Always Sunny, cracked-out insane in front of a conspiracy board. Which is why we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to literally everything a fan should remember heading into the final six episodes of the series: where each character currently stands on the board, the most relevant theories, prophecies, and in-show foreshadowing of what’s coming next, and every loose plot thread Game of Thrones is either saving for a dramatic last-minute resolution or just kind of... forgot about. Cleganebowl! Baby Snowgaryen! Where art thou, Quaithe? Let’s dive in.
Where We Left Off With…
The light of my life, Cersei Lannister, has just lost the only person in the world she trusts: her twin and lover, Jaime Lannister. Her brother snaps after she calls him the stupidest Lannister for believing she’d really lend her armies to the effort up north to defeat the Night King—you know, like she said she would in the Dragonpit. Cersei’s latest plan essentially involves sitting back while the Night King decimates Team Snowgaryen, then moving in to wipe out whoever is left with her own armies. This is obviously a terrible plan, but not a surprising one for Cersei. “The lion does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep” is what she told Jaime earlier when she revealed that she is pregnant with their fourth child—a development she intentionally let Tyrion deduce so that he’d believe her when she said she’d help save the world.
While Jaime rides north alone, Cersei does still have the support of a few key allies: the Iron Bank, delighted that Cersei has finally paid back the Lannisters’ sizable wartime debts (with money stolen from Highgarden after Olenna’s death), has agreed to issue her new loans to finance a contract with the most elite mercenary army in the world, the Golden Company. Euron Greyjoy also still hopes to marry Cersei after the war is won and crown himself king, so his fleet is currently on its way to Essos to ferry the Golden Company back to Westeros. (He lied earlier at the Dragonpit and told Cersei’s enemies that he’d be retreating back to the Iron Islands.) The Mountain and Qyburn are also still firmly Team Cersei, of course, while Bronn is nominally so, for now—he just wants a castle.
After she saved his life north of the Wall, Jon Snow bent the knee to his new queen, his “Dany,” and embarked on his inaugural roll in the hay with her. The two prettiest people in Westeros’ strangely sterile sex scene are complicated by a voiceover from the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran Stark, who with the help of texts that Citadel dropout Samwell Tarly brings from Oldtown, pieces together the real story of Jon’s lineage: his mother was Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister, and his father was Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother, who annulled his previous marriage to Elia Martell before tying the knot with Lyanna. That last tidbit means Jon was not born out of wedlock, which makes him Rhaegar’s only living heir and the person with the strongest claim to the Iron Throne. The bad news: he just had sex with his aunt.
Someone—I’m hoping Bran, who has the bedside manner of a pine cone these days—will have to break the news to Jon, who is currently traveling back to Winterfell with Davos Seaworth and Team Dany. Meanwhile, back home, Sansa and Arya Stark have buried their plot-contrived hatchet and finally murdered Littlefinger—hooray! Sansa will inevitably hate that Jon swore the North’s allegiance to Dany without even sending her a raven first—booo! Expect lots of pointless squabbling.
Gendry and The Hound are also on their way to Winterfell right now, so also expect two dynamic reunions with Arya. (She’ll be happy to see Gendry, but she thought she left the The Hound for dead—the only reason he’s not on her kill list any longer.) Meanwhile, wildling Tormund Giantsbane and flaming sword aficionado Beric Dondarrion, on his last life now that Thoros of Myr is dead, were manning the castle at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea when the Wall came crashing down, but both are safe and will appear in Season 8. Brienne of Tarth was last seen with the rest of Team Jon at the Dragonpit—her words to Jaime, “fuck loyalty,” seem to have weighed heavily on his decision to leave Cersei behind—but is on the way back to Winterfell now with her squire Podrick Payne in tow.
Daenerys Stormborn suffered a catastrophic loss last season when the Night King killed one of her “children,” Viserion, turned the poor dragon into a blue-eyed, fire-breathing zombie monster, and used it to tear down the Wall. Jon’s guilt over the loss helps bring the two together, though, into a coupling that seems to make everyone around them miserable. Jorah Mormont, now cured of greyscale, feebly suggests to Dany that she ride to Winterfell safely on the back of a dragon, while Jon proposes she ride in with his forces on foot, to better appear like an ally of the North. She sides with Jon and the two are soon doin’ the no pants dance on a boat.
Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister haaates this. Why wouldn’t he? His queen already made one costly mistake because of Jon, and can’t afford to be blinded by love in the middle of the apocalypse. But Tyrion’s expression as he watches Jon walk into Dany’s bedroom suggests something else, too. Is it romantic jealousy? The director of this scene once told me it wasn’t so, but there are more than enough hints planted throughout the series to support it should Season 8 go the love triangle route. (It will.)
In less fraught quarters, beacons of light and goodness Grey Worm and Missandei are now enjoying lovely, incest-less sex. The rest of the Unsullied, along with Dany’s Dothraki horde, will presumably head north to throw down at the Battle of Winterfell. Theon Greyjoy meanwhile is sailing south from Dragonstone to King’s Landing to rescue his sister, Yara, who was captured by Euron in the ambush that cost the Sand Snakes their lives. Ellaria Sand, sadly, is still in the dungeons of King’s Landing, watching her daughter succumb to Cersei’s poison.
The Wild Cards:
There are two major characters whose role in the endgame is still surprisingly murky. The former Master of Whispers, Varys, is sailing to White Harbor with the rest of Team Dany, but it’s anyone’s guess how his story will end. Melisandre, another wild card, tells him shortly before she leaves Dragonstone for Volantis that she is destined to die in “this strange country” of Westeros, just like he is. If she’s right, the question is how.
We’ve heard over the years of how Varys’s hatred of magic stems from being sold to a sorcerer who castrated him and tossed his boy bits into a fire. Varys says he then heard a voice answer the sorcerer’s call, and that the voice still haunts him. We still have no idea what the voice said, or who it came from: “Was it a god? A demon? A conjurer’s trick? I don’t know,” he told Tyrion in Season 3. It came up again in Season 6 when another red priestess named Kinvara taunted Varys, claiming she knows what the voice said. Does that mean all red priestesses including Melisandre know? Is that how she knows how both she and Varys will die?
Whatever the voice was, it and Varys’ loathing of the supernatural seem likely to influence the events of what looks to be a magic-heavy Season 8. Melisandre’s mission to Volantis will probably bring her back into the fold with other R’hllor-worshipping red priests and priestesses, since that city is where the Temple of the Lord of Light is. We know many of them support Daenerys’ claim to the throne; Kinvara told Tyrion she would enlist others to spread the gospel of Dany as the messianic savior Azor Ahai around Essos. So basically, the time for that plot thread to pay off is right about now. Bet on Melisandre rolling up back to Westeros with a cohort of priestesses to help fend off the Night King.
Theories, Foreshadowing, and What Might Happen Next...
Azor Ahai, the Prince Who Was Promised
Speaking of Azor Ahai… A number of prophecies are poised to either be proven or disproven in these final six episodes, but the one that matters most is about the Prince Who Was Promised. In a nutshell, this is the person who ended the first Long Night, and whom Lord of Light worshippers believe will be reborn to save the world again. He (or she—as Missandei helpfully points out, the word for “prince” in old Valyrian is not gendered) is often believed to be the same person as Azor Ahai.
This figure will reappear “when the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers,” will be born “amid smoke and salt,” and will “wake dragons out of stone,” and will require a great sacrifice to reforge the flaming sword Lightbringer that helped save the world from darkness. (The first dude did it by plunging it into the heart of his wife, Nissa Nissa.) There’s a part of this prophecy only mentioned in the books which also says the hero will be directly descended from the Mad King, Aerys II, aka Dany’s dad.
Jon and Daenerys are thought to be the most likely candidates, though in some crackpot corners Tyrion is a dark horse contender, too. (This requires taking Tywin’s last words to Tyrion, “You’re no son of mine,” pretty literally.) Whoever it turns out to be, it might mean someone’s gotta get shanked for the chosen one to save the day.
What Maggy the Witch’s prophecy means for Cersei’s new pregnancy
Remember when baby Cersei dragged a friend to see a witch in the middle of a swamp in that weird flashback that kicked off Season 5? That’s going to be important now. Maggy the Witch nailed everything about preteen Cersei’s soon-to-be miserable life: “You will never wed the Prince, you will wed the King…You’ll be Queen, for a time. Then comes another—younger, more beautiful—to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” Cersei never married her betrothed, Prince Rhaegar, and ended up with Robert instead. As for the queen who usurps her, Cersei seemed to think Margaery fit the bill, though it might actually describe Daenerys. Maggy also prophesied that Cersei would only have three children, none fathered by Robert, all of whom would die: “The king will have 20 children and you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.”
In Season 7, however, Cersei reveals to Jaime that she is pregnant with their fourth child, which either throws a wrench in Maggy’s crystal ball or spells potential doom for the queen. The only way the prophecy stays in tact after Cersei’s happy news is if she doesn’t live to deliver the child, or if the child doesn’t live to be born—sad news all around. (Alternately, she could be lying about the pregnancy, but I doubt it.)
If she does have the baby, though, is that proof that Maggy’s prophecy is false? And if it is, does that mean that another significant line, omitted in the show but well-known from the books, is also baloney? Maggy foretells that Cersei’s death will come at the hands of a “valonqar”—a little brother, whom Cersei assumes refers to Tyrion, but who could very well be Jaime or, hell, Theon, who’s on his way to free Yara now. Either way, the chances of Cersei making it out of Season 8 alive are slim; Maggy may have known it all along.
Is Daenerys going to get pregnant?
Baby fever broke out at the end of last season, with everyone from Tormund to Tyrion to Jorah wishing for or referencing children and heirs. (Plus Cersei.) It all got real conspicuous with Dany, though, with virtually everyone in her orbit dropping veiled hints about a potential baby with Jon.
Tyrion stresses to Dany the importance of choosing a successor to cement her legacy after she’s gone. Jorah refuses Jon’s offer to return Longclaw to House Mormont with a knowing look and the words, “May it serve you well. And your children after you.” Dany herself mentions to Jon that she can’t bear children because of the curse a vengeful Lhazareen godswife named Mirri Maz Duur cast on her back in Season 1—but Jon doesn’t seem to buy it. “Your family hasn’t seen its end,” he predicts.
He’s probably onto something. In the show, Mirri never explicitly says that Dany is now infertile, though the Khaleesi certainly believes she is. When Dany asks Mirri, who used blood magic to “save” a mortally injured Khal Drogo, when her husband will be as he was, part of Mirri’s answer in the books reads, “When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.” But that line is omitted from the show. The godswife also claims that Dany’s only baby, the one fathered by Khal Drogo, was born a monster as a result of her curse, though again, we’ve never seen proof. Dany takes Mirri at her word, but prophecies are hardly guarantees on Game of Thrones. A baby Snowgaryen may still be in the cards—a twist that I’m sure won’t end in tragedy at all.
Cleganebowl is finally happening, right? Right?!
Last season, The Hound issued a rain check for Cleganebowl by marching right across to his undead older brother at the Dragonpit and promising, “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” A death match between Sandor Clegane and Gregor aka “The Mountain,” the older brother who scarred him for life, has been on fans’ wish lists for years. This time, it has to happen. His redemption arc since Arya left him for dead would find a naturally cathartic conclusion in taking down his tormentor. He’d need to survive both the Battle of Winterfell and Arya’s grumpy reaction to finding out he’s still alive to make it happen, but have faith. And get hype.
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