A chapter in TV history is coming to a close as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” airs its final episode on Sunday at 9 p.m., with only a few major players still in the running for the Iron Throne.
Since the series is notoriously unpredictable, we turned to our readers for help envisioning how it might end. We received more than 160 responses to an unscientific survey of questions — and while some of them were pretty hilarious (Larry Bird, ruler of Westeros?), others were thoughtful and intriguing, and opinions on how this season turned out were more divided than we expected.
Diving right in, here’s a look at who could win the throne, who could die (and how), and what people are saying about Season 8.
Daenerys takes the throne
After Arya’s quiet moment with the symbolic white horse at the end of Episode 5, it seems pretty likely that one or more main characters will meet their end in the last episode.
But there’s always the possibility that the “bittersweet” ending George R. R. Martin has teased was actually Dany’s character turn last Sunday, and that someone the audience cheered on for years now has the throne — but turned out to be unable to control her sadistic tendencies.
However, few Globe readers surveyed believe that Daenerys would end up on the throne. Plus, there was that vision she had in Season 2 where she came close to the throne, but never ended up touching it. Could that be a harbinger of what’s to come?
Dany meets her end
So let’s say Dany can’t redeem herself, and she ends up perishing in the final episode. This author thinks that Jon will end up literally stabbing her in the back — after all, it would be a poetic recreation of Jaime Lannister’s slaying of the Mad King.
However, there are many theories floating around as to how Dany could meet her demise: Maybe Arya, out for blood, kills her? (One Globe reader guesses that Arya will kill Grey Worm first so she can use his face to get close to Dany before slaying the dragon queen.) Maybe there will be an epic battle between Dany’s armies and the northern soldiers, who remain loyal to Jon and the Starks? Maybe even Tyrion — who murdered his own father with a crossbow — will kill one more time?
And if Dany does indeed perish, what happens to Drogon? Will he go down with his mother? Or will he soar away to live out his days terrorizing some other land?
Jon Snow takes the throne
Given Dany’s sudden decision to annihilate a city that had already surrendered, she can’t be seen as the “good guy” anymore — instead, that designation has been given to Jon Snow (ne: Aegon Targaryen), who has been steadfast, moral, and a reluctant leader of Castle Black and Winterfell.
There are many boxes that Jon would check: Raised by the honorable Ned Stark, he would be a just and noble ruler; he’s shown compassion and almost always seems to fall on the morally right side of things. Under Jon, the more peaceful reign that Dany once envisioned could actually come to pass. Plus, he doesn’t actually want the throne — meaning he hasn’t been corrupted trying to jockey for it — and he has earned the love of the Northerners.
There’s one other clue that could ultimately point to Jon taking the throne. In an interview with Anderson Cooper for “60 Minutes,” Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, said the ending “really makes you question yourself,” adding, “and not in any sort of snarky way — in a beautiful way.” Could he mean that we question Dany’s motivations all along — but end with the most deserving person on the throne?
Jon Snow meets his end
OK, hold the groans: Yes, viewers have been trained this season to root for Jon over Dany. But as Ramsay Bolton once said: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” Could we be getting a “Red Wedding”-esque ending to the whole series?
It could happen: In the “60 Minutes” interview, John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly, hinted that fans might not be thrilled with the ending: “We’ve never given people what they think they want because we know that people really like to be challenged and they don’t like to be spoon fed.”
It wouldn’t be a much-loved ending, but it would be visceral, and one that everyone would talk about for years to come. (As long as he isn’t resurrected again, that is.)
Jon and Dany rule together
Even though Dany’s advisors noted a few episodes ago that Jon likely wouldn’t want to be romantically involved with his aunt — and he indeed showed hesitation when she went in for that kiss last week — there could always be the possibility that the two Targaryens reconcile and decide to co-rule as husband and wife. With Dany’s dragon and unshakeable ambition, and Jon’s unflappable morality and kindness, maybe the two could work together to oversee a harmonious reign. (Plus, just imagine how cute their kiddos would be.)
Sansa Stark takes the throne
The eldest Stark daughter was among the favorite choices: Nearly as many readers surveyed chose Sansa to take the throne as they did Jon.
She has a strong case: Sansa was taught political machinations under the watchful eye of Cersei Lannister and Littlefinger. She was horrifically abused by Ramsay Bolton and survived. She helped corral the North to her causes, and the people sworn to the Starks love her.
Her outfits of late — black, commanding ensembles with chains that have been similar in nature to Cersei’s queenly dresses — have also been underscoring her recent ascent as a military and political mind. Could the costume designers be preparing us for a Queen Sansa?
One Globe reader said they predicted it would be Sansa, “with Tyrion as her Hand and Arya as head of the Kingsguard (Queensguard?).”
“More Sansa. For real,” another reader said. “Sansa and Tyrion teaming up being awesome together would be great.”
Others say that Sansa could end up ruling Winterfell — or, if the North secedes, residing as the northern queen.
Could Arya Stark become queen?
At first blush, it seems unlikely — she told Gendry that she couldn’t marry him and move to Storms End because she isn’t a lady, and unfortunately, being ruler means being the courtier of all courtiers. Arya seems happier to be strapped with a sword than strapped into a dress.
However, Arya has learned a lot growing up on the road, and could use some of that intel to make wise decisions as a ruler. Maybe she and the wide-eyed Gendry Baratheon — a former king’s son himself — will end up ruling together?
Tyrion Lannister — dragon meat, king, or Hand?
The wise and strategic Tyrion has proven a bit disappointing this season, giving Dany advice that time and time again turns out to be detrimental to her quest.
After betraying his queen last week by freeing his brother Jaime, he could very well become Drogon meat à la his friend, Varys, in Episode 5.
However, if Tyrion ends up surviving, it doesn’t seem very likely that he will end up on the throne solo. But many are speculating that he may end up marrying Sansa, and ruling whatever lands she ends up presiding over. Or, he could become the Hand of the King (or Queen) to either Jon or Sansa.
What will happen to Bran Stark?
Bran is a tricky character to predict. He’s had some of the eeriest lines and deliveries this season, and seems to not care about anything other than the history that’s now stored inside his noggin.
But many fans have had pet theories about Bran sitting on the Iron Throne since he now has access to all of history in his memory (even though Bran told Tyrion recently that he doesn’t want much of anything anymore).
“Bran will ‘rule’ as an all-knowing philosopher ‘king,’” one reader wrote in our survey.
In fact, on Tuesday, Odds Shark tweeted that Bran was actually the statistical favorite to take the throne.
BREAKING:— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) May 14, 2019
Bran Stark is now the -500 favorite (83.33% implied probability) to rule Westeros at the end of #GameofThrones
Jon (Aegon) +800
Jon & Daenerys' baby +3300
Samwell +5000 pic.twitter.com/uGrux08BDs
What happens to Bronn?
Poor, poor Bronn. He keeps getting promised a castle by the Lannisters, but has yet to see any of it come to fruition. With Jaime and Cersei now out of the picture, he still has Tyrion to grant him Highgarden (which he received in exchange for not killing the Lannister brothers).
But what happens if Tyrion is torched by Drogon for betraying his queen? Who will recognize Bronn’s claim then? One editor here at the Globe had a (somewhat far-fetched) idea: That Bronn, fed up with the Lannisters, ends up killing whoever’s left and ascending the throne himself.
Turns out, that editor isn’t the only one thinking about dear old Bronn. In our survey of Globe readers, several brought up the mercenary solider; when asked, “What’s the one scene you’ve been waiting for before the series ends?” one reader replied: “Bronn to explain who he really is. God of Light? Another asked: “Will Bronn get High Garden now that Gendry got Storms End?”
It seems that only time will tell.
It’s a possibility: What if no one wins the game of thrones? And — it might be a bit of a stretch — but what happens if Westeros becomes a democracy? Or, more realistically, if the Seven Kingdoms split up into their own country-states, no longer bound by a government that has only brought death and destruction?
A handful of readers said they think no one will win the throne, with one suggesting Dany will fly back across the narrow sea to the lands where she is loved.
Globe writer Andy Rosen submitted an interesting theory: “All people will die, and the children of the forest will re-emerge.”
One summed it up quite succinctly: “Why is ending up on the Iron throne ‘winning’? What is the average life span of someone on the iron throne on this show? As soon as one is on the iron throne, others will begin plotting the next overthrow. This series really never ends. Spin offs will be easy in the right hands.”
What fans thought of this season
There has been no shortage of grumbling this season on a wide range of topics, from a too-dark battle scene to an apparent Starbucks coffee cup being left in a shot. Critics have been largely panning a wide swath of episodes, and a petition to remake the final season gained nearly 500,000 signature by Thursday afternoon.
But surprisingly, in the Globe survey, more people said that they loved the final season more than hated it. The majority — 51 percent as of late Thursday afternoon — thought it was just OK, and many others wrote in to voice their complaints on the season’s rushed pacing.
“OMG it’s fine. Quit asking,” one reader wrote.
“It could’ve been so much better — way too rushed, we went from a marathon to a 100 yard dash,” another said.
“I really enjoyed it. I think people are being foolish and petty because things didn’t go the way they wanted it to,” another wrote.
“Should have been 10-13 episodes,” another wrote.
“Disappointed by the rushed and messy plot,” another wrote.
“Almost all the major issues with it come down to the fact that this is all too rushed,” another wrote.
“Love it. It’s Shakespearian, not pop drama,” another wrote.
Love it or hate it, one thing is clear: The show has inspired a plethora of opinions, proving that a good amount of people will likely tune in to the upcoming prequel series to see what’s next on the docket for Westeros.