With Season 5 of the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, [Game of Thrones](movie:817617), nearly upon us, all we keep hearing from the cast and crew is that the end of the show (if not the books) is nigh, with as few as two more seasons potentially remaining.
But what should we expect when Winter finally arrives? Gather up your tarot deck and any other fortune telling faff you might have at hand, as we attempt to peer through the mists of time and try to determine the final fate of Westeros!
(And of course, let me just signpost a big, fat spoiler warning to those of you keen to avoid any information from the books or show up until this point, as well as any of the fan theories currently doing the rounds on the interwebs).
5. Jon Snow will turn out to be another Stark's bastard
This prediction has proliferated within the fan community to such an extent that it seems like everyone is taking it for granted, but it bares repeating for those who have somehow missed out: Jon Snow is almost certainly NOT Ned Stark's bastard son.
Interestingly, despite the mystery surrounding Jon's parentage (specifically, “Who did Ned shack up with?”) cropping up several times throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire books, the adaptation has pretty much let it fade into the background, so fans of the show can be forgiven for never giving the subject much thought.
But think about it: throughout Season 1, we are shown that Ned values his sense of honor above almost anything else – does this really sound like the type of man to have a mid-war fling when he has a wife waiting for him at home? It doesn't fit with his character, does it?
For further proof, consider how evasive Ned is when King Robert grills him on the identity of his baby mama; his reaction goes beyond mere discomfort and borders on hostile. Clearly, an inexperienced liar like Lord Stark does not want his story subjected to close scrutiny, for fear it won't hold up.
Ok, so if Jon isn't Ned's kid, then who exactly IS his father? Well, funnily enough, although his paternal heritage is definitely a big deal, the more important question is, “Who is Jon's mother?”
I mentioned earlier that Ned will almost always take what he considers the most honorable course of action. I say “almost” because as his insincere admission of guilt at the end of Season 1 shows, Ned is prepared to act dishonorably provided it will benefit the people he cares about (shame about how that turned out, by the way).
So imagine what he would do if he discovered that his kidnapped sister, Lyanna, had conceived an illegitimate child with her captor, Rhaegar Targaryen?
Considering the danger such a child would face from a vengeful King Robert (who would view the child as the product of rape, regardless of the circumstances of its conception) and the calculating House Lannister (who wouldn't be keen on a potential claimant to the throne they now had a stake in, through marriage), I'm reasonably confident that Ned would have been prepared to sully his reputation and lie to his loved ones in order to disguise Jon as a child of his own.
Fans of the books already know that Lyanna's last (conveniently enigmatic) words were “Promise me, Ned,” which many take as proof (alongside a fairly convincing body of circumstantial evidence littered through the novels) that she was Jon's mother, and that Lord Stark was respecting her dying wish to have Jon kept safe from harm.
Game of Thrones viewers weren't granted the same flashback to Lyanna's final moments, but if you're looking for evidence in support of this theory within the TV series itself, the farewell between Jon and Ned early in Season 1 has me sold.
Before Lord Stark and Lord Snow part ways forever (thanks to the former parting ways with his head later on), Ned tells Jon “You might not have my name, but you have my blood.” Note that he doesn't say, “But you are my son,” but rather makes it clear that Jon has Stark blood in his veins.
You could argue that it's a matter of semantics, but I think Ned was being very precise in his choice of words.
What's more, his promise to discuss Jon's mother with him in further detail at their next meeting suggests the need to elaborate further than, “Back in the war, I met this foxy wet nurse and the sparks really flew. Nine months later, BOOM! There you were,” which supports the idea that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Jon's origins.
Of course, if this prediction is true, and we find out in the end that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, that would also make Jon a Targaryen. I'll touch on this more later in the post, but doesn't it immediately make you wonder whether Daenerys might not end up the only character with dragons at her beck and call...
4. Don't expect all your questions to be answered
I think this bit of prophesy applies to the novels more so than to show, which tends to fill in the gaps on some of the more ambiguous elements of the original source material, but I'm still pretty convinced that we won't necessarily get all the answers we'd like after the credits roll on Game of Thrones for the last time.
As already covered above, I'm unshakable in my conviction that Jon's REAL parents will be revealed before the final curtain falls.
Furthermore, I'm positive major plot points like the story of Bran and the three-eyed raven will wrap up in satisfactory fashion (it had better be resolved sufficiently, as it's probably the storyline to suffer most in the translation from book to screen, and has really dragged as a result).
That said, I think fans expecting a definitive answer on less crucial things, like which of the gods is the “real” one, and exactly how the magic in this world works, will end up disappointed.
Martin has previously stated his distaste for real life religions claiming that their deity is the “true” one, and he seems happy to reflect that in his writing by presenting all the religions in Westeros and Essos as simultaneously plausible and discountable.
It's quite possible that all the religions are actually tapping into the same elemental force, and that whatever actual magic (as opposed to “miracles” that occur through coincidence or deception) that occurs as a result of invoking the name of one or more gods is a misunderstood offshoot of this primal power, but don't expect that explanation (or any other, for that matter) to be stated conclusively by the finale of the TV series.
3. Characters will continue to drop like flies
This is another bit of scrying that seems obvious, but even given the current ridiculously high death toll, I think we're all going to be surprised by just how many major characters won't survive the Game of Thrones series finale.
I'm really torn on whether or not I think Dany, Jon, Sansa, Bran or Arya will snuff it, but I think every other member of the lead cast is fair game, and in particular, I'm starting to worry that Tyrion has been marked for death.
Part of me thinks that a meaningful death (not necessarily a heroic one, but one with purpose) would be a logical and fitting end to the little guy's character arc over the series, and part of me also thinks that Tyrion has evaded the reaper one too many times (at least one serious brush with death per season), and will soon fall victim to the brutal logic of the world he inhabits.
There are other reasons I think Peter Dinklage should start sprucing up his CV (kidding of course; that guy is pretty much the “go to” little person in Hollywood these days), but the most important of these is that Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have openly admitted that they enjoy writing Tyrion, and what is the golden rule of writing? Kill your darlings.
Of course, there's also the matter of Martin's original outline for the A Song of Ice and Fire books (written when he intended the books to form a trilogy, rather than a septa..septo...when it was going to be seven books), in which Tyrion lived beyond the story's end.
While this means I could be wrong about the Imp's fate, the tale Martin originally planned to tell is so far considerably different to what saw print, so I'm not entirely convinced that this signals a reprieve for Tyrion.
I also think that fans of Game of Thrones should brace themselves for some symbolic deaths too, as characters lose their sense of identity and their original selves basically cease to exist.
This is most evident in the character of Arya, who is slowly but surely becoming more and more dehumanized with each passing episode (and will continue to do so, if the books are any indication), to the point where I wonder whether the young woman present in the closing minutes of the last episode will bare any resemblance to the plucky young girl we met in the first.
2. All Houses will live by a new motto: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
Despite being ranked second only to the Terracotta Warriors in the list of slowest moving armies in history, evil snow-zombies the White Walkers do seem destined to one day invade Westeros.
At this stage, it seems like wiping out the Seven Kingdoms won't prove too much of a hassle, with the Night's Watch seriously low on numbers, and all the Houses too busy fighting each other to mount much of a resistance.
But for all that, I'm dead certain that at least one part of Martin's initial plan for the series will come true, and everyone still left standing when the White Walkers finally come knocking at the end of Game of Thrones will unite together against this common threat.
I'm also guessing that Dany will pilot one of her dragons into battle, with Jon in the saddle of another, and the third and final dragon being allocated to a yet another as-yet-unseen member of House Targaryen (fans of the books will be aware of one character who could fit the bill, but I'm not convinced this contender is legit).
It's also noting that in the series so far, we've been introduced to dragon glass, which can kill White Walkers, and seen the effect fire can have on wights (undead humans possessed by the Walkers), so I think there's at least some evidence to suggest foreshadowing the part Dany and her dragons will play in the fight to come.
If the idea of a climactic battle between the forces of good against the armies of evil seems a bit too high fantasy and simplistic for the world of either A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones, don't be so sure that a writer of Martin's talent couldn't add complexity to this fairly tired storytelling convention.
After all, the peoples of Westeros might form an alliance against the White Walkers, but there's nothing to suggest that all parties involved will get along, nor that this fellowship will continue once the last White Walker has been reduced to a puddle.
It seems to me like both the novels and the show will take inspiration from the many examples in history where nations will cease squabbling amongst themselves only long enough to deal with a global threat or emergency that cannot be ignored, before returning back to the same old song and dance the moment the immediate danger has passed.
1. Say goodbye to the Iron Throne
My final prediction for Game of Thrones might come as a surprise to some of you, but despite the show ostensibly revolving around the Iron Throne, I don't think it will still be around once the series wraps up.
At the very least, we can infer from the visions experienced by Dany and Bran of a ruined and snow-filled Red Keep that the future of King's Landing isn't looking bright, but I'd argue it goes deeper than that.
Over the course of the last four seasons, we've seen the world of men like King Robert, Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister slowly eroding away; indeed, the great Houses themselves are slowly being swept away, and there's a sense that the status quo of the old world is being carried away along with them.
If a key theme of A Song of Ice and Fire (and by extension, Game of Thrones) is power (both real and imagined), including the power to both destroy and create, then what better way to show this than to have the Iron Throne (as the chief symbol of power in the old world) destroyed by the next generation even as they use their own power to create a new world of their own?
So yes, in the end, I think we're going to see Westeros and its social order irrevocably changed, in the process becoming a place where something like the Iron Throne would be out of place. Maybe citizens of this world will end up with a democratic government at long last? Or am I being just a tad too hopeful?
Whatever the new world turns out to be, I feel like it will be portrayed in a way that gives us a satisfying ending, but one that is undoubtedly bittersweet, as I'm fairly sure that Martin doesn't believe in either the possibility of humanity achieving a true social utopia or in naïve happy endings devoid of consequence or uncertainty.
Even if the ending of Game of Thrones is ultimately surprisingly uplifting (especially for a story with so much heartbreak and cruelty), I wouldn't for a second count on it being totally blemish-free, so even if the Iron Throne does get left on the curb for collection, don't expect that to mean that the people of Westeros are automatically going to end up living happily ever after.