Those of us who read the Game of Thrones books used to be treated like kings. We could come down from the mountaintop, proudly proclaiming our predictions for the upcoming season, confident that the show would usually follow George R.R. Martin’s outline. No more: We’re a long way past the events of A Dance With Dragons now, and only showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know where we go from here. (Those of you who keep up with the internet leaks may also have a good idea, though you’ll hear nothing more about them here.) Still, book-savvy fans have high hopes for scenes and plots they want to see in the HBO epic’s final two seasons. If anything, the lack of concrete knowledge has only made the anticipation even more intense. Here are some of the most popular fan-favorite story lines, ranked by likelihood that they’ll sneak into Game of Thrones.
Three or four years ago, fans still held out hope that Game of Thrones might somehow find room for the zombified and vengeful version of Catelyn Stark that popped up in the Storm of Swords epilogue. But with each passing year, those hopes have steadily dwindled. Now, with the season-six finale giving Walder Frey his Red Wedding comeuppance, and with Jaime and Brienne’s story lines diverging, seemingly for good, it’s almost certain that Lady Stoneheart will remain in book-only purgatory alongside Young Griff, Jon Connington, Quentyn, and Arianne Martell. Rest in peace, all of you.
As likely as: The sun rising in the west and setting in the east.
You remember Cleganebowl, don’t you? It’s the bout that puts the hype in hypothetical: a mano a mano grudge match between noble cynic Sandor Clegane and the reanimated husk of his older brother Gregor, which has yet to appear in either the books or the show. That hasn’t stopped legions of fans from fervently hoping that the pair will square off in Cersei’s trial by combat in The Winds of Winter, hopes that were thought to be squashed in the show once Sandor headed north, the opposite direction of his brainless brother, shortly after his reappearance in season six. But the dream was bolstered once more by a split-second shot in the second season-seven trailer, which showed someone who could be Sandor raising a sword in what could be the Kings Landing arena. Everyone who wanted to put Cersei on trial got blown up at the end of season six (and all the promo shots of Sandor show him in the North), so Cleganebowl’s appearance is far from confirmed, but fans have taken the opportunity to get hyped regardless.
As likely as: Your friend making it through a GOT episode without asking a character’s name.
The Eldritch Apocalypse
Credit Tumblr blogger (and occasional Vulture contributor) Poor Quentyn for this theory, which posits that Euron Greyjoy is not just a rascally pirate with an eye patch, but is instead a dark mage pretending to be a rascally pirate in order to amass enough power to bring about the end of the world, possibly partnering with the White Walkers to do so. A preview chapter from Winds of Winter confirmed the broad strokes of this theory, as far as the books go: In that chapter, Euron is preparing for a pivotal naval battle, during which he seems likely to sacrifice both sides in a massive blood offering. (Whenever you hear about black magic, massive blood offerings are never far behind.) Trailers for season seven do show Euron in a naval fight against Yara and Theon, but given how little character development Euron has received so far, it seems likely that whatever he does in the show will stray pretty far afield from George R.R. Martin’s outline.
As likely as: A Game of Thrones actor offering substantial information about the upcoming season in an interview.
Season six confirmed the theory my colleague Sean T. Collins once called a “gateway drug for new readers into the theory-mongering mind-set,” giving us ironclad proof that Jon Snow was indeed the secret son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Good on all of us for guessing correctly! So, what now? Well, for one, Jon needs to be informed of his parentage, something he’s in the dark about in both book and show. It seems reasonable to assume he’ll find out sometime in season seven, and easy money’s on Bran breaking the news, but how Jon will react is anyone’s guess. Luckily, he’s no longer the only Targaryen in Westeros, as Aunt Dany is poised to finally hit the shores of Dragonstone this year. Add in the fact that Targaryens have traditionally practiced incest, and their little family reunion could turn out any number of ways.
As likely as: A Lannister paying his debts.
The Three Heads of the Dragon
Legends of the Long Night — the first time the White Walkers came down and killed every living thing in their path — say that the army of the undead was only stopped through the efforts of a single hero, who sacrificed his beloved wife in order to forge a magic sword and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, after him there were no more White Walkers for a long time. There have been various prophecies about this hero coming back: Some call him Azor Ahai, some call him the Prince That Was Promised, and the show calls him the Lord’s Chosen, but everyone generally agrees that they’re all talking about the same guy. Some prophecies also suggest various conditions that must be fulfilled for him to come back. (Remember Renly Baratheon’s joke about ham? That was a joke about the prophecy.) Other characters say that there might not be one single hero after all: “The dragon must have three heads.” Add it all up, and some fans have come to the conclusion that Dany, Jon, and Tyrion are the heroes Westeros has been waiting for (though a healthy minority swap Tyrion out for Bran). Tyrion is already joined up with Dany in the show, and given the family connection, you can probably anticipate Jon joining the Daenerys Targaryen Trio sometime this season, too.
Would you look at that, Team Dany just happens to have two spare dragons flying around who I’m sure are just dying to have someone climb on their backs! Will this trio of misfit orphans end the season with a three-way dragon ride, or is that the kind of thing we’ve got to wait for the final season to see? We’ll find out in a few short weeks.
As likely as: Winter coming.