What do you think the reaction to Jon’s Targaryen news will be? “What’s more important,” Cersei asks Arya, “your vengeance or your country?”
While Arya ponders this, and perhaps ponders the meaning of everything in her life since the day the direwolves came home, we pull away through Cersei’s window, into the sky above King’s Landing, skyrocketing upwards until we can see all of Westeros spread out beneath us. What will feel appropriate in a six-episode season? My personal prediction is that the Great War will be an all-time TV smash-up, a Sapochnik-ian battle epic rife with main-character death and dragoncide. Now I’m starting to think the final season will go all Battlestar Galactica and involve some wonky philosophical material that ends in — eight-year-old spoiler alert! And now, I’m going to toss out an insane theory of my own: Cersei’s next move is to die — and then be raised from the dead by Qyburn. Does it even snow in Dorne? But what a joy, to see Sansa and Arya united, just like they were already united a few episodes ago before the raven-hacking scandal! The years flash by. I haven’t thought much about the Starks’ future, but I have high hopes that Sansa remains the Lady in Winterfell: Arya kerfuffle aside, I remain enamored with her journey these last couple of seasons, and the implication that she has learned harsh lessons from awful people and come out the other side a more clever kind of Stark, as noble as her father but a much more cunning politician. I buy that sibling drama even less than I bought this season’s Winterfell sibling drama. SHIRLEY: Darren, here’s where we stand. And in a shocking twist, Cersei is a popular Queen: A force of order in a land that’s fallen into constant chaos ever since the death of King Robert. But what do you think, Darren? In other words, I think what we lack is a proper wild card to raise the stakes further. March, elephants, march! We’ve heard this constantly: It’s a simple moral binary. The dead is the enemy, sure, but let’s not forget the living. Is that where we’re headed with the two of them, as the final season will have to reveal their familial connection? We know about the red priestesses’ Lord of Light, the Faceless Mens’ Many-Faced God, the Ironborn’s Drowned God, the North’s old god (will we ever see more Children of the Forest?), and pretty much everyone else’s Faith of the Seven, and I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of how closely religious themes in the books — oops, back to Book Stuff — has been tied to prophecies about our two leads. Once she has her sellswords and her elephants (can Euron even transport them?), what will she do? I’m glad you brought up Young Griff; that remains one of the plot points (aside from the Dornish conspiracy, and everything up north with Skagos and Wyman Manderly and, oof, I could go on) I wish the show had time to adapt. That sounds like an unfair assessment to make with a show that’s managed to deliver three dragon battles in one season, but I think I had expected this to be a far more complicated game than it’s turned out to be. How do you think the story proceeds up North next season, Shirley? (Queen Lannister = ExxonMobil!) But George R.R. Martin constructed his original story with the thrilling amorality of actual history. Young Griff scrambled the pieces on the board late in the game, because we had a whole new series of questions to contend with: Is he really the supposedly dead Aegon, whisked away by Varys to be bred into the perfect Westerosi king? And I’m almost tearful, imagining a fled-north Jaime guarding Bran in the tower where their problems began. I realize I didn’t even think about what’ll happen specifically with the Starks. A country at peace… but maybe not for long. DARREN: If we talk too much about Young Griff then I’ll wind up talking about my poor beloved Quentyn Martell, fortune’s fool, the pointless prince, a whole subplot about the dangers of believing that the world has room for destiny. (Book Stuff again, yikes.) Could the Great War end not in conflict but with another pact? Who knows! Hell, since Cersei is so un-nostalgic that she left Casterly Rock empty, maybe she’ll even flee to a more defensible position, as far as possible from the Great War up north. And consider this possibility: Someone could sum up the victory against the Army of the Dead with the phrase “Winter fell at Winterfell.” I’m thrill-drunk just imagining the scene where Arya and Jon go all Legolas-and-Gimli on the Winterfell battlements. Maybe in the show, that wild card will be the Golden Company, maybe it’ll be Melisandre and the red priestesses, or maybe D&D really is setting up Tyrion to be a final-act game-changer. Will we see Jon and/or Daenerys murder the other to light it, as the story goes? Three Eyed Ravens have no need for warmer climates. Another enemy is going up north and has one less dragon than she used to. SHIRLEY: I want Sapochnik, MacLaren, Bender, and Shakman (“The Spoils of War” is the best episode this season, don’t @ me) as directors. Next season, the remaining Starks will unite in Winterfell, and Jon’s Targaryen ancestry will come to light, and regular orange flame will mix with blue flame to create purple flame, maybe? RELATED: Game of Thrones star reveals what Cersei really thought of Daenerys
Plus, this gamble involves bringing in the Golden Company, a mercenary subculture that believes in kicking ass and conspicuous consumption. SHIRLEY: I think what I’m struggling with when it comes to imagining an ending for all this is that I always thought it would be… bigger. Two people separately told Bran this season that they have no idea what the Three-Eyed Raven is. Bring on the Golden Company! Out of the shadows steps Arya, planning to cross out that one final name from her list. — them beginning New Life, while one of the leads sacrifices him/her/itself by venturing into, I don’t know, the Land of Always Winter. I want six movies. My point is: I think Dany and Jon will care because the plot dictates it, and because there’s something bigger at work here. Bran, I imagine, will stay behind. My hot take on That Tyrion Shot Everyone’s Talking About is that it means “nothing.” But what do I know? DARREN: I am here for your wonky philoso-spiritual final act! Benioff & Weiss have always seemed hesitant, maybe understandably, to explore the supernatural stuff too deeply. Instead, I think we’re headed toward something surrounding faith. A series of extended battles, one after the next, between the Night King’s forces and those of Jon and Daenerys doesn’t sound like a very interesting way for this show to go out, does it? Will we see Jon and/or Daenerys wield a sword/arm/thingy of fire? With the Starks in full control but winter descending heavily onto the castle, should we be expecting them to move elsewhere next season? Isn’t it weird how the show suggested that, yep, there is a place in this world for attractive young lovers seeking righteous world-saving glory? Like the books, the show started off in a realm of near-realistic Medieval Fantasy. That’s a lot of time spent on a dead woman walking, and I can’t help but think that D&D have something larger in store for her next season. The Golden Company haven’t appeared on the show yet, but they have an intriguing role in A Dance With Dragons. Earlier this season, I thought we would transcend politics, and here we are, with Cersei intact! Consider this EW’s small council, made of two people far too obsessed with everything Thrones. And I know some people will say, “BUT THE NIGHT KING HAS AN UNDEAD DRAGON WHO COULD DESTROY KING’S LANDING TOMORROW!” Good news on that front: Qyburn’s got a ballista, and there’s a certain island full of dragonglass not far from King’s Landing that is about to be vacated. During the seventh season of Game of Thrones, EW’s Darren Franich and Shirley Li have ventured into the weeds of Westeros every week to untangle the latest burning questions, ruminate over theories, and trace the show’s remaining connections to the unfinished books. In that book, they become the official muscle for a potential Iron Throne-sitter in a precarious position. And what of Winterfell? I want an end to deus ex machinas. Enemies to the North, enemies to the South, but this time, it’s Jon and Dany caught in the middle, not Cersei herself. (The camera lingered on him and that wight arm a little too long, in my opinion.) She’ll be the undead wild card. Do you want six one-hour movies, Marshall/Sapochnik style? This season jumped all-the-way into the realm of magical monsters, but you’re right to point out how it also kept circling around the various deities worshipped by the characters. The fact that the Night King is commonly accepted as a climate-change metaphor seems to only deepen the sense of Cersei as a selfish evil. She’s got two enemies, essentially unstoppable. I’m sure Westeros has enjoyed all the attention lavished on it this year, but maybe we should start thinking about those players in Essos again. They’re alone in her room together, the Queen and her hopeful assassin. I love the idea that Tyrion actually learned some lessons from this season: That, if nothing else, it’s good to have a back-up plan. I want an episode told through flashbacks. The suggestion that the Night King is a Stark. I don’t think they’ll depart their ancestral home. I want a Brienne-centric hour. So tell me, Darren, am I going a little nuts and thinking too broadly now? I assume that’s some teasing confession from the showrunners; and hell, it’s not like I really get it, either. And what are your kookiest theories for these remaining episodes? If that’s the case, her next move will be to shore up her dominance of the South. Holy crap, Shirley, what if Cersei is becoming Young Griff??? Could a higher power get involved? And in that tradition, Cersei skipped the metaphors and did the math. I truly don’t know. We pick up with Cersei and little Tywin Lannister II in the Red Keep, some years later. March on Winterfell for, I don’t know, fun and extra resources? (They wouldn’t give Thoros of Myr a longer send-off than the one for Mr. Call her a cynic, call her a villain, but at least there’s still someone on this show with the foresight to worry about tomorrow’s war today. One enemy is way up north and has an army of zombies. Okay, so I’m not sure what I want, really. I love everything you’re saying about Tyrion and Cersei. Is THAT the New World that Dany will create after she breaks the wheel – not just a new set of Seven Kingdoms ruled by her benevolent hand, but a whole new Westeros, reshaped and terraformed by the clash of ice and fire? I’d love if the last sequence of episodes pushes further into the realm of Weird Fantasy. So the Great War is coming! Not that it wasn’t logical for her to turn her back on even the most; the move felt like peak paranoid Cersei, who’s always been more interested in keeping control of her power over working for the greater good. My boldest and possibly dumbest theory: After the Great War comes the cold war. But look, the first war in Westeros ended with a pact between the Children of the Forest and the First Men at God’s Eye. And if Daenerys begins making rash decisions because of her love for Jon, might Tyrion go for the lesser of two mad queens? Not to linger too long in Book Stuff Most Normals Don’t Worry About, but didn’t Jon Snow kind of BECOME Quentyn Martell this season, a far-traveling royal seeking alliance (and more!) with Queen Dany? In fact, this finale gave Cersei a far bigger spotlight than I expected it would: She got to be the star of the Dragonpit stage, the con artist in her confrontation with Tyrion, and then grit her teeth as she nearly had the Mountain take out Jaime. Tywin 2 runs outside to pull the wings off of butterflies. And I love the idea that Qyburn will study the wights and come up with his own death-defeating synth-zombie formula. A détente ensues. Does it bother you as much as it does me that we’re probably heading toward a tidier ending than the one set up in the books? Giantsbane, would they?) The Army of the Dead have Flappy Bird for a dragon and blue fire as their official interpretation of what a zombie dragon would breathe. And could Euron bring back more than what he set out to find? After all, we’ve discussed the significance of Azor Ahai before, but to what end? Whoever wins, Cersei loses in the long-term. If Daenerys falls, where would Tyrion go? At the very least, it’s a theory I like better than the one about Tyrion possibly being in love with Daenerys. We spent all season underestimating her longevity, but now she’s sent Euron off to bring her the Golden Company and she’s turned her back on both of her brothers. I know you’re not into the theory that Tyrion is working with Cersei now that she’s carrying a child, but I’m going to be watching him closely whenever the next season arrives. What do you think her next move is, Shirley? And worse: Bannerman will turn on each other, treaties only recently signed will be forgotten. I like your idea of Winterfell as the final location, and not just because I gasped at the phrase “Winter fell at Winterfell” — I’m equally impressed and infuriated, Darren! It does make the most sense that he’s simply wary of twue wuv entering the Jon-Dany alliance, but maybe the existential crisis they’ve all been in since seeing the wight has driven him to think several dark steps ahead. Are we trending toward a climax, or a purposeful anticlimax? — but also because the North has been established as the only kingdom where the old gods still matter to its people. All I know is we’ve gotta reunite all of ‘em before it’s too late. The book-ending fact that Thrones began at Winterfell. (His methods are unsound, but didn’t Da Vinci supposedly hire graverobbers?) Maybe I’m entering the late-nihilist phase of my Thrones fandom, but I like the idea that Tyrion and Cersei could wind up saving their family after a lifetime spent tearing it apart. Will Dany and Jon even care? I kid, but I don’t kid. Yeah, this isn’t making a lot of sense. What will Dany think? Would he and Varys jump ship? I want to know if Ser Pounce is doing alright. Then again, I thought she’d die this season, so obviously I know as little as you do. And how do you interpret the burgeoning, befuddling theory that she is somehow in cahoots with Tyrion? Perhaps we are building to a meeting between envoys from all the godly abstractions: the Lord of Light speaking through Melisandre, Arya as the unsuspecting envoy for the Many-Faced God, Three-Eyed Bran representing the Northern deities, Cersei the incarnation of at least Four of the Seven (Maiden, Mother, Warrior, Stranger), and good old Theon Greyjoy representing for the Drowned God. Show Full Article There’s a counter-read on the recent years of the show that Qyburn is some sort of necessary Westerosi evil, a provocative progressive scientist inventing late-Medieval technology. And, thinking broader: What do you want to see in season 8? I doubt Jon will wind up sitting on any throne, and I wonder if the Red God’s resurrection magic was a shorter-term fix than we realize. Other than the looming showdown up North, whatever Cersei’s planning down South appears to be the biggest question mark. I want at least one huge battle episode. Such an event would unite several disparate story strands. The tattered forces up North turn south and discover that Queen Cersei has laid claim to the other six kingdoms. The Army of the Dead will kill everyone, and therefore everyone must fight back. The Wall has fallen, and Tormund and Beric possiblywith it. All Hail Queen Cersei, the only strategist left in Westeros! If they defeat the Night King, does that also somehow alter the curious Westerosi climate – ending winter itself, or at least resetting the seasonal schedule to something more familiar to us regular earthlings? Actually, I’ve always imagined that some final momentous battle with the Night King will happen at Winterfell. And maybe when they meet, the ethereal sounds of “All Along the Watchtower” cascade downward through the corridors of Winterfell. Is he a Blackfyre posing as a Targaryen? This year’s burning question: Besides the Great War, what will happen in season 8? “If you kill me,” Cersei says, “the country will descend into chaos.” The North and South will go to war, she tells Arya. That said, Darren, what do you think will be her next move? “Let the monsters kill each other” is her gamble, and as gambles go, I think it’s a sharp one. I am hoping, however, that we won’t spend the entire season on the Great War; the Night King should perish and his army disintegrate sooner rather than later, because I don’t think the ultimate message of this series is that the living can conquer the dead. I guess you could criticize Cersei for a lack of foresight. The series has woven the idea of different beliefs throughout the seasons, and though you could argue it was all for world-building and not for the series’ endgame, I have a feeling something spiritually abstract could be in store in the final season. I thought Littlefinger had a plan! But… that can’t be all there is to the final six episodes, can it? And I would be totally happy if the season 8 premiere never leaves King’s Landing. After that, we’ll have an episode – or maybe a couple episodes – of eerie, ambiguous, MacLaren-esque anticlimax, with the future of Westeros plotted in the shadows. DARREN: The strangest achievement of this very strange season is how utterly it rescrambled my loyalties as a viewer. And then Ygritte flies down and says she knows where Earth is!
What do you think the reaction to Jon’s Targaryen news will be? “What’s more important,” Cersei asks Arya, “your vengeance or your country?”