'Game of Thrones' Ending Spoilers: Who Will Die in Season 8?

There are countless theories about 'Game of Thrones' final season. Which will prove right?

The final episode of Game of Thrones' seventh season, "The Dragon and the Wolf," radically realigns the political landscape of Westeros. The Starks take back control of Winterfell, executing Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen). Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) abandons Cersei (Lena Headey) after decisively defeating the Tyrells of Highgarden. A new claimant to the Iron Throne emerges, as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reveals Jon Snow's royal lineage and true name: Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington).

Yet the final scene isn't about the warring kingdoms of Westeros. Instead, we end with the Night King's dragon tearing down the Wall, finally breaking the boundary between the armies of the dead and the living. When contemplating the end of Game of Thrones—there are just six episodes left, the first premiering April 14—it's this climactic clash that will determine who sits on the Iron Throne, or if there's anyone alive left to sit on the Iron Throne at all.

How Will Game of Thrones End?

Game of Thrones probably has more fan theories than characters. By poring over the text of the books, readers have known Jon Snow's secret parentage for years. But it's also possible to overread, concocting outlandish fan theories out of scant clues—Ned Stark probably isn't coming back and it's unlikely that Bran time travels to become the Night King. Fan theories can stake out the territory of potential endings, but there's better evidence out there for how Game of Thrones will end, beginning with the words of A Song of Ice and Fire series (ASOIAF) author George R.R. Martin.

George R.R. Martin
George R.R Martin, author of the book series Game of Thrones, speaks during a conference at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico, December 2, 2016. STR/AFP/Getty

"I've been telling you for 20 years that winter was coming," Martin said at the Gaudalajara International Book Fair in 2016, alluding to the dark events to come as ASOIAF approaches its endgame in The Winds of Winter. "Winter is the time when things die, and cold and ice and darkness fill the world. So this is not going to be the happy feel-good that people may be hoping for."

Will the White Walkers and the Night's King win the war? Will everyone die in Game of Thrones?

But Martin also denied one popular Game of Thrones ending theory: that the White Walkers will win and everyone in Westeros will die, punished for squabbling over thrones as death approached. The ending Martin describes is not so apocalyptic, even if there will be no soaring high note to end the series. "I suspect the overall flavor is going to be as much bittersweet as it is happy," Martin said.

We can also look to Martin's original three-page outline he used in pitching A Game of Thrones to publishers prior to its 1996 publication. Revealed by U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones, in Martin's original outline Daenerys, Arya, Jon Snow, Bran and Tyrion all survive the event's of the series. But other details were quite different and the letter only briefly alludes to the final conflict between the White Walkers that "bear down on the lands of the living" and the Night's Watch "standing between them and human extinction," so Martin's outline is a less-than-adequate guide to theorizing about the end of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones Ending Theories

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"Game of Thrones" comes to an end in Season 8. HBO

That still leaves a lot of open possibilities when it comes to Game of Thrones ending predictions and theories. When the landmark fantasy series comes to an end in 2019 it will bring answers to questions we've had since Game of Thrones first premiered in 2011, any one of which could clarify the series' final resolution.

Is Jon Snow or Daenerys Azor Ahai a.k.a. The Prince That Was Promised?

Game of Thrones incest? Jon Snow and Daenerys
Daenerys and Jon Snow are aunt and nephew, but they don't know it yet. Helen Sloan/HBO

Nearly any Game of Thrones character could be the Prince That Was Promised, a prophecy connected to the reincarnation of a mythic hero named Azor Ahai, but while fan theories have made plausible arguments for everyone from Samwell Tarly to Jaime Lannister, the consensus remains on Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen. In Season 7, Daenerys' advisor Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) reiterates the prophecy, helpfully pointing out that, in the original High Valyrian language the prophecy was told, "Prince" is a gender neutral term. It's one of the most explicit hints that Azor Ahai will either be Daenerys or someone close to her, like John.

But whether the Prince That Was Promised turns out to be Daenerys or Jon Snow, it's unlikely to bode well for their relationship. Azor Ahai's prophecy is bound up with a story of love sacrificed to victory. According to the legend, Azor Ahai forged his sword Lightbringer by plunging it into the heart of his lover. If, as some theorize, Daenerys Targaryen is this figure of destiny, then it could be Jon Snow doomed to die to empower the returned Azor Ahai to defeat his or her enemies. Or, it could be the opposite, with Daenerys sacrificing herself to "break the wheel" of power she's come to Westeros to destroy.

As with the red comet hovering in the sky through Season 2 of Game of Thrones, it's possible the prophecy of Azor Ahai will never be conclusively mapped on to the existing characters. As with real-world prophecies like the Biblical Book of Revelation, characters may strongly believe events adhere to prophecy without the show independently confirming one way or the other. But while the true identity of Azor Ahai may not be a major reveal in concrete terms, the shadow the prophecy casts over the characters at least suggests that a big part of the final reckoning will be between Daenerys and Jon Snow.

It seems likely one of them will not survive. We already know the consequences of Jon Snow's real identity will drive a wedge between the couple. "Daenerys's lifelong dream has been to avenge her family and claim her rightful seat on the Iron Throne," actor Emilia Clarke told TV Insider in January. "She truly loves Jon. Were she to find out about his title, it would cut deep."

Will Jaime kill Cersei in Game of Thrones Season 8?

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Will Cersei hold the Iron Throne at the end of Season 8? That'd be weird. HBO

For now, it's Cersei on the Iron Throne, so any plausible theory for how Game of Thrones ends must be deal with the ruination of her despotic reign. A prophecy from Season 5, delivered in a rare flashback, gives us a good idea how.

A witch named Maggy predicts Cersei will marry the king, lose her children and be deposed by someone "younger, more beautiful." Two of those predictions have come true and Cersei likely believes blowing up Margaery Tyrell averted the third prediction. But like us, Cersei can't be sure of the identity of the mysterious "Valonqar" who "shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you." Since "Valonqar" means "little brother" in the High Valyrian language, Cersei suspects Tyrion.

A more likely theory points to Jaime instead. The queen's twin, Jaime came out of the womb clinging to Cersei's heel, making him the younger brother. Jaime's turn away from Cersei at the end of Season 7 could be the beginning of the end for Cersei. Jaime killed the Mad King before the events of Game of Thrones and he may just have to kill the love of his life to once again take down a tyrant.

The Bran Stark Theory: What is his connection to the Night's King?

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Is this one of "Game of Thrones"s most consequential moments so far? HBO

Bran Stark's role in the Game of Thrones ending is one the biggest open questions coming into Season 8. With his ability to see through time and space, the new Three-Eyed Raven could dramatically turn the tide of the war and shape the future of Westeros. It's Bran, paired with some of Sam's research, who was able to reveal Jon Snow's true lineage, despite the death of everyone who knew—Rhaegar Targaryen, Lyanna Stark and Ned Stark.

But it's more than Bran Stark's visions that could shape the Game of Thrones finale. We've also seen him interact with the past, altering future events. So far it's mostly been in a panic or by accident that Bran has gone beyond seeing the past and instead altered it. When Bran accidentally tried to warg into a younger version of Hodor (Kristian Nairn), he caused a seizure that changed the loyal Stark servant's life forever.

In Season 6, while studying under the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), Bran sees the Night King in a vision. Bran's presence in the past was previously depicted as non-corporeal and non-interactive, but this vision was different. The Night King reaches out and grabs Bran's arm.

How did the Night King see Bran? The connection between the two is likely to be an important part of the final episodes of Game of Thrones. Some fan theories have proposed complicated explanations, including one theory that claims Bran travels to the past, becomes the legendary Bran the Builder, who later becomes the Night King. Another popular theory blames Bran's meddling for Aerys "The Mad King" Targaryen's insanity. But Bran as both cause and consequence of every event in the history of Westeros seems a tad unlikely.

Still, Bran's role in Game of Thrones Season 8 is one of the most important and mysterious factors in predicting how the series will end.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Ending Theory: What happens in King's Landing?

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It won't be the first time Queen Cersei has watched the destruction of her city. HBO

Thanks to set leaks and interviews with cast members, writers and producers, we expect battles in Game of Thrones Season 8 far south of Winterfell, where Jon Snow and Daenerys plan to make their final stand against the Night King. Instead, devastation will reach the capital of Westeros, King's Landing, in the south. But will the Night King take down Cersei, or could set leaks pointing to a battle in King's Landing depict events after the undead have been driven back? Does destruction in King's Landing suggest that the battle for Winterfell is lost, possibly with dire consequences for Daenerys, Jon Snow and their bid for the Iron Throne?

The fate of King's Landing presents two distinct possibilities for the end of Game of Thrones Season 8. Call it the mythic or the politic ending. In the mythic version, the magical war between the living and the dead occupies all of Season 8. This version would suggest an emphasis on more mystic characters, including Bran and the true identity of Azor Ahai. The other possibility is a political ending, in which, after uniting to defeat the Night King, the survivors must build a new order out of the destruction. This could put more of a military focus on the finale, as Daenerys and her allies besiege King's Landing, finally determined to overthrow Cersei and build their new world order.

All of these questions point down multiple pathways and inspire different ending theories for Game of Thrones Season 8. The major variables—the end of Cersei, the true identity of Azor Ahai, the fate of King's Landing—can combine into a handful of most likely scenarios. Since we suspect Jon Snow or Daenerys are the fulfillment of prophecy, it's reasonable to believe the ending of Game of Thrones will involve decisions made by them. Since Bran is connected to the Night King, we can reasonably guess we'll learn more about the enemy's true motives. Since Cersei is doomed, we can predict Jaime's likely return to King's Landing, possibly with an army of new allies at his back.

No, not everyone will die in Game of Thrones Season 8—that would be more extreme than "bittersweet"—but no matter how it ends or whatever your theory, the final six episodes of Game of Thrones is sure to be a bloodbath. "It's all about all of these disparate characters coming together to face a common enemy, dealing with their own past, and defining the person they want to be in the face of certain death," co-executive producer Bryan Cogman said of the final episodes.

'Game of Thrones' Ending Spoilers: Who Will Die in Season 8? | Culture
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