Back in 2006 (how time flies!) author George R.R. Martin decided to change the title of the seventh ASOIAF novel, then named A Time for Wolves, to A Dream of Spring.
I have to agree with him that the new title fits better- spring does come after winter after all- so it implies that there’s some hope for our beloved characters in general, whereas the working title seemed to refer specifically to the Starks. And really, I don’t think it’s crazy to assume most fans want some justice for House Stark. Just like the direwolf pups, the parents of the Stark kids were killed and they have been forced to fend for themselves – and I gotta add: that moment when the corpse of the mother direwolf was found is some subtle and beautifully done foreshadowing. There have been similar scenes in the show that aren’t in the novels, such as the moment when Tywin is skinning a stag or in the deleted scene from S3 where he’s fishing.
The three surviving Stark children (so far at least) have grown, both in age and in the roles they have adopted, as Lady of Winterfell, No-one and the Three-Eyed Raven.
Now they are back at home, after the defeat of both Ramsay Bolton and Petyr Baelish, but sadly they can’t get too comfortable. The White Walkers are on their way to Winterfell and soon they may have to deal with Cersei Lannister too, since there’s no way she won’t consider them a threat to her reign.
They’re no lone wolves anymore, but will this wolf pack survive the coming storm? Please join me once more in my predictions, this time about what’s awaiting for House Stark in the final season of the show.
All three Stark children have faced different dangers, and while Arya sums up her experiences as simply “training”, we as an audience know she hasn’t just been strolling through countryside or going to class with a kindly and wise old teacher. She’s been dealing with some of the most ruthless and efficient killers in the world, from Sandor Clegane to the Faceless Men, not to mention outlaws, soldiers and even Tywin Lannister himself, and she’s managed to survive thanks to her sharp wit and hard-earned skills. And also a lot of luck.
She may have developed a knack for taking lives, but remains a morally good person (as contradictory as that may sound), since she doesn’t harm innocent people, only those who are evil and/or abusive.
Though she doesn’t have experience with the undead, I think she’ll be able to handle them. Given the chance, she could even kill a White Walker, why not. And wouldn’t that be satisfying? To see her destroying the ultimate foe with relative ease. All her training (with Syrio, the Hound and the Faceless Men) paying off big time.
The moment in Season 7 when she practices with Brienne (Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”) was one of the highlights for me, but it’s also used to argue Arya is now too overpowered, or a Mary Sue, even. I disagree with that sentiment, because even if the plot armor has been obvious sometimes (like when she gets stabbed in the stomach by the Waif), she’s gotten her ass kicked enough times and her cool assassin abilities didn’t come out of nowhere.
Where she is now is natural story progression, since the moment Ned decided to hire Syrio to train her. Is she supposed to keep getting dragged through the mud because “it’s not realistic” to have her mastering the Water Dance by now? This maester says hell no. Season 8 is her time to shine, enough of getting slapped or humbled by stern teachers.
Without further ado, these are my predictions for the remainder of Arya’s storyline:
The Kill List: Only two people remain in Arya’s kill list. Cersei Lannister and Gregor Clegane. The rest are now dead or were spared, the exception being Ilyn Payne, who disappeared from the show because of the actor’s battle with cancer (a fight Wilko Johnson fortunately won, and even though he couldn’t return to his GoT role for whatever reason, he’s doing what he loves and that’s what matters).
I predicted in a past article that Arya could use Littlefinger’s face (or even Jaime’s, if he dies in combat or any other way and Cersei doesn’t know- Qyburn’s another option) to fool Cersei and get close enough to go valonqar on her. After Rickon’s death, Arya is now the youngest Stark member and has both the means and the motivation to take revenge.
But what would be really surprising is the prospect of Arya joining the Cleganebowl (get hype!). Of course, the whole point of that event is having the two Clegane brothers fighting each other, so a third participant has really no place there. This leaves us with three possibilities:
- Arya either isn’t able to join the fight, or is content with leaving Sandor crossing Gregor’s name off her list. She also wasn’t responsible for Joffrey’s demise, or Tywin’s. As long as the result is the desired person’s death, the means to reach that end don’t really matter.
- Let’s up the ante even more. If the show is going to deliver on such a crowd-pleasing moment (that at this point has even turned into a meme), why not let the Arya-Sandor duo take on the Mountain at the same time? It wouldn’t necessarily be an unfair fight, since Gregor is freakishly strong and big. Like Bronn says: one misstep and they’re dead.
Sandor may be able to fight his brother on his own, but getting some help wouldn’t hurt.
- We’re all rooting for Sandor to win the match, but there’s a chance Gregor could pull a second surprise victory, like it happened when he fought Oberyn Martell. And then Arya would have to intervene to either defend an injured Hound, or to take it upon herself to kill Gregor if Sandor dies fighting.
While it would be sad, considering the Hound has mostly changed his ways ever since leaving Joffrey’s service, and can be now considered one of the “good guys”, his status as a fan favorite makes him one of the obvious options for the inevitable character deaths to come.
The wolf pack survives: The Stark storyline in Season 7 ended by making the point that the siblings have solved their differences and are an effective team when working together. Bran and Sansa are no warriors, but Arya is very much a fighter and I think she’ll play a part in the war against the Army of the Dead.
Her unique fighting style will come as a surprise for the Walkers. They are used to fight wildlings and brothers of the Night’s Watch, but when the Night King attacks Winterfell they are going to face a mix of different kinds of warriors: dothrakis, unsullied and a water dancer. Not that it’ll matter much to the wights, since their strength is in numbers: no complicated strategies, just piling on someone and then stabbing or tearing apart. And yet, I think Arya’s agility and smaller size than most soldiers will prove invaluable.
Also, perhaps she’ll receive some help from Nymeria. The appearance of the direwolf during the second episode of Season 7 (“Stormborn”) proved that Nymeria is untamed and enjoys her freedom. She has a pack of her own now, and doesn’t wish to return to Winterfell and be a pet once again. That door could be very well closed for good, but I have a feeling she (and her pack) could make an appearance in a similar fashion to the cavalry arriving when all seems lost. Dozens of wolves tearing some wights (or Golden Company mercenaries) apart.
Nym showing up to save the day could be exciting, and also provide an opportunity for drama if she, like Summer, dies to save her former master.
Meeting with Melisandre: In a past article about Melisandre and Varys I said that I don’t really think that these characters meeting again will amount to much. And I still feel that way, to be honest.
Melisandre still has an important role to play in the story, otherwise I think she would’ve been already killed for the part she played in Shireen’s murder. But the writers spared her life and the Season 2 veteran will return one last time next year. How Arya will fit in what’s left of the Red Priestess story is still a mystery, however. There has been zero build-up to it, and Arya has no reason to kill her anymore.
But the fact remains: Melisandre predicted they would see each other again in the future. Maybe she’ll reveal something to Arya. It would be fun if, much like the voice Varys heard in the fire when the sorcerer burned his parts, Melisandre tells her something the audience cannot hear. We could just see the expression in Arya’s face. Good news? Bad ones?
It could be a moment that would allow us to keep speculating long after the show is over, without being too important for us to get worked up about it.
On the other hand, if there’s indeed a plan for this particular character reunion, then I’m fully expecting to be surprised. Even if plans changed along the way and there’s no way to make it a big deal now, I do hope they don’t forget about it (or expect us to forget) and address that hanging thread. But to be fair, it wouldn’t be the first time the show abandons a thing that just became irrelevant with the passing of time, like the warlocks’ desire to assassinate Dany (they attempted it once and then…gave up).
Becoming a lone wolf: Much like her direwolf, Arya is a free spirit. Once the war is over and all her enemies are dead, I don’t picture her staying at home, knitting scarfs or reading books in her free time. I feel like that would be unbearable for her.
She’ll most likely travel to other lands, meeting new people or even putting her face-changing abilities to good use by punishing evildoers like some kind of medieval vigilante. Past seasons have showed us that she doesn’t tolerate injustice and people who prey on the weak.
Another possibility I like would have her returning to Braavos and follow Syrio’s footsteps, becoming First Sword or an instructor, passing her water dancing knowledge to young trainees, much like she once was. That way, she could be an example and inspiration for girls and women hindered by social expectations.
Settling down: This is the “fanservice” outcome, and probably a rather unlikely one. If Gendry survives and gets legitimized as a Baratheon, would it be possible for him to start a romantic relationship with Arya? Story-wise, it would be a way to revive the old Stark-Baratheon alliance, with a marriage that doesn’t lead into a war like it happened with Robert’s Rebellion.
And if both characters are in love and feel happy about it, I’d be like “Why not?”. It may not happen, however, because even if Joe Dempsie said that Gentry would love to meet Arya again, he feels like their relationship has almost a sibling element to it, and we also have the age difference to consider. Nothing’s confirmed for the time being, so I guess time will tell.
Although “Bran Stark” technically is no more, since he’s now the Three-Eyed Raven, the name of the character hasn’t really changed (unlike Jon’s, and man, is it going to be difficult to get used to him as “Aegon”) nor was his physical appearance altered, so we can safely include him with his surviving two sisters.
Bran used to dream of becoming a knight, until the day Jaime Lannister crippled him. Ironically enough, that gave him more power than he could’ve ever achieved as a warrior. He now can see and get to learn about everything, and despite Cersei ridicules the notion that “knowledge is power”, it was knowledge what got Littlefinger killed (I’m not sure if the screenwriters planned it this way, but it’s fun to realize how that smug statement did come back to bite Petyr in the ass) and it’ll surely be a big part of what our heroes need to win the Great War. Soldiers and weapons alone won’t be enough to save the day.
Obviously, Bran won’t be able to fight. He said so himself when giving the Valyrian steel dagger to Arya: “It’s wasted on a cripple”. And his role can’t be reduced to that of a simple sentry: after witnessing the fall of the Wall and realizing the Night King has found a new mount for himself, he can give a heads up to his family. Sure, that’s going to be useful, but what else can he do to help? All that training must have a significant pay-off.
Here are some of my (hopefully not too bonkers) ideas:
Witness the end of the Long Night: As the past two seasons showed, Bran isn’t really omniscient, but he’s seemingly able to go back in time to witness any past events. In the book it is implied that Bran can only see through the many eyes that were carved in Weirwoods, but the limits aren’t as clear in the adaptation: it would be awfully convenient to have a heart tree in the place where Lyanna and Rhaegar got married, and downright impossible in the throne room, where Aerys was slain by Jaime Lannister. So it makes sense to get rid of such narrative constraints.
That opens a can of worms I’m not sure the screenwriters will deal with, however. How far back in time could Bran travel? Enough to find himself in a primeval world before the existence of human beings? Is he limited by geography or can he see events that took place in Essos or other continents? It’s interesting food for thought, but admittedly irrelevant for the problem at hand.
How to beat the Night King? We already know the Walkers and the Wights are vulnerable to valyrian steel, dragonglass and fire, so it should be pretty straightforward, like Beric said: Kill the Night King, he’s the one who turned all the rest.
Unless the show pulls a fast one on us and reveals that the Night King is impervious to such materials, then managing to stab him should suffice to destroy him and his entire army. But why wasn’t this attempted before? How was the Night King defeated by the First Men and the Children of the Forest during the War for the Dawn?
Going back in time to find out should be a no-brainer for Bran. There’s only one major problem with this theory, and that is the HBO prequel, which allegedly will take place during the Age of Heroes.
Of course, knowing how the events will unfold shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying something (or else what would be the point of screen adaptations of books, comics and other things?) but it would undermine the prequel project in a way: what would be the point if we know the way the main conflict will end?
Prevent the creation of the Night King: “The Door” (Episode 5 of Season 6) confirmed that Bran isn’t just able to explore the past, but he can also alter it (and the future, as a result). His father apparently heard his voice in the Tower of Joy, and he unintentionally damaged Hodor’s mind.
Now, I realize this could feel like a cop-out in a way. Going back in time to prevent the villain from ever existing? It’s an easy way out, but also an obvious choice to make if you can avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
The extent in which Bran can affect past events is undetermined: perhaps he can’t do much, but maybe he can do just enough to stop the creation of the Night King and the White Walkers?
Could he warg into Leaf?
In the novels we haven’t seen (yet) anyone successfully warging into a human being, only animals. Warging into humans is considered a big no-no for skinchangers, an abhorrent action. Hodor is, of course, the exception here, though it can be argued he was a mentally challenged individual (and yet, he became that way as a consequence of Bran warging into him when he was a kid).
The wildling Varamyr Sixskins did attempt to warg into a wildling woman (Thistle) against her will, which he wasn’t able to do because he was weak and she put up a fight. Thistle, however, was driven mad and tore her eyes out and bit her tongue off during the struggle.
Putting aside the possibility that Leaf could be driven mad in a similar way as Thistle (not to mention how awkward it would be if the warging is successful and Leaf acts like “You know what? I changed my mind about this”), there’s an important factor to consider: the butterfly effect.
If the Night King and the White Walkers disappeared from history, how would that impact everything else? They were meant to protect the Children from the First Men, until they escaped control and turned into a threat for all living things. Without them, would the Children become extinct way before the present time events of the storyline?
There are so many variables, you can see why messing with past events is a complicated matter. Like a Jenga tower, if you will. You can’t remove a piece without compromising the entire structure. Considering it’s unlikely the screenwriters are willing to go down that kind of rabbit hole, I don’t think this theory will fly, but it’s still an interesting possibility (otherwise, why establish that Bran can mess with the past? Other than affecting poor Hodor’s mind).
Warg into a dragon or the undead Viserion: The idea that Bran will warg into a dragon has been around ever since the Three-Eyed Raven (Crow in the book) said that the young greenseer won’t be able to walk again, but “he will fly”. I must admit that while I’m not the biggest fan of the theory, there’s a good chance it may happen. Not exactly because the Three-Eyed Raven’s words will prove prophetic (I seriously doubt it’s intended that way, but that’s just me), but because allowing Bran to take control of a dragon would be a form to showcase his powers without him altering past events.
On the other hand, it could be risky: Bran has never warged into a dragon before and it sure as hell won’t be the same as warging into a raven. And no doubt Dany would prefer to have Drogon following her commands than trusting Bran will know what to do. The same can apply to Rhaegal, if Jon/Aegon gets to ride him. A dragon can’t have two riders, so to speak.
And even if Rhaegal is “available”, would it be better to have Bran controlling it than allowing him to follow Dany or his own instincts? Bran could be a hindrance in this scenario and that’s part of the reason I’m not entirely sold on the idea.
Him warging into the undead Viserion could turn the battle’s tide, however. It’s not clear if Bran or wargs/skinchangers in general can warg into wights, since they are reanimated corpses with no mind or will of their own. In other words, attempting to warg into a wight would be like trying to access a place that isn’t there.
If he’s able to do it, then he’d just need to drop the Night King and turn against the army of the dead. It’s a big “if”, though, even if pulling off such a plan sounds easier than it probably would be in practice (how close does he need to get?).
Warg into Ghost: A less spectacular option than the dragon one, and yet one that makes sense, since Bran used to warg into his own direwolf, Summer. Ghost is notorious for being one of the two surviving direwolves, and also for being mostly absent due to budget restrictions. He didn’t even appear in the seventh season of the show, much to the disappointment of the fans who wanted to see him.
Since the eighth season will be the last hurrah for Thrones, it would be a shame if Ghost doesn’t make an impressive comeback. The albino direwolf deserves more than a small cameo, and with any luck, he’ll live to tell the tale (I’m half resigned that the opposite will happen, but meanwhile, a man can dream).
The only problem I see with the idea of Bran joining the battle as Ghost, is that Summer didn’t last too long against a wave of wights. Poor thing was torn apart almost instantly, partly because the wights can’t feel pain or fear and direwolves are big targets that are easy to stab.
Grey Wind used to terrorize enemy soldiers and Ghost did help against the wildlings, but wights may be a bridge too far for the loyal Stark pets.
If Ghost survives the battle that is sure to take place at Winterfell, and is present for the endgame at King’s Landing, then Bran could warg into him to maul some Lannister soldiers or Golden Company mercenaries. I’ll grant it’s not too big of a part, although it’d be a way for both Bran and Ghost to help and not sit the battle out.
Warg into Gregor Clegane (!): Stay with me here, because I know that at first glance this sounds a bit absurd (and also highly unlikely). But what makes me consider it is Gregor’s uncertain status.
I don’t think we’ll ever find out what Qyburn did to him, but you know, I’m fine with it remaining a mystery. Point is, he’s clearly not dead. Not completely, anyway. He may not be a normal human being anymore, but he’s not a wight nor a zombie.
So while warging into a reanimated corpse like Viserion may not be possible, Gregor could very well fit the bill.
If Cersei decides to invade Winterfell (as an attempt to have her enemies attacked in two fronts, or to weaken them / kick them while they are down), Gregor may be there, and Bran could use him to deal some serious damage to either Cersei’s army or the Night King’s, assuming he’d be able to take control of the Mountain’s body, of course. Or if the Mountain doesn’t go to Bran, Bran could go to the Mountain when everyone heads south for the showdown.
Only thing that could prevent this from happening is the Cleganebowl, obviously. Can’t have Bran using Gregor as a tool when there’s a pending conflict with Sandor.
All those predictions were mostly regarding the battles, but what happens to Bran after the war?
It’s entirely possible that he’ll die (and it’d fit with my prediction that most, if not all, magical things will disappear from Westeros after the Great War) but I’m feeling confident about him making it to the end.
The least surprising scenario would have him following the steps of the previous Three-Eyed Raven and either going back to the North (though now there’s no one to carry him all the way there) or staying at Winterfell and becoming one with the heart tree (if it survives the armed conflict). I’m not saying it’s impossible but going back to the cave seems pointless (and boring), now that apparently all the Children are dead.
Staying at Winterfell would make sense. It’s his home, his family is there and Bran seems comfortable enough. But it’s also rather unexciting.
I’d like to think that after the dust settles, he’ll travel to Oldtown with Sam and Gilly, as heroes. And as big sources of knowledge. Bran could help to solve mysteries, shoot myths down and update all kinds of books. Heck, he could become a maester himself (skipping all the toilet scrubbing) and have a peaceful existence, feeling useful and staying in company of friends.
He may be the last surviving male heir of Ned and Cat, but apart form the fact he doesn’t seem interested in ruling Winterfell, I can’t imagine he’d disagree with leaving that role to Sansa.
When reading the books, Sansa wasn’t an instant favorite of mine. But the character has grown on me, and I now really like her a lot. I can attribute a lot of that to actress Sophie Turner: her role is not an easy one by any means, but she’s done an excellent job.
It can be easy to dismiss her as naive, or to blame her for some of the misfortunes that House Stark suffered, particularly after she told Cersei about his father’s plans to go back to Winterfell. Saying that the grave consequences of that action were unintended is perhaps stating the obvious. It was the result of the Lannisters taking advantage of Sansa’s innocence and willful ignorance of how awful Joffrey was. And really, Sansa can only be accused of being human. It is hard to see defects in the people we love, or in those who we want to love. Particularly when we are young.
But even if us as readers or as an audience are understanding, the world is rarely kind. And Sansa paid dearly for trusting the Lannisters.
She’s been forced to grow up and toughen up after being used by different individuals as a political pawn and also as source of cruel amusement. But now Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton and Petyr Baelish are no more, and she won’t let herself to be a prisoner of yet another villain.
I’ll admit it’s a bit difficult to make predictions about Sansa’s role in what seems poised to be a battle-centric final season. The fate of House Stark and Westeros as a whole will be decided in the field of battle and not via political maneuvering.
Sansa’s no warrior or military strategist, so while she’ll surely be present during discussions of what to do next, she won’t take part in any of the fights. That would put her in a position similar to Missandei or Varys in a way: they are all intelligent and have political savvy, but they’d be out of place during an armed conflict. The same could be said about Bran and Tyrion, though the latter can provide intel of the enemy’s movements and the former has actually some fighting experience (though he certainly didn’t enjoy it) and planned the defense of King’s Landing against Stannis.
I imagine most (if not all) of them will have to go into hiding while the war rages. They are too valuable to risk them getting captured or killed, by either the Walkers or Cersei’s forces.
I’m obviously not sure how much time of Season 8 will be devoted to the post-war scenario, but that’s where I think Sansa will really get to shine. She won’t die, of that much I can feel certain. Game of Thrones prides itself in surprising us all with some unexpected and shocking deaths, but killing Sansa just as she’s finally taking control of her own story and after enduring so much suffering wouldn’t be satisfying at all.
The conclusion of her storyline calls for something uplifting, the way I see it. Sure, Winterfell may fall, much like the snow castle she built during her time at the Eyrie, but quoting Bran’s thoughts (after the sacking of Winterfell):
“The stone is strong. The roots of the trees grow deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, I’m not dead either”.
As long as she and her siblings are alive, the castle can be rebuilt and populated again. And with no more threats coming from the North or King’s Landing, they all would enjoy a new period of peace.
Regardless if Jon dies or not, Winterfell is going to belong to Sansa, because even if Jon/Aegon lives, he’ll most likely move to King’s Landing and marry Daenerys. She may as well do it on her own, I don’t think she needs a partner. She’s a capable leader, worthy of the respect of Winterfell’s bannermen.
Personally, I think it’d be sweet for her to find someone who’s kind and really loves her, and doesn’t just see her as a way to have the North. Alas, I have no candidates whatsoever (and I’m not really into any of the shippings, sorry!), it’d have to be a new character.
Even if it seems there aren’t many possibilities or they don’t sound too exciting, I think that’s just fine. Not all characters get to be action heroes or to have special powers, but they are just as important. To me, it’s really interesting to think in the possible change of the status quo that would come with the end of the Great War: Daenerys as queen, Yara as ruler of the Iron Islands, Sansa as Lady of Winterfell. And maybe little Lyanna Mormont will also get a bigger position than the ruler of a small island? The future of Westeros could be female.
If anything, I’d just hope the screenwriters avoid a rivalry between Sansa and Dany. I can see the northerners being wary of the dragon queen’s intentions, that’d be perfectly normal, but once it’s clear she’s an ally and Jon is really in love with her, can all of them just get along? The sister rivalry of Season 7 was enough for me.
This probably won’t surprise anyone, but if I had to pick a favorite house, I’d most likely go for the Starks. Not only can they be considered the main characters of the series, but we’ve been growing with them quite literally. It’s a similar feeling to the one Harry Potter fans had with the movie series. The journey started with the characters as children, and will end with them reaching adulthood.
Soon it’ll be our turn, and It’s really exciting (and also a bit sad!) to think the stories of the Stark siblings (and all the other characters’) are about to reach the end. After reading the first book (and watching the first season of the show), I didn’t imagine these characters would be where they are now. I was a little naive, even, thinking that Rickon and most direwolves would live to tell the tale (“How could they kill Rickon?” I wondered. “Or poor Shaggydog? Nah, that’s why they exited the story, to come back at the end”. Boy, was I wrong).
In a way, the extra year of wait for the final season has been a bit of a blessing, since it has allowed us to keep speculating a bit more, to revisit the past seasons and also the five books that started it all, and to make us feel certain that the team behind the series is giving its swan song the time it needs to prepare, so it can deliver on its many promises and surpass all our expectations.
If none of my predictions hit the target, hopefully I’ll be correct in assuming no more Starks will die next year. That’s one family tradition they don’t need to keep!