Monday, September 4, 2017

Game of Theories: The Hanging Pieces [Contributor: Melanie]

(Photo credit: HBO)

The time has come. Well, the time is coming more like 2019. But this is the final season break for Game of Thrones ever. After what will become almost 10 years on HBO, the show is drawing to a close with six final episodes — also marking a close to many of the great mysteries that have eluded fans of the books for even longer. So, how could I not take advantage of this last bit of down time (that will also be the longest season gap of the show ever) and lay out some theories and hanging pieces for the world to pick apart? Game of Thrones is nothing if not full of mysterious elements, prophecies with no clear answer, and people of questionable parentage.

Below are the biggest questions and most talked about possible answers for the last season of Game of Thrones.


Aegon Targaryen

FIRST OF ALL: Why did Rhaegar name Jon "Aegon" when he already had a LIVING, LEGITIMATE SON NAMED AEGON? Why you gotta do Ellia dirty like that? I know Targaryens cycle through the same five, vowelphiliac names (even Dany’s dragons have recycled family names) but really? I was more on board with the Jaehaerys theory. Whatever. No one is going to call him Aegon anyway.

But, the truth is out there, R+L=J is canon. But the next question I have to ask... does it matter? We’ve been building up to this for years, with fans guessing pretty quickly what was going down behind the scenes of Robert’s Rebellion. And Jon Snow has gone through hell and back since his first moments as the lowly bastard son of Ned Stark in the first episode. But what is the logistical future of this? After all, Cersei isn’t going to just hop off the throne because there’s another legitimate Targaryen out there. It isn’t likely that this really hurts Dany’s position at all considering that Jon would absolutely never even want to sit on the Iron Throne. And there’s also the matter of Jon being a raised a Stark, through and through. He’s loyal to the North, has a direwolf, and cited his own sense of justice and loyalty through the teachings of his father Ned. Why would being the son of a man who was dead before he was born suddenly matter?

It’s a personal thing.

Jon was raised to believe he was a mistake his father made when he was young — unwanted by many of his legitimate Stark family members. Tyrion does point out, however, Jon’s whining about being a bastard who was raised as a lord was a bit tiresome to people with actual problems (like his fellow brothers at the Wall who didn’t know a home at all). Still, the resentment stung. But what we learn, and what Jon will learn, is that his parents loved him; he had a purpose in the world and wasn’t some mistake in a back alley or born by happenstance. And he’s a prince. This also, ironically, bodes well for Dany who has wandered the last few years, believing herself to have no one else in the world who shares her blood. And though Dany did come to form a relationship with Jon on her own, the knowledge that she is not the last Targaryen — and just happens to have a dragon with an open seat — actually might do more for her in the long run... even if they do have an incestuous relationship that Game of Thrones somehow convinced me I’m way in favor of.


Bran and the Night King

This one has been around for a while. It was first hastened by a section in A Dance With Dragons (book five) when Melisandre looks into the flames and sees a boy, with a wolf’s head, whom she believes to be a tool used by the Great Other. We know the Great Other (the “devil” in the religion of R’holler, the Red God) is the Night King. She did not expand on exactly how she thought this boy was an asset to him, whether it was purposeful or not, but Bran’s recent behavior and the reveal of Hodor’s past last season has lead many to theorize that Bran might actually be the one responsible for many of the horrors in the show. We know he can warg into the past and that it can have dire consequences (such as when he fried young Hodor’s brain, creating a predestination where Hodor would die beyond the Wall, defending Bran).

Many believe he might have done a similar thing to the Mad King, driving him insane in the first place. It’s possible he went back farther, to other events, and caused chaos as well. The Three Eyed Raven told him not to attempt to change the past — that “the ink is dry” — but Bran’s attempts to do just that proved that he already had a hand in causing when event in the past. What’s to say he wasn’t responsible for more as he attempts to stop the devastation before it ever happened in the first place?


The Three-Headed Dragon

This prophecy seemed to have bit the dust (or snow) in episode six when Viserion was felled by an Olympic level javelin toss from the Night King. The prophecy of the three-headed dragon first appears in a vision Dany has in A Clash of Kings (book two) while in the House of the Undying. She sees her brother, Rhaegar, speaking of a “song of ice and fire” before he looks at Dany — almost as if he can see her standing there — and says, “The dragon must have three heads.” Dany, conveniently, had three dragons. Jon Snow had already claimed Rhaegal (well, as far as fans were concerned), the dragon named for his biological father, so the rider of the third was a hot debate and ranged from Bran to Tyrion to even Jaime Lannister.

But then that dragon was killed and scooped up by the enemy, seemingly dashing the theories that three dragon riders would take the field against the Night King. But, as things seem to play out, not every prophecy is exactly what it seems. There are three dragon riders; it just so happens one is the Night King. There’s also a theory that Bran will be able to warg into the ice dragon and possibly use it to their advantage. But, a theory that’s more in line with what Rhaegar seemed to mean with his message to Dany, is that the third head of the dragon has yet to be born.

The babymeter was off the rails in episode six and Dany and Jon’s, uh, intimate scene in episode seven only furthered the possibility that the pair will have a child before all is said and done. Though Dany’s ability to have children was nixed by a vengeful witch in season one, many have theorized that Viserion’s death exploited a loophole in the contract she inadvertently signed: she gave up Rhaego for Drogo, then Drogo for the dragons, and now that a dragon is gone, so is the deal. After all, only death pays for life. Dany lost one child and might be able to conceive another one in return, as per the screwed up rules of Game of Thrones blood magic.

This doesn’t solve the lack of a dragon to ride, but the term “dragon” is also a common way to refer to Targaryens themselves (traditionally, the patriarch of the family bore the title of the Dragon). Dany and Jon are both legitimate children of the Targaryen dynasty and, whether they marry or not, their child will have a massive dose of the blood of the dragon flowing in its veins. That child might also fulfill the prophecy of Azor Ahai/The Prince that Was Promised.

There is, of course, still the possibility that Tyrion is the dragon’s third head (I’ll get more into how that’s possible below) — a theory strengthened by hints that he may have feelings for Daenerys, created a similar dynamic between Dany, Jon, and Tyrion, as there was with Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visneya. Considering the teamwork the three have displayed so far, if this Three-Headed Dragon is meant to be a force for good, it would almost have to be Tyrion (if not the child of Jon and Dany).


Tyrion Waters? 

It has been a long-held theory that Tyrion Lannister is no Lannister at all. He said once “all dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes,” but it might just be true for him. When we first meet Tyrion, he’s described as having hair so blonde that it almost looks white (an obvious call out to Targaryen traits) and he mentions he had a childhood obsession with dragons and always wanted to ride one (unfortunately he’ll probably never get that chance, with Viserion blue-eyed and bushy-tailed up North). We know context is there, Aerys was obsessed with Joanna Lannister (Tyrion’s mother) to the point that Tywin had her sent away from the capital. However, she and Aerys crossed paths at a tournament in King’s Landing a little less than a year before Tyrion was born.

Then there is Tywin’s constant ranting that he can’t prove Tyrion isn’t his son but he secretly doesn’t believe it, and he was able to touch both Rhaegal and Viserion without getting burnt to a crisp. If this is true, it makes him a bastard, Dany’s half-brother, and Jon’s uncle. It’ll make for a great holiday greeting card.

But I ask again... does it matter? He protects and loves his family, for all their faults. Him being a bastard wouldn’t change how he sees himself and the twins are still his siblings. It might strengthen his already strong bond with Dany and would give her yet another family member to feel less alone in the world.


Speaking of Dragons... Where Did They Come From?

This isn’t a question the show or the books really pose, but it’s one I’ve become interested in. Is it important to know where those suckers came from? Dany is given them as a wedding gift by Illyrio, a benefactor of her and her brother who helped get them off the streets and brokered the arrangement with Khal Drogo. He says he got them from the Shadow beyond Asshai, which we know as the Mecha of the religion of R’holler (the Lord of Light) and one of the many birthplaces of the prophecies of the Prince That Was Promised/Azor Ahai. It probably doesn’t matter but it’s something that I’ve been wondering. My own theory, as per the book universe, is that Quaithe (a Rafiki type spirit guide to Dany in the books, who appeared briefly in season two) gave the eggs to Illyrio to be gifted to Dany, knowing the prophecy of the one who would “wake dragons from stone.”

Something to ponder these next few months.


The Prince That Was Promised

It has been a favorite pastime for Game of Thrones fans to take to message boards and blog posts and debate who our fabled messiah is. It’s actually a hotly debated item in most circles because who you support as the Prince often reveals your allegiance to characters (looking at you, Stannis the Mannis bros). So now that we’re getting ready for our final act, who are the real viable options? The first one is, of course, Rhaegar Targaryen, who believed himself to be the Prince but was untimely killed in single combat before he could even lift a finger in the upcoming War for the Dawn Redux. There is a real chance it was Rhaegar, as George R.R. Martin pointed out he wanted to write a story where the great fantasy hero died and this is everyone living in the aftermath of a legend who got snuffed out too early.

But let’s assume that’s not the case. What does this prophecy actually say?
  • The Prince will be a member of House Targaryen
  • The Prince will be born “amidst salt and smoke” 
  • The Prince will be heralded by a “bleeding star”
  • The Prince will “wake dragons from stone”
  • If the Prince dies, “the world falls with him”
  • The Prince will have a weapon of light and fire, sometimes referred to as a “red sword”, fabled to be Lightbringer, the sword of Azor Ahai
  • The Prince may be the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, or they might be two separate people

Option 1: Jon Snow

As Aegon Targaryen, he fulfills the first parameter. The “salt and smoke” is a little harder to come by, though most agree his death scene in the book which featured smoke and salt (in the form of tears) fulfilled this requirement. The “bleeding star” is another reach, believed to be the blood covering the Dornish sword Dawn, which was forged from a meteorite that was present at Jon’s birth. As for waking dragons from stone? Jon has got nil on that one. If the Prince dies, “the world falls with him” seems pretty believable with how much Jon has defied death and his presence at virtually every major White Walker battle. The weapon? It could be anything. The show did make a big point about Longclaw recently, which is Valyrian steel, so it could be that. Or, in all likelihood, it’s the dragons. As for the Azor Ahai bit, a warrior who tried three times to forge his weapon only to have it work when he sacrificed his wife in the process, Jon has no credentials there.

The biggest thing he’s got going for him is that he just seems like he should be the Prince. And maybe that’s enough.

Option 2: Daenerys Targaryen 

Daenerys obviously fulfills the first parameter. As for “salt and smoke,” she was born on Dragonstone — a volcanic, maritime island — so that checks out. But you could also count her “rebirth” on the Dothraki Sea over Drogo’s funeral pyre which featured smoke and tears. That possibility holds even more credence since it pairs perfectly with both the “bleeding star” (in the books, Dany is the first character to see the red comet at the end of the first book and she says: “It is a herald of my coming” before stepping into the fire) and waking dragons from stone, which she literally does on the pyre.

As for the world falling if she dies, Tyrion said almost those exact words in episode six when Dany went off to rescue the Suicide Squad (“If you die, we’re all lost. Everyone. Everything”). When it comes to the red sword, most people agree, no matter what, the dragons fulfill this requirement. Several characters refer to Dany’s dragons as her “flaming sword.” And, like Azor Ahai, she tried three times to hatch them (once on the brazier the night her handmaiden’s hands were burned but hers were not, once while she was suffering from a fever while giving birth and insisting on putting the eggs over the fire, and then, finally, after she killed her husband — almost identical to Azor Ahai).

She is the stronger candidate for fulfilling the prophecy. The only thing holding people back is that, again, it just seems like it should be Jon. But maybe that’s the point — putting a twist on the trope.

Option 3: A Combination of Them Both

This could mean we will never know exactly who it was the prophecy referred to, as they both battle the White Walkers and fulfill the role (the most likely scenario) or the child they’re 100% having — after the show brought up 3849834 times in the span of two episodes that Dany can’t have children — is the fabled hero. After all, the last book is called A Dream of Spring, suggesting the war will not end when the final page is done but, as Tyrion mentioned to Dany, the legacy endures.


Who’s Getting That Iron Throne?

It is probably the least important question at this point, but one we’re not going to be able to stop asking: who will be sitting in that uncomfortable freaking chair when all is said and done? Literally tens of thousands of people have died in the show because people seem to keep calling fives on the same spot. It matters, even though it really doesn’t, in the narrative of the story, we need that chapter to be closed. The fact of the matter is, I foresee Cersei will be the last person sitting on that throne. Dany’s vision in season two confirms she will never see the throne, and King’s Landing will be bathed in death and winter. She reaches out for the throne, but turns away when the call of her dragons lead her to the Wall. Cersei, as she is wont to do, will keep her place as queen and rule over the ashes and winterfied squalor of King’s Landing until she dies. At which point, a long-held theory that Dany — in a reversal of her parallel character Aegon the Conqueror who used his dragon to forge the throne — will melt it down. The Iron Throne will have its final ruler, and then it will be no more.


Cersei’s Prophecy

We know a large portion of the prophecy the woodwitch Maggy told Cersei when she was a girl came true: she never married Prince Rhaegar but the king instead, she had three children while the king had several bastards, and she outlived all her children. What remains is the “valonqar” — the little brother who will kill her. Many have theorized it might be Jaime, since he’s seconds younger than her and has a history of killing monarchs (and finally got some sense knocked into him and turned his back on her). However, the use of the High Valyrian word valonqar for little brother seems purposeful. And, if theories are true, Cersei does have a little brother of Valyrian ancestry: Tyrion, the bastard son of Aerys Targaryen and Joanna Lannister. The use of that word may be a massive hint that Tyrion is still very much in the running as Cersei’s ultimate murderer. And there is, of course, personal reasons that this makes sense.

What about that young queen who “will take everything (Cersei) holds dear”? She thought it was Margaery Tyrell and killed her accordingly. But it’s becoming more and more obvious that queen of the prophecy is Daenerys Targaryen. After all, Dany has now taken her two brothers from her with Tyrion as her Hand and Jaime riding north to join her. There’s a theory, as mentioned above, that Dany might even take the Iron Throne from her and destroy it in an Aegon-reversal. And if Cersei miscarries this baby (as she’s likley to do) while Dany, thought to be barren, becomes pregnant with an heir, she’s effectively taken everything Cersei had and wanted. Mic drop.

Not all of these questions might get answered by the end, but a good chunk of them are essential to the plot and narrative of the story. And don’t worry — we’ve got a solid year and a half at least to ponder these things while we wait for the final season.


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