Game of Thrones season 8: From a homecoming in Valyria to Westeros' painful recovery, what will the finale unfold?
The Game of Thrones season 8 finale will air on the night of Sunday, 19 May (20 May, Monday morning for us in India) and conclude a saga that began airing in 2011, bringing George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books to glorious life.
Along the way, we saw the rise and fall of several noble houses, villains — human and supernatural, politics and power-grabs, heroics and virtuosity.
As this eight-year journey reaches its conclusion, what can we expect to see unfold over the finale?
From a young girl at her brother's mercy, living off the largess of the Magister Illyrio Mopantis of Pentos to a Khaleesi, mother of dragons, liberator (for a time) of Astapor and Yunkai, ruler of Meereen, and contender to the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen's quest to reclaim her family seat took her down a long, triumphant and ultimately treacherous path.
After she laid waste to King's Landing (and a section of its hapless citizenry), it seems unlikely that we'll be seeing Daenerys as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
For one, there was Arya giving her some decidedly vengeful looks from the sidelines of all the rubble and cinders (in the Game of Thrones S8 E6 preview). And as the Night King, the Freys, Meryn Trant, Polliver, and a whole host of other people who earned the younger Stark sister's ire learnt — you do not want Arya to be looking at you that way.
For another, the sack of King's Landing seemed to have shaken Jon from his loyal obedience to Daenerys, and made him aware that there was possibly quite a bit of truth in what Varys told him at Dragonstone. He's definitely taking a long, hard look at his support for Dany's ascension.
Will there be a Ygritte-style end for Dany? Clasped in Jon's arms as Arya deals the death blow a la Olly? Or will Jon himself pass the sentence and swing the sword?
Before that, there may be a haunting montage of Daenerys in the utterly destroyed throne room, the Iron Throne she coveted for years together within her reach — and yet not. Daenerys will be like Jenny of Oldstones: high in the halls of the kings who are gone, dancing with ghosts — ones she had lost, ones she had found, and the ones who had loved her the most.
Two parts of her visions in the House of the Undying have already come true — the Red Keep is so much ash and debris, and she did go beyond the Wall (to save Jon and the others). Will the third component of her visions — in which she is reunited with Drogo and Rhaego — also come to fruition in some land of the dead?
Jon choosing duty over love
Maester Aemon told Jon — in those long-ago Castle Black days — that "love is the death of duty".
But Jon has chosen duty over love time and again.
He chose his duty to the Night's Watch when faced with the deaths of his father, his brother (Robb), his beloved (Ygritte).
Jon may have shown his loyalty when when he disregarded his own claim to the Iron Throne in favour of the queen he swore fealty to, but having seen the widespread slaughter at King's Landing, Jon's idea of what his duty is, in this scenario, is bound to have changed.
Will this duty involve ending Daenerys' life?
Will this duty involve returning to the Lands of Always Winter and helping the Wildlings set up some kind of defence should a Night King-type threat arise again?
Remember that all the regions in the known world have their own versions of the Long Night: the Dothraki speak of the ghost grass that kills all other grass, Yi Ti has lore of the sun hiding its face in shame. If there are other threats, Jon would consider it his duty to fight them, rather than rule over Westeros — a task he has little inclination for.
Tyrion on trial
Tyrion has been on trial twice before — for the attempt on Bran's life and then Joffrey's death. On both occasions, he was wrongly charged and chose trial by combat. In the first instance, Bronn won Tyrion's release. In the second instance, Tyrion's champion Oberyn Martell was killed by the Mountain. Condemned to die, Jaime and Varys' plans helped Tyrion escape execution.
But in freeing Jaime and trying to secure some sort of safeguard for the people of King's Landing, Tyrion crossed his queen — a queen who warned him that the next occasion on which he failed her would be the last time he failed her.
With his plans for Westeros' conquest running into rough weather (the loss of their allies, Cersei's backtracking on the agreed-upon armistice while the North dealt with the Army of the Dead) Tyrion's position as Daenerys' hand had been growing weaker even before the sack of King's Landing. Add to that her mistrust of his motives, and what you have is a recipe for a trial that won't go well for Tyrion.
Will he escape a third time? Or will this be the last Lannister's final hour?
A return to Valyria
In one of the most beautiful scenes of Game of Thrones' history, Jorah and (his captive) Tyrion sail down the Rhoynar, on their way to Meereen. Along the way, they pass through the ruins of Old Valyria — the greatest civilisation the world had ever seen. Tyrion recites a poem about the Doom of Valyria, and Jorah joins him.
Tyrion hears a sound and a great rustling of wind, and looks up into the sky to see a dragon — Drogon — flying overhead. And Tyrion, who loved dragons as a child, is transported into a realm of wonder and possibility.
If Daenerys is wounded or hurt or dying, Drogon might carry her away to Valyria — the home of her ancestors.
As she told Viserys in the very first episode of Game of Thrones (and later, Ser Jorah), all she wants is "to go home".
Perhaps this will be the homecoming, her final resting place among those of her ancestors.
A council to govern
Sansa has wanted to be queen ever since she was a little girl having her hair braided by her mother. Over time, her romantic notions of being wood by a prince etc may have been cast aside, but she's proved herself an able administrator in the North.
Whether or not her power will extend beyond the North to encompass the South as well, remains to be seen.
But she could certainly serve on a council that governs what is left of Westeros.
Who else could serve on the council? Ser Davos, Tyrion (if he survives), Lord Yohn Royce, a representative for the Wildlings, the Prince of Dorne, Yara Greyjoy — among others. Brienne and Arya could help train the new armies that will be needed to keep the peace.
Bran also seems to be the subject of most fan theories on who will govern Westeros. While this makes sense on many levels, the Three-Eyed Raven doesn't seem terribly concerned with day-to-day events in the realm of men.
Do the "Seven Kingdoms" even exist anymore? Westeros has been ravaged since the time of Robert Baratheon's death (and even then it was deep in debt) with wars, the breakdown of civil society, lawlessness, the loss of the Faith and organised religion, and the wholesale devastation wreaked by dragons and the Army of the Dead.
The North suffered the worst of the onslaught of the Night King's forces.
The Riverlands were plundered, torched, and thrown into severe disarray during the Battle of the Five Kings.
The Reach was stripped of its wealth and produce by the Lannisters. (The wealth went into the Iron Bank's coffers, the produce was torched by Drogon.)
Casterly Rock's mines had run dry long before these final battles began.
The Vale seems to have been untouched by war, as also perhaps the Stormlands and Dorne. The Citadel too still stands — for all the good its archmaesters have done.
The Iron Islands have had most of their ships destroyed and a large part of the populace too, but they can possibly rebuild what was lost.
In the Lands of Always Winter, the few surviving Wildlings are possibly looking at a hardscrabble existence.
King's Landing is a pile of ash and rubble. But the port must still retain its importance.
The crown had paid off most of its debt to the Iron Bank, but there's little in the way of money or goods to be had. Displaced communities, a traumatised and impoverished populace, a broken system — whoever governs Westeros now has the unenviable task of building everything from the ground up.
But maybe it will be a less feudal and more equitable society that will rise.
Samwell Tarly writing the history of the Seven Kingdoms (with help from Bran)
When he can get some time away from helping Gilly raise Little Sam and Little Jon (or Jonaerys) of course.
Updated Date: May 18, 2019 16:18:12 IST
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.