The last series of Game of Thrones was heavy on death, with a huge number of cast members unceremoniously booted off this mortal coil as the smash-hit fantasy series began to approach its endgame.
However, perhaps an even greater cull came from the series’ ruthless destruction of several favourite fan theories, with all sorts of ideas viewers had about where Thrones would go next ruled out by the shocking real events of the series. So long, Northern conspiracy! Adios, Syrio Forel lives. And Valar Morghulis, Waif-is-Arya hypotheses. We’ll miss you most of all.
Still, as we approach the series’ seventh and penultimate season there are still a few surviving fan theories that COULD still stagger on to become true Game of Thrones canon – starting with a couple that recently looked like they were dead in the water.
There’s been an awful lot of writing about this over the last few years, so we’ll try to keep it simple – Cleganebowl is a theory dreamed up by fans suggesting that series favourite The Hound, aka Sandor Clegane (Rory McGann) will one day battle his brother The Mountain, aka Gregor Clegane, with the pair sharing a hate-filled relationship ever since the violent Gregor burned Sandor’s face as a child.
This theory first sprung out of George RR Martin’s source novels when fans began to suspect that Cersei (Lena Headey) would choose the Mountain (recently reanimated from the dead to do her bidding) to represent her in a trial by combat with The Faith, while also noting that a mysterious monk in the background of a chapter bore an uncanny resemblance to the then-missing Hound.
Extrapolating from this, fans began to speculate that the newly-religious Hound could step into the fray as the representative for The Faith, and when it was revealed in the TV adaptation that the Hound WAS in fact still alive, the hype just kept growing.
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In fact, there’s now a slightly bizarre online community built solely around of the idea of Cleganebowl happening, with fans apparently so excited by the idea of the epic clash that they’ve created supportive videos (featuring judicious use of air horns, terrible fonts, gangsta rap symbols and the Hound’s love of eating chicken) and odd catchphrases, mainly asserting that the battle is “F****ing confirmed” based on flimsy evidence, and demanding that others “get hype” over the idea.
Anyway, said hype was diminished somewhat when the Hound turned his back on revenge and the Trial by Combat was called off in Game of Thrones’ last series, but fans’ hopes live on. Both brothers are still at (very very) large in Westeros as the new series begins, while a moment in one of the trailers appeared to show The Hound standing in some sort of arena, ready to fight.
Still not convinced? Wow, you really haven’t got enough hype yet.
2. Lady Stoneheart
Another potential storyline that was slightly ruled out in the last series, Lady Stoneheart is less a theory and more of an unused part of George RR Martin’s original source novels.
You see, while the book version of Stark matriarch Catelyn (played by Michelle Fairley in the TV series) faced the same death at the hands of the Freys as her onscreen counterpart, she didn’t stay that way for long. Instead, she was raised from the dead by Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) using the same spells that brought back both Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) after they died, and became a vengeful zombie attacking Freys wherever she found them.
However, when it came to adapting this storyline for the TV series the showrunners begged off, explaining that they thought it might even be a little too much for them (and also not willing to encase poor Michelle Fairley in decaying makeup).
Since then, the idea has been teased a few times over the years by cast members (with Lena Headey posting a picture of stones in the shape of a heart) and even the show itself, with series 6 introducing (then quickly killing off) some of Stoneheart’s lieutenants in the Brotherhood Without Banners (which she took over after the death of Beric Dondarrian in the books).
Some fans are holding out hope, and it’s technically still possible Stoneheart could appear. Sure, we’re much further along in the storyline than the books were when she popped up, but that didn’t stop them adapting the Iron Islands election storyline super-late last year! So keep the faith, Stoneheart fans – Catelyn Stark is still out there somewhere, and who’s to say she won’t want a share in all the death-reviving action?
3. The Prince That Was Promised
Now this is a big one. For years fans of George RR Martin’s novels have been trying to work out who could be the Prince That Was Promised, the prophesied chosen one and ancient champion (also known as Azhor Azhai) who will be reborn to save the world from darkness.
Currently, there are two main candidates for the position: Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, both of whom can claim to have been born under a bleeding star (her a comet, him a bloodied sword made from a meteorite) and amidst salt and smoke as the prophecy dictates.
Both have been claimed as the legendary figure by various third parties and both seem destined to take on the White Walkers (assumed by most to be the so-called "darkness"), so we wouldn’t be surprised to see the prophecy fulfilled as the series draws to a close.
That is, if the Prince is just one of them – because some are speculating that part of the prophecy that refers to TPTWP as possessing “a song of ice and fire” (also the title for the book series Game of Thrones is based on) could mean that it’s the pair of them who complete the prediction, with Jon representing ice and Daenerys fire. Confusing, but the jobshare might make the gig a little less stressful.
4. Tyrion Targaryen
Now, this is a little more complicated. In a vision experienced by Daenerys in the books that revealed some of the Prince That Was Promised prophecy, her deceased brother Rhaegar also commented that “The Dragon Has Three Heads,” a reference to some of Daenerys’ ancestors (a trio of dragonriders who first conquered Westeros) that some fans have also taken to mean that Dany isn’t the last Targaryen left.
In the last series, these suspicions were confirmed somewhat by the revelation that Jon Snow is actually her nephew and the son of said brother – but who else could be a candidate for Targaryen status?
Well, many fans have settled on Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister, who with Jon and Daenerys forms the core trio of Game of Thrones characters in the series. You see, in the books he is described as rather more Targaryen-looking than he appears in the series (he has the family’s trademark white hair, among other things) and in the TV series he has a surprise affinity with dragons, successfully speaking to and releasing Dany’s dragons in an episode of season 6 without getting burned.
Plus, rumours abound of mad King Aerys Targaryen (Dany’s father) bedding Tyrion’s father Tywin’s wife Joanna prior to and during the pair’s marriage, perhaps also explaining Tywin’s lifelong hatred of his youngest son.
So could this turn out to be true? Well, in a world where the long-running fan theory about Jon’s secret ancestry can turn out to be fact, anything’s possible.
5. Jaime kills Cersei
OK, one last prophecy. As a child, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) was told her future by a fortune-teller, where she was informed that all her children would pre-decease her (a prediction that has now been confirmed) and that she and King Robert would never have trueborn children together.
However, it’s the last part of the prophecy that has people really interested:
“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
In High Valyrian Valonquar means little brother, so Cersei assumed that this prophecy meant that her younger and diminuitive brother Tyrion was set about her doom, partially inspiring her hatred of him for his entire life.
However, many fans believe things might not be so simple. Tyrion is, after all, not Cersei’s only younger brother – and how great would be the dramatic irony be if Cersei’s younger twin and lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) became her murderer instead, perhaps to stop her committing another massacre?
And if not that, there are plenty of other younger brothers – The Hound, Euron Greyjoy etc – who might have a bone to pick with the new Queen. Whatever the truth, we’re betting it’s not as straightforward as Tyrion murdering her.
6. Maester storyteller
Bit of a fun one, this. In the last series Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) take a trip to the citadel at Oldtown, where they meet a slightly officious maester sporting some unusual eyegear.
Fans were quick to spot that the eyeglasses bore a resemblance to part of the series’ opening credits (above), implying that Westeros’ acclaimed scientist-monks might have a hand in how the story is told – and when they spotted an astrolabe in the citadel that was a dead ringer for the credit sequence’s own spinning bands of metal, it seemed the theory was confirmed.
But will we ever find out explicitly that Game of Thrones is a story told from the future by maesters? Well, we’re guessing not – it’s more fun as a wink to viewers than something spelled out – but it’s certainly possible, and you never know.
7. And finally – Varys the little mermaid
The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else's lake
You dream about going up there
But that is a big mistake
Could this be the backstory to Conleth Hill’s master schemer Varys? Some fans certainly think so, with viewers speculating for years that Lord Varys could be a mermaid (or rather, in the parlance of the series, a merling).
Their reasoning? Basically just one comment he makes to Tyrion in novel A Clash of Kings, when the latter threatens to have him drowned:
"You might be disappointed by the result... I keep on paddling."
Convincing stuff – and with only two seasons left, we’re certain that this is the endgame Game of Thrones has been headed to.*
*It’s definitely not.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres exclusively on Monday 17th July on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV at 2am, repeated at 9pm on the same day