Game Of Thrones Season 8 Theories: This Game Might Hide Hints For How The Story Ends
By Phil Hornshaw | @philhornshaw on
When You Play the Game of Thrones, You Win or You Die
(Note: This post is full of spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 and Reigns: Game of Thrones, so read on at your own risk.)
Game of Thrones Season 8 is almost here, and with it comes the conclusion of HBO's sprawling epic based on George R. R. Martin's novels. Anyone who's a fan of the show has theories about who's going to live or die, how the White Walkers will be defeated (or not), and who might wind up sitting the Iron Throne in the end. While there's no way to know without watching the show, there is one source of potential clues apart from analyzing trailers and hoping for leaks: a video game.
That game is Reigns: Game of Thrones, which is available on iOS, Android, and PC, and is headed to the Switch. Ahead of the final season of HBO’s hit show, Reigns toes a precarious line of bringing players into the story as it stands at the end of Season 7, without spoiling anything of the upcoming final season. Reigns' developer Nerial handles that proposition by turning Reigns: Game of Thrones' entire experience into a hypothetical exercise. The whole game is about working through potential conclusions to the Long Night, the super-long winter in which the White Walkers will try to take over the world, by seeing how various rulers might successfully repel the undead invasion. And the game includes possibilities fans might not have considered.
Reigns: Game of Thrones isn't canon for the show, but it definitely has a strong handle on the state of the story. When last we left Westeros in Game of Thrones in Season 7, Cersei Lannister sat the Iron Throne, while Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister were all hoping to convince her to join an alliance against the White Walkers. Cersei seemed poised to stab everyone in the back--and then the Night King brought down the Wall.
What's interesting about Reigns is that it's so fully aware of all the show's plot threads, it feels like it might contain some real hints about what might actually happen. They're largely hypothetical, of course, but the story ideas in the game are right in line with where the show seems to be headed. A few of the plot elements in Reigns even hit on things the show hasn't mentioned, but that have appeared in the novels, raising the question of whether the game might be teasing where Season 8 is headed.
Here are a few of the plot ideas that show up in Reigns that could be very important to the final season of Game of Thrones.
1. The Identity of Azor Ahai
The Red Witch Melisandre is at the center of Reigns: Game of Thrones, as she searches for the prophesied Prince Who Was Promised, the legendary Azor Ahai. In the faith of the Lord of Light, Azor Ahai was a hero who fought back the darkness using Lightbringer, a flaming sword created from stabbing it into the heart of his beloved. Melisandre thinks Azor Ahai will be reborn as a hero in the current Westeros, who will lead the battle against the White Walkers--she previously thought that person was Stannis Baratheon, until his death. The show has also thrown some wrenches into the prophecy, noting that the Valyrian word for "Prince" could also mean "Princess." What's more, fans of the books also theorize that the prophecy could be a mistranslation, because the words for "lord" and "light" are almost identical to the words for "gold" and "hand."
Jaime Lannister, of course, sports a gold hand, which suggests the ambiguity in the language in the books was intentional. Reigns goes with that idea, too; if you play as Jaime Lannister on the Iron Throne, the people of Westeros will come to believe you're Azor Ahai. Varys plays up the idea, providing Jaime with a gold hand attached to a glowing sword, and Jaime leads the united kingdom against the White Walkers, to victory.
While Reigns has a different solution for every character, it's interesting that the ending that specifically mentions Azor Ahai and Lightbringer is the one for Jaime. At the very least, HBO and Nerial seem to have provided a little more credence to the idea that Jaime really could be the Prince Who Was Promised.
2. The Dragon Riders
Another prophecy-style bit of information that's been kicking around the books and show is "the dragon has three heads," a portent going back all the way to the second book, A Clash of Kings, and Daenerys' visit to the House of the Undying. In the books, Daenerys has a vision of her brother Rhaegar and his son, Aegon. In the vision, Rhaegar says that Aegon is the Prince Who Was Promised--we now know that baby was Jon Snow--and then adds, "There must be one more. The dragon has three heads."
That part didn't make it into the show, but the idea of the three dragon riders has been floating around the show for quite a while anyway. Things have changed in Season 7, though, with the Night King killing the third dragon, Viserion, and turning him into a wight. The show still needs a rider for Daenerys's other dragon, Rhaegal, though, and Reigns has a suggestion for that possibility.
When working through the game as Daenerys, players can get tasked with choosing a rider for Rhaegal. Significantly, Jon Snow isn't on the docket because he's missing beyond the Wall. The remaining candidates are Tyrion, Jaime Lannister, Gendry, and Sansa Stark. While the show might default Rhaegal to be ridden by Jon, since he's also a Targaryen, fans have theorized about who that third rider could have been, and Reigns is playing into those fan theories. Of the choices, Rhaegal rejects Tyrion, Gendry doesn't go for it, and Jaime freaks out and tries to kill the dragon. The right choice for Rhaegal's rider is Sansa. It might be a moot point since there are two Targaryens and only two dragons remaining in the show, but then again, Sansa turning out to be the other dragon rider would be a fascinating twist for the show.
3. The Horn of Winter
Probably the biggest question mark when it comes to things left out of the show in adapting the books for TV is the Horn of Winter, a mythical, magical object that supposedly had the power to bring down the Wall. Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, was searching for the horn to use it as a bargaining chip to get the wildlings through the Wall and away from the White Walkers, but in the books, Tormund told Jon Snow that Mance never found it. The horn hasn't even been mentioned in the show--although it may have been glimpsed at least once--and since the Night King destroyed the Wall with the undead Viserion, the horn wasn't necessary.
The Horn of Winter isn't just for destroying the Wall, though. In the books, it also has the power to raise giants from the earth that could stop the White Walkers, which would make it very useful in the final battle during the Long Night. While the show hasn't mentioned the Horn of Winter, it does come up in Reigns, as one of the means of defeating the White Walkers. When playing the scenario in which Gendry, Robert Baratheon's bastard, sits the Iron Throne, the horn is discovered in Qarth by Arya Stark. She brings it back to Westeros, where Gendry can use it to beat the White Walkers. The horn summons metal giants from the earth that manage to destroy the White Walkers.
While it seems very unlikely that Season 8 will see Gendry leading, uh, anybody, the fact that the Horn of Winter shows up in the game at all seems significant.
4. Uniting the Seven Kingdoms
The big drama of Seasons 7 and 8 is the continuing hostilities between Cersei Lannister in King's Landing and, more or less, the rest of Westeros, who are much more concerned with the looming White Walker threat. Just about everyone is convinced that only a united Westeros could survive the Long Night, but of course, Cersei doesn't really care. Reigns poses one interesting, and plausible-sounding, way in which the hatchet could be buried between the Lannisters and the Starks for the good of the realm, though: Sansa marries Jaime.
That story idea requires Cersei being removed from power, of course, and most of the storylines in Reigns start with the idea that Cersei has been deposed and some other person has taken the Iron Throne--already a big leap from the show. But Sansa becoming such a practical leader that she makes that alliance, and Jaime becoming honorable enough to go along with it, rings true for the arcs of both characters. It might be a later development in the show, perhaps popping up after Cersei has finally been dealt with, but it seems like a solution to the show's animosities in line with the way Martin's story has been unfolding.
5. The "Fire" Part of "A Song of Ice and Fire"
More than once, wildfire has been a major part of the story in Game of Thrones, which doesn't seem like an accident. Fire is the only way to dispose of the wights in the Night King's army, after all, and dragon fire is the current plan for stopping them from wiping out Westeros. The Pyromancers of King's Landing would be pretty useful in the fight against the undead, one assumes, and Reigns has the same idea.
In Tyrion's story in the game, players can commission the Pyromancers to create a whole bunch of wildfire to use against the White Walkers. What's interesting is how Tyrion uses the wildfire to defeat the undead. He plants all the kingdom's wildfire under the God's Eye, the largest inland lake in Westeros, and then lures the White Walkers there for a final battle. When the walkers are in place, Tyrion has the wildfire detonated, destroying the entire army.
While there are way more moving pieces in the show, the idea that wildfire would have come up in two major moments in the show--the Battle of the Blackwater and the destruction of the Sept of Baelor--but not against the White Walkers doesn't make a ton of sense. The God's Eye plot line definitely have the feel of a Tyrion plot that could actually make its way into the show, even if it doesn't singlehandedly end the war.
6. Arya the Faceless Queen
Watching Arya become a Faceless assassin and take out the people on her kill list has been one of the most fun and deadliest arcs in Game of Thrones. There's one name that looms larger than all the others on Arya's list, and it's still there: Cersei Lannister. Reigns has an idea for how their conflict could play out that would be an interesting twist on what we've seen in the show. When players take on the role of Arya, they start by sneaking into the Red Keep and assassinating Cersei, before claiming her face. Arya then impersonates Cersei for the rest of the game, leading Westeros and uniting with Jon, Sansa, and Daenerys in the battle against the White Walkers.
Arya specifically makes the whole ruse work by revealing her true identity to her siblings and allies, creating a pact that allows them to unite the warring houses without anyone actually knowing what's up. That's probably a big leap--even Melisandre comments that the idea Arya could pretend to be Cersei basically for years and not get caught is pretty far-fetched--but allowing Arya to assassinate and impersonate Cersei would be a fun and bloody way for her to get her revenge, wrap up the war, and get Westeros on track to fight the army of the dead.
7. The Secrets of Valyrian Steel
Game of Thrones has made it pretty clear that Samwell Tarly's brain is going to be essential to stopping the White Walkers. Reigns has a suggestion for what it is Sam is going to discover, and how his contribution to the war effort plays out. When playing Reigns as Jon, you can discover some information about how Valyrian steel is forged. Valyrian steel is a very big deal--it's a special metal that's supposedly imbued with magic that can kill White Walkers. It's also super rare, and very few people in the world know how to make it.
When players learn something about Valyrian steel, it causes Sam to remember some things he read in a book (as usual). Sam discovers the real secret to forging Valyrian steel, and that information allows Jon to outfit the armies of Westeros with weapons for killing White Walkers. With Valyrian steel weapons, the armies of the dead fall before the living. It's not the most glamorous or dramatic of secrets for Sam to discover, but that makes it feel even more possible.
8. What About Jon Snow?
One major character who's story is pretty thin in Reigns is Jon Snow. In the last few seasons of the show, we've learned his true Targaryen parentage and seen him come back from the dead. Jon Snow has had the most success so far in fighting White Walkers, and he seems like the most likely candidate to be Azor Ahai. The other details in Reigns feel like they could be hinting at possible story elements in the future of Game of Thrones; in the case of Jon, it's the lack of details that seems significant.
If Game of Thrones has more planned for Jon in Season 8, it would make sense for Reigns to actually hold back a lot of that information, and keep Jon's story a bit more sparse. That would help the show keep potential spoilers away from viewers. Where other ideas, like Tyrion's wildfire plan or Jaime bearing Lightbringer, could be hints at the direction of the show that might or might not be true, anything specific about Jon would probably wind up being right in line with the show's actual plot points. Reigns is keeping away from fan theories and speculation about Jon in order to avoid actually accidentally confirming anything.
Or, of course, all of this idle speculation could be just that, and Reigns could be a very clever but ultimately inconsequential addition to the Game of Thrones story that's nothing like Season 8. The game is so in line with the details of the show that that seems unlikely, though. We're stuck waiting until 2019 to find out for sure.