Beware, for this post is dark and full of spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 1-7
Valar morghulis, friends. You’ve just entered Mashable’s Citadel, where we are Rewatching for the Throne, dissecting Game of Thrones season by season to prepare for the final six episodes beginning on April 14.
Here are all the best Season 6 theories, unanswered questions, unresolved plots, and forgotten tidbits you need to remember before winter comes for the endgame in Season 8.
1. What matters about the White Walker origin reveal
Season 6 answered one of the most pressing questions book readers had been asking for years: Where did the White Walkers come from? It’s a perfectly tragic Game of Thrones twist that they were a product of understandable desperation, the nuclear option for the Children of the Forest.
When Bran asks Leaf why they did it, she says, “We were at war. We were being slaughtered, our sacred trees cut down. We needed to defend ourselves… From you. From man.” There’s still lots of debate as to which war she’s referring to: when the First Men invaded, or the Andals? The known timeline aligns with the former, but official storyboards of the scene suggest the latter.
One indisputably major reveal is that dragonglass, basically White Walker kryptonite, was also used to birth them. So dragonglass has magical uses other than just killing White Walkers. Coldhands (a.k.a. undead Uncle Benjen) further confirmed this, saying that the Children brought him back from the dead with a similar dragonglass ritual. Could be quite useful in Season 8!
(Season 7 even hints that dragonglass has healing properties, which is huge. We’ll get into that in the next theory roundup.)
Last thing of note: This scene proves that, contrary to popular belief, the White Walkers actually aren’t undead. In both the Night King’s transformation and Craster’s baby’s in Season 4, alive human beings were transformed into White Walkers, giving them longer lifespans and the ability to raise the dead.
Unlike the resurrected wights or even champion of the living Jon Snow, however, the White Walkers remain living men who never asked to become monsters.
2. Can Bran influence the past?
Lots of questions remain about whether Bran can actually change the past or even straight-up time travel. The short answer is no. But it’s complicated.
Bloodraven flat-out denies the possibility, telling Bran, “The past is already written. The ink is dry.” However, this could’ve been a purposeful misdirect (check out the video below), or Bloodraven’s limits in understanding Bran’s never-before-seen level of power. When young Ned seems to react to hearing Bran’s shout at the Tower of Joy, Bloodraven does look a little fearful of Bran’s power.
Bran’s ability to influence the past was also implied in Hodor’s backstory, when young Hodor (Wylis) appeared to see Bran in the flash back and subsequently got stuck in a time loop with his future self, whom Bran was warged into in the present (phew).
In the kind of time paradox Game of Thrones seems to be operating under, though, that does not mean Bran’s time traveling or altering history. Put simply: Bran was always going to cause the Hodor time loop. So he’s not changing the past, just drying the ink that was already written.
But don’t take this as an ability to literally time travel, like in the theories proposing that our Bran skin-changed into the many other famous Brandon Starks throughout history like one who allegedly built the Wall and Winterfell.
Bran = the Night King continues to be one of the most popular theories for Season 8, but most serious theorizers will tell you it’s utter bullshit. At most, Bran can leave behind incorporeal whispers. Him living out entire lives as other people across time is harder to swallow, even for those (like us) who are all about tinfoil hat theories!
There’s a much simpler, better supported explanation for Bran’s ability to influence the past. And the wildling Osha explained it in the first book.
While in Winterfell’s Godswood, Osha asks if Bran can hear the gods. He says it’s just the leaves blowing in the wind. “Who do you think sends the wind if not the gods?” Osha replies. “They see you, boy. They hear you.”
There are countless instances in the books of characters hearing voices in the wind, almost always near weirwoods. It probably isn’t even the “gods.” It’s the Children of the Forest or other greenseers, past and present, sending messages through weirwoods. Bloodraven himself says that maybe young Ned heard Bran in the vision, or maybe he heard the wind. Maybe both.
Bran is most likely only ensuring everything happens like it’s supposed to. He doesn’t tell the others what he knows so they won’t alter their actions, instead equipping them with what’s needed to fulfill the endgame he’s seen (e.g., giving Arya the Valyrian dagger in Season 7).
3. Why does the Night King marking Bran matter?
The Night King touching Bran in a vision leads to immediate catastrophe, making Bran trackable and negating the magical defenses that kept him safe. But this moment’s full importance remains in question.
Before Season 7, people assumed it would allow the Night King to get past the Wall if Bran crossed the Wall. And it’s still true that the mark could mean Bran is trackable now that the White Walkers crossed the Wall, meaning no one will be safe around Bran in Season 8.
The moment also matters because it indicates the Night King is a greenseer like Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven, since he not only saw Bran, but touched him while Bran was astral projecting. A popular theory born from this moment is that Bran will have a mind battle with the Night King in Season 8.
Another personal favorite speculation about this moment involves more tin foil hats, though.
There’s a possibility that the Night King grabbing Bran in this specific way was meant to recall an important gesture seen several other times on the show, including earlier in the same episode between Daenarys and Yara.
Like a pinky promise (but more hardcore), clasping arms like this has been used to finalize peace treaties. In a History and Lore DVD extra, HBO used the exact same gesture to represent the Pact, the legendary peace treaty established thousands of years ago to end the war between the First Men and the Children of the Forest. Don’t buy it? Check out the similarities in the video below:
Remember, the First Men and the Children also teamed up at this time to beat the White Walkers in the first Long Night.
A lot of the time, ancient customs in Game of Thrones are more than just tradition, and also tied to magic — like how breaking guest right curses your entire house (the Freys can vouch for that one). So it’s not farfetched to assume the Children of the Forest imbued this customary gesture with some magical failsafes. Like, you know, maybe if the person breaks the treaty, it will make them trackable and revoke all other protective spells.
Many believe that during the first Long Night, the White Walkers weren’t defeated (because, like, how?), but rather negotiated terms with the humans and the Children of the Forest in a peace pact (read more in our Season 2, 4 and 5 roundups). And in the thousands of years since, the humans, specifically the Starks, forgot those terms, unwittingly violated them, which led the White Walkers to return.
There’s lots of evidence in the books that the answer to “defeating” the White Walkers lies in a truth “forgotten in Winterfell” (according to Jojen). The phrase “the North remembers” could’ve even originated as a reminder of the Starks’ duty to maintain the peace pact.
The White Walkers are clearly pissed. But maybe this moment between Bran and the Night King was also an attempt to remind the one person who can see into the past about this broken promise.
In the Season 7 episode “Beyond the Wall,” Beric even suggests negotiating with the White Walkers who have them trapped and surrounded by the undead. Everybody else scoffs at the idea. But wouldn’t it be the perfect Game of Thrones twist if the most laughable idea — making peace with what man perceives as pure evil — winds up being the solution?
4. Will the Children of the Forest return, or are they now extinct?
First, check out our refresher on who the Children of the Forest are. Next, let’s talk about whether or not these incredible ancient beings have now been made officially extinct by their own creation.
In our Season 3 roundup, we briefly discussed how they could definitely still be hiding out on the Isle of Faces or the Neck, a mysterious region in the North from which Meera and Jojen hail.
In a History and Lore DVD extra, Meera tells the legend of how the Children of the Forest mated with the First Men in this region, creating a hybrid species that is likely the source of northern magic like warging and greenseeing. Meera’s people were said to have been protectors of the Children, keeping them hidden from men. And Meera’s on her way back to that place right now.
Another way they could come back is through the weirwoods, which are said to contain all the souls or life essences of every deceased Child of the Forest. So Bran could tap right into that.
But hold on, because there’s also evidence that the Children of the Forest might actually be kind of evil. Or rather, that they’ve been manipulating greenseers like Jojen, Bran, and Bloodraven to do their bidding through their visions. It’s like how the Red Priests use visions in the fire to influence people.
You can even read Leaf’s final sacrifice in “The Door” as something not done out of self-sacrifice, but as a calculated risk toward a greater end goal. It makes more sense than her dying and potentially wiping out her entire species in the process for the sake of the humans they’ve warred with throughout history.
5. What happened to Bran when he became the Three-Eyed Raven?
Bran couldn’t have screwed up his Three-Eyed Raven training more (though it’s possible even that was all part of Bloodraven’s plan). And it explains why he acts like a total weirdo now.
Bloodraven had to rush Bran’s upload to Weirwood Dot Net (i.e., the network of knowledge and visions accessible through the trees). So as Bran tells Sansa later, it all comes to him in fragments. That’s also why he has so many lapses in supposedly knowing and seeing everything.
Meera was right when she said in Season 7 that the person we knew as Bran Stark died in that cave. Because he’s not just Bran now, but also Bloodraven, and the million different consciousnesses preserved in the weirwood network throughout time and space.
But remember that Bran can only access the past, present, and future that occurred near weirwood trees. So his powers and ability to see events that happened in the south are very limited, since the weirwoods there were all cut down ages ago.
And it’s clear Bran hasn’t come fully into his powers yet. There’s no telling what he’ll be capable of when he does in Season 8 (check out our other season round ups for more speculation).
6. What do Bran’s visions mean?
The brilliant theory on how Bran’s visions in Season 6 spell out the endgame is way too long and involved to replicate here. But you won’t regret checking it out in full.
Suffice it to say that these visions didn’t just foreshadow the future when Cersei would blow up the sept in the Season 6 finale.
The TL;DR version is that the pattern of images establish a connection between Daenerys birthing her dragons and destroying lives with fire magic, and the White Walkers rebirthing Craster’s babies and destroying lives with their ice magic. Then, in contrast, it shows Jaime Lannister ending the destruction of that fire magic by killing the Mad King, and Jon Snow destroying that ice magic at Hardhome.
So in vague terms, that’s how this will end. With two unlikely heroes (Jaime and Jon) ending this destructive song of fire and ice magic. Which means Dany should look out for Jaime becoming a Queenslayer too.
7. Are the red priests of R’hllor responsible for the White Walkers’ return?
As mentioned above, the Children of the Forest and their weirwoods suffered not one but two devastating invasions. And as discussed in our Season 1 roundup, there’s reason to believe those weirwoods that were destroyed remain significant to the White Walkers too.
A popular theory for why the White Walkers have returned is that they saw another wave of invaders currently taking over Westeros with guns blazing, torching not only every weirwood they could get to but the believers in the old gods along with them.
That’s right: the red priests, followers of the Lord of Light, might’ve unwittingly (or even purposefully) instigated the very war their Azor Ahai prophecy was supposed to prevent.
More than any other explanation for why the White Walkers are back (like dragons, the comet, the seasons, or anything related to the Starks), this event makes the most sense in terms of timing. It also makes thematic sense with George R. R. Martin’s perspective on religion, colonialism, and the human cost of self-righteous causes.
The evidence comes down to how the violent expansion of the R’hllor religion closely parallels the Andal invasion of Westeros thousands of years before. The Andals carried out a bloody takeover, eradicating believers in the old gods like the Children of the Forest to replace them with the Faith of the Seven.
This doesn’t mean the White Walkers are on some sort of religious mission to preserve faith in the old gods. Rather, it’d be more about protecting the weirwoods, which seem to clearly be at the center of their magic (see the above section about their origins).
Perhaps the twist is that the target the Night King is after (discussed here) is actually Melisandre — who in Season 7 said she would have to die in Westeros.
8. Sam nabbed a Valyrian sword. Who else is equipped in Season 8?
Sam the Slayer’s give-no-fucks moment of stealing his father’s precious ancestral Valyrian sword — which he tried to keep out of Sam’s seemingly unworthy hands by sending him to the Wall — was perfection.
But as we’ve seen in the Season 8 trailer, grabbing Heartsbane wasn’t just a throwaway moment. Ser Jorah is seen wielding it during the Battle of Winterfell. And an EW article even mentions Sam wielding what sounds like Heartsbane at some point.
Valyrian swords are the only weapons aside from dragonglass that can kill White Walkers. Unfortunately, there are only a handful currently left in play. And even if Gendry figures out how to forge more (as we’ve speculated), those few will still be essential. So where are they?
Right now we know for sure that in Season 8, Jon has Longclaw, Arya has the Catspaw Dagger (given to her by Bran in Season 7), Brienne has Oathkeeper, and Jaime probably has Widow’s Wail (though it’s unclear how useful he’ll be with it).
As for all the others? Well… it isn’t looking good.
9. What’s happened to the Faceless Men, and will we see them again?
It is absolutely wild that the Faceless Men, or at least Jaqen, would just let Arya stride out of Braavos after killing one of their own, only to then apply their ancient trade secrets willy-nilly around Westeros for personal vendettas. Big no-no for an Illuminati-level assassin cult!
Some simply attribute it to Jaqen’s soft spot for Arya and lol nope. But it is true that Jaqen seemed to have a particular interest in recruiting Arya to the Faceless Men. And that probably plays into their larger scheme in some way.
Understanding that larger scheme is currently impossible when it comes to Jaqen and the Faceless Men. The strongest theory for their odd lapse is that the Faceless Men actually are coming for Arya, and orchestrated a false death for Littlefinger.
But that doesn’t seem at all related to other, better supported theories about what the Faceless Men are up to (check out the video above for those).
As Jaqen tells Arya in Season 6, they originated as slaves in the volcanic mines of Valyria, and were very possibly the cause of the Doom of Valyria. They likely know the blood magic secrets the Valyrians used to tame or create their dragons, so they’d be a powerful ally in the War for the Dawn.
Then again, some people think at this point, the Faceless Men just want money.
10. Did the Tower of Joy also confirm that Jon is Azor Ahai?
We all know the Tower of Joy flashback was definitive proof of Jon’s true identity as Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark’s secret love child. But some fans speculate with solid evidence that he is also Azor Ahai, the Prince Who Was Promised.
It’s all because of this lingering shot on Ser Arthur Dayne’s legendary and bloodied sword, which is not only named Dawn, but also said to be forged from the heart of a fallen star. That’s huge because the Azor Ahai prophecy states that the Prince Who Was Promised will be born after a “red star bleeds.” So Jon was, indeed, born after a sword made of stars bled.
Not to mention, his father Rhaegar was obsessed with the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy, at first thinking it was about himself then later seeing a vision that it would be his child who would sing a “song of ice and fire.” That’s probably the whole reason he up and eloped with Lyanna, despite having a wife and children already.
But Jon Snow as Azor Ahai is almost too perfect. Others believe it could still be interpreted as describing Daenerys, or even Jaime Lannister. Some think the twist is that if you read the prophecy as a metaphor, Jon is actually Lightbringer, Azor Ahai’s sword against the darkness.
11. Where the hell is Edmure Tully?
Poor, poor Edmure.
Catelyn’s brother went from being an embarrassment to his house, to a bargaining chip in Robb’s war, to the unwilling husband of a Frey, to the ecstatic husband of a pretty Frey, to a prisoner of the Frey’s after his Red Wedding.
Then he disappeared for three seasons, finally returning in Season 6 only to immediately forfeit his ancestral home of Riverrun to the Lannisters, leading to his uncle’s death.
And that’s the last we saw of him. Presumably, he’s living out the deal he struck with Jaime: a safe and quiet life elsewhere in the Riverlands with his wife, Roslin, and new baby.
How did that workout, though? Did Rosilin survive Arya’s mass execution of the Freys via cannibalistic pies in Season 7? Arya did pointedly let the women survive, since they can’t carry on the Frey name. But who knows if the Kingslayer’s promise is still good now that he’s left Cersei?
Maybe with the Freys gone, Riverrun is once again ripe for the taking. Maybe Edmure could redeem himself a little, and right the wrong he made by securing a strategically important stronghold for the north in the Great War to come.
Or he could cave again and fork it right back to Cersei, like the floundering fish that he is.