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Questions Game of Thrones needs to answer in its final season

Game of Thrones will wrap up its thrilling run with its eighth and final season, premiering on April 14, 2019. Considering the final season's astronomical budget and intense shooting schedule, as well as the fact that each episode will be the length of a feature film, fans have every reason to be excited about this last season of Thrones and hopeful that their beloved story will get a satisfying resolution.

The final season has a lot of basic questions to answer — what will happen now that the Wall has fallen? Who will sit on the Iron Throne when all is said and done? — that have been a backbone of the series since the beginning, but after season 7's staggering finale, viewers were left with questions they never even anticipated. From ice dragons to Cleganebowl and the fate of some of our favorite characters, here are all the questions Game of Thrones needs to answer in its final season.

What will happen with the ice dragon?

Ever since they hatched in the season 1 finale, Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) three dragons (Drogon, Rhaegal, & Viserion) have been an integral part of the show, largely because none of the other characters believed that dragons still existed at all. As part of the ancient and royal Targaryen family, Daenerys is known throughout Westeros and beyond as the "Mother of Dragons," and since she spends a fair amount of time in the show's later seasons swooping into battle on a dragon, the title feels fairly apt.

However, just as fans started to tire of Daenerys ex Machina, the show threw a wrench into her plan — during a risky (and stupid) mission beyond the Wall, Daenerys flew in to save Jon Snow and his motley crew once again, but Viserion was felled by the Night's King and became an ice dragon, later used to take down the Wall itself. So what does this mean for Daenerys, who considers the dragons her children? Will an ice dragon still be under her command, or has Viserion gone completely rogue? How does this tie into the series' theme of fire and ice? Some fans think that, based on a prophecy regarding the "three heads" of the dragon, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) will end up riding Viserion. With so many theories floating around, it can be hard to keep track, but fans can expect a dragon showdown at the very least.

How will Jon and Daenerys react when they find out they're related?

Season 7's finale confirmed a long-held fan theory spawned by the books that will seriously affect their future — Jon is not Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) bastard at all, but is actually Aegon Targaryen. His mother, Lyanna Stark (Ned's beloved sister), was married to Daenerys' brother Rhaegar Targaryen, who was killed by King Robert Baratheon's army during the Rebellion, as it was believed that Rhaegar was a madman who had kidnapped Lyanna (whom Robert loved). As Lyanna died in childbirth, Ned found her, and she begged her brother to keep her baby safe from Robert's wrath; after all, Aegon Targaryen is the son of royalty, and has perhaps the best claim of anyone to the Iron Throne.

Beyond Jon's likely discomfort with his new name and title — recently crowned King in the North, some believe he might not even want the Iron Throne — he and Daenerys are in for a nasty surprise, as the fact that they're (closely) related might throw a wrench into their budding romance. Considering Jon has promised to help Daenerys secure the Throne for herself, things may get even more awkward when she realizes her new lover isn't just her biggest rival, but her nephew.

Will Arya finish her list?

From a sword-wielding pipsqueak to an identity-shifting assassin, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), daughter of Ned Stark,  has undergone one of the most dramatic and terrifying journeys in the entire show (which, considering this is Game of Thrones, is really saying something). After watching her father's execution in season 1, Arya has been on an endless quest for blood, whispering her "kill list" to herself every night before she goes to sleep, waiting for her chance to exact revenge on those who hurt everyone from her father to her mother to her friend Gendry.

So far, several names on Arya's list have been killed by other people, and she's personally taken down a few using her face-shifting abilities, including Meryn Trant and Walder Frey, but there are still several huge names on her list that haven't yet been taken down. Though she thinks she killed the Hound, he's still alive, and after their journey together, he may have earned a place off of the list — but big bads like The Mountain, executioner Ilyn Payne, Melisandre, and, of course, Cersei Lannister are still on the loose for Arya to hunt down, leaving fans in suspense about whether she'll make it to the end of her list.

What role will Sansa play during the final conflict?

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), the current Lady of Winterfell, has also been through quite a journey — once a self-involved child who wanted nothing more than to marry Joffrey and live in King's Landing, Sansa has been to hell and back throughout Thrones' run. After Ned's death, Sansa was little more than a prisoner at Joffrey's mercy in King's Landing, but when he met a grisly end at his own wedding, she found herself shuttled between several different powerful (and reprehensible) men, from the conniving Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon, who she was given to in marriage). Though she eventually escaped Ramsay's clutches, many fans of the show remain upset at the way Sansa was treated, and hope for a victorious ending for one of the show's toughest women and most stalwart survivors.

Now that Sansa is back home at Winterfell with many members of her family, fans are getting excited for the Starks to come back with a vengeance, and Sansa has appeared in teasers for season 8, whether she's welcoming Jon and Daenerys to Winterfell or confronting her ghosts in the crypts alongside Jon and Arya. Sansa is sure to play an extremely large role in the show's final season, but how still remains to be seen.

Is Cersei really pregnant, and if she is, how will that pan out?

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has always been one of the show's most despicable and complicated characters, and currently, she holds the Iron Throne. Though Cersei was taken down several pegs during her famous Walk of Shame, she'll do anything to hold her powerful position. When her younger brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tries to reason with her, she confides in him that she's pregnant with her fourth child — and as audiences know, if Cersei's pregnant, her twin brother Jaime is the father.

As to the question of whether Cersei truly is pregnant, Jeremy Podeswa, director of the season 7 finale, believes she is, and if viewers take his word, then it's important to take a certain plot point into consideration. Cersei received a prophecy as a child, and so far, much of it has come true — that she will wed the king, that she will be challenged by a young queen, and her three children will die. In the books, this prophecy includes another warning: that Cersei will be vanquished by her valonqar, or little brother. Though Cersei always assumes this means Tyrion, Jaime is just a few minutes younger than she is, so many fans believe that if she really is pregnant with his child, the pregnancy could cost Cersei her life.

What role will Melisandre play?

Audiences first met the mysterious Red Woman Melisandre (Carice van Houten) at the start of Thrones' second season, and since then, she has traveled Westeros and beyond looking for the prophesied Prince who was Promised. Though she initially believed it to be Stannis, after she helped the guy murder his daughter for, ultimately, no reason at all, she's been on the run, particularly from Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Stannis' former right hand man, who is out for her blood. Beyond that, audiences have learned some seriously weird things about the priestess, including that she's actually an ancient crone, aided by a magical necklace that changes her appearance and seems to prolong her life.

Even so, she's done her part when needed — most notably, she raised Jon Snow from the dead in season 6, saving one of the show's greatest heroes — and in season 7, during a meeting with the cunning eunuch Varys (Conleth Hill), the two agree that Melisandre should head to Volantis, and though their conversation is riddled with clues for superfans, it's still hard to decipher what role Melisandre will play in the show's final season. Now that she's brought Jon Snow and Daenerys together, it's likely audiences haven't seen the last of the Red Woman, as she still could have a major impact on the war to come.

Is Tormund still alive?

An unexpected fan favorite, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), a warrior of the Wildling clan that lives beyond the Wall, was introduced during the third season when Jon Snow infiltrated the Wildlings on behalf of the Night's Watch. Though Tormund was initially distrustful and dismissive towards Jon, the two have become allies and friends. Perhaps the best example of the bond between Wildlings and Westeros dwellers was the massacre at Hardhome, where Tormund and Jon were some of the only survivors of a White Walker attack that killed many Wildlings and Night's Watch soldiers alike. Beyond that, Tormund's wisecracking attitude, his sexually liberated beliefs, and his all-around charm have hugely endeared him to audiences, who can't get enough of the fire-haired fighter.

However, in the season 7 finale, it looked as if audiences could lose one of their favorite characters with no fanfare whatsoever. As the Wall was taken down by the Night's King and his brand new ice dragon, Tormund, along with Beric Dondarrion (a member of the magical Brotherhood Without Banners), was seen running for his life amidst the destruction. Hivju seems optimistic about Tormund's fate — and luckily for fans, he may be telling the truth, as Hivju was spotted on set with many other Thrones actors during the filming of season 8.

Can Daenerys have children?

Daenerys, despite being the Mother of Dragons, has frequently insisted that she's unable to have children, and diehard fans likely remember why. In season 1, while married to the savage yet loving Dothraki warrior Khal Drogo (future Aquaman star Jason Momoa), Daenerys earned the term "khaleesi" (meaning "queen" in Dothraki) and found out she was pregnant with Drogo's baby, Rhaego, who fortune-tellers revealed would be the "stallion that mounts the world." However, when Drogo suffered a life-threatening injury, Daenerys asked for help from a healer-witch named Mirri Maz Duur, who cursed Daenerys' womb and put Drogo in a coma. Mirri told Daenerys that Drogo would only "return" when the Khaleesi bore a living child, indicating to Daenerys that neither would ever happen. Since, Daenerys has treated her dragons as her literal children, protecting them fiercely.

However, many fans believe that Daenerys misinterpreted Mirri's words, or that the witch was simply lying. Fueling this theory is a scene from the season 7 finale when Daenerys tells Jon that she can't have children — and he responds that the witch may not have been truthful. Between this and their romantic tryst at the end of the episode, some fans believe that not only can Daenerys definitely have children, she and her nephew might end up with a Targaryen heir — and this may not exactly be a good thing, for any number of reasons.

Will Cleganebowl happen?

One of the most anticipated showdowns in the entirety of Game of Thrones — both the books and the show — is referred to as Cleganebowl, which would see the dangerous Clegane brothers pitted against each other. If you can't quite remember who the Clegane brothers are, that's understandable: Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) goes by the Hound, and his older brother Gregor (currently played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) is known as the Mountain. Both are formidable fighters known throughout Westeros, but the Mountain is the more ruthless of the two, infamous for committing war crimes and murder at the behest of the Lannisters — and after suffering a nearly fatal wound in a duel, he's basically become an even more murderous zombie who kills at Cersei's command. The Hound isn't without his sins, but over the course of the show, he's been through a redemptive character arc, leaving audiences with no doubt as to who they should root for.

So why would these two fight? Well, there's no love lost between the brothers, especially considering that The Mountain is responsible for The Hound's scarred face (and his fear of fire), and when the two reunited at the end of season 7, The Hound's cryptic words left fans with little doubt that Cleganebowl is coming before the show ends — what remains to be seen is what immediately prompts the battle.

Whose side is Jaime on now?

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) might have become a fan favorite over the course of the show's run, but he's still a morally ambiguous character — let's not forget that he's been carrying on an affair with his twin sister for several decades and kicked off the series by trying to murder a child. However, through his alliance with the virtuous and brave Brienne of Tarth and thanks to his unerring affection for his younger brother Tyrion, Jaime seems to have turned several corners, and in the season 7 finale, Jaime walked away from Cersei after she nearly had him killed, deciding to fight against the White Walkers rather than stick with his lover and sister (even after she told him she was carrying his child).

Coster-Waldau, for his part, thinks that though Jaime may return to Cersei's side in a moment of passion, his heart is broken and he may need to figure out who he is without her. Since Cersei is angry with Jaime for an attempted truce with Tyrion, he may be headed to see his brother and reveal Cersei's plan, removing himself from her control once and for all. Audiences know one thing for sure — Jaime will be sticking around until the bitter end either way, as Coster-Waldau, who was originally slated to only appear in four episodes of season 8, will now be in every one.

What role will Bran play as the Three-Eyed Raven?

Many fans are understandably confused by Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)'s transformation, and that's frankly because his journey has been pretty befuddling. Ever since Bran was pushed out of a high tower by Jaime Lannister in the series premiere, he's been unable to walk, but he has another ability — projecting himself into the past. Though Bran was initially confused by his visions of a "three eyed raven," he eventually got answers from Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster), a mysterious boy who brought Bran to a mythical tree to meet the actual Three-Eyed Raven. Needing a replacement, the tree dweller chose Bran as his successor, and Bran's been exploring the past and uncovering answers for both the audience and other characters ever since (including Jon Snow's true parentage).

It's still unclear what role Bran will play in the final season, but naturally, fans have plenty of ideas. An important flashback in season 6 seemed to confirm that he can affect both the past and the future, and the theories range from the argument that Bran exists in every moment of time simultaneously to the prediction that Bran could actually be the mysterious and powerful Night King. It's also possible that Bran was the catalyst for the Mad King's descent into insanity, so no matter what the answer is, it's clear that Bran, in one form or another, will have a huge impact on the series.

What is Tyrion's endgame?

Since the beginning of the series, Tyrion Lannister, as portrayed by lauded actor Peter Dinklage, has been a fan favorite, charming viewers as the Half-Man, the least-loved child of the Lannister family who trafficks in illicit women, wine, and plotting. From murdering his father and his lover in one fell swoop to joining forces with Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion has made a plethora of choices throughout Thrones' run, often leaving viewers in the dark about where his loyalties really lie.

Since becoming Hand of the Queen to Daenerys, it seems as if Tyrion might have chosen a side, but signs still point to Tyrion returning to his Lannister roots during the final conflict. After a reunion with his beloved brother Jaime and a loaded conversation with his sister Cersei (with whom he is constantly at odds), it seems as if he might end up siding with his family, who, despite plenty of infighting, usually stick together when push comes to shove. In doing so, he would betray Daenerys, providing plenty of drama as well as fulfilling a prophecy made about the Mother of Dragons (that she would be betrayed three times — for gold, blood, and love). "Love" is the only betrayal left, and if Tyrion turns on Daenerys for his family, that would certainly qualify. In any case, despite being beloved by fans, Tyrion is still one of the show's most enigmatic characters, and it's anyone's guess as to what his final move might be.

How important are the direwolves?

Viewers were delighted at the beginning of Thrones when the Stark family stumbled upon a family of wolf puppies, with each Stark child taking home one symbolic animal (their family crest is a wolf, after all) to raise as their own — even Jon Snow, the family's resident bastard child, takes home the smallest of the litter. Throughout the show, several of the direwolves have met rather sticky ends, whether they were killed at Cersei's behest, slaughtered at the Red Wedding, murdered by Ramsay Bolton, or sacrificed themselves for their master (may Lady, Grey Wind, Shaggydog, and Summer all rest in peace). Just two remain alive — Ghost, Jon Snow's pure white wolf, and Arya's wolf Nymeria, who has been roaming Westeros without her owner since the first season.

After Arya's chance encounter with Nymeria and a pack of wolves in the show's seventh season, fans are getting their hopes up that both Ghost and Nymeria will play even bigger roles, especially considering that Ghost has been conspicuously absent for some time (partly due to mounting CGI costs to create the wolves). Thanks to a heart-stopping budget for the final season and overwhelming demand, viewers may well see how the Stark direwolves factor in to the series' endgame, especially considering that they could potentially be extremely effective against the Night King's army of weaker wights. 

Who will reunite in the final season?

Some of the most meaningful moments on Game of Thrones have come when beloved characters reunite after being separated for long periods. In season 7, the Stark family, torn apart in season 1, brought many of its remaining members back together after Sansa and Jon Snow's emotional reunion in the sixth season. Though some of the reunions were initially a bit chilly, seeing Sansa and Arya eventually team up to take down the scheming Littlefinger was incredibly satisfying (even if their time with Bran was, well, a little weirder).

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated reunion is between Jon and Arya Stark (which, given Jon's arrival back at Winterfell with Daenerys, is imminent), who were always extremely close — Jon even gave Arya her first sword, Needle. That's not the only desired reunion for Jon, as his direwolf, Ghost, will return in season 8 after vanishing from the show for some time. Fans are also anxious to see the Stark family reunite with other characters, despite complicated dynamics. Audiences are curious to see Arya and the Hound reconnect after their nearly fatal fight, as well as Sansa and Tyrion, whose marriage had its unexpectedly sweet moments, and it would be interesting to see Jaime and Bran come face to face after Jaime's murder attempt. Whether they're emotional or fraught, watching these long awaited reunions will certainly keep audiences captivated through the end of the show.

Will Winterfell be left standing?

As the long-standing home of the highborn Stark family, Winterfell represents a home for some of the show's most beloved characters, and fans have been thrilled to see many of the Stark clan (as well as other favorite characters) return to the stronghold, which has survived several battles, invasions, and other terrors. Since the show began at Winterfell, it stands to reason that the fortress will play a large role in the final season, especially considering that most of the main characters have gathered there, and exclusive photos from the eighth season show that the final six episodes of the series will place nearly every important person at Winterfell as they plan for the war ahead of them (including Daenerys, in her first journey to the North).

However, it remains to be seen whether the capital of the North and arguably one of the show's most important symbols will survive the series' final conflict. Though teasers depict three of the heirs to Winterfell — Jon, Sansa, and Arya — wandering the crypts of the castle, many believe that Winterfell will fall as the show ends. Considering that Thrones is in the habit of killing its darlings, this certainly isn't out of the question, but little doubt remains that Winterfell will be where much of the show's final season will take place.