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Ways Game Of Thrones Could End

As Cersei Lannister so boldly predicted, "when you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die," and indeed, it looks like a lot of characters are gonna fall into the latter category before it's all said and done on HBO's hit series. Between Arya Stark's still-unfinished list, monarchical alliances being forged and broken by subterfuge, and, of course, the ever-looming threat of winter's long-awaited arrival as the Night King's army plow through Eastwatch, the show's seventh season left off with a lot of open ends.

Will Jaime Lannister finally pledge fealty to another? Will the revelation about Jon Snow's true heritage change his mind about bending the knee (and other body parts) to Daenerys Targaryen? Is Tyrion still a faithful hand to the Mother of Dragons? Does Zombie Viserion ensure everyone's doom? Without George R.R. Martin's The Winds of Winter in print, it's anyone's guess where the series might land in its final season, but we've got a few ideas for how Game of Thrones might conclude its epic run.

Direwolves doing it for themselves

Arya Stark's run-in with Nymeria may have been brief, but it was certainly significant when the alpha dog recognized her two-legged pal in the woods but refused to come home with her. Like Arya, she's not one to easily settle down into a life of quiet domestication, which is why Arya echoed a former phrase by saying "that's not you" — as in, it's not like Nymeria to come back to Winterfell to be someone's pet instead of wandering with bloodlust. Now that they both know the other is still alive and fighting, though, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Nymeria's book journey get a nod in the coming season. 

Perhaps she'll come back lead a pack into battle against the Starks' enemies as she's done on paper, even without the telepathic element of their relationship in play. We've already seen at least one direwolf prove to be essential in a bout against the wights, so with the White Walkers on the move, Nymeria could make it back home to her in the nick of time after all. Meanwhile, Jon Snow's direwolf Ghost is also expected to return for season 8, with "a fair amount of screentime." It remains to be seen how well he handles himself around his dad's girlfriend-slash-aunt's pair of dragons, but there's no doubt he can stand up against some members of the undead army. Who knows? Maybe he and his sis could even be at the center of yet another epic Stark family reunion to finish things out.

A bastard's claim

The return of Gendry at the tail end of season 7 may have been about so much more than just pleasing fans who'd been wondering what happened to him after he sailed off on that boat in season 3. Thanks to the Baratheon bastard purge, he alone is the rightful heir to Robert Baratheon's throne, since both of Cersei Lannister's sons were fathered by her brother Jaime (as is her child-to-be, if it even exists).

Of course, Cersei has no problem claiming the Iron Throne under false pretenses — and besides, the truth of her children's parentage is the worst-kept secret in King's Landing — so he can't just waltz in and take the crown. However, Gendry fancies himself a fighter, and although he fought alongside Jon Snow beyond the wall, he hasn't pledged loyalty to the King in the North or Daenerys. Even if he never makes a play for the Seven Kingdoms, it wouldn't be surprising to see his royal lineage become a factor in his ultimate future — perhaps he'll ask Daenerys to let him rule Dorne, which is now in desperate need of new leadership after the Sand Snakes' untimely demise.

Battle of the brothers

There have been a lot of sibling rivalries to play out on Game of Thrones, but perhaps none is quite as intense as that of Gregor and Sandor Clegane (known as the Mountain and the Hound, respectively). Sir Gregor's cruelty to his brother in their youth has resulted in a lifetime of resentment, and many fans have been hoping to see that bitterness transpire into a full-on brawl between them, even dubbing the proposed event "Cleganebowl."

If there is anyone who could stand a chance against the towering monstrosity that the Mountain has become, it's the Hound, whose brute strength would only be bolstered by his seething indignation for the man who took his face and his future. Their face-to-face showdown at the summit was much tamer than fans might have anticipated, but it was also a reminder that some comeuppance is still due to the elder Clegane. Since Arya needs the Mountain out of her way if she's ever going to finish her mission to kill the queen, who better to strike him down than the man who's got an even bigger grudge? The Hound would almost certainly take up arms for Arya, no matter how they left things last time they were together. Speaking of which ...

Facing their fates

A girl has very few names left on her list, then, doesn't she? After Arya Stark's spectacular takedown of Walder Frey and all his sons in the seventh season opener, her roll call of victims-to-be got even slimmer. (Littlefinger was technically a bonus, but he deserved to wear her mark just as much as anyone.) The only people left on her kill list are the Hound — although she left him for dead — the Mountain, Ilyn Payne, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion, and, of course, Queen Cersei Lannister.

The Red Witch and Beric both seem to have overstayed their welcome in this world thanks to the Lord of Light, to the point that neither one of them even know why they're alive anymore, so we can probably count on them to meet their celestial benefactor sooner than later. And the actor playing Ilyn Payne left to beat cancer — although he's willing to return to the role to let Arya kill him off for posterity's sake. The Hound and the Mountain may take each other out if fan influence has any bearing on their future, so the person Arya seems most eager to give the Needle treatment to is Cersei. The Queen may have a lot of enemies, but since Arya is No One and can thus become anyone, she might just be have the best shot at getting close enough to commit regicide. All she'd need is the face of someone near and dear to Cersei — the Mountain, perhaps? Or even Jaime Lannister?

An unholy trinity

Even if Cersei Lannister were to somehow escape an attack from Arya, she's still got two brothers who are no longer in her corner, and the question to ask is whether either will ever return to her side. Tyrion knows she's pregnant (or at least says she is), and after being bucked by Daenerys in a conversation about her apparent infertility and what it means for the future of the Throne, there's a chance he could swing back to Team Red and Gold for the sake of sheer longevity. After all, he did sincerely love his nephews and niece, and would likely love another, and he hasn't always approved of Daenerys' draconian measures. Tyrion has long survived on his wit and chicanery, but that big brain may fail him in the end if he betrays yet another queen. He's just sneaky enough to do it, too, especially now that Varys has been in his ear confusing things.

On the other hand (pun!), Jaime Lannister does not believe that his fourth child is on the way with Cersei and has decided to leave her to help fight the undead alongside the northerners. Whether she really considers that actionable treason remains to be seen, but it's the first time Jaime has ever truly rebuffed his sister. He's had polite relations with foes past, like Brienne of Tarth, and seems to have genuine affection for Tyrion, so could he finally switch sides and leave Cersei to the dragons? It wouldn't be the first time the Lannisters have turned on each other.

One dragon down, two to go?

The White Walkers would be trouble enough for the armies of Westeros, what with their sheer size and the fact that the kingdoms are not truly a united front, but with the Night King riding his zombified version of Viserion right through the wall, the odds are even more disfavorable for our heroes. Sadly, the fate of Rhaegal and/or Drogon might be even grimmer.

A 1979 short story from Martin that exists outside of A Song of Ice and Fire has some suspecting that the ice dragon might just emerge victorious in a battle against its siblings, which would mean the true end to the era of dragons once and for all. However, it's long been suspected that the future of the trio will mimic the pasts of those whose monikers they were given. If so, since Viserys was burned to death with molten gold by Khal Drogo, there's a decent chance Drogon could eliminate Viserion with some heat as well. Meanwhile, since Rhaegal is named after Jon Snow's biological father, he may also suffer a similar fate as his namesake, Rhaegar Targaryen. The dragons have been a staple of the series since Daenerys first emerged from the pyre ashes with her scaled children, but all signs point to them being at least thinned in ranks before it's all said and done.

The builder breaks the wheel

Brandon Stark has been through a lot of changes over the course of Game of Thrones, but many believe his transformation is still incomplete. After he'd fully become the Three-Eyed Raven, the utility of that position was limited to telling people about the White Walker army — which Jon Snow already knew — and outing Littlefinger for the snake he truly was.

His power to influence the past was proven, however, with what happened to Hodor. It was also clear that Eddard Stark heard him shout for him during another trip to the past, so his voice carries as well. The final season could connect Bran with the ancient hero known as Bran the Builder, who erected the Wall, Winterfell and the Stark lineage in the first place. He may also inadvertently influence the Mad King and his "burn them all" business. However, it's just as possible he could become a much less beneficent figure throughout all his time-travelling adventures; some believe he could accidentally become the Night King and set into motion the destruction of the Realm, even while trying to save it. One way or the other, Bran's not going to be just lounging around the castle waxing poetic in the show's final bow. Count on his powers to become a problem.

Cersei vs. Daenerys

With Jon Snow bending the knee to his aunt-slash-lover Daenerys, he's probably not going to be vying for the Iron Throne in the end, even if he is a rightful heir; he'd likely be content to rule the North on her behalf, or sit beside her, as other allies assume their local reigns as well (Yara Greyjoy to the Iron Islands, Missandei and Greyworm to Essos). The one person who won't roll over so easily is Cersei, whose ruthless power grab won't end with her stepping aside voluntarily.

History has already shown that Cersei cannot accept a true détente to protect the world from White Walkers, and Daenerys isn't one to abandon her goal of ruling Westeros either, so despite the threat up north, these two queens are bound to battle it out for world power at some point sooner than later. While Cersei is cunning and has the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Iron Islands fleet behind her, Daenerys has a brighter vision for the future and the unbridled loyalty of her armies. It's hard to see Cersei emerging victorious, especially since she's taken all of her notes on authority from her father, Tywin, who did not fare well in the end.

Dismantling the throne

Another possibility for the conclusion of Game of Thrones is that the Iron Throne itself will fall to battle. It'd be pretty poetic indeed if the very thing that has caused so much infighting amongst the people of Westeros was dismantled once and for all to save itself. The theory is that since the Iron Throne was forged by a dragon with the swords of many fallen men, those weapons may have been made of Valyrian steel, which is one of the few things that can defeat White Walkers.

If and when Winter comes to the Red Keep, people will need to take up arms against the undead army, and without a dragon or some of Jon Snow's newfound stockade of dragonglass, a throne repurposed into the thousand swords from which it was made might just be everyone's best line of defense. If Daenerys manages to claim the throne, her willingness to break chains and desire to break the wheel could also easily result in her greenlighting the destruction of the very seat she's been in search of for so many years. After all, it's the people she wants to rule, not a piece of metal, and she's fully committed to defeating the existential threat to humanity that is the Night King's army. If she's willing to throw her dragons into the ring to save her people from doom, there's no way she'd fall short for a chair. The Iron Throne might just be the key to everyone's salvation, thus saving just as many lives as it has cost throughout history.

The storyteller emerges

Samwell Tarly has pretty much exhausted his current usefulness by traveling to Winterfell and revealing the secret that he (ahem, Gilly) discovered at the Citadel about Jon Snow's parents' secret wedding ceremony making him a true heir. He may have given up on his path to become a Maester in the usual course to do so, but just as many Maesters past have earned their stripes by being doers instead of mere transcribers, his participation in the great war against the White Walkers could surely earn him a place back in Oldtown. If so, it's easy to envision him as the one who lives to commit the entire story to parchment in the end, giving the show's title art sequence some all-new meaning. 

The roving map of Westeros might be just part of Sam's storytelling technique as he catalogs what he's seen and heard. (The fact that the astrolabe figure that concludes the show's every opening looks exactly like the spherical chandelier Sam saw in the Citadel seems to support the idea that this all being told in retrospect by himself.) In other words, Sam Tarly might just prove to be the ultimate author of this song of ice and fire, which would be a worthy end for the wholesome sidekick indeed.