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Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale Predictions
Game of Thrones blew it. The final season has been a mess, full of botched character development and hasty plot advancement. The Battle of Winterfell, besides being utterly lacking in strategic planning and riddled with plot holes, was literally too dark for us to see. Cersei was killed under a pile of rocks. Daenerys’ transition into the Mad Queen was clunky and lackluster. There was that horse scene that felt like it lasted 300 years. Currently, a video is circulating the internet that supercuts three minutes of Game of Thrones actors responding rather unenthusiastically to questions about the final season. Nearly 750,000 fans have signed a petition begging HBO to “remake Season 8 with competent writers.” This is all good news for George R.R. Martin, who is still writing an ending to this story that fans might like.
But, despite this disastrous season, there’s still a chance for Game of Thrones to redeem itself with the ending. It’s slim, but it’s possible. The show backslid so far that the list of things it must fix in Episode Six is laughably long, and not limited to doing right by every single one of its female characters or seeing developing plot lines meet satisfying, complex ends.
Really, though, what it comes down to is a surprise: Game of Thrones must find a way to do something wholly unexpected—not just a shock for the sake of shock value, but a shock that firmly establishes this series as one of the greatest fantasy shows in television history.
Cersei’s death was one of the most disappointing endings for any character of this season, if not the series as a whole. Frozen in fear with no backup plan—as if the Cersei we knew would ever freeze in battle, sans a survival strategy—she allowed herself to be dragged underground by her brother, where they were crushed in an avalanche of rocks. She wasn’t made to answer for her villainy. No justice for Ned. No justice for the Red Wedding. Nothing.
Now, Daenerys is our new villain, and fans deserve a real ending—not something that feels cobbled together at the last minute.
Cersei’s transition to the main villain of this show took the entirety of the first seven seasons. Dany, on the other hand, became evil seemingly with the flip of a switch. But that mistake could be forgiven if her character arc hasn’t yet reached its pinnacle. The consequences of her madness must be thrust into her face. She has to fully realize she abandoned all she represented before: freedom, safety, and honor. She kills her people now; she doesn’t break the chains. To see her grapple with the horror of her own power would be the only satisfying conclusion to her story. And then sure, she can die.
Dany will almost assuredly lose the Iron Throne (if it even still exists at this point). That doesn’t mean Jon Snow deserves to win. Frankly, at this point, there’s not much he deserves at all. He bet wrongly on Daenerys. He didn’t try to waylay her madness—in fact, he stoked it by sharing secrets with his family, by rejecting her. And he’s been useless in battle, shouting at ice dragons and losing control of his soldiers. He shouldn’t be rewarded for making his friends and sisters continually do the thinking and fighting for him.
If there’s going to be a Stark in charge, it’s going to be Sansa. She will get her day, if Game of Thrones is serious about sticking this landing. Sansa is the smartest person left alive in Westeros. She’s conniving in the most benevolent way possible. She actually cares about her people. She’s serious about getting herself and those loyal to her out of this war alive. And after the trauma she’s endured at the hands of show writers who cannot handle writing about women in traumatic situations, she’s earned this. The writers made an egregious error two episodes ago, when they had Sansa tell the Hound, “Without Ramsay and Littlefinger and the rest, I’d have stayed a ‘little bird’ all my life,” implying sexual violence and manipulation were the only things that made her strong. There’s no fixing that now—fine. But she needs to use that strength in the finale, whereas she hasn’t really been able to flex it since she and Arya killed Littlefinger.
Giving Sansa the win would almost make up for this show’s habit of building heroes out of the women who most closely mirror archetypal male characters—like Arya, Brienne of Tarth, and Yara Greyjoy—and making the women who don’t exhibit these traits—like Sansa, Cersei, and Dany—seem sneaky and suspect. Honestly, it could redeem itself by simply not being terrible to its female characters. It could put out an episode that is devoid of gratuitous rape scenes (like Sansa suffered), cheesy proposal scenes (like Arya suffered), and the complete loss of personal agency (like Cersei suffered). It could avoid dramatically softening a character into a more “agreeable”—and totally unrecognizable—version of herself after she’s lost her virginity, like it did with Brienne of Tarth. It could avoid using the loss of virginity as a catalyst for personality development at all, instead of adding onto the two times it has been used this way already. The women must get the finale they’ve labored for.
The checklist goes on: Tyrion cannot be cast aside like Varys, nor can Yara. At least one of these damn prophecies must be fulfilled—ideally one that explains whatever the hell Melisandre was going on about up until the minute she died. Arya must use what she spent so many seasons learning from the Faceless Men. Will we get to see Samwell Tarly and Tormund Giantsbane again, or were their flimsy goodbyes after the Battle of Winterfell our last outing with these excellent characters? Hope not.
It’s impossible for Game of Thrones to give all of its protagonists worthy endings. For every Hound/Mountain battle, it will waste seasons of character development elsewhere. The show won’t ever make up for the fact that its most loyal fans—who studied the books, learned the prophecies, and memorized theories—made the Game of Thrones writers look lazy. They correctly predicted every plot point. They outsmarted the show runners. And they deserve better.
But it has one last shot at redemption: It could surprise us with a diabolical, gut-wrenching, final twist. Game of Thrones didn’t get to where it is today—17 million viewers strong—by making nice with its characters. It butchered where it had to. It cut protagonists off at the knees. And here we are, still loving it. To protect its legacy, Game of Thrones needs to surprise us one last time (and for the first time this season). Sadly, at this point, we’d be surprised by a single stroke of clever storytelling.
Sarah Rense is the Associate Lifestyle Editor at Esquire.com, where she covers tech, home, food, drink, and more.