Game of Thrones Predictions from a Game Designer

Edit: It turns out that the last four episodes disappointed pretty much everyone. My predictions below relied on the premise that good writing would basically force some events to happen, and I was thrown by a loop by the, well, not good writing. I leave this prediction post up for reference anyway


I’m going to give my predictions for how Game of Thrones ends up. These predictions are a team effort from me and my girlfriend Lina Jemili trying to work through it all together after Season 8, Episode 2. As of this writing, we’re in the 8th year of Game of Thrones seasons with only 4 episodes left, and yet there are numerous major reveals still left. By looking at the show from a game design standpoint, I think we see how a lot of it has to end up.

Game of Throne is, on a casual viewing, a very complicated show. There’s a large number of characters, relationships, and locations to keep track of. I think once you have all that straight, that under the surface, there’s even more complexity and tricks that you might have no idea about.

I also think that the show is exceptionally well written. As I will try to illustrate in this post, the complexity and the quality of the writing are actually tools we can use to figure out that underlying secrets. Basically, there’s a lot of puzzle pieces and an infinite number of ways they COULD fit together, but there’s only one or two ways they fit together in dramatic and satisfying ways, so this tells us exactly how the ending must unfold.

The following has (I hope) MAJOR SPOILERS. Do not read past this point unless you’re ok with SPOILERS. I’m going to start with a fan theory, but the rest of my predictions are not based on fan theories I have seen or heard about. In fact, my major prediction about The Hound I was unable to find anyone else saying on Google. (Probably I am bad at Googling though, idk.)

Bran is the Night King

I’m aware this is a fan theory and I’m saying that it’s correct. There’s a lot of little hints and weak evidence that fans like to point to. You can throw all that out. The reason we know for sure that this seemingly insane claim is correct is the story of Hodor. The entire storyline of Hodor’s origin is strange and out of place, writing-wise. It’s conspicuously much effort spent on how he got his name, and worse than that, it involves a hokey time travel mechanic that seems have no place in the story. It’s really weird to throw in a time travel thing for no real reason other than to explain Hodor’s name.

A better reading of the situation is to remember that overall, the story is very well-written. The Hodor story *isn’t* out of place, it isn’t a random indulgence in time travel, and it’s not there just to tell us where his name comes from. No, it’s there to teach us the story world’s rules for a mechanic that is actually central to the main story. It’s to teach us that Bran has the power to look back in time, and then to actually communicate a message to someone in the past...but that it can only be a single phrase and that it can drive that person insane. It can ruin their mind and cause them to endlessly repeat that phrase.

This is EXACTLY what happened to the Mad King. He went insane and repeated a specific phrase that we’re conspicuously told numerous times over the years of the show: “Burn them all.” There’s no way this is just a coincidence. It’s practically game mechanics in action. Bran used the same technique on the Mad King that he used on Hodor. Why? Because he’s trying to warn the king to use fire against the incoming army of undead. But the message got garbled as his mind was broken and he ended up just trying to burn EVERYONE. Bran’s plan failed.

Bran then probably went back even further in time and caused The Wall to be built in the first place. The person history credits with this is “Bran the Builder.” I don’t know what exactly is going on there, but somehow Bran tried to save the world again, and ultimately failed again. The Wall did help, but in the end, the Night King eventually breaches it.

Bran then went back even further in time and witnessed the creation of the Night King. The lore is that Children of the Forest created the Night King in a special ceremony that we briefly got to see. They created him to be the ultimate weapon against the First Men. He really is an ultimate weapon in that he can fight forever, can’t die or tire, and he can raise the dead of the First Men as his own undead army. Anyway, when Bran witnessed this ceremony in the distant past, something must have gone wrong. His consciousness was sucked into it and he became the Night King. Or perhaps more accurately, he became trapped inside the Night King. This is terrifying for the rest of the world because it means an already terrifying killing machine now has a new power: the power to basically know anything and everything. Bran’s power.

Even if we take it as given, using game designer eyes, that Bran drove the Mad King insane, how do we know that this next leap of logic is correct though? How do we know that Bran is (or is trapped in) the Night King? The answer, again, comes down to the quality of the show’s writing.

Let’s think about the time in Season 7 when the Night King marched south toward The Wall and breached it. Let’s think about two possible versions of these events. The whole Bran / Night King thing sounds pretty crazy, so first think about if that’s not the case. This means the Night King’s plan is to march towards a wall he’s never been able to breach in like 10,000 years or something, and has no new plan to make it work. He’s just is an idiot basically, who got insanely lucky. He happened to encounter a dragon he had no idea would even be there, then turned that dragon to his side and was able to use it to destroy the wall.

But it gets much worse. THE CHAINS. The dragon happened to fall in a lake, and for some reason the Night King had his minions bring a enormous, dragon-sized chains that are perfectly suited to pull the Dragon out of the lake. So in this version of events, not only is the Night King’s plan idiotic, but the writers are also morons. It’s ridiculous for him to have happened to have exactly the right tool when he had no basis for any of this.

So which is more plausible: that this is, by a mile, the worst written thing in the entire show OR that Game of Thrones maintained its overall high quality level of writing and that the Night King brought the chains because he knew all this would happen. Because he is Bran. He knew to march toward the wall in the first place because he knew the dragon would be there, that it could be turned, and he knew that it would precisely fall into a lake.

This one is a lock. Bran is the Night King. And it also plays into the next prediction…

Arya will kill the Night King

This one is an eerily familiar situation for me. So there’s a big war going on, but from a story-design point of view, you want it to come down to individual characters so it’s more dramatic. That’s hard to do because in the scale of a war, a single person’s fighting skill doesn’t really matter that much, even if the story wants it to.

In the fiction of Fantasy Strike, the story world of the games I make, I face a similar dilemma. My solution (long ago, before I ever heard of Game of Thrones) was to make individual combat be super important in the grand scheme of things by making a villain who is able to control entire armies of undead, but you only have to take out just that ONE villain to knock out the army. Now personal combat is everything. And for the last few years, I have realized that George R.R. Martin had the same solution. Most of the war will be solved if just a SINGLE person kills a SINGLE bad guy.

Who is that person? It’s Arya. We’ve had 8 years of her character arc to do this exact thing. She has the magic powers of the Faceless Men, meaning she is the ultimate assassin, capable of killing any single being. And just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, BRAN gave her the EXACT weapon she needs to actually kill the Night King: a Valyrian steel dagger. Only Valyrian steel or dragonglass weapons can kill the undead (well, or fire).

This means Bran gave the world’s ultimate assassin the exact weapon needed to kill...himself? Yes, exactly. He did. I think the part of Bran trapped in the Night King is trying his best to make the Night King fail, too. Perhaps that is why the Night King has attacked previous three-eyed ravens: the Bran inside the Night King is trying to prevent the Night King from ever getting access to the power of all-seeing in the first place. Meanwhile the Bran from our timeline knows the must do what’s needed to stop the super villain, even it means ultimately killing his own consciousness (trapped inside the Night King).

Plus, this means in the end, Arya will have to kill her own brother. This is too perfect to be anything but the answer. Now a grand war has come down to the family conflict of sister killing brother. If anything, I’ve thought this entire plotline was TOO obvious for years. But I was willing to forgive it because it’s pretty exciting. Now, I think it’s maybe on purpose to make this obvious as a smoke screen to prevent you from thinking about even more tricks.

Which brings me to this obvious one:

In Season 8, Episode 3, the people in the crypt will be attacked and probably die

I mean, come on.

I think you’re actually supposed to realize that hiding from an undead super villain who can raise the dead in a place full of dead is probably a bad idea. You might have to fight Zombie Ned or other Stark family relatives from the grave. And you’ll feel pretty smart about noticing this so that will distract you from not noticing two other huge secrets. I’ll cover the crazier one second, but first…

It’s all about the Lord of Light

So hey, guess what, it’s all about a thing that was given almost no prominence in the last couple episodes. But using game-designer eyes, we can see it definitely must be this. Why? Because of Beric Dondarrion. He’s the guy who has been resurrected 19 times. A priest of the Lord of Light did that for him, but the priest is dead, so this is Beric’s last life.

Beric is now at Winterfell. But why exactly? I don’t mean why in the story world, but why did the writers bother to include him? He’s conspicuous. We don’t know him that well, we aren’t that invested in him, and we don’t understand what the point of his character existing ever was. But HE is here? And he’s on his last life? It sounds pretty important, even though it’s not talked about.

Remember, we know that the Lord of Light’s magic is real. The Lord of Light murdered Renly through a shadow monster birthed by Melisandre (The Red Woman). The Lord of Light also allowed Melisandre to resurrect Jon Snow, and allowed the priest to resurrect Beric 19 times.

So what’s the point of this? The Lord of Light’s prophecy involves the “Prince that was promised.” The Red Woman thought this was Stannis. My interpretation is that her connection with the Lord of Light isn’t solid enough to have a real, clear conversation so she made mistakes while trying to serve the god. She wrongly believed Stannis was the prince that was promised, and in killing Renly, she was trying to facilitate the prophecy. Then, she later believed Jon Snow was the prince that was promised, and then she actually resurrected him. This is a trick, and we are meant to believe this proves that Jon Snow really is the prince that was promised. This is false though. As you’ll see shortly, that’s not why it worked there. But we’ll come back to that.

What about Beric? Why do we need him in this plot? Well, the Lord of Light went to a lot of trouble get Beric here, so it has to be incredibly important. My first thought was that Beric sacrifices himself to save the actual prince that was promised. After thinking more, I think that would be somewhat weak writing. Yeah it works, but really anyone out of a thousand people could have saved whoever it was. It’s not satisfying. For Beric to do some important thing after dying 19 times, it’s a better story if the thing he does is more, well, Beric-based. More about who he actually is, not just where he happened to be standing when a sword is swung or something.

Beric is a true believer in the Lord of Light. There is no one more qualified to be a true believer than him, because he lived through all those resurrections. He knows the lore, he can tell us about it, and he can really SELL it as true. He knows THE PROPHECY. This is what it’s actually all about.

The Lord of Light’s prophecy is about the prince that was promised. It says that he was born in salt and smoke and appeared under a red comet. I think in the books, the Wood Witch also says that this prophesied person is a Targaryen, which I think has greatly confused the entire internet. I’m not aware of this being part of the requirements in the show, and even if it was, I think it’s some kind of trick or the Witch is wrong, or talking about something else. Anyway, the main thing about the prince is that he will wield Lightbringer to kill some super enemy monster.

I’m not sure if this is in the show or not, but the books give the detail that the first prince that was promised worked 50 days to forge Lightbringer, then tried to temper the sword in water, but it broke. Then he worked 100 days and tried to temper it in the heart of a lion, but that didn’t work either. Then on the third try, he tempered it by plunging it into his lover’s heart, and that gave it the magic power it needed to slay the monster.

This is what Beric’s function in the story is. Beric needs to tell us, and the prince that is promised, what the prophecy is, because it’s going to repeat itself in the ending of our current story.

Arya is the prince that was promised

Yes, really. But what about being born in salt and smoke? First off, this is completely the wrong question. That is a ridiculous and vague statement that you can make true about anyone you want. Someone was born on the ocean, or they cried, or salt was in some food, etc, etc. That’s no way to sort this out. Use game designer’s eyes. This all must come together in a very particular way to work at all. So who is going to wield Lightbringer?

It would be ridiculous for Daenerys to wield a sword and kill the Night King with it (there’s no basis for her having any personal combat skills). You could say the prophecy is just a metaphor, and her dragons can breathe fire, and that’s close enough to “Lightbringer,” but that is incredibly lame. Remember, the rest of the show is well-written, so is the ultimate conclusion going to be that stupid? I don’t think so. For this reason alone, no matter what the lore might hint at, it’s not Dany.

Could Jon Snow wield Lightbringer? Yeah maybe. It’s feasible, and the puzzle pieces could fit that way...but it wouldn’t be the most exciting and dramatic story, so we know it’s wrong too.

We already know the answer: Arya must kill the Night King, therefore we actually already know she must be the prince that is promised. You might say “but she’s a girl.” Yes, but in Season 7, Episode 2, I think it was, the Red Woman tells us that we don’t have gendered pronouns right in High Valyrian and that it can refer to a boy or a girl. Salt and smoke? Anyone can be “born” in that if you look hard enough. Red comet? I don’t know, same thing. Has to be a Targaryen? I’m stumped on that one, yeah, but I think it was a fake requirement anyway.

Back to the drama. To fit this prophecy, Arya will have to kill someone she loves with her sword so it can be powered up to kill the big bad guy. Think about that for a moment. That’s a lot of emotional weight to put on her. If someone says you need to kill your loved one to save the world, you don’t just do it. You need to know it’s really true, you need to think about it, you need to time to come to terms with it so it can feel real. So here’s what’s going to happen first.

Beric will tell Arya about the prophecy

Both Arya and the audience will initially reject it as probably wrong or fake, or something we can ignore. The seed is planted.

Arya will fight the Night King at Winterfell and attempt to kill him

Arya will try, but she will fail. I think we know this because the final confrontation cannot possibly be at Winterfell, because that would leave a boring bunch of story left about if Cersei kills this or that person who is left over. But the Night King can’t really win at Winterfell either. We have more story left. The way out of this is that Arya “kills” him, but he reforms and shows he cannot truly be killed by Valyrian steel after all, only his lowly minions can. This gives all the characters time to retreat for King’s Landing, probably.

The really important plot point is that Beric says something like “see, I told you that it would be like this. You tempered the sword in water (the ice of the Night King’s body), but it didn’t work. Gotta kill a loved one with it first.” She still doesn’t fully buy it, or is in denial.

Arya Kills Cersei

After the retreat to King’s Landing, it would make sense if Arya used her Faceless Men powers to assassinate Cersei, who we already know is on her list of people to kill. Cersei, being a Lannister, has a sigil of a lion. Beric will then say the prophecy is happening, and that killing a lion was the second step, but Arya still needs to kill a loved one.

Before we get to that though, a couple more things. First, there is a separate prophecy about Cersei being murdered, supposedly by a word that means “little brother”, and that it’s specifically from being choked. Maybe “little brother” means “litter sister” really, because of the High Valyrian pronouns, and that Arya is a little sister of her own separate family. Flimsy, but I don’t know. I can’t resolve the part about Cersei being strangled though. It’s possible Arya kills a different Lannister to fulfil the “lion” part, but it’s just so perfect if she kills Cersei. Why? Because of the Golden Company army.

That army is bought and paid for and does whatever Cersei says. So...Arya, wearing the dead face of Cersei and using Faceless Men magic(!), can then command that whole army. That’s really exciting.

Anyway, back to the prophecy of the prince that is promised. We need another push to make it happen, and we also need an actual loved one for Arya. Here comes the other huge secret hidden in Season 8, Episode 1 and especially 2.

The Hound is actually Jaqen H'ghar

Yes really. Why? Because it’s the only way this works, so it must be right. Jaqen H'ghar is the only character in the world who can tell us again about how the rules work for the Faceless Men magic. As he told us a long time ago, they have the power to kill ANY single individual, but the more important the victim, the higher the price. He said even a KING can be killed, but the price will be to kill a loved one / family member.

This is ridiculously perfect from a dramatic standpoint. He specifically said KING all that time ago, and now we have to kill the NIGHT KING. The Faceless God will demand killing of a loved one, and Jaqen H’ghar, unlike Beric, is going to be really convincing on this. You see, Beric needs to CONVINCE Arya that killing a loved one is the solution. But Jaqen H'ghar doesn’t have to do that exactly. He only has to REMIND her that it’s true. She lived through the trials of the Faceless God and knows full well about the power and rules. She will be horrified, but she’ll believe that that really is the Faceless God’s price.

Wait, but the HOUND is Jaqen H'ghar? Yes. Someone has to be. Don’t you think it’s extra perfect if the person who Jaqen H'ghar has disguised himself to be is sitting around talking to Beric in Season 8, Episode 2? That gives that scene a whole new meaning. They aren’t two “miserable old shits” as Arya says. Well, they are, but they are ALSO two ambassadors to gods hanging out and talking to the princess that is promised when she happens to walk by.

Furthermore, it really seemed like The Hound died a long time ago. Arya left him for dead and he had no possible way of surviving that we knew of. Explanation: he didn’t survive. That’s where Jaqen H'ghar found him (he was following Arya) and took The Hound’s face. Later, The Hound mysteriously tried to start a new life with the villain from HBO’s Deadwood. Why? Because if you’re actually Jaqen H'ghar, you can’t go around killing people indiscriminately like The Hound would. You are forbidden by your god from doing that. The perfect cover is “trying to turn over a new leaf” and be a nice pacifist guy, which is exactly what we saw The Hound do.

Anyway, The Hound is really Jaqen H'ghar and he will reveal himself and remind Arya of the Faceless Men powers and prices when we’re far along in all this and need another push.

Arya will kill Jon Snow

She has to kill a loved one to forge Lightbringer, and there’s only three real possibilities. There’s a budding romance with Gendry, and I think that it exists entirely as a distraction. It’s way, way too weak of a story to have the fate of the universe hinge on a hardly-anything, maybe-romance with Gendry. Incidentally, it’s amazing writing that now the fate of the universe now depends on something usually out of a “chick flick”: do we love each other enough???

Sansa is a candidate; Arya probably loves her and it would be dramatic to kill her. But that’s nothing compared to killing Jon Snow. Jon was way more important to her growing up. Jon is absolutely central to the story, so it’s seemingly hugely disruptive (and exciting) if he’s the victim.

And he must be. Partly because his entire character has been designed for 8 years to be a good guy. A sympathetic guy. I think it’s clever that this is easily misinterpreted as “it’s all about Jon Snow eventually getting to be in power, because he SHOULD be.” Sorry, it’s all about him being an even more tragic murder victim.

And even beyond that, remember that this is ultimately the Lord of Light’s ballgame. We know why the god resurrected Beric (to clue in the prince (Arya) on the prophecy) but what about Jon Snow? As you can see, the Red Woman was just mistaken (AGAIN) about who is the price who is promised. That’s not why Jon Snow was allowed to be resurrected. He was allowed because he has to be around for Arya to KILL. That’s the only way to truly forge Lightbringer and kill the Night King.

Arya forges Lightbringer and kills the Night King

I’ve already explained all this, but there’s an exciting nuance to it. It’s quite a gamer move in that Arya is really benefiting from “double god bonuses” here. The Faceless God and Lord of Light seem to both demand she kill a loved one. I think how this actually works is that the Faceless God is demanding the price she pays by killing Jon. And what does the Faceless God then actually DO to give her the power to kill the Night King? Poetically: nothing. It’s just that by paying his price, she ALSO unlocked the god of power of the OTHER god, The Lord of Light, to forge the magical super weapon. One tragic kill, two gods satisfied.

I’ll just remind you that sum of all this is she just had to kill her brother (Jon Snow) in order to be able to kill her other brother (Bran / Night King).

Daenerys sits on the Iron Throne

So one way or another, we beat the undead. Probably some dragon fire breath helped, and various armies of men helped. We might even have Melisandre show up with a bunch of her priests who can repeatedly resurrect our troops in a resurrect-off with the Night King(??). But the main factor is Arya killing the Night King. Now that it’s all over, Dany does what she said she’d do for many years now: take the throne. She obsessed with it, and her story is the long road of how righteousness and good intentions turn into a terrifying dictator when you turn the knob up too high.

Daenerys is deposed

I think she will only hold the throne for a few minutes, if even that long. She will give an angry, impassioned speech about how she DESERVES the throne because of her bloodline. She will ramble on about the line of succession, and make a rock-solid sounding case that she absolutely is owed this throne above anyone else.

The great irony is that this speech will mirror the one given by Ned Stark to Cersei. In that old speech, Ned had solid, correct logic that Cersei did not deserve the throne. He explained the line of succession and the rules and all that, and even had a signed document from the previous king to back him up. But Cersei laughed and ripped up the piece of paper, pointing out how pathetic it is to think a piece of paper (or a speech) would do anything. What actually does anything? Being backed by armies and use of force.

Back then Littlefinger said when one ruler tells the army to do X and another says to do Y, which thing does the army do? “Whoever pays them” he said. That’s what Ned didn’t get. And the surprise is neither does Dany.

Dany’s armies will be an “easy come, easy go” situation. Remember, she had 3 dragons and zero armies, then turned that into 3 dragons + 1 entire army, basically instantly, with the Unsullied. She also got another army basically instantly with the Dothraki. I’m not sure how exactly, but her current armies will instantly disappear. They will just leave. Maybe they see her do something they don’t like and turn on her. Maybe her dragons died in battle, too. So who is actually on her side anymore? No one.

How about Sansa? Sansa knows how to actually run a community and plan things. She was the one worried about how to feed everyone. She’s the one who has people fighting for her because they WANT to, not because they are afraid of her. She has the army of the North, and a bunch more followers too these days. Plus if she really needs it, she has the army of the Gold Company too (via Arya, maybe). That’s kind of perfect because in both cases, “they follow whoever pays them” refers to the GOLD CLOAKS and the GOLDEN COMPANY.

Anyway, Dany will suddenly realize she has the iron throne, but zero power to back it up. No one to fight for her, and no physical skill of her own. She will be somehow easily--even pathetically--dispatched.

The final image is that of Sansa on the Iron Throne.

“Valar morghulis” means “all men must die.” It’s interesting that the final conflict is entirely amongst women. The men in contention to rule all died.