Ahead of the final season of Game of Thrones we had a lot of theories. After it ended, not so much. It’s almost impressive how well those final seven episodes managed to kill every fan’s excitement for the HBO show, but looking back, it’s probably because, in the end, Game of Thrones didn’t seem to care about the lore and prophecies that kept fans coming back (also, the storytelling was rushed).
In hindsight, most of our Game of Thrones theories were wrong, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun thinking about them. From the Night King to Azor Ahai, we have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.
Read more of Inverse’s 19 favorite fan theories of 2019. Oh, and spoilers ahead.
4. WhyGame of Thrones leaks got the ending wrong
If Game of Thrones Season 7 was a letdown, Season 8 was a calamity. But it didn’t start out that way. Despite all the crowing about extreme security measures on the HBO epic’s final run, there were quite a few intriguing clues making the rounds online about how it was all going to end.
One thing a majority of leak-seekers seemed to concur on: the story would end with King’s Landing in ruins and a final gathering of the principal cast at the Dragonpit. The bare bones of that description turned out to be true. But in the early months of 2019, no one was predicting that Dany would be the one to destroy King’s Landing. Instead, the consensus among rumor-mongers held that Tyrion was on trial at the Dragonpit for locking everyone inside the walls and setting off the remaining wildfire caches stored beneath the city.
This narrative began to take shape as a result of set photos and alleged script leaks. Jon and Dany weren’t in any of the set photos from the Dragonpit, leading to speculation they were both dead, or Dany was in labor, or they had returned to Winterfell, or some combination of both. Speculation held that Tryion would turn heel to prevent the Night King from adding a million more soldiers to his army — and perhaps to protect Cersei’s rumored offspring, the last of the Lannister line. (At this point, no one had predicted the dead would be stopped in one night by an Arya ex machina.) Tyrion would be put to death, either for betraying Dany or the people of King’s Landing, or both.
Would this have been a better ending? That’s hard to say for certain, but it definitely makes more sense on paper than Dany “kinda forgetting” about the Iron Fleet and utterly losing her shit at the sound of bells. We know Tyrion still loved Jaime and Cersei, despite everything. We know he resented the people of King’s Landing for treating him so abominably over the years. And we know Tyrion was a masterful tactician and politician… right up to the moment he joined Daenerys, when he made a whole lot of terrible decisions.
On second thought, yes. This definitely would have been a better ending.
— Jen Glennon
3. Bran is the Night King
Knowing that the Night King would play a bigger role in the final season of Game of Thrones, fans began speculating about his mysterious identity. Some popular theories suggested the White Walker leader was a Targaryen, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, a member of the Stark family, or simply an unlucky human. But the most popular theory circulating the internet was that Bran Stark was the Night King.
This wild fan theory seemed to stem from the idea that both Bran and the Night King were products of the Children of the Forest, transformed to serve a higher purpose. For the Night King, that was the destruction of humanity, but Bran’s purpose was much more murky. They were also two of the most powerful beings in Westeros, using their mystical powers to control other creatures.
The crux of this Night King theory involved Bran using his powers to travel back in time (like he did in previous seasons) only to get stuck in the body of the undead villain, creating a mind-blowing time loop in the process. In the end, Bran never used his time travel powers in Season 8, and this theory totally flopped — but we still say it makes more sense than Bran becoming King of Westeros.
Verdict: So very wrong
— Mae Abdulbaki
2. Azor Ahai was the key to Game of Thrones’ final season
Going into the final season of Game of Thrones, one of the biggest questions on every fans’ mind was which character would turn out to be Azor Ahai. The prophesized Prince (or Princess) Who Was Promised was referred to regularly throughout the series, but George R.R. Martin’s books dove even deeper into the lore of the ancient warrior who would return to defeat the White Walkers once and for all.
Popular guesses included Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen — but I was particularly enchanted by the theory that Jamie Lannister was the Prince Who Was Promised. Not only did he check all the boxes from the prophecy, but it would have given his character a far better arc than the disappointing one we ultimately got.
Ultimately, it was Arya Stark who killed the Night King and defeated the White Walkers, but in the process, Game of Thrones threw away the entire Azor Ahai concept and never bothered to address it at all. Sure, watching Arya stab the Night King was thrilling television, but I can’t help but hope that if Martin even actually finishes his books we’ll get a more fulfilling answer to one of the biggest mysteries in Westeros.
Verdict: Extremely wrong
— Jake Kleinman
1. Netflix’s Russian Doll is a metaphor for the Tompkins Square Park Riots
One of Netflix’s weirdest releases of 2019, Russian Doll told the story of a woman (Natasha Lyonne) forced to relive the night of her 36th birthday party as she repeatedly dies and relives the experience while attempting to solve a sci-fi mystery. The show also ends with a bizarre celebration in Tompkins Square Park featuring homeless man and a collection of colorful revelers.
It’s a confusing way to end the miniseries for sure, but it didn’t take long for one person to figure it out. New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman theorized that the entire show is a metaphor for the Tompkins Square Park Riots, a protest that occurred in 1991 when the mayor of New York shut the East Villain neighborhood park down for 15 months in an attempt to clear out the homeless and gentrify the neighborhood.
Verdict: Shockingly accurate
— Jake Kleinman