Back in fall 2018, one particular Game of Thrones fan theory was all the rage. Based on set leaks and evidence from a credible leaker who'd accurately predicted many of the twists and turns of Season 7, it claimed we would see a beloved character make a dramatic heel turn. However, that character wasn't Daenerys Targaryen, it was Tyrion Lannister.
While Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin previously revealed that he gave Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss some rough "bullet points" for the conclusion of his saga, he's got to be thinking twice about incorporating that same ending into his novels. Any sane person would, after the unprecedented backlash and fan outcry that greeted Season 8. We'll revisit that rumored twist here, and detail why we think some version of this might make for a more satisfying and plausible ending in Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring than what we got from the TV show.
Back in September 2018, Spanish YouTuber FrikiDoctor shared a video based on some leaks from the King's Landing Dragonpit set, predicting that the setting would be the stage for a third trial of Tyrion Lannister, charging that he had betrayed Dany and Jon Snow. Now that Season 8 has come and gone, we know that this ended up being the scene where Tyrion makes the case for Bran to rule the Six Kingdoms. We also know that HBO brought multiple actors in for this scene who weren't in the final cut, to throw leakers off the track. (In this case, it seems to have worked.)
The YouTuber further alleged that his sources told him Tyrion's treason would be revealed in a dramatic confrontation with Jon, Dany, Sansa, and Arya, which was filmed in a secret location. Friki claims that scene took five days to film, and would be "the bitter part" of the long-speculated bittersweet ending that GRRM had in mind for the saga. This was meant to explain why Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke weren't spied filming at the location.
So why would Tyrion betray the Targaryens and the Starks? The good people over at the Freefolk subreddit came up with a whole host of explanations back when this theory was still kicking, many of which made a hell of a lot more sense than what the showrunners came up with. While no one was particularly happy to see a fan-fave like Tyrion break bad, turns out there were plenty of good reasons for it.
Three explanations tended to come up again and again: Tyrion betrays Dany to protect his siblings, to prevent the Night King from adding to his army of the dead, and to stick it to the people of King's Landing once and for all. Ahead of Season 8, there wasn't a clear consensus among leakers or fan theorists on whether Jon and Dany survived this betrayal, given that they were not shown in the dragonpit leaks photos.
"I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you."
Tyrion already went to considerable lengths to get Jamie and Cersei out of King's Landing in the TV show, so him doing so in the books wouldn't be much of a stretch. It's also not hard to imagine that Winds of Winter and its successor, A Dream of Spring, will spend a bit more time exploring the conflict between humanity and The Others, even if the Night King doesn't exist in the books.
That said, the most persuasive explanation traces back to Tyrion's tortured relationship with King's Landing. These are the ingrates he saved at the Battle of Blackwater, only for them to falsely accuse him of murdering Joffrey and continue to treat him like a freak. Tyrion hasn't yet met Dany in the books, though they're both in Essos, so it's likely to happen at some point in Winds of Winter. In the books, Tyrion's far more embittered and vengeful than his on-screen counterpart, which means there's good reason to suspect that if he does become her trusted advisor, he won't feel quite so charitable toward King's Landing.
There's evidence for this in the earlier seasons of the show, which hew closer to GRRM's source material than Seasons 6-8. The best example of this is in the speech he gives during the trial for Joffrey's murder during Season 4. "I wish I was the monster you think I am," he says bitterly. "I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it."
If the war with the others and the fall of the Wall largely plays out as it did in the show, perhaps Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring will see the Others make it as far south as King's Landing. That would truly be a horrific scenario, one more closely in keeping with the stories of the Long Night that Old Nan told Bran as a child. We'll likely still see some kind of showdown with the dead at Winterfell, though perhaps Tyrion schemes to allow Winterfell to get overrun, and Arya never gets her chance to save the day by swooping in from the trees.
As Dany's forces move south, Tyrion could then plot to take out King's Landing himself, even if Dany doesn't set her dragons loose on civilians. After all, there's plenty of wildfire still kicking around in all those subterranean tunnels. Tyrion knows the interconnected chambers beneath the city awfully well, and he has even more experience from his time managing the cisterns at Casterly Rock. In theory, he could trap the populace inside and unleash the green flames of hell after helping Jaime and Cersei escape, thus defying Dany's orders and keeping the citizens from joining the army of the dead. He'd finally get that poison for all the people who wronged him, and he'd be giving his life to watch them swallow it.
Winds of Winter does not yet have a confirmed release date.