The Book That Was Promised

One way Winds of Winter can fix Game of Thrones’ ending

One character can fix so much.

The final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was widely considered a disappointment when it first aired back in 2019, and the public opinion surrounding Thrones’ eighth season hasn’t improved much in the time since its debut.

In particular, the final season’s treatment and depiction of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen remains just as controversial now as it was two years ago. But one popular Game of Thrones fan theory suggests a character in George R. R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter will single-handedly erase many of the problems that plagued Daenerys’ arc in the HBO show’s final season — and indeed, will actually make sense of her final, fiery decisions.

The Theory — Most Game of Thrones fans believe that Daenerys’ arc in the final two books of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series — titled Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring — will be fairly similar to her arc in the final two seasons of Game of Thrones. That means fans think the book version of Daenerys will indeed burn King’s Landing to the ground and ultimately be killed by Jon Snow in much the same way she was in the show.

But fans also think that Daenerys’ transition into the Mad Queen tyrant she became at the end of Game of Thrones will make a lot more sense in the books than it did in the series, thanks to the presence of a character who was excluded from the show.

The character in question? None other than Young Griff — also known as Aegon Targaryen VI, the secretly alive son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell.

Unless he’s not actually Aegon at all, and is instead, a fake — “fAegon,” as he’s known in certain corners of the fandom.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones finale.HBO

Daenerys & fAegon — The term “fAegon” was coined by A Song of Ice and Fire readers as a result of many believing that the character isn’t actually Rhaegar and Elia’s son. Instead, many fans believe the character is actually a member of House Blackfyre — a house originally founded by the legitimized bastard son of King Aegon IV.

The uncertainty surrounding the character’s Targaryen claims haven’t stopped him and his supporters from seeking the Iron Throne in his name though, and many fans believe that Winds of Winter will see Aegon successfully take King’s Landing and the Iron Throne for himself — before Daenerys has even arrived in Westeros. If that turns out to be the case, then it will make Daenerys’ turn towards total tyranny feel far more earned than it did in Game of Thrones, which excluded fAegon from its story.

After all, it makes a lot of sense for Daenerys to react violently and angrily to fAegon’s taking of the Iron Throne — especially if it turns out that he actually isn’t Rhaegar’s son. It would be in keeping with her established personality and beliefs — many of which are based around her being the rightful ruler of Westeros — and wouldn’t require the same form of retconning Dany’s past actions that the Game of Thrones writers resorted to in the show’s final season.

A song of ice and fire.HBO

The Inverse Analysis — So many of the emotional beats and story twists throughout Game of Thrones’ final season feel rushed and unearned, but none more so than Daenerys’ turn towards villainy. While Emilia Clarke did her absolute best to try and sell the character’s shift, the narrative groundwork simply wasn’t there to support her performance.

This Winds of Winter theory, even though it won’t make Daenerys’ overall arc any less tragic or wrenching, should make it feel far more organic and genuine than it did in Game of Thrones. It’s one of the biggest reasons why fans are, for better or worse, continuing to count on George R. R. Martin to give them the satisfying conclusion to the A Song of Ice and Fire story that the HBO adaptation didn’t.

Of course, that all depends on whether or not he manages to finish writing both The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.

The Winds of Winter will be released whenever George R. R. Martin finishes it.