Tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones will feature the Battle of Winterfell, one of the few events that was directly discussed during the lead-up to season eight. We know that it’s the longest battle scene ever filmed, outpacing the previous champion, the battle of Helm’s Deep in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. However, we don’t know how it’s going to turn out for the characters involved.
But boy do we have some guesses. Based on fan theories and classic gumshoe work, here are some likely events.
The Crypts are Not Safe
Quite aside from the fact that no “safe place” is ever allowed to stand on this show, we can assume Winterfell’s crypts are a bad place to shelter the non-combatants for one simple reason: crypts are full of dead people. White Walkers are able to animate the dead to fight for them, and, as we saw at Hardhome, the Night King can do so en masse. That means it’s basically a 100% probability that centuries of dead Starks will rise against the non-fighters and children in the crypts.
While many recent Stark dead are not buried at Winterfell — the current generation’s grandfather and eldest uncle were executed and burnt in King’s Landing, and Robb Stark’s body was not returned — there is speculation that Ned Stark’s headless corpse will be a factor. We haven’t seen any headless wights yet, but this is certainly a possibility. We also may see a reanimated Lyanna Stark, Jon’s mother and Sansa’s, Arya’s, and Bran’s aunt, which will certainly be painful for all involved. Someone’s going to destroy her reanimated corpse — our money is on young Lady Lyanna Mormont, her namesake.
Another thing: there’s been talk of a door seen in the trailers, one that is never to be opened. Are there captured White Walkers or some other ancient threat locked in there? Some fan theories–based mostly on book stuff that’s kind of boring — say yes. We’ll see.
We May See a Zombie Wolf
You may or may not recall (season six seems like decades ago), but when the Three-Eyed Raven that trained Bran was attacked, several characters died to protect Bran: the Children of the Forest, Jojen Reed (Meera’s brother, the one with the prophetic dreams), Bran’s direwolf Summer, and, of course, Hodor. Any of these characters might appear in the battle as wights, since their bodies weren’t burned. That would be heartbreaking, particularly in the case of Hodor. But what I really want to talk about is Summer.
If Summer appears as a wight, we might see an interesting test of Bran’s powers. We know that, when Summer was alive, Bran could warg into him — that is, possess him to share his mind and control his body. The boy and the wolf had a deep connection, even deeper than those of the other Stark children with their wolves. This begs the question: now that Summer is undead, what if Bran can still warg into him? If Bran can warg into wights, this changes…well, it changes a lot. It would be a huge coup against the Night King. Plus, Bran could have a pet ice wolf.
Of course, it’s possible Bran can’t warg into wights — probable, even. In which case, we have an evil ice wolf to fight, which brings me to my next point…
We Might See Some of Our Favorite Living Characters Return
Well, by “favorite” I really only mean Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria. Arya sent Nymeria away in the first season, having seen the execution of Sansa’s wolf Lady and fearing a similar fate for Nymeria. The wolf, separated from the human she bonded with, has formed a wolf pack of legendary size. In the books, Arya dreams of the wolf pack, which has long led fans to expect Nymeria’s return, and indeed, last season Arya encountered Nymeria and her pack. It was a brief moment, but a pretty strong indication that Nymeria will appear to fight alongside Arya this season. The upcoming battle is the most likely place for this return.
This means we might get a direwolf vs. zombie direwolf fight! Plus, an image we would all treasure: Arya at the head of a massive wolf pack, bearing down on wights and White Walkers alike in a Kill Bill-style massacre.
As for other, less “favorite” characters, I think we can bet on the return of Melisandre. When Jon found out Melisandre was responsible, along with Stannis, for burning Shireen Baratheon at the stake, he banished her, and she left Westeros. But she once told Varys that she would die in Westeros, pretty much guaranteeing she’d return this season. A lot of fans think she’ll bring reinforcements from one of the other continents, Essos (location of her mysterious home city of Asshai) or Sothoryos. Considering both continents are full of lore and contain numerous rumors of distinctive warrior cultures and interesting humanoid species, this could be a really cool visual. But whoever returns with her, Melisandre herself will probably be the best asset to the Stark forces. She believes Jon is destined to become the next Lightbringer, basically ending the reign of the White Walkers, and will bring all her power to bear to defend him. There’s a good chance she will die in the battle, but she will take numerous White Walkers with her–and possibly even the ice dragon.
We also might see the return of Jaqen H’gar, the Faceless Man who trained Arya. Some fans speculate that Jaqen is also known as Syrio Forel, the swordsmanship tutor Arya had in season one, whose supposed killer she executed when she found him in Braavos. This would be deeply ironic, as Arya was punished for killing Syrio’s killer by Jaqen, who nearly kicked her out of the House of Black and White for avenging Syrio, who might really be Jaqen…ouch, headache. But regardless, Jaqen may come to Westeros with Melisandre to join the battle, and it would be nice to see him.
We’re Going to See Some Major Deaths
I have bad news for you folks: Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied, is 100% a goner. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. He and Missandei had a conversation about their dreams for the future last episode, then a desperate goodbye kiss. He’s dead.
The cute little girl who spoke with Davos and Gilly last episode? Also definitely dead. You probably figured that out for yourself, though. Beric Dondarrion, the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, is definitely dead too.
And our prediction for biggest character death is Theon Greyjoy. Theon’s redemption arc has been particularly brutal, what with the unapologetically selfish and cruel young man being captured by Ramsay Bolton, who tortured, mutilated, and brainwashed him for years. Sansa’s forced marriage to Ramsay triggered a slow and painful coming back to himself for Theon, and now he has mended fences with his sister Yara, as well as with Sansa. He has put his selfishness entirely aside and has come to Winterfell to fight for the Starks — to fight for his family. He will take his force of Ironborn to the Godswood to defend Bran, who will wait there as bait for the Night King. He’s a dead man walking (though not literally–yet).
Other possible deaths: there’s a good chance we lose Varys this episode. Melisandre predicted his death, and he will be in the obviously doomed crypts with the other non-combatants. Lyanna Mormont could die in battle, as could any number of beloved combatant characters: Podrick and Davos are both in imminent danger, and we might see the death of Jorah, Sam, or even Gendry. Bran’s companion Meera will probably die if she is included at all. Melisandre, if she returns this episode, is probably dead this episode. Same with Nymeria. And we think there’s a solid chance that Drogon, the dragon Dany rides, could bite it too.
Some think Brienne might die, but we think she’s safe…for this episode, at least. Same with Tormund. Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, Dany, Jon, Bran, and the Hound are all safe because their arcs are not yet concluded. And the showrunners know there will be rioting in the streets if they kill off Jon’s direwolf Ghost.
Winterfell Will Fall
No way will the armies of the living defeat the armies of the dead halfway through the final season. They will lose Winterfell and be forced to flee. There is a strong likelihood that its Godswood — the spiritual center of the place and Bran’s strategic location for the battle — will burn. The crypts will be destroyed. The castle’s history, spirit, and ability to sustain life will all be casualties of the battle, and we will all probably cry.
What’s next for Jon and Dany’s armies? Well, there’s a possibility, given the frostiness between the two at the moment, that they will split up, with Dany’s folks returning to Dragonstone. Whether or not the Targaryen forces join them, the Northern armies have two likely places to regroup: the Twins, former castles of Walder Frey, or the Iron Islands. Both are locations that traditionally separate the North from the rest of Westeros. The Twins are presumably run by women at the moment, as Arya killed all the Frey men last season and spared the women, telling them that “the North remembers.” They’re not likely to turn away her people under those conditions. Then again, last we saw Yara, she was headed to the Iron Islands to claim them back from her evil uncle Euron. If she is successful, her islands will make a perfect retreat: insofar as we’ve seen, the undead don’t have great luck with the sea.
These two possible locations will have wildly different results for Cersei. If the Northern armies retreat to the Twins, they’ll be positioned squarely in between the dead and the rest of Westeros (this strategic location being what allowed Walder Frey to gain such a hold over Robb Stark in the early seasons). However, if they retreat to the Iron Islands, it’s conceivable that they could stand aside and let the White Walkers through, trusting Cersei to save her own skin and send her armies after them, thus allowing the Northern armies to take them from the other direction in what could become a two-fronted attack. We at Contemptor aren’t sure Jon is that smart, but Tyrion just might be.
Whatever happens this episode, get ready for a thrilling battle, some major surprises, and lots of tears. That’s the way of things with the apocalypse, my friends.