The Battle of Winterfell Is Finally Over. So What Happens Next on Game of Thrones?

11 minute read

Warning: This story contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.

With just three episodes left in the series, Game of Thrones just hit the reset button. Ever since the very first scene in the very first episode, fans have obsessed over the fight between the living and the dead. But now that’s all over: Arya Stark heroically took out the Night King, and every single ice zombie with him. Now the humans who are left will have to squabble over who gets to rule Westeros.

Currently, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne. But Daenerys cares deeply about becoming queen — her whole life has been leading up to this point. Lately, the show has been hinting that the Mother of Dragons would not make the most kind ruler. The other person with a claim to the throne, Jon Snow, would probably just like to retire to a cave somewhere, preferably one with a waterfall. And if the marketing for this season is any indication, Tyrion and Sansa and Jaime and Arya could all be contenders to rule too.

Here are all the questions to consider heading into the final half of the last season of Game of Thrones.

What does the trailer for episode 4 tell us?

In the short preview of episode four of season 8, Daenerys seems to be rallying the troops to head south to King’s Landing. She’s still got her two dragons and all her advisors except for poor Jorah (RIP). We see a shot of the Targaryen fleet sailing for what is presumably King’s Landing.

We even get a shot of Daenerys with Drogon behind her, smiling as she looks up into the air. Maybe she’s watching Jon ride his dragon. There’s a possibility that Jon and Daenerys sort out the whole “who is the heir to the Iron Throne?” question rather quickly when Jon tells Daenerys he has no interest in ruling Westeros. Now, Daenerys has a powerful ally who can ride a dragon and, if they marry, unite parts of her kingdom. But on a show like this, nothing is ever that simple.

Cersei smugly gazes at her new army, the Golden Company, from a tower. They’ll be mobilized to take out Daenery’s severely diminished troops. (Remember, every single Dothraki was wiped out in the Battle of Winterfell.)

And while Daenerys looks rather cheery in the trailer — and for the first time since she arrived, the Northerners look happy to be sharing a room with her — the Stark kids (including, honorarily Jon) all look rather glum. The fighters have to oversee the burning of their allies’ bodies.


And Sansa is clearly still worried about Daenerys — both Jon’s relationship with her and the Mother of Dragon’s singleminded goal of sitting on the Iron Throne.

Who will the North belong to?

Sansa Stark and Daenerys Targaryen chat on Game of Thrones season 8 episode 2
Sansa and Daenerys have an uneasy alliance.Helen Sloan/HBO

Sansa and Daenerys need to come to an understanding in order to defeat their mutual enemy, Cersei. The two came close to something like a truce in the second episode of season 8 when Daenerys revealed to Sansa that she was in love with Jon. But as soon as Sansa brought up the question of who would rule Winterfell, the Mother of Dragons bristled.

Daenerys’ thirst for power has only gotten worse in the last few episodes. Recall that when Yara Greyjoy asked Dany whether the Iron Islands could remain independent, Dany said she would consider it. She has not yet made such an offer to Sansa. Daenerys may have to get used to the idea that she could rule over a Westeros that doesn’t look quite like her father’s Westeros — a land made up of many independent states, but probably a more peaceful one.

Even when Sansa was facing imminent death in the crypts, she was still throwing shade at Daenerys, so it’s unlikely Sansa is going to cede any ground. If someone can create a bridge between them, it’s probably Tyrion, not Jon.

Tyrion and Sansa bonded in the crypts, and he appears to still believe in Daenerys’ abilities as a ruler. Plus, Tyrion had a long chat with Bran Stark before the Battle of Winterfell and hopefully divined some crucial knowledge about the past and the future that can help the good guys unite.

Will Cleganebowl happen?

Macall B. Polay—HBO

Emboldened by Arya, the Hound overcame his paralyzing fear of fire and survived the Battle of Winterfell. Fans are hoping this means he will finally face off with his brother, the Mountain, in a fight fans affectionally refer to as Cleganebowl.

Whether the two are literally chosen as champions in a fight or whether they simply clash swords when Daenerys tries to take King’s Landing, the likely duel is one of the series’ most highly-anticipated showdowns. After all, the brothers brought us two of the best one-on-one combat scenes, both in season 4: The bloody fight between the Mountain and Oberyn Martell and the heart-pounding duel between the Mountain and Brienne.

Will Jaime kill Cersei?

Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of ThronesHelen Sloan—HBO

Prophecies make up a huge part of what drives the plot of Game of Thrones, and with three episodes left, several have yet to be resolved. Some still may prove to be false: For a long time, fans assumed either Daenerys or Jon would have to take down the Night King in order to fulfill the Azor Ahai — also known as the Prince or Princess That Was Promised — prophecy. But it was Arya who killed the Night King instead. Go figure. Characters often misinterpret prophecies on Thrones, leading to their own doom. (Think: Cersei accidentally facilitating the deaths of all three of her children by desperately trying to avoid Maggy the Frog’s prophecy.)

The most important remaining prophecy is that of the valonqar, high Valyrian for “Little Brother.” Maggy predicted on the show that Cersei would bear three children, not by the king, all of whom would die, and then be usurped by a younger queen. But in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, Maggy adds another chilling point: “When your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

Cersei has long thought that Tyrion would be the one to kill her — which given the show’s predilection for twists has fans theorizing that Cersei’s beloved Jaime will be the one to end her life. But any little brother could kill her, not just her little brother, which means Cersei’s current ally Euron could murder her, too. There’s also a theory floating around that if either Tyrion or Jaime die, Arya could use one of their faces to sneak into Cersei’s court and take her out, checking another name off her kill list.

Will Daenerys’ vision of the Red Keep come to pass?

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

During season 2, Daenerys had to journey into the House of the Undying to save her dragons. There, she saw several visions conjured by warlocks. One was a reunion with Khal Drogo and her son, a test she had to resist in order to fulfill her fate. Another showed a sojourn North, presumably beyond the Wall, which came to pass in season 7. A third showed the throne room in King’s Landing in ruins and covered in snow.

Before the Battle of Winterfell, many fans speculated that the Night King would fly his ice dragon south towards King’s Landing and decimate the Red Keep. But in the third episode of the final season, Arya killed the Night King in Winterfell, which means if any version of Daenerys’ vision is going to come true, that destruction will be man-made.

Given that the roof is missing from the Red Keep in her vision, we can reasonably expect that a dragon wreaked havoc from above, rather than below by wildfire. Bran also had a vision of the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing while he was greenseing. Even though Daenerys brought two of her dragons to meet Cersei, we have yet to see that specific shot. The dragons may fly over King’s Landing again.

Who will be on the throne?

Option 1: Cersei Lannister

Lena Headeyas Cersei Lannister
Lena Headey as Cersei LannisterHelen Sloan—HBO

I think we can all agree that Cersei is a bad queen. She’s vindictive, murderous and has made plenty of miscalculations in her time. She doesn’t deserve the throne. But in the end, Cersei may have the last laugh.

Daenerys’ reaction to Jon’s true parentage was extremely concerning: She seemed more worried about how his claim might threaten her path to the throne than about the fight with the undead that was bearing down upon them. Cersei will almost certainly try to stir up discontent between the two and simply sit back and watch as they bicker.

Option 2: Jon Snow

Helen Sloan—HBO

Jon doesn’t want the throne. He has always been a reluctant hero, and he only took up the mantle of leadership when the fate of humanity was at stake. Now that the White Walkers have been defeated, Jon will likely want to retire to a life of quiet brooding.

That is, unless, he and the Starks determine that Daenerys would be a dangerous ruler. In that case, he might be forced to make his claim for the Throne. Since time immortal, myths, history and fantasy stories have taught us that a reluctant leader is the best kind of leader. Just think: Moses, Aeneas, Cincinnatus, George Washington, Frodo, Harry Potter — to name a few. Jon Snow is built in this mold and would seem destined to rule Westeros if Game of Thrones didn’t love to subvert typical tropes.

Option 3: Daenerys Targaryen

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke in Game of ThronesHBO

In theory, Daenerys has always been the obvious choice. She has lived her life according to the principle of justice: She frees slaves, unites peoples and rules effectively. But Daenerys’ main goal has always been the Iron Throne.

The show has recently painted the Mother of Dragons as a Mad Queen. She killed Samwell’s father and brother after the Loot Train attack and has refused to bend on the question of Winterfell’s independence. Could her desire for power corrupt her?

But, despite her repeated assertions that her trip to Westeros is a homecoming, she is essentially a foreigner in a foreign land who has been getting mixed advice from her advisors (see: Tyrion convincing her to trust Cersei). She still has time to right the ship. Too bad she doesn’t have Jorah — the person who encouraged her to make peace with both Tyrion and Sansa in the last episode — going forward.

Option 4: Someone else


Sure, Jon and Daenerys have Targaryen blood, but the Targaryens seized the throne through force in the first place. What’s to stop another player from winding up on the throne, especially if the aforementioned characters are dead?

Sansa is looking more and more like a prime candidate for Queen of Westeros. Cersei heard a prophecy when she was young that she would be usurped by a younger queen, hence her obsession with killing Margaery Tyrell. That younger queen might be Dany, but it might also be Sansa, the current ruler of the North.

Sansa has proven herself to be a survivor and, as Arya noted at the beginning of season 8, she is arguably the smartest character on the show. Her brother, Bran, can literally see the future and would make a great advisor. She has the loyalty of Brienne, the obvious inheritor of the Queensguard. And her sister Arya just proved herself to be the most dangerous woman in Westeros. That sounds like a formidable team.

Will there be a throne at all?


Daenerys seems to have forgotten her “break the wheel” mantra from earlier in the show, but it became a tagline for a reason. Westeros is fundamentally bloody and broken. In order for the land to achieve peace, the monarchy might have to be dismantled.

It’s unlikely that this show is going to end with the first Westerosi elections, but perhaps Jon and Daenerys can find a way to rule together as co-monarchs like Davos predicted. Or, even for a more democratic approach, they could divide various city-states among different characters on the show.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Eliana Dockterman at