Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

on July 11, 2017, 12:00am

There are a lot of reasons to love HBO’s Game of Thrones. One is the rich setting created by author George R.R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Another is the vast array of well-developed characters, from the tormented Tyrion and Heisenbergian Cersei to the pure-hearted Jon Snow and steely-eyed Dany. Yet another is the rich and unbelievable war cinematography, the likes of which has given us the best on-screen battles since Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings.

But the most important factor in the show’s exponential growth? The series’ online fandom and, in particular, the abundance of theoreticians that try to predict aspects of the series’ plot and characters. Their postulations have stoked deeper interest in the series’ characters. They’ve kept the general audience interested by doing much of their theorizing during out-of-season months. They’ve built casual observers into fans; they’ve built fans into superfans. And the work they do is heaps of fun.

Of course, not every Game of Thrones theory is correct. Some work out in the end, but far more crash and burn upon arrival, even if they’re entertaining to read and chew on. Below, we’ve collected five theories that have either been proven true or have been widely assumed to be true, in addition to a handful of theories that stretch the facts far beyond their limits to support a claim. Check them all out below, especially if you’re sick of waiting for the beginning of season seven.

After all, Winter arrives again this Sunday.
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Five Theories That Totally Worked

R+L=J

gameofthrones news Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Jon Snow isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard… he’s the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister Lyanna. To date, this is the most central mystery that Game of Thrones has resolved. It’s so core to the story that, according to legend, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had to guess it correctly in order to secure the television rights from George R.R. Martin. And it’s been around long enough that almost everyone who knew the slightest bit of A Song of Ice and Fire lore had called it by the time the truth was revealed in last season’s finale. Hell, there’s even a spin-off theory making the rounds, with some corners of the Internet suggesting that Meera Reed (who’s chilling with Bran up north) is really Jon’s twin sister.

What’s the significance?

Jon is still an illegitimate child, but now that we know he’s a surviving son of Rhaegar Targaryen, he has a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne, equal to or perhaps greater than Daenerys’ own claim. And what with Bran having seen the flashback that confirmed R+L=J, Jon has a way of finding out the truth and announcing to the world that he’s the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. That said, Jon doesn’t seem to lust for power, so it’s more likely that having the blood of the dragon will instead benefit him in his battle against the white walkers. In fact, Jon’s parentage is perhaps the best support thus far for another widespread theory: that he is Azor Ahai, “the prince who was promised,” a prophesied hero who will probably save the day at series’ end. The prince is supposed to “wake dragons out of stone,” and the Targaryens are the only known noble house with control over dragons.
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Benjen = Coldhands

got coldhands pic Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Benjen Stark, brother to the long-deceased Ned, went north of the Wall on a ranging party with the Night’s Watch in Season 1. He never returned. Everyone in Westeros assumed he had died … but the fans thought otherwise. As many of them predicted, Benjen was eventually revealed to be Coldhands, a legendary wight-like being who seems to have sided with the good guys against the white walkers.

What’s the significance?

Maybe nothing! Interestingly, this looks like a place where the show has departed from the books; Martin has vehemently and repeatedly denied that Benjen and Coldhands are the same person. Unfortunately for viewers, the discrepancy might indicate that Coldhands’ identity isn’t going to make much of a difference in the long game—Benioff and Weiss are faithful to A Song of Ice and Fire’s big-picture plot, but they’re free to combine minor characters and tweak certain arcs to fit their medium. Such is the price of Martin’s glacial writing pace: he no longer has complete control over his own narrative.

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Littlefinger Knows Arya is Alive

 Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Fans have been wondering about this ever since Arya fearfully filled some cups during Littlefinger’s Season 2 meeting with Tywin Lannister. Littlefinger being Littlefinger, he cast some curious glances at the Stark daughter but said nothing to his business partner about the matter. (Would Book-Littlefinger have made it so obvious? Certainly not, but in the world of television, implication must have a strong visual basis.) In the last couple weeks, actor Aidan Gillen clarified matters: Yes, Littlefinger knew that was Arya, and yes, he wasn’t just buttering up Sansa when he hold her that her sister was alive.

What’s the significance?

Littlefinger has made it this far in the game because he knows more than any other person in the Seven Kingdoms (except perhaps Varys). We’re not in Book-land, where an impostor Arya Stark suffers Ramsay Bolton’s marriage while Sansa sits safely in the Vale. Here in TV-land, most of Westeros assumes Arya has been dead since her father lost his head. Knowledge that Arya lives will certainly help Lord Baelish manipulate Sansa and Jon, and she might even provide him a backup plan should his Sansa strategy fail to work out.

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Nymeria Will Return

nymeria Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

In the series’ first episode, each of the Stark children adopted a direwolf pup. Jon Snow’s Ghost is the only known survivor among them, but Arya’s direwolf Nymeria has been MIA since early in the first season. Most fans think the beast is currently leading a pack of wolves that’s been ravaging the Riverlands, thanks to Arya’s recurring first-person wolf dreams—she wouldn’t be the first Stark to have warging abilities. It’s not officially confirmed, but Time’s cover story on the show strongly indicated that we’ll be seeing Nymeria and her lupine army at some point this season.

What’s the significance?

It’s hard to say. Arya’s the most enigmatic of the remaining main cast—at this point, the only guarantee is that she’s going to continue her murderous revenge rampage. On one hand, reuniting with Nymeria might remind her of her Stark family roots and her humanity, chilling her bloodlust for a time. On the other hand, if Arya figures out how to control her warging powers, Nymeria presents her with another deadly weapon in her arsenal. There are still quite a few people left on her list, including Melisandre, who happens to be heading right toward Arya as of the Season 6 finale. The youngest Stark daughter would probably love nothing more than to tear into the Red Woman’s flesh with the jaws of a direwolf.

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Jamie Will Kill Cersei

 Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

The theory is far from definitive, and the Reddit hivemind has speculated that anyone from Jon Snow to Arya Stark to Gregor Clegane will murder the Mad Queen. But the established majority opinion for now appears to be that Jaime, born a few minutes after Cersei, will be the culprit. More importantly, the collected evidence, laid out beautifully here, strongly favors this theory. The most crucial bit deals with a prophecy foretelling that Cersei would be strangled to death by “valonqar,” the Valyrian word for “little brother.” For years, she assumed this would be Tyrion, but given the way the narrative has progressed—see the icy look Jaime casts upon his sister as she takes the Iron Throne—she likely placed her suspicion on the wrong brother the whole time.

What’s the significance?

Narrative-wise, this would be the perfect capstone on both Jaime’s and Cersei’s arcs. Jaime ended Robert’s Rebellion by killing Aerys Targeryen to save the realm, so committing the very same act upon his own sister would complete that circle. Moreover, Jaime has rehabilitated his image over the course of the series, leaving his dishonorable Kingslayer and Bran-pusher identity behind in favor of a moral code and deep respect for his position as a guardian of the Seven Kingdoms’ well-being. Killing Cersei to prevent another insane monarch’s lunacy would cement this legacy. And Cersei’s tragedy would be complete under this theory, as Jaime is the one remaining earthly object she might be said to love (even though she may only love the parts of Jaime that reflect her self-image and personality). In this scenario, Cersei loses everything.
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Five Theories That Totally Didn’t

The Lannister Honeypot

game of thrones Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Back in Seasons 2 and 3, Robb Stark fell in love with a girl, a healer named Talisa (in the books, this is Jeyne Westerling). Talisa was one of the series’ stronger female characters, full of intrigue and strong moral fiber. After a short while, she had gained enough influence over the Young Wolf to convince him to marry her instead of fulfilling his betrothal to one of the Freys. And that betrayal eventually got him killed at the Red Wedding, which was orchestrated by none other than Walder Frey … and Tywin Lannister. Was Talisa the femme fatale, the secret Lannister agent that brought down the North from within?

Why it didn’t work…

Well, Talisa was about to bear Robb an heir. That doesn’t seem very secret agent-y. Also, she was brutally murdered at the Red Wedding. That also doesn’t seem very secret agent-y. More than likely, Robb was just young and in love, and Talisa had the misfortune of stepping into the center of TV’s messiest fictional landscape.
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Benjen is Daario

game of thrones1 Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Before the show revealed that Benjen was actually Coldhands, Game of Thrones theorists loved to speculate about the elder Stark’s fate. One Redditor postulated that Benjen had been recruited by Varys (or, rather, one of Varys’ little birds) to go help Daenerys take the Iron Throne. Why? Because Benjen knew about Jon Snow’s real parentage and that both surviving Targaryens—Jon and Dany—would be crucial to saving Westeros from the white walkers. So Benjen, according to the theory, faked his death, reemerged as the flamboyant Daario Naharis, and became Daenerys’ lover to win her ear.

Why it didn’t work…

The show revealed that Benjen was actually Coldhands. So that’s that. It’s still possible that book-Benjen is book-Daario, especially in light of how fiercely Martin has denied the show’s version of events, but as we explained earlier, Benjen’s identity is probably immaterial if Benioff and Weiss were allowed to switch things up. Daario didn’t even make the trip across the Narrow Sea at the end of Season 6, because Dany wanted to arrive free of a lover. You’d think that’s when Benjen would’ve cast off his disguise.
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Hodor the Horse, or Hodor the Great Other

hodorold e1499716533750 Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What is it?

Season 6, Episode 2 revealed that Hodor had once been a stable boy named Wylis who could say more than just “Hodor.” Naturally, the Internet had a theory meltdown trying to crack the case. One Redditor posited that Hodor had once been a warg, that he had gone too far with his warging and wrecked his mind, and that he had thenceforth identified with a horse—his preferred warging animal, the way that Bran prefers to warg into his direwolf. This would have explained Hodor’s horse-like behavior. Another Redditor went even further and suggested that deep within the crypts of Winterfell, young Wylis had become possessed by the Great Other: winter personified, whose real name was Hodor. And in its new human body, Hodor had escaped the castle built to confine it.

Why it didn’t work…

Just three episodes later, we found out that Wylis had been mentally experiencing his death mission over and over again for decades. “Hold the door” became “Hodor” as the poor young stable boy had his body sacrificed by Bran. With that tearjerking annihilation came the annihilation of all the beautiful, detailed Hodor theories scattered across the web.
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Oedipal Tyrion

o game of thrones tyrion facebook e1499716506931 Five Game of Thrones Theories That Worked And Five That Flopped

What it is?

This is perhaps the zaniest of all the theories you’ll find online. The premise: Tyrion’s real parents aren’t Joanna and Tywin Lannister… they’re Daenerys and Drogo. A couple years ago, a Redditor pulled out some evidence that, at birth, Tyrion resembled Dany’s stillborn fetus Rhaego. The theoretician further postulated that Mirri Maz Duur, the blood magician Dany mistakenly trusted to save Drogo, performed an ol’ switcheroo across a three-decade timespan, moving fetal Tyrion from Dany’s womb into Joanna’s using Drogo’s soul. The cherry on top is that Tyrion, having indirectly killed Drogo (and directly killed Tywin) will marry Daenerys, ascend to the Iron Throne, then blind himself when he discovers the truth.

Why it didn’t work…

Quite simply, this is insane. It hasn’t definitively been proven false, per se. But aside from the mental contortions required to convert Tyrion into Oedipus, two factors shoot this theory down. First, much of the fandom now believes the well-reasoned argument that Tyrion’s father is Aerys Targaryen. Second, whittling Martin’s epic tale down to an Oedipus allegory would fly in the face of everything else we know about the story, minimizing the importance of Azor Ahai, the dragons, the white walkers, and the Song of Ice and Fire itself. This is the product of selective quotation, vivid imagination, and too much damn time since the most recent book of the series hit shelves.
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Ser Pounce is Azor Ahai

What it is?

Alt Shift X, an Australian YouTuber, is one of the Internet’s authoritative Game of Thrones theoreticians. So, when he posted the above video explaining why Tommen’s cat Ser Pounce was actually the mythical hero destined to save the world from the white walkers, lots of people lost their minds.

Why it didn’t work…

It was a joke. As it turns out, those who watched to the very end of the video were treated with the real twist: Alt Shift X was making a point about conspiracy theories and how easy they are to create. Coincidences are everywhere, and in a series as long as Game of Thrones, there’s bound to be enough material to put any two pieces of “evidence” together and claim that a cat might kill the Night King with a flaming sword. The Ser Pounce hypothesis thus serves as a tidy meta-lesson, putting theories in their rightful place—great fun, but nothing over which people should drive themselves crazy. Especially not now, this close to the end of the series and the resolution of all its mysteries.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO this Sunday, July 16th at 9 p.m. EST. Stay tuned for our weekly coverage.

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