'Game of Thrones' Final Path: The End of Westeros

Game of Thrones - Season Eight, Series Finale - Episode Six - Image15- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

[This story contains spoilers through the series finale of HBO's Game of Thrones.]

David Benioff and Dan Weiss' Game of Thrones closed out with "The Iron Throne," an 80-minute end to an adventure that spanned 73 episodes, all told. Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) reached the ends of the line in the series finale, while other characters lost their lives earlier along the way: Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), just to name two.

Heading into the final Game of Thrones season, The Hollywood Reporter offered up a series called Final Path, in which we laid out all of our predictions for the Stark siblings Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), among the many other heroes and villains sprung forth from the pages of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Some of those predictions panned out as expected. Many of them… well, many of them very much did not, for better and quite often for worse.

With the story finally finished and all the characters' fates finally revealed, THR now looks back on the predictions made ahead of the final Game of Thrones season, and how they matched up with reality. 

Jon Snow (Kit Harington)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the first episode of the series. Jon is first seen with his half-siblings Robb (Richard Madden) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), instructing the younger of the two in archery. In our original Final Path, the hope was Jon would point Bran in the direction of taking out the Night King once and for all.

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. Jon is last seen riding beyond the Wall and into the Haunted Forest as the leader of the Free Folk, turning his back on the realm one last time.

Preseason Prediction: Death, during a sacrifice play against the White Walkers.

Postseason Reflection: Jon's continued survival wasn't much of a shock once he made it through "The Long Night," and in a sense, he did indeed make a lethal sacrifice play. His choice to murder Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) leaves him as a veritable dead man in the eyes of Westeros, sent back to the Night's Watch. Rather than continue that sacrifice, however, Jon instead chooses life, embracing some measure of peace and happiness in a world far away from Westeros. What's more, when it comes to Bran, Jon didn't point the Three-Eyed Raven toward killing the Night King, but he did pave the way for Bran the Broken to assume the crown.

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the first episode of the series. We meet Daenerys as she and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) are in the city of Pentos, the elder (and crueler) of the two Targaryen siblings conspiring his glorious return to Westeros. The scheme: marry Dany off to Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and earn an army with which to take back the Seven Kingdoms. 

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. With Viserys and Khal Drogo long in the rearview mirror, Daenerys charted her own course forward and successfully earned an army with which to take back the Seven Kingdoms — for one night only. After unleashing an astonishing amount of firepower on King's Landing, Dany made it as far as touching the Iron Throne before receiving a dagger to the heart, courtesy of Jon Snow.

Preseason Prediction: Two possibilities were offered, one in which Dany wins the throne and marries Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Swing and a miss! The other one was closer to reality: Dany would die before she gets a chance to sit upon the throne.

Postseason Reflection: Technically, the second prediction worked out, albeit not in the way we expected at all. Daenerys broke bad in the final stretch of Thrones, an outcome some fans saw coming miles away, while others were left well and fully blindsided. Dany embodies the final season's accelerated pace better than anyone, for better and often for worse. How will the way in which her story panned out impact our own reflections on Game of Thrones in the years and the rewatches to come? Ask again in 10 years. 

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the series premiere. In retrospect, it should come as little surprise that our first glimpse of Tyrion sees him getting drunk in a brothel. After all, this is a man whose self-described skill set is "I drink and I know things." We did not count on a return to the brothel, but the location of the brothel — right in the heart of the North — was more instructive in our final prediction. 

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. Tyrion utters the same joke he's uttered a few times throughout the series: "I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb to a brothel." So, in a sense, he ends at a brothel after all — and he ends near a Northern heart, serving as Hand of the King to Bran the Broken.

Preseason Prediction: That he would end up as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Try not to laugh.

Postseason Reflection: There's no way to make sense of that wild preseason prediction, other than this: Tyrion became an increasingly difficult character to predict over the last four seasons. The final season was no exception, with Tyrion betraying his own best friend only to realize his grave mistake all in the span of a single episode — really, in the span of about 20 minutes. Ending the series as Hand of the King to a Stark, Tyrion lands in a way that ultimately feels true to his character… but not without a lot of head-scratching moves to get him there.

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the series premiere. We first meet Cersei alongside Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the two of them standing near the body of the late Jon Arryn, whose murder serves as the galvanizing force for so much of Thrones' initial action. In the conversation, Cersei openly worries about Lord Arryn's death blowing back on the Lannisters, while Jamie does his best to calm her down.

Final Appearance: "The Bells," the series' penultimate episode. Cersei once again stands beside Jaime, the two of them beneath the Red Keep, their mutual demise all but assured. Once again, Jaime reassures Cersei, maintaining his frequently stated company line: "Nothing else matters. Only us." 

Preseason Prediction: Death, at Jaime's hand.

Postseason Reflection: Close! "Death, in Jaime's arms" would have been more accurate. The two Lannister siblings die in each other's embrace, crushed beneath the power structure they built at such great cost. In sorting through the rubble of the final season, Cersei stands out as one of the main characters with the least-tapped potential. She appeared in four episodes, technically, though barely had anything to do in two of them. Easily one of the most compelling and complicated villains in Game of Thrones lore, Cersei's relatively low-key final season is a true shame, shame, shame.

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

First Appearance: See above; his first appearance is the same as Cersei's.

Final Appearance: See above; his final appearance is the same as Cersei's. Although, perhaps it's worth noting that the Lannister twins' lifeless bodies are last seen in "The Iron Throne." What's more, Jaime is honored in one of the final scenes of the series, as Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) fills out Jaime's pages in the White Book, allowing history to look more honestly at this complicated man.

Preseason Prediction: Jaime would kill Cersei, and die as well.

Postseason Reflection: Again, close! He and Cersei both died together, albeit at peace with one another, finally following their inescapable connection all the way into the void. Our preseason predictions for Jaime panned out in a few other arenas as well. From our previous Final Path entry: "Will the final season of Thrones finally feature Jaime and Brienne's friendship evolving in a more romantic direction? It's a happy outcome to consider, but happy endings aren't terribly likely as Thrones comes in for a landing." Also this, in terms of what would happen to Jaime after his death: "[There] will be someone still standing who can change the narrative surrounding the Kingslayer, making sure people far and wide know the truth behind his complicated life and death: Brienne of Tarth, who will remain a loyal friend beyond Jaime's end." Close on both counts, if not exactly right. Jaime's final season arc was a mixed bag of highs and lows, with some scenes way better than others — murky, in other words, not unlike the man himself.

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the series premiere. The first time we see Sansa, she's seen with Arya (Maisie Williams) and the late Septa Mordane (Susan Brown), working on an embroidery project while the Stark brothers practice archery outside. Unlike Arya, Sansa has little interest in following her brothers' pursuits; for now and for the next several episodes, Sansa's thoughts are fixated on considerably more peaceful dreams. 

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. Sansa ends the series where her story began: in Winterfell. This time, she both harbors peaceful dreams while simultaneously following her brothers' pursuits. Robb (Richard Madden) and Jon both reigned as King in the North. Their time is over. Sansa ends her journey as Queen in the North, wearing a brilliant Stark dress that matches her achievement. 

Preseason Prediction: That she would end the series as Queen in the North.

Postseason Reflection: Bullseye. Sometimes, we know what we're talking about around here! Sansa's journey from starstruck youth with royal ambitions to a Stark queen is one of the most logical and satisfying endings for anyone on Game of Thrones, even if it came steeped in so much pain along the way. It's not quite the happily ever after she envisioned for herself as a child, but all things considered in Westeros? It's happy enough.

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the series premiere. Arya's first scene comes alongside the aforementioned Sansa debut, the two of them learning needle work under the strict guidance of Septa Mordane. Arya, the one who will go on to learn Needle work, strays away from class so she can best her brother Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) at archery.

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. Like her first appearance, Arya ends her time on Game of Thrones by defying expectations. Rather than return North with her family, Arya decides to set out on her own, discovering brand new territory far away from the realm. 

Preseason Prediction: Killed in pursuit of her vengeance against Cersei, with her death serving as the last major gut punch of the series.

Postseason Reflection: Thankfully, we were wrong — though if not for the Hound (Rory McCann) urging her away from the violent path, we likely would have been right. Instead, our Last Hope entry for the Arya Stark Final Path ended up panning out: "Once upon a time, Arya asked Lady Crane: 'What's west of Westeros?' Perhaps the series will end with Arya alive and out in the wild, off to explore the rest of the world of ice and fire. One can hope, at least — because a happy ending settling into the relative warmth of life in Winterfell? As Arya herself might say: 'That's not me.'"

Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)

First Appearance: "Winter Is Coming," the series premiere. Bran stands in the Winterfell courtyard with his brother Robb and half-brother Jon, learning archery. "Go on," Jon tells Bran. "Father's watching." Bran takes a deep breath, concentrating on his target — when his sister Arya beats him to the punch.

Final Appearance: "The Iron Throne," the series finale. Bran is a long way from Winterfell when the series ends, though he's not so far away from warm advisors. Bran ends the series as the new King of the Six Kingdoms, with folks like Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) on board as his advisors.

Preseason Prediction: Bran would warg into a dragon before the end of Game of Thrones, and he would find a Three-Eyed Raven tree to call his own.

Postseason Reflection: Wrong on both counts. Bran never wargs into any of Daenerys' dragons, though he does promise to search for Drogon in the series finale. In a sense, Bran does find a tree of his own, as he serves as the wise eye ruling over the realm. It's a satisfying ending for those who are most familiar with Bran through the perspective of George R.R. Martin's novels; perhaps it's less satisfying from the view of the show, which put Bran on the sidelines for an entire season and went out of its way to establish that this Bran was no longer really Bran Stark. If nothing else, Bran's appointment as king adds extra intrigue to Martin's own eventual ending, should he ever get there.

A quick roundup of some of our other Final Path predictions…

Samwell Tarly (John Bradley): We predicted Sam would survive with Gilly (Hannah Murray) at his side, and become one of the following: Lord of the Reach, Archmaester of the Citadel, or Maester of the Night's Watch. The latter two options were closest, as Sam ended the series as the Grand Maester of the realm.

Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham): We predicted Davos would survive the series and serve as Hand of the King. Close, but not quite! He ends as Master of Ships, a lower-pressure gig that more than suits the Onion Knight's talents.

Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn): We made no bold predictions, though banked on Bronn appearing in the Battle of Winterfell. So much for that. In the end, who could have accurately guessed Bronn's final landing point as Master of Coin and Lord of So Many Other Lofty Titles?

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie): We predicted Brienne's death at the Battle of Winterfell. A good lesson to learn, albeit one learned too late: never bet against Ser Brienne. She not only made it through that battle, but ended the series as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

Varys (Conleth Hill): We predicted Varys the Spider's death, and so it came to pass, albeit under unexpected circumstances: burned alive by Daenerys, rather than a sacrificial death during the Battle of Winterfell.

Melisandre (Carice Van Houten): Another successful death prediction, though we missed the truth behind her connection to Arya.

Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen): Our Final Path prediction was just about spot on: "Jorah Mormont has to die. The White Walker threat won't mean anything without meaningful casualties, and unfortunately, Jorah is a casualty the story can afford. He would gladly give his life if it meant saving Daenerys, and that is almost exactly what's going to happen, whether in single combat against a White Walker or by jumping in front of a proverbial bullet for his queen."

Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen): Another character we expected to die, though we didn't get his final battle right at all. We thought he would kill Euron (Pilou Asbaek), and die in the process. Instead, he bested Euron quickly early on, if not quite fatally, only to move onto the Battle of Winterfell, dying in the face of the Night King in the process.

Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer): The easiest death to predict, considering how many times he died before. But the Lightning Lord was also predicted to sacrifice his own life in order to bring another deceased person back from the brink — a prediction that very much did not come to light. 

The Hound (Rory McCann): We thought he would live through the end of the series, serving Sansa Stark in the North. So much for that. Also, so much for our Last Hope for Sandor Clegane: "For the Hound to eat every damn chicken in Westeros." Here's hoping he enjoyed a few before the final fire.

Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju): "Literally nobody on Game of Thrones is safer than Tormund Giantsbane." It is with great pleasure that the fiery Free Folk figurehead's life remained intact by the end of the series.

The Dragons: We expected an end for all three dragons. Drogon managed to survive the finale, flying off for parts unknown with Daenerys in tow. It's a stark reminder that even if Dany is gone, her power still exists somewhere out there in the world of ice and fire.

The Night King (Vladimir Furdik): Only a true cynic would bet on the White Walkers winning in the end, just as only a true optimist would bet on them losing early. In a rare twist of Game of Thrones fate, the optimists won. We definitely expected the Night King to die, but to die halfway into the final season, with Arya Stark pulling the proverbial trigger? Absolutely not. The Night King's death ranks as one of the biggest shocks of the series, let alone the final season.

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