'Game of Thrones' Final Season: What's Next After the Battle of Winterfell

Game of Thrones - Night King - Season 8 Episode 3 - H Publicity 2019
Courtesy of HBO

[This story contains major spoilers for season eight, episode three of HBO's Game of Thrones, "The Long Night."]

The Night King is dead, and the White Walkers are gone. Now what?

It's a fair question to ask, given how Game of Thrones framed its eventual central conflict as the forces of the living versus the forces of the dead. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his allies have been stressing the importance of defeating the White Walkers for several seasons now. As Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) once said: "If we don't put aside our enmities and band together, we will die — and then it won't matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne." But what happens once the skeletons are no longer a concern? Do the enmities stay shelved, or do they come out of retirement? 

Those questions are now officially back on the menu, thanks to Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) killing the Night King and ending the White Walker war. (For posterity, let's stay it again: Arya Stark killed the Night King and ended the White Walker war. It doesn't matter how many times we repeat it; it just doesn't seem real.) With the Army of the Dead dead and gone, the allied forces at Winterfell now face a new choice: stay aligned, or disband and let the enmities win the day.

Certainly, no one has forgotten their enmities toward Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). The current Queen of King's Landing has been missing in action for two full episodes now, completely on the sidelines as the Northern alliance battled back the dead — all going according to plan, in other words, albeit without the added benefit of Jon Snow and Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) deaths. Even with her two royal opponents still in the rumble, Cersei's plans to keep the throne have been in full-boil brew from the relative comfort of the Red Keep. It's worth noting that Cersei likely has a very specific plot in mind for Daenerys, based on an exchange from the final season premiere, when Qyburn (Anton Lesser) came to Bronn (Jerome Flynn) with an assignment:

Bronn: "So she wants to murder someone, but she can't send her soldiers. If it's the Dragon Queen she's after…"

Qyburn: "She has other plans for the Targaryen girl."

What those plans are? Only a couple more episodes before we find out. As for Daenerys' plans for Cersei, it would appear she has something in mind, based on the trailer for the final season's fourth episode — in which only Daenerys speaks: "We have won the great war. Now we will win the last war. We'll rip [Cersei] out root and stem." Sounds painful! Watch the preview below:

Does Daenerys have the tools to pull off a win against Cersei? She has two, at least: Drogon and Rhaegal, Daenerys' dragons who miraculously survived the fight against the White Walkers. Less certain: Daenerys' human allies. The Dothraki are all but wiped out. Countless Unsullied are gone, too. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) is dead as well, painful as it is to admit — and he was one of Dany's fiercest and most trusted advisors, a man who very much had his Khaleesi's best interests at heart. The people who are still alive and in Dany's corner: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Varys (Conleth Hill), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel).

At least, those are the folks who arrived in Westeros on Team Targaryen, but there are others who she's joined forces with since then — most especially Jon Snow, her boyfriend, nephew and Iron Throne rival. (Westeros, folks. Never a dull day.) He's not keen on ruling the Seven Kingdoms, but everyone who knows the truth about his claim to the throne might feel differently. At the least, we know how those folks and others in Jon's circle feel about Daenerys — namely, not good. The first two episodes of the final season focused tightly on Daenerys' plummeting stock with the North. Now that she's helped them stave off the Night King, will the Northerners tolerate the Targaryens any further, or will they send the Dragon Queen packing — and if they try, what's to stop her from squashing the rebellion with dragon fire?

The Night King's death means the doors are wide open for Game of Thrones to live up to HBO's final season hashtag: an all-out war #ForTheThrone. Daenerys and Cersei's conflict with one another more than speaks for itself, but we need to keep an eye on how it's going to play out between Dany and Jon as well. Then there are all the other survivors of the Battle of Winterfell whose loyalties are on the line. Is Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) suddenly going to return to Cersei's side, even after he and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) had such a powerful moment one episode earlier? Can he turn his back against Tyrion, himself a Targaryen loyalist? And what about Tyrion and Sansa (Sophie Turner), who reconnected with one another in what they thought were their final moments down in the Winterfell crypts? Can they be voices of reason in whatever thorny throne drama is set to go down between the houses Stark, Lannister and Targaryen? One thing's for sure: Daenerys' vision of a ruined Red Keep with snow pouring all over the Iron Throne has yet to be realized — and now that there are three full episodes left without a single White Walker to worry about, the realization is firmly in sight.

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