Editor’s Note: this post contains Game of Thrones spoilers — don’t say we didn’t warn ya!
To look forward, you’ve gotta look back. So, before heading into the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, let’s take a moment to consider the second season finale, “Valar Morghulis,” in which King Joffrey (long may he reign) named his granddad Tywin Hand of the King, Jaqen H’ghar helped Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry escape Harrenhal, and Daenerys went on a druggy trip in the headquarters of some skinny male witches.
She’d come to Qarth to convince one of the wealthy masters there to get her the ships necessary to bring an army to Westeros, but she was betrayed, and her dragons were stolen. To get them back, she ventured into The House of the Undying.
Her visions there and the symbolism planted all those years ago are blossoming alongside the plot now that she finally got some ships and made it to the other side of the world.
Here’s a quick refresher of what she saw back then:
- A ruined Red Keep, hollowed and roofless, covered in snow.
- The Wall and the Haunted Forest beyond, which she weathers to get to…
- A Dothraki hut where she speaks with (the spirit of?) Khal Drogo and her stillborn child Rhaego.
- Hearing her baby dragons, she leaves love behind to save them.
- They save her by breathing fire on their captor, the Qarth warlock Pyat Pree.
Game of Thrones is all about its prophesies and symbolism. Maggy the Frog’s prognostications about Cersei. The Prince That Was Promised. Whatever Bran’s talking about at any given time. Like all great portents, Daenerys’ stroll through the potential future was vague enough to be read in multiple ways, but they ring with a finality that should be familiar to fans of traditional fantasy storytelling — which is exactly where Game of Thrones ended up after all its beheadings.
Her first encounter evokes her father’s plot to destroy King’s Landing with wildfire (which has been brought up again this season as those around her worry about her following those insane footsteps), and her journey takes her all the way to the throne. However, she doesn’t sit on it. She doesn’t even touch it. She draws away from its allure upon hearing her dragons’ cry.
At The Wall, she faces the wind we see every time the White Walkers appear, and trudges on to a heartfelt conversation with Drogo where they theorize they’re all dead and together as a family. Again, she draws painfully away from the scene after hearing her dragons, although it’s clearly much harder to leave Drogo and Rhaego than to dismiss the Iron Throne.
How you read these visions depends on whether you see them as happening in the past, happening in the future, or never happening at all because they were tempting lies crafted to keep Daenerys locked in an imagined realm, forever away from her dragons.
If they spell out anything for the final season, it’s that winter has come to King’s Landing. Does that mean the army led by the Night’s King will make it that far south? Does it merely foretell of Jon and Daenerys bringing one of the undead to the capital? Is that ash falling in the cold destruction because dragons have rained down hell?
The only element that seems clear is that the Red Keep is headed for some hefty repair bills—that should serve an end fitting for a series finale. Saving Westeros will require its wreckage (either symbolic, physical, or both). After all, Daenerys wants to build a new government in the center of a new world. The vision of a razed Red Keep suggests she’ll succeed.
Taken as a whole, the visions also suggest that she’ll succeed by turning away from the throne, facing the White Walkers, embracing death’s reunion with her first loves, and then returning to save her young dragon. It’s possible that Jon Snow (nee Targaryen) is that young dragon who Daenerys must choose to save. If so, we may see her sacrifice her life for his (is his heart even still beating?), perhaps Nissa Nissa style, and then come back to life via Lord of Light magic.
In her darkest moment in the House of the Undying, Pyat Pree summons chains to bind her for eternity, but Daenerys commands her dragons to kill him with fire, which means that Jon Snow may very well save Daenerys in return.
The big question is whether she can claim the Iron Throne then, or at all. The visions seem to say that she’ll stop just short of seizing it, the thing she’s wanted more than anything, in order to achieve something else. All that snow on the throne is pretty suggestive, even if that’s not Jon’s real last name(!!!).
Still, it’s only a vision, and it’s not like they can’t build a second throne for a young aunt and nephew in love.
Of course, you could argue that almost all of this prophetic imagery has been satisfied already in season six. Daenerys has turned away from Drogo and her past life by venturing across the sea. She’s landed in Westeros (symbolized by the Red Keep) which has been torn apart by war and threatened by Winter. She’s turned away from the throne by refusing to take it by flaming force, she’s battled the undead, and she’s saved Jon Snow’s dumb ass along with the dirty dozen who got trapped at the frozen lake. That’s the fun of ambiguous prophecies, right?
Yet if we take the visions as what will ultimately take place in her quest to rule the Seven Kingdoms, they’re preparing us for a complicated, bittersweet conclusion with a lot of ice and fire.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN GAME OF THRONES?
- Conleth Hill insists that Varys is not a merman.
- Could Cersei become a Night Queen?
- RIP Littlefinger, a real player in the Game of Thrones.