Game of Thrones has inspired some truly wild fan theories over the course of its eight-season run. Now that the HBO epic has ended, we can confirm that neither Bran Stark nor Jon Snow is the new Night King. But fans were right on the money with these 11 theories that came true. Read on to find out how savvy viewers called Coldhands, and the ultimate fate of the Mother of Dragons.
Warning: Lots of spoilers for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones ahead!
1. The Hound and The Mountain face off in Cleganebowl.
Since at least 2013, the internet has been extremely hyped for Cleganebowl, a theoretical showdown between brothers Sandor Clegane (The Hound) and Gregor Clegane (The Mountain). These two hate each other, but their paths didn’t cross much after the first season. Fans believed the brothers would finally settle the score with a fight to the death, which is exactly what happened when The Hound and The Mountain reunited during the fall of King's Landing in season 8's "The Bells." They subsequently pummeled one another atop a crumbling castle, but since they both dropped to their deaths, we’ll call this one a draw.
2. Benjen Stark is Coldhands.
In George R.R. Martin’s books, Coldhands is a mysterious hooded figure who frequently saves Northerners from wights. His identity is never revealed, but Game of Thrones fanatics had a person in mind. Viewers believed that Benjen Stark, Ned’s little brother who disappears in season 1, was the man beneath the hood. Their suspicions were confirmed in season 6, when Uncle Benjen rides to the rescue of Bran and Meera with a swinging, flaming chain.
At least, Coldhands is Uncle Benjen in the show. In an exchange written on the manuscript of A Dance with Dragons—which can be seen at Texas A&M's Cushing Library—Martin's editor writes next to an entry on Coldhands, "Is this Benjen? I think it's Benjen ..." Above her notes, in red and circled, is the word "NO," written by Martin himself. So Coldhands's identity in the books is still an open question.
3. The Wall falls.
This is why you never get cocky about walls, no matter how many people are watching them. Viewers grew extra nervous over Westeros’s main line of defense against the White Walkers when the season 7 opening credits revealed the water around the Wall had frozen. Could the dead simply walk by the longstanding barrier? Or could something actually tear it down? Fans had already floated theories about an ice dragon that could match Dany’s fire-breathing children. It was pretty easy to fill in the gaps once the Night King speared Viserion and brought him back to life (as an ice dragon) in season 7's penultimate episode.
4. Arya kills the Night King.
The Battle of Winterfell, a.k.a. the hotly anticipated clash between the living and the undead, was not looking great for the human side up until its final moments. That was when Arya snuck up behind the Night King and drove a dagger through him, slaying his entire zombie army in the process. Multiple Redditors predicted this twist, noting that Arya had the right equipment (Valyrian steel) and attitude (ruthlessness) to get the job done.
5. Jon Snow returns from the dead.
Resurrections are never a done deal, but viewers were pretty sure Jon Snow would rise again after his death in the season 5 finale. Davos simply had to call in the red priestess Melisandre, who was able to bring Jon back to life through a series of magical chants and rituals.
6. Daenerys goes Mad Queen.
The “Mad King” looms large in Game of Thrones lore. Aerys Targaryen’s descent into insanity—which eventually ended with a sword in his back, courtesy of Jaime Lannister—has long been talked about by the show's characters. Robert Baratheon was subsequently installed on the Iron Throne, restoring order to the Seven Kingdoms. At least for a little while. But Daenerys, Aerys’s surviving daughter, has been plotting her way back to power since the show’s beginning—and some Redditors feared she could take after her dear old dad.
The “Mad Queen” theory suggested insanity runs in the family, and that Dany’s increasingly brutal attitude toward her enemies was laying the path for her eventual mental collapse. The argument grew harder to ignore as season 7 progressed. By the time Dany arrived in King's Landing, she was ready to fulfill her (controversial) destiny.
Did it really make sense for noble Ned Stark to father a bastard child? Or did it sound more like a cover story? Suspicious fans rallied around the R+L=J theory, which claimed that Lyanna Stark, Ned’s long-dead sister, was the mother of Jon Snow. His father was Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. That would place Jon ahead of Daenerys in line for the throne, massively complicating the fight for the Seven Kingdoms. The R+L=J theory was confirmed via flashback in season 6, and it was even juicier than fans assumed. Jon Snow was not only Rhaegar and Lyanna’s kid; he was their legitimate heir, since Rhaegar had secretly annulled his marriage to Elia Martell to wed Lyanna. This made things super awkward for Dany and Jon, the show’s newest couple.
8. The Iron Throne is destroyed.
The Iron Throne inspired centuries of squabbling and bloodshed, which is why so many fans offered up this poetic theory: in the finale, the throne would burn, symbolically ushering in a new era of Westerosian politics. Sure enough, Drogon melted this testament to absolute power into a puddle after witnessing a plot twist that fans also saw coming ...
9. Jon Snow kills Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys Targaryen’s firebombing of King's Landing turned her into an unequivocal villain, the kind that needs to be stopped before she can massacre another city. The only question was who would be the one to do it? Arya, fresh off her assassination of the Night King, seemed to be a likely candidate. Tyrion Lannister, who had already gone against the queen’s wishes by freeing Jaime and spilling Targaryen family secrets to Varys, was another contender. But in the end, it was Dany’s nephew/boyfriend Jon Snow who betrayed her in the most devastating way possible—with a blade to the heart. Theorists had predicted this ending long ago, through close reads of the Azor Ahai prophecy, which concerns a prince who murders his wife for a greater cause.
10. The whole show is samwell tarly's story (sort of).
Fans have long championed the idea that Samwell Tarly is the true “author” of Game of Thrones, writing down the events that transpire onscreen as they happen. This meta theory picked up steam after Sam arrived in Oldtown in season 6 to train as a maester. The library he entered bore a striking resemblance to the show’s opening credits, suggesting the story might come from Sam’s perspective.
Though ultimately it turned out that Archmaester Ebrose, Jim Broadbent's character, is the show's true author, this theory was partially true. Sam confirmed his unique place in the narrative in one of the final scenes of the series finale. During a meeting of the small council, Sam presented Tyrion with A Song of Ice and Fire, the historical text Ebrose wrote on the wars following Robert Baratheon’s death. While the full story is the work of Ebrose, Sam did tell the maester to name the tome something “poetic” in season 7 and, as Sam eagerly told Tyrion, he “helped him with the title.”
11. Bran Stark becomes king.
Over the course of eight seasons, a number of characters—many of whom have since died—were predicted to ultimately win the Iron Throne. One character who has often been overlooked, especially since his transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven, is Bran Stark. But in recent weeks, the idea that the youngest living Stark could ultimately rule the Seven (now Six) Kingdoms has gained a lot of traction. So much so that the online betting experts at OddSharks even predicted that Bran would take the Throne. As we saw in the finale, the same traits that made Bran a long shot for the crown—especially the fact that he now lives so much of his life in the past—are ultimately what made him the best choice to take the world into the future.