We might be in the middle of a heatwave but Winter Is Here, and everyone and their mothers have opinions about the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. Just a few days away from what is the beginning of the end for the Ice & Fire saga and with no book release in sight (damn you, GRRM!), speculation is obviously at an all-time high about what Season 7 will bring. And I wouldn’t be a true blogging fan if I didn’t add my own babble to the mix now, would I?

1. Battle for the throne Vs. Battle for Westeros

If we’re to make any predictions or even assumptions about the 7-episode-run of the new season, then the first thing that needs to be determined is what the focus will be this year. Should we expect the culmination of the long-awaited final battle for the true king or queen who will sit the Iron Throne, or are the White Walkers going to take center stage?
My guess is that we need to deal with the political conflict first, in order to deal with the real threat to the realm. Logic dictates that the men and women of Westeros should present a united front against the ice zombies, but then again GoT makes a habit of subverting expectations, so who’s to say which of the main plot points will be addressed the most this year? Still, there’s so much build-up to the ultimate battle between the Lannisters, the North and Dany’s armies that I can’t see how the show wouldn’t focus on the titular game of thrones first.

2. Now that R+L=J is confirmed, are we looking at a J+D or a J vs. D scenario?

The big reveal of Jon’s heritage in last season’s finale inevitably sparked insane amounts of conversation about what this will mean for the rest of the story. Will Dany find an ally in her nephew Jon? The Lannister twins’ relationship doesn’t hold a candle to the amount of incest in the Targaryen blood lines, so is some kind of romantic entanglement between Jon and Dany actually possible? Sure, it would be (a bit of awkward) fan service, but barring the much anticipated outcome of the battle of the bastards last year, GRRM, and by extension Dan and David, are notorious for breaking our hearts over the past six seasons, so I’m not holding my breath for a happy ending.
Is the secret of the two remaining Targaryens’ fate hidden in the actual title of the saga? Does “A song of Ice and Fire” mean the story is all about Jon and Dany? If we’re talking literally, then my guess would be no; Dany is fire, Jon is fire AND ice. So is Game of Thrones all about Jon, after all? Dany has the manpower and dragons; Jon is kind and just, but a foolhardy leader who’s already been murdered by his men once before, so to have him prevail in the end sounds a bit naive. Either way and regardless of how their dynamic plays out this season, I don’t expect a resolution to this central plot point until next season.

3. How will Jon find out he’s a Targaryen?

And how will Dany find out / receive the news? Obviously the popular theory is that Bran will reach Winterfell and tell Jon about his time travel visions, but I wouldn’t discount Littlefinger as the messenger just yet. That scene a couple of seasons ago with Sansa in the crypts dropped plenty of hints that he knows the truth about Jon’s family tree, and he’s just the guy who’d use the information to plant the seed of discord between the two siblings cousins.
And let’s not forget the one other person who knows (because he was there when the Tower of Joy events went down): Meera’s father, Howland Reed. He hasn’t made an appearance yet, and my guess is he’s bound to come out of the woodwork (i.e. the swamps) at some point before the series is over.
Also, there’s still a possibility that the answer is buried somewhere in the thousands of books Sam is about to delve into at the Citadel. In fact, it would be interesting to see several main characters come to the same realization simultaneously – both in terms of adding credibility and magnifying the effect of the big reveal.

4. Is Tyrion a Targaryen?

Yet another point of contention between fans, now coming to a head because of the whole ‘three heads of the dragon’ theory. If Dany is one and John a second, then Tyrion would be the obvious choice as a third, right? Add to that the fact that the dragons seem to be totally cool with Tyrion, and Tywin’s famous ‘You’re no son of mine‘ proclamation, as well as the history about Joanna’s indiscretions with the Mad King, and the theory definitely seems plausible.
But what if this is all just a red herring? After all, it would be a bit of a stretch to have not just ONE such overarching mystery in the books but TWO? What if the third dragon rider is Bran, if not physically, then by employing his warging abilities?

5. Is Cersei going to survive this season?

I’m not even addressing the possibility of Cersei occupying the throne for much longer – that seems downright impossible. Everything she’s done so far has backfired, so I don’t expect her to come out on top, despite her brief win in last season’s Baelor Barbecue. The question is, how long will she be able to escape her fate, and by whose hands will she finally meet her end?
The valonqar part of the prophecy might be missing in the show, but there’s still time to somehow mention that, isn’t there? It seems like such a wasted opportunity if they leave it out, especially since she has always been afraid of Tyrion.
So if the valonqar prophecy is a thing, who will be the one to kill her? Although both obvious choices would be satisfactory, there’s poetic justice in the theory that Jaime will be the one to do it. One mad king, one mad queen, the ‘things he does for love’…. it all ties everything up neatly in a bow, and God knows he not only has plenty of reasons to kill his evil sister, but it would also cement his redemption arc – not to mention allow him to pursue his much-shipped romance with Brienne.
But what if someone else is the ‘little brother’? What if we get a Cleganebowl after all, and The Hound not only kills the Mountain but his evil mistress too? Not as much of a payoff as dying at the hands of Jaime or Tyrion, but still a cool theory. Bran is also a little brother, but that seems like a longshot.
And what if valonqar actually means ‘younger sibling’, as in gender-neutral? Arya has had Cersei front and center on her list for years, and now has the training to do the deed. One could argue that having Arya kill Cersei would be even more satisfactory than either of her Lannister brothers, but hey, as long as she dies, I can’t complain.

6. What’s Arya’s next move?

Speaking of the young assassin, where will she turn to next? Surely news of her siblings’ victory must have reached the Twins by now, so she has plenty of reason to go north to Winterfell for a much awaited reunion. Then again, she’s working down her list, and her remaining targets are south in King’s Landing. Will she take care of business before traveling back north? My guess would be that yes, that’s where she’s headed next. It would offer plenty of opportunity for chance encounters, like seeing the exiled Red Woman again – or even super-rower Gendry, who’s poised to finally make an appearance this season. What I’m most excited about, however, is the prospect of seeing Arya reunite with Nymeria – that will be even more of a feel-good plot than the actual Stark reunion!

7. Does anyone care about Euron?

As glad as I am that Victaryon got the ax in the show, I still find the Iron Islands subplot almost as boring as the horrible Dorne scenes from season 5. With Yara and Theon already en route back to Westeros with Dany, it stands to reason that Euron will seek allegience elsewhere and offer to wed another queen: Cersei. Assuming that her reign will be pretty short-lived, I’d wager that we won’t have to put up with Euron for much longer, either – unless the showrunners decide to put the ‘dragon horn’ into play. Besides, exactly how fast can those Ironborn build A THOUSAND ships, on islands where there’s virtually no timber to work with?

8. Will Jorah make it?

Ah, my favorite Sir Friendzone. For my money, a meeting with Sam at the Citadel is in order, but that would only help further the White Walkers plot, right? Even if Sam can read all those books at the speed of light, being able to come up with a cure for Jorah’s greyscale so soon, while the disease keeps spreading, seems very unlikely. Even more unlikely, considering how GoT likes to treat its few decent characters. I’m bracing myself for Jorah’s final act of bravery, sacrificing himself to save Dany in some big battle down the line.

9. Is the Wall going to fall?

It’s been pretty much established by now that not only do the brothers in black not have the manpower to hold the Wall, but also the possibility of Bran going south of the Wall probably means it will undo the magic that keeps the White Walkers away, now that the Night King left his mark on Bran’s arm.

The question really isn’t IF the wall will fall, but WHEN that will happen. I could definitely see it happening towards the end of the season, either as a big cliffhanger to signify that we’re shifting over from the war for the throne to the war for the realm of men. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the White Walkers. Other than their origins last season, we still have no idea what their true purpose is. Has Bran inadvertently put these events in motion? Will his time-traveling abilities come into play? We’ve seen him alter the past when he called out to his father at the Tower of Joy; does this mean he could also undo a critical detail in the past that will somehow stop the ice zombies’ advance south of the Wall? As much as I find time travel confusing, it would be interesting if they combined it with a bit of back story, perhaps even going back to the original ‘Bran the Builder’.

10. Finally, who will die this season?

Or, rather, who will make it out alive? The ginormous cast needs to start dwindling as we approach the end, but my guess is that most of the big deaths will occur in the final 8th season. So who will die this year? My money is on Cersei, but if Jaime does kill his sister after all and thus completes his redemption arc, I could totally see him dying too. I also don’t see Littlefinger making it out of this season alive; all his scheming will finally catch up with him soon enough, and I’d love to see Sansa be the one to do it.

As much as I have tried to avoid major spoilers throughout the years, the fact that the first 5 seasons of the show followed along the same timeline as the books meant that, more often than not, I knew what was coming – or at least I had a few hints – even though I didn’t read the books until last year, when the show had already surpassed the events of book #5.

So now that we’re all on an even playing field, show-only-viewers and book-readers alike, it feels damn good to go into this penultimate season of GoT pretty much blind. Other than the short trailers for this season (which show a LOT without really giving anything away – I have to give it to the editors for their amazing abilities in fueling speculation without spoiling a single plot point), all we have to go on is theories, and we know how GRRM sadistically enjoys seeing those blow up in our faces.

So whatever this new season brings, I’m bracing for it. Winter is Here.