For the first time in Game of Thrones history, fans are entering the series relatively blind. Now that the show has caught up to George R.R. Martin’s books, we’re set to enter new territory in Season 7, no longer aided by the foresight of book knowledge. Theorizing will be a bit harder this year, but that doesn’t mean we know as little as Jon Snow.

We’ve kept our eye on production leaks and set reports for the past year, and have spent a good amount of time combing through all the trailers and cast and crew interviews for Easter eggs and clues. So what can you expect from Season 7? Resident Thrones experts Kevin Fitzpatrick and Erin Oliver Whitney came up with 12 theories that are most likely to happen this season. Now you can find lists of crackpot theories anywhere – like that one about Varys being a merman. Those are fun, but we’re not playing games here. We’ve narrowed our list down to theories with the strongest support and evidence.

Pour yourself a big glass of wine, snack on some lemon cakes, and prepare for some Oberyn-style head-exploding theories (RIP buddy). Obviously, major spoilers follow.

1. Cleganebowl

GET HYPE (HBO)

It’s the most hyped fan theory in Game of Thrones history, save for the scrapped Lady Stoneheart and the now practically confirmed R+L=J. So is it actually going to happen this year? If you missed the years-long hype and aren’t a member of the Cleganebowl subreddit, let me explain. The theory is all about Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. The Hound, and his brother Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. Cersei’s now-zombified The Mountain. The two have long hated one another since childhood when Gregor burned half of his brother’s face off. Two of the most ruthless and feared warriors in the Seven Kingdoms are destined to face off eventually, right?

Some of us (myself included) thought it was finally going down last year when the Hound returned, but Dan Weiss and David Benioff might finally be giving fans the battle of their dreams. The second trailer for Season 7 featured one brief shot of a burly sword-wielding figure who looks a lot like the Hound standing in what is assumed to be the previously-unseen “Dragonpit” of King’s Landing. Hm, who might be located nearby to provoke the Hound to draw his sword? The Mountain, of course. It’s hard to imagine both Clegane brothers being in such close proximity to one another without a massive brawl going down. We could be blinded by the hype, but if you’re looking for evidence, it’s there.


2. Someone Rides Dragons

HBO

Dany’s dragons are themselves the source of dozens of theories, and with good reason. Despite vast attention drawn to the trio, only Drogon ever seems to stand out; both as the largest of the three, and the only one to forge a memorable relationship with Daenerys. The other two simply have to serve a greater purpose than forcing Dany to chain them up in Meereen, and fans have more than a few ideas.

On the one hand, the books’ House of the Undying vision definitively states “The dragon has three heads,” which – depending on your interpretation – might mean fellow Targaryen Jon and another figure of significance will end up mounting a dragon alongside our beloved Khaleesi. A great many fans speculate the third rider is Tyrion (himself perhaps a secret Targaryen by physical description and questionable parentage), or Bran Stark, whom the Three-Eyed Raven memorably told would never again walk, “but you will fly.”

Either way, the incredible size and prominence of Dany’s dragons this season dictates some notable twist; whether finding riders for the other two, killing off one in the heat of battle, or perhaps adhering to fan theories the Night King might claim an “Ice Dragon” for his own. Mystical creatures are rarely long for Game of Thrones, and it’s high-time Viserion and Rhaegal got bigger spotlight.


3. Jon Revealed as Azor Ahai

HBO

Oh boy. Stick with us on this one – it’s going to get messy. A recurring legend throughout the Song of Ice and Fire novels (and occasionally mentioned on the series) refers to “Azor Ahai,” the “Prince That Was Promised,” who uses the flaming sword “Lightbringer” to destroy the darkness. Melisandre believed Stannis Baratheon was the reincarnation of this hero, who was “born beneath a bleeding star” and reborn amid salt and smoke. We’ll spare you every detail of a millennia-worth of prophecies, but a great deal of Jon Snow’s past can contort to meet these criteria, from Ser Arthur Dayne’s sword being forged from the heart of a fallen star, to Jon’s mother Lyanna Stark literally asking Ned to “promise” her Jon’s survival. Melisandre even remarks in the books “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only snow.” Hint-hint.

Prophecies being what they are (ditto for Martin’s cryptic writing), “Azor Ahai” can also be made to fit Daenerys and a number of others, depending on your conviction. It’s at least likely that someone will be made to bear this title in Season 7, as we’ll need a clearer sense of the final battle between Westeros and the White Walkers heading into Season 8. The exiles of characters like Sam and Melisandre are also bound to bring forth some hidden knowledge, and we’ve seen that Jon will engage in another salty and smoky battle north of the Wall with a certain flaming sword is in close proximity.


4. Jaime Kills Cersei

TFW you love your sister, who’s also your girlfriend, but you really wanna kill her. (HBO)

It seems like a pretty safe bet that Cersei isn’t going to make it to Season 8. The Queen Mother burned her city to the ground last season and she has very few allies left. There’s a couple possibilities for how the Lannister meet her end, but the biggest one is the valonqar prophecy. In the books, Maggy the Frog tells a young Cersei that after her children die, the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) will “wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Though some assume that points to Tyrion, the more interesting theory is that Jaime, technically a few minutes younger than Cersei, will be the one to turn on his twin. It would surely be the more emotionally devastating choice; we all know Tyrion would kill his sister without hesitation, but Jaime? There’s layers of complexity to unpack there.

The evidence: At the end of the Season 6 finale, as Cersei is crowned Queen, Jaime shoots his sister a look of horror and shock, suggesting he’s no longer a steadfast follower of the Cersei Murder Cult. Then one eagle-eyed Redditor spotted an Easter egg in the first Season 7 trailer. In one shot, Cersei and Jaime are standing in very interesting spots on a map of Westeros: she’s standing over the swampland region known as the Neck, while Jaime is standing on the narrow peninsulas known as the Fingers. Neck ... fingers ... hm.

I’ve heard other wild theories that Arya could be the one to kill Cersei by wearing Jaime’s face or Littlefinger’s face, the latter which would be an interesting work-around if the show doesn’t introduce the valonqar prophecy. (But that also means Arya would need to kill Jaime or Littlefinger first). Either way, prepare to mourn (or cheer for) the death of lady Lannister.


5. The Wall Will Come Down

HBO

Listen, you don’t spend two decades, five books, and six seasons expounding the invincibility of a magic 700-foot ice wall unless that motherf—er’s coming down. So far as we know, the Wall is the only thing keeping the Night King and his army of the dead from invading Westeros (and really, what do they do up there all year?), so Season 8 will be one hell of a slog if Benioff and Weiss don’t find some way the White Walkers actually pose a threat.

So how will they do it? Well, the books made a whole thing about Mance Rayder searching for a legendary horn that could bring down the Wall, but HBO seems to have breezed right past that. The more common suggestion places responsibility at Bran’s feet (that kid really ruins everything), as the same magic brand that enabled the Night King to enter the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave could extend to the Wall. After all, the reanimated Benjen Stark made a point of reminding us the Wall’s magic prevents him from passing, but you’d think he’d put together that Bran might have the same effect on the Wall as in the cave.

Plus, our first photos of Sunday’s “Dragonstone” premiere heavily hinted that Meera and Bran would reach the Wall, while trailers point toward another major battle up north, which wouldn’t make tremendous sense if Bran had somehow already enabled the White Walkers entry into Westeros. Still, winter is here, and it could soon be hard to tell what’s north or south at this point.


6. Gendry Will Return, Forge Valyrian Steel (And Make Out With Arya)

HBO

In case you’re unfamiliar with Game of Thrones at this point (and if so, good luck reading this list), George R.R. Martin is not terribly sentimental. Beloved characters die, but equally as many vanish in directions an author has no interest in revisiting. That’s not the case with TV, which saw fit to bring back Jaqen H’ghar and confirm the Hound’s survival. We need closure, damn it.

That’s all the more reason that Season 7 will row back our beloved Baratheon blacksmith Gendry, putting to rest one of Game of Thrones’ most meme-able mysteries. Depending who you talk to, Joe Dempsie has already been seen on set (he was at least at the Season 7 premiere), but the question remains: What purpose does Gendry have left to serve, after Davos spared his kingsblood from burning at the stake?

The answer, perhaps, is one Seasons 5 and 6 repeatedly touted: Valyrian steel. Over and over, we’ve been told of the rarity of Valyrian steel, and seen its surprising effectiveness against the coming undead. Sam himself recently obtained one of these beauties from the Tarly home, joining the ranks of Jon, Brienne, Jaime and others’ swords, and who better than an expert blacksmith to prove invaluable in crafting more? Caches of dragonglass seem to be squandered at every turn, so we’ll need someone to outfit the army of the living. And should he want to practice shirtless in front of Arya, or sneak in a smooch, we’re all in.


7. Jon and Dany Get Together

HBO

Spare me your incest concerns. Daenerys Targaryen is hot to trot, and Jon Snow is one icy pillar she’d love to thaw. Martin hasn’t technically confirmed in his own work that Jon is actually Dany’s nephew, but the Song of Ice and Fire has long pointed toward its young avatars sharing at least some meaningful connection. As far as Season 7, it’s pretty well-documented (and about time) that Jon and Daenerys will at least meet this season, as Jon seems compelled to poop on every party with word of imminent icy doom. One particular comment from costume designer Michele Clapton also raised an eyebrow or two, suggesting Jon would wind up in Daenerys’ chambers at some point, and not wearing one of his heavier coats.

Whether or not the two visit the ancient ancestral city of Bonestown, it’s at least worth pondering from a political standpoint. After all, Season 6 made a point of Daenerys leaving Daario Naharis in Meereen for the possibility of marriage strengthening her claim to the throne, and Jon Snow too is on shaky standing as the bastard “King of the North.” Don’t ask us how a Stark-Targaryen marrying his aunt allays anyone’s concern, but these unions are always historically screwy. And again – one would think Season 7 seeks to unite Westeros under one banner, lest petty squabbling ruin our chances of surviving the Great War.


8. Arya and Nymeria Reunite

HBO

Four out of the six Stark direwolves have been killed on Game of Thrones, a show that loves to rip out our hearts and smash ‘em with a spiked heel, over and over. We’ve mourned Lady, Grey Wind, Summer, and most recently Shaggy Dog, and we know Ghost is chilling with Jon Snow. What about Nymeria?

We last saw Arya’s direwolf in Season 1 when the wolf cub attacked Joffrey. Arya chased Nymeria away to protect her from Cersei’s vengeful wrath (she had Lady killed instead), and though Nymeria hasn’t been mentioned on the series since, there have been murmurs of her whereabouts in the books. It’s been said she was hanging around the Riverlands with her pack, which is super convenient as the end of Season 6 found Arya there to slice up Walder Frey. But there’s more to this theory.

When Time visited the Season 7 set they spotted wolves – yep, plural. Their cover story read, “wolves described in the script as ‘skinny and mangy’ showed up to the shoot looking fluffy and lustrous,” which fans believe might be Nymeria’s pack. And then there’s this bit of dialogue Sansa says in a Season 7 trailer: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies. But the pack survives.” That’s a reference to the same line Ned told a young Sansa years ago in the first Song of Ice and Fire book, and while it’s a metaphor for the unity of the Stark family, we know Weiss and Benioff like phrases with multiple meanings. Plus, the showrunners told to Entertainment Weekly last month that this season will have “a whole bunch of reunions.”


9. Littlefinger Killed by a Stark Sister 

HBO

“He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes,” Varys once said of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, and such unwavering ambition tends not to last in this game. Still, we’ll always share a begrudging respect for Littlefinger; to so deftly play sides against one another, and almost never wind up in any real danger.

Don’t you think it’s time for Season 7 to change that? When last we left the mustachioed manipulator, he’d endured yet another Lady Stark’s rejection and sown division between Sansa and her half-brother. No one’s in the mood for games in Season 7 – least of all Jon – and it seems the erstwhile Master of Coin has relatively few cards to play beyond his secret knowledge of Stark family history.

So, who gets to do the deed? If we presume Littlefinger’s designs on the throne a moot point by the time ice zombies invade, Sansa would seem the most likely choice to do what her mother couldn’t, and let Littlefinger meet his own just ends. There’s also the fact that a bloodthirsty Sophie Turner is looking for Sansa’s next taste after killing Ramsay, to say nothing of this clever theory pointing toward Littlefinger’s dagger in Arya’s possession. The littlest Lady Stark needs to kill someone this season, and it might as well be that sniveling silver fox.


10. Sam Learns Something Major at the Citadel

HBO

A library may not sound like the most thrilling setting for a TV show about dragons and ice zombies, but when you’re sitting inside the Wikipedia of the Seven Kingdoms with centuries of history at your fingertips, some serious discoveries around bound to happen. That’s why we can bet Sam studying up at the Citadel is going to lead to a major reveal. Even John Bradley emphasized his importance saying if the show chose to keep Sam around this long, it’s for good reason. And that reason is to find a crucial way to defeat the White Walkers.

It’s up in the air as far as what exactly Sam’s discovery will be, but there’s plenty of theories: Sam may stumble upon the lost secret to forging new Valyrian steel, he may learn where to find more Dragonglass, or he’ll study magic and become a wizard – hey, he did say he always wanted to be one. There’s also the chance Sam discovers something related to Jon. He could be the one to find proof of Jon’s Targaryen parentage, which is nearly confirmed at this point, but the show needs someone to reveal that knowledge. We also know from a Season 7 photo that Gilly is reading up on Azor Ahai, so Sam could be the one to reveal Jon is the Prince Who Was Promised (see that theory above). Whatever happens, expect to be a major player this season, he’s not studying for nothing.


11. Euron Controls One of Dany’s Dragons

HBO

Now that Ramsay has long been digested in the bellies of his hounds, Game of Thrones will need a new big bad this season. Enter: Euron Greyjoy. The new King of the Iron Islands is thirsty for domination, seeking to take over the Iron Throne with a plan to marry Daenerys (LOL good luck buddy). But how can a random dude like Euron expect to join the game this late and establish himself with villainous cred? Stealing one of Dany’s dragons would do the trick.

In Martin’s books there’s a massive six-foot-long horn known as Dragonbinder, and whoever blows that horn gains control over nearby dragons. Though this hasn’t been introduced into the show yet, it’s a possibility – maybe they threw in a fancy new horn when Pilou Asbæk got his costume makeover? More evidence comes from the trailers. A handful of eagle eyed viewers at Watchers on the Wall and Winter is Coming have speculated that the fiery underwater shots from the trailer look a lot like dragonfire – the direction and movement of the flames rolling across the frame in this shot suggests they’re coming from a dragon’s mouth, rather than a more typical burst of flames or explosion. But here’s the real evidence: Asbæk actually mentioned the horn (and totally out of nowhere) during an interview with Vulture. Why would an actor name drop such a crucial item from the books that’s never been mentioned on the show? Only one reason: Dragon-napping is coming.


12. Bran is Bran the Builder

HBO

In Season 6 we witnessed Bran hop back in time with the Three-Eyed Raven (RIP) to see a young Hodor, a young Ned, and the birth of Jon Snow. But more importantly, “The Door” revealed Bran isn’t just a passively surfing through time à la Scrooge, but that he can directly affect events of the past. That’s only fueled the flames of a years-old fan theory that suggests Bran could be Bran the Builder, the architect of of the Wall and Winterfell.

In Game of Thrones lore, Bran the Builder (real name Brandon Stark) is fabled to be the founder of House Stark who build the Wall and Winterfell thousands of years ago. Now there’s nothing connecting our Bran to the legendary figure beyond the fact that they share a name (granted, there are many Brandon Starks because people like Beyoncé weren’t around to come up with cool baby names), though fans have made detailed breakdowns of the Bran connections. But there is one interesting passage from Martin’s first book where Old Nan confuses Bran with the myriad of other Brandon Starks in his family tree: “[Old Nan] had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.” Hm, is that because THEY’RE ALL-BRAN?!

Naysayers would suggest that this theory would be a little pointless for the show to waste time on – Weiss & Benioff do have a lot of ground to cover in seven episodes. But you can’t just open a can of time-travel worms and shut out the endless possibilities it presents. Give us Bran McFly or give us nothing at all.

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