In his own thoroughly British and defiantly modern way, Lawrence of Arabia once told a tribesman in the David Lean movie classic that “nothing is written,” meaning the future is whatever you make of it. But in its own thoroughly un-British, definitely postmodern way, everything is written in “Game of Thrones”: The future is set in Valyrian steel, unbreakable, immutable. The “game” for the protagonists -- also for us -- has always been to figure out what that is. Someone knows the end (the showrunners, George R.R. Martin) and fans give it their best guesses. That’s part of the pleasure of this journey: If we could see just beyond that next hill, that next vale, that wall, then everything would become clear, and finally make sense.
But we can’t and are left with shards, or puzzle pieces. It’s our job to put them together. How to begin after Sunday night? The seventh season finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” left more shards -- not to mention rubble from a broken ice wall -- then fans could have ever hoped for, or dreamed of. Everything fell in a jumble at their feet, from the destruction of that wall, to the consummation of the romance between Jon (Kit Harington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Cersei’s (Lena Headey) blighted heart was laid bare. Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) nobler heart, too.
The reunion of reunions happened -- a joining together of Starks, Targaryens, Greyjoys, even Cleganes -- one of those living, one not so living. Even the reunion of the Stark sisters finally happened, resolving (at least for now) their fraught bond, by eliminating (forever) a long-standing malefactor: Lord Petyr Baelish -- Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen).
The ice dragon, a reborn Viserion, made his reappearance as a destroyer of worlds, and walls -- opening a breech wide enough for an entire army of the dead to casually walk through with hardly a care, if the dead even have cares. We’re left with the closing shot, left with it for at least another year: An army on the move, finally, even before Jon had a chance to return to the Night’s Watch, or now what’s left of it.
The future is already written. What did these shards say? Before his final exit, Littlefinger did impart one piece of wisdom: “Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives, I play a little game,” he tells Sansa (Sophie Turner). “I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do? And then I ask myself, how well does that reason explain what they say, and what they do?”
We already know how this applies to Cersei. She play-acted that clever little scene with Euron (Pilou Asbaek), who professed fear at the undead, but in fact was headed to Essos where he would buy the services of a mercenary army. Clearly, she’s playing for time -- and making a reasonable assumption that the “monsters” will destroy each other in the north, leaving the spoils for her.
What we don’t know is how this worst-case game theory applies to her equal and opposite: Dany.
In the now famous scene, Jon enters her chamber, and a couple of things happen -- you already know what those are. From this, a new heir to the Iron Throne may well be conceived. (Cersei -- pregnant -- already believes she has her own in place.) But what we know is what they don’t: That she is Jon’s aunt, he the rightful heir to the throne. Incest isn’t the biggest problem here -- her reaction to that “rightful heir” news will be.
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-White) of course tells Samwell (John Bradley-West) that Jon must be told of his parentage -- he is Aegon Targaryen, ruler to be of the Seven Kings.
What will his reaction be? In an instance, his old self will be replaced with another, no longer “bastard” of unknown parentage, not even King of the North, but Lord and commander of the Seven Kingdoms.
Dany has spent a lifetime in pursuit of her destiny. How will she take the news? Will she set aside her life’s ambition -- something she’s devoted every molecule of her being toward achieving -- simply because Bran has had a vision?
This can go a few ways. Dany and Jon can set aside their respective destinies to deal with the immediate problem at hand, then wait to settle the matter after the great war. That seems logical, but complicated: Should Jon kneel before his queen, or should she now kneel before him? Maybe they both kneel together?
The other option, the far distant one, is that they marry -- finally uniting House Targaryen and Stark, equal leaders, with equal authority over the Iron Throne. That’s the happy outcome. But will “Game of Thrones” have a happy outcome? The future is written, but GRRM’s vision hardly seems predicated on a “and they lived happily ever after” resolution.
Moreover, what of Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) -- who still roams the kingdom, or one of them? She holds power of life or death over Jon. She still has a part to play. We don’t know what that is.
Moreover, what of sweet, benevolent Samwell? What’s the worst part he can play? Consider: He still doesn’t know that Dany murdered both his father and brother. After he finds out, will he convince Bran to support Jon in some way we still can’t envision?
We still have to play the little game that Littlefinger played: What’s the worst she can do, he can do, any of them can do?
Here’s another thing: The future is written, but is it really immutable? That’s a vitally important question. Bran tells Samwell that he can see the past, and everything happening in the world at once. He pointedly left out foresight, or seeing the future -- presumably the “third eye” of the raven he has become.
Can Bran see the future? We don’t know, but we do know he can see the past, and has tried to insert himself in the past -- changing those shards, so to speak, when the opportunity arose (recall the time he called out to Rhaegar, who turned to see who was calling him . . .)
Bran’s predecessor-Raven cautioned against meddling in the past, but Bran isn’t his predecessor. What’s the worst he can do -- knowing as he does everything that is going on, and most certainly knowing that the wall has been breached? Could Bran go back to the past, and warn against heading out beyond the wall to capture a wight, knowing how that will end up? At the very least, he could warn everyone at that fateful counsel at Dragonstone that it’s bad plot device -- having poor Viserion killed off for no reason other that to even the playing field between antagonists.
Bran may or may not be able to see the future, but he may have the power to change it. Everything is written in “Game of Thrones” but maybe -- just maybe -- he can do a little bit of editing.
Finally, there’s the Night King (Vladimir Furdik). We know almost nothing of him, other than the progeny of the White Walkers -- created long ago to save the Children of the Forest from men. What’s the worst he can do? His motives appear clear -- the annihilation of the human race, so that it is in bondage to him. But that’s not known exactly either.
Also unknown: What exactly are his powers? Like Bran, can he also see everything everywhere at all times? He certainly knew the dragons were coming to the rescue in “Beyond the Wall.” We know this because he hadn’t deployed his own secret weapon during that titanic battle on the lake -- his zombie giants. He was saving them for the special battle, holding them back against certain destruction by the dragons.
How did he know the dragons were coming? What are his motives? What’s the worst he can do?
Shards, shards and more shards. Meanwhile, everything is written, the future is already here. Too bad we have to wait another year to find out what that is.