[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series finale episode of Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk!]
Game of Thrones fans weren't exactly thrilled with the way the final season panned out, but that's what you get when you turn one of your heroes into a Mad Queen and the other one into her murderer. The show did manage to pay off quite a few storylines for Jon (Kit Harington), Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Arya (Maisie Williams), and even Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) though.
However, with only so much time in Game of Thrones' final season, there were several storylines that fans were anticipating and theorizing about that kind of fell by the wayside, and frankly, that blows. When you spend years speculating about the Night King's motives or Cersei's (Lena Headey) prophecy, finding out that the show bailed on those storylines feels like a massive letdown. So in honor of all the fandom's greatest minds, here are seven fan theories that were actually way cooler than the real ending of Game of Thrones.
1. Bran was the Night King all along.
Obviously, this was a favorite fan theory heading into Season 8, but with one thrust of a dagger, Game of Thrones swiftly and surely ended any hope of it panning out. After Bran first warged into Hodor (Kristian Nairn) in the past, fans theorized Bran would warg into the Night King before he was created by the Children of the Forest in an attempt to stop the war with the dead from ever happening. The previous Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) warned him you can get trapped in the past if you aren't careful though, so the theory goes that Bran would get trapped inside the Night King and ultimately become him. From there, theories diverge as to Bran's motives as the Night King. Did spending thousands of years watching humans kill each other cement the idea that he needed to exterminate them? Or was there something even larger at play?
Bran's previous time-traveling visions hinted that he couldn't change the past because everything was a fixed point fated to happen. Hodor was Hodor because Bran warged into him in the past — it was always going to happen that way, so cause and effect are simply a never-ending loop. Upon realizing this, it would make sense that Bran would resign himself to playing his part as the antagonist of this story since he couldn't change what was fated to be. This theory also explains why the Night King could tell when Bran was watching him; for the Night King, this had already happened when he was still Bran. Fans have also theorized that Bran being the Night King would explain why he never killed Jon. Whether he was planning for Jon to eventually defeat him or if he simply couldn't bring himself to murder his brother is up to interpretation.
2. Tyrion or Jaime would kill Cersei.
According to the book version of the prophecy Cersei heard about her future, she would be strangled by the "Valonqar," which translates to little brother in High Valyrian. Though this part of the prophecy never made it into the show, fans widely accepted it as fact because of how hateful Cersei had always been to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).
There was a second candidate, however, when it came to the subject of this prophecy. Because Cersei was born before Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), he would technically also qualify as her little brother, and fans hoped that Jaime would eventually kill Cersei to complete his redemption arc. This theory almost came true, except Cersei's cause of death was being crushed under the crumbling ruins of the Red Keep instead of being strangled by Jaime.
3. Arya would kill Cersei wearing Jaime's face.
From the moment Arya starting keeping track of the people she wanted to kill, Cersei was always near the top of the list, second only to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). It always seemed like eventually Arya would be the one to end Cersei's life. That mission contrasted with the Valonqar theory though, which is why fans came up with an epic explanation that allowed both theories to be correct.
The theory goes that Arya would kill Jaime (in revenge for crippling Bran and for his hand in her father's death) and take his face. She would then use that face to gain access to Cersei, at which point she would choke the life out of her. Though it's a loose interpretation, this theory essentially killed two birds (and two Lannisters) with one stone.
4. Daenerys would get more dragons.
Fans cleverly spotted four dragons on the astrolabe in Season 8's new title sequence, which prompted theories that Daenerys would either acquire one new dragon this season, or she would hatch three new dragon eggs after her other two dragons perished. Though Daenerys' story eventually devolved into a Mad Queen narrative, we would rather have seen her stay in character and have more children to help her reign in King's Landing and rebuild the dragon population.
5. Daenerys would be pregnant with Jon's baby.
This one we're almost glad didn't happen since it was so cringeworthy, but it still makes more sense than what actually happened. After Jon and Dany slept together in the Season 7 finale, fans were quick to point out how many times Daenerys' inability to bear children was brought up over the course of the show. With so much focus put on her succession, it seemed almost unavoidable that she would turn out to be pregnant with Jon's baby this season.
Though it would be yet another incest baby, this child would have actually presented a solution for Jon and Daenerys' debacle over who should take the Iron Throne, since he was actually the true heir but had sworn an oath to support her claim. With a child on the way that would be their heir, they could simply declare their baby king or queen of the Seven Kingdoms and reign as regents until the child came of age.
6. The Night King was a Targaryen.
Though there's plenty of evidence that suggests this theory is true, it's still unclear whether or not the Night King was actually a secret Targaryen. The fact that the Night King rode Viserion into battle seems to indicate that this theory held weight, especially since the only other two people to ride dragons were Jon and Daenerys, both of whom are Targaryens. There's also the small matter of him not being burned when Daenerys tried to roast him during the Battle of Winterfell. The final clue about the Night King's possible heritage is how his symbol (the endless spiral) seems to be very reminiscent of the Targaryen dragon crest when you put them side by side. Creepy, huh?
Could this dude have actually been a Targaryen when he was human? And if so, would he have actually had a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne? Food for thought.
7. Bran would warg into a dragon.
From practically the first moment Bran learned how to warg into animals, fans were predicting that he would warg into a dragon by the end of the series. Unsurprisingly, there was no time or opportunity to make this happen in Season 8, so this theory kind of fell by the wayside. There were a few Daenerys stans, however, that speculated Bran was always angling for the throne, and he was the one that burned King's Landing, either by warging into Dany and making her do it or by warging into Drogon. The show did leave room for Bran to warg into Drogon one day though since Bran tasked himself with "finding" the missing dragon in the series finale.
Game of Thrones is streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.