If Game of Thrones' final season hadn't been the final season, perhaps fans wouldn't be so furious about what went down — even if they still didn't care for how fast major events happened. If you squint long and hard at all six episodes, the season actually set into motion quite a few new plot lines and problems that could've inspired one seriously rad ninth season.
We already know that this show is over and done, but with HBO Max on the horizon, you never know. So we've taken the liberty of going ahead and imagining what a Season 9 might have looked like based on the dangling threads left open by the end of Season 8. And you know what? It feels pretty good to get back to speculating about all the possibilities of this show instead of roaring about what we did see, so please enjoy.
1. The Battle of the Resurrected
It's no secret that Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) transformation into the "Mad Queen" was too rushed to sit well with a great portion of the Game of Thrones fanbase. But since we can't go back in time and change the way it went down, we can instead envision a future that might make this whole thing a bit more palatable. As we know, after Jon Snow (Kit Harington) stabbed Daenerys, Drogon showed up and wept for him mom, burned the Iron Throne instead of her Targaryen nephew-turned-assassin, and took her body off to who knows where. That might've seemed like the bitter end of Daenerys' journey. But what it if wasn't?
What if Drogon took her east to the red priestess Kinvara, who could summon Daenerys' fellow fire-lover the Lord of Light to revive her? We know resurrections can and do happen on this show, so why not? How many times were we reminded this season that Jon came back from a stab wound to the heart? Maybe she'd even scoop up some of those baby dragons we'd been hoping for and recruit the stonemen of Valyria to fight for the Undead Mother of Dragons. If that happened, her second trip North of the Wall would likely not be a Jon Snow rescue mission, and it would be the clash of ice and fire we've been waiting for all along. (Note: As fun as it was, the Drogon cameo on Westworld is not show canon, so we're just pretending that never happened for purposes of this list.)
2. Arya's Academy of Faceless Men
Any time someone sets sail for an exciting conquest on this show, terrible things tend to happen to them, so that would probably be the case for Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Instead of actually finding out what is west of Westeros, she would likely end up somewhere in the East, where her family's name carries no weight and the people do not hesitate to enslave passersby, especially women.
Of course, she could also wind up back in Braavos at the House of Black and White, training the world's newest stealth assassins. She's always shown an affinity for those willing to teach — Syrio Forel, Jaqen H'ghar, and the Hound — so it'd be fitting for her to step into that role now that her own kill list is complete.
3. The Liberation Tour
Arya's not the only one leaving Westeros in the Game of Thrones finale. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) is also en route to the island of Naath, presumably to free and/or protect Missandei's (Nathalie Emmanuel) people from slavers. But what if he started to think a little bigger and linked up with Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) and the Second Sons to honor their fallen queen by continuing to free slaves from their captors all around Essos? Or perhaps they'd clash instead, with Daario blaming Grey Worm for not protecting their queen from her enemies across the Narrow Sea. The people of Meereen were never hot on the Unsullied, so that could make for a pretty wicked side brawl.
4. The Trout and the Wolf
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) straight-up embarrassed her uncle Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) during the Dragonpit summit when she told him to "please sit" while stating his case for being named king. That can't bode well for her relationship with the Riverlands, can it? If he took it too personally, there are some other families that might join him in a dispute with the Queen in the North.
For one thing, Arya made an enemy of Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) and the Iron Islands when she threatened to slit her throat for wanting to condemn Jon, and we don't know how the new prince of Dorne feels about the death of the queen he'd pledged fealty to. House Glover may be at odds with House Stark as a result of their non-participation in the Battle of Winterfell, and Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) might get bent out of shape if he hears about Uncle Petyr's execution. Even the Reeds might have a bone to pick with Bran's family right about now. Sansa was very shrewd in the process of getting her new title, and she might have a good relationship with the crown in the South, too, but the lands between them are filled with potential enemies that could work together to make her reign miserable.
5. The Council Collapse
The small council in King's Landing has always been a messy gathering of competing interests, but now it's a downright disaster. Somehow, the cutthroat Bronn (Jerome Flynn), who didn't understand how a loan worked before, is now Master of Coin and wants to prioritize brothel-building over ships. And Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), whose only true talent is saving his own skin, is running the show for yet another absentee king. Factions seem to be bubbling up in that mini-society of stragglers already, with Davos (Liam Cunningham), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and Sam (John Bradley) mostly wanting to play by the old rules while Tyrion and Bronn are more interested in talking about brothels. What could go wrong?! (Answer: a lot.)
6. Bran the Brutal
It's impossible to know what kind of king Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) will be, but one thing's for sure: He's shown us that he doesn't have very much empathy or concern for loss of life since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, and he might be more power hungry than he initially let on. Even Tyrion looks taken aback when Bran responds to being nominated for the crown by saying, "Why do you think I came all this way?" The Three-Eyed Raven has been playing a very long game, and now that the Night King and the Mother of Dragons are defeated, what could he possibly want to accomplish next?
The fact that Bran's first order of business is to order up Masters of Whisperers, Laws, and War also doesn't preview a peaceful reign, especially since he's more concerned with that and finding (read: killing) Drogon than making sure his subjects are fed. What if, instead of being benevolent and using his sight for good, he becomes an all-knowing tyrant with a lifespan of 1,000 years who doesn't care whether innocents get hurt in the process of his grand ambitions? Daenerys was considered bad for her willingness to let people die to achieve her ends, so what makes Bran any different? The wheel of Westeros goes round and round...
Game of Thrones is available on HBO and will be part of HBO Max's launch day library on Wednesday, May 27.