11:00 am EDT, February 14, 2019

5 happy endings that just might happen in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8

Everyone knows that Game of Thrones season 8 will be full of carnage and death. But is there potential for any happy endings in Westeros?

As the last act in the epic (and epically bloody) blockbuster fantasy series, the final season of Game of Thrones has a lot to deliver. Along with dragon battles and duels with evil forces, fans have long been primed to expect tragedy, loss, and bloody destruction. Given the reputation that Game of Thrones has built for itself, it seems reasonable to wonder if the dead might not outnumber the survivors when the final credits role.

But while it’s not impossible to imagine that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss will end their story in unrelieved ruin, few good stories — even grim stories like Game of Thrones — end without one or two plot lines concluding on a happier note. George R.R. Martin has promised that his A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Game of Thrones is based will end with a “bittersweet” tone. If the showrunners plan on imitating Martin’s conclusion at all, we may be in for at least a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, we’re not betting that any more that one of the following happy Game of Thrones theories could happen together. (That seems like too much to hope for, honestly.) Still, here are a few reasonable options for happy endings that might come in Game of Thrones season 8.

Daenerys and Jon live happily ever after

Though theirs has not been a long relationship, Jon and Dany’s blossoming romance has quickly become a defining element of Game of Thrones. While some fans object to the incest-y overtones of their relationship (Jon, as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, is Dany’s nephew) this union of ice and fire — and two most polar and popular stories on the show — has certainly rounded out this epic tale. (Bonus points: It’s consensual!)

Certainly, there are many obstacles in the way of Jon and Dany’s happily ever after in Game of Thrones season 8. Both are major players in the war against the White Walkers, and as the endgame approaches, no character’s survival is guaranteed. Painful sacrifices are sure to be a factor in the final battle, with both Jon and Dany top candidates for either sacrificer or sacrifice. Plus, there’s the more mundane possibility that their romance may flounder when they discover their familial relationship — or when Dany finds out that her long-vaunted claim to the Iron Throne is actually superseded by her nephew/boyfriend.

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Still, a successful central romance of Game of Thrones season 8 may be a fair possibility to anticipate. The price that the forces of the living will pay to defeat the Night King will certainly be dauntingly high. Maybe it’s not too much to hope that these two lost heirs who found each other can — with or without the Iron Throne — find happiness together.

Sansa rules Winterfell peacefully and on her own terms

In a series positively flooded with scarred and tortured characters, Sansa Stark might be among the most woeful. It’s always been tough to know what Game of Thrones has in store for the oldest Stark sister, but a consistent pattern of victories and rather crushing defeats has left her supporters braced for anything.

Given her role as a purely political player though, Sansa might be one of the best options for a happy ending in Game of Thrones season 8. In many ways, she represents the future of Westeros — a powerful woman scarred by trauma and war, determined to rule in justice and peace. Sansa knows better than anyone what it’s like to be powerless, and at the mercy of terrible rulers; who better than she to pick up the broken pieces after the war with the White Walkers and restore humanity to Westeros?

It’s worth noting that this is a particularly fitting and happy ending for Sansa, who began the story as a silly young dreamer eager for the glamor of Kings Landing. Being permanently installed as the Lady of Winterfell, safe and content in her home and using her hard-earned political skills to guide the North to peace, seems like perfect — and possible — conclusion to an arc often bereft of any shred of safety or contentment.

Bran snaps out of Raven-mode and goes back to normal

Bran Stark’s story in Game of Thrones has been as strange as it is pivotal to the show’s overarching narrative. But it’s also led to young Bran — after being paralyzed, held hostage, dragged through the North, and indoctrinated in tree magic — becoming a soulless, monotonous shadow of his old self.

Taking on the job of the Three-Eyed Raven has divorced Bran from the concerns of human feeling and care. By Game of Thrones season 8, he will be sitting in front of the fire at Winterfell, muttering prophesies and exploring tree magic. Arya and Sansa, meanwhile, are left to grapple with the fact that their other little brother is essentially dead, consumed by mysticism and strange power.

So the revival of Bran Stark, however unlikely it might seem, would be a happy and unexpected ending for his story in Game of Thrones. Perhaps the deep magic that has overtaken him will release Bran after the war, no longer needed for the survival of humanity. Or maybe Bran himself will break free, his youthful spirit overpowering the monotonous droning that has become his whole life.

This may not be the option with the best odds, but it too would provide a lovely symmetry to Game of Thrones as a whole. The pilot episode ends with Jaime shoving Bran from the tower window, beginning his journey; perhaps the show can conclude with Bran coming full circle and finding his old self once again.

Jaime and Brienne run away, get married, and live a quiet life together

As with Dany and Jon, it may be too much to hope that two characters not only survive Game of Thrones season 8, but also find happiness together. Still, Jaime and Brienne might just be able to sneak in under the wire. Jaimie has a least one more thing to accomplish before his story ends (see: Cersei) but if he survives that sure-to-be-fateful encounter? Well, his long-simmering relationship with Brienne, based on true respect and high regard, may just be able to provide a spot of happiness amidst the carnage.

After all, Brienne certainly hasn’t given up on Jaime. And if anyone deserves an unambiguously happy ending in this story, it’s the loyal and stalwart Brienne, who believes herself unloveable but remains a truer knight than anyone in the series. Certainly Jaime’s history is more checkered, but if he manages to successfully atone for his wrongdoings, a quiet loving future may not be too far beyond the realm of possibility.

Tyrion and Sam take over the Citadel of Oldtown

This may seem like a small thing, but the two primary scholars of Game of Thrones finding refuge at Westeros’s center of learning would actually be a real win for both Tyrion and Sam. Considering the fact that the carnage of the War for the Dawn will likely spread across the continent, Oldtown and all of its assets may require significant rehabilitation by the end of Game of Thrones season 8. Working together, Sam and Tyrion could have the chance to put their brains and conviction toward helping the world, revolutionizing the way Westeros understands everything from magic to medicine.

This would also be a fitting endpoint for both characters. Sam can fulfill (let’s face it) his destiny as a scholar, while being able to continue his life with Gilly. While a romantic conclusion seems unlikely for Tyrion at this point (his crush Dany is definitely taken) he can return to the love of books that he has rarely had a chance to enjoy over the series — and employ his intelligence, political skills, and persuasion in pushing Westeros into a truly brighter age.

And while they’re at it, Tyrion and Sam can start moving the Citadel away from its old strictures and prejudices. Maybe they allow Maesters to take wives, or begin the process of expanding education in Westeros? Big dreams, sure, but if this is the only happy thing that happens in the Game of Thrones series finale, anything might be possible.

Game of Thrones season 8 premieres on April 14 at 9:00 p.m. on HBO.

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