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How 7 Wild Game of Thrones Fan Theories Panned Out in Season 7

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HBO

Warning: This post contains spoilers about “The Dragon and the Wolf,” Game of Thrones’s seventh season finale. If you’re not caught up, stop reading now.

“The Dragon and the Wolf,” the season finale of Game of Thrones's seventh season, tied up a few loose ends in particularly satisfying fashion (bye bye, Littlefinger) but left just as many unanswered questions. Game of Thrones fans, however, have been notoriously quick to try to answer those questions for themselves, with varying degrees of success. As the snow settles on the icy rubble that used to be the Wall, we’re analyzing the status of seven Game of Thrones fan theories—predicting everything from Jon Snow becoming the Night King to Ned Stark being alive and well—as the show takes a break before its final season.

1. THE THREE-HEADED DRAGON

The Theory: Some of the most hotly contested Game of Thrones speculation has centered around the so-called "Three-Headed Dragon" prophecy: a vision Daenerys had in the House of the Undying of her brother Rhaegar saying, “the dragon has three heads.” (This happens in the books, although the show omitted this tidbit from Daenerys’s vision in season two.) Fans interpreted this to mean that there would be a rider for each of the show’s three dragons and tried to guess their identities. Daenerys, of course, rode Drogon, named for her late husband Drogo. Fans have long speculated that Jon Snow, revealed to be a true Targaryen, would ride Rhaegal, the dragon named after his father. They’ve offered many predictions for the third rider, including Tyrion Lannister, Bran Stark and Jorah Mormont.

The Verdict: Uncertain. “The Dragon and the Wolf” confirmed that the Night King is Viserion’s rider. The identity of the third rider remains unknown, but Jon Snow is still the clear favorite.

2. ARYA’S GAME OF FACES


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The Theory: Arya’s story arc seemed to take a 180 in “Stormborn,” when she abruptly dropped her plans to travel to King's Landing to assassinate Cersei and instead journeyed to Winterfell to spend the rest of the season bickering with Sansa. Fans everywhere let out a collective groan when Arya, a master of stealth and deception, allowed Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish to trick her so easily into a pointless feud with her sister. But some began to think that Arya may actually have been the one leading Littlefinger on all along. Arya, they claimed, was playing a version of the Game of Faces during her fight with Sansa in “Beyond the Wall”—pretending to threaten Sansa to lull Littlefinger into a false sense of security.

The Verdict: Confirmed. The finale kept us guessing until moments before Littlefinger’s doom, but the open-mouthed gape of genuine surprise that came across Baelish’s face when his schemes finally failed him was oh-so-worth it.

3. BRAN STARK THE TIME TRAVELER (AND THE NIGHT KING?)

The Theory: Bran Stark will hone his greenseer and warging abilities to try to change the past and defeat the Night King. With very little training, Bran was able to short-circuit Hodor’s brain and call out to young Ned Stark. With a little practice, some fans predict, he will go back in time and become his legendary ancestor Bran the Builder, who built the Wall to keep out the White Walkers. Take the theory a step further and Bran could have driven Aerys Targaryen mad trying to warn him about the undead. And take a massive leap forward and Bran Stark is the Night King, warging into his icy body in an act of self-sacrifice to lead the dead away from Westeros for millennia, before finally losing himself inside the zombie’s mind and turning on the living.

The Verdict: Still plausible. We didn’t see much of Bran this season, but surely there must be a bigger payoff for his character than facilitating Littlefinger’s demise (although for us, that would be enough).

4. JON SNOW IS THE PRINCE WHO WAS PROMISED (AND THE NIGHT KING?)


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The Theory: Jon Snow will fulfill the Prince Who Was Promised theory in the cruelest possible way. According to one Redditor’s theory, there must always be a Night King in the universe of Game of Thrones. During the last Long Night, the theory goes, Azor Ahai defeated the Night King and pulled the dragon glass out of his chest. But with their king dead, the remaining Wights and White Walkers roamed freely, threatening all of Westeros. So Azor Ahai stabbed himself in the chest with the dragon glass and became the Night King to control the army of the dead and lead them away from the living. Over many years, he forgot his purpose and turned against men. Now Jon Snow, the Prince Who Was Promised and the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, must take his turn as the Night King to save Westeros.

The Verdict: Who knows? The theory is far-fetched, but nothing we’ve seen through seven seasons disproves it. Fans would be heartbroken, but it’s not like Jon Snow could get any mopier about it.

5. JAIME WILL KILL CERSEI

The Theory: There’s a prophecy hanging over Cersei’s head that she will be killed by “the Valonqar,” Valyrian for “little brother.” Cersei hears this from Maggy the Frog, a fortune teller who gives a younger version of the Queen a series of very accurate predictions about her future (including her marriage to Robert Baratheon, her feud with Margaery Tyrell, and the death of her three children). The obvious choice for Cersei’s “Valonqar” killer would be Tyrion, who has pledged his loyalty to her rival for the Iron Throne. But some fans predict that Jaime—her lover, twin brother, and younger sibling by a few minutes—will be the one to do her in.

The Verdict: Looking more likely every episode. Jaime openly defied his sister in the finale after Cersei revealed her plan to back-stab Daenerys in her fight against the Night King, and Cersei threatened to kill him for it. The rift between the two has never been wider.

6. NED STARK IS STILL ALIVE


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The Theory: Ned Stark wasn’t the man who got beheaded on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Varys hired the Faceless Man known as Jaqen H’ghar to wear Ned’s face—or one similar to his—and be executed in his stead. The theory holds that master swordsman Syrio Forel didn’t die either, but helped Ned escape King’s Landing and then took Jaqen H’ghar’s face and trained Arya when she went to Essos. For the past six seasons, Ned has been hiding out with his friend Howland Reed at Greywater Watch.

The Verdict: Keep dreaming. Although the showrunners seemed hesitant to kill off beloved characters for much of the seventh season, they aren’t likely to reanimate long-dead fan favorites, either (or at least, not in any form we’d like to see them in).

7. JON AND DAENERYS FALL IN LOVE 

The Theory: This is less a theory than a case of much of the Internet “shipping” the aunt-and-nephew pair. From the moment Jon and Daenerys met there was tension in the air. They, of course, don’t know they’re related, and anyway the incest thing isn’t uncommon within the world of Game of Thrones. But we know. And it’s at least a little weird.

The Verdict: Aggressively confirmed. Interspersing Bran and Sam’s extended conversation about how the pair are very much related with graphic shots of Jon and Dany having sex, the finale pulled no punches in gleefully confirming this fan prediction.

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Hey, Vern: It's the Ernest P. Worrell Story
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Mill Creek Entertainment

In her review of the 1991 children’s comedy Ernest Scared Stupid, The Washington Post film critic Rita Kempley described the titular character, the dim-witted but well-meaning Ernest P. Worrell, as “the global village idiot.” As portrayed by Kentucky native Jim Varney, Ernest was in the middle of a 10-film franchise that would see him mistakenly incarcerated (Ernest Goes to Jail), enlisting in the military (Ernest in the Army), substituting for an injured Santa (Ernest Saves Christmas), and returning to formal education in order to receive his high school diploma (Ernest Goes to School).

Unlike slapstick contemporaries Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore, Varney took a far more unusual route to film stardom. With advertising executive John Cherry III, Varney originated the Ernest character in a series of regional television commercials. By one estimate, Ernest appeared in over 6000 spots, hawking everything from ice cream to used cars. They grew so popular that the pitchman had a 20,000-member fan club before his first movie, 1987’s Ernest Goes to Camp, was even released.

Varney and Ernest became synonymous, so much so that the actor would dread going on dates for fear Ernest fans would approach him; he sometimes wore disguises to discourage recognition. Though he could recite Shakespeare on a whim, Varney was rarely afforded the opportunity to expand his resume beyond the denim-jacketed character. It was for this reason that Varney, though grateful for Ernest’s popularity, would sometimes describe his notoriety as a “mixed blessing,” one that would come to a poignant end foreshadowed by one of his earliest commercials.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1949, Varney spent his youth being reprimanded by teachers who thought his interest in theater shouldn’t replace attention paid to math or science. Varney disagreed, leaving high school just two weeks shy of graduation (he returned in the fall for his diploma) to head for New York with $65 in cash and a plan to perform.

The off-Broadway plays Varney appeared in were not lucrative, and he began to bounce back and forth between Kentucky and California, driving a truck when times were lean and appearing in TV shows like Petticoat Junction when his luck improved. During one of his sabbaticals from Hollywood, he met Cherry, who cast him as an aggressive military instructor named Sergeant Glory in an ad for a car dealer in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1981, Varney was asked back to film a new spot for Cherry, this one for a dilapidated amusement park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that Cherry considered so unimpressive he didn’t want to show it on camera. Instead, he created the character of Ernest P. Worrell, a fast-talking, often imbecilic local who is constantly harassing his neighbor Vern. (“Know what I mean, Vern?” became Ernest’s catchphrase.)

The spot was a hit, and soon Varney and Cherry were being asked to film spots for Purity Dairies, pizza parlors, convenience stores, and other local businesses. In the spots, Ernest would usually look into the camera—the audience shared Vern’s point of view—and endorse whatever business had enlisted his services, usually stopping only when Vern devised a way to get him out of sight.

Although the Purity commercials initially drew complaints—the wide-angle lens created a looming Ernest that scared some children—his fame grew, and Varney became a rarity in the ad business: a mascot without a permanent corporate home. He and Cherry would film up to 26 spots in a day, all targeted for a specific region of the country. In some areas, people would call television stations asking when the next Ernest spot was due to air. A Fairfax, Virginia Toyota dealership saw a 50 percent spike in sales after Varney began appearing in ads.

Logging thousands of spots in hundreds of markets, Varney once said that if they had all been national, he and Cherry would have been wealthy beyond belief. But local spots had local budgets, and the occasions where Ernest was recruited for a major campaign were sometimes prohibited by exclusivity contracts: He and Cherry had to turn down Chevrolet due to agreements with local, competing car dealers.

Still, Varney made enough to buy a 10-acre home in Kentucky, expressing satisfaction with the reception of the Ernest character and happily agreeing to a four-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures for a series of Ernest features. Released on a near-constant basis between 1987 and 1998, the films were modest hits (Ernest Goes to Camp made $28 million) before Cherry—who directed several of them—and Varney decided to strike out on their own, settling into a direct-to-video distribution model.

“It's like Oz, and the Wizard ain't home," Varney told the Sun Sentinel in 1985, anticipating his desire for autonomy. “Hollywood is a place where everything begins but nothing originates. It's this big bunch of egos slamming into each other.”

Varney was sometimes reticent to admit he had ambitions beyond Ernest, believing his love of Shakespeare and desire to perform Hamlet would be perceived as the cliched story of a clown longing to be serious. He appeared in 1994’s The Beverly Hillbillies and as the voice of Slinky Dog in 1995’s Toy Story. But Ernest would continue to be his trademark.

The movies continued through 1998, at which point Varney noticed a nagging cough. It turned out to be lung cancer. As Ernest, Varney had filmed an anti-smoking public service announcement in the 1980s. In his private life, he was a chain smoker. He succumbed to cancer in 2000 at the age of 50, halting a series of planned Ernest projects that included Ernest Goes to Space and Ernest and the Voodoo Curse.

Varney may never have gotten an opportunity to perform in a wider variety of roles, but he did receive some acknowledgment for the one he had mastered. In 1989, Varney took home an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a children’s series, a CBS Saturday morning show titled Hey, Vern: It’s Ernest!

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “because it's as hard to escape from it as it is to get into it.''

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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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