11 Game of Thrones Fan Theories That Came True

Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones
Macall B. Polay, HBO

Game of Thrones has inspired some truly wild fan theories over the course of its eight-season run. Now that the HBO epic has ended, we can confirm that neither Bran Stark nor Jon Snow is the new Night King. But fans were right on the money with these 11 theories that came true. Read on to find out how savvy viewers called Coldhands, and the ultimate fate of the Mother of Dragons.

Warning: Lots of spoilers for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones ahead!

1. The Hound and The Mountain face off in Cleganebowl.

Rory McCann and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in 'Game of Thrones'
Rory McCann and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson face off in Cleganebowl—finally—in Game of Thrones

Since at least 2013, the internet has been extremely hyped for Cleganebowl, a theoretical showdown between brothers Sandor Clegane (The Hound) and Gregor Clegane (The Mountain). These two hate each other, but their paths didn’t cross much after the first season. Fans believed the brothers would finally settle the score with a fight to the death, which is exactly what happened when The Hound and The Mountain reunited during the fall of King's Landing in season 8's "The Bells." They subsequently pummeled one another atop a crumbling castle, but since they both dropped to their deaths, we’ll call this one a draw.

2. Benjen Stark is Coldhands.

In George R.R. Martin’s books, Coldhands is a mysterious hooded figure who frequently saves Northerners from wights. His identity is never revealed, but Game of Thrones fanatics had a person in mind. Viewers believed that Benjen Stark, Ned’s little brother who disappears in season 1, was the man beneath the hood. Their suspicions were confirmed in season 6, when Uncle Benjen rides to the rescue of Bran and Meera with a swinging, flaming chain.

At least, Coldhands is Uncle Benjen in the show. In an exchange written on the manuscript of A Dance with Dragons—which can be seen at Texas A&M's Cushing Library—Martin's editor writes next to an entry on Coldhands, "Is this Benjen? I think it's Benjen ..." Above her notes, in red and circled, is the word "NO," written by Martin himself. So Coldhands's identity in the books is still an open question.

3. The Wall falls.

This is why you never get cocky about walls, no matter how many people are watching them. Viewers grew extra nervous over Westeros’s main line of defense against the White Walkers when the season 7 opening credits revealed the water around the Wall had frozen. Could the dead simply walk by the longstanding barrier? Or could something actually tear it down? Fans had already floated theories about an ice dragon that could match Dany’s fire-breathing children. It was pretty easy to fill in the gaps once the Night King speared Viserion and brought him back to life (as an ice dragon) in season 7's penultimate episode.

4. Arya kills the Night King.

The Battle of Winterfell, a.k.a. the hotly anticipated clash between the living and the undead, was not looking great for the human side up until its final moments. That was when Arya snuck up behind the Night King and drove a dagger through him, slaying his entire zombie army in the process. Multiple Redditors predicted this twist, noting that Arya had the right equipment (Valyrian steel) and attitude (ruthlessness) to get the job done.

5. Jon Snow returns from the dead.

Kit Harington in 'Game of Thrones'
Kit Harington comes back from the dead in Game of Thrones

Resurrections are never a done deal, but viewers were pretty sure Jon Snow would rise again after his death in the season 5 finale. Davos simply had to call in the red priestess Melisandre, who was able to bring Jon back to life through a series of magical chants and rituals.

6. Daenerys goes Mad Queen.

The “Mad King” looms large in Game of Thrones lore. Aerys Targaryen’s descent into insanity—which eventually ended with a sword in his back, courtesy of Jaime Lannister—has long been talked about by the show's characters. Robert Baratheon was subsequently installed on the Iron Throne, restoring order to the Seven Kingdoms. At least for a little while. But Daenerys, Aerys’s surviving daughter, has been plotting her way back to power since the show’s beginning—and some Redditors feared she could take after her dear old dad.

The “Mad Queen” theory suggested insanity runs in the family, and that Dany’s increasingly brutal attitude toward her enemies was laying the path for her eventual mental collapse. The argument grew harder to ignore as season 7 progressed. By the time Dany arrived in King's Landing, she was ready to fulfill her (controversial) destiny.

7. R+L=J.

Robert Aramayo and Aisling Francioso in 'Game of Thrones'
Robert Aramayo and Aisling Francioso in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Did it really make sense for noble Ned Stark to father a bastard child? Or did it sound more like a cover story? Suspicious fans rallied around the R+L=J theory, which claimed that Lyanna Stark, Ned’s long-dead sister, was the mother of Jon Snow. His father was Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. That would place Jon ahead of Daenerys in line for the throne, massively complicating the fight for the Seven Kingdoms. The R+L=J theory was confirmed via flashback in season 6, and it was even juicier than fans assumed. Jon Snow was not only Rhaegar and Lyanna’s kid; he was their legitimate heir, since Rhaegar had secretly annulled his marriage to Elia Martell to wed Lyanna. This made things super awkward for Dany and Jon, the show’s newest couple.

8. The Iron Throne is destroyed.

The Iron Throne inspired centuries of squabbling and bloodshed, which is why so many fans offered up this poetic theory: in the finale, the throne would burn, symbolically ushering in a new era of Westerosian politics. Sure enough, Drogon melted this testament to absolute power into a puddle after witnessing a plot twist that fans also saw coming ...

9. Jon Snow kills Daenerys Targaryen.

Emilia Clarke in 'Game of Thrones'
Emilia Clarke in the series finale of Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen’s firebombing of King's Landing turned her into an unequivocal villain, the kind that needs to be stopped before she can massacre another city. The only question was who would be the one to do it? Arya, fresh off her assassination of the Night King, seemed to be a likely candidate. Tyrion Lannister, who had already gone against the queen’s wishes by freeing Jaime and spilling Targaryen family secrets to Varys, was another contender. But in the end, it was Dany’s nephew/boyfriend Jon Snow who betrayed her in the most devastating way possible—with a blade to the heart. Theorists had predicted this ending long ago, through close reads of the Azor Ahai prophecy, which concerns a prince who murders his wife for a greater cause.

10. The whole show is samwell tarly's story (sort of).

Fans have long championed the idea that Samwell Tarly is the true “author” of Game of Thrones, writing down the events that transpire onscreen as they happen. This meta theory picked up steam after Sam arrived in Oldtown in season 6 to train as a maester. The library he entered bore a striking resemblance to the show’s opening credits, suggesting the story might come from Sam’s perspective.

Though ultimately it turned out that Archmaester Ebrose, Jim Broadbent's character, is the show's true author, this theory was partially true. Sam confirmed his unique place in the narrative in one of the final scenes of the series finale. During a meeting of the small council, Sam presented Tyrion with A Song of Ice and Fire, the historical text Ebrose wrote on the wars following Robert Baratheon’s death. While the full story is the work of Ebrose, Sam did tell the maester to name the tome something “poetic” in season 7 and, as Sam eagerly told Tyrion, he “helped him with the title.”

11. Bran Stark becomes king.

Isaac Hempstead Wright in 'Game of Thrones' season 8
Isaac Hempstead Wright stars as Bran Stark in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Over the course of eight seasons, a number of characters—many of whom have since died—were predicted to ultimately win the Iron Throne. One character who has often been overlooked, especially since his transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven, is Bran Stark. But in recent weeks, the idea that the youngest living Stark could ultimately rule the Seven (now Six) Kingdoms has gained a lot of traction. So much so that the online betting experts at OddSharks even predicted that Bran would take the Throne. As we saw in the finale, the same traits that made Bran a long shot for the crown—especially the fact that he now lives so much of his life in the past—are ultimately what made him the best choice to take the world into the future. 

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]