Game of Thrones has the most passionate online following of any television show ever. Like Tyrion Lannister examining a new bottle of wine, each episode is picked apart and dissected at great length by internet fans. Some of these people concoct incredibly complex theories about what they think will happen on the show, even if they have less evidence than people who think the government staged the moon landing. Sometimes these theories are correct (Jon Snow coming back from the dead, Sandor not dying, etc.), others are just completely crazy (Roose Bolton is a vampire).
This week’s Game of Thrones episode shot down some of the internet’s most popular fan theories, and it will probably be better for it.
Before getting into the debunked theories, let’s start with examining what happened in Meereen. Tyrion Lannister started the episode pretty proud of himself for bringing peace to the city. He bragged to Varys about the success of his alliance with the Red Priestesses, and then gloated to Missandei and Grey Worm that his peace with the Slave Masters had ended the terror brought on by the Sons of the Harpy.
And then the Slave Masters attacked Meereen, and Tyrion ate crow.
Daenerys came back to Meereen right as the battle began, although she arrived riding Drogon so her Dothraki might not be with her. But at least she’ll be able to lead her forces, and possibly command her dragons, to fight back against the Slave Masters. The only question is whether she’ll need help from Theon and Yara Greyjoy’s fleet as well.
And now onto the crazy, yet plausible, fan theories that were debunked last night.
Debunked Theory #1: Cleganebowl
For people with more interesting lives than myself, who don’t spend hours each week combing through Game of Thrones message boards, the Cleganebowl was a theory that Cersei Lannister would demand a trial-by-combat for her charges the High Sparrow accused her of, and she would choose Gregor Clegane a.k.a. “The Mountain” as her champion. (She did say this was her plan on the show.) In response, the High Sparrow would choose Sandor Clegane a.k.a. “The Hound” as his champion and the two brothers would duel to the death.
This theory brought on new life last week when Sandor returned to the show after everyone thought he died back in season four. In the books, Sandor is rumored to be alive after his duel with Brienne of Tarth, which is why the “Cleganebowl” theory existed even before last week’s episode. When he came back, he mentioned “hate” as the only reason he survived his fight with Brienne, and there’s no one he despises more than his brother for giving him those horrible burn scars. Game of Thrones fans collectively hyped themselves up for the biggest duel since “The Mountain and the Viper” back in season four. Unfortunately, two things happened.
The boring part is Sandor doesn’t seem to be heading towards King’s Landing anytime soon. After his religious buddies were killed last week, the Hound hunted down their murderers. Unfortunately, the Brotherhood Without Banners got to them first, so he could only aid in helping them hang the perpetrators. Sandor then sat down with Thoros and Beric Dondarrion for a little chat and seemed to agree to join their fight.
The more interesting reason this can’t happen went down in King’s Landing. Members of the Faith Militant arrived at the Red Keep to bring Cersei to the High Sparrow. She refused, and the Mountain murdered one of the fanatics. Shortly thereafter, Cersei went to the throne room where she watched her son, King Tommen, declare trial-by-combat illegal in Westeros. Cersei had been banking on this trial-by-combat, because there’s no way anyone could beat an eight-foot tall monster in a duel and she escape the High Sparrow’s punishment. And fans wanted the trial-by-combat even more than Cersei because they’re dying for Cleganebowl.
So Cleganebowl will probably not happen (at least not in the near future), but that’s possibly for the better. The Mountain may have been nearly defeated in his duel against Prince Oberyn Martell in season four, but he’s come back even more powerful and deadlier than ever. There would’ve been no doubt about the outcome this time, even if Sandor is pissed off at the world right now.
Instead, Cersei will rely on her nefarious skills to defeat the High Sparrow, which can be just as satisfying as any trial-by-combat. It’s always fun to see the backroom dirty politics of Westeros in action, and no one does dirty politics quite like a Lannister. And seeing someone blackmail or bribe someone is much easier to watch than someone smashing a person’s face in with their bare hands.
Before going on to the next theory, the events that transpired in Riverrun last night could have great consequences for the show as well. Brienne of Tarth arrived at the castle (which allowed Podrick and Bronn to have a delightful scene) to negotiate a peace between Jaime Lannister and Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully. Unfortunately, the Blackfish had no desire to give up Riverrun even if it meant helping his only surviving family, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, in their battle against the Boltons.
So it looked like violence was on the horizon, until Jaime came up with a plan. He convinced Edmure Tully, the true Lord of House Tully, that he would destroy Riverrun and kill as many people as needed to return to Cersei. He then threatened to kill Edmure’s only son if he didn’t help him, so Edmure agreed to surrender Riverrun. Edmure entered the castle and told his men to lay down their arms. Brienne and Podrick escaped while the Blackfish ended up getting killed by Lannister soldiers.
For Sansa and Jon, this means one of their major allies in their war against the Boltons, as well as a possible future war with the crown, is now gone. For Jaime, he can now return to King’s Landing to help Cersei defeat the High Sparrow once and for all, although I think the Lannisters will continue to struggle without the help of Queen Margaery.
Debunked Theory #2: Arya is Not Arya
This theory popped up after last week’s episode. Many people online found it weird that after Arya ran away from the Faceless Men and went into hiding, she would then openly walk around Braavos trying to book passage to Westeros and flashing coin all over the place. And then she allowed an old woman to walk right up to her and stab her. Wouldn’t Arya be hyper-vigilant at all times since she knows the Faceless Men can disguise themselves as anyone? Two theories emerged as to why was she acting so weird:
1. Arya was actually Jaqen in disguise.
When Jaqen ordered the Waif to kill Arya, he told her to make sure she didn’t suffer. But when she actually attacked her, she not only stabbed her but also twisted the blade, breaking his rules. The theory was that Jaqen disguised himself as Arya to test the Waif to see if she would be merciful. Well, that wasn’t true. Arya did in fact get stabbed. So then it came down to the second, albeit less popular theory:
2. Arya and the Waif are the same person.
Basically, people thought it could be a Fight Club scenario. The Waif is just a hallucination that the Faceless Men forced onto Arya and doesn’t actually exist. This was far less popular than the Jaqen one and I never believed it. I thought Arya purposefully went out in the open to draw out the Waif and get attacked. And once she was wounded, she would lure her into a trap and kill her.
Instead, Arya didn’t have any plan at all. The Waif just surprised her. After getting stabbed, Arya went to her actress friend to get medical attention. And the Waif found her. And then she chased her, and Arya blew out a candle and killed the Waif in the dark.
Honestly, I thought the resolution to this was pretty lame. Would Arya actually be so stupid as to just walk around Braavos in the open, knowing the Faceless Men could come after her? And then she would let someone sneak up on her? Color me skeptical.
The other possibility is Arya planned on getting stabbed, showing up at the actress’ house, hoping the Waif would find her, and then she could take a super elaborate escape route to her hideout. And that’s just ridiculous. Arya got lucky, and that kind of sucks. This is one case where the theories were better than what actually happened onscreen.
For the last debunked theory, I want to warn readers that this theory is based on events that happen in the book. And while I don’t think they’ll happen on the show, I could be wrong and this next section could spoil possible future storylines for non-book readers. So I’ll put a warning on this.
DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU ONLY WATCH THE SHOW
Debunked Theory #3: Lady Stoneheart
For book readers (or people who watch the show and then research what happens in the books, like me), you’ll know there’s a storyline involving Lady Stoneheart in A Song of Ice and Fire. In the books, after the Red Wedding Beric Dondarrion finds Catelyn Stark’s body and resurrects her by sacrificing his own life. She then becomes “Lady Stoneheart,” with a warped personality and difficulty speaking, and leads the Brotherhood without Banners to attack the Lannisters and Freys.
When Catelyn originally died on the show, the creators said they wouldn’t bring her back as Lady Stoneheart. However, last week people began to believe they lied. The men who killed Sandor’s religious friends were members of the Brotherhood without Banners. A few weeks earlier, Walder Frey mentioned the Brotherhood had been interfering with his interests. So the sudden revival of the Brotherhood seemed to suggest that Lady Stoneheart might be revived as well. And a bunch of other “dead” characters returned this season, so why not Catelyn?
Well, this week’s episode probably put that rumor to rest. Beric Dondarrion is very much alive, as the Hound learned. And when he discussed his plans with Sandor, he made no mention of Lady Stoneheart. If she were alive and Beric no longer in charge of the Brotherhood, that would’ve at least been mentioned this episode, right?
Honestly, this is probably a good thing. Bringing back Lady Stoneheart three seasons after her death would be ridiculous. If she really was so important, they would’ve brought her back earlier in the show to fully develop that plotline. Now it would just be complete fan service. And considering Benjen Stark, Jon Snow and Sandor Clegane have all come back to life, bringing Catelyn back would be a little ridiculous. Would death mean anything in Westeros anymore?
Again, it’s not one hundred percent clear Lady Stoneheart won’t appear in the show. A leaked episode description for the season finale earlier this week said, “Brienne meets a friend turned foe.” In the books, Brienne runs into Lady Stoneheart, and undead Catelyn threatens to execute her. But the leak could be incorrect (the leaked description for episode eight didn’t match up with the one HBO ended up releasing) and for the same reasons mentioned above, it really wouldn’t make any sense.
The only fan theory that wasn’t tarnished last night was R + L = J, and there is a confirmed “Tower of Joy” scene in the season finale in two weeks. So all the nerds who are crying about not getting the Cleganebowl can take solace that their 20-year-old theory about Jon Snow’s parents may finally be answered.
Joseph Misulonas is an assistant editor for Playboy.com. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.