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Welcome to The Week in Fan Theories, your guide to what fan theories are taking the internet by storm!
With so many fan theories floating around the web, it can be hard to know which ones to take seriously and which ones are wildly off the mark. Some theories are brilliant breakthroughs that reveal a whole new understanding of what a work of fiction means, or they're spot-on predictions about what's going to happen in the next installment. Others are specious bunk, deeply flawed theories that nevertheless get aggregated by some of the less scrupulous news sites.
As if the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 8 and the imminent release of Avengers: Endgame weren't enough, the title and first trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX came out last week. So geeky fans have a lot to theorize about. This week, we've got a good Rise of Skywalker theory, an overly paranoid Endgame theory, a broad Game of Thrones theory, and a specific one, as well as a hot take. Let's get started.
SKYWALKER IS THE NEW JEDI
Star Wars: Episode IX is titled "The Rise of Skywalker," which has some fans scratching their heads. Which Skywalker is going to rise? Luke Skywalker became one with the Force (read: died) in the last film, and while Kylo Ren and Leia Organa both have Skywalker blood, neither of them have Skywalker as their last name. And unless Episode IX does something terrible and undoes the best reveal in The Last Jedi, Rey isn't a Skywalker. She's a nobody.
That's where this very popular theory comes in. The "Skywalker" in "The Rise of Skywalker" isn't a specific person. If the Jedi as we knew them came to an end in The Last Jedi, what will replace them? Rather than continuing the trouble-plagued Jedi Order, might Rey instead start something new, something named for Luke Skywalker, a source of inspiration for the whole galaxy? The Last Jedi did end with that random broom kid using the Force. Perhaps he will grow up to be a Skywalker, not a Jedi.
It makes a certain amount of sense. Having Skywalkers replace Jedi would somewhat address some possible contradictions within the plot of the new Star Wars trilogy, while also allowing the series to move forward while still respecting the past. But then again, J.J. Abrams could just decide to retcon The Last Jedi and make Rey Luke's secret daughter or whatever.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME ISN'T REALLY CALLED ENDGAME
This fan theory isn't really about the MCU so much as it's a low-key conspiracy theory about Disney's marketing efforts. Recall that Infinity War and Endgame's directors, the Russo brothers, said that the name of Avengers 4 wasn't spoken aloud in Infinity War. Well, Doctor Strange says "we're in the endgame now pretty clearly," and Endgame is indeed the title.
Except, this theory posits, what if it's not? What if literally everything about Avengers 4's marketing, down to the title, has been misdirection?
"My dumb theory is that whatever the first scene is, whether it's Ant-Man in the Quantum Realm, Captain Marvel on Xandar, or the Avengers talking on Earth, when the Title Card rolls up, it'll say something along the lines of Avengers: Annihilation or Avengers: Decimation," the original theorist wrote on Reddit. "It'll turn out that the Russos were truthful, the title was not Endgame. The reason they've made so many clips and trailers with such spoilery content is that it's all fake."
Strictly speaking, this wouldn't be impossible, but it would be needlessly confusing. Disney has put so much money into marketing "Avengers: Endgame" that it seems unlikely that any last-minute name switcheroo would stick. In the minds of most fans, it would still be "Avengers: Endgame," especially because that's the name printed on all the tickets, posters, officially licensed tie-ins, and more.
This theory stems from paranoia, a bit of conspiracy-minded speculation that the Russos unwittingly fueled when they lied about "Endgame" being the name earlier (as this SlashFilm article explains), and when they admitted that there are shots in the trailers that aren't in the movie. It's caused fandom, which wants to both know everything and yet avoid being spoiled, to look too hard for answers and lies where there aren't any.
JON SNOW VS. DAENERYS TARGARYEN
Because nothing good can last in Game of Thrones, it seems inevitable that Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen will have some sort of relationship problem. A Reddit theory nicely encapsulates kind of a worst-case scenario for the two lovers/relatives.
"Cersei and the Night King are red herrings," the theorist writes. "The real final conflict is something much more tragic."
The theorist then lays out all the ways that Jon Snow and Daenerys might become legitimate enemies by the end of the series. Jon may not be the type to want the Iron Throne, but it will still threaten Daenerys' claim in more ways than one. Varys and Tyrion, who have both recently expressed doubts about the Mad King's daughter, might opt to back the other Targaryen, Jon Snow. Sam and Sansa both have good reasons to side with Jon over Dany, and the theorist even posits that Rhaegal will bond with Jon over Dany, as a result of their ride in Episode 1.
Meanwhile, the theory posits that Cersei Lannister and the Night King will both be defeated well before Dany and Jon come to blows.
There's a lot to this theory that's good, especially in broad strokes. It seems increasingly likely that Jon and Daenerys will have some sort of conflict, and this theory outlines how it could all go down, even if it seems a little suspect that Cersei and the Night King would get shortchanged. In any case, maybe don't expect Jon and Dany to live happily ever after.
AN OBSCURE ISLAND IS THE KEY TO DEFEATING THE NIGHT KING
We've written about this theory before, covering it in this column last month and then way back when Season 7 was first airing, in fact. But BuzzFeed wrote it up again, and this version of the theory has some interesting new takes, so it's worth covering again.
Essentially, the theory posits that the key to the Night King's plan is the Isle of Faces, an island inside a lake in the Riverlands known as the God's Eye. In the books, it's where the Children of the Forest and the First Men signed their peace pact, and it's rumored that Children may still live there in the present day. This theory posits that destroying a giant weirwood tree that grows on the island will ultimately destroy the Night King.
It's not a bad theory, except for one thing: The Isle of Faces has literally never been mentioned in Game of Thrones, and the God's Eye got only a fleeting mention back in Season 2. So, if this unseen, unmentioned location is indeed the key to defeating the Night King, Game of Thrones is going to need to do a lot of work to introduce all this at the 11th hour, which seems unlikely.
However, this newest version of the theory suggests that the Night King's body art, the spirals and the circle with a line through it, represent a weirwood tree grove and the God's Eye, respectively. It's intriguing enough to merit mentioning, but it still doesn't feel like enough groundwork for this to be Thrones' endgame twist.
FAN THEORIES ARE ... SAVING GAME OF THRONES?
Finally, I'll recommend you read this take from Slate, which argues that fan theories are the only good part of Game of Thrones these days. I disagree with a lot of it. Insane fan theories may be entertaining, but because of how prevalent they are online (and how uncritically they're often aggregated), the Fan Theory Industrial Complex is warping audiences' narrative literacy.
But the Slate article does accurately note that the theories have been getting wilder as the show has progressed, and in many ways diminished in quality. As Thrones speeds up in the final seasons, it's only natural that fans are coming up with theories to plug in gaps in the story. And it's natural that not all these plugs hold water.