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Arya died, Bran told Tyrion everything, and Steve Rogers' kids: The week in fan theories

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May 16, 2019

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 deeply flawed theories that nevertheless get traction on news sites.

There is only one more episode of Game of Thrones left, and after that, all the Game of Thrones fan theories will stop. Nah, just kidding, of course people are still going to write GoT fan theories, and lots of websites will aggregate them for clicks. That's in the near future though.

This past week, fans have been theorizing in an attempt to explain what the hell happened in the penultimate episode, "The Bells." Many fans and critics feel that the show did not do a good enough job explaining why, exactly, Daenerys went mad at that specific point. There are plenty of theories explaining her motivations that are trying to fill in the gaps for arguably bad writing, but we'll leave those aside this week. Instead, we've got two other Thrones theories, an official debunking of an older one, and an Endgame conundrum to wrap things up.

Arya Stark

Credit: HBO


Say what you will about how earned Daenerys' Mad Queen moment was: The aftermath was horrific, and Game of Thrones did an excellent job at conveying just how brutal the dragon-aided sacking of a medieval city would be. Part of the reason these scenes were so effective was that Arya was the audience's viewpoint character, and we got to see a strong fighter who literally killed death incarnate two episodes ago, fleeing for her life. She almost died a few times, and there are some theories arguing that's exactly what happened.

At the end of the episode, Arya comes across an incongruously white horse in the ruins of King's Landing. It's a pretty heavy-handed metaphor, as a Death supposedly rode a "pale horse" in the Bible. Arya is surrounded by hell and death, and she gets an eerie ride out of there. However, this theory posits that she's actually dead, taking the metaphor literally.

This theory certainly won't be proven true in the finale. To start with, there's no evidence within the fiction of the show that the Lord of Light is able to resurrect people without channeling his power through a priest, and there's no indication that the Lord of Light cares about squabbles for the Iron Throne. His whole thing was the Night King, not ensuring that Arya could survive to kill Daenerys for the crime of… burning innocent people, which the Lord of Light has certainly endorsed in the past!

If this theory were true, it would be a type of narrative trickery that Game of Thrones hasn't invoked before. And, it would mean the series finale, which already has a lot of storylines it needs to wrap up in 80 minutes, would need to spend time explaining that, oh yeah, Arya died in the last episode. Sometimes a horse is just symbolism, not a plot twist.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Bran

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO


Lots of people joked that the horse was actually Bran, who had warged down to King's Landing to rescue Arya. This seems unlikely, but it does get at another question fans had of the episode: Where was Bran? One theory suggests that he was working through Tyrion, because he had told him what was going to happen in the battle. The theory posits that this is why Tyrion was so adamant about freeing Jaime and trying to get Cersei to surrender so that Daenerys would stop the attack when the bells rang.

"Tyrion tries desperately to change the course of action he knows is likely to happen, which Bran told him about already. He was adamant about two things — the bells ringing mean surrender (please accept the surrender) and the city falling by the next day," the theorist writes.

Late-era Game of Thrones hasn't been shy about cutting away from crucial pieces of dialogue in order to surprise viewers later (see: Sansa telling Tyrion about Jon, the Season 7 Littlefinger plot), and it's true that earlier episodes cut away from Bran and Tyrion's conversations as they started. This would be a lot to omit, though, especially since it doesn't seem to have mattered?

If Tyrion knew what Bran had told him, why wouldn't he have done more to stop Dany? Why not help Varys? Plus, the information that this theory supposes he "knew" ahead of time, aren't things that he would need supernatural help to foresee. Sacking the city would be bad, so it would be good if the city surrendered. You don't need a Three-Eyed Raven to see that. Tyrion was just being Tyrion, not working on Bran's behalf trying to stop the inevitable.

Jon Yelling

Credit: HBO


A controversial theory from Episode 3 appears to have been pretty thoroughly debunked. While some fans thought Jon Snow was yelling "Go!" at the zombie dragon because he was distracting it in order for Arya to kill the Night King, that wasn't the case.

"To my knowledge, he's just yelling," Tim Kimmel, the show's supervising sound editor, told Inverse. "He is not aware that Arya is heading over there. He is really just trying to protect himself and he realizes he's caught in a bind. He's screaming to try to psych himself up to take this dragon out somehow."

Granted, Kimmel says he didn't ask David Benioff or D.B. Weiss what was supposed to be happening, but it literally sounds like Jon was just yelling. This fan theory, like some of the discussion around Daenerys actions in "The Bells," is a unique kind of wish-fulfillment. It's a fan theory that attempts to explain perceived gaps or shortcomings in the writing. It's a fan theory as fix fic, a popular genre of fanfiction that attempts to fix what the creators got wrong.

There's a concept in criticism known as the "death of the author," which states that the creator's intent does not matter once the work is out there in the world, and that the audience determines the meaning. The proliferation of fan theory culture is putting an interesting spin on the death of the author, to say the least. A Game of Thrones sound editor can say that Jon wasn't yelling go, but a fan theorist who thinks the episode was dumb otherwise can say that he was.

Peggy Carter, Avengers: Endgame

Credit: Marvel Studios


Speaking of death of the author, here's a supposed confirmation of a fan theory from Avengers: Endgame's writers that kind of hurts my brain. Time travel is always an invitation for plot holes, but Endgame mostly kept its rules of time travel internally consistent, in that going to "the past" was actually going to "another universe." That's how it worked, at least, until the end of the movie, where Steve Rogers goes back in the past and appears in the current reality's present as an old man, having lived a full life with his one true love Peggy Carter.

This is confusing, because it's not how time travel worked for the rest of the movie. Also, we know that Peggy Carter of the main MCU's continuity eventually got married and had kids. Does this mean that Steve Rogers was the father of those children, and he lived a full life with Peggy in secret? (Also, does it mean that he never bothered to mention to Peggy that Hydra had fully infiltrated her life's work at S.H.I.E.L.D.?)

Not sure about the second part, but according to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote both Endgame and The Winter Soldier, Steve is indeed the father.

"It was always our intention that he was the father of those two children," McFeely told The Hollywood Reporter. "But again, there are time travel loopholes for that."

If you value the word of the film's writers over internal narrative consistency, then the fan theory is correct. If not, then you can call "death of the author" on this one. Fandom is so powerful that everything is just Calvinball at this point.



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