This Sunday, Game of Thrones realized the dreams and nightmares of dedicated viewers. Boasting more armies than imagined after the Night King’s defeat, not to mention Drogon, a mega-ton bomber with multidirectional capabilities, Daenerys Targaryen descended upon King’s Landing in full force. By the end of “The Bells,” The Battle of King’s Landing had detonated literal explosions of wildfire and many of the characters’ hopes for a peaceful ending.
But in true Game of Thrones fashion, a lingering prophecy has many viewers looking past the brutal encounter to the final episode of the series, and anticipating that further hell might break loose. The prevailing question: could Arya kill Daenerys? Could the “green eyes” prophecy come true?
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, “The Bells.”]
A week ago, many assumed Arya, on her way to King’s Landing, was destined to slay Cersei. After all, the malicious queen was on the Stark girl’s kill list and, after the mighty flex of killing the Night King, few imagined a battalion of troops, a couple of scorpions, and some stashed-away wildfire could keep Arya from completing her mission.
Plus, the assassination was written in the stars: “I see a darkness in you,” Melisandre tells Arya when they cross paths in season 3. “And in that darkness, eyes staring at me: Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes — eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
Thrones fans did the math. Arya picked off Walder Frey, who orchestrated the death of her family during the infamous Red Wedding with his beady brown eyes. In season 8, she eliminated the blue-eyed Night King from the game. This was all going in an obvious direction, according to fans: Arya would, be it through stealth or the sneaky stealing of Jaime’s face, stare directly into Cersei’s green eyes and end the queen’s life.
But Arya didn’t kill Cersei. What happened instead should give Thrones fans a little perspective.
As the Stark girl ran through the streets of King’s Landing, finally being a true hero for the victims of Daenerys’ attack, Cersei fled to the Red Keep’s cavernous basement, along with her brother and lover, Jaime, who fought is way back into her arms in hopes of escaping completely.
That didn’t happen; the rubble was too high, the devastation too relentless. Cersei and Jaime found themselves trapped underground, and though each had a rap sheet long enough to fill a Citadel scroll, the pair got something of a happy ending. They would die, but in each other’s arms, professing their love.
Cersei’s death upended two major prophecies: the theories for Arya’s green eyes assassination and her own prediction from the past. When she was a young girl, Cersei met a woods witch named Maggy the Frog who told her that she would only have three children, which until “The Bells,” was put in question due to an impending pregnancy. Turns out Maggy was right, and Game of Thrones’ internal prophetic language turned out to be true.
What didn’t stick was a second prediction found only in A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series: “The valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale throat and choke the life from you,” Maggy said. Valonqar being the High Valyrian word for “little brother,” many assumed that either Jaime or Tyrion (but probably Jaime, since he abandoned their romance earlier in the series) would be behind Cersei’s death. The queen’s actual demise puts a spin on this, as Jaime grasps Cersei’s neck out love just as the ceiling caves in.
Game of Thrones has drawn a line between adapted storylines and context expanded by book details — the latter not necessarily enveloping the former. Those wondering if Arya could become “Azor Ahai,” a legendary hero prophesied to return in a new, shiny form (and, in theory, as one of our existing heroes), should note that the name “Azor Ahai” has never been mentioned in the show proper, even as characters hustle to discover who may be “The Prince Who Was Promised.”
The green eyes prophecy holds a little more weight because Melisandre actually pronounced, albeitly in cryptic poetry, what could come to pass. But just as Varys’ death was predicted by Melisandre (in the broadest strokes) to occur on Westerosi ground, and came to pass in “The Bells” after he was discovered by Dany to have conspired against the Targaryen effort, creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff seem to lean towards more poetic fulfillment of prophecies. Varys’ death-by-dragonfire didn’t so much recall Melisandre’s foreboding message than his own origin story. During his youth, a sorcerer removed his genitals and sacrificed them in a fiery ritual. In the end, the the eunuch’s remaining body was also delivered to the inferno.
Melisandre has a track record, so there’s reason to spend the next week scanning every close-up shot of Daenerys to determine whether or not her eyes are green enough for prophecy fulfillment. The speculation is out there, and mostly logical — the new queen’s eyes look kinda sorta green. But seeing how the few predictions have played out on the show, there may be a simpler answer to why Dany qualifies for the target.
When the Mother of Dragons unleashed her hell upon King’s Landing, she inadvertently ignited a reserve of wildfire. The napalm-esque solution rained even more fire on the innocent people of the city, a reminder of why wildfire is a symbol associated with “mad” kings and queens of the past, including Dany’s own father, Aerys II Targaryen.
Director Miguel Sapochnik makes an unsettling decision in the way he frames the onslaught. Midway through the episode, we see Dany eye the Red Keep, take a deep breath, then proceed to destroy the interior rings of the city. We do not return to her face to see her reaction to what she’s done. Instead, Sapochnik remains on Jon Snow, Arya, Cersei, Jaime, and the Cleganebowl, ground-level narratives that live under the dragon’s shadow. We don’t see Dany’s eyes again, but as the wildfire exploded around men, women, and children alike, I could imagine them, a tinge of green flickering in a cold, dead stare.
There is only one hour and 20 minutes of Game of Thrones left. Could the Lord of Light channel itself through a mortal vessel? Could Arya wield a flaming sword to become Azor Ahai? Will the show somehow reveal Tyrion to be a secret Targaryen? The mystical words of George R.R. Martin’s source material always hover over HBO’s adaptation, but with so little time, and with Weiss and Benioff’s cherry-picking of prophecies, it’s hard to imagine any of the series’ most outlandish predictions coming true.
But there’s something to Arya’s victim prophecy, especially in the abstract. Dany has “green eyes” after her actions in “The Bells.” That she could walk away from that unscathed — whether it’s Arya doing the deed or another crossed ally — seems like the only true impossibility. Her death is not a prophecy, it’s a pit in the stomach.