Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night” and details about Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4
Where do you go once the battle is won?
The third episode of Game of Thrones‘ eighth and final season was all sorts of intense, the brutality and bloodshed of the Battle of Winterfell nearly taking out our Westerosi heroes and letting the Night King and his army of wights and White Walkers continue to roam free. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) harnessed her inner ninja, evoked the spirit of Azor Ahai, and turned the battle from a losing one to an instant success when she stabbed the Night King and cut off his minions’ lifeline in the process. The side of the living won the Battle of Winterfell, the dead fell and so too did the Long Night, and the sun began to rise over Winterfell once more.
So what comes next? With just three episode left of Game of Thrones and the perceived greatest threat already eliminated, how will everyone move forward?
Thankfully, HBO hasn’t left fans totally in the lurch after episode 3. The network released a preview for the upcoming episode (set to air on Sunday, May 5 at 9 PM ET) that offers a taste of the events to come after the Battle of Winterfell. And boy, are they going to be wild.
Though the episode is currently without a title, as it’s presumably a spoiler for some major part of the chapter, the footage that teases it tells us quite a bit about what to expect. In the teaser, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), fresh off learning her lover Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is actually her nephew and the true heir to the Iron Throne, states that the Great War is over and Last War is about to fall upon Westeros. What war might that be, and what will it entail? Oh, you know, just a casual storming of the Westerosi capital of King’s Landing, where Dany will send her (mostly depleted) army to march against the reigning queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
The Lannister lioness isn’t going to go down without a fight, of course. In the eyes of many, Cersei has gone mad with power — and with grief over the loss of her three children over the course of the series. She may not have dragons, Unsullied soldiers, the support of very many in Westeros, or those elephants she really, really wanted, but Cersei does have someone who matches her hunger for dominance: Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk). He’s got violence to spare, a fierce loyalty to Cersei motivated in part by his desire to continue their intimate relationship, and no qualms about killing. Sounds like a perfect match for Cersei, no? Plus, Cersei has Euron’s Iron Fleet and the Essos sellsword force the Golden Company, ringing in at 20,000 strong. She’s not exactly the underdog in this impending battle.
Still, Daenerys and co. aren’t all that worried about the fight Cersei and Euron will put up in King’s Landing. The Mother of Dragons makes it clear that she and those who fought in the Battle of Winterfell will win the Last War against Cersei, unseating her from the Iron Throne. Addressing those who survived last episode’s battle, Dany declares what the North will do to Cersei when they sack King’s Landing: “We will rip her out root and stem.”
It probably won’t be all that simple, though. And if and when Cersei is booted from the Throne Daenerys wants so much, who will be the one to actually occupy it? From our vantage point, it doesn’t seem that the forthcoming fourth episode of season 8 will end with Cersei being stripped of her titles and someone new taking over. Instead, the true fight for power could come on the fifth episode, with a new queen or king rising during the series’ finale.
At this point, the battle for the Iron Throne is anyone’s game. Jon Snow, whose real name is Aegon Targaryen, is technically the rightful heir, but he’s never expressed interest in ruling the Seven Kingdoms. His aunt Dany, who is next in line to the Throne, doesn’t have as strong a claim to power but wants it so much more and would sacrifice everything to make her dream a reality. Some might try to push Jon to accept dominion, while others may try to strike him down so the Dragon Queen can add another title to her massive list. The same can be said for what people might do with Daenerys. There also exists the possibility that neither of them will replace Cersei, and someone else — like, say, Sansa (Sophie Turner) — will succeed the Mad Queen.
It isn’t just the core conflict between the powers in King’s Landing and the forces arriving from the North that fans have to look forward to on the fourth episode of Game of Thrones season 8. Get ready for some tense face-offs: Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) will stand against his sister after turning his back on her during season 7; the Hound (Rory McCann) will see his brother, the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), for the first time in years; and Daenerys will enter the room where her father was killed while he sat on the Throne. History might repeat itself in two of these instances, with Jaime going from Kingslayer to Queenslayer by ending Cersei’s life, and Dany being overcome by her father’s influence and slaughtering her enemies without mercy. She did it before with Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) brother and father — who’s to say she won’t do it again when emotions run high in King’s Landing?
In any case, no matter what ends up happening on Thrones season 8, episode 4, we can say one thing with zero hesitancy: If “The Long Night” made your heart beat out of your chest, this next episode will probably knock you out of your chair.
Prepare yourselves the best way you know how, then tune back into Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 5 at 9 PM ET on HBO.