Season 7 of Game of Thrones landed Sunday, July 16, and while season 6 finally confirmed some popular fan theories — and laid others to rest — there’s plenty of story left and many theories that could still prove true. One could fill a book with fan theories about this epic tale, but we’ve narrowed it down to five of the most popular Game of Thrones theories in existence.
Spoiler alert! If you’re not all caught up on the first six seasons and correspondent books, read on at your own risk.
Cleganebowl, or requiem for a fan theory
The Cleganebowl has been one of the more popular fan theories for years, and despite some events in season 6 that would seem to put the kibosh on the theory, the true believers — such as those on the Cleganebowl subreddit — still maintain their long vigil. So what exactly is the Cleganebowl?
The theory begins after Cersei (Lena Heady) is arrested by the Faith and demands the Game of Thrones special, a trial by combat, in which the accused — or a champion of their choosing — fights a duel to ostensibly let the gods decide justice. Cersei, by this point, has a massive knight at her command later revealed to be the reanimated corpse of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, whom she naturally chooses as her champion. Cleganebowl proponents believed the Faith would choose as their champion Gregor’s brother, Sandor (Rory McCann), whose burned face is reason enough for him to take on his childhood tormentor. But why would the Faith choose Sandor?
For readers of the books, the theory goes that after Arya (Maisie Williams) leaves Sandor to die from his wounds, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) visits the Quiet Isle, where men come to atone for their sins. While there, she speaks to the Elder Brother of the monastery, who tells her that Sandor died there. However, Brienne also notices a massive gravedigger who walks with a limp, and keeps his face hidden. Additionally, Sandor’s horse is present. The idea is that Sandor left his old life behind — metaphorically dying — and took up religion, eventually leading the Faith to choose him as their champion.
Unfortunately, developments in the show seem to have destroyed that theory. In the show, Sandor does survive his wounds, but he ends up in a small religious village where he works as a woodcutter. After local rogues kill the villagers, Sandor takes up his axe and sets out for revenge. He gets it, and then goes north with the Brotherhood Without Banners to fight the White Walkers.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, the High Sparrow convinces King Tommen to outlaw trial by combat. Cersei responds by blowing up the Great Sept and everyone in it, including the High Sparrow. Given that Cersei no longer needs a trial by combat, and that the Hound is marching to war, the Cleganebowl seems unlikely. But with Game of Thrones, you just never know.