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Spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of Game of Thrones Season 8, called "The Long Night" and featuring the Battle of Winterfell.
After Game of Thrones spent nearly a decade raising the stakes for the Great War between the living and the dead, the show finally delivered the Battle of Winterfell. The first, last, and only stand of the living against the dead was an epic event that ran for almost an hour and a half. Although the living emerged victorious thanks to Arya taking out the Night King with her Valyrian steel dagger, victory came at a cost to the North and the people who fought for it.
Winterfell didn't fall, but it's largely in ruins after the big battle, and that puts it more or less in league with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Between the Battle of the Five Kings, Daenerys' first attack on the Lannister forces in Season 7, and the Great War most recently, Westeros is a literal and figurative mess with many of the noble houses gone or in danger of going extinct, and the common folk without protectors.
So, as Game of Thrones moves toward The Last War after ending The Great War, let's take a look at what's left of the Seven Kingdoms following the Battle of Winterfell, starting with the show's four great houses. In honor of the woman who defeated the Night King, let's begin with the Starks!
Status: Going strong
Despite the Starks seeming all but doomed not so long ago, House Stark is arguably in the best position to survive the series. Even if the show decides to count Jon as a Targaryen, Sansa is a strong leader, Arya is a strong fighter and strategist, and Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven. Both Sansa and Arya could theoretically continue the Stark line in the North, and Thrones technically hasn't ruled out Bran having kids.
Throw in the fact that House Stark is seated in the North, which everybody seems to agree cannot be conquered and held, and House Stark is probably going to be okay. They'll just need to rebuild Winterfell and the North. The North remembers, right? And hey, at least the Northerners might not starve now. The food stores won't have to be stretched between so many people. (Too soon?)
Status: Could go either way
The future of House Targaryen really depends on a few variables: whether Jon will count himself as a Targaryen or Stark, who wins The Last War, and whether Dany really can't have children. If Jon considers himself a Targaryen, then the chances of the house surviving are better. Game of Thrones probably won't kill off both characters considered to be part of "the song of ice and fire," so as long as one of them lives, House Targaryen lives and has a good shot at the Iron Throne.
If Dany can't have children and Jon dies childless, that would be the end of the Targaryen line. That said, Dany may put less importance on blood now that Jon is ahead of her in the Targaryen line of succession, and she's basing her belief that she can't have kids on the word of a woman who hated her. Maybe Dany just hasn't gotten pregnant yet, and Jon and Dany together will create the future of House Targaryen. If so, hopefully Jon and Dany pass on the non-mad Targaryen genes.
On the one hand, House Lannister is arguably in better standings than House Stark, going by traditional Westerosi lines of succession that put greater important on male heirs than female heirs. Jaime and Tyrion can still theoretically have children and continue the Lannister line, and Cersei is currently pregnant with a child who would be born with a double dose of Lannister genes, unless Maggy the Frog's prediction about Cersei only having three living children comes true. Or Cersei dies first.
On the other hand, Cersei killed other prominent members of her family when she blew up the Great Sept, and one thing that many Game of Thrones fans can agree on is that Jaime and Cersei are probably not going to survive the series, although nothing is certain at this point. If Cersei and Jaime do die but Tyrion lives, he would be the end of the Lannister line unless he marries and has some legitimate kids. Hey, at least Casterly Rock is still standing!
Status: Barely hanging on/end of the line
The fourth and final of the great houses from the opening credits is House Baratheon, despite the fact that the last legitimate Baratheon died in Season 5. Still, there is one character still alive with Baratheon blood: Gendry. Technically only Robert Baratheon's bastard with no right to the Baratheon name, there is at least one person who can confirm that Stannis acknowledged Gendry as his blood nephew, and Arya can confirm that Melisandre bought Gendry for nefarious purposes.
If Gendry survives, he could be legitimized as a Baratheon, although Jon might be less of a Gendry fan if he finds out what Gendry and Arya were up to before the Battle of Winterfell. Even if he is legitimized -- and that's a big if, considering Dany might not want a legit Baratheon in the mix -- he'd be end of the line. House Baratheon could get a resurgence if he survives or fathers child before dying. Gendry and Arya probably weren't too concerned about birth control when facing all-but-certain death!
Now, onto some of the lesser noble houses, in the show's version of Westeros.
Status: What isn't 100% dead yet may never die
Sadly, House Greyjoy lost one of its last living members in the Battle of Winterfell when Theon died honorably defending Bran. The future of House Greyjoy wasn't likely to lie with him anyway thanks to Ramsay Bolton's cruelties. At this point, Yara and Euron are the only Greyjoys left. Neither is guaranteed to survive The Last War, and most fans probably wouldn't mind seeing Euron gone. But what of Yara? House Greyjoy could continue easily and rule the Iron Islands once more, or just as easily be extinct by the end.
Status: End of the male (blood)line
House Tarly was going strong as recently as last season. Unfortunately, both Lord Randyll and heir Dickon were roasted alive by an angry Daenerys after they wouldn't bend the knee. Sam's mother and sister are presumably still alive, and the end of the Night's Watch means Sam can inherit again under Westerosi custom. Little Sam isn't part of the Tarly bloodline, but Sam has acted as his father, and surely he wouldn't cast the boy aside. There's hope for House Tarly. Sam just needs to get Heartsbane back.
Brienne is undeniably an ally of the Starks, at least one Lannister, and Daenerys at this point, but Brienne is technically not the head of House Tarth. Lord Selwyn Tarth holds that distinction, although off-screen throughout the series so far. His allegiance honestly may not matter much, and it's not like House Tarth has been sending a lot of resources to back up any particular claim to the Iron Throne since Renly. Brienne's alliances are what count. Her future is uncertain, though. She may not survive to the end of The Last War, and she's Selwyn's only child.
Now, let's jump into some variable houses!
Young Robin Arryn was still alive when he last appeared on screen, but that was back in Season 6, and rumors that he'd appear in the Season 8 premiere came to nothing. The knights of the Vale were present at the Battle of Winterfell, backing up Brienne in the field. Many of them probably died, and Robin's health is uncertain. He was left at Runestone under the guardianship of Lord Yohn Royce, who later appeared at Winterfell. Is there hope for House Arryn to continue beyond Robin?
House Tully has been mostly dormant since the Red Wedding, which saw Edmure married to one of Walder Frey's daughters and then taken hostage, but not before fathering a child. The Freys therefore had the lord of Riverrun and his heir, and their cause was helped when the Blackfish died. Although Edmure was last established as a prisoner of Walder Frey, he didn't turn up after Arya's massacre. Hopefully he didn't waste away in the dungeons! Only time will tell if he and his son are alive.
Arya only massacred the men of House Frey, so there may be plenty of women and girls in the Frey line still around. With leaders like Daenerys, Sansa, and Yara gaining prominence in Westeros, perhaps there will be more room for women as the leaders of houses moving forward. Cersei's not the best example of a woman as ruler, but there's not denying she's been strong in carrying out her goals. Could House Frey have a resurgence with women in charge?
Status: Unknown but potentially key
Meera and Jojen Reed were pivotal in Bran's journey to becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, and Jojen lost his life in the process. Meera brought Bran back to Winterfell in Season 7 before returning to her father at Greywater Watch. Howland Reed has never appeared in the present on the show (or in the books), but he is the only living person who can confirm that Lyanna Stark gave birth to a baby boy that Ned would claim as his own.
For folks who might not trust the word of Jon's brother and best friend that he's a secret Targaryen, Howland Reed's word could be enough. But does Game of Thrones have the time to bring him in?
Now, let's look at some vacancies.
Former rulers: The Tyrells
Highgarden was the home of House Tyrell in the Reach, but the majority of House Tyrell was wiped out when Cersei destroyed the Great Sept. The last living member was Olenna Tyrell, who joined Dany's cause as part of a mission for vengeance against Cersei. Unfortunately for Olenna, the alliance with Dany, Dorne, and the younger Greyjoys fell apart due to Euron Greyjoy's fleet and Cersei being craftier than anticipated. Highgarden doesn't have a ruling house, and the Reach is valuable and fertile. Whoever wins the Reach wins big.
Former Rulers: The Martells
Sunspear was the home of House Martell before the machinations of Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes guaranteed the fall of the house. Oberyn Martell's demise set his paramour and daughters on a mission for revenge, and they assassinated Prince Doran Martell and Prince Trystane. Three Sand Snakes were killed in the battle against Cersei and Euron, and Ellaria is presumably still imprisoned at the Red Keep. There are still some Sand Snakes alive in Dorne, but bastards with no legitimate claim to the Martell name or ancestral home.
Former Rulers: The Mormonts
Sadly, the perils of sending the two surviving members of a house into the same apocalyptic battle has seen the end of another house of the Seven Kingdoms: House Mormont, which had been led by young Lyanna Mormont since Jorah's exile. The Battle of Winterfell resulted in her death, although not before she took down a giant that could have done a lot of damage to Winterfell after breaking down the gate. Jorah perished as well in defense of Dany.
Before the battle, Ser Jorah raised the point to Lyanna that she was "the future of our house," which indicates that they were the last two Mormonts. Still, it's entirely possible that not all of their fighters perished in the battle. Could they be the future of Bear Island leadership, even if the Mormonts are gone? This wasn't a case of a house being put down because of rebellion, like the Martells and Tyrells, after all.
Now, what comes next?
What Resources Are Left?
As satisfying as it was in Season 7 to see Dany truly unleash her dragons in Westeros after all those years in Essos, her assault of the Lannister army was violent and short-sighted enough that fans began to consider the possibility of a "Mad Queen Daenerys" arc for her. The army was bringing all the food and resources from the Reach back to King's Landing after taking Highgarden when Dany showed up on Drogon's back to roast the entire loot train.
A lot of food was lost at a time when there is really not a lot of food to spare. A lot of belts will probably be tightened all throughout the Seven Kingdoms until the next growing season begins. As dark as it may be, the North actually is less likely to starve after the events of the Battle of Winterfell. The dead don't need to eat. The riot against Joffrey and his party in Season 2 was proof that the commonfolk can't be counted upon to starve to death peacefully.
Could Cersei face rebellion from people in King's Landing as well as Daenerys? Will the commonfolk of Westeros even care about the war for the Iron Throne when they're starving and freezing? Could this motivate a change in how the Seven Kingdoms are governed, perhaps with a shift to democracy so that the various regions have to be represented fairly? Well, at least the Night King's death means that any who starve won't be resurrected for his undead army.
Is Spring Coming Already?
Seasons don't just last for a few months each before changing to the next in the Game of Thrones universe, and there were stories told of a winter that lasted a full generation. The winter bringing the White Walkers south was supposed to be long, dark, and frigid. The Battle of Winterfell was a snowy nightmare for the fighters. The implication was that the Night King and his army were what were making the winter so extreme.
Now that the Night King has been defeated, does that mean spring is already coming? Or this winter will just be an average Westerosi winter rather than one that lasts years and years on end? The folks at Winterfell could certainly at least use a break from the snow to rebuild some of what was destroyed in the battle. The collapse of Viserion alone did a lot of damage.
If spring comes early, the battle for the Iron Throne that is likely coming will be very different from the Battle of Winterfell. Hey, at least that's good news for all the actors who were miserable during the nearly two months of the Battle of Winterfell!
What Will Survive The Last War?
If we assume that Game of Thrones intends to revisit Dany's vision from the House of the Undying way back in Season 2, then that means King's Landing is in a lot of trouble (and winter isn't actually already over). Of course, if not, it wouldn't be the first time Thrones dropped what seemed like it would be a significant plot point, and it's entirely possible that Dany's vision of an icy Red Keep wasn't mean to be taken literally.
Could the half-Stark Jon represent ice coming to King's Landing and taking over the Red Keep? The White Walkers apparently won't be responsible now. Alternately, perhaps the vision is meant to represent that the whole idea of the Iron Throne as the seat of the absolute ruler is going to be destroyed, and the governing of Westeros becomes democratic with a chosen council.
By this point, there have been a lot of usurpings anyway, to the point that it's hard to say who even does have the right to the Iron Throne based on birth. Maybe the monarchy and the house system will end with the series finale. Whatever happens, Westeros will certainly be changed forever, and not just because a lot of people are probably still going to die.
The final episodes of Game of Thrones air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.