What happened to Stannis? Who is next in line for the Throne? Is Daenerys going to be in trouble? All your Game of Thrones questions answered.

Every week this season, for reasons that not even I really understand, I’ve taken close looks at the background story and fan theories from HBO’s latest exploration of brooding masculinity and tits. Because these annotations are becoming increasingly useless as the show moves further and further away from the books (and because I kind of hated this season and want to stop thinking about it!), and more importantly because I don’t have the time to do an extremely close look, this week’s annotations will be a lightning round focusing on questions from readers and also from colleagues attempting to troll me.

so who technically has the true claim to the throne now? Any barratheon relatives left? What if tommen dies? — @numba_one_dunna

This is an excellent question, because it is extremely nerdy and demands an excessively pedantic answer.

Some background: As the show is fond of reminding us, the question of who technically has the true claim to the throne tends to be answered by first soldiers and only later by lawyers. When Robert and his allies in House Stark and House Arryn defeated the mad king Aerys, Robert made a claim to the Iron Throne based on his descent from King Aegon V, through his grandmother Rhaelle Targaryen. (Robert and Daenerys, on the show at least, are first cousins once removed; Aegon is Daenerys’s grandfather.) Both Daenerys and Viserys had stronger legal claims to the Iron Throne than Robert, but it is hard to make those claims without an army to back you up (hence Viserys selling Daenerys to Khal Drogo).

But if we accept that Robert has a good—if not “true”—claim to the Iron Throne, and if we include Cersei’s three children as his heirs, the line of succession from Robert goes as follows. (Note that Andal inheritance follows cognatic primogenture, allowing women to inherit titles, while Targaryen, and presumably Valyrian, inheritance patterns follow agnatic primogeniture, based on the closest male relative.)

  1. Joffrey Baratheon
  2. Tommen Baratheon
  3. Myrcella Baratheon
  4. Stannis Baratheon
  5. Shireen Baratheon
  6. Renly Baratheon

As you can see, this list of Baratheon heirs is also essentially a list of “people who are dead.” The problem is that after Renly, there is no clear path: The three Baratheon brothers have no cousins, as their father was (to the best of our knowledge) an only child. In other words, from the legal perspective of those in power in King’s Landing, Tommen is the last Targaryen.

So who would have a claim in the event of Tommen’s death? Daenerys, obviously, has the strongest claim. Tommen and Margaery could have children. Margaery herself would have a weak legal claim to the throne, but sometimes continuity (and control over huge land holdings and armies) makes the case for you. Gendry, Robert’s bastard, who was freed from Melisandre by Davos a few seasons ago, is still alive and could presumably be legitimized; Robert has several other bastards who could make decent claims. House Martell, which intermarried with the Targaryens on a few occasions, has a weak claim, as do House Arryn and House Plumm. But the real answer to “What if Tommen dies?” is: Several more years of wars of succession, and the strong possibility of the breakup of the Seven Kingdoms into independent territories.

who was the lady they hanged at the beginning? — @johnbiggs

The hanged woman was Lady Selyse, Stannis’s wife and presumed victim of suicide.

Was that a zombified Mountain? People are calling him Robert Strong, who’s that? — @jcfrancisco

There are not so many people who are that tall and strong in Westeros, so it seems fair to assume that “Robert Strong” is, yes, Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane, brought back to life by some illegal maester alchemy. Robert Strong is most likely just a fake and frankly not particularly imaginative name given to the zombie by Qyburn.

what the heck happened to arya in her last scene? — @kyleawall

Like most millennials, Arya has difficulty with impulse control and trouble suppressing her need for immediate self-gratification, and therefore makes a bad intern. In her final scene she is given a firm verbal warning by her supervisor for abandoning her assigned project and using company resources for personal ends (unlike Google, the House of Black and White does not provide “20 Percent Time”). The HR-mandated punishment is temporary blindness.

how far did that dragon take khaleesi and do the tough dudes recognize her as their old queen — @samfbiddle

Given how mountainous the terrain is, she’s likely still on the rocky border between Slaver’s Bay and the Dothraki wastes, so Drogon probably took her about 250 miles north.

It’s true that Daenerys was once a khaleesi, or queen, of a Dothraki khalasar, or tribe, when she was married to Khal Drogo. But whie the Dothraki who surround Daenerys at the end of the episode might recognize her in the sense that you might recognize Tessa Miller from Madison High, they don’t recognize her as “their old” khaleesi any more than you would recognize Tessa Miller as the Most Popular Girl You Know. For one thing, there are several khalasara and we don’t know yet if this particular one is descended from Khal Drogo’s; for another, according to Dothraki custom Daenerys’ title and powers were revoked when Drogo died. Even if this khalasar does recognize her, she has no power over them, much as Tessa Miller has no power over you.

dorne had no point. why did they do that? — @MathewKatz

the Dorne storyline is way off the rails any idea where they’re going with this? — @rpwalsh

Dorne was by far the worst-handled storyline in a season filled with badly paced subplots and oddly handled characterizations. Why bother? What did we learn from this storyline, except that whatever unit was handling these scenes had no clue how to choreograph fights, and that British and Kiwi actors can’t handle fake Spanish accents? What happened, except the death of a character we didn’t know or care about? Why not wait and do this in another season, or cut some chunks from some of the similarly boring side stories (Arya’s endless training seminar!) to give this just a little bit of depth or nuance?

Why’s Drogon so depressed? Are the Night’s Watch gonna kill all the Wildlings now? What happened to the King’s wife? — @HillaryCrosley

What happened to Natalie Dormer’s character this season, and (if she is still alive) what is going to happen to her? I didn’t watch at all. Thanks! — Anonymous via email

Do you think Loras is OK — @rilaws

To answer Hillary’s first two questions: He’s a teenager, and probably!

Margaery—Tommen’s wife, played by Natalie Dormer—and her brother Loras were imprisoned by a group of religious fanatics, empowered by Cersei, who call themselves Sparrows. As far as we know, they are both still in jail; last we heard (from the so-called High Sparrow), both are set to stand trial.

why did Melisandre go back to the Wall? — @Young_Donald_

It’s unclear. But remember two things: One, Melisandre has at least some clairvoyant abilities and likes to pick winners (and honestly it doesn’t take supernatural powers to figure that the guy who burned his daughter to death and lost half his army is probably going to lose); two, she is a religious fanatic who believes that a messianic great hero will be resurrected to lead an army in battle against an unholy evil. So...maybe she figured there might be a great hero at Castle Black just waiting for some supernatural assistance? Or maybe she just didn’t know where else to go.

did sansa & lily allen’s brother off themselves? also what was jorah trying to do when he threw the spear last week? incite chaos? — @jordansarge

They were jumping into soft snow, I think. Jorah threw the spear last week to kill a would-be assassin sneaking up behind Daenerys.

will Grey Worm and Tyrion solve mysteries next season — @pareene

R’hllor willing.

why didn’t jon snow’s dire wolf save his life — @johnjcook

It was locked up somewhere, maybe? Maybe Alliser Thorne killed it? IDK man.

who won the game? — @AFC_Cameron

Honestly, it seems like...Roose Bolton? And maybe the High Sparrow?

as much as show has deviated from books it still hits the major plot points. do you think they’ll continue to track next season now that the show is more or less “caught up”? — @kept_simple

The party line seems to be that Martin has shared the broad strokes with the HBO showrunners, and even with deviations they’ll largely track. But this doesn’t seem to account for Martin’s clear inability to make up his mind, nor for the possibility that he’s decided to change everything—I would be very unsurprised to learn that Martin has decided to go with some weird new plot direction, not that I think I’ll ever see another one of these books actually published in my lifetime.

why did she drop that ring? — @AshleighByrne

I am reliably told that the showrunners say she’s leaving a Hansel-and-Gretel-style trail that she can be tracked from.

can the whitewalker dude raise any dead people at any time ie jon snow or the starks — @caseyjohnston

The powers of the White Walkers have not been enumerated to great specificity, but it seems as though the Night’s King (their apparent leader) can resurrect any intact human body within a certain radius, like WiFi. So, unless Jon or any of the Starks were burned, the White Walker could turn them into wights as long as he was close enough.

Why did the Dothraki ride their horses in circles around Daenerys, and was that a good or bad thing? — Lisarya

I think the answer is, “because the showrunners thought it would look cool,” which it did. From what I can tell there is no cultural significance to riding around in circles like that, and frankly it seems like a waste of energy.

what will the iron bank do now that stannis died. what do they even do to collect. did daenerys get diarrhea after she escaped — @leyawn

The Iron Bank is, unfortunately, shit out of luck. It’s unclear whether or not debt is discharged in death in Westeros or Essos, so it’s possible that whoever inherits Stannis’s land and title would also inherit his tab—but since he has no direct heirs, Dragonstone would likely revert to his “nephew,” Tommen, and the Iron Bank would simply be owed even more by the currently nonpaying Iron Throne. (Tommen or his handlers might reward a loyal supporter with the title and land, but what a poison pill if accompanied by debt!)

In an event, usually, when loaning to armies or campaigns, the Iron Bank “collects” on debtors by funding their opponents; last season, it extended a loan to Stannis as a hedge against Lannister/Iron Throne default. But now Stannis is dead, the Lannisters are attempting to renegotiate the terms of their loan, and there aren’t many good options—except maybe funding Daenerys.

they always say “winter is coming.” when does it actually come — @HamiltonNolan

It’s here! We’re in the early stages of what looks like a pretty bad winter. That’s why it’s snowing so much up north.

So did Jon Snow just not tell ANY OTHER NIGHT’S WATCHMEN but Sam about what he saw/experienced N of the W? Because everything that happened at Hardhome should only have reinforced how right he was and how important his actions were, no? — @alexmiz

LOL I guess not.

why wasn’t Stannis’ apparent death shown on-screen? — @CraigPlazure

Probably to create 12 months and thousands of bytes’ worth of intense message-board debate. But he’s probably dead. I can’t really think why they’d have him survive, at this point, or what he could even do or accomplish.