‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8: Which dragons will survive — if any?

At this point we’re emotionally prepared to watch nearly every person die in Game of Thrones Season 8. But there’s probably a far worse casualty of winter: the dragons. Because even if they somehow survive the Great War to come, there’s a high chance they’ll need to be killed anyway.

I deliver this theory with an extremely heavy heart. Dragons are my favorite characters on the show. The concept of having a weapon of mass destruction for a pet is so awesome that I regularly dress my dog up in a custom-made Etsy Drogon costume. Last season, I threatened to burn everyone alive if Drogon died. I wrote a whole guide on how to cope with Viserion’s death. If I had it my way, Gendry would be forging some rad Valyrian steel armor for Daenerys’ reptile babies as we speak.

But it’s increasingly looking as if the dragons will, like the White Walkers, need to be wiped out by the end of this song of ice and fire.

First, though, let’s go over some basic facts about the three dragons we know, and what we can learn about the other dragons we never met from Game of Thrones history. We will almost certainly be getting some dragon on dragon violence in Season 8, which last happened during the Dance with Dragons, the historic Targaryen civil war that began the extinction of these magical creatures.

Size matters

In the dragon versus dragon battles detailed in the recently released Targaryen history book Fire and Blood, it’s clear size matters.

Who's a big boy?!

Who’s a big boy?!

Image: hbo

As we know, Drogon is by far the biggest of Daenerys’s three dragons, while Viserion was always the smallest. In the books, he’s also the clumsiest, and the one nicest to people who aren’t his mom (hello foreshadowing). In Season 7, Drogon’s comparable to a Boeing 747 plane, Game of Thrones showrunners say. Meanwhile Viserion is roughly three times smaller, according to fan calculations

Dragons also famously never stop growing as long as they live, but that’s not true for Viserion, who is now dead. But as of Season 8, that probably won’t matter too much, since Rhaegal and Drogon won’t have much time to keep growing even if their undead brother doesn’t at all.

SEE ALSO: Everything to remember from ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 1

There’s speculation as to why Drogon is bigger, which will be relevant for when we start talking about the possibility of other dragons in the world. For one, Drogon’s egg was always the biggest. For another, it’s also believed that caging dragons stunts their growth, and Daenerys did just that to Viserion and Rhaegal in Season 4, while Drogon got to roam around Old Valyria.

That matters because both Targaryens and maesters believe dragon size is also affected by their proximity to volcanoes known as the Fourteen Flames along the Valyrian peninsula. Drogon probably got a boost from his time in the old country, and all three of them got a boost while on Dragonstone.

Something that hasn’t come up in the show, though, is that Winterfell is actually built on top of mysterious hot springs no one can explain. Northern legends speak of the heat coming from a dragon hidden beneath the crypts of Winterfell. Meanwhile maesters theorize the hot springs are connected to the Fourteen Flames.

So maybe spending time in Winterfell will help our two living dragons grow even stronger. Or maybe they’ll find another, more ancient dragon.

What we can predict about the impending dragon battles

Our favorite fan speculation about how the dragon-on-dragon violence will shake out in Season 8 is that — in a parallel to the Season 1 scene when Khal Drogo kills Viserys — the dragons with their namesakes will do the same. That means big boy Drogon will take down Viserion.

In addition, Targaryen history proves that size isn’t everything.

Speed sometimes outmatched sheer size in previous dragon vs. dragon showdowns. Age also played a role, with smaller, swifter, younger dragons besting bigger, slower, and much older dragons. But age doesn’t matter for our three dragon siblings, who hatched at the same time.

Another very important factor is the dragon’s relationship with his/her dragonrider. The more time they have to form a strong bond, the more they move as one. So that presents an interesting problem for our three presumed dragonriders in Season 8.

Daenerys has spent the most time with her mount, and is the only one who’s waged battle with him. If — as we all suspect — Jon rides Rhaegal (the dragon named after his father), he’ll have some serious catching up to do to keep up with the other two. Because the Night King arguably has the strongest psychic relationship to the creatures he raises from the dead.

What we know about ice dragons, and what Viserion is now

Season 6 showed that Dany shared a telepathic connection with her three babies. But a White Walker’s control over its resurrected wights is beyond telepathic — it’s a puppet master controlling a puppet. Also that likely means any connection Dany had with Viserion was completely severed when the Night King touched him.

There was some debate among fans whether Viserion was a wight dragon (a zombie-like mindless dead creature completely controlled by its master), or a White Walker dragon (a living, autonomous being transformed into a White Walker — like Craster’s baby in Season 4). We’re betting on the former. Which is worse, since he won’t remember mommy Dany.

Still, Viserion is in completely unknown territory. There are northern legends about ice dragons, but they are a totally different species than Daenerys’ Valyrian dragons. They are literally made of ice (the opposite of Valyrian dragons, which are “fire made flesh”), breathing ice instead of fire.

Viserion’s biology and species didn’t change after he was resurrected, but there are no records of what happens when a fire dragon’s magic is mixed with a White Walker’s ice magic. But according to io9, the Season 7 finale’s leaked script clarifies that Viserion is breathing blue flames at the Wall, not ice (making him not a real ice dragon as defined by George R. R. Martin).

Valyrian dragons are far from the only species of dragons

That brings up another fun fact we should remember about the dragons in the Game of Thrones universe: Valyrian dragons were far from the first or only types of dragons. 

Actually, some maesters believe that the “bloodmages of Valyria used wyvern stock to create dragons” (wyvern are a type of non-fire breathing lizard). So they’re not technically even real dragons, but hybrids. The Valyrians might’ve tried to create a tamable version of true dragons from the wild.

There’s rumor of a different, more ancient species of dragon still living in Asshai by the Shadow, too (which is where Melisandre is from). In the World of Ice and Fire companion book, it’s explained that:

There were dragons in Westeros, once, long before the Targaryens came, as our own legends and histories tell us. If dragons did first spring from the Fourteen Flames, they must have been spread across much of the known world before they were tamed. And, in fact, there is evidence for this, as dragon bones have been found as far north as Ib, and even in the jungles of Sothoryos. But the Valyrians harnessed and subjugated them as no one else could.

So it’s highly possible there were dragons in Westeros during the Long Night, when the White Walkers first invaded thousands of years ago (which happened before the Valyrian empire). We don’t know what happened to all those dragons — maybe they were eliminated by the White Walkers, who would not take kindly to fire-breathing weapons of mass destruction.

Maybe this isn't the first dragon the Night King ever rode ...

Maybe this isn’t the first dragon the Night King ever rode …

Image: hbo

There’s even evidence that the dragons from Asshai were used to build the Five Forts, a very similar structure to Westeros’ Wall made out of dragonglass and built after the Long Night. So it sounds like dragons played some sort of role last time the White Walkers came.

How a new dragon might rise in Season 8

We’ve already mentioned in passing a few ways that unknown dragons could emerge in Season 8. Maybe one’s been hiding out in the crypts of Winterfell. Maybe another native Westerosi dragon has been holed up elsewhere for all this time, since dragons live very, very long. Maybe Melisandre will come back from her trip in Season 7 with a dragon from Asshai.

There's lots of ice dragon imagery from the Wall in the books.

There’s lots of ice dragon imagery from the Wall in the books.

Image: hbo

In a 1999 interview, George R. R. Martin not only stated that there were once dragons everywhere, but also that: 

“There are no more dragons known to exist … but this is a medieval period, and large parts of the world are still terra incognita, so there are always tales of dragon sightings in far off mysterious places. The maesters tend to discount those.”

There are even other hints that Dany and/or Jon could summon a new dragon, because in the books Melisandre often talks of visions of a dragon rising from stone.

There’s a lot of speculation about what that actually means. She thinks it’s waking the dragon statues on Dragonstone. But fans speculate it could be an ice dragon from the Wall. Regardless, Dany and Jon’s conversation in the Season 7 finale about her being barren is a huge indication that they’ll have a baby, whether human or reptilian. 

Why the dragons need to die

But here comes the sad part. Because if we look at the history and the themes of Game of Thrones, it becomes clear that all dragons must die.

George R. R. Martin is all about showing how history repeats itself, even when (actually especially when) people have forgotten that history. This is the second time the White Walkers have risen. Daenerys is the second Targaryen with three dragons who vowed to conquer Westeros. 

We all know this isn't going to work out for either of them.

We all know this isn’t going to work out for either of them.

Image: hbo

Remember that, at the beginning of this whole story, people kept saying that magic died a long time ago. They mention the lack of White Walkers and dragons as evidence that magic is gone forever and, according to most maesters, that’s a good thing. If history is to repeat itself now though — if peace is truly to be restored to the world by the end of the series — then that means magical beings who wreak havoc and destruction need to be terminated.

And the dragons can be just as devastatingly destructive as the White Walkers.

There’s also another key piece of evidence that the dragons will need to die along with the White Walkers by the end of Season 8. And it’s to do with the irregular seasons that we’ve all accepted as just a normal part of the Game of Thrones universe.

Many times, George R. R. Martin has stated that the reason behind the irregular seasons is magical in nature, not scientific (as some have speculated). He also said that, by the end of the story, we would get an explanation for the irregular seasonal patterns. And presumably, that will involve learning how to fix it.

Songs of ice and fire have a tendency to end tragically in 'Game of Thrones.'

Songs of ice and fire have a tendency to end tragically in ‘Game of Thrones.’

Image: hbo

Despite the awe they inspire, magical beings like the dragons and White Walkers are unnatural. As we mentioned, the Valyrian dragons were unholy experiments made from blood magic. The White Walkers defy the natural cycle of death and life. 

The magical beings associated with changing temperatures and weather patterns in this song of ice and fire are: White Walkers (who literally bring winter with them) and dragons (who literally have fire-made flesh and are tied to volcanic eruptions like the Doom of Valyria). 

Don’t believe us? Consider that in the Season 6 reveal scene of how the White Walkers were created, the Children of the Forest tie a man to a weirwood tree. Thousands of years later, Bran revisits that same weirwood tree in a vision, and it’s the White Walker’s home base — now covered in snow.

Ultimately, it’s hard to believe it’s just a coincidence that, at the same time that the White Walkers return from several centuries of slumber, the first dragons are also born into the world. And George R. R. Martin famously promised the series would have a “bittersweet” ending.

What could be more bittersweet than the realization that to save the world, magic must die. And that the story we’ve watched unfold for eight seasons is about restoring natural order to a magical imbalance between ice (the White Walkers) and fire (dragons and the Lord of Light) that began ages ago.

This isn’t just the song of ice and fire coming together. It’s the song’s final notes.

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