Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8.
Two of Game of Thrones’ most famous locations—King’s Landing and Winterfell—have been part of the show’s fabric since the beginning. And while fans have long speculated that King’s Landing wouldn’t survive to the end, fans may need to start worrying about that other Westerosi stronghold if a new set video is any indication.
A Facebook video that appears to have originated on Snapchat revealed a major piece of the Game of Thrones set is on fire. If you look closely you can see exactly which set piece is in flames. Though the person who recorded the video says “doubt winterfell’s on fire,” it appears that the Stark stronghold is on fire.
To compare, this is what the outside of Winterfell looks like when it isn’t engulfed in flames.
A local fire department later confirmed to Belfast Live that it had gone to the scene of the fire but “no action was taken as the incident was dealt with on site.” Watchers on the Wall indicated that the large number of extras on set (around 400 to 500 people) was comparable to the size of season 6’s Battle of the Bastards and the fiery battle in “The Spoils of War.” That could suggest that Winterfell falls during a battle.
The end result is hard to deny: At some point during season 8, Winterfell will burn—and it will burn with a lot of people around. We don’t know yet how and why, and, presuming it becomes uninhabitable, where everyone located there will go next. And what does it mean for the North now that its stronghold is no more?
Here are some possible explanations for what’s about to go down.
1) The Night King and Viserion burn Winterfell to the ground
Prior to the end of Game of Thrones season 7, the Night King and his Army of the Dead didn’t have too many weapons in their arsenal. The army’s sheer size could be enough to overwhelm any opponent and the Night King has a foolproof method of recruitment, but until the Night King killed the dragon Viserion, it didn’t seem like there was much he could do to enter Westeros from beyond the Wall.
That all changed after Viserion burned a hole in the Wall large enough to break its protective barriers and allow the army to pass. The Game of Thrones Viewer’s Guide confirmed that Viserion did it with blue fire, not ice, so it would just be a matter of editing the flames seen on-set to be blue if Viserion is the source of the destruction. The extras could include a horde of White Walkers and wights alongside Winterfell’s previous residents.
2) The living set Winterfell on fire on purpose
Winterfell has been a stronghold in the North for thousands of years. Legend says was built by Stark ancestor Brandon the Builder, the same person who helped build the Wall after the Long Night. Winterfell and House Stark have been linked ever since, to the point where the belief that “there must always be a Stark in Winterfell” still stands 8,000 years later. (It could be a tradition, a superstition, or both.)
As it stands, three Starks remain in Winterfell at the end of season 7 while a fourth—Jon Snow through his mother Lyanna—is bringing Daenerys Targaryen and her two remaining dragons home. If the Night King plans to head south, both to take over Westeros and build his army, it’s only natural that he’d set his sights on Winterfell as the North’s primary sanctuary and the home of the new Three-Eyed Raven. It’s safe to speculate that Winterfell will eventually serve as the location of a major battle.
The bigger question is why the living might set the Stark’ ancestral home on fire. It could be an attempt to burn the dead from that battle. If the Night King has the power to resurrect corpses who’ve been dead for hundreds or thousands of years, it could be a way to fight back against the many, many dead Starks buried deep within the crypts. (While most arrived there well before Game of Thrones began, Jon ordered that his brother Rickon would be buried next to Ned Stark after the Battle of the Bastards—and after Jon learned what White Walkers could reanimate the dead.)
It could even serve as a blockade or a distraction as the survivors escape with their lives. The idea could come from rulers, strategists, or even scholars looking for an advantage, albeit a costly one for the Starks. The how is probably much simpler: If a person didn’t set the blaze, Daenerys’ dragons probably did.
3) The living set Winterfell on fire by accident
If there’s a major battle at Winterfell, it’s going to be massive and hectic. If Daenerys is in Winterfell, there is always the chance that her dragons’ flames could result in unintentional damage. While a weaker scenario than if Winterfell burns on purpose, the act would not win her any favors from the North.
4) Winterfell burns on Cersei Lannister’s orders
While the fight in the North will largely be one between the living and the dead, Cersei Lannister remains a big threat. She’s already plotting to betray the armistice she agreed to with Jon and Daenerys, sending Euron Greyjoy off to collect the Golden Company, an army of sellswords in Essos, to fight against Daenerys’ army. From there, it’s a matter of whether the fire is the regular kind or if Cersei had any leftover green-tinted wildfire to use.
Sending her army to take Winterfell while the Night King’s army lurks in the North isn’t the most sound military strategy—and one, if enacted, that will almost certainly backfire in Cersei’s direction. But if Cersei is able to take back the land she lost in season 7, she might believe she can win it all before the Night King arrives.
5) Jon accidentally burns Winterfell while attempting to control Rhaegal
We doubt this would happen, and Jon potentially riding one of Daenerys’ dragons is just a theory. But, you never know. It’s the final season after all.