WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the eighth and final season of HBO's Game of Thrones.
As the threat of the Night King and his army of the dead rose on Game of Thrones, so too did the prophecy of Azor Ahai, "The Prince That Was Promised," who would rise to stand against "the darkness" and save the world. Melisandre proclaimed Stannis Baratheon as the reincarnation of the legendary hero, who vanquished the White Walkers centuries ago. But the red witch later seemed to favor Jon Snow, while many fans have theorized that Daenerys Targaryen was actually the fulfillment of the prophecy.
However, following the events of "The Long Night," in which the Night King was killed not by Jon or Dany, but instead by Arya Stark, we're left to wonder whether The Prince That Was Promised even matters to Game of Thrones any longer.
"There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world," Melisandre related to Davos in the novel A Clash of Kings. "In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him."
The prophecy gave Melisandre her purpose, as she was convinced Stannis was Azor Ahai come again. However, when Stannis died, speculation turned toward Jon Snow, especially among those fans up to date on the novels, and on the clues to his true identity as a Targaryen prince. Jon seemingly fit the bill after Melisandre resurrected him to defend Westeros against the Night King, now recognized as "the Great Other," and what can be interpreted as the god of darkness.
However, the prophecy took another sharp turn when another red priestess, this time in Volantis, told Daenerys she was actually the prophesied savior, which made sense, as she was born on Dragonstone (an island of smoke and salt). That fit just as perfectly because the term "prince" is seen as gender neutral, and Dany returned dragons to the world. So then, why didn't either of them kill the Night King to align with the prophecy?
Despite what Melisandre and other followers of R'hllor, Lord of Light, believed, the prophecy may have been little more than a story told when the night is dark and full of terrors. What transpired since the red witch began her crusade with Stannis may well be a series of coincidences. That Jon and Dany, aided by two full-grown dragons, weren't particularly effective in the Battle of Winterfell, and the defeat of the Night King was due entirely to Arya's skill (and chance), would seem to indicate neither of them is The Prince That Was Promised. That, or the prophecy has been repeatedly misinterpreted.
Some fans have theorized Arya is actually Azor Ahai, but she doesn't check off any of the boxes on the prophecy. She's also not a "prince"; she won't even stand for being referred to as a lady. Her killing of the Night King further indicates we should forget the ancient story and move on, especially as there's no way we can consider the next enemy, Cersei Lannister, to be a great darkness foretold by prophecy.
It's difficult to interpret Jon or Dany is Azor Ahai reborn at this point, unless one of them turns out to represent the light and the other darkness: Dany's recent behavior may point to her following in the footsteps of her late father, the Mad King, while Jon has remained true to himself and his word, so there's certainly potential for conflict.
But re-framing them -- in two remaining episodes, no less! -- as proxies for a larger, metaphysical war between good and evil is an enormous stretch. Ultimately, Game of Thrones may be subverting a fantasy trope by falling back on an ancient prophecy, only to reveal it as meaningless. The confrontation between the living and the dead wasn't the "great war" so many expected, so perhaps the speculation about the role of The Prince Who Was Promised was little more than misdirection. In the end, the focus is not on Azor Ahai, but on who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.