In February 2016, one intrepid Game Of Thrones theorist put forward a compelling idea: that the world portrayed in the show isn't set in some version of the Middle Ages, but in a troubled future. So does Preston Jacobs' theory that Game Of Thrones is post-apocalyptic still make sense in Season 7? Arguably yes — specifically with relation to Sansa's new necklace and the cave painting Jon Snow shows Dany — but given the subtlety of the clues, a viewer could still interpret these tips in a whole host of other ways.
But let's rewind. Jacobs' theory rested on a few different ideas: firstly, that the story takes place after a technologically advanced civilization in the future is destroyed following a nuclear war (thus the Long Night, or generation-long winter, which could have been nuclear cooling). Secondly, that the magic in the show is actually technology, a la Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
From one perspective, this is a pretty convincing theory since, as the vlogger states, many of George R.R.Martin's short stories in the '70s and '80s were sci-fi works which focused on the dark aftermath of an interstellar war. They dealt with communities that were plunged into technological regression (even to the point of living as those in the Middle Ages would have).
But how does the theory measure up in GoT Season 7? Let's start with the elder Stark sister's necklace. Media commenters were intrigued when in Season 7, Episode 2, Sansa wore a theta style necklace, which eagle-eyed fans noticed was similar to one she wore in Season 4. On one hand, we could argue that this is all about symbolism, as costume designer Michele Clapton told Buzzfeed that "Sansa expresses her feelings through her embroidery and depictions on her costumes, and through shade and color." Clapton also stressed that Sansa's style of clothing is influenced by whom the character wishes to make alliances with. As such, Sansa could be rocking the theta again because, like the last time she wore it, in Season 4 when she went to the Vale with Littlefinger, she is signaling her alliance with Lord Baelish to viewers.
On the other hand, it could also reinforce Jacobs' theory. The vlogger argued that in one of Martin's post-apocalyptic medieval stories, In The House of the Worm, there are "two factions of genetic engineers" — one rocking a gold theta, the other a silver. We can assume the creators of GoT are at least familiar with the comic book adaptation of the book since in some moments of the show, they style the gold theta in the same way it appears on the comic book cover, with a black bar in the middle:
As Jacobs himself admits, this is probably just an homage (rather than the creators actually suggesting these are the very same characters as in Martin's sci-fi work). But by continuing it, the creators could be signaling that, just as In The House Of The Worm, GoT is set in a post-apocalyptic society, not one in the past.
Then there's the issue of the cave paintings that the King of the North shows the Mother of Dragons. Ostensibly, these have been created by the Children of the Forest and the First Men together, which reinforces the idea that the world we're watching is one set in the Middle Ages but with magical elements. After all, we're all familiar with actual cave paintings in the real world. This would suggest that the progress of time in the show (despite being incredibly elongated) is basically the same as ours — that if you delve back deep enough into the past, you have something equivalent to a prehistoric society. Plus, the fact that the Children of the Forest, a non-human race, helped, suggests this is fantasy, not sci-fi, right?
But according to Esquire, in Martin's Thousand Worlds series, some of his characters have biological weapons and can use gene manipulation much like magic, creating basically anything they want. This could include dragons, not to mention skin-swapping humans and people who can animate dead bodies (and the scientists who created these weapons were part of a company titled the Ecological Engineering Corps, whose symbol, you've guessed it, was a theta). So as such, seemingly non-human beings doing a spot of cave painting doesn't necessarily contradict Jacobs' theory.
The vlogger argues that the reason that there's such a wealth of subterranean hangouts in Martin's world is because of that whole nuclear war thing. These aren't caves or catacombs, these are nuclear bunkers. This makes sense. If the First Men were waiting out the aftermath of a nuclear war, they might want to warn the people of the future about what happened.
But why not write a note? It's likely because language evolves incredibly quickly. If you rewind a mere 1,000 years, we spoke Middle English. For an example of how challenging it can be to understand this variation on modern English, check out the first line of the Lord's Prayer in Middle English: "Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyndoom come to; be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene." It's understandable, but presumably only because you know the context. According to Jacobs, in Martin's world, the known-history goes back 12,000 years, so as such, praise be to the First Men for opting to depict what happened in images, not words no one could understand.
Imagery is a fairly universal language that doesn't fall prey to the same growing incomprehension as words. So were they drawing White Walkers, or genetically mutated beings that were used as weapons in the escalation to the nuclear war? The vagueness of GoT's story means that the above can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways.
So if you're checking to see if Jacobs' theory still holds up this season round, then yup, it does. And if you're not watching GoT to find out who ends the series on the Iron Throne or to see if Dany and Jon will ever hook up, tune in for this reason only. If it's true, it's going to be a hell of a twist ending.