I should probably wait until the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones is about to air before posting this, but hey – I'm still hyped up on the fumes of the seventh season finale. Here are my predictions on who will live and who will die...
For all its sprawling cast, it's clear Game of Thrones has "tiers" of characters that can be ranked by order of importance. If there are main characters, it would have to be the triumvirate of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, followed closely by Cersei and Jaime Lannister, and Sansa, Arya and Bran Stark.
Each one has point-of-view chapters throughout the novels, but it's clear in the show itself that the most important storylines revolve around these core characters. Second tier characters are Brienne, Theon and the Hound (and previously Catelyn Stark and Stannis Baratheon) who also have a clear story-arc to follow – though in most cases not quite as much character development.
Yet within these two groups, you'll notice that some characters have more or less reached the end of their inner growth, while others still have a ways to go. For instance, Tyrion's character development has pretty much come to an end. He's found a meaningful purpose as Hand of the Queen and is largely at peace with himself and his decisions. As it happens, this is possibly the reason he's felt so low-key for the last few seasons: after beginning as the show's undisputed star, he's now simply learnt all he has to learn.
On the other hand, the likes of Theon and the Hound, despite not being quite as important as Tyrion, still have obvious obstacles and learning curves ahead of them.
On the next level down are those featured in the opening credits, but without clear character arcs, existing more as supplements (albeit crucial ones) to other characters: Sam, Davos, Tormund, Jorah, Missandei, Varys, Gendry and Beric.
Finally, the minor characters, those who can be fairly described as "guest stars", particularly this season: Melisandre, Yara, Grey Worm, Bronn, Podrick, Gilly, Edd and Lyanna Mormont. Also Meera, though I'm not sure we'll see her again.
And I suppose there are also characters like Robin Arryn, Jaqen H'ghar, Edmure Tully, Hot Pie, Daario Naharis, Tycho Nestori – all of whom are still alive, but who were Put on a Bus some time ago and whose roles feel pretty much completed. (But you never know, they may turn up again).
Oh, and an assortment of villains (the Night King, Euron Greyjoy, the Mountain, Qybern) and exotic pets (Drogon, Rhaegal, Ghost and Nymeria).
Whew, I think that's everyone. It struck me that even as this season churned its way through a lot of material and culled plenty of auxiliary characters (Littlefinger, Olenna, Ellaria, the Sand Snakes) there's still tons of story left to cover before the credits roll on the final episode. All of the above characters have to be given some kind of closure, as do the two major plot-lines of the show: the War for the Dawn against the Army of the Dead, and the battle for the Iron Throne (or in other words, the defeat of Cersei).
Notable subplots will no doubt involve the fallout of Jon and Daenerys's incestuous relationship, Theon's attempted rescue of Yara, and a Stark-related struggle for control of Winterfell.
But even though the show is hurtling toward endgame, I think that (with a few exceptions) all the major characters that are destined to die have already been killed off. The big shocking deaths have happened (Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Oberyn, Joffrey) as has the swift removal of less important characters (from Hodor to Ramsay, Osha to Thoros). So as we go through the remaining cast listed below, you'll see I'm surprisingly optimistic above their chances for survival...
She'll be fine. It's not that the show has held back from killing children, but she's a fan favourite and I can think of no conceivable way in which she could logically be put in any mortal danger. She's back on Bear Island, right? And we all know the dead can't swim.
I also don't think she'll have a big role in season eight: I foresee her making a few snarky comments and pledging some soldiers to the cause, but that's about it. Though I do hope she gets the chance to interact with her Uncle Jorah before the end.
Like Lyanna, he's a fan-favourite character, though that doesn't necessarily safeguard him from becoming a Sacrificial Lion to drive home how high the stakes are. His death would upset a lot of people (both on the show and in the audience) and his death could play out as either a Heroic Sacrifice or a Senseless Sacrifice depending on how sadistic the writers feel.
However, there's always the chance he'll pull through. The writers seem pretty invested in that weird running joke about his magical penis, and there's a vacancy to be filled as either Brienne or Tyrion's permanent squire.
To be honest, I think it would have been a fitting end for Bronn to have died this season in his attempt to kill Drogon. After all that talk about how he's only in it for himself, the selfless act of trying to save his men from dragon fire would have been a worthy send-off for his character. Plus I don't really like him that much.
As it stands, I think he has the same chances of survival as Podrick, perhaps involving a surprisingly heroic act followed by his long-desired land and castle. Wasn't he going to be married off to a noble lady at one stage? I'm sure we saw her on-screen, and they seemed to be getting on alright.
Among the minor characters, I feel he's the one most likely to fall in battle; a perfect Mauve Shirt whose death would remind us all of how high the stakes really are. Along with Sam and Jon he's the last of the Night's Watch characters that we really know, and so his death would have a fair amount of impact should they decide to go through with it.
After everything she's been through, including escaping a White Walker, being spared by Ygritte, and surviving Randyll Tarly at the dinner table – along with her status as Sam's de facto wife – it would almost be redundant to kill her. And despite arriving at Winterfell, which is certainly closer to the army of the dead than Oldtown was, I can't imagine her being put in any sort of situation where her life would be in immediate danger.
Frankly, it's a miracle that he lived through season seven. I mean, he slept with his girlfriend for the first time before heading off to battle and then actually survived the fight. That's like showing a photo of your girl back home to a comrade just before the enemy attacks. So oddly enough, I think he'll make it through the entire show, having already survived the cliché that should have killed him.
Also, I suspect that most of Daenerys's crew will survive – for reasons I'll explain when I get to her.
The entirety of Theon's redemption is built around her successful rescue, and they've poured too much time into his character to discard his key motivation. As such, she'll return to the show battered and bruised, but will live to take control of the Greyjoy fleet and lead them against her uncle. It feels strange to say this actually, as she's like the exact opposite of the Stuffed in the Fridge trope: rather than dying to motivate a male character, she has to live in order to justify his entire existence.
According to her own words, she's going to die in Westeros, so I'm willing to take her at her word. Of all the characters, it's her endgame that I find most difficult to figure out. She can't join the Stark/Targaryen alliance because of the animosity Varys and Davos (two important members) hold toward her, so what is her purpose? Given she said she was returning to Essos, maybe it's to bring valuable information or a fleet of mercenaries to Daenerys when the time is right.
Her death at Davos's hands makes a lot of sense, but that almost seems too easy. She was given a surprising amount of pathos after Shireen's death and it's obvious she feels remorse for what she did, so perhaps a redemptive twist is on the cards for her (even if it leads straight to Redemption Equals Death).
Much like Podrick, I feel he falls into the "too nice and popular to kill" category, and after bringing him back again after such a long hiatus it seems a little pointless to kill him off. Plus there's still his reunion with Arya to look forward to, even if she went oddly unmentioned in his conversations with Jon.
So on the one hand, he's exactly the type of character this show loves to kill (honest, earnest, kind-hearted) but the closer this show gets to endgame the more traditional it gets with dishing out deserved endings. I think he'll be fine; stationed at Winterfell as its new blacksmith.
On any other show the best friend of the hero is inevitable cannon fodder. Here, I think Sam has garnered enough narrative goodwill to get a well-deserved happily ever after with his girlfriend and adopted son. That seems hard to believe on this show, but he'll be okay.
Okay, now I can start confidently predicting deaths. With his resurrecting priest dead, it's just a matter of time before Beric completes whatever purpose the Red God put him back on earth to fulfil and shrugs off the mortal coil for good. Whenever a character is brought back from the dead, it has to be for a very good reason, and I can't imagine that going on a wight-hunt was it.
Beric is a particularly strange example since he's already died in the book, having given up his life so that Lady Stoneheart/Catelyn Stark can live (a character that doesn't exist on the show). He's currently so far removed from his source material that he's just as much an original character as Talisia was, and the writers can arguably do what they want with him.
That said, Talisia was killed off in spite of her book counterpart (Jeyne Westerling) living on, so perhaps they'll do something different here. Or perhaps he'll fulfil his book destiny in some way by giving up his life to resurrect another. Or perhaps he'll just do what he needs to do and die.
Again, I don't think Varys will live to see the final credits, for two reasons in particular: his ambiguity surrounding Daenerys as a leader might make him switch sides Jon Snow, a more suitable (and legitimate) candidate to the throne, and Melisandre's words that he too would die in Westeros.
I wonder if his constantly shifting loyalties will eventually lead to Daenerys to a Varys flambé, as she warned him she would. We've already seen in his scenes with Tyrion that he's wary of her pyromaniac tendencies – but of course, killing Varys this way would seriously undermine her relationship with Tyrion as well.
She'll be fine, simply because I can think of no outcome in which she would be put in mortal danger. Yes, places like the dragon pit have a degree of risk to them, but (like Sam and Lyanna) she's not required to be on the frontlines, and she has Daenerys's protection. Whether she'll get to have a happy ending with Grey Worm is one question, but she'll end this story safely at her queen's side.
Jorah's fate is interesting, as I suspect whether he lives or dies will depend on whether or not Jon lives or dies. I said before that I believe most of Daenerys's crew will survive the show, and that's true simply because I think she'll end up the most powerful player on the board (even if she ends up using that power to dismantle the board).
But to achieve this she needs a support system: Jorah, Missandei, Tyrion, Grey Worm ... I don't think it's a coincidence that these characters make up the most sensible and morally sound "court" of any major candidate for the throne. And foremost among her advisors is Jorah, who is the answer to Varys's comment to Tyrion: "you need to find a way to make her listen." Jorah's advice is the only counsel she's consistently listened to, as alluded to later by Tyrion himself: "our queen needs you."
Which means one of two things: either she'll remained grounded by his continued presence, or else he'll die and she'll go off the rails – becoming a mad Targaryen (complete with all the blood and fire of their family crest). So what does this have to do with Jon?
Because Jorah's story is so utterly wrapped up in Daenerys's and because he's a quasi-love interest who fills the same emotional function as Jon in her life (I don't doubt Jorah/Dany will remain totally platonic, but he's also her confidant and strongest supporter – a role Jon now shares) then I can't help but feel there's only room for one of them.
If Jon dies, Jorah will live, simply because the character of Daenerys needs him. If Jorah dies, then Jon will live for the exact same reason.
I hope that logic makes sense, though to be honest it's more of an instinct than something I can explain clearly. Jorah will either die in service of Daenerys, as he's promised to do on more than one occasion, or live out a bittersweet at her side and in the friendzone. That said, in this season he seems to have made peace with his unrequired love, so it won't be too bad a fate for him.
Well I'm sure he survived the assault on Eastwatch, as there's no way the show would kill such a popular character off-screen (or in fact, any character off-screen) but I wouldn't count out the possibility that he'll go down fighting at a later date.
Let's put it this way: among the secondary characters of Tormund, Davos, Gendry, Jorah and the Hound, I feel that at least one of them has to die. The Hound has more of a chance, Gendry has less of a chance, Tormund is somewhere in the middle.
As for the whole Tormund/Brienne thing ... I'm a little baffled by how many people are serious about the two of them hooking up. Granted, it's immensely amusing to see Tormund totally besotted, but it's pretty obvious that Brienne herself has no interest in him whatsoever. More than that, is actually rather repulsed by him.
Is it just another example of fandom being totally uninterested in a female character's opinions on whether or not she should hook up with a guy? Whatever it is, I can't really bring myself to root for a ship that's completely one-sided (and for what it's worth, I don't want her to end up with the guy who raped his twin sister beside the body of their dead son either).
Davos's role in this show has always been to act as a sounding board and shoulder angel to characters in leadership roles – first to Stannis and now to Jon, striving to keep their victories as moral as possible, even if it provokes their annoyance. Along with Brienne, he's probably the only truly noble soul in the whole damn story, and for that reason I hope he makes it, though like the aforementioned Tormund, Gendry and Jorah, his death would certainly pack a punch.
At the moment he's serving the same role to Jon as Jorah does to Daenerys (and Tyrion to both of them): a conscience and confidant, which at the very least secures his safety for a little while – as long as Jon still has to make important decisions ... or until Jon has to make the wrong decision at the most inopportune time.
In any case, I've been a Liam Cunningham fan since A Little Princess, and along with Jorah, Brienne and Missandei, his death would hit me the hardest.
Of all the characters left on the board, Theon's continued survival is the most surprising given what he's been through, with his suffering second only to Sansa's (though I don't like to compare: she was raped and he was castrated – both are horrific crimes against a human body). There have been points where the general consensus was for him to just "be put out of his misery" or that it was karmic retribution for betraying the Starks, two attitudes that I find rather chilling.
It's never too late for a redemption arc if it's handled properly, and between his honest remorse, Jon's forgiveness, his drive to save Yara and discovering an unexpected advantage to having no balls, it would seem Theon is on his way. Which means that he's guaranteed to live through the events that follow, at least until his arc is complete with the rescue of Yara – at which point there's a fifty percent chance of Redemption Equals Death.
And yet killing him might be a step too far into nihilism, even for this show. Theon was never a popular character, but his story has become that of an abuse victim overcoming their trauma and reclaiming their life: in a way his death would provoke those unpleasant reactions of "put him out of his misery" and "it's what he deserved" that I found so distasteful.
On a minor note, I find it interesting that the plot ahead of Theon is the only clear subplot that's almost completely divorced from the fast-approaching War for the Dawn. Almost every other character is embroiled in the menace the Night King embodies, whether it's the Stark girls in Winterfell, Samwell's search for information, or Cersei's ploy to use it all to her own advantage – but Theon's journey will largely take him away from all this.
I think it's safe to assume that he'll be following Euron to Essos in order to try and sabotage his mission to enlist the Golden Company (as well as save his sister) which is connected but certainly not contingent on the show's A-plot.
I think it's safe to say Cleganebowl is a thing that will happen, but whether or not Sandor will survive it is another matter. I don't doubt that the Mountain will die at his hands, but there's a good chance he'll take Sandor with him.
But like Theon, the Hound is one of those characters who has been so defined by the amount of suffering he's endured that we need him to not only live, but find some measure of peace. Perhaps more than any other character, he grapples with existential questions about purpose and meaning, and so discovering some sort of insight into life, death and what comes after (which seems possible given his newfound ability to see visions in the fire) would be a fitting narrative conclusion to the non-believer.
The Hound's story is also deeply invested in the fates of the two Stark girls; he and Brienne could easily be described as two sides of the same coin when it comes to Sansa and Arya, so it would be hugely disappointing if he didn't interact with them again – heck, I would be happy with just a loaded gaze at the two of them from afar.
Brienne of Tarth
Strangely enough, Brienne is character whose outcome is difficult to predict. I'm pretty sure she'll live (unless they chose to follow Jorah-esque path and have her die in defence of one of the Starklings) but it's still a challenge to guess how her story will end. She'll no doubt participate in the coming battle, and it's safe to say she'll interact extensively with Jaime, but as to where her ultimate path lies...
I think the best bet is as a permanent bodyguard to Sansa and Arya, though it's hard for me to picture her living in Winterfell... I'm not sure why exactly. She just seems like more of a southern person, and yet nothing would ever break the vow she made to Catelyn to protect her children.
And contrary to most of the shippers out there, I can't really see her in a relationship with either Jaime or Tormund. Seriously, how would it even work? She's obviously just not that into Tormund, and the logistics of a romantic relationship with Jaime are ... I mean ... does she know that he's fathered incestuous children with his twin sister? Is that something that's going to come up in conversation?
Bran will live, but in a manner of speaking. As Meera said to him: "you died in that cave." For all intents and purposes the boy that was Bran is gone, and only the Three Eyed Raven remains.
There are a lot of theories swirling around Bran, from time-travel shenanigans making him the Night King to him warging into a dragon, but I definitely don't think he's on the death-list. Instead he'll continue to provide pertinent information about the Night King and his approaching army, as well as make everyone else uncomfortable with his bizarre insights.
She's a wildcard at this stage, with two distinct possibilities arising as to where she might end up. The first was hinted at in her conversation with Lady Crane in Braavos: a desire to travel and explore the lands no one knows about. The second is her decision to stay in Winterfell with her remaining family (after all, her identity as a Stark has been the theme of her story-arc for a while now) as something of a free spirit but also Sansa's muscle if the need arises.
Honestly, it could go either way and I'm not sure which one I prefer. Suffice to say, there's no way she's going to be killed off, though it's difficult to say what feats she'll accomplish before the end of the show. There are plenty who think she'll be the one to kill Cersei but I don't think that's likely, and I would hope that her development ends with her becoming slightly less bloodthirsty. However cool it may seem on-screen (and I cheered along with everyone else when she slit Littlefinger's throat), a child who has no problems with killing people is not a good thing.
Queen in the North, obviously. Whatever happens to Jon – his death, his abdication, his inheritance of the Iron Throne, the seeds are already being laid for Sansa to take control of Winterfell. We’ve had scenes of her managing the practical concerns of the incoming winter, being addressed as the Lady of Winterfell, winning the loyalty of the Northern Lords, and so on.
I wouldn't be surprised if the remainder of her screen-time was spent entirely within the walls of Winterfell – I just hope she gets the chance to meet Daenerys before the last episode.
The show may have inexplicably omitted the part of Maggy the Frog's prophecy that predicted the valonqar would: "wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you", but I'm pretty confident that the little brother in question is Jaime, and that he'll eventually strangle Cersei to death.
I don't really know how to elaborate on that – there are plenty of alternative theories as to who exactly the valonqar is, but I think the most obvious answer is the most satisfying.
He didn't seem particularly fussed by his sister-lover blowing up the sept with wildfire, the very crime he tried to prevent when he assassinated the last ruler of Westeros, when but Cersei goes back on a promise to their would-be allies then enough is enough! Okay, all this stuff I've written on this post about Jaime may suggest that I don't like the character, which isn't true. I'm not hugely invested in him, but I'm not adverse to some last-minute redemption, and I'm actively looking forward to him joining forces with Jon, Daenerys, Brienne, Tyrion, et al, and all the awkwardness that's sure to follow.
As mentioned above, I'm pretty sure his fate will involve killing Cersei once and for all, after which – I don't know what'll happen. It'll be a feat and a half to win the trust of any allies not called Tyrion, and it'll be difficult to see what his role would be in any new world order. Can you really see him as a knight in service to either Daenerys or Jon? His pride alone would prevent that.
Maybe he'll be inspired enough by Brienne's example to forego worldly possessions and become a true knight: travelling the world and helping those in need. It would be both penance and reward for all the shit he's pulled over the years (starting from the moment he shoved Bran out that window) and if he lives through what's coming I think he could find some degree of happiness in that.
I pointed this out in my last Reading/Watching Log, but I was amazed to see how less dynamic Tyrion seemed as a character this season – simply because his character development was (for all intents and purposes) over. He's found a cause that he believes in, made peace with bad decisions of the past, and discovered long-yearned for respect in his new role as Hand to the Queen. There's really nothing more to explore with him, and as such he seemed strangely side-lined over the course of season seven.
I seriously doubt he'll die (especially knowing he's George R.R. Martin's favourite) but he's already reached journey's end: as Daenerys's advisor. Despite my predictions below as to what Daenerys will do with the Iron Throne once she's taken control of it, she'll always wield a vast degree of power, and Tyrion will remain on hand to help her exert it.
So here's where it gets a little strange, because on the one hand Game of Thrones has always been about subverting fantasy norms; on the other, our last two characters have adhered more closely to archetypal figures than any other in the story. Daenerys for example: magical dragons, beautiful silver hair, beloved queen of freed slaves, object of adoration for nearly every man that meets her, possible subject of world-saving prophecy – what's really going on here?
It seems too easy to suppose she'll win the throne and rule successfully, so something else must happen. I've long thought that the final twist George R.R. Martin has in store is that no one wins the Iron Throne. It's destroyed, and the survivors of the War for the Dawn establish a rudimentary democracy (or oligarchy – maybe a democracy is pushing it).
Whether the showrunners will go for it is a matter for debate, but as much as I hate accusations of Mary-Suedom, I have to admit that in many ways Daenerys's story-arc has been one of the smoothest of all the characters' journeys (at least after season one). There were opportunities to explore some of the deeper parts of her character that are prevalent in the book. The grotesquery of some of her scenes involving hair loss and menstrual blood (completely avoided in the show), the dichotomy of her gentle heart/capacity for brutality, and the stained legacy of the Targaryen name and how it might affect her conquest aren’t of particular interest to the show – at least not to any great depth.
So what remains for her? Her tainted family history was brought up, albeit briefly, so I expect it'll be used as propaganda against her, along with the incestuous pregnancy that's bound to ensue (I think it's safe to assume this given the myriad mentions of her infertility this season). Between being pregnant with her nephew's child and not being the true heir to the throne after all, her life's ambition will be dealt a devastating blow.
But then her goal has always been not so much to take the throne as to break the wheel – and all she needs to do that is power. Seizing the Iron Throne only to dismantle the power structure it symbolizes might be her ultimate role in all this.
Which leaves Jon Snow a.k.a. Aemon Targaryen, who is even more of a fantasy cliché than Daenerys. He's come back from the dead, he's the secret heir to the throne, he's the object of an ancient prophecy, he has a special sword and a special pet and he's been made king by the will of his people – there's got to be a catch to all this somewhere.
As with Daenerys, the image of him on the Iron Throne ruling over Westeros doesn't come easily, partly because he's never shown a huge interest in ruling, and partly because this just isn't that kind of story.
And I suspect that aforementioned catch is that he'll end up dead – for good this time, having completed the task he was resurrected to fulfil. After defeating the Night King and saving the world, ceding power to Sansa in the north and Daenerys in the south, learning that he was never a bastard and knowing he'll live on through his newborn child ... he'll die.
Granted, there hasn't been a huge amount of foreshadowing for this (unless you count Melisandre's: "you were brought back for a reason") but I find it impossible to believe the story will end with Jon and Daenerys living happily ever after in incestuous bliss as king and queen. Something has to go wrong.
There's also the prophecy of Azor Ahai to consider: although it's been introduced to the show, it hasn't spelt out some of the finer details of the original story – which involved the titular hero killing his own wife in order to forge the sword necessary to defeat the White Walkers the first time they marched on Westeros. Whether it becomes part of the show's canon is up for debate, but it does foreshadow a sacrifice (and unlike some, I think the sacrifice is more likely to be Jon than Daenerys – if not just for the gender subversion).
And if Jon doesn't die, I think he'll go into self-imposed exile. He and Ghost will take to the wild to ensure Daenerys's and Sansa's claims aren't disputed. Or perhaps he'll end up as some sort of permanent hostage north of the wall to ensure the south's good behaviour. Heck, maybe he'll willingly get turned into a White Walker to cement an alliance.
Or I'm wrong, and he'll end up becoming king and marrying Daenerys and having dozens of silver-haired kids: the most clichéd ending imaginable to a story that's prided itself on pummelling the audience's expectations. I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.