If anticipation (and hype) were the Night King, we’d all have blue eyes.
We’ve waited with bated breath long enough for Cersei Lannister to give birth twice, and finally, thank the Stranger, we’re going to get some closure on the alt-Medieval Wizard’s Chess bloodbath that is Game of Thrones. There will be an end to the misery of eternal speculation, fan theorizing, leak-peddling and clamoring for (a) Lady Stoneheart to show up, (b) Victarion Greyjoy to blast onto the scene with his dragon-binding horn and© Jaime Lannister to get it on with Brienne of Tarth. And yes, any of those things could still technically happen (especially the third one; I seriously bet it will happen, right before one of them dies). The point is, we’ll finally know.
Summary: White Walkers are on the move, heading south like evil migratory swallows. Jon and Daenerys have, for now, struck up an, er, alliance, and they are headed to Winterfell where Bran’s gonna break it to them that their heir will be an incestuously conceived mad halfwit juuuust like Joffrey Baratheon, only with a pyromania kink. Icy. Hijinks. Will. Ensue.
We have stuck it out for seven seasons knowing that any character we loved would be sacrificed in a way that was spectacularly brutal in direct proportion to how much we wanted them to live (Ave atque vale, Ned Stark and Oberyn Martell), only to wrestle with the idea that the Night King can resurrect literally any dead person so… um, like, is Ned coming back? (No. Shut up. But in all seriousness, the trailer with Arya flipping her shit in the Winterfell crypts does seem to hat-tip toward her having seen an undead family member, so remember, I’m the one who laughed at the people who said the Night King was going to get a dragon and hello, Lady Stoneheart!)
At this point, several prominent Houses have been wiped off the map; the Tyrells, the Boltons, the Martells and the Freys are kaputski. Houses Stark, Targaryen, Lannister, Greyjoy, Mormont and Tarly still stand, as does House Baratheon, notionally. (Hey, Gendry! Pullin’ for ya, cutie!) Dolorous Edd has command of the skeleton crew at Castle Black while an all-too-literal skeleton crew rolls over Eastwatch. (Seriously: Why did Daenerys name that freaking dragon after her Caligulan freakshow of a brother? She doomed it to Zombie Killing Machine status as much as if she’d ice-javelined it herself).
Will the Living win the war? No. No, they will not! Everyone freaking dies, that’s the whole point of every Armageddon plot line in every movie and TV show ever. The crusade against the apocalypse is totally embedded in the human psyche because each of us is trying to come to grips with the 100% unavoidable personal apocalypse that’s waiting for us like a creepy mouth-breather in a dark alley. Beric Dondarrion’s already said it, 1st Corinthians style: “Death is the first enemy, and the last…. The enemy always wins, but we still need to fight him.”
Still, some will presumably survive the battle. So, once again, who wins, and who dies? Let’s start with the casualties, in order of likelihood.
Cersei Lannister: 100%
It Is Known! Clearly, Cersei has to die. Things have just gone too far. She’s not even an interesting character anymore; she used to be complex and now she’s just a seething unhinged ragemonster with a crown. (Too. Soon.) And anyway, that woods-witch up and told her that a “valonqar” or little sibling would strangle her after she’d lost everything. It’s not an if; it’s a when, and by whose hand. She’s always believed the “little brother” in question was Tyrion, but there’s every chance it could be Jaime. It has rhythm. She has turned into another Mad King figure. He kills those. On the other hand, we usually create our own monsters, and Cersei’s fear of Tyrion has done a significant amount of damage. I think his Lannister-killing days are kind of over, personally, but he does seem to want to serve the realm, and while he might be willing to place some faith in the idea that Cersei and Jaime’s fourth incestuous lovechild has a shot at not being nuts, there’s no question his sister’s beyond dangerous.
Option three? Many feel Arya Stark will have to take Cersei out, and some even say she will do it wearing Jaime’s face. (Point of order: Can Faceless Men assume the guise of a person who is not yet dead?). Since the trailer came out, there’s been a whole hell of a lot of focus on the 2.3 frames of Cersei looking all bittersweet and drinking wine, and there are some who think she is in fact drinking poison. That’s Faceless Man stuff, even though Arya’s an ace throat-slitter. Maggy the Frog doesn’t get to this part of the prophecy in the Season Five flashback, but we know she says the “valonqar” will strangle her in the book. So the notion of poison seems weird until we remember how much George R.R. Martin likes history to repeat itself, and that the name of the poison that killed Joffrey at that wedding was: The Strangler.
One other Little Brother believed by some to be the author of Cersei’s demise? Bran Stark. Who might cause the detonation of the rest of the wildfire under the city and smithereen the whole festering snakepit, including Cersei. You could call it far-fetched, but is there anything about Game of Thrones that isn’t? (Other than lots of people slicing and dicing each other in political power-grabs—that’s all too realistic.)
I don’t need to explain why he’s definitely checking out too, right? Creepazoid.
The Mountain: 95%
He’s kinda dead already (nice work, Qyburn), but clearly a showdown between the Clegane boys is imminent. And if the Hound doesn’t win CleganeBowl, then the whole show is fired. Seriously. Symmetry and cosmic justice demand it. My one question here is: With the Mountain’s vital signs in the ambiguous range… can the Night King control him? A question for the philosophers.
Beric Dondarrion: 95%
I will miss Richard Dormer’s unbelievably sexy voice, but Dondarrion’s been on borrowed time since long before Thoros of Myr swallowed his last shot of blackstrap rum. And he’s pretty ready for a rest. He will fulfill his purpose and die a noble, violent death, possibly fire-kebabing a Walker with his spontaneous combustion novelty sword on the way out.
Jorah Mormont: 95%
… And I will cry. Iain Glen’s turn as the stricken protector/betrayer/protector of the Khaleesi has been one of the greatest pleasures of the show. That guy’s the last word in meaningful glances and craggy-faced stoic inner pain. He’s more than willing to die for her and he almost certainly will, becoming the son old Jeor always wanted for one glorious instant.
Everyone named Greyjoy: 90%
Especially Euron, whom Cersei will never allow into her bed. I’m slightly on the fence about Theon, but I think he’ll do something noble and redemptive and die in the process, whether it’s rescuing Yara or something else.
Whatever her shortcomings, Melisandre has been pretty spot on predicting deaths, and she has already let the eunuch from Lys know he will die in Westeros.
Lord Royce: 90%
The dude just has “killed in action” written all over his large imposing breastplate.
Grey Worm and Missandei: 80%
Sorry, guys. Grey Worm found bodily love despite having been neutered at a young age and trained as a killing machine, and Missandei has learned a new language, but they’re just too decent and lovable to live. And they’re too close to Dany.
Brienne of Tarth: 70%
Brienne is probably too damned honorable to be left alive but she’ll be sure to go out protecting someone named Stark. Or someone named Jaime.
Tyrion Lannister: 60%
I think Tyrion has betrayed Dany; there was something weird about how we didn’t see part of his meeting with Cersei, and he’s becoming increasingly worried about her pyro-tyrant tendencies. This is not going to do anything for his longevity, since it would mean two powerful and vengeful women have it in for him, in addition to the whole White Walker Apocalypse. Tyrion’s been a character of surprising moral gravity and a fan fave for a reason. But fan favorite status is something else that doesn’t increase your life expectancy in Westeros. (RIP Ned and Oberyn! And Talisa Stark!)
It gives me no pleasure to say it but this guy’s probably dragon food.
Daenerys Targaryen: 55%
There, I said it. I’m not firm on this, but my gut says either she or Jon Snow, but not both, will check out before the battle’s over, and I think Jon’s odds of survival are a little better. Dany’s increasingly power-lustful and turning out not to be a real good listener, and her hubris might get her taken down. It might not. But there’s a case to be made. Oh, and Drogon’s toast. Both dragons might be toast.
Jon Snow 50%
Jon Snow is set up for a hero story from the pilot, more so than probably any other character including Daenerys. Then again, if his folk appeal and risk tolerance and willingness to get his hands dirty (and the fact that he doesn’t want the Iron Throne) make him better equipped to survive than Auntie Girlfriend, that’s also precisely why it might go the other way.
Jaime Lannister: 50%
Possibly the hardest trajectory to lay a wager on is the fate of the Kingslayer, who has transited from villain to hero in an incredibly satisfying way. I think Jaime will be revealed as The Prince Who Was Promised, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t die a tragic and bloody death. Jaime and Cersei also have above-average odds of leaving the world together just the way they entered it. What I do think is that Jaime will get what he said he wanted and will die in the arms of the woman he loves if he does indeed die in this season. The question is, is that still his sister? And will he die to make sure she goes with him?
Now, who lives? My wish list is my wish list, but applying Martin logic to the situation—and allowing for that logic to be defied enough times that people are still surprised—some of these guys will live to serve a while longer, and not all of them will conform to our expectations. Maybe none of them will. Characters who seem like true 50-50 types and whose deaths wouldn’t significantly change the plot outcome are not necessarily included, in case you’re wondering where Podrick and Robyn Arryn and Daario Naharis are. I know “they” have said almost everyone dies, but here are some likely survivors, in order:
Tormund Giantsbane: 60%
Every single nerve ending I have says Tormund will go down and that’s why I am going to say he lives. And becomes King of the Free Folk. Or, in an ironic twist, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch?
Dolorous Edd: 65%
It would be just his luck to end up the only fucking survivor at Castle Black. Besides, he’s too funny to die.
Sandor Clegane: 70%
The Hound has come too far down the redemption road to be turned away now. He’ll settle the score with his sadist brother and live to tell the tale. Given what we know is coming, he might also have a course of exposure therapy that rids him of his fear of fire.
Lyanna Mormont: 75%
The Westerosi Jeanne d’Arc is so fierce she could probably melt a White Walker with that glare of hers.
Davos Seaworth: 75%
The Onion Knight is wily, crafty, humble, and good-hearted. That might make you marked for death in Westeros, but I think of all the good-guy secondary characters he’s the one most likely to be standing when the smoke clears.
Dark Horse Alert! Gendry will not only survive, but if Jon and Dany do both die (and potentially even if they don’t), odds are not long that he’d be a contender for the Iron Throne. That guy’s a survivor and a stealth Baratheon. I don’t know that he’ll end up marrying Arya, but that would be the only thing more satisfying than a bittersweet love-tryst between Brienne and Jaime, both of whom have more than earned a little fun. We’d end where we began, with a Baratheon on the throne in an alliance with a Stark, only Arya would wear breeches and slashy-slash anyone who irritated her with her schwanky Valyrian steel dagger.
Ghost will survive. If Nymeria shows up to fight, I suspect she will not, so the question becomes whether they will cosmic-balance this thing with one Stark losing their spirit animal and one direwolf losing its human (if and when Nymeria goes down, know that Jon Snow’s future is imperiled) or whether a pair will be snuffed out together, but I’m firm on this point: Ghost will live.
Arya Stark: 80%
Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I have a weird feeling all the remaining Starks will survive.
Sansa Stark: 90%
Where Arya’s well-positioned to survive because of her increasingly lethal skill set, Sansa’s become equally adroit at political survival, and unless everyone dies, Westeros will need someone stable up North to restore balance and justice. Who better?
Samwell Tarly: 99%
Sam almost certainly still stands at the end of this thing, and very likely so do Gilly and hopefully Baby Sam. (That said, the kid’s pledged to the Others and they might still want to call in that chit.) Indeed, the small amount of footage we’ve seen of the impending battle of Winterfell has such a major league “Helm’s Deep” thing going on that it lends credence to a fan theory I’ve dismissed for a long time: that it will be revealed this whole shebang is a story Sam is telling, Frodo-style. (I wonder if he will have an unfortunate non-healing wound from a White Walker weapon?)
Brandon Stark: 99%
Bran has already died in a cave. Long live the three-eyed raven! There’s no way they kill Bran. No. Way.
The Night King: 100%
The Night King is a personification of death. No one can kill that.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.