(Spoilers for all Game of Thrones episodes, obviously.)
Barring an incredible narrative twist this weekend, Game of Thrones will finally air its climactic battle between the Night King (aka death, aka climate change) and the Uneasy Alliance of Men, Women, and Dragons Gathered at Winterfell.
In case you haven’t heard, the Battle of Winterfell is believed to be the longest battle scene ever put to film, besting even the 40-minute fight in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and presumably, becoming the television’s most expensive episode ever.
Filmed over 55 nights, the Battle of Winterfell sees more of the cast of the show in one place than ever before. Which means, get ready to see much of that cast for the last time, at least as humans and not reanimated ice zombies.
Last week’s episode, “A Knight for the Seven Kingdoms,” gave nearly all of its characters a final little hurrah. Drinks were had, bullshit stories were told, virginities were lost. But more than anything, the episode really managed to get across the direness of the situation. Everyone expects to die, Jon Snow has another terrible battle plan, and, judging by the little figurines on the battle map, our heroes are vastly outnumbered. The episode even gave us a little hint of what is to come in the rest of the season: even if they defeat the Night King’s army, Cersei has more than enough troops to defeat the surviving scraps. With only four episodes to go, there seems to be numerous options for how the series wraps up. Only one thing is for certain: lots of your favourite characters are gonna die this week.
Now, based on little more but my limited wits and slightly unhealthy knowledge of Westerosi history, here’s who to add to your Game of Thrones death pool, from least likely to die to most definitely dead.
(For posterity, any human who is killed and turned into an ice zombie or a spectre or a dracolich or whatever is considered dead for the purposes of this article. The undead are still dead.)
Jon Snow aka Aegon Targaryen
They’ve already killed him once, but with the recent revelation that he’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, setting up a possible showdown with his aunt/girlfriend Daenerys, it just makes zero narrative sense to off him. There’s this thing called Plot Armour, and Jon Snow is wearing a shit ton of it. He’s also, if I understand his not-so-excellent battle plan, going to be riding a dragon during the fight, which should put him a bit out of harm’s way.
The show seems to be feigning towards a bit of a heel-turn for Queen Daenerys in these final stages. She’s been passive aggressive with Sansa Stark and her first questions about Jon Snow’s newfound parentage were entirely about the Iron Throne. Girl, your Mad King tendencies are showing. Anyway, for much of the same rationale that applies to Jon Snow, it’s pretty unfathomable that the show would take her this far only to die in the snow, hundreds of miles from the Iron Throne.
No character on Game of Thrones has grown as much as Sansa Stark, going from a spoiled princess in the pilot episode, to a pragmatic and intelligent woman who can stare down the Mother of Dragons as the North’s real leader. She has no fighting skills other than her wits, but she’s going to die in her bed at a ripe old age.
Drogon the dragon
If Daenerys makes it, her dragon steed is gonna be her ride.
Very likely to live
Look, this is a show that had its most innocent, sweet character burned at the stake by her parents, so it’s not above killing a toddler. But still, I have faith that the little guy grows up to ask tough questions about his parentage.
The Girl With the Scarred Face
She promised Davos Seaforth that she’ll defend the crypt, and she’ll likely be the audience’s surrogate this week when the director wants to show the innocent (but terrified) face of the regular northerners hiding in the Stark’s crypt. (More on this plan later.)
A fan favourite, and a survivor of both Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards, and completely unimportant to the central plot, it would seem like Tormund’s time is up. But my gut says this self-proclaimed giant killer (and suckler at the teat of a dead giant’s wife) makes it down south to provide much needed comedy relief.
The Spider is a survivor, not a fighter, and his excellence at self-preservation, as well as his distance from the front lines will serve him well. It’s hard to imagine the show’s most impressive political operator won’t be around to whisper sweet, sweet strategy into the ear of whoever sits on the Iron Throne at the end of this show.
If Game of Thrones ends without Cleganebowl, it will be television’s biggest case of narrative blue balls since The Sopranos cut to black. That said, the show has been accused of too much fan service in the last couple seasons, so Sandor Clegane could easily slide down one category because it would be surprising to kill him off before allowing him to face his brother, and Game of Thrones does like a nice surprising death.
Should be safe, but maybe collect any debts they owe you
She’s already been through so much. They couldn’t, could they?
With a beautiful voice and a magical dick, our favourite bumbling squire seems to the candidate most likely to survive via pure luck.
A girl finally got laid last week, and while that’s usually a bad thing in horror movies, Arya still has a number of names left to cross off her list. Besides, she is now armed with a dragonglass spear and she still has the ability to be a many-faced assassin. It’s hard not to think that’s a handy trick that the show will want to pull off in its final episodes, but if they show wants to go a huge emotional shock a la Ned Stark’s execution a la The Red Wedding, it’s gotta be a Stark that goes.
Given she’s part of one of the healthiest relationships on the show, and her boyfriend is on the front lines, it’s clear that she’ll be one of the people in mourning after The Battle of Winterfell.
I’m sure the beancounters at HBO would love Ghost to join all of his expensive brothers and sisters in direwolf heaven, but Jon’s going to need a loyal friend over the next few weeks.
The Night King
OK, let’s talk about The Night King for a minute. For being the de facto Big Bad of this season, we know extremely little about what he wants. We got a theory out of Bran Stark, aka the Three Eyed Raven, last week.
“He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory.”
OK, cool. Got it. Very good plan.
But I do have some questions. Is the Night King good at war? Given he tricked Jon Snow and Daenerys into letting him capture a dragon, he does seem to have some tactical know how. But does he know how to lay siege to a prepared castle? I assume his forces don’t have problems with food and morale, like the humans, but despite his overwhelming numbers, I don’t think he has an assured victory. He has only one dragon vs Winterfell’s two dragons, his cavalry should be outmatched by the Dothraki and the Knights of the Vale, and, as far as I know, he has zero direwolves. I believe he does have a giant though. His big advantage is his ability to raise the dead, but humankind’s recent addition of dragonglass slightly neutralizes that. Anyhoo, I think this might be a fairer fight than the show wants us to think, even though I really don’t see Jon Snow’s “let’s trap and kill the Night King” plan working at all.
There’s also a theory going around that the Night King isn’t even going to be at the Winterfell battle and has actually split his forces in two and is headed towards King’s Landing. That would be a neat little trick, but I am hoping the show’s producers have learned the lessons of season seven and that jetpacking armies across an entire continent is lame.
All this is to say: I don’t see the show killing off Death with three more episodes to follow.
The Kingslayer started off in the pilot as the show’s de facto villain and main incest champion, but he’s been through a lot since. He’s lost a hand, gained a friend in Bronn, watched all his incesty children die, dumped his sister/girlfriend, and turned into an honourable man thanks to Brienne. Last week was his big redemption moment, gaining forgiveness from both Targeyeons and Starks and securing the audience’s heart by knighting Brienne. He’s going to be serving under Ser Brienne, protecting the left flank. There’s a good chance he gets a hero’s death but I still like him for killing off Cersei.
Of all the characters on Game of Thrones that are based on tropes from Lord of the Rings, none are quite as pure as Samwise Gamgee, I mean, Sam Tarly. As the beefy best friend with the heart of gold and the astounding ability to move the plot along by reading the right books, Sam Tarly has been a surprisingly integral character on the show. And that’s why he’s a solid candidate to be savagely killed off. I assume he gets a plum spot away from the fiercest fighting, but when Winterfell is overrun—and it will be overrun—I think there’s a good chance he dies defending Little Sam and Gilly.
Bran Stark aka The Three Eyed Raven
I’ve read a dozen blog posts about how Bran is the Night King, etc etc, but I can’t say I A) care or B) believe that. What I do know is that this plan to kill the Night King, using Bran as bait, is quite self-defeating.
OK, so first Bran says he needs to be left in the open in the Godswood.
But look at where the Godswood is! Look!
So, “in the open,” really means: behind the front lines, INSIDE Winterfell’s walls. So, the plan is: Have the Night King get past thousands of soldiers, two dragons, a direwolf, a wall AND then trap him. And having Theon, easily one of the least trustworthy fighters available, defend Bran. Good grief, sorry Creepy Bran, your odds of surviving are just not great.
We are definitely going to have a dragon fight this week and I think Viserion (i.e. the ice dragon) takes out his fire-breathing brother before being killed as well, and HBO lays off about 250 special effects people.
Hope they updated their will
Gendry, talented blacksmith and bastard of Robert Baratheon, died heroically after sleeping with four women in his young life. May you keep rowing well into the afterlife.
On the Ringer podcast The Watch this week, hosts Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald talked about “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” and referred to it as “one of the all-time McBain episodes” on television, a reference to a Simpsons joke about whenever a character in a movie makes future plans, that’s a sign they are going to get killed off. At the top of their McBain moments was Grey Worm and Missandei basically planning to go find an island where they can retire and live a peaceful long life. Yeah, so Grey Worm, commander of the Unsullied, the front line of defence against the White Walkers is sooooo dead.
She’s been a scene stealer since she first appeared on the show in season six but our confident little lady from Bear Island has come to the end. She managed to convince cousin Jorah that she’s going to be out fighting in the field with her house, but at the end of the day, House Mormont just doesn’t have what it takes to defend her. She sent all of her fighting men to the Battle of the Bastards—all 62 of them—and despite her assurances that they “fight with the strength of 10 mainlanders” I expect that number was cut in half during that battle. At best, she is commanding a group of 40 men, and the odds are long and at least one child has got to get murdered this weekend. I’m betting its Lady Lyanna.
It’s going to be a hard, hard week for House Mormont. The reality is that Jorah has been a dead man walking for years, but between his reconciliation chat with Daenerys and Sam Tarly handing over his family’s Valyrian steel greatsword, Heartsbane, the clock has struck midnight. Expect Jorah, one of the most underrated swordsmen on the show, to go down swinging.
Davos is the wisest, kindest and most grandfatherly character on Game of Thrones and therefore, is a guarantee to devastate the audience if he dies. The survivor of many, many battles, including The Battle of the Bastards and the Battle of Blackwater, is no great warrior, but there’s no way he manages to avoid a fight this time. At least we got to see his famous onion soup.
His watch has ended.
OK, back to this plan about putting all the non-fighting people in the crypt under Winterfell. That’s a swell idea when fighting regular armies except….THAT’S WHERE ALL THE DEAD BODIES ARE, and you are fighting an enemy whose best move is raising the dead. Yes, Tyrion is going down at the hands of a skeletal Stark. Look, Tyrion was the best character on the show for many years, but has proven to be shit at war and hasn’t even had many snappy one-liners lately. He’s still one of the main characters on the show, and at least one needs to die for the Battle of Winterfell to feel shocking.
Guaranteed Dead, take it to the Iron Bank
He has run out of resurrections but he still has his flaming sword. He’s died at least six times already, so it’s safe to say, it’s his time to dance with the devil.
Theon has been on a redemption arc for more than half the show, ever since that he betrayed Robb Stark and captured Winterfell in season two. Since then he’s been tortured for years by Ramsey Bolton, had his penis chopped off, and was made fun of by pirate Joshua Jackson. Clearly he has PTSD, but it’s the fantasy medieval ages, so everyone thinks he’s just a coward and the only way for a coward’s narrative arc to end is in self-sacrifice. Fortunately for Theon Greyjoy, he’s taken on the incredibly thankless role of defending Bran the Bait in the Godswood, so he’ll have his chance to die brutally for the Starks. What is dead may never die, but Theon is alive and definitely will die.
Ser Brienne of Tarth
Oh, this one will hurt. Last week’s knighting was one of the most pure moments on the entire show, and one of the least cynical scenes involving a fantasy trope. Ser Brienne likes her chances commanding the left flank, there’s a nice little hill up by the way and THAT’S WHERE SHE DIES. The Battle of Winterfell ends with Jaime and Tormund mourning over her body, surrounded by dozens of foes she killed.
While we can expect a bunch of our heroes to survive through the weekend, either through victory or a panicked retreat to the Iron Islands or Moat Cailin, this Sunday will represent the biggest clearing of the character board since The Red Wedding. Whatever happens we are going to see a New World Order in Westeros, and the real reckoning coming in the way of one Cersei Lannister. And really, isn’t that what we really want to see, Cersei chugging wine while mocking her enemies and bedding Pirate Joshua Jackson? Good luck with the bookies, folks.
Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox.
Follow Josh on Twitter.