Each week throughout Game of Thrones’ sixth season, a handful of Vox's writers have gathered to discuss the latest episode — and now we’re doing the same with the finale. Before you dig in, check out our recap of "The Winds of Winter," as well the archive of our entire discussion to date. Concluding our discussion for the season is culture editor Todd VanDerWerff.
Todd VanDerWerff: Now that the sixth season of Game of Thrones is over, the long wait for any information at all about the seventh season (which will air in 2017) begins.
But as Rowan Kaiser points out in this excellent essay on the show’s slow trend toward conventionality (and as I pointed out here), it’s become easier and easier to predict what’s going to happen on this show, at least within reason.
So let’s try to predict the thing everyone’s most curious about: Who’s going to die?
I’ve picked the 15 most important Game of Thrones characters (because talking about everybody would take too long) and ranked them based on how likely they are to make it to the end of the series finale (which should air at the end of season eight in 2018). With just 13 to 15 episodes left, everybody still alive only has to make it a little further, but the final days of this show should end up being a bloodbath.
Anyway, let’s put Game of Thrones to bed for the year by ranking the characters from least to most likely to survive.
15) Cersei Lannister, least likely to survive
At this point, after blowing up a sept and killing thousands, then ascending to the throne in the wake of her son Tommen’s death, Cersei is basically the only guaranteed death of the 15 characters I’ve chosen. She might make it a while, but she looks to be the show’s final non–White Walker villain, and she’ll be a doozy of one. But then she’ll die.
How far will she make it? Season seven playing out as Cersei versus some sort of alliance between Daenerys and Jon seems pretty likely to me. To that end, Cersei will probably perish in the season seven finale, at the hand of her brother and lover, Jaime.
14) Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
Most viewers of the show might rank Littlefinger rather high on this list, but I think he’s dangerously overconfident at this point. I can see a version of this show where he ascends to sit upon the Iron Throne, but I think it’s more likely he’s ultimately, finally outsmarted (probably by Sansa, his protégé) and loses his life.
How far will he make it? He’ll die somewhere in season seven as a supposedly shocking moment.
13) Davos Seaworth
I actually expect Davos to make it all the way to the series finale, but not all the way to its end. He’s the old man adviser, and the old man adviser always dies in stories like this.
How far will he make it? Like I said, I expect him to make some sort of heroic sacrifice in the series finale.
Jon has already told her that if she returns to the North, he’ll have her executed. Considering that the threat of the White Walkers invading the Seven Kingdoms seems imminent, she will almost certainly have to return to the North at some point. She’ll make it to season eight, but she’ll eventually die.
How far will she make it? Somewhere around season eight’s midpoint, she will give up her life to save Jon somehow, thus settling the debt between them.
11) Theon Greyjoy
Theon has endured so much suffering that there’s an outside chance he’ll survive to find some form of inner peace. But I think it’s more likely he will give his life to save one of the many people he wronged back in the day, presumably one of the Stark siblings.
How far will he make it? Early in season eight, Theon will give himself up to save Sansa or Bran. Count on it.
10) Jaime Lannister
Jaime’s ultimate allegiances are one of the few remaining questions viewers have in terms of who will be on the side of "good" and who will be on the side of "evil." None of the characters have much reason to trust Jaime, but he also increasingly seems uneasy about siding with his sister. This makes him the Snape of the Game of Thrones universe (to toss in a Harry Potter reference at random), which means he’ll probably die, but in a way that makes everybody feel weird.
How far will he make it? He seems like a classic "next to the last episode" kinda death for me. It will come when he’s saving Tyrion, I would bet.
9) Arya Stark
Another Stark child is going to die. I think that’s just inevitable. The three left alive have made themselves proficient at politics (Sansa), magic (Bran), and violence (Arya), and the show is clearly nodding toward Arya simply becoming a vehicle for vengeance at this point in her life. Vehicles for vengeance rarely make it all the way to the end, and I think Arya is probably doomed.
How far will she make it? She’ll get to the series finale, though!
8) Brienne of Tarth
We’re now among the group of characters I consider more likely to survive than die. Brienne could certainly die in battle against the White Walkers, but she seems more likely to end up heading the Kingsguard after the dust settles. Still, she’s a great swordswoman, which means she could always die in a fight.
How far will she make it? If she dies (and I don’t think she will), it will be in the final battle against the White Walkers.
7) Bran Stark
Bran now has such immense magical powers that he’s going to prove a great asset to the forces of humanity whenever he rejoins everybody else. But that also means he’ll probably become one of the White Walkers’ primary targets. I think he’ll survive, but one never knows.
How far will he make it? Bran’s death in one of the final few episodes could make for a nice "all hope is lost" moment. But I think he’ll make it out alive.
If Varys dies, it will be at Cersei's hand somehow. That means if he can make it out of season seven alive, I think he’s probably safe forever. And considering he’s one of the show’s most purely entertaining characters, the writers would have to be crazy to kill him.
How far will he make it? Varys will have some sort of place on the small council when the series ends.
5) Daenerys Targaryen
The most logical prediction is that Dany survives the series and winds up the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. But that also means she’d be the easiest character to kill off in a "shocking" fashion pretty much anywhere along the way. Remember: George R.R. Martin probably has one more out-of-nowhere death up his sleeve. Dany would be my bet for that, but I also will bow to conventional wisdom and anoint her queen.
How far will she make it? She’ll be the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Or she won’t, and she’ll die in some sort of freak accident in the season seven premiere.
4) Sansa Stark
Just as one of the last three Stark siblings must die, one of them must live. Sansa strikes me as the most logical choice, if only because the show is trying to build (incredibly weird!) sexual tension between her and Jon, a man she believes to be her half-brother. (He’s actually her cousin.) Plus, Sansa’s going to be incredibly valuable at political intrigue, and that always comes in handy in Westeros.
How far will she make it? She’ll enter a politically advantageous marriage with someone, then survive to advise Queen Daenerys. Or she’ll side with Littlefinger and be dragged down by him (in which case, Arya will be the Stark to survive).
3) Tyrion Lannister
These top three characters are all "they’ll die in the series finale, if they die at all" characters to me. Tyrion has long been a favorite of book readers, show viewers, and George R.R. Martin himself. He will be the hand of either Dany or Jon, whichever of the two rules.
How far will he make it? Even if the White Walkers win, he’ll find some way to advise the Night’s King.
2) Jon Snow
Jon Snow returned from the dead. He’ll be sticking around. He might even become king.
How far will he make it? He’s going to live forever.
1) Samwell Tarly, the most likely to survive
Sam is widely seen as an authorial surrogate for George R.R. Martin, with his rotund figure and love of books. Imagine there’s a finale for this show where the White Walkers win and only one character survives. It’s going to be Sam, right? He’s basically the guy who comes out at the end of a Shakespearean tragedy and says, "Oh, shit. Maybe I should have warned somebody!" And wouldn’t it be sort of hilarious if only Sam lived? I agree.
How far will he make it? Sam is basically that guy in that one Twilight Zone episode who is happy the nuclear apocalypse happened, because he’ll finally have time to read, only to immediately break his glasses. He’ll make it the whole way.