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Which Game of Thrones characters will survive the series?

The show's 15 most important characters, ranked by likelihood of survival.

Who’s going to die as Game of Thrones enters its last handful of episodes?

Character deaths used to be one of the most shocking things about the series, in both book and TV form. Characters — major ones! — would die, suddenly, out of nowhere, at the hands of other characters. That unpredictable plotting only made the story more exciting to watch unfold.

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.

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 or 2019). With just 13 episodes left, everybody who’s still alive only has to make it a little further, but that will mean surviving what’s sure to be a bloodbath in the show’s final days.

Anyway, let’s usher in Game of Thrones’ seventh season by ranking the characters from least to most likely to survive.

15) Cersei Lannister, least likely to survive

Cersei Lannister sitting on the Iron Throne.
Bye, Cersei!
HBO

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? It seems pretty likely to me that season seven will play out as Cersei versus some sort of alliance between Daenerys and Jon. 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

Littlefinger on Game of Thrones
Maybe Littlefinger will make it! Heh. Right.
HBO

Most Game of Thrones viewers might give Littlefinger decent odds of survival, 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 that he’ll ultimately be outsmarted (probably by Sansa, his protégé) and lose his life.

How far will he make it? He’ll die during season seven, in a supposedly “shocking” moment.

13) Davos Seaworth

Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones.
Davos will probably sacrifice himself.
HBO

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? I expect him to make some sort of heroic sacrifice in the series finale.

12) Melisandre

Melisandre on Game of Thrones
Even though she’s been banished, Melisandre is still kicking it.
HBO

Jon has already told Melisandre 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 live to see season eight, but she’ll die before the end of the series.

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 Greyjoy and Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones
Theon probably should have gotten hypothermia in this moment, really.
HBO

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 Lannister on Game of Thrones
But he looks so fancy in his gold armor.
HBO

Jaime’s ultimate allegiances are one of Game of Thrones’ few remaining question marks 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 "penultimate episode of the series" kind of death for me. It will come when he’s saving Tyrion, I would bet.

9) Arya Stark

Arya Stark on Game of Thrones
If she’s not dead already!!!!
HBO

Another Stark child is going to die. I think that’s just inevitable. The three who are still alive have made themselves proficient at politics (Sansa), magic (Bran), and violence (Arya), and Game of Thrones 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

Brienne on Game of Thrones
Brienne heading up the Kingsguard (or Queensguard) just makes too much sense.
HBO

We’ve now reached the subset of Game of Thrones 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 swordfighter, which means she could always go out in a battle.

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 on Game of Thrones.
Bran is a great magician now. That will make him a target.
HBO

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.

6) Varys

Varys on Game of Thrones
Varys 4 ever!
HBO

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, Game of Thrones’ 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

Dany on Game of Thrones
Things could go south for Dany.
HBO

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 and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss probably have one more out-of-nowhere death up their 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

Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones
Hi, Sansa!
HBO

Just as one of the last three Stark siblings must die, one of them must live. Sansa strikes me as the most likely for the latter, if only because Game of Thrones 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 knowledge of political intrigue is high and only getting higher, 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

Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones
Tyrion will live to quip another day.
HBO

The top three characters on this list are all "they’ll die in the series finale, if they die at all" characters to me. Tyrion has long been a favorite of those who’ve read the Game of Thrones books, fans of the show, 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 lying in the Snow after being attacked and killed by his own men.
If he came back from this, he can come back from anything.
HBO

Jon Snow returned from the dead. He’ll stick 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 on Game of Thrones
Sam is probably immortal by now. Let’s face it.
HBO

Sam is widely seen as an authorial surrogate for George R.R. Martin, with his rotund figure and love of books. Imagine that in the Game of Thrones series finale, the White Walkers win and only one character survives. It’s gotta 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? (Yes, it would be.)

How far will he make it? Sam is basically the 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’s safe.


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