If you honestly believe that everyone dying is a realistic conclusion, then this blog post isn’t for you! (Also, if you’re reading this and haven’t yet caught up to the season seven finale, consider yourself forewarned.)
Continuing from G.R.R.M.’s description of the ending as “bittersweet,” I consider it plausible that a significant number of named characters will die, and at least a handful or so will survive to build a better world. I’ve already discussed in a previous post that I expect Cersei, Melisandre, and the Mountain to be killed.
The other extreme is much harder! Who can we consider to be the safest? I recognize that literally no one on this show is absolutely safe (and I don’t mean “No One” as a dumb joke about Arya). But if we follow the books’ suggestion that the series is going to end with at least a dream of spring, I think there are two plausible best contenders for the title of Survivor: Tyrion and Sansa. If I had to quantify it, I’d say that Tyrion has about a 80% survival chance, and Sansa 90%.
Why these two, and why the slight difference? Well, first of all, as the Emmy nominations will inform you, Game of Thrones doesn’t have lead actors. It does, however, have lead families, and the Lannisters and Starks have been the most consistent from the start. We’ve lost 50% of the original Lannisters and a little more than that of the Starks (I’m counting Jon as a Stark), but of those members that are left, each one has been a major part of the series since the very beginning: Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion; Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran. It’s plausible to imagine that each family will have at least one survivor. And between the two families, the Starks are the clear heroes. An ending with the death of House Stark is very bleak. An ending with the death of House Lannister is kind of sad as well, but mostly because we like Tyrion himself so much, not because we feel any particular allegiance to their House.
Of the Lannisters, Tyrion is the most likely choice for survival simply by process of elimination. I’ve already discussed that Cersei will obviously die. I’m probably going to discuss Jaime in further detail in the future, because there is a lot that can be said about his character arc and what would be the most powerful end for him. But for the moment, a simple comparison of the two brothers’ skills and likely future scenes will suffice. Tyrion excels in diplomacy, politics, scheming, and motivating others. He’s been quite lucky to survive the two war scenes he wandered into early on, and has avoided the field of battle completely since the end of season 2. Jaime is not the swordsman he once was, but still an experienced general, and he’s carrying Widow’s Wail, a Valyrian steel blade. Between the two of them, I think it’s far more likely that Jaime will see battle, and since every fight from here on is likely to have major casualties, Jaime’s simply at greater risk than Tyrion is.
My calculus predicting Sansa’s survival is similar. I don’t think we can count either Arya or Jon as safe, for the same reason as Jaime: they’re both equipped with Valyrian steel, and likely to face enemies directly. With regard to Jon specifically, a case can also be made that either Jon or Daenerys may survive, but probably not both, and I have no idea which, so that makes Jon’s survival chances no greater than 50%.
Bran certainly isn’t going to be literally riding* into battle, and there’s a pretty good case to be made for him getting planted into a tree somewhere and living for centuries as the next Three-Eyed Raven. But we also know he has already been marked by the Night King, and may be specifically targeted by the White Walkers as a threat. I’m also inclined to consider Tolkien’s example, in which the triumph of Man over the magical threat means that magic recedes from the world; if G.R.R.M. follows suit, Bran becomes a part of the old world that might just fade away. (I’m not going to get into tinfoil hat theories about Bran being the Night King, simply because I see no evidence for it onscreen. Make your own blog post about it if you’re inspired.) *He might be warging into a dragon, but it’s unclear whether that would put him in any physical danger.
So, if Sansa dies, it would have to be in some kind of “rocks fall everyone dies” situation, because she’s simply not going to be a direct target personally. It’s possible, but not as likely as any of her siblings or Jon. Furthermore, I think that if House Stark and Lannister are to survive at all, Sansa and Tyrion are both best equipped to rebuild; they each have the most applicable normal-world skills needed to bring their lands back into some kind of order.
I also like the funny little irony that Sansa and Tyrion were technically married, and she might have come to appreciate his kindness as a husband over the past couple of years. If there’s a way for the two of them to end up back together without losing the Stark family line, I wouldn’t even mind for them to have their own happy ending; I certainly don’t think Sansa would willingly waste her time marrying anyone lesser than Tyrion.
See below for ranked list of characters discussed so far and predicted survival likelihood.
- Sansa – 90%
- Tyrion – 80%
- Bran – 75%
- Arya – 60%
- Jon – 50%
- Jaime – 50%
- Cersei – 10%
- Melisandre – 5%
- The Mountain – 1%
Coming later… the rest of the cute kids, stalwart warriors, trusted advisors, and miscellaneous pirate kings!