The seventh season of Game of Thrones has played things annoyingly safe, providing reunions, snappy dialog and the feeling that some characters have become untouchable. At this point we can be sure that Jon won’t die, not again, and it’s likely Cersei is going to have a seat at the final showdown next year.
The finale can either begin to make the show feel dangerous again by taking out a few main characters — although death as a stunt feels like a cheap trick to get viewers back on board — or it can continue to rely on its popularity to guide it through the transformation from a genre-defying show into a high-budget fantasy soap opera.
We’re only a day away from finding out, but let’s take a look at who is likely to die.
Feel free to rub this in my face on Monday if he makes it through, which he won’t, but Jaime Lannister is going to die.
His renewed loyalty to Cersei, combined with his status as a character who has been here since the beginning, make him a likely target. You can also remove him from the plot structure and none of the cards will fall. He’s no longer necessary to the story as we understand it right now, yet he’s one of the highest profile characters on the show. This is a good way to make the finale feel important, even though Jaime’s near-death experience with the dragon might have taken some of the sting out of the loss.
Cersei has lost everyone she cares about, and now all she has is power, Jaime and their unborn child. I can’t see her in control at the end of the series, the prophecy indicates that she’ll lose this child as well and that leaves Jaime. If he dies tomorrow night, Cersei will have had everything taken from her.
This would be even more tragic if Jaime, for whatever reason, is killed by Cersei herself. Or at least on Cersei’s orders. She threatened him just a few episodes ago, and much of Cersei’s pain is due to her own poor planning or ruthless nature. She’s sitting in a thick pain stew made of ingredients she herself selected, and the loss of Jaime would leave her completely alone.
So yeah, it would make sense dramatically and raise the stakes significantly, so maybe it won’t happen.
If Game of Thrones has turned into a show where keeping fans happy is as important as telling a good story, Littlefinger’s death would be an easy choice. He’s the reason there’s discord at Winterfell, and he’s dealing with a trained assassin on one side of the deception and a young lady who is becoming skilled at politics while also having ample reason to distrust anyone in power who seems interested in marrying her.
Arya may have a blind spot for Littlefinger, at least so far, but Sansa doesn’t, and a surprise death at the hands of Arya while she’s wearing one of her many faces would be ... well, kind of expected, but at least satisfying. Or it’s possible Littlefinger kills someone, only to be revealed to be Arya wearing his face.
Either way, there are plenty of good ways, and reasons, to take him out.
If I had to make a bet for actual money, and was playing it safe, I would wager that the final shot of the season would be the White Walkers standing at the wall ... and then finding a way to destroy it.
The entire series has been about politics and the wave of destruction heading towards the world of man. If Jon and Dany deliver a wight to Cersei — right after physically consummating their love, probably — then it will be very hard to ignore the fact that there is an army of White Walkers and zombies headed south.
Cersei’s reaction to the reality of this situation may be just what it takes to swing the court of public opinion away from the Lannisters and toward Daenarys, especially with Jon being at least an outwardly capable ruler who has a plan for dealing with a threat and has also pledged support for another Targaryen ruler. So this all makes sense, at least from the moving parts we can see right now.
So once that situation is stable, and the wave of character deaths has passed, things are going to seem pretty rosy. Until the Night King reaches the wall, the wall is breached and the audience is shown, with frightening clarity, that there is now nothing standing between civilization and annihilation.
And annihilation now has its own dragon.