As the final season of Game of Thrones draws closer, one question is on the audience’s mind: Who’s going to make it in the end? While we certainly care how showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will end George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga, it’s almost more important who actually makes it through the final gauntlet — especially the Battle of Winterfell, the main event fo season 8’s third episode.
The most sacred rule of Game of Thrones was that no character was safe, at least in the show’s early seasons. But the show’s upcoming conclusion puts us all in a difficult, anxious place. While no one is ever truly safe in Westeros, there are a few fates that seem almost certain. When White Walkers storm the castle in this week’s episode, expect the worst for any mortal.
Polygon has no inside information, of course, but we’ve watched seven seasons of Martin, Benioff, and Weiss’ combined sensibilities and story interests. Here are our best guesses about who might survive Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season.
[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers through season 7 of Game of Thrones.]
Jon or Dany? The question hovers over everything. Of these two stars whom we’ve followed to the edges of the world, who will come out alive? Both of them surviving the impending wars with Cersei and the Night King seems unlikely, so let’s decide who is more likely to live.
Jon’s case for survival is that he fits the prophecy of Azor Ahai.
Azor Ahai is a legendary hero who is said to have brought an end to the Long Night, the first great war against the dead. According to the prophecy, Azor Ahai will be reborn to deliver the world once again from danger and would ultimately cause death itself to bend its knee. This savior will supposedly be reborn amidst smoke and salt, wake dragons out of stone, be born when the stars bleed, and draw a burning sword, called Lightbringer.
Melisandre, who’s quest throughout the show has been to find this legendary hero, has gotten it wrong before, but she’s now committed to her belief that Jon is Azor Ahai reborn. But, Game of Thrones has always had a slippery relationship with prophecy; it’s often tried to undermine it and subvert it more than fulfill it outright. In fact, it seems almost as likely that Jon would survive as the Prince who was Promised as it is that he would end up the sacrifice the prophecy spoke of instead. From a storytelling perspective though, Jon has risen to prominence (mostly) on his own merits and does fit the bill of a king who doesn’t want to be so both paths remain open, but if subversion is what Game of Thrones strives for, then maybe season 8 is finally the right time for Jon to die.
Chances that Jon is the Prince who was Promised and survives the series: moderately high.
While Jon may fit the bill in Melisandre’s mind, Dany is also candidate as far as the Azor Ahai prophecy itself is concerned. When she stood on Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre without being burned, Dany was reborn in salt and smoke, and woke dragons from stone, all with a bleeding star above her — thanks to the appearance of the red comet. While most of the characters in Game of Thrones assume the world’s savior to be male, maester Aemon notes that the prophecy only says “dragon,” which could refer to a man or a woman.
Positioning Dany as the second coming of Azor Ahai would also support her rise to power as part of the show’s greater themes of female empowerment. It would seem unduly cruel to sacrifice that theme’s largest benefactor. True, an ending to her story that allowed her to choose how the world would be saved would fit her noble suffering and eternal commitment to justice, but so would letting her make Jon the sacrifice so that she could rule Westeros as she has always intended to.
Chances Dany is Westeros’ ultimate ruler: fairly high.
If “Jon or Dany?” is the series’ largest looming question, then the second-largest is about the Big Bad. Given that this is Game of Thrones, and we have to entertain all possibilities, it does seem at least worth considering a future where the Night King wins, and most — or all — of the living characters are wiped out. This probably has a much better chance of happening in the book, but it’s at least possible. It does seem a lot more likely that he’ll just die — somehow.
Chances that the Night King kills everyone: low, but not completely out of the question.
Who could kill Arya? She’s spent the better part of six seasons training as an assassin, basically becoming an omnipotent god of death. The options basically boil down to an evil magic user, like the Night King. But Arya has an advantages against him, too: She was gifted a Valyrian steel dagger in season 7 by her brother Bran, after he received it from Littlefinger.
One can imagine an Eowyn-and-the-Witch-king situation if Arya met the Night King on the field of battle — because who can imagine her as a wight? And speaking of wights, if Arya’s still going to serve the Many-Faced God, then turning an army of the living dead back into regular dead seems like it would score her brownie points (and atone for using his faces for “selfish” needs).
Arya’s chance of being invincible: high.
Sansa Stark suffered endless torture for most of her time on Game of Thrones. That storyline twisted the fairy-tale princess narrative, but her seemingly endless torture needs a point. In the last two seasons, Sansa finally has agency over her own life, along with an important role as a leader in Westeros. In fact, she’s probably first in line to rule Winterfell supposing Jon is off to Dragonstone (or King’s Landing) after everything is said and done. If Sansa dies in the final season, all of her suffering will have been for nothing. The show will have put a teenager through five seasons of torture to demonstrate the world’s cruelty — something the series has never really done.
Chances of that Sansa Stark survives thanks to cosmic justice: high.
Over the course of Game of Thrones, no character has changed the way Tyrion has. He’s gone from a drunken scholar with no motivation, to the savior of King’s Landing, to a broken man pushed to the point of patricide. While Jon and Dany may be the heroes of Game of Thrones, Tyrion has spent much of the series as the main character. He’s connected everything, and in the case of the last two season, he’s the magnet that finally drew the story’s two halves together.
But as clever as he might be, his judgement failed him often in the series — always with catastrophic results. In the closing moments of season 7, we saw Tyrion gazing worriedly toward Jon and Dany’s room. Could Tyrion begin to doubt his own faith in Daenerys? Could his own uncertainty about a truly peaceful world drive a wedge between him, Dany, and Jon? While an act of true betrayal might be too direct for Tyrion, a moment of mercy for his brother or sister could turn his two new rulers against him. If that’s the case, it would be fitting that on his third trial for his life, he wouldn’t escape like before.
Update for episode 3: Tyrion has undergone some serious character rehabilitation in the last several episodes. It’s a lot of time to spend on a character who was going to die for his mistakes, so Tyrion’s survival chances have actually gone up quite a bit.
Chances Tyrion survives, at least the army of the dead: pretty high.
Cersei has very little left to live for — except her future child — and she seems primed to betray the rest of humanity. Cersei would rather bring the entire world crumbling down around her than lose again. On top of that, there’s Maggy’s prophecy, about a younger and more beautiful queen who will cast Cersei down and take all that she holds dear. The fate seems to dictate almost all that Cersei does, and may still have some bearing on the story once Dany arrives in King’s Landing. Watching Cersei rule a desolate and small section of Westeros like Pyke after Dany and Jon save the world would be a cheeky conclusion, but it doesn’t seem like she would let herself do that.
Chances Cersei goes down and tries to take everyone with her: high.
Jaime Lannister may be the only remaining character with a perfect fork in his journey ahead. He’s already made the choice between helping the living or helping his sister, but still must choose between Brienne and Cersei. If Jaime chooses Cersei in the end, he probably isn’t making it out alive. If he chooses Brienne — and she chooses him back, which isn’t a given — then he might be able to survive. There would be a poetic justice to Jaime marrying Brienne, as a trophy husband while she serves in the new King’s/Queen’s guard, though he seems more likely to side with family in the end.
Chances Jaime survives: moderately low.
Game of Thrones has a lot of opinions on redemption, namely that it can’t be gained through suffering, only earned through action. And even then, transgressions still have consequences. Theon is living proof of this philosophy. After being tortured for years following his betrayal of the Starks, he finally joined the right side, though he has yet to atone in his own mind. Finally making a good choice didn’t set Theon free.
Theon isn’t long for this world — and doesn’t want to be. If he’s lucky, he’ll probably go out in a final moment of quiet bravery, letting us know that he chose to do the right thing in the end, even if it doesn’t redeem him in his own mind.
Updated for episode 3: Theon has committed himself to standing guard for the one person the Night King wants to kill more than anyone else in Westeros: Bran Stark. In terms of character arcs, vowing to protect the child he once tried to execute is great and very satisfying. In terms of survival, it’s about the worst move he could have made.
Theon’s chances for survival: he’s still probably going to sacrifice himself.
Updated for Episode 3: Tormund got a big story, and one of his most ridiculous moments in the series. It was a great scene and probably Tormund’s peak.
The chances he dies in the battle: Pretty high. Still.
The Red Woman is one of the few characters in Game of Thrones with a self-assured sense of purpose. Regardless of whether the Lord of Light is real, Melisandre is going to deliver Westeros a savior in the form of Jon Snow, and then her time there will be finished.
Chances that Melisandre will transcend to the great beyond: very high.
Bran is already a little dead. He acknowledges this every time he reminds us he’s more Three-Eyed Raven now than he is Bran Stark. In a more meta sense, he’s become an object of the plot more than a character. He’ll probably stick around exactly as long as he’s needed, then he’ll die or simply fade into the forest so he too can grow into a Max Von Sydow tree. We also have it on pretty good authority that the Night King is after Bran specifically ever since he was marked, which doesn’t help his chances of survival.
Updated for Episode 3: We now know that the defenders of Winterfell are planning to use Bran as bait for the Night King. More importantly, we know that the Night King is most interested in killing Bran. That means that Bran’s chances aren’t great. Plus, there are plenty of thematic reasons for Bran to die too.
Chances Bran dies: still very high
It’s long been an open secret that Sam exists as a self-insert character for series author George R.R. Martin. He’s a nerd in a world that respects fighting more than writing, but that hasn’t stopped him from thriving in his own way. Because of that, it seems like there’s about an 80 percent chance he winds up writing something in-universe that parallels the entire Song of Ice and Fire series, and he can’t do that if he’s dead.
Chances Sam survives and writes books: almost definitely.
Missandei seems likely to survive, in part because she’s such an effective mourning conduit for both Grey Worm, giving us a look at the cost of the war against the dead on those who survived, but also possibly for Dany herself. It’s not a very generous existence if she survives only to grieve, but it wouldn’t be out of line with the kinds of survival the show has given us before, especially if the ending gets really bleak.
Updated for Episode 3: Planning for your future is almost always a risky thing to do before a battle and that puts Missandei in a very dangerous place. She’ll be in the crypts and if the crypts fall she probably won’t survive the battle.
Chances Messandei dies: slightly higher
Gilly and baby Sam
What — why? What purpose would this possibly serve? Don’t be mean, TV show.
Updated for Episode 3: Gilly is going to be in the crypts during the battle and while some characters might think that’s the safest place. I’m not so sure.
Chances of making it out of Winterfell: If something bad is going to happen to Gilly, this would certainly be the moment.
The continued existence of Jorah is as cruel of a fate as anything that could possibly befall him.
Updated for Episode 3: Jorah got a beautiful new sword in episode two, and that probably means he’s got an obligation to be in the thick of the fight. That’s not good news for Jorah.
Chances Jorahn defeats every White Walker: He should have plenty of chances to die a hero, and he’s probably going to make use of one of them.
Grey Worm had his moment last season. There likely won’t be a more perfect time for him to die, but that doesn’t necessarily make him safe, especially since he’s going to be leading the Unsullied in one fight or another.
Updated for Episode 3: Grey Worm and Missandei had a very nice scene about what they would do after the battle in season 8 episode 2. While those two living a happy life would be nice, it’s probably a good bet that one of them is dying. And Grey Worm is the one in the field.
Grey Worms chances: uh, not great.
Davos doesn’t deserve to die, but that probably won’t protect him. Despite all the time he spent serving Stannis — who murdered his own child for nothing — Davos has always tried to do the right thing. It’s a quality that leads everyone in the series to respect him, but also a quality that Game of Thrones has never rewarded in the long term. He’s lived a long life full of genuine honor and tragic circumstance. While it would be great to see him find a place as a trusted adviser to the king or queen, his story seems primed to have an ending before the series is over.
Chances Davos dies during one war or the other: moderate.
One can only hope that Bronn receives his castle when everything is said and done. It doesn’t seem like Bronn will die, because nothing is more in character for him than surviving the apocalypse.
Chances that Bronn somehow makes it out alive: high.
Varys has always been a mystery, and that won’t change this season. Even if he does appear to be in danger during the season 8 trailer, it would be pretty anticlimactic to see him taken down by a wight. The one remaining person who might want to kill him is Cersei, though as often as he’s outsmarted her in the past, the queen finally getting the better of him seems unlikely. It seems like no one will really have a reason to kill Varys, even if his place in a new world isn’t immediately obvious.
There is one outstanding question for Varys, however, and that’s Melisandre’s prophecy. Last season, Melisandre told Varys he was cursed to die in this strange land (meaning Westeros), just as she was. Game of Thrones has always been a series about upending prophecy, but it also has never dismissed it outright. Thanks to this cryptic warning, Varys’ fate remains somewhat up in the air.
Chances that Varys survives: somewhat likely.
There’s no way Euron lives. Partially because he’s on team “kill everyone,” but also because we don’t have the same amount of time with him as we do Cersei. When Cersei betrays the living, it will be a final acknowledgement that she feels she has nothing left to live for and her own self-interest will always be her only motivator. When Euron does it, we’re going to have to chalk it up to him being deranged, with no more interesting motivation to speak of.
Chances that Euron goes down making a phenomenally bad decision: high.
Yara’s not even on the Entertainment Weekly covers. Which isn’t a good sign.
Chances that Yara dies: high, and it probably happens early.
At first glance, Gendry might seem like the most killable character in Game of Thrones. But let’s take this from another angle. He was brought back into the show after four years of rowing; was it really just so he could die? (Probably.) On the off chance he isn’t killed, it’s possible that he and Arya could end up together, breaking the cycle of highborn marriages, which would be an important development in the new postwar world. The other point in Gendry’s favor is that he may be the only living blacksmith in Westeros, and the living are in desperate need of some new dragonglass weapons.
Updated for Episode 3: Gendry’s relationship with Arya has been the biggest reason for him to be in the show — other than being a pretty solid blacksmith — so far this season. Hopefully for Gendry that relationship will have the chance to grow into something more, but if he’s going to be in the battle his chances definitely aren’t great, but they’re at a little better than before.
Chances Gendry survives: still low, but slightly higher than before
Brienne of Tarth
The list of living characters that could actually kill Brienne is frighteningly short. Maybe a White Walker could do her in (but she has a Valyrian steel sword, so even that isn’t likely). Brienne’s future is difficult to foretell; there are two paths that seem so evident in front of her. On the one hand, sacrificing herself for Sansa would finally fulfill one of her knightly commitments, something she’s struggled to do for a while now. On the other, one of Brienne’s most prominent themes in the story is the idea that dying for someone is a lot less complicated than trying to live for what’s right and just. If that’s the theme that prevails, then a life in service of those that save Westeros from the dead is what would suit Brienne best.
Updated for Episode 3: Brienne had her highest moment of the show, in an episode named for her. Her knighting was the culmination of her story, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to die. It certainly seems more possible than before.
Chances Brienne dies: a little higher
There is a chance that Daario doesn’t even show up in this season, but let’s assume he’ll be there. Daario seems like a good candidate for cannon fodder. Anything else seems like a little too much screen time to devote to his plot, and throwing in a character that could complicate Jon and Dany’s romance is probably not going to happen.
Chances that Daario survives and makes it back to Essos: low.
I’m not completely convinced that Jaqen counts as alive, but “he” also didn’t die, so he’s on the list. Jaqen H’ghar was never really alive, or dead, or anyone, so there can really never be proof that he dies.
Chances that Jaqen H’ghar shows up as Syrio Forel: very low.
How did Beric even survive season 7? No character has cheated death more than Beric, but that means Game of Thrones’ final moment should finally do him in.
Updated for Episode 3: Beric’s still going to die.
Chances Beric survives: Did you read the above part?
Lyanna Mormont is possibly the least killable character in the series at this point. There are very few plausible reasons for her to be in real danger, and after an incredible two-season run her mere appearance on screen gains the show a few free points with fans.
Chances Lyanna lives and makes an inspiring speech: high.
The idea of Podrick committing a final act of heroism to save Brienne or Tyrion doesn’t seem out of the question. But if there’s any justice in the Game of Thrones world — and often there isn’t — he’ll end up alive and with a nice life.
Chances Podrick survives and settles down in a post-winter Westeros: moderately high.
Let the boy make pies.
Chances Hot Pie lives on to make pies: very high.
Look, we all hate Robin, but it’s really not his fault. With a mother like his, and Littlefinger constantly trying to manipulate him, what chance did he stand? Anyway, it is my sincere hope that he has gotten better since Petyr Baelish died. Either that, or that we never have to see Robin Arryn again.
Chance that Robin lands on his feet after all this: Sure, why not.
We’ll probably see Ellaria one more time — right before her death. The consequences of being on the outskirts of the main story.
Chances Ellaria dies: high.
The list of people standing between Qyburn and dying is astoundingly short — really, it’s just Cersei. Since that person’s temper turns on a dime, Qyburn’s probably not making it out of this season. Also, he’s an a-hole.
Chances Qyburn dies: high.
Poor Edd. He was Jon’s friend, and technically the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. But now that Jon has a family — and a girlfriend — and he’s technically conscripted the Night’s Watch to fight for the living, Edd doesn’t have much of anything. Sorry, Edd.
Chances Ed dies and no one grieves for long: high.
For the better part of a decade, dedicated Game of Thrones observers have been screaming about how Howland Reed knows stuff about Jon’s parents. Meera would be a perfect vehicle to relay such information to some of the show’s other characters. Unfortunately, it’s just as likely she just never shows up again.
Chances that Meera returns with helpful information then fades away again: moderately high.
It’s hard not to like the Hound. In Game of Thrones’ long history of complicating characters and playing with your assumptions, he’s always been a standout example of the show at its best. Sadly, his storyline also seems like the perfect place for tragedy. If he does end up fighting his mutant zombie brother — finally — it’s hard to imagine him coming out on top. After all, he is only human. At least he probably won’t die because he was gloating, like his brother’s last high-profile victim.
Chances that Cleganebowl ends badly for The Hound: high.
Technically, Gregor Clegane is already dead. I’m not even sure which side he would fight for if he heads north to face off against the Night King. But if a dead guy can die twice, then consider him dead.
Chances that Gregor betrays the living because he’s already mostly dead: possible.
Game of Thrones season 8 premieres April 14 on HBO.