We’re not far from the end, so our team explores who we’d like to see make it to the end.
As they say in Braavos, All Men Must Die. The Westerosi version of this is “Everyone Will Probably Die.” This includes men, women, children, giants, the undead, dragons, and even (sadly) a few direwolves. Before we begin our watch of the final 13 episodes of Game of Thrones, we invited members of our team to take stock of who’s left and who may make it all the way to the end. Which character, above all others, deserves to make it to the very end of this Song of Ice and Fire? And what does it mean to deserve to make it, anyway?
Their answers — some of which may surprise you — are below. Note that no one is stumping for Jon Snow to make it. Perhaps a brave soul will dip into the comments and make the case for The White Wolf.
Daenerys may be a conventional choice, and someone who would obviously seem safe from impending death, but no one is ever truly safe on Game of Thrones_. Not even the Mother of Dragons is completely invincible even though she is fireproof (according to the show). Since episode one we have seen her struggle, we have heard her desires, we have watched her fight. For someone so young. she has lived through so much; a forced marriage, an awful brother, constant assassination attempts. But she has pushed through it all and has learned to take on great responsibilities and stand up for what she believes. Daenerys often gets discredited for making rash decisions, and that may be true to an extent, but she is still learning. So far she has proved that she is willing to listen to counsel and she has tried to be a force for good. Her abilities and her potential are significant.
After years of gathering an army and alliances, it would be the worst to see everything turn into nothing. She deserves to survive and see this through. Feelings for Daenerys are very mixed amongst the GoT fan community, and even though not everyone can agree that she should rule the Seven Kingdoms, she should be able to at least survive until the end to make her claim and fight for what she has been waiting for her entire life. After all, she has been through and worked for, she deserves to live and fight the good fight. Even if she loses in the end, at least she had the chance. And even if she doesn’t ultimately become queen and ruler, then maybe by surviving the great war, she will have the opportunity to continue to grow in her leadership abilities and work for the betterment of Westeros in other ways. – Natalie Mokry
Tyrion was an easy character to crush on in the first season. Ned Stark and his ill-fated brood were righteous and the boring. The incestuous Lannister siblings were wickedly delicious and delightful, but as they grew into three dimensions over the course of the series, they lost the charm of rootable evil. As the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys was the mythic and obvious selection for ascension. You can’t argue with her narrative role. The Imp, however, is the underdog, and a truly relatable champion for a self-loathing wannabe-democratic audience. Trapped inside that outcast body, Tyrion found his superiority amongst his family, his peers, and his rivals (basically, everyone) via his sinister intelligence. Plus, that joy in twisting the plots of others. For his sins, he will never sit on the Iron Throne, but he will find his victory in aiding the mythic to her rightful seat. Remove Tyrion and you not only lose the most charismatic actor on television, but you’ll find yourself necessarily rushing towards the climax. Who can possibly move on the chessboard without his influence? Tyrion defined the morality of Game of Thrones, and his machinations will mark him as its ultimate player. – Brad Gullickson
Ser Davos Seaworth
If you don’t like the Onion Knight, then I don’t like you. Davos Seaworth grounds Game of Thrones with a (quite literally) salty earthiness in a world of dragons, ice zombies, and overblown egos. All Davos wants is some peace and quiet, and possibly for all the kids, he cares about to stop getting killed for other people’s wars. His suffering hits harder than any other character’s because his stakes are so low that we can hold onto them. He doesn’t want power or a throne or eternal life in a fire god’s paradise. He just wants to learn how to read and a better life for his family. He used to be a smuggler (aka pirate), became a knight, lost a king, and found another. Siding with Jon isn’t historically the best way to extend your lifespan, but the Starks have a bullheaded morality to them that fits right in with Davos’s blue collar logic. Without the steady hand of Davos, the show risks the possibility of getting caught up in its own heightened drama and if they kill him off, I’ll be the first to leave. – Jacob Oller
It would be all too easy to say Sansa is the most deserving to survive Game of Thrones. Look at the never-ending hell she has had to go through: Being engaged to the boy who ordered the murder of her father, being used as a bargaining chip to strengthen families, marrying into a family that is systematically killing her family, seen as a romantic proxy for your own mother in the eyes of an older man, and being sexually assaulted by your betrothed. There are plenty of hardships Sansa has had to face since first placing foot in King’s Landing. She will never again be that naive child who as aspirations of following in the footsteps of the Queen.
No, Sansa should survive the Game of Thrones because she is a fighter. Even though all those hardships have come her way, she has continued to survive. Perhaps it is due to her experiences, but she has experienced firsthand how to play the game. She has finally returned home to Winterfell where the Stark banner hangs high. Sansa has forgotten what joy truly is, except when she hears the screams of Ramsay in the night. It was the little reward she allowed herself after building her mental wall. Even though there are still people conspiring against her and her family, she has the foresight to see who is looking after her best interests. – Max Covill
All men must die, but maybe not the Red Woman. She’s made some questionable choices in the past, but haven’t we all? Killing Renly and Shireen are all things well worth moving past. She’s even remorseful about Shireen, an emotion HBO dramas are known for rewarding amply. But most importantly, her actions have always been selfless; she’s never believed herself destined for the Iron Throne and seems about done proselytizing for the Lord of Light. If she’s not the most beloved on the show, it’s only because her actions have always been a bit misguided, her powers put in the wrong directions. And those powers are quite considerable, resurrecting Jon Snow and all. If the drama of the last season is going to fall on the White Walkers hitting the Seven Kingdoms, Melisandre will prove essential, those hundreds of years of mystical know-how above par. She’s going to kick some ass. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting the Throne with her living hand helping them along. – Andrew Karpan
Varys is Westeros’ rags to riches success story — the Onion Knight’s got nothing on him. Sold, castrated, left to die, Varys had some tough breaks as a kid. He made it work, though, and clawed his way to the top completely on his own merits. And the top is where he’s stayed, even in exile. This is because Varys plays the long game. He plays it very well. He has his shit together and, unlike 95% of his peers, he isn’t self-serving. He does what he does for the good of the realm, riding the waves of weaker characters’ ambitions. He deserves to make it to the end, and he has the patience to get there. He waited years to get his hands on that boy-castrating sorcerer, and he’ll wait even longer to see the Seven Kingdoms unified. The Game of Thrones universe has never been known for fulfilling its characters’ literary arcs, but just this once, it would be nice to see Varys’ tenacity and skill pay off. And if the time comes and he decides it’s in the realm’s best interest to have him on the Iron Throne then I, for one, welcome our new bald overlord. – Liz Baessler
Gendry (as if any of you forgot) is the blacksmith dreamboat bastard of Robert Baratheon. That boat part is important. Last we saw him Gendry was traded off to Melisandre by the Brotherhood Without Banners only to be freed from Dragonstone by Ser Davos and sent back to King’s Landing in a dinky lil’ rowboat (despite protests of not being able to swim or knowing how to row a boat). This was our last visual on Gendry. Way the fuck back in season three. And as far as can be gleaned The Last Baratheon is, as actor Joe Dempsie tweeted in 2014, “still rowin’.”
During that time, Gendry’s political value has only increased, least of all with the obliteration of the legit Baratheon house and the auto-defenestration of Tommen. So maybe, hear me out, Gendry is playing the long game: camped out in his dingy with a mai tai prudently waiting for the kerfuffle on the mainland to blow over. Training Rocky Balboa-style, biding his time for the right moment to emerge victorious from the sea with an undeniably strong claim to the iron throne AND undeniably strong rowin’ muscles. Righteous lats he will presumably use to suplex pretenders to a kingdom that is rightfully his like a Westerosi Odysseus. Dan, Dave: if you bring Gendry back only to kill him I swear to every fucking god, old and new, I will renounce my fandom and hold you in contempt. Joke all you want about the shape he’s in after rowing for four seasons, but if Gendry strides triumphantly onto a beach and immediately gets incinerated by a dragon or arrow’d or some shit I don’t know if my heart will be able to take it. Gendry—stoic, cautious, long-suffering Gendry—deserves better. – Meg Shields
Don’t expect me to be reasonable about this. When it comes to deciding what it means to “deserve” to make it to the end, there’s no avoiding making an emotional decision. Which is why the great ginger-bearded one himself, Tormund Giantsbane, should be at the top of this list. He’s among the great survivors that Westeros has ever seen. He survived the army of the dead north of The Wall, was only barely defeated at the Battle of Castle Black, ascended to lead the Wildlings long enough to get them south before The Night King showed up, rescued countless souls from Hardhome, and not only survived, but slayed many a fool during the Battle of the Bastards. This man is a towering force of fearless glory. This is something you might expect would get him killed on a show like Game of Thrones — he’s often doing things for the right reasons, which is almost certainly a mark of doom. But I’m ready for this too to be subverted by the show. Let Tormund survive until spring. He’s earned the right to shed his Wildling furs and live out his days ruling some of the lands he’s about to help protect. Perhaps even a tall blonde will survive with him… – Neil Miller
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne is the Captain America of Westeros, a shining beacon of honor, loyalty, and badassery. She’s simultaneously like a fluffy kitten and ferocious grizzly bear—speaking of which, remember that time she held her own against an angry bear wearing a dress, with only a wooden sword to defend herself? Yeah. Brienne embodies the values of a true knight in shining armor—unlike pretty much every single “real” knight in Westeros. Last seen rowing away from Riverrun with everybody’s favorite squire and whorehouse legend, Podrick Payne, Brienne’s journey this season will undoubtedly begin back in Winterfell, with her primary allegiance belonging to Sansa Stark.
Now, detouring to Sansa for a moment, the end of last season made it clear that years of extended exposure to Petyr Baelish, one of the most cunning and unscrupulous minds in Westeros, has definitely left its mark. What isn’t clear is whether or not this will result in Sansa shifting to full-on apprentice mode or arranging for someone to stab him in his cold, lizard heart because she’s put up with his creepy old man gaze for six seasons now, is mad as hell, and is not going to take it anymore. Regardless, she’s probably going to be calling a lot on the one trustworthy person that owes primary allegiance to her, personally, and not Jon Snow. Unfortunately, while Brienne is many things, cunning isn’t one of them. And when you drop someone not capable of acting snake-like into a pit full of snakes, they tend to get bitten, which, in this case, is simply not acceptable.
While the show has made it perfectly clear that it does not care about what people “deserve” or the whole “happy ending” thing, one would imagine that, short of the series ending with the Night King walking over a freezing pile of literally everyone’s corpses to ascend the Iron Throne, at least some people have to make it out of the show alive with the potential to find happiness, and Brienne is a prime candidate for this enviable position. She’s got pretty solid allies in both Lannister and Stark camps, and Daenerys shouldn’t have any real reason to take issue with her, as she’s not looking for any power besides the freedom to go about her own damn (honorable) business.
Besides, the show has already set up so many fantastic possibilities for Brienne’s happy ending. She could take inspiration from the Wildlings, hogtie Jaime Lannister, sling him over the back of a horse, and ride off into the sunset far away from Cersei’s terrible influence. She could grow to reciprocate Tormund’s affections and go live among Wildlings once things settle down again because their table manners might be non-existent but at least they’re down with the fact that women can be warriors as fearsome as any man. Or she could ride off into the sunset by herself because she is Brienne of fucking Tarth. She could start a school to train little girls how to be knights; Arya could be the fencing tutor and Lyanna Mormont could teach leadership and oratory skills. The possibilities are endless.
But basically: if D&D kill Brienne I will smash stuff. Probably my keyboard in my furious haste to write the most strongly worded of letters. But if D&D kill Brienne and _Cersei_ is responsible, I will overwrite the laws of the Universe, step into my television, pull a Molly Weasley and kill that bitch myself. – Ciara Wardlow