11:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': Who Will Die in the Final Season?
First: despite appearances to the contrary, the Westeros architect isn't such a bloodthirsty fellow — at least not compared to David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the Game of Thrones showrunners, who have presided over the televised Red Wedding, the temporary death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the execution of Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and the time-travel terminator of Hodor (Kristian Nairn), among many other examples. As Martin explains: "I'll point out that David and Dan killed many more than I did. I can name 20 characters who are dead on the show but are alive in the books. Whether they will die in the books or not? Who knows."
Second: Martin's biggest acts of brutality have ancient roots. The award-winning author first published A Game of Thrones in 1996 and has released four additional novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series since then, with two more planned installments. (There's no publication date yet for the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, but Martin insists he's still "deep in writing the books.") According to Martin, the story's biggest deaths were planned in the earliest days of the writing process, with some wiggle room left for the fates of ancillary characters.
"With the major characters, I have had the beats of this planned out since 1994 or 1995," says Martin. "Sometimes, the minor characters, you're writing a scene about a viewpoint character and then you need someone for him or her to play off of. You add a new character. Sometimes that character comes alive in a way I hadn't planned. But there he is, in that scene, and he moves in a new direction. That's the whole gardener approach. The major characters, though, I know the major strokes. Not with some of the people who have barged in afterward."
Now, years and years after Martin first put pen to paper and brought Westeros to life, HBO's adaptation prepares to close the book forever — at least on Game of Thrones proper; there are five successor shows in varying stages of development, including a pilot from Martin and Jane Goldman. Still, live or die, we are about to see the final notes for Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and the rest. Who will survive? Who won't make it out alive? First, it's worth surveying some of the biggest fatalities of the series to unify our thoughts on exactly how death plays out in the world of Westeros. There are six tenets worth paying attention to:
1. Bad Things Happen to Bad People
As evidenced by the demise of Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd), the first main character to depart Game of Thrones. A pitiful man, Viserys died a pitiful death, his head covered in a vat of molten gold. It was a gruesome death, it was a major death, and it proved that Thrones was more than willing to part ways with its most vivid villains.
2. Bad Things Happen to Good People
Three episodes after Visery's death, the other shoe dropped: Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) was publicly beheaded in the first season's penultimate episode. Not only did Ned's death signal the end of the most recognizable main character as early as the first season, it happened with one episode still on the clock. If anyone felt safe about any character moving forward, it was at their own peril.
3. Really Bad Things Happen to Really Good People
If Ned's death wasn't shocking enough on its own, along came the Red Wedding, in which Robb (Richard Madden), the person who picked up Lord Eddard's story weight, was viciously killed alongside his loved ones and loyal soldiers. It was an instantly iconic scene the moment it landed on television, evoking similar reactions to the stories about people who encountered the barbaric deaths in Martin's A Storm of Swords; readers threw their books across rooms and into walls, among other expressions of outrage. The lesson from this one: not only do good characters meet awful ends, some of them meet unspeakably awful ends. With only six episodes remaining, viewers are advised to brace themselves for deaths that could conceivably top the Red Wedding.
4. Really Bad Things Happen to Really Bad People
A year or so after the Red Wedding aired, Game of Thrones presented a different yet still deadly moment of matrimony: the death of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in "The Lion and the Rose," fatally poisoned as the result of a long-simmering conspiracy plot. It's as they say in the Dothraki community: "Revenge is a dish best served purple." (Not an actual Dothraki proverb.) Horrific acts of violence aren't the sole provenance of heroes, as it turns out — it's just that the really barbaric bad-guy deaths often take a long while to come about. See also: Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), eaten alive by his own flesh-hungry dogs.
5. Anyone Can Be Killed
One word: Hodor. Several more words: Game of Thrones does not care who you are. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're eligible to meet the Stranger. Kristian Nairn's horrible departure is perhaps the best example of Thrones' ruthlessness toward its cast. His season six death was like if Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse chose to kill off Hurley on Lost — truly unimaginable. We know better now. Anyone walking into the final season feeling well and fully confident about any character is bound to meet heartbreak before this story ends.
6. Anyone Can Be Resurrected
Finally, it's worth noting that Game of Thrones does not always view death as a permanent state of existence. Two characters have died and come back to life: Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), multiple times in the case of the Lightning Lord. Don't expect to see this trick play out too many times in the final season, though I do think we'll see at least one more resurrection before all is said and done. There's also the much more horrific way of coming back from the dead: resurrection at the hands of the Night King. See: Viserion, newest member of the Army of the Dead. We will very likely see multiple beloved characters follow the ice dragon's lead in the final season; steel your stomachs accordingly.
So, with all of those rules in place, who do we think will die in the final season of Game of Thrones? We've already sketched out the scenarios in several of our Final Path columns, so forgive the lack of description here — all the same, here's who we think won't make it, in no particular order:
Other deaths we see in the fires (albeit ones we have not elaborated on in their own Final Path columns) include Maester Qyburn, the Mountain, Euron Greyjoy, Podrick Payne, Missandei and Grey Worm.
Among the safest characters in our book:
Characters we think will survive, but honestly, it could break either way:
There you have it! Official predictions, locked and loaded. Use them for your Game of Thrones death drafts as you see fit. Frankly, already wanting to change some of these, but time's running out to make final calls. The ink must dry, as the Three-Eyed Raven would say — and as they say elsewhere in the world of ice and fire, "all men must die." In the end, not all will die, but some of them will, at least. May their watches end the way George R.R. Martin intended…or close enough, at least.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for full coverage. The final season premiere airs April 14.