And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
The seventh season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones airs this Sunday. A mere seven episodes long, this latest season is also the first one that's fully unmoored from George R.R. Martin’s books, having left the printed version of “A Song of Ice and Fire” in the dust some time last year. The rapid pace has made for lots of memorable moments, as well as highlighting some serious structural flaws. For example: distance now has no meaning. Between Euron Greyjoy's Portal-powered fleet, Daenerys Targaryen swooping to the rescue with Mach 2 capable dragons and the Lannister army marching from the Arbor to King's Landing in approximately ten hours, you can make some serious science-based complaints.
Provided you're willing to ignore dragons, zombies, and shadow demon babies, that is.
As we hurtle towards what will likely be a frustrating finish, we need to keep focused on the important questions. Not the least of which: predicting which character is going to make it to Season 8. Needless to say, tons of spoilers follow.
While we don't know who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne, who will lose their face and who will end up a zombie, it’s pretty clear who isn’t dying any time soon: Jon Snow. Brought back to life by Melisandre after getting Ides of March’d by his so-called “brothers” of the Night’s Watch, the newly anointed King in the North was seemingly done for last week after sinking into the icy depths beyond the Wall. Fortunately, armor and soaked-through furs apparently don’t weigh as much in Westeros as they do here (science-based complaint!), and he’s able to drag himself to safety (contrast with Jaime, who needed Bronn’s assistance to escape a watery grave waaay back in episode 5).
His triumph appeared to be short-lived; waterlogged, suffering (probably) from hypothermia, and surrounded by the army of the dead, Jon was certainly done for (again). But then: a wild Benjen appears! Jon was saved from certain death twice in ten minutes, spared for an emotional reunion with (most likely) his aunt, Daenerys. Between his inability to stay dead and Drogon the dragon’s apparent affection for him (which, along with Gilly's throwaway line about Rhaegar's remarriage is our best evidence of R+L=J), Jon’s a safe bet for Season 8.
Odds of survival: what’s greater than 100 percent?
Probable aunt Daenerys is also in for the long haul, despite her insistence on riding unshielded into battle on a giant fire lizard and lingering on the ground while undead Rafer Johnson readies his +5 javelin of dragon slaying. You can’t rule out a cliffhanger ending Sunday that hints at her demise (especially if zombie Viserion shows up), but don’t be fooled. Dany will be here to the bitter end.
Odds of survival: 100 percent
Further south, but still in the North, the fates of the Stark sisters are slightly less clear. Arya is quickly devolving from one of the show’s most intriguing characters to one of its most annoying. For someone who made their way into the Twins, murdered Walder Frey and single-handedly eliminated an entire House, she’s remarkably unable to smell a rat, especially when a) the rodent in question is Littlefinger, the least-trusted non-Lannister in the world, and b) he's set her against one of her only surviving siblings. Maybe by skipping out early on Faceless Man training she missed that critical seminar about getting played.
Odds of survival: 80 percent
Sansa is the safer Stark, even if the climax to her arc was setting the dogs on Ramsay Bolton. She’s holding the North together in Jon’s absence, and – Lyanna Mormont’s disapproving grimace notwithstanding – would anyone really believe she had a chance at stopping Ned’s beheading? Her failure to see Littlefinger’s, uh, fingers on this little subterfuge is actually worse than Arya’s, because she’s been with the guy for years now and has experienced his scumbaggery firsthand.
Odds of survival: 90 percent
As for Littlefinger, why is he still around? He’s not going to convince Sansa to betray Jon, so his only hope is to have Arya kill her…but to what end? Sure, the Knights of the Vale are nominally under his command, but Yohn Royce would be more than happy if he took a dirt nap, freeing Robyn Arryn from his influence. Besides, the whole ham-handed Arya vs. Sansa thing is designed to end with Littlefinger lying in a pool of blood. The only question is if it happens Sunday or next year.
Odds of survival: 10 percent
And then there’s Bran. I see two things left for the new Three-Eyed Raven to do: confirm R+L=J, which he could’ve done at any time since returning to Winterfell, and exposing Littlefinger as the guy who set Ned up. The fact he tipped his hand on that last one makes me a little worried his confirmation of the former will be a thing he does while dying in Jon’s arms. If so, that wouldn’t happen until next season. There's another theory about Bran, however, that ups his chances.
Odds of survival: 95 percent
Back in Kings Landing, things get a little dicier. Previews for the finale show a truce-ish meeting where Jon will presumably make his plea to Cersei to confront the Night King. Clearly at some point, the two-front war has to be set aside to deal with the white walkers, but Cersei frankly doesn’t give a shit. She’s going to have Tyrion – who killed her father – Daenerys, and Jon Snow in one place (and we know how fond of offing Starks the Lannisters are). Will she merely demand Tyrion in exchange for a truce? Or will she take more drastic action?
Indulge me for a second. Assuming Daenerys isn’t allowed to bring her dragons (to the “Dragonpit,” how ironical), I think Cersei takes a shot at both her and Jon. This will set off a chain of events that sees Jaime intervene with extreme prejudice (the show hasn't brought up the valonquar, but we all know where this is going), and forces … wait for it, Brienne, Tormund Giantsbane, Beric Dondarrion and the Hound to team up and fight the Mountain. That’s right: it’s "CleganeBowl feat. Brienne the Beauty with special guests The Remnants of the Brotherhood." Beric is probably doomed, given that it was *specifically stated* Thoros is no longer around to resurrect him, while Tormund looks a little safer (though he really should have died last episode).
And sorry kids, you’re never going to see him and Brienne hook up. Let’s break it down…
Odds of survival:
Cersei: 10 percent
Jaime: 50 percent
Tyrion: 75 percent
The Mountain: 0 percent
Brienne: 80 percent
The Hound: 35 percent
Beric: 5 percent
Tormund: 40 percent
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Finally, we have the Greyjoys. Euron and his fleet are most likely docked at King’s Landing, following their record-setting voyage around the southern reach of Westeros to Casterly Rock and back again, with Yara still presumably a prisoner. Is this the episode where Theon finally (metaphorically) grows a pair, avenging several seasons’ worth of indignities and cowardice by killing his hated uncle? Nothing about his behavior indicates this is in the offing, which is probably why my wife is right and Sunday night is when he totally redeems himself.
Odds of survival:
Euron: 5 percent
Theon: 10 percent
Yara: 75 percent
As I said, no one really knows how the final episodes of the series will match up with the books. Martin still has two more to write, and in that world, Jon is still dead, Stannis (and Shireen) Baratheon are still alive, Arya is still an apprentice to the Faceless Men and Daenerys is still fighting the slavers in Essos. The author reportedly has told GoT show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss broadly how the story ends, but the fact that TV audiences have (mercifully) been spared “Young Griff,” the extended misery of Slaver’s Bay (it took even longer in the books, believe it or not) and Doran Martell’s elaborate scheming means (mostly) anything goes.
Valar morghulis, bitches.