If you’ve ever complained that Game of Thrones has too many characters, next Sunday’s episode should do you right. With the army of the dead reaching the Northern capital, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” spent 58 minutes erecting a gigantic neon sign over the Winterfell castle that shouted, “MANY OF THESE CHARACTERS ARE GOING TO DIE.” The show has spent eight seasons amassing every sort of supporting character you can think of, and now it’s going to use them as meatshields for the leads, sending them out in a blaze of glory so all our main characters can enjoy the dream of spring.
Or, that’s what seems likely to happen in “The Battle of Winterfell.” But who knows? Even at this late date, Thrones has proven that it can still surprise us. Ahead of the upcoming battle, reportedly the largest the show has ever filmed, we’ve taken the liberty of ranking the 28 named characters in and around Winterfell, in order of least to most likely to bite it this Sunday.
Tier III: The Main Characters (Probably) Won’t Die
28. Samwell Tarly
An unwritten rule of fantasy narratives states that someone has to stick around to tell the story afterwards. For the past few years, GOT has been hinting that person will be Sam, who seems the clearest author avatar for George R.R. Martin. Though he may lack the traps and delts necessary to wield his family’s ancestral sword, as Sam reminded Dolorous Edd, no matter what happens in the battle he will always be the first Thrones character to kill a White Walker.
27. Sansa Stark
Another way of looking at the question of who’s gonna die is to look at who’s important for endgame. Sansa, the only character on the show who cares about grain supplies, seems ideally suited to picking up the pieces after the titular contest of dominions is over, which means she and her domme harness are probably safe.
26. Jon Snow
He has a track record for useless, suicidal charges in the height of battle, it’s true. But the show seems to be bending over backwards to make the point that he’s the one claimant to the Iron Throne with the real mettle of a leader. I’m not saying he won’t die before the show ends, but probably not in this episode.
25. Daenerys Targaryen
Similarly, I can’t envision an endgame that doesn’t include Daenerys. The show has been hammering home the contrast between Dany and Jon vis-à-vis sacrifice, and I could see her going out in a blaze of glory to prove she’s got the true steel. But again, not in the third episode of a six-episode season.
24. Tyrion Lannister
The sole optimist in Winterfell! And with good reason: It feels like the Lannister siblings will need to have some sort of joint reckoning before the series ends, which would seem to put the kibosh on any icy death for Ty Lion Sign. But Tyrion’s story line has been kind of wonky the past few seasons, so I feel dicier about making any concrete predictions for him.
23. Jaime Lannister
Everyone assumes that Jaime will ultimately be the one to kill Cersei, and they’re almost certainly right! In episode two, Bran also pointed to the middle Lannister still having some role to play. However, I will remind you that “dying in battle to save Brienne” is still technically a role.
22. Arya Stark
George R.R. Martin did promise his wife that nothing bad would happen to Arya, but as far as I know, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made no such assurance to the former Parris McBride. I think she’s probably fine. She’s probably fine. She’s … probably fine?
21. Bran Stark
His “I’ll just sit in the godswood and wait for the Night King” plan seems slightly suspect to me, but I’m no omniscient representative for a tree-based network of collective cultural memory, so what do I know? I don’t think the show will kill him off, but he definitely feels a touch less safe than the other Starks. Well, maybe not all the other Starks.
20. The Night King
I anticipate that Game of Thrones will not kill off its supreme antagonist in the fourth-to-last episode of the series. But I’ve been wrong before!
Tier II: *Looks Nervously at How Many Other Characters Fill the Same Role*
19. Alys Karstark
We’ve passed the characters with plot armor, now we’re getting into the ones who actually have a solid chance of kicking the bucket. Young Lady Karstark and Lord Umber had been linked since their introductions, and somewhat paradoxically, the latter getting turned into Westeros’s creepiest piece of folk art may bode well for the former: A similar fate for Alys might feel like diminishing returns.
Jon’s pet dog made a conspicuous reappearance in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” just in time to do his part. As as we saw in “The Door,” direwolves sometimes have a “ruff” time of it against wights — but on the plus side, you can bet there’s gonna be a whole lot of bones around.
17. Lyanna Mormont
In actual medieval history, things did not always end great for charismatic teenage girls leading regional forces into battle against invaders from the north, but I suspect even Benioff and Weiss might not have the chutzpah to kill off a character they turned into a fan favorite.
I suppose it’s possible that the writers brought Gendry back just so he could have sex with Arya and then die immediately afterward, but it feels like they have a little something more in store. Have you heard that he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard?
15. Davos Seaworth
One issue the show has been running into lately: There are a lot of adviser characters, and only a few people for them to be advising, so they just kind of sit around and grumble about how their advice isn’t being followed. I expect the ranks of the “wise counselor” figures to thin a bit in the upcoming battle. Davos seems safer than most, but you gotta figure his strange luck could run out eventually.
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” spent a lot of time telling us how the crypts are the safest part of Winterfell, which means the crypts are obviously not going to be the safest part of Winterfell. I don’t know if the fan theory about generations of dead Starks turning into wights will hold, but at the very least, things will get mighty spooky down there. Watch out, Gilly!
13. Tormund Giantsbane
Game of Thrones likes to send beloved characters out on a high note, and you don’t get much higher than Tormund’s late-night bull session.
12. Maester Wolkan
Winterfell’s maester seems like a classic “uh-oh, this is getting serious!” minor-character death.
11. Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
Similarly to the adviser issue, how many no-nonsense killers hoping to atone for a lifetime of bad deeds are currently wandering around Winterfell? Six? Seven? The Hound doesn’t seem like a guy who will have a ton to do in whatever world follows this battle, but the lingering possibility of Cleganebowl gives him a lifeline his fellow gruff, bearded fellows don’t.
If characters in a war start talking about all the things they’re going to do after the big battle ends, they’re probably not going to survive that battle. I’m not alone in suggesting that at least one of Grey Worm and Missandei will probably die, though since she’s not on the front lines, her death feels slightly less inevitable than his.
Consider that Varys is another adviser who hasn’t had much to do these past few seasons, add in the fact that we’ve seen him looking “vary” worried in the Winterfell crypt, and then remember that Melisandre promised that he would die in Westeros. Him surviving would be a very “unique” situation.
8. Yohn Royce
Because someone has to command the Vale troops. I don’t think Yohn has gotten any actual lines this season, and his best chance of surviving will probably be the writers forgetting all about him. (Again.)
Tier I: Call Your Agent
7. Brienne of Tarth
It pains me to write this one, but Brienne’s arc got one hell of a culmination on Sunday, and we know she’ll be commanding the left flank once battle begins. Oh, and the first time we saw a White Walker, they were attacking the flanks. I’m hoping against hope Brienne survives and gets to enjoy a long and happy life on the Sapphire Isle, but I wouldn’t put money on it.
6. Jorah Mormont
Similarly, Jorah finally got the redemption he was seeking when Sam gifted him with a Valyrian steel sword to replace the one he lost in disgrace. The only question: Will he get one last “Khaleesi” before he croaks?
5. Theon Greyjoy
Throughout the series, the Ironborn have proven they’re great at sneaking into places and killing everyone before anyone can sound an alarm. I don’t think, though, that necessarily makes them the obvious choice to be the handpicked bodyguards for a teenage boy who acts as a homing beacon for a spikey-headed ice-demon. Consider Theon’s placement on this list my official review of this plan.
4. Beric Dondarrion
The mission north of the Wall last season tipped Thrones’ hands regarding death: They’re going to kill redshirts first, and only when those poor souls are gone will they start killing named characters, starting with the least important first. That Beric didn’t die on that mission suggested the writers had something else in store for him — dying here!
3. Eddison ‘Dolorous Edd’ Tollett
Edd is the head of an organization that no longer exists, which is exactly the kind of bitter irony I suspect he would love. His cloak may be black, but his shirt? It’s red, baby.
2. Podrick Payne
If a minor character reveals a previously unknown singing voice by crooning a soulful ballad ahead of a crucial moment, does that make him more likely to die? Lord of the Rings says no, Battlestar Galactica says yes. In this case, I’m guessing Pod’s song will be his swan song.
1. Grey Worm
Let’s be real: Grey Worm ticks nearly every button on the “this character will die” checklist. A minor character who will be charging on the battlefield against the White Walkers? Known and beloved by fans, but no longer essential to the show’s central plot? Risking his life to protect a bunch of people who seem very itchy to move to the suburbs? And most important of all: suddenly talking about his plans to whisk his lover away after this whole war thing is over? Yeah, him surviving this battle would be the most shocking Game of Thrones event since the Red Wedding.