Jaime and Bronn survived a dragon attack; almost everyone survived the excursion beyond the Wall. Game of Thrones used to be brutally efficient in dispensing with main characters, but Season 7 has been defined by the shedding of minor characters and unbelievable escapes from certain death by main characters. There’s still time for that to change, however. In the season finale on Sunday, almost all of the show’s main characters will come together—and surely, they all won’t come out of the meeting alive. Who’s gonna go? The Ringer staff made their best guesses.
Mallory Rubin: Sure, the King’s Landing kegger seems likely to generate some carnage, but my top pick in the season-finale Mortality Pool is far too busy creepily leaning against walls in Winterfell to take a trip down south.
I’m not the only one pointing my finger toward Littlefinger: Petyr’s death feels like such a foregone conclusion that a large portion of the internet thinks he’s already dead, another skin in the face satchel that Arya hides worse than your brother’s Playboy mag. But I refuse to believe this, both because it would be a lazy out after flubbing Arya’s Season 7 arc, and because robbing us of the chance to witness Littlefinger’s death would be a more heinous crime than calling Field of Fire 2.0 the “Loot Train Attack.” Littlefinger isn’t the Blackfish, or even Stannis: He’s too central to the story to die offscreen. We need the release of watching the master puppeteer realize, in a burst of wrenching clarity, that he’s botched his final attempted manipulation; we need the catharsis of seeing Valyrian steel cut through his flesh.
Because make no mistake: The catspaw dagger must be the murder weapon. Baelish gifted—[extremely Jason Concepcion–as-Littlefinger voice: “I brought you … a gift!”]—Bran the priceless instrument in a transparent ploy to win the boy’s allegiance, but he miscalculated sincerely: Bran armed Arya shortly thereafter, and he did so with a real I-know-what-you’re-going-to-use-that-blade-for-because-I’m-the–Three-Eyed Raven–now-pass-the-peace-pipe vibe. Bran can see across time and space; he knows that Littlefinger is a threat to his sisters, working actively to drive them apart. And he knows, presumably, that those sisters will ultimately overcome their distrust and band together to knock this mockingbird out of their nest.
“Everyone who knew his face is dead,” Sansa said earlier this season when commenting on the disappointing likeness of her father’s tomb. “We're not,” Arya replied. They’re still not. They’re alive, and they’re together, and they’re capable of being the change that they want to see. One of the lone sights or sounds from the preseason trailers that we’ve yet to see or hear in the season is Sansa’s voice-over: “When the snows fall, and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Those are Ned’s words from the books, and it’s hard to think of a more fitting conclusion to the Season 7 Winterfell plot than Sansa reciting them to her sister as Arya agrees to kill Littlefinger … or to Littlefinger as the former brothel keep realizes that he’s never going to see Sansa’s hair—“memorable shade”—again.
I might be wrong, especially in a season in which Jaime survived a dragon attack and practically half the freaking cast survived the Night King’s long-toss session. But—“Petyr, please!”—I hope not.
Andrew Gruttadaro: There haven’t been many hints that the progressive medicine man turned evil associate is on the chopping block, but he’s in a dangerous sweet spot heading into the season finale—that section of characters who are impactful but not necessarily important. (Others in that section include the Hound, Bronn, and Beric Dondarrion.)
Qyburn has been a man of impressive faculty. He wasn’t the brains behind the attack on the Great Sept in Season 6, but he was the one who figured out how to make it go “boom.” He also turned a dying man into a half-alive monster; he reverse engineered the poison used to kill Myrcella so that Cersei could use it on Tyene; HE MADE THE BIG CROSSBOW. But it’s possible that Qyburn hitched his wagon to the wrong team—not just the Lannisters, but specifically Cersei. Whatever sort of sabotage she’s planning for the summit in King’s Landing, there’s almost no way that it goes off without any issues, and while Cersei herself may escape any blowback, Qyburn could be the one who goes down for her sins. There are many candidates for who might be the one to swing the sword—Jon Snow, Brienne of Tarth, Daenerys, the Hound—but don’t rule out the other Lannister, Ser Jaime. Qyburn and Cersei are keeping something from him—also, we’re surely not done talking about this “pregnancy”—and when he finds out what it is, he’s more likely to kill his lover-sister’s weirdo assistant than the woman herself.
Kate Knibbs: Bronn has been witty, mercenary comic relief since Season 1, and a faithless but entertaining ally of both Jaime and Tyrion. He’s representative of the bond that still exists between the two brothers, which is why he set up the meeting between them this season. And that’s also why Cersei will not let him live.
My vision: At the meeting in King's Landing, Cersei will ask Team Targaryen to demonstrate the threat of the White Walkers. She’ll make Bronn fight the wight as punishment for arranging the meeting. As wights are stupid and fairly easy to kill, he’ll beat it. And then she’ll have the Mountain kill him anyway, just to remind Jaime and Tyrion who is in charge.
Ben Lindbergh: Of all the characters still left on the board, Beric Dondarrion is the one with the worst survival skills. Dondarrion has demonstrated a strong aptitude for dying, having already done so six times. Thanks to Thoros of Myr, Beric respawned after each violent end, but without that drunken defibrillator by his side, Beric can’t keep pressing “continue.” As the Hound observed in Episode 6, Beric’s latest life is his last.
In the books Beric is technically not alive, but on TV, he still seems to have a heartbeat, if not the same face with which he started the series. Beric could cling to existence until Season 8—he and Jon just bonded, he still hasn’t settled his debt to the Lord of Light, and he claimed that he would meet the Hound again after the two went their separate ways last Sunday—but as he stated last episode, death always wins. Here’s hoping he outlasts his original target, Gregor Clegane, and that he gets to roast some s’mores on his sword before he goes out blade blazing.
Zach Kram: Here's a sampling of quotes characters have issued about the Wall this season:
Sansa: “We still have a wall between us and the Night King.”
Archmaester Ebrose: “The Wall has stood through it all.”
Varys: “The Wall has kept them out for thousands of years.”
And here’s a quote Jon Snow issued to Edd last season, when he left Castle Black in the latter’s command: “Don’t knock it down while I’m gone.”
These lines overflow with foreshadowing like wights through a snowy ravine. Chekhov would say that a writer doesn’t build a 300-mile-wide, 700-foot-tall, magical wall 8,000 years before Season 1 unless he plans to knock it down by the end of Season 7, and now that the Night King possesses a dragon, he has the tool necessary to fulfill that promise—either by flying over the Wall, thereby snapping its magical wards and causing it to crumble, or by melting it to the ground with fire.
Danny Heifetz: #CleganeBowl is happening. We were promised “Fire and Blood” this season, and the Hound is going to deliver on both counts. The characters that have survived this far into the show have a greater purpose in the wars to come, but as Jon said in the trailer for this week, those wars are now here. The Hound is terrified by fire, and yet he’s been called upon by the Lord of Light, an extremely on-the-nose fear-versus-faith trope. Tormund mentioned the Hound’s burned face once again this week, a casual clue that we’re going to hit pay dirt on that story this week. The Hound has conquered his fears before—his trial by combat against Beric is a forgotten WTF moment of Season 3—and standing up to his brother at the beginning of the show (and two Mountain actors ago) feels like the beginning of a redemption story that will soon come full circle. We’re going to see the Clegane brothers fight Sunday, and the outcome will hint at what moral direction the show will turn toward in its final season.
The Mountain has been the most fear-inducing force in a show that includes a Zombie King. He represents the merciless, banal brutality of the world and the physical embodiment of Cersei’s axiom that “Power is Power.” The Mountain is the way the world is, and the Hound represents the way things could be, as a character redeemed by reconciling with his past. If Game of Thrones is going to have a happy ending (not a guarantee!) Sandor, and everything he stands for, is going to win the Clash of the Cleganes—or at least sacrifice himself in the battle to win the war.
Michael Baumann: And not in the sense that a man has no name, either. Nobody you care about is going to die in this episode. Back in the good ol’ days, a meeting between implacable enemies would end in a smoke baby assassination, or an act of mass murder that so jarred the viewing public it’d put corporate America out of commission until noon Tuesday. No longer. Now that George R.R. Martin has given up writing to focus on a second career as a guy who wears hats, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are writing a show that, while ostensibly about total war and an existential threat to humanity’s survival, refuses to kill anyone whose death might make the internet sad.
[Grabs microphone and faces Benioff and Weiss in front of cheering SummerSlam audience]
Y’all ain’t got the cojones to kill off a major character. George would’ve had Arya cut Sansa’s throat. George would’ve had Cersei order the Mountain to eviscerate Tyrion, flag of truce be damned. I didn’t sign up to get weepy when an animal dies. I didn’t sign up for a slow-burn treatise on why it’s OK for you and your aunt to have sex. Give me more than this Star Trek: The Next Generation–level Literally Everyone Dies, Unless You’re Named in the Opening Credits stuff. I dare you, D&D: Give us a death worth talking about all winter. I bet you won’t.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.