Let’s dive right into the death this week. The machinations by which Sansa and Arya ensnared Littlefinger in his own web of mistrust still baffle, even in retrospect, but the end result is the same: One of Game of Thrones’ longest-tenured villains is the last point-scorer in Season 7’s Mortality Pool.
And Now His Watch Has Ended
Petyr Baelish could have been a democratic champion. As the rare Thrones player not born into nobility—he’s tied with Varys for most episode appearances by someone who isn’t a member of a respected house—his could have been a righteous underdog story, with all the circumstances from which traditional hero epics originate.
To an extent, he succeeded, moving up the ladder at an incredible pace. The man known as Littlefinger rose from a holding so tiny that it hasn’t a name or maester, where he was just a second-generation landed man, to become Master of Coin in King’s Landing and later Lord of Harrenhal, Lord Paramount of the Trident, and Lord Protector of the Eyrie and the Vale of Arryn.
But Baelish never dabbled with notions of heroism. He was a richly complex man, sure, and a fun source of mockery as—especially in later seasons—he sighed longing sighs and stared longing stares, but Littlefinger was an uncompromising villain from the start, trying not to spread the means of upward social mobility to the masses but rather to seize power for himself, and himself alone. Even more than his famous ladder aphorism, his personal philosophy was best summarized, aptly enough, by longtime rival Varys, who told Melisandre earlier this season, “Give us common folk one taste of power, we’re like the lion who tasted man. Nothing is ever so sweet again.”
Littlefinger played a part in orchestrating the deaths of one king and two hands without getting his own hands dirty; he gave one of Thrones’ greatest speeches (“Chaos is a ladder”) and one of its weirdest (“Fight every battle, everywhere, always—in your mind”); he adopted as many in-the-neighborhood-of-British accents as Arya did faces.
And then he died, slashed in the throat by command of a noble sitting at a high table—just like his beloved Cat four seasons ago.
The Hall of Faces
Nearly two-thirds of Mortality Pool players foresaw the one death this week, as Lord Baelish rightfully was the most-selected character in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Following Littlefinger was a host of characters associated with the council in King’s Landing’s Dragonpit, but the only sword unsheathed in that meeting was used to (re-)kill a wight. Cleganebowl never materialized, the Greyjoy drama ended on a cliffhanger, and fan favorites like Bronn and Brienne cracked wise, not skulls. Here are the top 10 selections from the finale:
1. Petyr Baelish (65.5 percent)
2. Gregor Clegane (65.3 percent)
3. Sandor Clegane (35.4 percent)
4. Cersei Lannister (33.6 percent)
5 (tie). Euron Greyjoy (25.0 percent)
5 (tie). Grey Worm (25.0 percent)
7. Bronn (22.1 percent)
8. Yara Greyjoy (21.6 percent)
9. Theon Greyjoy (19.4 percent)
10. Brienne of Tarth (17.8 percent)
Conversely, 18 different characters were picked by less than 1 percent of players this week, led by Ned Umber and Alys Karstark. Enjoy your secure livelihoods, little lord and little lady! And then remember what Jon said in the Season 7 premiere: “If [the Others] breach the Wall, the first two castles in their path are Last Hearth and Karhold,” a.k.a. the ancestral homes of the Umbers and Karstarks. Here are the safest 10 from the finale:
45. Lyanna Mormont (0.5 percent)
46. Edmure Tully (0.4 percent)
47. Hot Pie (0.4 percent)
48. Wyman Manderly (0.4 percent)
49. Sam Tarly (0.3 percent)
50 (tie). Baby Sam (0.3 percent)
50 (tie). Cley Cerwyn (0.3 percent)
52. Salladhor Saan (0.3 percent)
53. Ned Umber (0.2 percent)
54. Alys Karstark (0.1 percent)
The Wars That Came and Went
Perhaps the most opportune time to conduct a Mortality Pool wasn’t Season 7, which was characterized more by surprising, even unrealistic escapes from death than actual last breaths. Ten named characters died this season, and the Many-Faced God’s roster is unimpressive: three Sand Snakes, two Tarlys, Olenna Tyrell, Thoros of Myr, Benjen Stark, Viserion, and Littlefinger. More named characters died in last season’s finale than in the entirety of Season 7.
Before we depart Westeros for the year, a round of congratulations are in order. First, to the Mother of Dragons, Mallory Rubin, herself, for eking out a victory in The Ringer’s staff pool as narrow as the sea between Braavos and the Fingers. Your trusty stewards of this column (myself and Riley McAtee) finished a respective second and third place, but we bow to Mhysa’s Thrones knowledge and foresight.
Congratulations as well to the 10 most-picked characters who didn’t die (at least on-screen) this season, for escaping the specter of death time and again:
1. Yara Greyjoy
2. Grey Worm
3. Beric Dondarrion
5. Septa Unella
7. Ed Sheeran (yes, really)
8. Jorah Mormont
9. Sandor Clegane
10. Euron Greyjoy
And the 10 least-picked:
10. Baby Sam
8. Tyrion Lannister
7. Alys Karstark
6. Cley Cerwyn
5. Salladhor Saan
4. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Lyanna Mormont
2. The Night King
1. Sam Tarly
The battle for first place was a close one, as Sam passed the Night King just on Sunday night to complete a weeks-long comeback. Congratulations to the safest character in Westeros, selected by just 0.7 percent of players across the whole season. His survival makes sense—someone has to outlast the wars to write down their histories.
On to Season 8. My guess is more heroes, villains, and sidekicks will fall then; we tell death “not today,” but eventually, the Many-Faced God must have his due.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.