Two of the year’s biggest pop culture events are converging this weekend: The new Avengers movie is coming out on Friday, and Game of Thrones is delivering its Battle of Winterfell on Sunday. This is thrilling news for pop culture enthusiasts (while assuring that entertainment bloggers will be as sleep-deprived as a bunch of characters waiting for the Night King to attack), but this collision could also have an unprecedented amount of onscreen bloodshed with genuine stakes.
Between these two über-popular properties—in which heroes will wage battle against titanic enemies—it’s safe to assume we’ll see a ton of great characters we’ve known for years die over the course of a few days. And though no amount of audience preparation will be enough to prevent a few tears being shed for anybody who isn’t a genocidal alien or an icy emissary of death, the least we can do is prepare ourselves for which beloved characters we’ll probably have to mourn.
To help parse this weekend’s odds for Avengers and Westerosi alike, we’ve assembled our Avengers and Thrones experts Miles Surrey and Riley McAtee.
Miles Surrey: Riley, you’re a Thrones expert and noted Sacramento Kings fan, which means you’re used to depressing outcomes. Are you ready for this weekend?
Riley McAtee: Miles! Hello! I’m very happy we can share this time to talk about death and imminent doom. What a special time for pop culture. To organize our thoughts, let’s put the characters from each franchise into tiers, from safest to most likely to perish this weekend.
Decked Out in Plot Armor
Surrey: Are there any characters you’d consider safe during the Battle of Winterfell? For my own personal comfort, please tell me Ser Davos will live to serve soup to adorable Northern children for the rest of his days.
McAtee: As I’m sure you’re aware, no Thrones character is ever truly safe. (We’ll get to your man Davos in a bit. I wish I had better news for you.) That’s especially true as this franchise enters its own endgame: There are no sequels or movies to further the Thrones story. This is it.
That said, as we head into Sunday’s Battle of Winterfell, there are a few characters who still have some plot armor. I’ve identified five that I believe won’t embarrass me when I call them “safe”:
- Jon Snow
- Daenerys Targaryen
- Tyrion Lannister
- Bran Stark
- The Night King
The first four of those were among the five characters (along with Arya, who we’ll get to in a minute) George R.R. Martin highlighted in his original outline for the series way back in 1993. Jon and Dany have the most obvious plot armor; they’re the two main characters at this point, and Season 8 has raised questions about their future together.
Similarly, Bran’s connection with the Night King gives him safety. I’m still not convinced that the secrets of the Night King and the Three-Eyed Ravens have been fully explored yet, and expect Bran to reveal more information about Westeros and the White Walkers all the way up until the finale.
Tyrion, meanwhile, is Thrones’ most popular character, and there were hints in this episode that he still has much to do. He had a cryptic conversation with Bran that the camera mysteriously cut away from; what did Tyrion learn from the Three-Eyed Raven? How will he help Dany break the wheel? There’s more story left for our favorite dwarf.
And the Night King is the Night King. Thrones’ Big Bad can’t die yet.
But Miles, what about Endgame? You’ve already spent a great deal of time reading the tea leaves about who will live, who will die, and who will be resurrected in Marvel’s cinematic climax. I’m assuming we can mark more characters as “safe” for a franchise that is still aiming to pump out multiple movies per year, right?
Surrey: If by “tea leaves” you mean a bunch of Marvel news dumps, then yes, I am the Three-Eyed Mickey; Popeyes is my weirwood paste. Because Endgame is not the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s actual endgame, but a foundational event to usher in the franchise’s new generation of superheroes, there are some characters who are safe by virtue of their future plans. Here are the five I’m most confident in:
- Black Panther
- Captain Marvel
- Nick Fury
The obvious untouchables are Spider-Man (who has a movie coming out in July, which was recently confirmed to take place after Endgame and serve as the final film of “Phase 3”), Black Panther (congrats again on the Best Picture nomination), and Captain Marvel (her movie came out last month, and she’s clearly equipped to beat the crap out of Thanos!). These are the principal heroes who’ll take the places of guys like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. (More on them later, but suffice it to say you should be a lot more worried about them!) And since Nick Fury is also confirmed to show up in Spidey’s new movie, we can confidently label him safe too.
McAtee: I can’t believe they’ve tipped their hand with Fury. If I didn’t know he was in the next Spider-Man film, I would have definitely felt he was in maximum danger. Wow! I’m angry they’ve given that away!
Surrey: I will also include Shuri here because, well, she’s T’Challa’s kid sister, and she’s adorable, brilliant, and meme-savvy. Marvel isn’t cruel; it doesn’t see her as Shireen 2.0. I don’t think we can say the same for many of our heroes on Thrones—though, I guess they could come back, just as foot soldiers for the Night King’s army. It’s all very overwhelming, and Thanos could also have a few permanently dead victims of his own, so let’s examine some characters who have a greater chance of saying goodbye this weekend.
You’d Hate to See It
McAtee: These next characters don’t have the plot armor that comes with a Prince Who Was Promised prophecy or—even better—a Disney movie contract. But hey, after the Red Wedding, anything is possible. Here’s the Thrones list:
- Sansa Stark
- Sam Tarly
- Jaime Lannister
- Arya Stark
All of these characters have more to do. Sansa is still fighting for the North, putting her at the heart of the political intrigue of Thrones’ final season. Sam has mentioned the books from the Citadel so many times that it’s tough to see him dying before he figures out what is in them (though Gilly could take over that role). Jaime just arrived in the North and still has a valonqar prophecy to fulfill. Varys didn’t get a single line in the last episode; if it were his time to die, he should have gotten some kind of sendoff. Plus, the spider still has unfinished business with Melisandre, who doesn’t seem likely to reappear until after the battle.
That leaves Arya, who has just reclaimed her humanity after years spent on the run. She has reunited with her family and discovered her sexuality, and is fighting for love, not revenge. Oh my god—I’m describing a character who could be at the end of her arc. She even said she is looking forward to seeing the face of death in the last episode. Oh no. Please not Arya. Anyone but Arya.
Working in Arya’s favor is the fact that she was originally supposed to be one of the five most important characters to the story. Plus: Melisandre told Arya in Season 3 that the two would meet again. That felt like a promise, and I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye to Arya just yet.
Surrey: Arya, first off: Congrats on the sex. But you can’t leave us yet. Please live to serve the Many-Faced God another day.
On the Marvel side, the other complication—or good fortune, if you don’t want to see anyone get decimated—is Disney+. Because the company is going all in on its new streaming service and wants to set it up as an immediate competitor to Netflix, it’s using its cache of Marvel heroes who may not fit into future MCU plans to shepherd their own series. Here are the characters getting their own Disney+ shows, some of whom are teaming up:
- Bucky Barnes and Falcon
- Scarlet Witch and Vision (incredibly, it will be called WandaVision)
- Hawkeye (it was announced that he was getting his own series after my initial Endgame death pool blog, even though he sports a new haircut that screams “midlife crisis” and “sold my pickup for three Harleys”)
Perhaps not all of these characters necessarily need to be alive after Endgame to have their own shows—they could be prequels, or, as comic books are often wont to do, completely abandon maintaining a cohesive story line—but the fact that they all fit squarely into future Marvel plans on the small screen bodes well for them. And then there are the heroes who might not have the same import to the future of the MCU as Black Panther or Captain Marvel, but still have franchise commitments—or are sidekicks to heroes who do:
- The Guardians of the Galaxy
- Black Widow (congrats on finally getting your own movie)
- Doctor Strange
So yes, even though Loki was choked to death by Thanos, Vision got his consciousness literally ripped from his A.I. skull, and every Guardian who isn’t the space raccoon were raptured, they’re all coming back in some form. In the MCU, What is dead may never die is apparently also a mantra.
McAtee: If only that didn’t apply to Theon.
On the Fence
Surrey: It’s already apparent how our Thrones-Endgame death odds are on opposite ends: There are so many Marvel heroes with additional commitments beyond Endgame that it kind of deprives the movie of some of its tension. Meanwhile, in Westeros, you have to be as important as Jon Snow—or, I suppose, someone who chills in King’s Landing with Cersei, which doesn’t sound like a pleasant compromise—to stand a good chance of making it out of Sunday night’s battle. That’s not a knock on Marvel—what it has accomplished over the past decade on the big screen is unprecedented in terms of box office returns—but I think we can safely file the Battle of Winterfell as the considerably more stressful ordeal this weekend.
McAtee: It’s ironic how Endgame is literally not an endgame. Meanwhile, Thrones isn’t really about a throne anymore. Also the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire!
Surrey: Anyway, here are four Marvel heroes who have slightly better odds of getting wiped out for good by Thanos:
- Bruce Banner
- The Wasp
While Nebula actress Karen Gillan has spoken about the third Guardians movie with the implication that she’ll be in it—and perhaps you can argue she’s now a de facto member of the gang after Guardians 2—Nebula’s personal connection to Thanos puts the character in a bit more danger. (Also, you can picture a third Guardians movie without Nebula, and you couldn’t say the same about someone like Groot or Star-Lord.)
McAtee: I’m actually into the idea of Nebula dying. Free Gillan up to do something where we can actually recognize her!
Surrey: And also maybe a project where she can use her Scottish accent. Seriously, have you ever heard her do an interview on the red carpet? It’s jarring. She hides it way better than Aidan Gillen ever did as Littlefinger.
Meanwhile, Bruce Banner, Ant-Man, and the Wasp are in that awkward gray area of not having future MCU appearances confirmed. While it wouldn’t surprise me if we got a third Ant-Man film—they make good money, though you could say that about any of these projects—there’s still great uncertainty there. Elsewhere, the Hulk has never worked as a stand-alone property (remember when Ed Norton was the MCU’s first Hulk?), and Bruce Banner would need to hitch a ride on another Marvel movie to figure into future installments. Killing him off still seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t throw a huge wrench into Marvel’s “Phase 4” plans.
And you know what? They should let the mystery be. There are precious few Marvel heroes we have to be anxious about compared to nearly everybody who’s eating Ser Davos’s soup in Winterfell, so I’ll take it. (But still, if there were betting odds on any of these four dying, I wouldn’t put money on it.)
McAtee: Interestingly, even though I feel like there is more uncertainty about Thrones characters overall, I had trouble finding characters about whom I could go either way. Here’s who I have:
- The dragons
- Gilly and baby Sam
I put all the dragons here, but they aren’t exactly the same in terms of potential mortality. It’d be tragic and bizarre for Rhaegal to die just two episodes after Jon bonded with him, and the Night King needs Viserion to keep his threat level for the season turned up to 11. That makes me think Drogon is in the most danger; his death would give this episode huge emotional weight and could mark a turning point for Daenerys’s character, who has been a little Mad Queenish lately. Would the Mother of Dragons mellow out without her dragons? Is it bad that I kind of want to find out?
Meanwhile, Gilly and baby Sam are the most pure family unit on the show; they deserve to make it through the end. Bronn isn’t at Winterfell yet and may not make it in time. But those characters all feel like they’re just kind of hanging out this season, and it’s unclear exactly what role they can play going forward (Bronn isn’t going to kill Tyrion or Jaime; it’s not happening), so a death wouldn’t be surprising.
As Safe As Winterfell’s Crypts
McAtee: And now we’re at the sad part. Here are the characters in significant danger:
- Grey Worm
- Lyanna Mormont
- Yohn Royce
- The Hound
- Tormund Giantsbane
- Davos Seaworth
I placed Missandei and Grey Worm next to each other because their retirement planning in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” portends doom for at least one of them. Grey Worm is in more immediate danger on the front lines of the battle, but I could see a future where Missy dies and he heads to her homeland, the island of Naath, after the season is over to protect the peaceful islanders who she said can’t protect themselves.
Lyanna is the future of House Mormont, as Jorah reminded her last episode. That gives her some very light plot armor, but for all of Lyanna’s ability to own Northern lords in the halls of Winterfell, I don’t trust a 13-year-old in a battle with the White Walkers.
Yohn Royce’s role has been relegated to walking out of Sansa’s presence when she needs to talk to someone more important. If he dies, no one will blink. But I think our heroes will have to retreat when the battle is lost, and they could go to the Eyrie, where Yohn could reconnect with Robin Arryn.
I’d have the Hound in the next category except that Cleganebowl has to happen. Get hype! Gendry, meanwhile, is in the same position as Arya: It’s easy to see how this could be the end of his arc.
Tormund, meanwhile, is our last connection to the wildlings. He seems expendable (and his one-sided romance with Brienne has no legs whatsoever), so his death is on the table, but the free folk have always symbolized how humans can ostracize groups for no reason when they need to work together. It’d be a shame to lose Tormund.
And that brings us to your guy, Miles. While the Onion Knight survived the Battle of Blackwater and the Battle of the Bastards, he’s no fighter (as he’d tell you), and is out of his element against the dead. At this point, what does he do on the show? Ladle soup? I like Davos. I could see him surviving. He needs to interact with Melisandre when she comes back. He also needs to return to his wife. But despite all that, I’m worried this is the end of the line for him.
Surrey: I’ll have to respectfully disagree with your Davos discourse, Riley. Not only will he survive to implement Westeros’s first bread bowl, but there’s no point in killing him off when a spinoff series is exactly what the fans are clamoring for. On a serious note, I also think it’d be good for narrative purposes if he survived, as Melisandre needs a foil when she returns. She doesn’t have an intimate connection with many other characters, and reuniting to talk with Varys about magic would be a bit underwhelming and redundant.
McAtee: There are a lot of characters who hate the Red Woman, including Jon, Gendry, Arya, Varys, and Brienne. But Davos certainly has the most beef, so if they want to really play up how unwelcome she’ll be returning to Westeros, keeping him around makes sense.
Surrey: Davos also remains Jon Snow’s best adviser for life post–Night King (which has to happen at some point this season, right?), and would make a worthy hand. But yes, I’m talking myself into Davos’s survival because that’s how effective Thrones was at getting us invested in its great cast of characters. I genuinely love the guy, and don’t want anything bad to happen to him. If you feel the same way about these three Marvel heroes, well, this could be a rough weekend:
- Iron Man
- War Machine
Iron Man and Thor (and the respective actors playing them, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth) have been at this for the better part of a decade. They’re adored by the Marvel fandom: Tony is basically the cool tech dude Elon Musk clearly thinks he is on Twitter, and Thor transformed from that guy with a hammer and a penchant for Shakespearean soliloquies into a charming bro from space. If either one of these characters—or both, if the MCU really wants to crush your spirit—were to meet his demise, it would be heartbreaking. I still see reasons they wouldn’t, however. After Endgame, Tony has an opportunity to finally start a family with Pepper Potts; taking that away from him would be cruel, and also a bizarre waste of recurring appearances from Goop magnate Gwyneth Paltrow. Thor, meanwhile, peaked late thanks to 2017’s excellent Thor: Ragnarok. He’s been in the MCU for a while, but I don’t think anyone would complain if he stuck around a little longer. (Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if he just hitched a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy; his rapport with Rocket was one of the best parts of Infinity War.)
McAtee: Iron Man can’t die. He’s the original Avenger, and Downey has the easiest job in the franchise: All of his fights are 100 percent CGI, so he basically just has to show up to a couple locations to play Tony Stark and do some green screen work when he’s in one of these movies. There’s no choreography to learn and few wild outfits for him to wear. They even hinted at this in the last Spider-Man! Let Tony live!
Surrey: I’m sure RDJ wouldn’t mind cashing Marvel checks in perpetuity, and there’s certainly a world in which he keeps checking in to future Avengers movies and dishing out sardonic one-liners. But whatever happens with Tony, War Machine will probably follow suit. He’s Tony’s BFF, and if Iron Man is retiring (or dying!) in the MCU, there isn’t really a future for him either. He also doesn’t have a Disney+ show, the other important Marvel lifeline. But I wouldn’t totally count on a War Machine death, if only because Captain America: Civil War already made the harsh choice of paralyzing the poor guy. Unless the MCU brain trust has a personal vendetta against Don Cheadle, War Machine might simply be destined for a well-deserved retirement when the dust settles.
Will Be Joining the Night King’s Army
McAtee: This is where you really start to feel the difference between Thrones and the MCU. I had a tough time picking “safe” Thrones characters but had no problem marking seven of them for death:
- Theon Greyjoy
- Brienne of Tarth
- Podrick Payne
- Jorah Mormont
- Eddison Tollett
- Beric Dondarrion
Theon and Brienne have the two most complete character arcs on the show. Theon freed his sister, accepted his identity as both a Greyjoy and a Stark, and is fully prepared to die fighting for the living (and no, he and Sansa are not a thing). Brienne saved both Stark girls and earned a knighthood. They’re both in danger—Theon with Bran in the godswood, Brienne on the front lines.
Pod could live and become a knight, and Tormund is our last connection to the wildlings. But Pod’s beautiful rendition of “Jenny’s Song” felt like a swan song for him. Speaking of swan songs: Jorah’s confession to Dany that she made the right choice in picking her hand felt like a goodbye. Ditto his conversation with Lyanna—as he noted, she’s the future of their house, not him.
Edd doesn’t have much of a role in a post–White Walkers Westeros, though I could see him rebuilding the Night’s Watch (if there is a Night’s Watch) when the series is over. Still, he’s basically a minor character. It’s time.
Ghost appeared on screen in the last episode. Considering that the show usually is perfectly content to let you forget Ghost ever existed, the fact that it took the time to CGI him in and remind you he’s around is a bad sign.
Beric, meanwhile, isn’t even alive in the books. He died in A Storm of Swords, the third book of the trilogy, when he gave the kiss of life to resurrect Lady Stoneheart. It’s wild he’s lived this long in the show, but I’m holding out hope they could use his kiss of life to resurrect a character who falls in the Battle of Winterfell. Could it be the Hound? The Cleganebowl may be an all-undead affair.
Miles, who do you think won’t make it out of Endgame?
Surrey: I believe it’s the end of the line for one hero in particular: Captain America. My man has been around since 2011, Chris Evans has been quite transparent about how excited he is to move on, and there are other characters (Falcon, Bucky Barnes) who’d be able to take the “Captain America” mantle and that vibranium shield from him (which happens in some of the Marvel comics).
And not to be bleak about it, but what does Steve Rogers have to live for post-Endgame? He got frozen in time and missed a special dance with the love of his life, Peggy Carter. One of the most poignant aspects of the MCU—and you can’t say that a lot when it comes to Marvel, since everyone mostly trades clever one-liners—is the fact that Cap is out of his element, a hero from another era. Though the Avengers are his [Dominic Torretto voice] famiglia, nothing can fill the void left by Peggy, or the profound alienation of being a corny dude from the ’40s living in the 2010s.
Unless he can hop into a time machine—a prevailing theory for how the Avengers can fix what Thanos hath wrought, thanks to the Quantum Realm—Cap’s best chance of seeing the love of his life again is in the great beyond. And besides, if there’s a single MCU character who screams “heroic sacrifice against Thanos for the future of humanity,” well, it’s Captain America. He can do this all day. But maybe, after Endgame, his watch will have ended. As will, unfortunately, the lives of a lot of folks at Winterfell.
In conclusion: Riley, you’ve convinced me. I’m building a funeral pyre for my man Davos. It will be composed of onions, but they will not be why I’m crying.
McAtee: Valar morghulis.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.