As Cersei Lannister (in)famously said, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or die.” Over 7 seasons, her words have proven prophetic over and over again. This is a not a show for the faint of heart – a fan favourite is killed off in episode 9, entire families slaughtered at a wedding and even dragons aren’t immune to a strategically thrown spear. With the show’s final season just a few days away, we rank its characters from the ones we least want to survive to those we’re all rooting for:
18. The Night King: Killing the Night King would wrap up a storyline that’s been brewing since season 1, making it one of the most satisfying moments this season. Compared to the sheer ruthlessness and villainy of past GoT baddies, can’t say I’ll miss the Night King’s…slack-jawed stares and superior javelin throwing skills. Yeah that’s all he’s got.
17. Gregor Clegane: For burning off half his brother’s face as a child, murdering Elia Martell and her children and squishing both of Oberyn’s eyes into his skull, this Frankenstein’d, lumbering corpse has it coming. All the better if it’s The Hound, his brother Sandor Clegane, who finally takes him out in an epic Cleganebowl.
16. Melisandre: She scores points for bringing Jon Snow back from the dead but they’re instantly negated when you remember her brutal murder of young Shireen Baratheon. Dodgy prophecies and demon babies aside, there’s not much Melisandre brings to the table. Thank you, next.
15. Euron Greyjoy: This one-dimensional, Jack Sparrow-y villain hasn’t been around long enough for us to care about him. He’s made us crack up a few times, sure, but hasn’t really one of those we’re absolutely terrified by (#RamseyBolton) or love to hate (#KingJoffrey). As far as his plot to win Cersei’s hand and get a piece of the Iron pie goes, he’s a minor player in the scheme of things and won’t be missed.
14. Bran Stark: Technically, the ‘real’ Bran Stark died back in a cave north of the wall. What came back was the ‘three-eyed raven’, an all-seeing entity. It’s akin to that guy in your class who goes abroad for ONE SEMESTER and returns all ‘cultured’ and indifferent. Bran services the plot with his omniscient knowledge, but there’s little attachment this mopey character inspires otherwise.
13. Missandei/Grey Worm: The culmination of a series-long, slow-burn romance last season was one of its most unexpectedly moving moments. Fighting alongside Daenerys seems like a great way to get yourself killed, but here’s hoping the two make it out alive.
12. Sandor Clegane: From murdering a child in cold blood to swearing to protect another with his life, The Hound’s transformative journey has been as impressive as it is immersive. If he absolutely has to die, let it be in a blaze (pun intended) of heroism, finally surmounting his fear of fire and gutting his zombie brother.
11. Bronn: In a truly just world, Bronn would retire to the castle he’s always wanted and supply Westeros with a steady stream of wisecracks and banter till the end of time. But if you think this show has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
10. Theon Greyjoy: It’s one of the show’s great redemption arcs that will, in all probability, not end well. Still, Theon’s gradual realisation of his identity and place in this world and last-ditch, inspired attempt to save his sister despite being woefully outmatched cement his spot on this list.
9. Gendry: Seeing as the events of the show kicked off with Robert Baratheon’s plot to ally the Stark-Baratheon houses through the marriage of Sansa and Joffrey, it would make for a beautiful bookend moment if Gendry survives, marries Arya and allies the same houses. Think of the gorgeous faceless assassin hammer-wielding babies. A girl can dream.
8. Jon Snow: He’s the Azor Ahai, the prince that was promised, the one who fulfils the L + R = J theory fans have been obsessing over since the first book came out. But it’s the idea of him more than the character himself that’s a draw at this point. Jon’s a reluctant, even poor, leader and the thought of him winding up on the Iron Throne just isn’t exciting enough.
7. Sansa Stark: Sansa grew up believing in fairytales and thinking she’d marry the prince only to be forcibly married off twice, raped and watch her loved ones die. She’s harder, wiser, more guarded but still just as kind. Protect her at all costs.
6. Daenerys Targaryen: Over the seasons, Dany’s evolved from scrappy underdog to earning a list of titles that would be a nightmare for any Starbucks barista taking her coffee order. She’s also grown more entitled, crueller (killing the Tarlys with dragonfire) and more reckless. Her potential (and likely) death will sting, but enable fans to hopefully see the potential of other characters to rule Westeros well.
5. Brienne of Tarth: The catalyst that unlocks Jamie’s humanity, Brienne is a headstrong and well-fleshed out character in her own right. In a show filled with morally ambiguous characters, she doesn’t appear to have a dishonourable bone in her (towering) body. She’s fulfilled the promise she made to Catelyn Stark by protecting both her daughters, but the thought that her arc ends there is not one I’m ready to entertain. Bonus points for being one of the few people to have kicked some serious The Hound ass.
4. Jamie Lannister: Another great redemption arc. Who would’ve thought that the man who pushed a child out of a tower in episode 1 would rank this high up on the list? From going back for Brienne trapped in the bear pit to deciding to fight on the right side, we’re only just beginning to see what Jamie is like outside of the twisted influence of his sister. It would be a shame to cut our discovery short.
3. Arya Stark: What do we say to the God of death? Not today. It’s easy to root for Arya – she’s arguably the most lethal of the Stark children, honing her deadly assassin abilities and crossing names off her kill list with mechanical precision in the vein of the Bride from Tarantino’s Kill Bride. When the dust finally settles and she’s avenged her family, it’d be nice to explore the more humane side of a girl, who until now, has only let glimpses of it show.
2. Tyrion Lannister: Brash yet infinitely wise, Tyrion’s speeches and quotable quotes have been as cutting and fierce as they have been gentle and honest. For someone despised by his own family for being born a dwarf, he’s emerged as one of, if not the, show’s most beloved characters. If the show doesn’t end with him as Hand of whichever ruler finally takes the throne, throw the whole thing away.
1. Cersei Lannister: Last season’s Cersei reacting to the first dragon in centuries with mild annoyance (because its rider is late) is a summation of who she is as a character – stoic, steely and always in control. A relatively smart Lannister child, she was constantly overlooked for being a woman. Never had her father’s appreciation or her husband’s love. Always conspiring, always scheming. Because she’s had to. To prevent her children’s parentage from coming out, to keep the Lannisters in King’s Landing. Cersei could’ve easily disintegrated into a shell of a woman but great writing and Lena Headey’s stellar performance elevates this complex, fascinating character the show would be a lot poorer without. Long live the Queen.