Forget the Melbourne Cup, footy finals, and even the upcoming federal election: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die — now those are high stakes. With only two seasons and change to go in HBO’s Game of Thrones, we’re getting closer and closer to the epic fantasy saga’s final rounds. In other words, it’s time to place your bets about who’ll be left standing when fire meets ice, dragons meet White Walkers, the living meet the dead, Jon Snow meets Daenerys Targaryen, and all that big climactic stuff goes down.
With that in mind, we’ve broken down the odds of survival for all of the game’s major players still on the field, from Sansa Stark to Samwell Tarly. We’ve based our analysis on several factors: original author George R.R. Martin’s statement that the ending of the series will be “bittersweet” (i.e. somewhere between “happily ever after” and “a boot stamping on a human face forever”); the relative danger levels of each character’s current path; their likelihood of making either a noble sacrifice or a colossal blunder; their potential as leaders in a post-winter society; and pure gut instinct. Where do your faves fall? Lay your money down and read on!
Sansa Stark (1:10)
The Queen in the North! From her head-in-the-clouds early days to her current role as a realpolitik rallying point against the Boltons and the White Walkers, Ned’s eldest daughter has learned from the countless torments she’s suffered to be strong while still being decent. If anyone will lead Westeros into its post-apocalyptic future, it’s her.
Jon Snow (10:1)
He’s the prince that was promised, to hear Melisandre tell it — the man to lead humanity against the Long Night. Here’s the thing about messiahs, though: They tend to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Granted, Jon’s done so already, falling to the blades of the Night’s Watch mutineers but returning to fight another day. Unfortunately, his supernatural luck can’t last forever. Expect Lord Snow to go down swinging in the final battle against the Night King.
Arya Stark (Even)
More like Arya Questionmark: Now that she’s spurned the Faceless Men, will the Starks’ wild child pick up where she left off with her kill list and make a kamikaze run into King’s Landing? Will she reunite with her old running buddy the Hound, or her siblings Jon and Sansa — or maybe even her direwolf Nymeria, who is still roaming around out there somewhere after she shooed the beast away way back in Season One? The answer will help determine whether her story is a cautionary tale about children in a violent world or a moving message of rescue and redemption.
Bran Stark (1:5)
The Three-Eyed Raven is dead — long live the Three-Eyed Raven! The crippled, psychic Stark boy has become Westeros’ premier seer now that his mystical mentor has been slain by the White Walkers, and no doubt has a major part to play in wielding both magic and knowledge against the dead on humanity’s behalf. And like his predecessor, it’s likely he’ll survive in isolation for many, many, many years to come, a living bridge between past and present once the battle has ended.
Rickon Stark (1:4)
Things aren’t looking so hot for the youngest wolf right now. His direwolf Shaggydog and his wildling guardian Osha are both dead, leaving him hostage to the whims of psychotic Ramsay Bolton. But personally, we like the chances that Sansa and Jon will spring their baby bro from prison and help him become a vital part of a revived House Stark. Or maybe we just can’t bear to think of another kid getting brutally murdered.
Ramsay Bolton (100:1)
You think this giggling lunatic will survive to the end of the series? The dude’s probably not gonna live another two weeks. Like Joffrey Baratheon without the charm and restraint, the Bastard of Bolton has been a one-man horror show, destroying the lives of heroes and villains alike in his mad quest for power. But with Jon and Sansa gunning for him, his days are numbered. Look for him to be cleared from the gameboard by the time the White Walkers come calling.
Brienne of Tarth (1:3)
She’s spent her time on the show in the service of a series of lords and ladies — Renly, Catelyn, Jaime, Sansa — and in the process proven herself one of the Game’s greatest warriors. But despite all her rage, she’s remained a humane and empathetic figure, fighting to uphold the chivalric code that far too many male knights ignore. Westeros is a dangerous place, but we see her making it through the final conflagration to help point the way for the survivors (perhaps with her sidekick Podrick Payne riding shotgun).
Tormund Giantsbane (Even)
The fierce red-bearded leader of the Wildlings may be helping Jon and Sansa in the fight for Winterfell, but it’s Brienne’s heart he’s out to conquer, if those bedroom eyes he keeps shooting her are any indication. This complicates predictions for his survival. Normally he seems like the type who’d fall in the final battle, allowing his friends to avenge him, but we’re too fond of the idea of him settling down with the Maid of Tarth once the dust settles to blow off his chances entirely.
Davos Seaworth (1:2)
The definition of loyal, Ser Davos served Stannis Baratheon, right or wrong, until the bitter end — and provided a humanising influence on the hard-as-nails monarch in the process. Now he’s playing a similar role with Jon and Sansa, knowing they’re humanity’s last best chance against the army of the dead. Our hope is that he’ll be rewarded for his service with a long retirement in the coastal community of his choice.
The Red Woman’s a dead woman. Hell, beneath her magical illusions she’s at death’s door already, an old and exhausted sorceress who’s spent her life trying and failing to predict the identity of the Lord of Light’s chosen one. Now that she’s placed her hopes in Jon Snow, whom she revived from the dead for the purpose, she’s almost certainly going to give all that she has to see him triumph against the darkness, up to and including her own life.
Samwell Tarly (2:7)
He ain’t heavy, he’s Jon’s brother. Lord Snow’s closest friend has been sent far from the dangers of the North to learn to be a maester — and to raise Sam Jr. with his girlfriend Gilly on the down low in the process. He’ll likely encounter some unexpected menace while he’s there, considering all the rival factions vying for power in the south, but his intelligence and kindness mark him as an unlikely but uplifting survivor. He’s just the kind of guy a post-White Walker Westeros will need.
Meera Reed (1:2)
Osha the Wildling, Jojen the psychic, the older Three-Eyed Raven, Hodor the door-holder — one by one, all of Bran Stark’s traveling companions have been killed, leaving behind only spear-wielding teenager Meera Reed. Hooking up with the young man’s undead uncle Benjen should buy the kid some breathing room, though, and once she helps Bran secure his mystery role in the final battle against the White Walkers, we’re guessing she’ll be free to live a life of her own once again.
Cersei Lannister (50:1)
The lioness you love to hate and hate to love is officially on the endangered species list. Surrounded by enemies and motivated by little more than vengeance against those who have wronged her, the Queen Mother is virtually guaranteed not to survive the coming conflagration when the Mother of Dragons returns to Westeros to reclaim her throne, if she even makes it that long.
Jaime Lannister (50:1)
Sometimes redemption can only take you so far. The Kingslayer is a far cry from the golden-haired shithead we thought he was during Season One, when he dumped Bran Stark out the window and led the Lannister forces against Ned and Robb. But his crazy love for his sister is as poisonous as it is incestuous, and as their House’s fortunes collapse around them, neither sibling seems likely to emerge from the wreckage. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up killing each other. Who else is intimate enough with them to do the deed?
Tyrion Lannister (3:2)
Big things await the littlest Lannister; we’re just not sure survival is one of them. After Ned Stark’s death, the Imp emerged as the show’s leading man, and storytelling logic (not to mention various prophecies from the books) dictates that he’ll lead the fight against the White Walkers alongside Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen in the end. To paraphrase Spinal Tap, he’s the lukewarm water between Jon’s Ice and Dany’s Fire, so he’s somewhat less likely to go out in a blaze of glory against the dead, but it’s still a distinct possibility. Only death can pay for life, and saving the world is going to cost the lives of a lot of our faves.
Tommen Baratheon (75:1)
Despite his surname and his inherited kingship, Tommen is a Lannister through and through, thanks to his inbred genetics. This would likely mark him for death even if a witch hadn’t literally told his mother she’d seen his future way back when. Look for his mother Cersei’s undead champion “The Mountain” to claim the boy king as collateral damage during his coming rampage.
Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (15:1)
The gods have a purpose for Sandor Clegane, or so everyone keeps telling him. As best he can tell, it’s to keep him alive so he can keep killing people. This may or may not include his abusive older brother, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane — currently wandering King’s Landing as Cersei’s pet Frankenstein — since he’s one of the few people powerful enough to stand a chance. Either way, it’s hard to see this dog having his day after the fighting’s over. He’ll play a powerful part in some battle to come, but there’s no peaceful life awaiting him afterwards.
Cockroaches, Keith Richards, and this guy: If we’re gonna put money down on any sellsword surviving to the end, it’s Tyrion and Jaime’s favorite mercenary. There was a time when it seemed like this sardonic swordsman might bite the dust thanks to the Sand Snakes of Dorne, but if he can pull through their poisoning, he can make it through pretty much anything. He’ll be living the good life when most of our heroes are taking dirt naps.
Margaery Tyrell (Even)
She may be a deft politician and a skilled seductress, but Queen Margaery is also easily the most sympathetic and likeable character in King’s Landing, at least now that Tyrion is gone. Is that enough to save her? Caught between the High Sparrow’s fundamentalism, Cersei’s grudges and the ambitions of her grandmother Lady Olenna, she’s in great danger for sure. Her upcoming trial and the prospects of any and all current monarchs when Daenerys and her dragons come calling add even more menace to the mix. But it’s possible she’ll emerge from the rubble, sadder but wiser, and lead the next generation when her rivals are finally out of the way. Her brother Loras and their mentor the Queen of Thorns, unfortunately, are unlikely to be so lucky.
The High Sparrow (60:1)
Emerging from out of nowhere to completely upset the balance of power in King’s Landing and take over the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, he’s on top now, sure. But he’s made many powerful enemies, and his religious fundamentalism renders him incapable of compromise. How do you think that’ll go over if and when Daenerys invades or the White Walkers attack? This dirty bird’s gonna get his wings clipped, mark our words.
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (99:1)
The greatest schemer in Westeros has been prepping his path to power since day one, playing one side against another with infuriating expertise. Even his apparent fuckups are turned to his advantage in the end — for example, he was colossally foolish to hand Sansa over to the brutal Boltons, yet Lady Stark seems likely to seek his support in her reconquest of Winterfell regardless of her personal reservations. But there’s one thing this power player can’t possibly have planned for: an army of ice demons and their zombie footsoldiers. Playing the game of thrones like a champ won’t do him any good in the face of a force that wants to end the game for good.
Theon Greyjoy (5:4)
Few characters on Game of Thrones have had as dramatic a personal journey as this poor creep. From arrogant ally to Robb Stark to Ramsay Bolton’s broken prisoner of Ramsay Bolton — and now right-hand man for his sister Yara Greyjoy in her attempt to take the Salt Throne of the Iron Islands — “Reek” has played hero, villain, victim, and every role in between. His redemption arc will probably end in a valiant sacrifice.
Yara and Theon Greyjoy Macall B. Polay/HBO
Yara Greyjoy (1:3)
Theon’s big sister may be the most promising young politician in the Seven Kingdoms. Her time may not have come just yet, thanks to constantly getting pushed aside by everyone from her dreary father Balon to her murderous uncle Euron. But she combines the toughness of the Ironborn with a humanity few of them share, perhaps because her status as a woman forces her to empathize with the marginalized. Like her steel-willed sisters Sansa, Brienne, and Margaery, her odds of surviving to create a new kind of society after her uncle kicks the bucket and the great war is over look good.
Ellaria Sand (20:1)
The paramour of the late great Red Viper and the current ruler of Dorne seized her throne by force — and with the help of her equally lethal daughters known as the Sand Snakes. But her motivations are more like Cersei’s than Sansa’s: She’s out for blood and vengeance, not to ensure the safety of the realm. That doesn’t bode well for her future prospects, considering that when the White Walkers attack, the safety of the realm is all that matters.
Gods bless this beautiful bald one-man CIA. The so-called Spider has served many rulers, but as best we can tell, he’s truly done it all for the good of the realm, not for the sake of power or prestige. Now that he’s aligned with Tyrion and Daenerys — two of the three characters most likely to lead humanity against its common enemy — his importance will only grow (as long as Dany doesn’t roast him for his role in a few previous assassination attempts). Maybe we’re being sentimental, but we wanna see the eunuch sipping Dornish wine on a beach someplace long after the fighting’s over.
Jorah Mormont (75:1)
Okay, this one’s kind of a gimme. Of all the current characters, he’s the only one infected with a fatal disease. But even if greyscale weren’t on its way to making him a mindless, disfigured dead man walking, the exiled knight still seems like just the sort of guy who’ll sacrifice himself for the good of the Khaleesi. At any rate, his little cousin Lyanna seems to have his ancestral home of Bear Island pretty well sorted, so he can rest in peace.
Daario Naharis (75:1)
Sorry, but no one this handsome, cocky, and sexually irresistible is going to survive on this show. The leader of the mercenary company called the Second Sons, he’s also the Mother of Dragons’ military advisor-slash-fuck buddy — no wonder he’s got so much self-confidence. But few sellswords live to a ripe old age, and fewer still who’ve signed on to as dangerous a cause as Daenerys’ quest for payback.
Look, at a certain point, good things have to happen to good people, right? Dany’s translator and trusted advisor was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery; purchased and freed by the Breaker of Chains, she’s come into her own as a savvy but idealistic political player. Even if her queen goes down in flames to take out the White Walkers, Missandei’s language and people skills would make her invaluable to the rebuilding efforts. We’re pulling for this one.
Grey Worm (3:1)
On the other hand, bad things happen to good people too. The general of the Unsullied suffered a similar story to that of his friend (and romantic interest) Missandei: kidnapped, enslaved, castrated, trained to kill on command. Dany gave him a taste of freedom he’s fought hard to preserve. But a dyed-in-the-wool soldier like this is far more likely to die in battle than asleep in his bed.
Daenerys Targaryen (10:1)
Winter is coming, you say? Meet the fire that’ll keep out the cold. The Mother of Dragons’ meanderings have taken her far from the shores of Westeros, the place she’s sworn to conquer, but that can only last so long; her armies, her dragons, and her own role as a supernatural saviour will make her arguably the key to defeating the White Walkers and their undead assault. But as with her Northern counterpart Jon Snow, her victory over the darkness will likely come at the cost of her own life (and her dragons’). Daenerys Stormborn will be the Last Targaryen.