There’s nothing like a “Game of Thrones” death to widen the eyes and get the blood going.
It doesn’t matter if the death is a juicy payback killing, like that time Arya Stark avenged her beloved mother and brother by slitting Walder Frey’s throat after feeding him a pie made out of chunks of his sons’ bodies. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a sweetly tragic loss, like the heartbreaking passing of Hodor, which still brings a warm tear. The door to eternity was surely held wide open for his giant spirit.
The death of a regular “Game of Thrones” character sparks a keen sense that SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED, that the episode is now historic, that the game is truly consolidating. It’s a jolt of plot, and, the next day, it becomes the subject of spoiler-conscious whisperings and write-around headlines about a mysterious “major event.” It’s storytelling Red Bull.
In a way, death adrenaline has become integral to the “Game of Thrones” brand appeal. George R.R. Martin’s epic is bigger than any single character, and we’ve learned that over and over across six seasons. The beheading of Ned Stark made it clear from the start that this drama would keep the stakes real, that it would not dabble in fraudulent cliffhangers (with one huge exception, of course). Most shows try to keep their casts intact, but “Game of Thrones” doesn’t fool around; it takes the story’s dog-eat-dog philosophy seriously.
So we know there will be death during the seven episodes of the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. But I hereby command you, “Game of Thrones” writers: Do not kill off any of the following five characters or there will be consequences. Let’s just say I’ve got Melisandre on speed dial and she owes me a favor.
Played by Sophie Turner
The oldest Stark daughter has become my favorite character on the show, because of the profound changes she has gone through. Her naive eyes have been hurt open, her illusions crushed, and now, having survived Bratty King Joffrey and the perverse human monster that was Ramsay Bolton, she copes with a vengeance. There are some characters who’ve essentially remained the same across the series — Arya, for example, who declared her personality right away and then grew into it. But Sansa has had a clear and satisfying character arc, as she has grown from a spoiled Disney princess into a quiet, resilient, and politically astute woman, one who has earned and owned her inner power. I didn’t predict she’d undergo such a cruel but thorough awakening. Nor did I expect her to emerge with her compassion intact. After having saved Jon, I’m eager to see Sansa 7.0, and I deeply want her in play during the endgame.
Played by Emilia Clarke
“Game of Thrones” has been criticized for its violence against women, but it can’t be criticized for portraying women as weak victims. The show is well stocked with commanding women, most of all the regal, stormborn Mother of Dragons. Calling her “determined” is an understatement. One time, she ate the raw heart of a stallion without puking. I repeat, she swallowed a raw stallion heart. Through her scenic story, we have seen issues of gender and leadership play out beautifully, and we’ve seen her work to help the oppressed without giving up. She is a force of nature — wait, strike that, since she’s immune to fire and all. Without her and her bold march, there would be a hole at the center of the show. If she dies, it won’t simply leave her many fans bereft; it will leave a trio of motherless dragons. And her fire power may be essential when it comes to all that ice coming down the pike. Let her be, “Game of Thrones” writers, or else, as they say in Dothraki, “Yeri achrakh.” Translation: You suck.
Played by John Bradley
One of the show’s most sympathetic characters, Sam was seemingly born to become Jon Snow’s sidekick and supporter. I assumed from the start that he would be a model of a loyal heart, particularly when he helped the wildling Gilly and her baby escape and then saved her baby from a White Walker with the help of some dragonglass. I thought he’d be the guy whose role was to push Jon toward greater glories and maybe get him to lighten up a tad. But along the way, Sam has also become a symbol of the power of knowledge, as he gathers information that can be used against the White Walkers. He is now a maester-in-training, on his way to helping the Night’s Watch defend the Seven Kingdoms. I want his growth and loyalty to be rewarded with a long life with Gilly and Little Sam. Writers: I don’t want him to become a martyr to the cause; save that for Tyrion, perhaps?
Played by Bella Ramsey
“I think we’ve had enough small talk,” she snapped at Jon and Sansa when they came to ask for her support. “Why are you here?” The 10-year-old Lady of Bear Island looks and sounds like a little girl, but she commands just like a woman wearing a crown. She was the breakout character of season six, stealing every scene she was in with her preternatural maturity and her unadorable adorability. For that reason alone, I want her around. But with her stone-cold judgment and her deep pride in her people, she also provides the show with yet another young and noble female warrior, always a plus. I like the way the show is shrinking the cast list as the endgame comes into focus; still I want to know more about Lyanna. “Game of Thrones” has killed off a number of children, some cruelly (Shireen Baratheon) and others deservedly (Joffrey). Leave this one alone, writers.
Played by Lena Headey
While suffering and tragedy appear to be making Sansa into a better person, they have only quickened and fueled Cersei’s descent into evil. Just when you want to pity her, or see her as a victim of her gender, she reminds you that she is not worth your precious sympathy. She’s a wonderfully complicated villain, as ruthless and sadistic as ever despite — or perhaps because of — having lost the only things she loved, her three children. I hate her, which is why I love her on the show and want her to stick around until the end. Things have a way of turning on her — her support for the High Sparrow, for example, which wound up leading her to the infamous Walk of Shame. Now that she’s sitting on the Iron Throne, she is going to make a huge mess of things, I just know it. Ultimately, I’m sure she will die, perhaps even at the hands of her brother-lover Jaime. But let’s save that for the final season, shall we?Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.