THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MAJOR AND MINOR SPOILERS FOR ALL BOOKS IN A Song of Ice and Fire and ALL FOUR SEASONS ON GAME OF THRONES
Those who only know the Seven Kingdoms through HBO’s insanely popular show Game Of Thrones are painfully aware – at least at this point – that no character is safe from the ever-present threat of sudden, gruesome death. But Season 5 (premiering April 12th) represents something of a turning point.
Now, the readers, familiar with George R.R. Martin’s source material, may very well find themselves as stunned and shocked as the TV watchers who were taken off-guard by infamous incidents like the Red Wedding and the death of Oberyn Martell. Because, while there have already been plenty of deviations from the source material, this is where the show will, in all likelihood, catch up to Martin completely – based on set reports, it can be said with certainty that a number of characters will be reaching the end of their book material this season – which raises all sorts of questions about if the season will move past A Dance with Dragons into territory occupied by the as-of-yet unreleased Winds of Winter, and if cliffhangers from the end of the fifth book will be indirectly resolved.
The answers will remain unclear until the season airs, but, for the time being, Martin’s readers have to worry about this coming season as much as the TV viewers. This writer himself confirms that characters still alive in the books will be dying this season. This isn’t exactly new for Game Of Thrones (Jojen Reed, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, and Robb’s wife in the show, Talisa, all died while their literary counterparts are still kicking). However, coupled with the fact that this season will be closing the distance between itself and its source material, and the relatively low number of major deaths in the fourth and fifth books, there is potential for some real shocks.
So, with that in mind, below are the characters still living in the books that I think have the best chance of biting the dust this season. Who knows how it will compare to the actual season; I’ll enjoy revisiting this piece once it’s over just to see how I did predicting. But with the series entering potentially unknown territory, an already voracious body count has a lot of potential to become even more so.
It breaks my heart, but of all the characters still alive in the books, Bronn is the one who seems ripest for a premature exit. He basically disappears from the fourth and fifth books besides the amusing subplot with the Stokeworths (which casting calls indicate will be adapted) so there doesn’t seem to be much material lost by losing him, and if Jaime goes to Dorne like the season’s first trailer indicates – and is joined by his new trainer – Bronn might be stepping in for Arys Oakheart and lose his head to Areo Hotah. It would transform the death of a largely forgettable sad sack like Oakheart into the sudden end of a well-liked character, and I’ll be surprised if they don’t pull something to that effect.
Likelihood: As Good As Dead
While Dorne looks to be a huge part of this season, there seem to be some notable omissions from the show’s vision of that storyline, namely Arianne Martell and her brother Quentyn. Ellaria Sand seems to be taking on Arianne’s role, which would focus that storyline and better connect it with last season’s, but what about Quentyn? Someone needs to free the dragons and get roasted, right? All eyes go now to Trystane, Myrcella’s betrothed, who has been cast and will clearly have a bigger role than in the books. Will he remain in Dorne all season, or will he find himself in Meereen, wreathed in flames? It’s possible, but I’m starting to believe that the Dragon tamer scene may be carried out in another way entirely.
As much as it pains me to say so, all signs point to the King Beyond the Wall getting burned for real. What it comes down to is that, if we were to make a list of upcoming subplots in the novels that seem unlikely to be adapted in the show, for reasons of pacing or continuity or otherwise, I think that Melisandre magically disguising Rattleshirt as Mance to be burned in his place would probably rank pretty high, if only because it seems like a lot of legwork just to free him up for a role that could easily belong to another character in the show, like Tormund. And us readers know how much showrunners Benioff and Weiss love emphasizing on the “harsh” part of “just but harsh” Stannis, so this is looking more and more like a given.
Likelihood: As Good As Dead
Hizdahr zo Loraq
This one is basically a freebie but one I’m not sure they’ll take. Sure, Daenerys’ obnoxious husband was last seen taken captive in Dance, but he seems to lack any lasting importance that would make killing him by the end of the season unmanageable. Based on the books at least, it seems clear that he probably isn’t controlling the Sons of the Harpy and lacks the presence to be an enduring figure. I could definitely see him buying it in the show’s version of Daznak’s Pit, burned to death by Drogon. However, while just killing him off has the advantage of avoiding another dangling, and seemingly irrelevant, loose end in a narrative teeming with them, Hizdahr could very well be who they condense the expanded Meereenese cast of the novel version through, and thus has a small but noteworthy chance of survival.
Likelihood: At Serious Risk
Clue one is the fact that he has a bigger role in the show than in the books, to the point of having a fairly developed subplot last season, which admittedly could just be the show deciding to switch things up. But coupled with clue two, that both Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis) have been promoted to series regulars this season while Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) has not, he seems like a pretty likely candidate for a visit from the Stranger. If the show wants to have the presence of the Sons of the Harpy seem more impactful and serious, having a character like Grey Worm lose his life to them could definitely make the pre-Daznak’s Pit portion of Daenerys’ storyline more dramatic and more directly affecting to the storyline’s characters than the spoken reports of violence that fill her ears in A Dance with Dragons. I like the character but the Meereen storyline could probably use the tension and pathos that his passing would provide.
Likelihood: At Serious Risk
Why do I think Naharis warrants a place on this list? Well, I’ll admit there’s some wishful thinking involved, but it mostly comes down to one question; if Trystane Martell isn’t taking Quentyn’s place as the Dragontamer, who else could fill that role in the show? Perhaps the show will have the Sons of the Harpy try to kill the dragons and fail, inadvertently releasing them, but just letting the creatures starve in their prison would be a much wiser play. No, if it’s a move to try and reassert control in the chaos following Dany’s disappearance, the most likely candidate in her entourage is definitely Daario. Some have speculated Jorah Mormont may play the hapless part, but we’ve seen Daario smug as all hell in the face of danger before, and he might be arrogant enough to think he could pull something that bold off. Of course, if eventually he is revealed to have betrayed Daenerys in the books while “held hostage” by the Yunkish (which I think is a good chance), he’ll probably make it through this season at least, but the show will probably (read: almost certainly) see Rhaegal and Viserion released this season and part of me will be very surprised if the show passes up an opportunity to brutally roast some established character.
Likelihood: Remote But Conceivable
When it comes to Robin’s chances of joining his mother this season, I would say it’s a fair bet. Sure, he’s still alive in the books, but plagued by seizures – seizures which Maester Colemon is treating with sweetsleep, which can be fatal if used too frequently – he doesn’t seem to have the best chances of long term survival. And if my theory (based on the season’s first trailer) is correct, that Sansa, Littlefinger, and the knights of the Vale will head to Winterfell under the guise of helping the Boltons prepare for Stannis (probably as part of some scheme to subvert the situation), then Robin could easily be taking Little Walder’s role in Winterfell, or say too much about Sansa’s true identity. Really, around the Boltons, there are a lot of ways to end up dead, so if Robin wants to live, he better stay away from Winterfell.
Likelihood: At Serious Risk
Ser Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan is a character of great significance, specifically to us readers of A Song of Ice and Fire, but while many seem to think Jorah Mormont will be checking out this season, I’m thinking that Selmy may be seeing his end first. For one, he seems notably absent from the scenes in the Season 5 trailer showing Daznak’s Pit, which could be telling, because why would he be far from Daenerys’s side, especially in that kind of situation? Furthermore, while Barristan still lives in the books, it seems likely that his end could well be approaching in the coming battle in Meereen, and the show may see to it earlier than Martin has. It’s far from a sure thing, but it’s beyond ruling it out too.