Spoilers ahead for Season 6 and spoiler-y speculation for what’s to come.
One of the many things I love about being a Game of Thrones fan is predicting death. In life, generally speaking, there aren’t many situations in which it’s normal and OK to predict death. If I tell the guy at the desk across from me that I spent four hours on Reddit pouring over theories related to where, why and how his life will expire, he probably won’t want to be my friend anymore. It might even be a fireable offense.
But ever since Ned Stark’s shocking decapitation way back in the early days, when we were still naive enough to imagine that good might triumph over all, Game of Thrones has made an art form of death. In some cases the death is dreaded (oh hey, Princess Shireen — how’s the air conditioning in heaven?), in some demanded, in some unexpected, and in others not even final. But it’s always there, in the shadows, waiting —
This Sunday, the long-awaited Battle of the Bastards arrives. Traditionally, Episode 9 of any season of Thrones brings blood — lots of it — and the trailer suggests this one will continue that grand tradition.
I’m calling it now: “Battle of the Bastards” could be an instant contender for the greatest episode ever. Let’s take a look through each of the major players and work out case-by-case which three will (probably) die, and who will live to fight another day.
The Bastards: Jon Snow & Ramsay Bolton
If we’re taking things literally, the title of the episode does suggest that one of the bastards will die. As binaries go, this one seems pretty straightforward: Jon Snow did not get resurrected just to die in battle a few weeks later, even if his little sister has proven a more proactive leader than him for most of this season.
Ramsay, on the other hand, . Sure, the good don’t always win in Thrones, but Ramsay’s decision to put a blade in his own father felt like a turning point. He’s been on borrowed time for two seasons now. Vengeance must be had.
Prediction: Jon will survive, perhaps with battle wounds, while Ramsay will die in the episode’s final scene.
Mother War: Sansa Stark
Seasons 5 and 6 have been nothing short of a revelation for Sansa. The spoiled pre-teen who was desperate to marry Joffrey back in Season 1 is a distant memory, Sansa transformed by her increasingly shitty circumstances into a cynical, smart, switched-on strategist no longer willing to put the fate of the House Stark in anybody else’s hands — not even Jon.
Although she won’t be the warrior to lead the Stark army into battle, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sansa was the one to plunge a sword through the black heart of Ramsay. Expect it to be epic.
Is there anybody in the seven Kingdoms more downright decent than Ser Davos Seaworth? The Onion Knight isn’t just the nicest guy in the great game, he’s pretty much the only nice guy. Would Thrones really kill him off? It’s 50/50, but one shot in the trailer seems pretty telling: As fire blazes in the distance, Ser Davos eyes a woodpile, before raising his gaze with murder in his eyes.
The smart money would be on this being the moment he realizes that Melisandre was responsible for the death of Princess Shireen — and when that happens, shit is guaranteed to get real. Ser Davos is not a man of vengeance, but the odds of Melisandre making it out of this episode alive appear slim right now.
The only thing in her favor is that nobody has yet seen Melisandre as the ancient being she is. If there’s a twist in the works, it could be that the burning of the red woman reverts her permanently to her true, haggard state, and she’s forced into exile. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Melisandre is unkillable.
Prediction: Ser Davos will survive the war, and Melisandre will finally pay for the burning of Princess Shireen.
The Hipster Wildling: Tormund
Tormund, the great, ginger-bearded warrior with an eye for leggy blondes, has proven an invaluable ally for Jon Snow, but there is no war without casualty. If we assume that Jon and Sansa live (Ser Davos too), Tormund basically has to die.
It’s not going to be easy, in fact the knowledge that we’ll never see Brienne and Tormund have insatiable tall-person sex is really quite distressing, but it really wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if somebody we’d spent a few years coming to know and love didn’t brutally have their neck sliced open.
Prediction: Ramsay will personally gut Tormund, upping the stakes and guaranteeing his own death at Sansa’s hand is that much sweeter.
Bonus: A Tower Of Joy Flashback
The battle is the only storyline featured in the trailer, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Benioff and Weiss threw a curveball and gave us a cold open with Bran revisiting the Tower of Joy, confirming Jon’s parentage. It is, after all, a song of fire and ice, and there ain’t any ice in this episode. A little Targaryen fire wouldn’t go amiss.
“Battle of the Bastards” airs Sunday on HBO, after which all social media will immediately break. Get hyped, and tell me:
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.