Today FanSided ran my slide show of 10 Game of Thrones Characters Who Will Never Die. I’m really pleased to have been offered the assignment. I had a lot of fun putting this list together. I know I’ll get some disagreement on some of these entries, especially Jaime and Tyrion, but that’s the way the wine flows.
To make a decent slide show, I had to write at least 200 words for each entry, so I couldn’t just put, “GRRMartin loves him way too much to kill him off” under Tyrion’s entry even though that’s basically my argument for Tyrion.
For most of these characters, my argument is structural. I look at the general shape of their story and ask: where is this leading? For Jaime, Tyrion and Theon, their arcs point directly away from early death. I realize this won’t sway those who are convinced Jaime will be the valonqar and die along with Cersei, but my argument is, basically: Jaime’s storyline is developing in the opposite direction from him being the valonqar, or doing anything else that puts him in an early grave. And it’s difficult to explain why that is without going into thousands of words’ worth of detail, but I may have done that already, if you have several hours of reading time available. If we must stipulate that romantic storylines are to be kept out of this discussion, then how about this: what kind of story would GRRM be telling us if Jaime didn’t get a long life? 1) You can do something that takes tremendous backbone and saves a huge number of people when you’re young and confused, and then 2) you’ll be rewarded for your heroism with decades of character assassination by sanctimonious nobles, and 3) when you finally get over that hump and start making a sincere effort to behave like a good guy despite all the name-calling, 4) you still have to die young to be known as a hero. Why should anyone try to do the right thing, if that’s what happens?
Oh, and also: GRRM loves him way too much to kill him off.
With Tyrion, there’s something similar happening: he’s been treated like a monster all his life, so eventually he starts behaving like a monster, but people have been trying to kill him all this time, and they never succeed. He even went through a stage of wanting to die, but he recovered. Tyrion needs to be rewarded, eventually, for all the time he spent trying to do the right thing while everyone just treated him like a twisted demon monkey. He deserves a long life.
That, and GRRM loves him too much to kill him off.
With Theon, something that occurred to me while writing the slideshow is that he’s already missed his chance for a great heroic death. If GRRM were planning to kill him as a final heroic redemption, the jump from Winterfell would have been an outstanding way for him to die. But he’s still here, and his sister has some use for him.
Samwell Tarly: he’ll be fine. It is known.
Olenna Tyrell: I have this incredibly sad ending in mind in which Lady Olenna pretty much outlives her entire family.
Sansa Stark: if this girl doesn’t live to see the end, literally no one can expect to see adulthood in Westeros. She may not be the most entertaining Stark, but she is a survivor.
Bran, Arya, Jon: I’m sure they’ll be alive at the end, but I’m not so confident that they’ll be healthy and sane.
With Jon, there’s another structural argument: he’s already died once! Let’s not go wasting a good resurrection on a character who ends up dead later on.
Brienne: here’s another one where an opportunity for a good death has already passed. She could have had a very touching, tragic, poignant death in the bear pit, yet for some reason, Jaime got her out alive. What I think will happen with Brienne is that she and Jaime survive the Lady Stoneheart encounter because they’re both kingslayers and kingslayers band together, she succeeds in becoming Sansa’s protector for long enough to make a major difference in the realm’s political status quo, and ultimately she settles down with Jaime and gets the sort of happy ending everyone seems to think no one ever gets in Westeros. Her role in the story is to help the Starks and Lannisters become friends. That doesn’t call for an early death.
There are other characters that I think will be alive at the end, but I had to keep the list to 10 characters, so I chose 10 for whom I could make an argument.