When you play the game of thrones...
Game of Thrones isn't the easiest series to keep track of. If a new character isn't being introduced or dramatically reappearing at just the right moment, at least one person is dying in brutal fashion that seems wildly out of proportion to any evil they might have committed. It starts to get dizzying after a while, like watching a bunch of cartoon characters running through a hallway of doors but with more beheadings, and sometimes you just want to know who's managed to crawl out of the bloodbath alive so you can take a breath and brace yourself for what comes next. That's exactly what this breakdown is for. Look this over and you'll know exactly who's alive, what they're doing, and what their odds of survival are going into Games of Thrones season 6. If the series is going to try to destroy you (and oh will it ever), you might as well be prepared. LOOK OUT FOR FALLING SPOILERS AHEAD.
This miniature murderer remains on the move. After leaving The Hound for dead and evading Brienne of Tarth, Arya heads to the land of Braavos to find the assassin Jaqen H’ghar, who helped her escape from the grip of Tywin Lannister in season 2. There she joins the assassin band known as the Faceless Men, who can change their appearance at will. However, during a training mission she spots Meryn Trant, the Lannister guard she believes killed her swordsmanship instructor Syrio. Disregarding her obligations to the Faceless Men, she steals a face from the band's hideout to disguise herself, sneaks into a brothel, and brutally murders Trant. However, she is caught by Jaqen when she returns the face, and is blinded for her disobedience. Will she survive season 6? Things are just starting to get interesting for Arya, and it'd be a pretty big let down if she doesn’t get to scratch a few more names off her revenge list. She'll likely make it to the end of season 6, and probably get even more powerful along the way.
In what has become a pretty solid trend, Sansa spends all of season 5 at the heart of important but hellish happenings throughout Westeros. After escaping King's Landing with Petyr Baelish and barely surviving a run-in with her jealous aunt at the Vale, Sansa returns to Winterfell and is wed to Ramsay Bolton, which goes as well as one would expect. After weeks of being brutalized by Ramsay, Sansa sees her chance to escape when Stannis Baratheon's armies attack, but is nearly captured by Ramsay's lover and servant Myranda. When she stands up to Myranda instead of running scared, that gives Theon Greyjoy (or Reek) the courage to throw Myranda from the battlements. Sansa and Theon then leap off the walls of Winterfell together, headed for parts unknown. Will she survive season 6? Sansa ties into many of the series' subplots and figures heavily in the main story, and it's unlikely they'll all be tied up by the end of the season. Chances are good Sansa will live to see season 7 (if for no other reason than her actress Sophie Turner kinda said so).
Theon's story in season 5 is inexorably tied to Sansa's - he spends the entire season at war with himself over wanting to help Sansa while the horrendous mental conditioning he suffered at Ramsay's hands keeps him rooted to the spot. In the season's final moments, however, he manages to fight back long enough to save Sansa and follow her over the Winterfell walls to freedom. Will he survive season 6? Even if he does survive the fall off the battlements, Theon's probably still in trouble. He's one more moment of redemption or a final betrayal away from getting gutted, if Game of Thrones' track record is indicative of anything.
Bran and his merry band
Nothing's changed for these folks since the end of season 4, as they didn't appear at all in season 5. Bran's sight-bearing friend Jojen is still dead after being attacked by ice zombies, but Bran, Hodor, and Meera made it safely to the weirwood tree Bran saw in his dreams and met the mysterious old man (better known as the Raven) tangled in its roots. The Raven reveals that while Bran will never walk again he "will fly", and... that's it. Will they survive season 6? Like his sisters, Bran has a lot of interesting stuff going on in his midst, but unfortunately there aren't that many plot points tied up in his survival. Thankfully, it looks like we're finally getting to the good part of Bran's story, so chances are good he'll at least survive until the end of the season. Meera's survival is less certain, given what happened to Jojen, but if Hodor dies, we riot.
Rickon and Osha
It's been even longer since we heard about these two, and their fates are in flux. Last we heard they were headed to the keep of House Umber, one of the few families still loyal to House Stark, to keep Rickon safe from the horrors north of the Wall. They've all but vanished since then, but as we haven't seen either of them suffer a bloody demise, best guess is they're still alive. Will they survive season 6? Depends if they show up at all. If they're totally absent from this season as well, their survival is almost guaranteed. However, if they do show up, Osha is unfortunately in the window of optimal character death: important and memorable enough to hurt the audience when she goes, but not so critical that the story would fail without her. Rickon, meanwhile, has a slightly better shot at making it to season 7 and maybe even getting a plot of his own.
Jon Snow valiantly continues to prove that he knows nothing. After refusing an offer of legitimization by Stannis Baratheon, which would have made Jon a full Stark and the true heir of Winterfell, he's named Commander of the Night's Watch, a contentious decision given that many of his fellow Watchmen see him as a traitor for his involvement with the Freefolk. Tensions rise when Jon refuses Stannis' request for men from the Night's Watch to aid in the siege of Winterfell, and when Jon allows a large group of Freefolk to pass into Westeros... well, it doesn't go so great. In a move that was long in coming, Jon ‘pulls a Caesar’, gets repeatedly stabbed by a group of Watchmen, and is left for dead. Will he survive season 6? Now hear me out. While Jon looks pretty dead when season 5 ends, there's been some back and forth on whether he actually kicked the bucket. If he does manage to miraculously recover, chances are he'll see the light of season 7 too.
Sam and Gilly
Sam spends most of the season doing what he does best and acting as Jon Snow's wingman, with Gilly by his side learning to read from Stannis Baratheon's daughter Shireen. However, after the passing of Maester Aemon (better known as the funny blind guy who always had something insightful to say. Oh, and Aemon Targaryn, uncle of the Mad King), Sam asks Jon for permission to travel to Oldtown with Gilly so he can study to become the next Maester. Jon agrees, and Sam and Gilly manage to get out of the fort before things go seriously wrong. Will they survive season 6? It looks like this may be a way for the pair to make a graceful exit the same way Rickon and Osha did before disappearing for a good long while. If that happens, we can probably assume they're safe until the show tells us otherwise.
As much a monster as he always was, Ramsay spends season 5 being as evil as humanly possible, brutalizing Sansa and continuing to torture Theon psychologically. A crack does appear in his armor, however, after his father Roose Bolton announces that his wife is pregnant, threatening Ramsay's claim as Warden of the North. In order to win his father's favor, he leads a campaign against Stannis Baratheon's forces, and is ultimately successful in annihilating them. He returns to Winterfell pleased with himself, though unaware of Sansa and Theon's flight, which will likely turn his mood. Will he survive season 6? He's too much of a bastard not to, and I’m not just talking about his parentage. Justice is certainly headed Ramsay's way, but per Game of Thrones rules, villains have to be punished so badly that it feels unpleasantly excessive before they can die. Given all that Ramsay's done, that's gonna take a while.
Dany officially has too many irons in the dragonfire. After taking over Meereen, she begins to realize that she doesn't actually know how to rule a kingdom, discovers Jorah's betrayal from season 1, and learns that her dragon Drogon is out of control and killing innocents. Just when it seems like things are coming together - she reclaims her lost cities, takes Tyrion on as an advisor, and solidifies the loyalty of many of her subjects with the arrangement of a political marriage - she and her entourage are attacked by a band of assassins called the Sons of the Harpy. Drogon saves the day by barbecuing some of the assassins and carrying Danny away, only to drop her right at the feet of an entire khalasar of Dothraki riders. Will she survive season 6? While she's in a pretty bad situation, she's been through worse before and come out on top, so she'll most likely be able to work her way out of this one. Plus, losing her would mean losing an entire continent's worth of story, and something tells me that's not going to happen.
As of season 5, Cersei is officially starting to crumble. With her father dead, Tyrion missing, and Tommen too young to rule as a fully-fledged king, Cersei finally gets all that political power she's hungered for since the beginning. Except it turns out she's a really awful politician - she burns nearly every bridge she has standing, and when she fears Margaery will gain too much power after her marriage to Tommen, reinstates a vicious religious order that ultimately arrests her for the sins of adultery, incest, and regicide. She walks naked through the streets to pay penance for the adultery charge, but will ultimately have to stand trial in the season to come. Will she survive season 6? If Games of Thrones was a reality show, Cersei would be the jerk that sticks around nearly to the end because everyone loves to hate her. With Cersei just now stepping off the deep-end, hinting at plenty of shocking developments yet to come, killing her now would be a dreadful waste.
As hard as he tries to do good, Jaime just can't seem to catch a break. When Cersei receives an elaborately arranged threat from the Martell family, Jaime crosses the sea to rescue his ‘niece’ Myrcella (then engaged to Prince Trystane Martell of Dorne) from certain death. He very nearly succeeds too, brokering a deal with the king of Dorne to secure the Martell and Lannister's alliance and Myrcella's safety. Unfortunately, he takes his eyes off that girl for one second and she's poisoned by Oberyn Martell's vengeful lover Ellaria, and Jaime finishes off the season cradling her dead body. Will he survive season 6? While Jaime has been vital to the series up until this point, he's perfectly positioned to croak this time around for maximum emotional effect. With his daughter dead, his brother gone, and his sister about to go right off the deep end, Jaime might just find himself in the show's plot crosshairs.
After escaping execution with the help of his brother Jaime, Tyrion joins former Master of Whisperers Varys on a journey to Meereen, where they'll present themselves to Daenerys Targaryen as potential advisors. But, as is constant in Tyrion's life, nothing about the voyage goes smoothly. First he's kidnapped by an exiled Jorah Mormont, who intends to present him to Daenerys as a gift to win her favor. Next, both of them are attacked by slavers, and it's only through quick wit that Tyrion convinces their assailants to throw them into the fighting pits (instead of killing them and taking their genitals as trophies). As luck would have it, Daenerys is at that very fight and pulled Tyrion out, eventually taking him as an advisor. And then when the whole thing goes belly-up and Daenerys rides her dragon Drogon into the sunset, Tyrion is left in Meereen to govern it in her stead. So I guess it all worked out? Will he survive season 6? Tyrion's too smart to die. He'll probably almost die, like he tends to do, but he's such an important pillar of the show that the whole production would feel empty without him. That's a perfectly good reason for someone not to kick the bucket, right?
So close, and yet so far. After deftly outmaneuvering Cersei and not only becoming Tommen's Queen, but handily turning him against his mother, Margaery seems to be sitting pretty. Until the Sparrows come for her brother Loras on charges of homosexuality, that is. After she speaks on his behalf and he's still found guilty, she's arrested for giving false testimony and thrown in prison to stand trial. There she remains as the season ends, but at least she can take comfort in the fact that Cersei was right in there along with her. Will she survive season 6? Probably, given her importance to the King's Landing plot, but I wouldn't call it 100%. Though giving false testimony seems like a minor crime all things considered, if the zealots see otherwise, Margery could be the heart-breaking death of the season.
Going from an unassuming whippersnapper to the King of Westeros in a few short seasons (congratulations kid!) Tommen still isn't good enough at the game of thrones to know when he's being played. Used as the rope in Cersei and Margaery's political tug of war, he grows to love Margaery and starts to pull away from his mother's grip, much to her horror. However, when the fanatical religious order called the Sparrows arrests Loras, Margaery, and Cersei, Tommen can't do much else but watch, totally unprepared to deal with the hilarious comedy of errors his mother created. Will he survive season 6? Like Jaime, Tommen is in a precarious position: he's important enough that his death would have a huge impact, but not so critical to the plot that he's safe from a knife to the throat. The one thing that he has going for him is that, at the moment, there really isn't anyone to replace him who has their own house in order. We can probably expect the assassination attempts to cool off at least until the show has someone else lined up.
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne's work is never done. After parting ways with Jaime in season 4, she goes in search of Catelyn Stark's two living daughters, intent on saving someone she swore to protect, goddamnit. After letting Arya slip through her fingers in season 4, she gets another shot when she learns that Sansa Stark has been brought to Winterfell to marry Ramsay and become the Wardeness of the North. However, she misses Sansa's distress signal when Stannis Baratheon's armies lay siege to Winterfell, and is oblivious to Sansa's flight. She does execute Stannis as revenge for Renly Baratheon's death, so there's still that. Will she survive season 6? This could go either way. Brienne is one of the few remaining mid-tier cast members (alongside folks like Varys and Jorah Mormont), which could very well leave her in the director's line of fire. However, Brienne's story arc still feels unfinished, so smart money says she'll be struggling to hunt down those darn Stark kids for a while longer.
Cersei's oblivious former lover (she really doesn't like to look outside the family), Lancel returns to King's Landing a new man, part of the fanatical Sparrows and intent on paying penance for his and Cersei's ‘unnatural’ union. Cersei brushes him off when they meet again, which turns out to be a bad idea, as he immediately spills the beans about their adulterous relationship to the High Sparrow, leading to Cersei's arrest. Will he survive season 6? Doubtful. He was already an annoying twerp, and now he's made himself both a nuisance to Cersei and allied himself with the religious order she'll almost definitely want revenge against. Dead man walking.
Cersei and Jaime's uncle and the last living Lannister over forty, Kevan is displeased with Cersei's self-destructive means of governance, but still tries to assist to keep House Lannister from collapsing entirely. After Cersei's arrest at the hands of the Sparrows, he presides over the Small Council, essentially taking over her position while she waits to stand trial. Will he survive season 6? He's already pissed off Cersei, who is clearly teetering on the edge of enacting some serious revenge, and he's directly associated with the Sparrows (through his son Lancel), who are kicking up a storm themselves. It wouldn't be too hard for a Lannister elder to take a dagger to the forehead somewhere in the fracas.
Cersei's favorite mad scientist is moving up in the world, and getting a lot of mileage out of being the Queen Regent's last living confidant. She names him the new Master of Whisperers in place of the missing Varys, allowing him to worm his way further into her confidence, and he spends basically the entire season working that angle. Though when the curtain's about to fall, it turns out he was up to something else that whole time - building the prototype for a zombified Kingsguard member (fans will recognize him as Gregor 'the Mountain' Clegane getting his just desserts), which he shows to Cersei after her walk of atonement to cheer her up. It's a nice thought, I guess. Will he survive season 6? This one's a toss-up - he's important enough (and is developing a nice plot) to keep him alive for most of the season, but he could easily become a last-episode casualty to drive Cersei further over the edge.
Varys is the kind of guy who has contingency plans for his contingency plans. Though he looks to have abandoned everything he's spent his life building when he helps Jaime rescue Tyrion at the end of season 5, he's really just bringing Tyrion to meet the person he's actually serving with his elaborate spy network: Daenerys Targaryen. Even when Jorah throws a wrench in Varys’ plans by kidnapping Tyrion and leaving the former Master of Whisperers to fend for himself, Varys makes it to Meereen no worse for wear, and joins Tyrion when he takes on the role of governor in Daenerys' stead. Will he survive season 6? He's not exactly in a safe position, given that he's not so plot critical that the show couldn't go on without him, but it would certainly be a waste of a fascinating character. We can probably expect Varys to make it through this season under the radar, and only be in real trouble if he's dragged out of the shadows into the limelight.
Bronn is, once again, really just along for the ride. After Cersei reneges on her promise to betroth Bronn to Lollys Stokeworth as soon as he's outlived his usefulness, Jaime asks Bronn to travel with him to Dorne to rescue Myrcella Lannister from the vengeful Martells. Bronn goes along with it, because why the hell not, and acts as Jaime's right-hand man (too soon?) for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately neither he nor Jaime are quick enough to save Myrcella from poisoning, so Bronn's life is probably about to get way more stressful. Will he survive season 6? Bronn always manages to stay out of the line of fire, even when characters as clever as Tyrion and Varys aren't witty enough to manage. Unless something really extreme happens to make him lose his cool, chances all Bronn will be able to sidestep any danger season 6 has to throw at him.
Arguably the real evil of the Bolton family, Roose has spent most of his time letting Ramsay do whatever he wants in order to terrify and subdue the remaining citizens of the North. However, with their hold on Winterfell secure, Roose makes it clear he's grown irritated with Ramsay's sociopathic behavior, showing the first crack in their relationship. On top of that, he announces that his wife is pregnant with a legitimate heir, which puts Ramsay even more on edge. And behind the scenes, Petyr Baelish has convinced Cersei Lannister that Ramsay's marriage to Sansa means Roose has betrayed them, though the Bolton patriarch remains oblivious. Season 5 ends well for Roose with the routing of Stannis' army and the successful defense of Winterfell, but let's see how long that lasts. Will he survive season 6? He's too evil to die so easily, so chances are he'll make it to the final episode with his life. However, how good of a life he'll have is the question - between Ramsay's mounting anger and the smackdown Cersei's preparing, Roose might find his best laid plans falling apart.
The Tyrells are in the interesting position of being both the strongest and the weakest they've been in a long time. Olenna Tyrell's plot to assassinate Joffrey, Mace Tyrell's appointment to the Small Council, Margaery's marriage to Tommen, and their hold over the fertile land of Highgarden all put them at a distinct advantage over other houses. But it's also made them an obvious target. By the time season 5 ends Loras is in prison on charges of homosexuality right alongside Margaery, and Mace has been sent to Braavos on Cersei's orders, putting him far out of the picture in Westeros. Only Olenna has managed to lay low and stay out of trouble. Will they survive season 6? Olenna has the best shot of making it to season 7 alive - she's too clever to be taken out that easily - but Loras and Mace are a different story, and we could easily see both getting killed to strike a blow against House Tyrell.
Following the death of Oberyn in season 4, the Martells seems pretty all right, all things considered - King Doran is still alive and level-headed, intent on solving disputes with other houses diplomatically; Trystane Martell is pleased with his betrothal to Myrcella Lannister; and everyone else seems happily alive. However, a good portion of the Martell clan is itching for a brawl with the Lannisters to avenge Oberyn, and eventually his lover Ellaria Sand forces the family hand, poisoning Myrcella and almost certainly inciting a war. Will they survive season 6? However vicious the inevitable inter-house war becomes, odds are not all the Martells will make it. Ellaria effectively signed her own death warrant, doing something that despicable while being an otherwise minor character, but Trystane could very well become a casualty as well, as he's far too nice for Games of Thrones to let him live.
While shocked by their Queen's sudden flight and scattered in an effort to get her back, Daenerys' entourage isn't much the worse for wear. Barristan Selmy died saving the Unsullied commander Grey Worm from an attack by the Sons of the Harpy, and Jorah has secretly contracted a disease called Greyscale (which is usually fatal and always disfigures the victim) after being briefly banished from Daenerys' court when his work as Varys' spy was uncovered. But after an attack by the Sons of the Harpy sends Danny running for the hills, her advisors pull together and create a plan to get her back: Grey Worm, Missandei, and Tyrion will stay behind and rule Meereen in her stead, while Jorah and Daario Naharis go in search of the lost Queen. Will they survive season 6? Definitely not all of them. For the sake of heart-rending tragedy, we can probably guess that at least one person from each camp - Missandei and Grey Worm, Jorah and Daario - probably won't make it to the end of the season. In all likelihood Jorah will either sacrifice himself in noble fashion before Greyscale kills him, or vanish long enough for the disease to really take hold and break our hearts later.
Things have officially gone south for Melisandre, though she isn't willing to admit it yet. In a desperate bid to give Stannis an ace to ensure the Winterfell siege succeeds, she convinces him to sacrifice his daughter Shireen for the cause. When he follows through with her grisly suggestion, his wife Selyse hangs herself and a good chunk of his men abandon him in disgust, leaving Stannis drastically outnumbered against the Bolton forces. Realizing just how badly she screwed up, Melisandre flees back to the Wall to lick her wounds, not sticking around to see Stannis not return alive. Will she survive season 6? There's a very real chance she might not - with Stannis dead and Gendry gone, she has no connection to the powerful royal blood she needs, and her faith in her visions has been shaken. Even Jon Snow (who tolerated her at best) may not be around to keep her safe at Castle Black. It's not like she can raise dearly departed Jon from the dead… right?
Ah, Davos - the man who always seems to be swimming against the current. Still a loyal servant of Stannis Baratheon, he spends most of season 5 trying to help build up his king's army through less blasphemous means than Melisandre, but doesn't have much luck - he's unable to convince Jon Snow to send forces to aid Stannis' troops or stop the army from moving on Winterfell while outnumbered. Stannis does agree to let Davos plead their case to the Night's Watch a second time, but only to keep Davos occupied so he won't try to stop Melisandre from sacrificing Shireen. As season 5 ends he's more in the dark than ever, hearing about Stannis and Shireen's deaths for the first time and oblivious to Melisandre's part in them. Will he survive season 6? At least long enough to find out what Melisandre did and do something drastic. With his master gone, Davos is on his own now, and his struggle against the Red Woman may be coming to a head. However, gaining a lot of attention all of a sudden in Game of Thrones can be dangerous - Davos may end season 6 in a blaze of glory.
Remember this guy? Arya's traveling companion during season 2, the one surviving bastard of King Robert Baratheon, and now the only true living heir to the Iron Throne? He's still missing in action following his escape from Melisandre's clutches in season 3, when he was set out to sea in a rowboat despite not knowing how to row or swim. Logically that spells doom for the poor guy, but remember that this is Game of Thrones - if we haven't seen a body, it hasn't happened yet. Will he survive season 6? If he happens to make an appearance, he'll probably have some staying power, as it would be a tragedy to cut that whole 'last heir to Robert Baratheon' thing short. But until we see him again and confirm he's alive, we just have to think of him as Schrödinger's Gendry: neither alive nor dead until the showrunners open the box.
This crafty of sonovabitch is, once again, one step ahead of everyone. After arranging the marriage of Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark in a ploy to turn the Lannisters against the Boltons, he returns to King's Landing on Cersei's orders, still playing at loyalty. While there he meets with Olenna Tyrell, who demands he help break her grandchildren out of prison; while that doesn't happen by the end of season 5, it is strongly implied that he had something to do with Lancel's confession to the High Sparrow and Cersei's subsequent arrest. And after all that, everybody still apparently trusts him going into season 6. They're all doomed. Will he survive season 6? Of course he will, the asshole.