This season has been pretty satisfying for Game of Thrones fans. When Jon Snow hanged Ser Alliser Thorne and Olly for their roles in his murder, something unusual seemed to be lingering in the bitter air at Castle Black: the mists of karma.
Karma tastes pretty good, as Ramsay Bolton's hounds discovered at the tail end of last week's gloriously brutal battle of the bastards. But this is Game of Thrones. There aren't so much heroes as good guys who've done some bad things, bad guys whom the good guys need, and those who occupy the grey area in between. The Varyses. Perhaps there is no good, only shades of bad. That's what power does.
Still, some deserves a healthy dose of karma more than others, and in this week's episode some are likely to get it. I thought I'd take an alternative look at five characters who probably deserve to die in "The Winds of Winter" but, inevitably, will live to fight another day in "the great game." First, check out the trailer for the finale above, in which you may find a couple of clues.
There's actually plenty to suggest that Jaime's time might be up this week. The mournful farewell wave he shared with Brienne from the tower of Riverrun felt particularly final, as did his last scene with Cersei in King's Landing. The finale finds him at the Twins with Ser Walder Frey, who will almost certainly be murdered by somebody or other before the hour is out.
Does Jaime deserve death? Depending on your perspective, he may be a rapist, and he's also responsible for Bran Stark's paralysis. His House conspired in the slaughters of Robb, Catelyn and Talisa at the Red Wedding. And then there's the small matter of all that incest. He's not as despicable as his Frey ally, but that's like saying Wednesdays don't suck quite as hard as Tuesdays.
On balance, though, it feels too early for Jaime to die. If Cersei's wildfire plot does kill King Tommen (as I and the rest of the internet are certain it will), an incensed, vengeful Jaime would almost definitely be the one to fulfill the prophecy, murdering Cersei with his bare hands. Jaime doesn't deserve a happy ending (and the goodbye with Brienne felt like his last shot at happiness sailing away), but he'll live long enough to bring the Lannister's Shakespearean tragedy full circle.
Qyburn is the creepiest man in the Seven Kingdoms. Even Hodor holding the door was not as traumatic as the sight of Cersei's confidant handing out lollipops to his "little birds" in King's Landing.
He's also co-conspiring to murder a large number of people with an illicit supply of wildfire, which in my opinion is totally not cool. He used weird blood science to resurrect Ser Gregor Clegane and turn him into Frankenstein's mute monster. And on top of all that, he dresses, speaks, behaves and brews as though he just wondered in off the set of Harry Potter. This is not potions class, Qyburn.
He won't die yet, though, because Team Cersei is a little short on numbers right now. Also, he's the only person in King's Landing with the key to the lollipop jar.
Does Lord Baelish really deserve to die? It's debatable considering his own motivations remain shrouded in mystery. Sure, he pushed Lysa Arryn through the Moon Door, but she was a thoroughly evil, downright insane child-abuser who should've known better than to fuck with Sansa Stark, and also made inappropriately banshee-esque sex noises. She had it coming.
And yes, he married Sansa off to Ramsay, who pretty much immediately raped her, but with a depleted spy network there's an argument to be made that Littlefinger didn't realize what he was pushing Sansa into. Redemption can cancel out sin, and Baelish redeemed himself big time this week by leading the Knights of the Vale into battle and winning back Winterfell for the House Stark.
To cut a long story short, the jury is very much out on the Seven Kingdoms' smarmiest strategist right now, but he's almost guaranteed to survive this weekend's finale. Littlefinger's journey with Sansa has plenty of milage in it yet — whether it ends in marriage, betrayal or something much bloodier.
Perhaps it's not so much a question of whether Melisandre deserves to die, but whether she can. Hundreds of years old at the very least, Melisandre in her true form has been around since long before the Targaryen reign, and she's probably been doing the work of the Lord of Light for many centuries.
In "Battle of the Bastards," Ser Davos finally (and quite by accident) discovered the truth about poor, sweet Princess Shireen. He may not be much of a detective, but the preview for the finale suggests he's about to give Melisandre a serious grilling about her role in Shireen's sacrifice. Does she deserve to pay, or was her belief in the will of her God a fair justification for burning the Princess?
I don't believe Melisandre will die this weekend, but it wouldn't be a surprised if she was exiled from the North by Jon and Ser Davos.
The queen regent's redemption arc since the latter end of Season 5 has been quite something to witness. Cleverly, by creating an altogether more heinous villain in the form of the High Sparrow, Benioff and Weiss have made Cersei look comparatively sympathetic. You feel for her when she is denied the trial by combat she — and we — deserve. You feel for her when her only remaining child cuts ties. You feel for her when she passes a mirror and is reminded once again of that awful haircut.
Still, Cersei has plotted, schemed, spent six seasons spreading hate, molesting her own flesh and blood, humiliating Tyrion, hatching evil plans at the expense of the Tyrells and, lest we forget, she brought Joffrey into the world. Oh, yeah — she's about to kill half of King's Landing. Cersei Lannister is a bad, bad bitch.
She will not die, though, with neither Tyrion nor Jaime in the vicinity to enact any sororicide (the Romans had a word for every imaginable sin). That's going to have to wait 'til Season 7.