‘Game of Thrones’: Will Characters Who’ve Had a Taste of Death Survive Season 8?

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Game of Thrones
TV Game of Thrones Fantasy HBO
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There’s a fascinating Game of Thrones theory going around as fans await the series’ final season.

With no production leaks or George R.R. Martin books to go off of, the “Taste of Death” theory predicts who will die out of all the remaining characters going into Season 8 of Game of Thrones. So, if you’d like to steel yourself for potentially losing your favourite character, read on.

The “Taste of Death” theory proposes characters who have already had near-death experiences on the show will make it to the end, while those who haven’t are the ones more likely to meet their maker. Why? Because the show loves to shock, slaying characters left, right and centre, often dispatching them more or less out of the blue. Every Game of Thrones death, according to the theory, has something just a little WTF about it. Think Ned Stark, Robb and Catelyn at the Red Wedding, Walder Frey, Tywin Lannister, and so on.

Catelyn Stark's Red Wedding anguish.

Characters who we have witnessed almost die, however, would consequently survive. The antithesis of what this show is about, in fact – shock value. It makes sense, then, that they’ll live to the end of the series if the show’s creators want to continue jolting audiences to the very end.

So which of some of the show’s most major surviving characters have stared death in the face, and does this mean they’ll survive to the series end? And will those who have never had a close call with fate meet their maker before the series comes to a close? We’ve had a crack at assessing the chances.

Theon Greyjoy

Theon was raised with the Starks but ended up turning against Jon Snow and the Stark brothers after feeling like an outsider as a child and feeling conflicted about his loyalties. After doing some heinous things — including executing orphans to make out that he’d killed Bran and Rickon Stark and claiming Winterfell — he ultimately ended up in the clutches of the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay proceeded to torture him until he was reduced to a shell of a man. It’s a miracle Theon is still alive after enduring sustained torture, including flaying, and castration — but alive he is. He’s suffered greatly but is now on his merry way to redemption having helped out his sister, Yara, as well as Daenerys and Sansa.

VERDICT: He’ll die heroically because that will mark the completion of his redemption arc.

Arya Stark

arya game of thrones needle sword
Arya is badass -- but has she crossed a line?

Arya’s closest brush with death came at the hands of the Waif, when she was stabbed, and it seemed like there was no way back for the young Stark girl. She took a hell of a beating during this epic face-off, but eventually emerged intact to continue striking names off her kill list.

The younger Stark sister has changed exponentially from the sweet-yet-tough girl we first met in Season 1. But circumstances and the good old Stark spirit have brought out her resourcefulness and her survival instinct. She’s become a girl on a mission, seeking vengeance against those she perceives to have wronged her. And therein lies the problem with Arya Stark.

Her modus operandi is not especially moral by our standards but, according to the rules of Westeros, she’s simply doing what she has to do to survive. It’s a corrupt world, and she must operate savvily within that framework. Our feelings towards Arya are ambivalent — she carries out some questionable acts, including leaving The Hound for dead, which makes us, in turn, question whether she deserves to survive. Plus, her slaying of Walder Frey could have left her with another debt to pay to the Many-Faced God… arguably sealing her fate since she’d have to settle it with her life.

VERDICT: It’s a toss-up. She could survive since she’s a fan-favourite, and someone that we’ve been mostly cheering on because of her dire circumstances and her remarkable display of inner strength. But her transformation into remorseless killer could be her undoing.

Jon Snow

All bets are off with Jon Snow because he’s already died and been resurrected. So, essentially, he’s a zombie. Consistently the moral centre of the series, Snow was betrayed by the Night’s Watch who took issue with his attempts to unite the group with the wildlings. It will be very interesting to see how the relationship he has embarked on with Daenerys plays out and whether audiences can stomach and forgive the incestuous affair with his aunt. If not, he could be a goner.

VERDICT: Would it be too obvious to have Jon Snow survive? The series’ biggest shock could and should be the slaying of its most prominent and most resolute character.

Bran Stark

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark.

Bran Stark miraculously survived that huge fall in Season 1 at the hands of Jaime Lannister, who was trying to prevent news of his incestuous relationship with his sister Cersei getting out. Bran was paralysed, but he ultimately became a great deal stronger and more powerful after developing warging abilities. He became able to inhabit the bodies of animals and even people, as well as see everything, past, and future. There is an ongoing theory that Bran is the Night King, which no doubt that will either be proved or laid to rest in Season 8.

VERDICT: If Bran is the Night King, we’ll most likely see him vanquished. Otherwise, young Bran could survive to become a powerful ally of the rightful heir to the Iron Throne — providing they’re good, of course.

Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is like a cat with nine lives. He’s had too many close shaves to count. But perhaps the closest he came to death was when he was thrown in a cell by his father and sentenced to trial by combat. That resulted in him losing and left him facing death. But despite exhibiting some characteristics early on that made him less than sympathetic, he’s ultimately a good guy — and the source of much of the show’s humour.

VERDICT: He’s one of the most popular characters on Game of Thrones and as long as he stays true to his word, standing at Daenerys’ side, he deserves to live.

Cersei Lannister

Of the main characters that have never had their lives seriously threatened, Cersei has made her way through the series plotting and conniving to ensure her claim to the Iron Throne remains solid. She’s ruthless and has proved she’ll do anything to maintain her status as Queen. She’s also a woman bent on vengeance, and one whom is very much a villain in the eyes of the audience – although we have at various moments felt some sympathy for her; not least when she was punished by the High Sparrow and forced to complete a Walk of Atonement.

As a young girl, Cersei was privy to a prophecy which predicted the major events in her life, including the deaths of her children. In the books, the prophecy also foretells her own death at the hands of the “Valonqar,” which means “little brother” in High Valyrian. It’s popular opinion that she’ll die either at the hands of brother Jaime, or Arya — who has her in the number one spot on her kill list — wearing the face of Jaime.

VERDICT: She’ll die. And it will be an extremely brutal death in order to punish her for her many transgressions.

Daenerys Targaryen

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys, very much alive.

In early episodes of Game of Thrones, Daenerys was a meek, near-enough child bride traded into matrimony by her odious brother Viserys who sought to reclaim the Iron Throne for himself. Groom Khal Drogo, in return for Dany’s hand, would supply the necessary manpower. Drogo ends up killing Viserys and becomes a loving and respectful husband to Dany who, of course, goes on to become the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys’ transformation into a firm but fair leader, and a formidable warrior with a trio of dragons to do her bidding, makes her the perfect opponent for Cersei.

VERDICT: It looks likely that Daenerys will survive to take the Iron Throne from Cersei and reclaim her birthright. She will first, of course, have to contend with the Wight Dragon – and her remaining dragons may perish in the battle.

Sansa Stark

Sansa started out pretty abhorrent. She was arrogant and ambitious and prepared to side with the loathsome Joffrey Baratheon — whom she was keen to marry — over her sister Arya for fear of putting their betrothal in jeopardy. After Sansa experienced Joffrey’s cruel streak firsthand, and then cast aside by him in favour of Margaery Tyrell, Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, inveigled his way into her trust and told he’ll help her escape. So began their unsettling relationship.

Still exhibiting signs of a spoiled brat, it wasn’t until Season 4 that we started to properly sympathize with Sansa, after her mother and brother were killed at the Red Wedding. By the end of the season, Sansa was transformed into a strong, independent player in the game of thrones. Suffering an abusive marriage to Ramsay Bolton, engineered by Littlefinger and involving nightly rape, viewers further ensconced in Sansa’s camp – especially when she turned Ramsay’s own dogs on him. By the end of Season 7, she fully won us over by standing shoulder to shoulder with Arya and presiding over Littlefinger’s execution.

VERDICT: She’ll probably die.

The Night King

Game of Thrones Night King
He used to be a man once -- and he will surely die come the end of the series.

The Night King is basically the end-of-level boss. Some fans suggest that he could end up on the Iron Throne but wouldn’t it just feel like you wasted eight years of your life if that situation were to come about? Everyone dead except the Night King and his army of wights? Nope, don’t fancy that. The Night King has rarely come close to being vanquished – but we’re willing to bet Jon Snow and company will find his vulnerability and exploit it soon enough, ushering in the end of the series and neatly wrapping up the story.

VERDICT: Yeah, he’ll die – probably in a spectacular way that will see his army of wights obliterated at the same time.

There’s definitely some traction to the “Taste of Death” theory. However, for other Game of Thrones characters we haven’t explored here including The Hound, Samwell Tarly, Jorah Mormont, Jaime Lannister, The Mountain, Beric Dondarrion, Varys, Melisandre, and more whose fates are yet to be determined, there’s sure to be an anomaly or two amongst them. Just as we’ve “proved” here.

Season 8 of Game of Thrones is set to premiere in 2019.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.