Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell, the epic clash between the living and the dead, finally came to a close in episode three, “The Long Night” — and now the show is shifting its focus. At the exact halfway point in its final season, Game of Thrones is setting its sights on a final confrontation between the Starks and Daenerys Targaryen on one side, and Cersei Lannister and her army, the Golden Company, on the other.
After all the casualties in the Battle of Winterfell, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see many more deaths in this weekend’s fourth episode. There’s a good chance that it will instead see both sides lay out their strategy and prep their troops for a fight, with a few glimpses of emotional turmoil simmering beneath the surface of this war.
Daenerys still hasn’t had time to react to Jon Snow’s revelation that he’s not only a Targaryen but her nephew. And Cersei, after waiting out the Great War with the dirty sea king Euron Greyjoy and her silent, perhaps undead bodyguard the Mountain, may be growing impatient to assert her hold on the Iron Throne. She likely won’t be happy to hear that Daenerys’s dragons both survived.
But even though the pressing danger of the army of the dead is no more and we’re not expecting a lot more immediate bloodshed, that doesn’t mean that our favorite characters are necessarily having an easy, breezy time of it. Here’s where all of Game of Thrones’ remaining characters currently stand.
Safe: generally everyone who didn’t die during the Battle of Winterfell
After the deaths of the Night King, Melisandre, Theon Greyjoy, Lyanna and Jorah Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Edd Tollett, a.k.a. Dolorous Edd, zombified Viserion, and countless Dothraki and Unsullied, not to mention how astronomically large the Battle of Winterfell was, episode four is probably going to be something of a table-setter, rather than another bout of war.
Also, there are about 1,000 miles between Winterfell and King’s Landing, and while Game of Thrones hasn’t always depicted how long it takes to travel in an even remotely accurate way, it would be strange to see Cersei’s forces just show up at Winterfell or have Daenerys knocking on King’s Landing’s door just one episode later.
In the preview clip for episode four, it looks like Dany’s fleet is asail and that she’s taking the fight to King’s Landing:
On one hand, taking the fight to King’s Landing seems a little strategically suspect — Daenerys could easily ambush Cersei’s Golden Company with her dragons if she waited for them to sail and march to Winterfell. But on the other, that would make for less climactic television. So we are likely in for an episode where the North regroups, mourns their losses, and hashes out a plan to take down Cersei (and going by their track record, it will probably be a bad one). At King’s Landing, we’ll probably see Cersei engaging in some of her signature plotting, canoodling with Euron Greyjoy, being grossed out by said canoodling, and looking wistfully at her hired army, the Golden Company.
In danger: no one in particular, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s getting along
The Battle of Winterfell came at a tenuous time for some of Game of Thrones’ major characters: Jon had just told Daenerys that he’s a Targaryen; Dany had just told Tyrion that he’s continually let her down; Sansa and Dany weren’t getting along because Sansa wants an independent North when Dany wins the Iron Throne, and Dany wants obedience.
While these tensions may not results in deaths in episode four, they do put some characters of the North in a precarious position. And there’s at least one seaman at King’s Landing who would be smart to rein in his randiness and be a bit more suspicious of who’s he’s doing business with.
Tyrion Lannister: Tyrion promised Dany and the Starks that Cersei’s forces would show up to help fight the army of the dead, and they didn’t. Previously, in season seven, he led Dany to a series of tactical blunders that cost her allies. And then, right before the Battle of Winterfell, Dany told Tyrion she doesn’t trust him. But now that one of Dany’s other advisers, Jorah Mormont, was killed in battle and her boyfriend has revealed himself to be her nephew, Dany is going to be stuck relying on Tyrion more than ever. Naturally, she’ll also be examining his actions and their relationship with greater scrutiny; it’s certainly possible she could turn on him at some point. Not to mention that Bronn is somewhere waiting in the wings, having been hired by Cersei to kill both of her brothers.
Daenerys Targaryen: One of the things we have yet to see on Game of Thrones is how Dany will more fully process Jon’s recent news that he is a long-lost Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne (in addition to being her nephew). I’d imagine not well, considering that Dany has long considered it her destiny to rule the Seven Kingdoms. And if she and Jon have a falling-out, would Jon’s sisters, Sansa and Arya, lash out against her? Sansa, after all, hasn’t trusted Daenerys since they first met at Winterfell, and would probably be more than happy to find a justification to “remove” her altogether from the race to the Iron Throne.
Jon Snow: Falling out with Dany because of his Targaryen blood and claim to the throne is a real possibility for Jon. Could that be a deal breaker between the two? Possibly, though there are few worse enemies to make on Game of Thrones than a queen with two full-grown dragons. (And since Jon doesn’t seem particularly interested in taking the Iron Throne for himself, there’s always a chance he’ll give it up.) I’m also interested to see how Sansa and Arya take the news that their brother is a Targaryen — could they accept the idea of having a Targaryen on the Iron Throne or commanding the North?
Euron Greyjoy: Cersei Lannister’s primary use for Euron Grey was to have him bring her the Golden Company. She also finds him convenient for carnal pleasures. But unless Euron can offer more than that — say, by protecting the harbor of King’s Landing? — Cersei may soon tire of him, and that’s not a good thing as far as his survival odds are concerned. On top of that, does Euron even know that his niece Yara has escaped and is currently sailing around claiming islands for House Targaryen? It’s reasonable to believe that Yara might have spent her time as Euron’s prisoner cooking up a revenge plot to take down her uncle.