Warning: HUGE SPOILERS ahead for the series finale of Game of Thrones on HBO.
The grand saga of Game of Thrones has come to an end after eight seasons of backstabbing, bloodshed, battle, and the occasional happy twist. The series finale wasn't the action-packed adventure that many fans were undoubtedly expecting, with much of the episode devoted to establishing a new status quo (with a unexpected new monarch) rather than a climactic final conflict. Now, with everything over and done with, let's break down who lived, who died, and what could possibly be next for the survivors.
Let's start with the dead, since that list is surprisingly shorter.
Who Died: Daenerys Targaryen
Yes, Daenerys died in the series finale of Game of Thrones, which probably wasn't altogether shocking to a lot of viewers. Game of Thrones took her past the point of no return in the penultimate episode when she burned King's Landing, and even Jon -- who desperately wanted Dany to somehow be right so that he wouldn't have to admit that woman he loved is a murderous tyrant -- turned against her, after some convincing from Tyrion.
She delivered an admittedly epic speech to the Dothraki and Unsullied about how successfully taking the Iron Throne was only the beginning and they were going to take down tyrants all over the lands, but it was also deeply troubling. Even Tyrion and Jon, who couldn't understand the Dothraki and High Valyrian language she spoke, could tell that she wasn't exactly telling them the job was done and they could all peacefully go home.
Jon still didn't want to get rid of Daenerys, until he found her in what remained of the throne room, happily looking at what she won. Dany said that they both knew what was good and would spread that, and the rest of the people didn't know what was good, and they didn't get a choice. Jon kissed her and told her she would always be his queen... then stabbed her in the belly, killing her. The death was very early in the finale and very quick, to the point that I at least totally understand Emilia Clarke's reaction to Dany's ending.
Drogon sensed that his mother had died. Rather than burning Jon, however, he roasted the Iron Throne and picked up Dany, flying away with her corpse, never to be seen again in the series. Surprisingly enough, Dany was the only major character to die in the series finale. Let's move on to who lived and what's next for them.
Who Lived: Jon Snow
Although he was once a popular pick as a major character to die (again) by the end of the series, Jon Snow survived against all odds. Drogon didn't roast him for murdering Dany, the Unsullied and Dothraki didn't execute him, and a council ruled that he wasn't going to be put to death. In fact, Jon got about as happy an ending as he could possibly get, considering he murdered the woman he'd come to love after professing his loyalty to her.
Grey Worm was unwilling to let Jon go unscathed, but the Stark women weren't willing to let their brother be executed either. The remaining high lords and ladies came to a conclusion that actually made me laugh out loud: Jon had to give up all lands and titles, agree to father no children, and take the black. Yes, Jon's sentence was to join the Night's Watch.
When he returned to The Wall, he met Tormund there, along with a bunch of wildlings and what remained of the black brothers. And Ghost was there! Jon was much more affectionate to his faithful direwolf than the last time they'd seen each other. Judging by his cloak, Jon was given back his position as Lord Commander. On horseback, he and Tormund led a group of people beyond The Wall once more. Why? I'm not entirely sure. The White Walkers are gone, and the wildlings aren't likely to be a threat like they were before.
Seriously, Jon got a pretty happy ending. It's not like he ever wanted to be King of the Seven Kingdoms, and King in the North was thrust upon him as well.
Who Lived: Tyrion Lannister
House Lannister was not extinguished after all, although the beginning of the finale did confirm that Jaime and Cersei perished beneath the Red Keep, reducing Tyrion to bitter tears (mostly for Jaime, I assume) and disproving a recent theory about Jaime's fate. Devastated at what Daenerys had done -- and what he'd helped her do -- Tyrion quit his job as her Hand and readily accepted his almost certain execution. Jon paid him a visit where he was imprisoned, where Tyrion convinced the honorable and reluctant Jon that Dany needed to die.
With Dany dead, Tyrion's fate fell to the high lords and ladies to be decided. What started as his kinda sorta trial turned into a debate over who should be the next king of Westeros, and they decided that it was time to choose a king rather than figure out who was rightful heir. Shockingly, Tyrion announced that "Bran the Broken" should be king thanks to his status as the keeper of history and all he accomplished, even arguing that Bran's inability to have children made him an even better candidate.
Almost all of the lords and ladies voted for Bran, with the exception of Sansa, but we'll get into that later. One of Bran's first decisions as king was that Tyrion would serve as his Hand, to make up for his many grave mistakes over the years. While Tyrion joked to Jon that a few years of that might send him North to take the black and piss off the end of the world again, he seemed up to the task ahead of him.
Who Lived: Sansa Stark
Sansa came down to King's Landing after Tyrion and Jon were imprisoned for their actions against Dany, and she looked briefly hopeful that she could be named ruler once it became clear that the highborn present would choose the next monarch. She even awesomely told her uncle Edmure to sit down when he tried to make his own bid for the throne.
When it became clear that Bran would be king, Sansa simply said that the Northerners had suffered too much to ever bend the knee again, and the North would remain independent, even though she loved him. Bran nodded his agreement, freeing the North and giving Sansa what she deeply desired. With Jon heading off to the Night's Watch, Sansa was crowned Queen of the North and hopefully an ally to the Six Kingdoms of Westeros.
Who Lived: Arya Stark
Arya reunited with Jon after the burning of King's Landing, and she warned him that he was in grave danger as the greatest threat to Dany's claim to the throne. She was present after Jon was imprisoned, after being joined in the south by Sansa, Bran, and thousands of Northerners to make sure that not another Stark man was executed in the South. (Yes, I'm counting Jon as a Stark.)
Although she was thrilled Jon was at least alive and happy for Sansa that she'd guaranteed independence for the North, she didn't intend to join them in the North. When Jon told his crying sister that she could always come visit him at The Wall, she said that she couldn't, because she was sailing to find out "what's west of Westeros," where all the maps stop. She ended the series on the deck of a ship flying the Stark direwolf banner, heading off into an uncertain future and happy about it. The Hound would be proud that she chose life.
Who Lived: Bran Stark
In a twist arguably more shocking than Dany dying before the series finale hit the halfway point, Bran became King of the Six Kingdoms. When asked if he would accept the crown if offered, he simply responded that that was why he'd come south. It struck me as slightly uncool of Tyrion to dub him "Bran the Broken," since the episode made it clear that the nickname is going to stick.
At least the realm is going to be led by somebody detached from political bias, especially now that the North is independent. He can't be biased toward the North if it's not one of his kingdoms! He was present at a meeting of the small council, which already makes him a better king than Robert. He did leave early, though, saying that he would try to find Drogon -- presumably using his Three-Eyed Raven powers -- with the rest of the council tasked with getting the kingdom up and running again.
Who Lived: Grey Worm
Grey Worm had a brief moment of glory when Dany named him her Master of War, which clearly pleased him. Everything fell apart for him when Dany died, though. He wanted Tyrion and especially Jon to be executed for betraying Dany, but he accepted the decision of the highborns that both would live. I'm not sure war would have been avoided if Jon hadn't agreed to take the black again.
Grey Worm and the Unsullied didn't stay in Westeros. In a sweet tribute to Missandei, Grey Worm and his men set sail for Naath. He apparently intends to keep his promise to the woman he loved that he and his warlike people would protect her peaceful people, even though she was not alive to join him. Aw, Grey Worm!
Who Lived: Ser Brienne of Tarth
Brienne returned as part of the gathering of lords and ladies, and it was a relief that her final scene was not sobbing at Winterfell after Jaime left. She voted for Bran as king, then took her place as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. This gives her a place on the small council and the right to edit the The White Book, which records the lives and accomplishments of the Kingsguard.
The book managed to survive Dany's inferno, and she filled in Jaime's page with his accomplishments. Rather than stating that he betrayed her or did something dishonorable in his decision to return to Cersei, she merely noted that he died defending his queen. Who can argue that Brienne isn't the most honorable knight in Westeros, even if she is the most unconventional?
Who Lived: Samwell Tarly
Sam also arrived at King's Landing for the gathering of lords and ladies, and he made one grand (but poorly-received) pitch for a democracy involving the voices of the common folk of Westeros. Although he was laughed down by the rest of the nobles, at least he tried! He was one of the first to vote for Bran as king.
As it turns out, he stuck around King's Landing under the reign of Bran the Broken. He appeared at the small council meeting with the robes and chain of a maester, addressed as "Grand Maester," which doesn't entirely make sense, but he seemed happy about it, and he should be a valuable advisor to Bran.
Who Lived: Podrick Payne
Yes, Podrick survived as well! He got a happy ending of his own. Appearing in the small council scene, he was dressed as a member of the Kingsguard and addressed as "Ser Podrick." Pod was knighted and named a member of the elite Kingsguard! The finale didn't reveal who other than Brienne and Pod are part of the Kingsguard, but Bran should be well protected with those two watching his back. Well done, Podrick!
Who Lived: Ser Davos
Ser Davos Seaworth continued his survival streak, and narrowly prevented Jon and Grey Worm coming to blows after King's Landing burned when Jon wanted to stop the execution of Lannister prisoners. He was present for the vote of the new leader, and he even gave an "aye" despite not being sure if he actually got a vote.
He became a member of the small council, with the title of Master of Ships. He's tasked with rebuilding the royal fleet, and although he'll have to wrangle the new Master of Coin to get the money for it, he clearly has the support of Lord Commander Brienne, and even Tyrion can probably agree that ships are more important than brothels when it comes to rebuilding.
Who Lived: Bronn
Speaking of the Master of Coin, the small council scene revealed that not only did Tyrion keep his word about giving Highgarden to Bronn and making him Lord fo the Reach, he also brought him to King's Landing as part of the powerful council advising the king. Well, you do you, Tyrion. Bronn wanted to rebuild the brothels first, and clearly needs some lessons in etiquette, but he seems to be there to stay.
Who Lived: Drogon
Drogon flew off with Daenerys' body after he destroyed the Iron Throne, and he was never seen again in the series. Reports apparently indicate that he was last seen in far east, and Bran intended to try and find him.
More Who Lived:
Edmure Tully, Lord of Riverrun who evidently did not die after Arya poisoned the men of House Frey.
Robin Arryn, who was distinctly less creepy than last time he was seen, which bodes well for The Vale.
Yara Greyjoy, who wanted vengeance on Dany's behalf but ended up voting "aye" for Bran, and presumably returned to lead the Iron Islands.
The New Prince of Dorne, who was present but never received a name or much attention beyond voting for Bran.
Gendry, who apparently really is the Lord of Storm's End despite his legitimizer dying, and will hopefully learn how to use a fork sooner rather than later. And also to read.