Game of Thrones went notably light on casualties in Season 7, as precious few of the characters lost had any real connection with viewers. One fan-favorite in particular had been set up for ignominious ends all season, especially in Sunday’s finale, so we have to ask – should Game of Thrones have killed Bronn?

Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Season 7’s Finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”:

The series has long-since reached a point where major characters are shielded from significant harm, and numerous enough that Game of Thrones has trouble keeping track of them (Gendry’s complete finale absence, for one). Jerome Flynn’s Bronn in particular holds a special place as a fan-favorite sidekick and source of snark, but one whose omnipresent self-interest renders him low-hanging fruit for a notable end. That Bronn made it to Season 7 at all is nothing short of incredible, given the deadly missions undertaken with both Lannister brothers.

The plausibility of said survival reached its zenith with “The Spoils of War”; granting Bronn multiple heroic moments (and near-deaths), and culminating in what arguably should have proven a sacrificial shove to spare Jaime death at Drogon’s fiery snout. Yet where “The Spoils of War” brushed up against the limits of probability to keep the character safe, Sunday’s “The Dragon and the Wolf” final seemed to outright gesture toward Bronn’s impending demise.

Our first finale glimpse of Bronn illustrates his concern with the approaching army (to say nothing of Grey Worm’s equally inexplicable return), before defusing the tension with jokes of all the gold and lordship his Lannister service has earned. That same concept resurfaces when Bronn escorts Tyrion and his party to the Dragonpit; practically begging the God of Death to prove him wrong when Bronn refuses Tyrion’s offer to buy him out, and any notion that Cersei might punish him for consorting with the enemy. It’s a poignant reunion for the pair punctuated by the tender “good to see you again” that we missed out on two weeks ago, but one made all the stranger when the last we see of Bronn is his* exit with Podrick to “have a drink while the fancy folks talk.”

*UPROXX points out that Bronn’s exit may have owed to rumors of Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey refusing to work with one another after their past relationship, but we’ll stick a pin in that for now.

Game of Thrones Finale Bronn Death

Game of Thrones is as deliberate with its reminders as Cersei is unforgiving, so why then was Bronn seemingly let off the hook? Cersei could, and likely would have made an example of the character to either brother, especially as her final scene with Jaime repeatedly hammered home the cost of betraying her. Perhaps more pressingly – did Jaime even take the time to warn Bronn he was leaving King’s Landing, or should we to expect Season 8 opening with one seriously awkward day at the office?

The bigger problem here is that Game of Thrones has lost its grip on the value of life and death. For a show that deals in resurrections across the undead spectrum, Game of Thrones isn’t particularly good at reconciling when characters outlive their use. The finale twist of Littlefinger’s execution mutated from afterthought character ambition to awkward season-long shell game, just as Season 7’s returns of either The Hound, Gendry or Hot Pie struggle to find meaningful place in a story George R.R. Martin already removed them from.

It’s exactly that reason Bronn served his greatest purpose in Season 4; after everything we’d invested in his and Tyrion’s friendship, Bronn wasn’t willing to risk his newfound spoils for Tyrion’s life in a trial-by-combat against The Mountain. It’s a devastatingly rote betrayal that nothing since Bronn’s return has come close to matching the impact of. For better or worse, Bronn has only emotional connections with Jaime and Tyrion, and “The Dragon and the Wolf” practically screamed at writers to exploit that.

Game of Thrones Finale Bronn Death

So, what now? I wouldn’t mind the idea of Bronn becoming right hand to yet a third Lannister sibling in Season 8, but if the above report of Flynn and Headey’s history bears any truth, that may never come to pass. There’s also the fact that neither Pod nor Bronn are accounted for after the Dragonpit, so Season 8 might very well pick up with at least Bronn becoming a target of Cersei’s post-Jaime rage.

Either way, Game of Thrones has had countless opportunities to make something meaningful of its excess characters, but seems to no longer connect its dragon spectacle and clever maneuvering with consequences that ground them for the audience. Characters like Jorah, Grey Worm, Theon, The Hound, Tormund and others have all had their turn on the wheel. At this point, they’re merely dragging the spokes.

I’d miss Bronn as much as anyone, but if Season 7 needed a sacrifice to remind us why we connect with morally complex characters in the first place, Bronn was the debt that needed paying. Yeah, I f$%king said it.

Game of Thrones will conclude with an eighth and final season on HBO, airing in 2018 or 2019.

More From ScreenCrush