The Island is a dangerous place.
Lostpedia lists forty-three Main and Supporting characters who have died during the show's six-year tenure, averaging to about seven deaths per season. The Smoke Monster, or Island Magic, or greedy opportunists have racked up quite a body count.
Now that we're nearing the season finale, all bets are off. The poignant deaths of Sun and Jin were to remove the viewers' safety net, to reintroduce danger to our major cast of characters. After six years of familiarity, we assume that many of these characters are safe. Now we know they aren't.
So on the eve of the eve of the Lost finale, I thought we should take a hard look at some of these so-called "safe" characters. The ones we've assumed, for whatever reason, that the writers would never kill off. This finale is the big one, the show to end the show, so no one is safe anymore. Not even...
Why He's Safe: Hurley is the Island's big lovable teddy bear, and has been perceived as the most bulletproof of any original Flight 815 crash survivor. You might not mind a heroic death for Sayid or Jin, but Hurley doesn't fall into the traditional "hero's death" category. Sure, he's been heroic on occasion - we all remember his flaming VW bus - but Hurley is the heart of the show, not the muscle.
Why He Might Die Anyway: On the heels of Jin and Sun's untimely death, all bets are off. Most of the minor characters are gone, and only a few of the core cast remain. The finale might be made up of slowly paring down the remaining survivors, until the Island is once again only inhabited by two occupants: Jack as the Protector, and "Locke" as the Monster. If Hurley dies, it will be a sign of things to come. As Hurley goes so goes all of the remaining survivors, so don't be surprised to see Kate and Sawyer croak as well if they dare murder the teddy bear.
Of course, the exact opposite of big lovable Hurley is...
Why He's Safe: Benjamin Linus is one of the best villains ever to grace the Lost stage, and arguably one of the best in recent TV history. This may make it seem easy to kill him - after all, villains die at the end - but Ben recently received redemption when he confessed his sins to Ilana. This pinnacle moment of the character's progression firmly aligned him with the Protectors. Even now as he seemingly follows Nemesis, many think he's simply scheming his way to survival in a tough situation, and he'll show himself to be a hero in the end.
Why He Might Die Anyway: Despite his tearful confession, Ben was still an outsider. When the remaining Protectors joined together, he stood on the periphery, watching the kind of fellowship he could never have due to his choices in life. His redemption could also mean a hero's death is waiting for him, by finally making a noble sacrifice and closing the character arc. Or he could not be scheming at all, and be truly aligned with Nemesis now, in which case he's back in the villain camp and certain death awaits.
But then, not only villains are in danger...
Why He's Safe: Jack has taken up the mantle as the new Protector of the Island, which alone seems to imply a certain amount of protection from Nemesis. He's been slowly built throughout the seasons as the main protagonist: the man of science who slowly became a man of faith, and now he's embraced his place on the Island fully. If Jack falls, the Island is in grave danger, and it doesn't seem that the writers would make an entire show about protecting an Island just to have it fail in the end.
Why He Might Die Anyway: We know that Jacob and Nemesis are unable to kill each other, but it hasn't been made clear if that particular bit of magic extends to Jacob's replacement. It may be perfectly within the "rules" for Nemesis to kill the new Protector. Jacob seemed to imply as much when he told Jack, bluntly, that Nemesis was going to try to kill him. Now with Ben in tow, even if Nemesis isn't able to kill Jack himself, a follower still can. It's a loophole, and it wouldn't be the first time Ben did Nemesis' bidding to remove a Protector. And then there's the matter of the fail-safe. It seems odd that the writers would have even mentioned it if we wouldn't see it in action, which wouldn't be necessary while Jack still lives.
Which brings us to...
Why He's Safe: Desmond has been orchestrating everything off the Island, pulling the strings of the Oceanic 815 passengers like a puppet master. On the Island, he's the one man immune to the electromagnetic properties of the Island's Heart. In both realities, he's basically a superhero. Superheroes don't die, particularly ones with seasons-long love stories that are among the best in TV history.
Why He Might Die Anyway: Desmond was brought to the Island by Charles Widmore, who claims he was a fail-safe measure. He told Desmond explicitly that when the time comes, he's going to need to make a sacrifice. That may very well mean that the fail-safe measure includes giving up his life. If the fail-safe means entering the Island's Heart, whatever comes out won't really be Desmond anymore. It's possible that his orchestrating of events off the Island, or his fail-safe measure on the Island, or the two working in tandem, could lead to a tragic end.
We've seen a severe lack of mentions of Penny this season, mostly because of her role on Flash/Forward. But it's also possible that the writers are trying to distance Desmond from Penny. By not mentioning her, his death might have less punch. It's not a happy ending, but who said Lost is going to have one?