Thrones Y’all! I am sure a lot of you must have recommended Game of Thrones to your friends and acquaintances. Accompanied with such a recommendation, there usually is a statement or reason backing up said recommendation. In the case of this show that has taken most of the world’s TV viewing audience by storm, the reasons were multifarious.
“Watch it for the complex plot and characters!”
“Watch it for the awesome battle scenes!”
“Watch it for the dialogues. And sex. There’s lots of it.” (I kid you not, I actually received this recommendation from a close friend.)
Among these many requests, one seemingly naïve one caught my attention and how! “Watch it for the unexpected deaths”, he said. While I did not let this statement affect my judgment, since I had already long decided on watching the show for myself and seeing what all the moolah was about, his statement did turn out to be somewhat true. Game of Thrones is the only show I can remember in recent times that has the total death count of a small disaster stricken village, some handled with excessive violence, some just passive, and some truly exhausting and heartbreaking ones, and more often than not, of the good guys or the characters we grew fond of over the course of the series. It is the third kind of deaths, the kind that gave the show its infamous reputation in those terms that we try to list out here. In the process of doing so, I revisited all of them, one by one, harrowingly so, and listed those that had the most impact on me, even the second time around, in order, from least heartbreaking to the ones that made one rid of all joy in the world.
At this instance, I am reminded of a particularly well written dialogue, before proceeding with the list, mouthed by Cersei Lannister, “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Sadly, these characters aren’t here anymore to corroborate that. With that said, here is the list of greatest Game of Thrones deaths, ranked from least tragic to most tragic. MAJOR Spoilers for the show ahead.
21. Khal Drogo
He was one of the more menacing characters gone too soon. I would have loved to see more of him. He was a savage in the beginning, but later started developing real feelings for Daenerys. He was killed, ironically though, by a blade wound, later paralysed by a vengeful priestess, and in the end snubbed to death by Daenerys using a pillow. His death was somewhat sad since his redemption arc suddenly came to an abrupt end, even though it was necessary for Daenerys’ rise to power. Jason Momoa has been on a roll ever since.
20. Tyene Sand
There is practically nothing we know of her, or her background, except that she is a fiercely trained warrior, somewhat feared in Dorne, and a part of the alias Sand Snakes. Courtesy of some strong writing, though somewhat melodramatic in its approach, and considering the b**ch that Cersei Lannister is, her death on the show momentarily affected me. She was killed by a kiss from Cersei’s poison coated lips in the dungeons of king’s landing, upon defeat and capture by Euron Greyjoy.
19. Jojen Reed
Well, for this one, I couldn’t think of any solid reason as to why he was killed off. Jojen Reed along with his sister sought out Bran to find the three eyed raven and journeyed with him beyond the wall. Its disturbing nature stems from him being killed almost instantly by a wight, in a well played out shock, and later given a mercy killing by his own sister, Meera Reed.
18. Tywin Lannister
Yes, he was one of the bad guys. But the strength of his portrayal by the legendary Charles Dance added such prestige to the character, it was hard to see him go simply because I felt that the stakes were now going to be somewhat less, always. A true lion, he had my undivided attention and admiration when he spoke of battle tactics and offered counsel on survival. It was poetic in a manner, the way Tyrion killed him, but I miss the presence of a suave villain in the show.
17. Aemon Targaryen
The wise old man, siding with the protagonists. Died of natural causes and old age. Still saddening as he was a positive presence on the show, and almost a guide, a knowledgeable sermon for Jon and Sam at the Night’s Watch.
He has been with us since the end of season one, we have literally seen him grow into a beast right before our eyes! (Okay, that’s a little too much) Undoubtedly though, Drogon was always given centrestage when it came to swooping in heroically and saving mother Dany. Rhaegal and Viserion seemed content flying in the background. Eventhough, Viserion is the result of some excellent CGI, the trio of dragons were Daenerys’ ace in the hole. The loss of one of them, as dramatic as it was, with the Nightking proving a worthy contender in Westerosi Olympics, meant a major blow to Daenerys’ regime of power. Coupled with that, the oodles of blood he lost before crashing into the ice and Daenerys’ forlorn face at that moment broke my heart a little.
15. Myrcella Baratheon
Not a very integral character to the show, and even though her death was prophesied, her final scene was mostly emotional because she was just a child, and the horrific poison made her bleed all out in Jaime’s arms, who happened to be her real father.
14. Tommen Baratheon
Most regard him as a wuss, and I would agree with it to some extent, but he surely was naïve and definitely wasn’t meant for the game of thrones. Although his death was prophesied, the way he just silently jumps out of that window in the red keep following loss of all hope and everyone beloved in the explosion at Baelor, as a result of his mother’s actions, is somewhat heartbreaking.
13. Rodrik Cassel
Loyal to the cause of the Starks, he was the master at arms at Winterfell, and was seen on multiple occasions training the Stark children in combat and affably bonding with them. I wasn’t particularly attached to his character, but the violent and extremely distasteful manner in which he was executed by Theon Greyjoy as Bran and Rickon pleaded mercy for him in the background, made me sick in the gut.
12. Wun Wun
Wun Wun the giant was rescued by Jon Snow following the battle of Hardhome, and brought south of the wall. His role was mostly limited to being a brute force and knocking down fortified doors. He was loyal to Jon Snow during the battle of the bastards and it was his sacrifice that allowed Jon and Co. to gain entry inside the castle of Winterfell for the final showdown between Snow and Ramsay. Here too, he was knocking down a door, so to say, except this time he was shot with a LOT of arrows and fell to a hero’s death right before Jon. Even though we barely know him, it felt kinda sad, especially after that bastard Ramsay shot him in the eye.
11. Jeor Mormont
Unexpected good guy death. No other reason for sadness for him going except that he was a good, honourable man on the show, and a likeable character by all means. Stabbed to death by a traitor in the Night’s Watch, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was seen as a mentor to Jon Snow, sermonizing him on occasion and eventually succeeded by him. He offered the Valyrian steel sword ‘Longclaw’ to Snow, by virtue of which he discovered that wights were susceptible to valyrian steel.
10. Maester Luwin
Maester Luwin became Bran and Rickon’s father figure and a comforting elderly presence in Winterfell following Ned Stark’s death and Robb and Catelyn Stark’s departure. He suffered a stab wound at the hands of a mutineer, and was later given a quick death offscreen by Osha who then fled North with Bran and Rickon.
9. Rickon Stark
“Run, run like the wind Rickon!” Boy do the Starks fall like pins. The youngest of the Stark heirs fell on the battleground of the battle of the bastards, pierced by an arrow let go by the despicable Ramsay Bolton in a sadistic game. We didn’t know Rickon much, and he was mainly absent from the major proceedings of the show for quite a while, but my hatred for Ramsay and the sick manner in which he killed Rickon, by giving him hope, just before it appeared like he was going to make it to Jon, made me wince.
8. Olenna Tyrell
If there was one lady in Westeros who knew how to shut the men in the room up, it was her. She was called the Queen of Thorns for a reason. A badass in her own right, she was sass and savagery in just the right amounts. Much of the credit for that would go to the terrific performance of the legendary Diana Rigg. She did last longer than most introduced alongside her, and her death was painless, but just when she was about to make an exit, she made sure she did with a burn so severe it would haunt Cersei for the rest of her life. “Tell Cersei, it was me. I want her to know!” Claiming the responsibility for poisoning Joffrey in her last words, she made me realise why I was going to miss her character so much!
Lovers fighting on opposite sides of a war is fodder enough for a ripe emotional standoff. In this case, it’s Jon Snow and his wildling love interest Ygritte. Just when she is aiming her arrow at Snow, who appears confident enough she wouldn’t fire, she is fatally shot at by Olly, and dies in Jon Snow’s arms, her last words being the now rather famous dialogue: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
6. Margaery Tyrell
I was well aware of the nature of the show, and its infamy for killing off beloved characters. While attachment to endearing characters is inevitable, I tended not to root for anyone to take the throne. Well, except for this one. Her wicked smile and sly demeanour coupled with the beauty that her character was, the perfect foil for Cersei, I just wondered what she would look like on the Iron Throne, and therein lay my mistake. She went too soon, and although I didn’t care much about all the other characters that died in the wildfire explosion at the Sept of Baelor, this one had me by the throat, but it was also perhaps because I had stars in my eyes. What infuriates me to no extent is that this was probably done to introduce budget cuts for the show by cutting down on the extensive cast.
5. Oberyn Martell
The character exuded such swagger that you couldn’t help but instantly fall in love with this guy. The Dornish Prince didn’t mince words and couldn’t give less shits about what the people in the capital thought of him. He fought like a charm during Tyrion’s trial by combat against The Mountain, and while he swayed and danced with his spear, I genuinely built some hope around the premise that there could be justice in this world. Alas, as he got to incessantly taunting the hell out of his weakened opponent, I saw hope crumbling before my eyes as one of my favourite characters lay lifeless with his skull splattered all over the floor.
4. Shireen Baratheon
Shireen Baratheon wasn’t a key character responsible for the sequence of events unfolding in Westeros at the time, but her death hit hard because she was a lively presence. Contracted with greyscale at a young age, she was a gentle child, well read, and her moments with Stannis and mainly Ser Davos were truly affable. She met a horrible end by being mercilessly burned alive as a sacrifice to the lord of light, her parents agreeing upon persuasion from Melisandre, while it all ends up being in vain. Her horrific screams echoed long after the episode ended.
3. Eddard Stark
Ned Stark was a righteous man by all means, and an upright guy who could clearly differentiate between good and bad. His death by beheading was one of many horrors Joffrey unleashed upon the world. What was even more disturbing was that his daughters watched in disbelief, as an honourable man, helpless in the situation was taken to the gallows under the false promise of mercy for being accused of a false crime. God, I hate the crowd of King’s Landing. I take respite in knowing that Westeros didn’t deserve him and he is in a better place, mythically at least.
I couldn’t reel from the effects of this one for days. It is an achievement if you ask me, growing so fond of a character given the only word he speaks is his own name. I would argue that he probably didn’t meet an end as ugly as many other characters on this show, but it was a hard hitting one because his origins as a stable boy named Wylis in Winterfell, and how he got his disability are simultaneously revealed through this sequence. Farewell, you adorable giant.
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1. Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and Talisa Stark
This right here. This merciless episode, this exercise in sadism. I still remember shutting the show off after this episode ended and contemplating why I ever chose to watch it in the first place if no good could ever happen to its good guys. Just when things seemed to be going fine, the red wedding shook the collective conscience of the GoT fandom. Their deaths were brutal, unexpected, devastating and emotionally draining, painfully acted out on screen. The Starks suffered yet another betrayal at the hands of their hosts, but the effect this time around put me at a loss of words, so much so that I could just stare at the screen long after the silent credits had rolled, at the sheer improbability of what horror had just unfolded before my eyes.
An Honorary Mention for all the loyal Direwolves who died protecting the Stark Children; and Ghost and Nymeria. You da real MVPs!
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