Some ‘Game of Thrones’ Deaths Are Tragic. Others, Not So Much.
All men must die on “Game of Thrones” — and women and children as well. Sometimes beloved characters depart much too soon, and sometimes villains get their just deserts. Here, we look back at notable deaths of “Thrones” characters — ranked from devastating to delicious — and hear from some of the actors who portrayed them.
Ned Stark seemed to be the main protagonist of “Game of Thrones,” a noble hero, a righteous man amid all the evil, and characters like that are not supposed to die in stories like this, right? But there was the boy king Joffrey, calling for his head, and then Ned on his knees, a sword unsheathed and ready to strike. Ned Stark’s sudden beheading not only started the War of the Five Kings, but it also signaled a key fact of life in the brutish Westeros — anyone can die, at any time.
Hodor, he of the large frame and small vocabulary, was a figure of fun, not much more than Bran Stark’s source of travel plus comic relief. That was until his death “holding the door” revealed what he had lost long ago, via a time loop that made his service to Bran seem even more tragic. “It took me a while to feel O.K. with it,” Mr. Nairn said. “It’s just a beautiful thing to see a character you worked hard on, and did your best to breathe life into, mean so much to so many people. It’s a humbling experience watching people hurt and cry along to something you have done.”
Melisandre, the red priestess advising Stannis Baratheon, had burned plenty of people at the stake before Shireen, Stannis’s daughter, but none were as moving as the sweet little greyscale girl. She had been denied a loving relationship with her mother, Selyse, but screamed for her nonetheless, her cries moving even the coldhearted parent who had given birth to her (and who would later take her own life). Not so for Ms. Ingram. “I watched some of the YouTube reactions,” she said. “I just find them hilarious, which sounds really bad! But as an actor, watching what you’ve done to people is quite funny, because I’m quite evil. So if I see them crying, I go, ‘Ha ha!’”
The Red Wedding — a betrayal where you would least expect one — was painful to watch. The celebration was actually a trap meant to lure the Starks and their bannermen into an enclosed space without their weapons, where they would be caught off guard. One by one, the Starks fell — a pregnant Talisa was stabbed in the belly; a stunned Robb shot by crossbows, then stabbed in the heart; and an anguished Catelyn robbed of her eldest son. By the time her throat was slit, she had already given up — not knowing, as we did, that her other children were still alive.
The Wildling warrior Ygritte saw Jon Snow, her former lover, across a crowded battlefield and paused, unable to shoot her arrow at him. He smiled. And then the young fighter Olly ruined the moment by shooting Ygritte instead. She died in Jon Snow’s arms as the battle raged on around them, a poignant moment that seemed to stop time. Ms. Leslie had read the books in advance and knew she was doomed from the start, but she still got emotional when she was given Ygritte’s bow “as something I could remember my experience by.” She credits the show with getting her in the door with casting directors “who would never had given me the time of day” otherwise.
The Red Viper, the avenging prince from Dorne, seemed as if he were going to win the trial by combat, as the Mountain, the sadistic strongman loyal to the Lannister clan, was down for the count. But in Westeros, whenever we get overconfident, our legs can be swept out from underneath us, leaving us in the hands of a villain who can squash us like a bug. Or a watermelon, in Oberyn’s case.
Doran Martell, the ruling prince of Dorne, wanted to keep his country from going to war but was overruled by the warrior women in his family. They let him know their decision by assassinating him. On execution day, his last day on set, Mr. Siddig felt the temperature shift. “People weren’t rude or anything, but no one was as nice as they were before,” Mr. Siddig said. “No one really wants to chat with a condemned guy. What do you say? Awkward.” He opted not to read fan reaction. “Bad for the soul,” he said.
Alliser Thorne, the former master of arms promoted to First Ranger of Castle Black, was a thorn in Jon Snow’s side, taunting him throughout their time together at the Wall, during which they were meant to guard the realm of men against White Walkers but spent most of it fighting Wildlings. Snow’s move to save the Wildlings led to Thorne’s murderous mutiny against him. He got his comeuppance upon Snow’s resurrection, when the Lord Commander decided to execute the man who had executed him. “I knew something was up when I felt the rope around my neck,” Mr. Teale joked. Snow’s return, he said, was about the death of Death. “It causes us to imagine that perhaps Death really shall have no dominion.”
Let’s face it — if Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell, the status-seeking self-made man and the matriarch of one of the richest noble families, hadn’t conspired to poison Joffrey at his own wedding, he would be tormenting everyone in sight. It was a public service. But choking in the arms of his mother turned the little monster back into a little boy, and his suffering was needlessly prolonged.
Though he had been Robb Stark’s bannerman, Roose was the one who killed him at the Red Wedding by stabbing him in the heart. Roose’s death, at the hands of his own son, mirrored that kill, seeming to provide some justice. “I had a friend who was visiting on set that day,” Mr. McElhatton said,: “and he reminded me, ‘Do you remember when the crew were told?’ Because they didn’t know I was doing to die. So the whole crew reaction when I was shooting my last scene was, ‘Oh my god, oh my god.’” Mr. McElhatton also skipped reading fan reactions. “Do they miss me?” he asked, chuckling.
The most terrible person appropriately had arguably the most terrible death. Ramsay — who castrated one poor captive for kicks, who hunted and raped women for sport, who gave his dogs a taste for human flesh — provided one last meal for his beloved pets, served up by Sansa, his abused wife. No wonder she smiled.