Few things get Game of Thrones fans riled up like another gruesome death, churning protagonists through the gauntlet of gore. Game of Thrones is notorious for this, and the future is bleak after a seemingly decisive send-off to a beloved character last season. Admittedly, I’m still in denial.
The show keeps the surprises coming when it takes the route of The Walking Dead, choosing instead to kill off characters who survived in the books.
If you aren’t caught up on the series, you’d do well to steer clear until you have a chance to binge watch your way to the end of Season Five. There are five stages of grief, and chances are likely that you’ll experience them all too by the time the credits roll. If you refuse to avert your eyes, consider yourself duly warned. There be spoilers afoot!
5. Barristan Selmy
As a fan of the novels (A Song of Ice and Fire), I was particularly shocked to see the end of Barristan the Bold. On several occasions in both the show and book, he is referenced as being one of the greatest living knights in Westeros. Ned Stark’s father describes him the best he’d ever seen, and Barristan proves it in the book when he defeats pit champion Khrazz. Though still alive in the novels, the showrunners have opted to send the accomplished old knight to an early (and permanent) retirement.
4. Oberyn Martell
Squashing a grape in your hand is an accurate reenactment of how the Red Viper met his untimely end. For all his fancy footwork and clever combat techniques, Oberyn Martell did not know when to end the fight. His moment of triumph against The Mountain quickly turned to defeat. His plans for revenge were literally crushed when he was at his most confident. Now the world will never know what fantastic plans of vengeance Oberyn would have unleashed upon the Lannisters. His lasting legacy is a splitting headache.
3. Robb, Talisa, & Catelyn
This one’s a doozy. A wedding should be a time of celebration and joy, where you spend time with those who mean the most to you. Apparently the Stark family missed that memo when they decided to lock themselves in a room full of people who want to kill them.
The result? The infamous Red Wedding. Pregnant Talisa was tragically stabbed in the womb, and a grieving Robb was killed shortly after. Despite living up to Boromir’s legacy by surviving a chest full of arrows, the Young Wolf’s enemies took his nickname a little too seriously. I still have nightmares of the body swap they performed on Robb and his wolf Grey Wind. Catelyn Stark made a brave attempt to save her son, but soon joined him in death when her throat was slashed faster than Wal-Mart’s Black Friday prices.
Could you imagine being the person who planned the event known as the Red Wedding?
“Cake? Check. Wine? Check. Hidden crossbows and daggers? Double check.”
Murder may be the norm in the world of Westeros, but good luck putting that on your resume. Take my advice - run the other way if your event planner’s last name is Frey.
2. Jon Snow
It must have a been a cold day in hell for this Night’s Watch Lord Commander. The chilly reception he received from his brothers in black turned deadly when winter came a little too early. His subordinates perceived that Jon had betrayed them to the Wildlings by literally sleeping with enemy, and they opted to put a fine point to their complaints. After being stabbed repeatedly, we last saw Lord Commander Snow fading to black in a pool of his own blood. The mutiny at Castle Black ranks among the most devastating season finales that we have experienced so far. Is Jon truly gone forever? Only time will tell.
1. Eddard Stark
The death of Ned came as a system shock to newly-christened Game of Thrones fans. This protagonist met his untimely end in the first season, further cementing that nice guys finish last.
Good ol’ King Joffrey (who unsurprisingly has a fun wedding experience of his own) orders him beheaded. He then has Ned’s noggin mounted on a pike and placed upon the walls of the Red Keep. At the very least, we can consider this confirmation that Fully Headless Ned is related to Nearly Headless Nick of Harry Potter fame.
It was a gutsy move killing off arguably the most honorable character in the series, yet it convincingly demonstrated to the audience that no one is ever safe in Westeros. This decisive moment paved the way for every unexpected, unfair, and undeniably shocking death that followed.
Honorable Mentions: Myrcella, Stannis, and Joffrey.