HBO’s Game of Thrones completely transformed the fantasy genre was completely transformed by HBO’s Game of Thrones, by giving well-known characters and tropes a Shakespearean seriousness. Along the way, however, the show regularly proved that it wasn’t just the best in the genre at shaping complex stories with memorable characters. It was also the most skilled at breaking your heart unexpectedly.
Even when it comes to its most loved characters, “Game of Thrones” never held back, and throughout its eight-season run, viewers of the HBO fantasy series tearfully bid farewell to many iconic figures. Nevertheless, despite the fact that “valar morghulis” (translation: “all men must die”) was one of the series’ most iconic catchphrases and served as a warning to viewers not to become overly attached, certain deaths were more painful than others. After all, even if we were aware that a number of the characters will probably have horrible deaths at some time, we wouldn’t have continued watching the brutal series season after season if we didn’t really care about them.
Due to our emotional attachments to the characters, certain “Game of Thrones” deaths affected us exceptionally hard, while others only looked unusually cruel in the context of the show. Although we didn’t necessarily need these characters to be around forever, did they really have to leave on such a sad note? These “Game of Thrones” deaths hurt us the most, ranging from vengeful beheadings to shocking betrayals.
The sweet old Maester Luwin was one of the few characters who was as devoted to House Stark and its offspring. He serves as a loyal guide and actual history and life instructor for young Bran and Rickon over the first two seasons of the show. In addition, despite Theon Greyjoy’s betrayal and fall into darkness, he remains one of the few characters who can reason with him.
However, the selfless Maester Luwin dies a terrible death at the conclusion of the second season. Maester Luwin tries to defend Theon after he is betrayed by his own troops, but in doing so, he is badly wounded. As he nears death, Rickon, Hodor, Osha, and a returning Bran manage to locate him. They comfort one another by exchanging heartfelt words. Maester Luwin restates his heartfelt devotion to the Starks in his final words: “I introduced you to the universe, the two of you. Since then, I’ve seen each one of your faces practically every day. And I count myself quite lucky for that.”
If we’re being completely honest, we knew from the start that a relationship between the wildling Ygritte and Stark bastard Jon Snow was probably doomed. After all, Jon’s pledge to the Night’s Watch placed him in opposition to the sworn Free Folk. They were aware that the chances were against them, but we couldn’t help but cheer for them as they slowly fell in love. Finally, things appeared to be turning around when Jon was welcomed as one of the wildlings, uniting the two of them. However, their alliance ultimately failed when Ygritte realized Jon still had the Night’s Watch on his side.
Even though Jon and Ygritte still love one other, at the finale of Season 3, Jon turns away from the wildlings and goes back to the Wall. As a result, when the wildlings finally make their way into Castle Black in Season 4’s “The Watchers on the Wall,” viewers already know that a fight between the two is coming. We weren’t really ready, though, when Ygritte got shot instead of Jon during the battle, saying she wished they’d remained in the cave where they had their passionate encounter. She died in Jon’s arms. We, too, hoped that they had remained in that cave.
Tyrion Lannister never had good luck with the ladies. Tyrion had a horrifying experience as a teenager when he was led to believe a lady loved him only to discover that she was a hired prostitute. Despite this, Tyrion eventually allowed himself to be open to the possibility of love again years later. Shae was one of the most controversial characters on the show while she was there, largely because of how she deviated from her book counterpart.
Shae was genuinely in love with Tyrion (which was different from the A Song of Ice and Fire book), and as a result, she was terribly heartbroken by his apparent betrayal when he made her leave King’s Landing. It’s sad enough when Shae comes back to betray him by giving false testimony against him in his murder case. It becomes even more tragic when you consider the subsequent conflict that arises when Tyrion discovers her in his father’s bed. The two get into a violent argument and fight until he is pushed to strangle her to death.
It’s not always necessary to know a character all that well in order to be deeply affected by their death. The youngest of the three children born to Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Myrcella Baratheon, was possibly the least developed. While we were all too familiar with their two boys, Joffrey and Tommen, Myrcella remained a charming mystery, a princess who had been promised to marry the prince of Dorne. She was always polite, charming, and optimistic.
That made her harsh murder at the hands of the revolting Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand all the crueler. Myrcella was returning back to King’s Landing with her father, Jaime, when she suddenly died in the arms of her heartbroken father. The two had just spoken openly about the nature of Myrcella’s bloodline when she suddenly started bleeding heavily without any clear cause.
Ser Jorah Mormont
Ser Jorah Mormont, who first appeared in the series, was always and forever devoted to Daenerys Targaryen, whom he saw as the legitimate ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. As Daenerys’ closest friend, most dependable counsel, and confidant, Jorah would repeatedly demonstrate the true nature of his loyalty and affection, despite the fact that his motivations were initially unclear (due to a contract made with King Robert at the time).
Ser Jorah Mormont repeatedly defied death to stay by her side before sadly dying in the only manner a person of his kind could: by giving his life to save his queen. Jorah lost his life during the Battle of Winterfell by battling the Army of the Dead harder than he ever had before, absorbing all the vicious blows intended for Daenerys, and passing away in her arms after the battle was over.
In the entire cast of Game of Thrones, there aren’t many characters who can be considered purely nice and pure. Shireen Baratheon is a member of that tiny club. Shireen Baratheon, the icy and ruthless Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, was diagnosed with greyscale at a very early age and was doomed to live a lonely life. Ser Davos Seaworth and she developed a great friendship, and she even helped the elderly Onion Knight learn to read.
Then, just as it appeared that the future princess would avoid her father’s irrational exaggerations, Melisandre sent a command that the Lord of Light required the sacrifice of royal blood. Shireen was brutally burned at the stake, which caused her mother to kill herself and ultimately brought about Stannis’ downfall.
Power corrupts, and unchecked power corrupts much more. These details are well-known and frequently retold in debates of both real and Westerosi history. At the beginning of the series, Daenerys Targaryen was a young child with big eyes and a dream of one day going back home. At the end of the series, Daenerys Targaryen was a Mad Queen who had lost all sense of reality and was unable to even begin to realize her mistakes. During the last season, her descent into madness and her abrupt rise to power left many viewers with an unfavorable impression of her.
The way the series decided to wrap up her story, though, was the most heartbreaking of all. Daenerys still held out hope that Jon Snow could love her in the same way that she loved him, despite having practically no one on her side aside from her only remaining dragon. This appeared to be the case as the lover-relatives confessed their feelings for one another, but Jon surprised her by stabbing her in the heart with a dagger, putting an end to the Song of Ice and Fire and get it over with.
The majority of “Game of Thrones” characters who were important to the plot over several seasons were warriors, nobles, or a combination of both. But Hodor, the gentle giant who acted as Bran Stark’s legs when he was paralyzed, wasn’t like that. Hodor was usually depicted as having a childlike mind and spirit despite the fact that he was an adult. He was known to be easily charmed or horrified by all the amazing things that happened in Westeros. Bran occasionally had control over Hodor thanks to his Warg abilities, using his body to protect his friends even while Hodor himself was terrified. In “The Door,” the sixth season finale, he met his end, and it was truly devastating.
All hope appears lost as Hodor, Bran, and their friends are trapped north of the Wall. Our heroes escape the Three-eyed Raven’s den by using a tunnel and closing a door behind them as an army of wights pursues them. Unfortunately, someone must hold the door to keep Bran safe, and Hodor is assigned to do this. The fact that Bran is still haunted by flashbacks, especially one of a young Hodor when he was still known as Wylis, adds sadness and tension to the moment.
The young Wylis drops to the ground, saying “hold the door” again and again until the words all combine into one, which is the only thing he can speak going forward, as Bran watches in horrified understanding in his vision. It was a scene of jaw-dropping storytelling to watch Hodor’s backstory develop in the past as his body was being torn apart in the present. It’s a huge tragedy, though, since we learned that the monosyllabic guy we’d loved over so many seasons had been formed by the agony of his own tragedy ever since he was a youngster.
The Red Wedding is always brought up when discussing important “Game of Thrones” deaths, and for a good reason. The Lannister family murdered Robb Stark’s father, and during the 2nd and 3rd seasons of “Game of Thrones,” Robb gathers his army with the intention of exacting revenge. During that period, in exchange for Robb’s safe travel through the Frey family’s property, a marriage is negotiated between Robb and Walder Frey’s daughter. However, after accepting Frey’s demands, Robb falls in love with Talisa and secretly marries her. The Frey troops leave Robb’s army as a result, much to the anger of Robb’s mom, Catelyn.
In an effort to win them back, Robb suggests that his uncle wed Frey’s daughter instead, reasoning that it would still be a fine marriage for the Freys. The elderly Frey approves, but Catelyn realizes it’s a trap when the banquet hall’s doors are sealed after the ceremony. But by that point, it’s already too late, and Talisa, Robb, Catelyn, and the entire Stark army are killed.
To add insult to injury, Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, is even killed by Frey’s warriors outside the feast hall while Robb’s younger sister watches helplessly from her hiding spot. Being forced to watch Robb’s unborn child and wife die first, followed by Catelyn witnessing her son get slaughtered, and Arya witnessing Grey Wind being shot is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the show.
While fans of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series were aware of what to expect from “Game of Thrones,” those who had never seen the show were in for a harsh awakening when Ned Stark, the show’s apparent protagonist, was beheaded in “Baelor,” the second last episode of the first season. Ned had been the moral compass of the series up to that point, always wanting to do the responsible thing even when it was difficult and trying to keep everyone else around him to a high standard.
Sadly for Ned, “Game of Thrones” is not the kind of series where a person’s integrity would typically be rewarded. In the end, the hero is tricked into admitting to treason even though he is innocent, which allows the cruel young king Joffrey Baratheon an excuse to break his word and execute Ned instead of sparing his life.
It was a heartbreaking scene, even for readers who knew Ned would die since they had read the books—especially because both of his children were present to see him in his final moments. The moment sent a gut punch to anyone who had believed that this was the kind of show where good guys always win and bad ones usually lose, more so than the severity of the death itself. It was sufficient to lay that naive optimism to rest after Ned was killed and Joffrey was still in charge.