As a jewel in HBO’s already impressive crown, Game of Thrones has managed to keep its loyal fans enthralled for the past seven seasons of the Seven Kingdoms. Something about the gratuitous nudity, foul language, and scenes of arterial spray struck a chord with viewers, making Game of Thrones a weekly addiction.
The first rule of Westeros is that no one is safe, meaning that since the first episode in 2011, we’ve come to learn that anyone is fair game for a shock exit. So, from Red Weddings to graphic beheadings, what are the 10 most shocking Game of Thrones deaths?
Every story needs a hero, and in the early days of Game of Thrones, Ned Stark dutifully filled that position. Despite George R.R. Martin's other ideas, the noble Lord Eddard looked set to rule alongside BFF Robert Baratheon as the Hand of the King.
Let’s be honest, those who hadn’t read the books wouldn’t have had a clue that Sean Bean’s Stark patriarch was going to lose his head in the penultimate episode of Season 1. The signs were there though, and even with Ned billed as the big star of the show, Sean Bean’s acting history should’ve hinted that any character played by the gruff Yorkshireman was probably heading to an early grave.
Plenty of shows have a passion for killing off innocent character for a shock twist, but couple that with murdering a child and you’ve got pure Game of Thrones magic. Shireen Baratheon was tragic and charming in equal measure, which meant she was always in a position of danger when it came to Game of Thrones.
With her affliction of greyscale and sense of naivety, Shireen didn’t deserve to be burned at the stake like a witch -- ironically by a witch. It looked like the lil’ Baratheon would be spared from her winter BBQ, but nope, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss delivered one of their most shocking and complained about moments.
Pedro Pascal arrived in Season 4 of Game of Thrones and quickly became a fan-favourite as Oberyn Martell, aka the Red Viper of Dorne. Sadly, those who knew the books were already aware that Pascal’s stint on the show was doomed to be a short one.
Although he was an unlikely candidate to fight in Tyrion Lannister’s Trial by Combat, Oberyn looked like he’d got the better of the colossal Mountain. In classic Thrones style and one of the show’s goriest turns, Oberyn bowed out in a particularly eye-popping scene.
Aiden Gillen turned in a glorious Game of Thrones performances as the shifty Petyr Baelish. A master of political moves in the power struggle of Westeros, Littlefinger was as creepy as his moustache. However, just when it looked like Baelish was two moves ahead (again), fans realised that he hadn’t banked on the power of the Stark bloodline.
Trying to turn Arya and Sansa against each other was the nail in Baelish’s coffin and Game of Thrones once again lived up to its bloodthirsty nature. Baelish may have had his (little)fingers in many pies, but it didn’t save the slippery serpent from his satisfying end in front of a baying crowd of northerners.
The sickly-sweet Lysa Arryn was the sister of Catelyn Stark but that’s where the family resemblance ended. It turned out that Lysa had been instrumental in the death of her former husband and was a major player in the start of the race for the Iron Throne.
When a more mature Sansa Stark was shipped off to the apparent safety of the Vale, it didn’t take Aunt Lysa long to become a green-eyed monster. Seeing a way out of his sham marriage, Littlefinger sent Lysa on a one-way trip out the Moon Door -- if only her son had followed her. Taking a dive through the Moon Door also wins the award for one of the most imaginative Thrones deaths.
Up there with the likes of Benjamin Linus, Gus Fring, and Mr. Burns, Joffrey Baratheon was the kind of guy we couldn’t help but love to hate. No one was placing bets of Joffrey sitting on the Iron Throne when the final credits rolled, but that didn’t stop the bastard Baratheon having a good stint ruling over the realm.
Clearly not learning that weddings equal death in the world of Westeros, Joffrey fell foul of his own nuptials. After being the biggest sh*t in the Seven Kingdoms for the first four seasons, Joffrey finally got his comeuppance during the Purple Wedding. The scheme was a carefully executed plan that involved too many people to count and poor Tyrion taking the blame.
Robb and Catelyn Stark
While it was hard for anything to top Ned’s death, Season 3 doubled (quadrupled if you count Talisa and Grey Wind) the Stark slaughter. The Starks were once an unstoppable force and it looked like Robb Stark would be the handsome hunk to overthrow Joffrey and sit his perky backside on the Iron Throne.
Unfortunately, the Lannister’s alliances with House Frey and Bolton meant a whole army of Starks were quickly shown the door. Living it up under the roof of the Frey’s, no one can forget the iconic moment “The Rains of Castamere” played and the Starks has their fates sealed. The Red Wedding is single-handedly the most jaw-dropping moment in the show’s extensive run, so can anything top it in Season 8?
In the early days of Game of Thrones, the name Lannister conjured visions of a warmongering family remembered for incest and putting a tyrant on the throne. However, among villains like Joffrey, Cersei, and Tywin, let’s take a moment to remember the more likeable members from the pride of lions.
Another innocent soul taken from us too early was Myrcella Baratheon. Nell Tiger Free’s TV version of Myrcella had most of her book storyline cut during that dire trip to Dorne, but it didn’t stop a sensational swansong in a classic tale of “an eye for an eye”. Quite literally getting the kiss of death, Myrcella was poisoned by Ellaria Sand for the death of Oberyn -- and just when it looked like a Lannister reunion was on the cards.
With Kit Harington being Thrones’ golden boy, no one was really buying the idea that he would shuffle off to an icy grace at the end of Season 5. That being said, Benioff and Weiss gave audiences one of the biggest TV cliffhangers of all time when Jon Snow was betrayed and stabbed to death by his own members of the Night’s Watch.
Things had been going pretty well for Jon as he became the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Unfortunately, bastards aren’t particularly popular in Game of Thrones and a group of mutineers left Snow for dead...in the snow. Thankfully, the Red Woman brought Jon back to life and he still remains one of the most important players in the Seven Kingdoms.
The entire Sept of Baelor
Game of Thrones loves an explosive end to a season, but Season 6 took that mantra further than most. After Cersei’s walk of shame and Jonathan Pryce’s role as the villainous Black Sparrow, the Lannister matriarch enacted her sweet revenge by gathering all her enemies in one place.
The superb moment that Margaery Tyrell realised they were all done for was quickly followed by a flash of green and Game of Thrones delivering the twist to end all twists. Going out with a bang, a whole host of fan-favourites were blown to smithereens and Cersei solidified her grip on King’s Landing.