Game of Thrones is notorious for the high amount of violence shown on the program. But let’s all admit...it’s really, really cool. There have been 223 character deaths up to the end of A Storm of Swords, the source material for the show’s third and fourth seasons. Obviously the show can’t kill this many characters because they can’t employ this many actors for so many roles that are extremely small. I decided to rank the show’s deaths based on several aspects: how important the death was to the plot, how the death affected other characters, and the actual death scene/method of murder itself. (For the record, Syrio Forel and Benjen Stark are NOT confirmed as dead, so don't expect them to appear here.) To kick things off, I’ve included some honorable mentions that happened before the time period of the show and books but were very important to the events that occurred. Obviously spoilers are everywhere...
Known as “The Mad King” throughout Westeros, Aerys was the last Targaryen to hold the Iron Throne. He was a promising king at the beginning of his reign, but eventually lost his mind after the Defiance at Duskendale. He was held prisoner during a brief rebellion by a minor lord and eventually became a very cruel and paranoid ruler. During Robert’s Rebellion, Tywin Lannister entered the city under the guise of friendship, but helped Robert Baratheon sack the city. Aerys wanted to burn King’s Landing and murder all of the citizens so Robert wouldn’t have a city to rule in, so Jaime Lannister, then a member of the Kingsguard, stabbed him in the back. He then cut his throat to make absolute certain he was dead and would not rise as a dragon like Aerys always thought he would. Jaime was found by Eddard Stark, sitting on the Iron Throne above the dead body of Aerys. Aerys’ death allowed Robert to take the Throne and garnered Jaime the nickname of “Kingslayer”.
Rhaegar Targaryen was the son of Aerys. He was very popular with many people during his life and many who knew him thought he would be a better king than the last three combined. Unfortunately, he was killed in single combat by Robert Baratheon on the Trident during Robert’s Rebellion. Before this fight, he had allegedly kidnapped Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna and held her in the Tower of Joy.
Lyanna Stark was Ned Stark’s sister. She was a very beautiful woman, the love of Robert Baratheon’s life, and lusted after by Rhaegar.
She died in the Tower of Joy after a rescue mission failed, but her final words were “Promise me, Ned.” It has not yet been revealed what this promise was, but many readers have a theory as to what it might have been.
Aegon was the son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell. A red comet similar to the one seen in Season 2 was seen in the sky when Aegon was conceived, making many believe that he was the prince who was promised. During the Sack of King’s Landing, Gregor Clegane killed Elia, her daughter Rhaenys, and smashed baby Aegon’s head against the wall. Luckily, Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen were able to escape the city. Because of Aegon’s death, Viserys and Daenerys are the last Targaryens in line to take the Iron Throne.
25. Rodrik Cassel
“Gods help you, Theon Greyjoy. Now you are truly lost.” Best final words ever. Also, a tremendously heartbreaking scene for Bran and Theon with a very awkward end.
24. Beric Dondarrion
Okay, he’s not really dead. But the stories of his deaths and his fight with Sandor Clegane was pretty awesome. Especially with the fire sword. Beric has *technically* died six times, so even though he’s still breathing, I think he deserves to be on the list. In a low spot for now, but yes, on the list.
Rhaego is the unborn son of Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. We never saw the actual baby (although he appeared to Dany in the House of the Undying), but this death was part of Mirri Maz Dur’s blood magic. She needed a life to sacrifice to bring Drogo’s back, so she took the baby...and we all know how that worked out.
22. Joyeuse Erenford
Nobody? Well, it’s Walder Frey’s wife who got her throat slit at the Red Wedding by Catelyn Stark. Joyeuse makes the list simply because of Walder’s reaction to her potential death: when Catelyn proclaims she will kill this woman if Robb is not set free, the slimy Frey responds, “...I’ll find another.”
21. Mandon Moore
This guy tried to kill Tyrion Lannister. Not cool. Plus, we find out that Cersei tried to have Tyrion killed and we get to see how awesome Podrick Payne is. Pod stabbed Moore in the back of the head, driving a spear out the front of his face. Awesome.
When Yoren dies, everything goes downhill for Arya Stark. Yoren saved her and helped her out of King’s Landing, and was killed by Gold Cloaks on their way to Castle Black. Yoren was the last father figure Arya had and he was the one who began her “prayer” (murder list). Yoren’s death is the beginning of Arya’s lone wolf transformation.
Everybody thought there was something going on with Xaro, but nobody thought it was this drastic. He’s actually still alive in the books. We get to see Dany do something awesome, which was kind of missing from this season. Xaro didn’t get a really cool death scene though. He was locked in an unbreakable safe with Doreah and they both presumably died there. It was good to see Dany being powerful though.
18. Lady, Grey Wind
It’s always sad when an animal dies in any piece of work. But these two (along with all the others) provide a lot of foreshadowing for their owners. When Ned Stark had to kill Lady, it brought along the death of Sansa Stark’s innocence. With Ned busy cleaning up after Robert and Arya wanting nothing to do with her, Sansa really only had Lady during the trip to and stay in King’s Landing. Sansa lost her only friend and was faced with a harsh reality: life is not all flowers and princes and knights.
Robb’s wolf, Grey Wind, was killed by Freys at the Red Wedding. It was sad for many reasons: Robb was not yet dead the last time we saw him, but with Grey Wind’s death it was pretty clear that Robb was not getting out. Arya also witnessed the murder and, after thinking she was going to a place of safety, she realized she was caught in the middle of a slaughter. Plus we get to see Grey Wind’s sad little dying face underneath the door of his cage and we see his head marched around on a human body. Ugh.
17. Talisa Stark
This one is pretty much all shock factor. At the Red Wedding, the young wife of Robb Stark is stabbed multiple times in her pregnant stomach. This is the first act of a brutal slaughter that had many viewers dropping their jaws. In the books, Robb’s wife is actually Jeyne Westerling, and is not even at the wedding. This death was put in the show to catch even readers off guard with a brutal murder that nobody could have seen coming. After the shock of the event, its clear that Talisa’s fate was pretty much confirmed when she decided to name her son Eddard. The look on Robb’s face when he is clutching her dead body also shows that he was about ready to give up when he realized she was not waking up.
Another all shock factor. Ros is a character not in the books, who doesn’t exactly have a specific role in the show, but interacts with a lot of different characters. She gets shot up by Joffrey’s crossbow and basically confirms exactly what we’re all thinking: Joffrey is a sadistic monster.
15. Rickard Karstark
Rickard Karstark was not nice. After seeing a son killed in battle and another killed in an attempted escape by Jaime Lannister and THEN seeing Jaime set free, Lord Karstark wanted revenge. So he snuck down to the dungeons and killed two Lannister boys. His accomplices were hung and Rickard was beheaded by Robb Stark in a downpour. The reason Robb felt that a beheading was necessary was because not only did Rickard kill two innocent children, but he also hurt Robb’s honor and his image among the smallfolk. Seeing Robb assert himself was awesome, unfortunately the Karstark army marched home after this.
Mycah appeared in one episode and had very few lines but I think he deserves a spot high on this list. While traveling to King’s Landing, Arya wanted to spar with Mycah on the Trident. Along comes Joffrey and Arya’s wolf Nymeria attacks him. Arya orders Mycah to run away, but The Hound rides him down and kills him. Arya has a deep hatred for The Hound after this and she uses it as evidence in his trial with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Mycah’s death is the beginning of Arya seeing the world for what it truly is and provides a loss of innocence that isn’t even slightly retained.
13. Jon Arryn
Yes, Jon Arryn died before the show actually began but his death really set in motion all of the events of the series. It caused relations between the Starks and Lannisters to grow tense. It caused Robert Baratheon to make Ned his hand. It caused Ned to investigate what Jon may have known that could have gotten him murdered. And, at this point in the show, nobody REALLY knows what happened...
12. Qhorin Halfhand
The Halfhand’s death began a big change for Jon Snow. Jon could not kill Ygritte after capturing her and ended up getting caught by wildlings with the rest of the scouting group. After marching for a while, Qhorin tells Jon that he needs to enter the wildling camp as a spy, never balk and answer everything asked of him. Act like he wants to join them and figure out why and how they’re going to attack the Wall. The only way to get them to really believe Jon is one of them is for Qhorin to die. So he sets up this awesome swordfight with Jon, ending his life and sparing Jon’s. We lost a pretty cool character, but got to see an awesome fight.
11. Pyat Pree
This is the first time we get to see the dragons in action and really the first chance we get to see Daenerys being the independent woman she says she is. This is ranked so high because of the dragons though. And because it was awesome to see Pyat Pree burn.
10. Maester Luwin
Oh man, this was a sad one. Maester Luwin was the only truly helpful man in Winterfell. He was loyal to Ned Stark, helped as much as he could when Ned went south, and taught Bran how to be a lord when Robb marched south. Hell, he even tried to help Theon when he took Winterfell. He tried to put him on the right path...and that got them both in big trouble. Luwin’s reaction to seeing the alleged burned bodies of Bran and Rickon was truly heartbreaking. Even more heartbreaking was when Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor found Luwin dying in the godswood. Bran didn’t want to leave Luwin. Luwin didn’t want to leave Bran. But he did what was best for everyone: make Osha promise to keep the boys safe and then have her kill him to ease his way out. A great man deserves a quick death.
9. Jeor Mormont
This is the real beginning of the chaos for the Night’s Watch. Lord Commander Mormont was-both literally and figuratively-stabbed in the back by his brothers. But that didn’t stop him from nearly choking a dude out before he died. The lack of a leader and uncertain status of the Watch will make for many interesting situations in future seasons.
8. Kraznys mo Naklaz
Dragons. Fire. Melting face. Unsullied. Enough said. Oh, Daenerys asserted herself again but we’ve seen it all before with her.
7. Viserys Targaryen
Viserys got molten gold poured onto his head. Molten. Gold. Not exactly the molten crown he was looking for, but we got to see an awesome Drogo scene. Plus, Viserys’ death proved that he was not the true dragon...allowing Dany to prove that she, in fact, is. But most importantly, Viserys got MOLTEN GOLD POURED ONTO HIS HEAD. Luckily, nobody liked him anyway.
6. Robert Baratheon
The death of Robert Baratheon allowed for the beginning of Joffrey’s reign and a total war in all of Westeros. He got too drunk during a hunting accident and got cut by a boar’s tusk. All this war because a fat man got cut by a pig.
5. Catelyn Stark
I know, I know, many people were not too upset by this. But think of all the loss this woman has suffered: her daughter is being held captive by the people who murdered her husband, her father passed away, her other daughter is missing and presumed dead, and as far as she knows, her two sons were murdered by Theon Greyjoy. Not to mention everything she had seen literally five minutes before her death. Catelyn Stark suffered so much and all she wanted was to have her family back together again. The scream and uncomfortable amount of time she stood there before getting her throat cut was perfectly complemented by the lack of music during the end credits and provided a good ending to the most “what just happened” moment of the series so far.
4. Renly Baratheon
Renly is way more important than people seem to realize. Everybody loved Renly and he had a huge army, so although he did not have a better claim to the throne than his brother Stannis, he would have been a much better king. Plus he was killed by an awesome shadow monster spawned by Stannis and Melisandre. Renly’s death creates an advantage for Stannis, while he can also get away with fratricide. Renly probably had the strongest military advantage of the would-be-usurpers, but he was the first of many casualties during the War of Five Kings.
3. Khal Drogo
Khal Drogo was a really cool character. Which is why people were mad when he died. Especially because his cut looked so trivial. Swords do cut deep though. Plus, he took off the poultice that Mirri Maz Duur covered his wound in, allowing it to fester and become infected. Mirri Maz Duur does later admit to casting a spell to make sure that Drogo would live, but become a vegetable, so he could not cause any more trouble with other tribes. He actually dies because Dany couldn't bear to see him in this state, so she smothers him until he stops breathing. This angers Daenerys so much that she burns Mirri Maz Duur on Drogo’s funeral pyre, which facilitates the birth of the dragons, creating a new weapon for Dany after the depletion of her khalasar. This death was especially tear-enducing because of how much Dany and Drogo grew to seriously love each other. In a world of arranged marriages, most of them do not work. This one dead. And it was ended much too early.
2. Eddard Stark
You might be surprised that this isn’t number one. But losing Ned Stark was not as big a blow as number one was. Anyway, Ned was beheaded after Sansa begged Joffrey to allow him to take the black. Joffrey and Cersei both agreed but Joffrey still decided that Ned had to die. This beheading really proves that nobody is safe in this series and is the catalyst that pushes Robb to call his banners and march south. Joffrey doesn’t seem to realize that he singlehandedly started this war by going back on his promise and ignoring all council. The fact that Sansa and Arya both witness this from VERY different perspectives makes this even more upsetting. Man, I miss Ned.
Ned was advertised as the main character of the series, so fans were understandably upset when they saw this scene. Many readers thought that it hurt much more to actually see it than it did to read it. Which made everyone look forward to when the time came to see number one. So, without further ado...
1. Robb Stark
This one hurt. To many non-readers, this came out of nowhere. Similar to Ned’s beheading, but that was finished in a minute. This was a ten minute massacre of Stark soldiers and when it first went off, Robb was not yet dead. That gave fans a glimmer of hope as the scene went outside, then we saw Robb alive and struggling to his feet back inside. After some pleading and yelling, in comes who but Roose Bolton, one of Robb’s most “loyal” bannermen to deliver the Lannisters’ regards...and a dagger right through Robb’s chest. One of the most ridiculous and upsetting moments left fans open mouthed and teary eyed. Considering the fact that Bran and Rickon are both presumed dead, this leaves no male heir to Winterfell (it technically belongs to Tyrion now that he married Sansa, the oldest known living Stark), this basically ended all hope for the Starks and victory for the good guys. After Ned’s death, Stark fans warmed up to Robb, realizing that there is hope for them yet. But this time, there’s not much to be hopeful for.
I hope you all have a pleasant evening...