One of the distinguishing features of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” is how often an important character is killed off in the show, sometimes apparently for no reason at all. When it’s a despicable villain – say Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton or Walder Frey – it’s easy to brush off. Hey, they had it coming.
However, when it’s a favorite character who is essentially good and pure of heart, that’s when it’s so disturbing. Over the first seven seasons of the show, many “Game of Thrones” characters have met an early demise, but here are the characters who truly met an inglorious and unjust end.
#1: Catelyn Stark
The Lady of Winterfell was one of the strongest-willed female characters on the show, taking efforts again and again to protect the House of Stark from disaster. But eventually even Catelyn Stark was no match for the dastardly plot hatched by the House of Frey (and backed by the Lannisters). She had her throat slit at the Red Wedding, and even worse, was forced to watch Roose Bolton stab her son. She was also forced to bear horrific witness to the fatal stabbing of her pregnant daughter-in-law Talia and her unborn child.
#2: Ned Stark
During Season 1, the one character who seemed to emerge as the lead star of the show was Ned Stark, the Lord of the North who’s asked to become the Hand of the King at King’s Landing. That, of course, is when things take a turn for the worse due to the treachery of the Lannister family. In Season 1, Episode 9, we’re forced to watch his beheading at the request of the boy-king Joffrey. At that point, everything we thought we knew about “Game of Thrones” was challenged: Who exactly are we supposed to root for?
#3: Ser Rodrik Cassel
Another character, another beheading. In this case, it’s Ser Rodrik Cassel, the master-at-arms at Winterfell. He has already proven himself to be a loyal servant to the House of Stark – and that’s exactly what makes him so expendable when Theon Greyjoy returns to the North to exact his revenge. His beheading is as grisly as it is savage, since it takes young Theon Greyjoy a few whacks of the sword (and a little kick, for good measure) to behead Ser Rodrick.
Remember the Wildling from the North who became the love interest of Jon Snow in Season 4? He met her on a spying mission beyond the wall, and had a few tender scenes with her. We think that maybe – just maybe – there might be a chance that their romance will bloom and we’ll find out that Ygritte is some kind of important character In the future history of Westeros.
Instead, Olly shoots her with an arrow during the Battle of Castle Black. Even worse, the show includes a scene where Jon Snow looks into the eyes of Ygritte as she meets her inglorious and unjust end. (Of course, that makes a perfect pretext for revenge, and we’re happy when Jon Snow finally has his way with Olly).
#5: Jon Snow
Speaking of Jon Snow, he also met an inglorious and unjust end in Season 5, as his fellow brothers-in-arm take turns stabbing and wounding him. Of course, his death turns out to be only temporary, as Season 6 returns with a dramatic resurrection scene featuring the Red Priestess Melisandre.
#6: Tommen Baratheon
In the battle for the Iron Throne, there have been plenty of contenders. Some of them, such as Joffrey, have shown themselves to be wicked, sadistic and cruel at heart. But Tommen Baratheon, the young boy of royal lineage, seemed to be an exception. Some critics of the show have said that he was just “too good to be king.”
And, indeed, the one time that he stands up to his scheming mother, she practically blows up the Sept of Baelor with magical wildfire. That takes place in Season 6, Episode 10, and by that point, we’ve already resigned ourselves to the fact that the final winner in the Game of Thrones is going to be someone who’s a real schemer. Tommen eventually commits suicide by jumping out of a window.
#7: Oberyn Martell
One of the grisliest deaths that ever took place on “Game of Thrones” involved Oberyn Martell and his battle with The Mountain. The episode called “The Mountain and the Viper” shows the trial by combat set up by Tyrion involving Oberyn Martell and the Mountain. Since Oberyn Martell wants revenge on the House of Lannister, we suspect that things aren’t going to end well.
And, indeed, after a brief moment when we think that Oberyn Martell might actually defeat the Mountain in combat, the Mountain jumps up from the ground and gouges out the eyes of Oberyn. He then proceeds to exert so much pressure on his skull that his head literally explodes. What an inglorious and unjust end!
#8: Shireen Baratheon
It’s hard to decide if the Starks or the Baratheons are more doomed to suffer terrible and misfortunate deaths. Shireen Baratheon seems to be relatively pure of heart, and we’ve already seen her good side plenty of times. That’s why it was so disturbing to see her final demise near the end of Season 5. She’s burned alive by the Red Priestess Melisandre as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Sadly, her tragic sacrifice never seems to bear the results hoped for by Melisandre and Stannis, so her death seems to be as pointless as it is tragic.
To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, life in Westeros can be “nasty, brutish and short.” That’s fair enough when it leads to violent deaths, inexplicable demises and cruel tortures for the “bad guys.” But when it means a sad and inglorious end for someone we’ve been rooting for, season after season, there’s something bittersweet about it all. But maybe that’s what keeps us watching – “Game of Thrones” seems to have an unmatched ability to pull us in and keep us watching, long after we know that one of our beloved characters has met a horrible fate.