Assume the Worst: A Catalog of Death
Today, we're wrapping up Thrones week! Following the Season 7 finale on Sunday, we're exploring the weirdness of Westeros one last time. Spoilers through the episode "The Dragon and the Wolf".
Previous installments: What Problem Can't Dragons Solve | Game of Thrones Has A Shock Value Problem | 66 Questions About Episode 6 | Drafting For Your Thrones Fantasy League | Westerosi What-Ifs | A Deviant Art: The Captain & The Spider
Most Thrones fans harken back to the end of Season 1 to find the first shocking character death in the series – Ned Stark's severed head thudding to the ground – but there were actually two before the season finale. Viserys Targaryen and Robert Baratheon met their ends in episodes 5 and 7, respectively, although they're often swept into the category of "oh yeah that character existed!" At the time, however, those two were as big of a shock as you can get. The death of a king (obese but otherwise seemingly healthy) felt appropriately anticlimactic; he had gotten badly sliced up by a boar while hunting, but surely those weren't fatal wounds. The death of a was-supposed-to-be-king-and-had-a-good-chance-to-take-the-throne-back type of king felt deservedly shocking; he was considerably dickish, but surely he was being groomed for a larger villain role in a future season. These both felt earned. But the same can't be said of all the tombstones in the realm.
Let's rattle through the ones that were earned, among the named characters.
Definitely, you deserved to die: Ned (stupid decisions), Khal Drogo (seriously, wear some armor), Khal Moro (aka discount Khal Drogo) Jeor Mormont (ignored his own vices), Master Kraznys (the first 'dracarys' mention), Catelyn & Robb Stark (compounding stupid decisions), Rickard Karstark (see: Robb's stupid decisions), Janos Slynt (what a bitch), Walder Frey (it's a dish best served cold), Lancel Lannister (cool music), Meryn Trant (the original sadist), Qhorin Halfhand (a worthy sacrifice), Stannis Baratheon (full-circle story arc), Tommen Baratheon (resignation suicide), Shae (you really shouldn't say "daddy" in bed), Jon Snow (technically dead), Oberyn Martell (because Pedro Pascal had a gig for Narcos), Ser Rodrik (sharpen that sword, Theon), Leaf (seriously, this was all your fault anyway), Alliser Thorne (surely he died with that shit-eating grin), Aemon Targaryen (old age death is definitely an earned one) and Bran Stark (oh wait, that was just a happy dream I had).
Sure, I guess, because the plot demands it: High Sparrow (played against the wrong person), Margaery Tyrell (ditto), the Three-Eyed Raven (unfortunately only the older one), Talisa Stark (a tight fit indeed), The Mountain (also technically dead), baby Rhaego (if only for the terrible name), Hoster Tully (is Edmure still alive?), Selyse Baratheon (because we didn't hate Stannis enough), Mance Rayder (glamor is more than a feeling)
You've probably outlived your purpose: Lysa Arryn (put your teats away), Ramsay Bolton (sadist 2.0), Olly (rest in pieces), Grand Maester Pycelle (most prized patron of King's Landing brothels), Xaro Xhoan Daxos (accessory to grand theft dragon)
Hey, a fan favorite hasn't died in a while: Olenna Tyrell (a non-violent end), Ygritte (don't worry Jon, Olly will return the favor), Tywin Lannister (if only for the awesome book line), Renly and Shireen Baratheon (coincidentally killed by the same person)
We don't know if they're dead, but something smells: Syrio Forel, Brynden 'The Blackfish' Tully, Ellaria Sand (a good girl), Tyene Sand (bad pussy), Lady the Direwolf (could have just let her go)
Phew. That was a lot. Pivoting to the unearned ones, let's go through the ones that don't really matter.
It feels weird to care about them: Beric Dondarrion, Rickon Stark, Ian McShane, Craster. I barely even had time to learn what Ian McShane's character was named, let alone care about him. I feel like I should care about Beric, because he's you know, come back to life a few times. I know there are very few positive feelings I should direct toward Craster, but his blood does (did?) run through White Walker veins. And the Stark name almost tricked me into thinking that Rickon mattered, but eh. Run straight ahead if you want, kid.
Yeah this whole story arc is dumb so let's make the worst of it: Trystane Martell, Myrcella Baratheon, Doran Martell, Areo Hotah. Besides the fact that 'Areo Hotah' is probably the coolest name in Westeros (which seems to be a trend for black guys, see Sallador Sahn and Xaro Xhoan Daxos), the Dornish were primed for an important role following their introduction via Oberyn. We barely even got a chance to know Doran Martell and learn why he was sitting down all the time. Trystane seemed like a very nice kid, and killing Myrcella had no strategic advantage. It also made the Sand Snakes impossible to root for, which is why Euron's naval attack was oh so satisfying.
We haven't met our body quota for the month: Loras Tyrell, Benjen Stark, Summer the Direwolf, Walda Bolton, The Waif, Osha, Jojen Reed. Two of them were killed by Ramsay Bolton in an effort to remind us all that he's a bad person. Loras Tyrell was a casualty of Cersei's murder rampage. Apparently the Waif hadn't gone through the blindness training herself? And Jojen was an victim of the bloody season four finale. When you have characters that are relatively developed – the Waif pretty much had her own story arc – it makes for bad storytelling to make them so expendable, especially as throw-ins to a more important death. There's a clear difference when Catelyn and Talisa Stark die along with Robb than when Loras and Mace Tyrell die alongside Margaery. We had seen Catelyn's actions bring her to the Red Wedding, whereas the standoff against the High Sparrow was so closely tied to Margaery that we forgot it was Loras' gayness that got us there in the first place. Of course, this meant that Finn Jones was out of a job, so he had enough time to go and ruin Iron Fist. I guess bad storytelling can ruin multiple shows.
Shouldn't these guys be harder to kill: Hizdahr zo Loraq, Balon Greyjoy, Pyat Pree, Petyr Baelish.
Only one warlock has shown up throughout the show, and he was dispatched with little more than a small electric fire. If you remember, Pyat Pree succeeded in stealing three dragons, murdering fellow council-members by multiplying himself, evading being killed by Jorah and some other Dothraki, and imbibing Dany with visions of her dead husband. From one husband to the next, the complete apathy that Dany had for her second husband Hizdahr was at no time more evident than when she started riding Drogon and never brought him up again. He was set to be a king of some sort, right? Speaking of kings, Balon Greyjoy was the final survivor in the war of the five kings and he fell off a bridge. You know you live in a shithole if you have to cross a rickety wooden walkway to get from your living room to your bedroom, but you'd think there would be security on the lookout for a guy who is actively exiled from the country. Alas, Balon was the gateway to a much better character, but it always strains credulity when a impervious man in a high tower comes crashing down to his death.
It's just very hard to believe that Petyr Baelish – master manipulator, the one who played Ned Stark against himself, the engineer of the Stark/Lannister feud, the murderer of Jon and Lysa Arryn, the one who sold Sansa Stark for a cheap alliance, the co-orchestrator of the purple wedding – got tricked into a classic bait-n-switch. It always felt like he had one more move, one last play in case things turned sour. Yet he found himself locked in a room without any men loyal to him, without any weapon because he so generously gave away his dagger, forced to listen to a dumb kid calling himself a three-eyed raven. All because he somehow failed to see that Sansa actually didn't love him in the slightest and was actually capable of keeping a straight face. Besides, his passing invalidates an entire season of Winterfell's plot, since pretty much everyone just sat around and waited for Jon to come back. Does that mean Arya and Sansa did really feud for a bit, or was all that for Littlefinger's benefit? Even though it felt like his time was at an end, it's sad to see one of the last true havoc-wreakers go down without taking someone with him.