9:45am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones' Final Season: Every Major Death, Ranked
[This story contains spoilers for the series finale of HBO's Game of Thrones, "The Iron Throne."]
And now, their watches are over.
The final six episodes of Game of Thrones ended with appropriate amounts of fire and blood, with nearly 20 main characters losing their lives along the way. Among the highest-profile casualties: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), killed by Jon Snow (Kit Harington); Cersei and Jaime Lannister (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), crushed beneath falling rubble during the conquest of King's Landing; and the Night King (Vladimir Furdik), defeated midway into the final season's run thanks to the slick moves of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams).
Frustrating. Heartbreaking. Utterly invigorating. Such is the range of emotions involved in the final season's various demises, with some deaths far outranking others. As we continue the process of ramping down from the Game of Thrones high, let's dig six feet deep one last time to bury the dead. Here are all of the major character deaths from the final season, ranked from worst to first.
Shot out of the sky during a horribly misguided return trip to Dragonstone, Rhaegal's swift and sudden fall epitomizes so much of what went wrong in Game of Thrones' final season: a plotline ended lazily and abruptly for no real reason other than a need to move the story forward.
17. Harry Strickland (Marc Rissman)
If not for the fact that Rhaegal was a key presence throughout Game of Thrones, the Golden Company's demise would rank in last place. Cersei Lannister hyped these men beyond measure in season seven. When they arrived in King's Landing without elephants as promised, the audience shared the Lion Queen's disappointment — and that disappointment was only deepened when these soldiers all died without putting up a fight of any kind.
16. Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel)
"Dracarys." A powerful final word from Daenerys' old friend, albeit one Daenerys went on to take a bit too literally. Missandei's death served no purpose other than fueling Dany's madness, without nearly enough groundwork laid to justify the violent twist.
15. Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton)
"The Long Night" needed to claim some casualties, and the sardonic acting Lord Commander of the Night's Watch was an easy offering in that regard. A fully expected and entirely unmemorable death.
14. Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek)
Euron's final words: "I'm the man who killed Jaime Lannister." The Iron Islands' pirate king deserves partial credit for that death, at the very best. His final fight with the Kingslayer felt like an unnecessary action scene in the midst of "The Bells," but at the very least, Euron stayed true to his arrogant form to the end.
13. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)
The exiled Bear Islander fought his way back into Daenerys' good graces for one purpose and one purpose only: to win her war, even if it meant he died trying. That's exactly what happened to poor Jorah, killed in "The Long Night" while protecting his queen. The silver lining? He didn't have to live long enough to see Daenerys' full descent into darkness.
12. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer)
Why did the Lord of Light keep Beric alive? It was the central question surrounding the character for so many seasons, and in "The Long Night," the answer materialized: to keep Arya (Maisie Williams) alive. The man who died many deaths before finally reached a permanent end in the cold halls of Winterfell, using his own body as a human shield for the young Stark. It's not as iconic as "hold the door," but it's close enough.
11. Varys (Conleth Hill)
The Spider finally landed in a web of someone else's making: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who sold his old friend out to Daenerys for the crime of treason. "I hope I deserve this," Varys said in his last moments before being burned alive. Of course, he did not deserve it — but at least Varys died on his own two feet with principles intact, unlike some of the show's other late political operators.
10. Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey)
Frankly, this one still hurts. It alleviates the pain somewhat to know how much Bella Ramsey enjoyed playing out Lyanna's death; it also helps that it's one of the best David vs. Goliath moments in all of Game of Thrones. We can respect all of that. Doesn't mean we have to like it!
9. Melisandre (Carice van Houten)
The Red Priestess of Asshai spent her entire run on Game of Thrones building up to the great battle between good and evil, light and night. Once the conflict ended, her watch could finally end as well. A bit of a perplexing end at first glance, Melisandre's decision to walk out into the cold and crumble in the daylight stands out as one of the most powerful images of the final season.
8. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons — all those titles were not enough to save her from a simple, final betrayal. Rest in peace, Khaleesi.
7-6. The Brothers Clegane (Rory McCann and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson)
"Hello, big brother." It's the battle everyone waited seasons to see, and it finally arrived in "The Bells," the goriest sequence in an incredibly violent episode. The pointlessness of the fight is the point of it all, as it comes mere moments after the Hound convinces Arya to abandon her own thirst for vengeance. A few minutes later, he's getting his own eyes gouged out, helplessly stabbing a monster through the face, only successfully defeating the thing when the two go flying into a burning void. It was the most hyped one-on-one battle in Game of Thrones history, and if you felt a little dirty after watching it? Mission accomplished.
5-4. Cersei and Jaime Lannister (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
Another set of siblings who died in each other's arms, albeit somewhat more peacefully. The final seasons did not do nearly enough with Cersei and arguably did way too much with Jaime. In the end, however, the Lannister twins finding their way back to each other and dying the same way they entered the world — together — crushed beneath the weight of their own devastating power…it's hard not to feel moved by it all, thanks in no small part to some powerful final work from Headey and Coster-Waldau.
3. The Night King (Vladimir Furdik)
Maybe the most divisive death in the entire series. There are some who took Arya's fatal leap out of the cold dark nowhere to kill the Night King as the final season's turning point, the moment at which all things fell apart. Then there are those who felt like it was a spectacular twist that tied many beats from the past together in a delicious, unexpected fashion. For cultural impact alone, it ranks high for us, but it also ranks high because of what it represents thematically for the entire series: humanity can rally together and defeat darkness if only they can defeat their own frailties — a hard thing to accomplish, as evidenced by what happened after the Night King's fall.
2. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen)
I wrote this a few weeks ago, and for me, it still holds: "Theon lived a hard life. He was taken hostage as a child by Ned Stark (Sean Bean), the nicest captor one could ever hope to find, but a captor all the same. When offered his first chance to go back to the Iron Islands, Theon was immediately met with rejection, because he spent so much time under the care of the Starks. In order to impress his father, Theon tried to capture Winterfell, and it backfired spectacularly. It led to Theon spending years as a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), the polar opposite of Ned Stark as far as treatment in captivity goes. Losing body parts left and right, Theon's injured psyche was only broken down further, with some horrible physical wounds to add to the pile. He eventually mustered enough strength to escape the Bastard of Bolton, but when faced with his next opportunity to stand up to a nightmare — his uncle, Euron Greyjoy — he literally jumped ship and ran away. In season seven, Jon restored Theon's courage with one of the best pep talks of the series, telling him: 'You're a Greyjoy, and you're a Stark.' It was enough to convince Theon to rescue his sister at the start of the final season, and in the end, it was enough for Theon to fight tooth and nail to redeem himself in the eyes of House Stark. Before his death, Theon receives these final words of empowerment from Bran: 'You're a good man, Theon.' It's all he ever wanted to hear in his life, and it's enough to push him into taking on the Night King one-on-one — an obviously losing battle, but not so obvious that it stopped Theon from running straight into the jaws of death. After living a life haunted by nightmares and a shattered sense of self, Theon picked up the pieces and challenged the scariest force of death imaginable. He did not live to tell the tale — but what is dead may never die."
1. Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser)
"Obey your queen, Ser Gregor!" Cue: Mountain hand grabbing onto Qyburn's throat, smashing the old maester's head into a crumbling wall, hurtling his body down a ruined staircase, and spilling the dead Hand of the Queen's brains onto the floor. Qyburn's curtain call is visceral, fast and satisfying on a level that you don't even have time to stop and feel dirty for enjoying it so much. Sure, there are other, more thematically rich deaths in the final season (see: Theon), but who needs thematic wealth when such a literal and instantly gratifying fall is on the menu?
Read all of THR's Final Path series, featuring character-by-character predictions:
1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
15. Davos Seaworth
16. Jorah Mormont
18. Tormund Giantsbane
19. Beric Dondarrion
20. The Dragons
21. The Night King
22. Across the World of Ice and Fire
23. Final Predictions
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for continuing coverage all season long.