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It wasn’t something anyone saw coming, at least not so soon: Barristan Selmy, better known as Barristan the Bold, killed in an alleyway in Meereen — and not even at the season five midpoint.
Known as one of the best living swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, the legendary Barristan lost his life in the closing moments of “Sons of the Harpy,” at the hands of the titular Meereenese rebels. At the time the episode aired, Barristan’s death was shocking and upsetting for many fans of Thrones as a TV series, and even moreso for devotees of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which the show is based.
Through five books and counting, Barristan is still alive, if not quite well. As of the most currently published point in author George R.R. Martin’s series, Barristan stands out as one of the few remaining point-of-view characters active in Meereen; the most recent novel in the franchise, A Dance With Dragons, ends with Daenerys Targaryen far away from the Essos kingdom, surrounded by an army of Dothraki warriors, much as she ends things in the show’s fifth season. For his part, Barristan is left behind to deal with the political fallout of her disappearance and the increasing hostilities from the Sons of the Harpy and their allies.
When or if the novels move forward into the sixth planned installment, The Winds of Winter, it won’t be a shock to see Barristan die in combat. But to lose him on the television series as early as the fifth season’s fourth episode, with so much story still on his horizon, was a major blow for fans of the character — and even for the actor himself, based on comments Ian McElhinney once made.
“Truthfully, miffed,” McElhinney said, when asked at MCM London Comic Con in 2015 for his take on his exit. “I was disappointed because I had enjoyed playing the part and I was looking forward to getting more meat in the part, and I had to dared to presume that I would at least go into season six.”
Instead, Barristan’s book storyline was seemingly offloaded onto Tyrion and Varys upon their inclusion in the Meereenese hierarchy, an event that hasn’t happened yet in Martin’s books. While the early exit still stings for people who consider themselves fans of Martin’s material first and foremost, a look back on Barristan Selmy’s final stand plays much better years later, with enough distance to process the death. At the very least, he goes out swinging, exhibiting much of the skilled work that contributed to his legend.
This week on “Winter Was Here,” the Game of Thrones rewatch podcast from THR and Post Show Recaps, we’re offering one final salute to Barristan the Bold. Other topics include:
• The arrival of the Sand Snakes;
• Three different clues as to Jon Snow’s true parentage;
• A continuing case of grey scale;
• A theory about the High Sparrow’s distaste for wine;
• And more!
Listen to the podcast in the player below:
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