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Many things about Game of Thrones changed over the course of season seven. The episode order was shorter than ever. The action-packed stakes were higher than ever. Characters who had never met one another were suddenly front and center in each other’s storylines, which says nothing of the various emotional reunions seen throughout the season.
Here’s one way season seven stayed completely true to everything that’s come before: death, and plenty of it.
Whether it was Drogon roasting up a pair of Tarlys in the afterglow of a battle, or a different dragon plummeting into a frozen grave, season seven delivered on several main character deaths over the course of its seven-episode run. With the season officially in the rearview mirror, here’s how we’re ranking all of the most important main character demises.
And no, before you ask, you won’t find Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric (Richard Dormer) on this list. The Wall fell with them still on it, or at least in incredibly close proximity, but we saw no bodies. No body, no death. Period. If season eight launches without Mr. Giantsbane and the Lightning Lord, we riot. With that said, let’s proceed.
9. Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle)
The partly undead ranger occasionally known as Coldhands (at least on the show) ranks lowest on this list, due to the fact that his return to the series was so incredibly brief. Really, he spoke maybe five words before getting mobbed by wights, presumably ripped limb from limb. Uncle Benjen’s unknown whereabouts were one of the great enduring mysteries of Game of Thrones for several seasons. The answer arrived in season six, but the impact of his return was barely felt at all.
8. Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye)
Every death from this point forward is one that packed a punch, starting with the drunken fire priest, who died a peaceful death north of the Wall. Well, peaceful-ish, anyway. There wasn’t anything soothing about the bear attack he sustained in the moments before he died, but Thoros drifting off to sleep after freezing on the ice lake island is still just about as serene a death we’ve seen on Thrones, certainly since the days of Maester Aemon (the late Peter Vaughan).
7. The Sand Snakes (Jessica Henwick, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers)
Were they your favorite characters? Probably not. Were they anybody’s favorite characters? Probably not. But credit where it’s due: the Dornish storyline was closed out in stunning fashion this season, with Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) allowed the chance to prove why everyone should fear the Iron Islands’ newest overlord. She didn’t die in the same scene, but Tyene’s presumed death by poisoning falls her alongside her sisters. It’s only appropriate that they stick together.
6. Randyll and Dickon Tarly (James Faulkner and Tom Hopper)
Speaking of family sticking together, enter the Tarlys, who were burned to a crisp in the aftermath of the Loot Train Battle. Where did Samwell (John Bradley) get his smarts? Certainly not from his dad, who steadfastly refused to bend the knee to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and instead welcomed a hot breath of dragon fire to the face. Likewise Randyll’s son, Dickon, even more foolish than his father in his refusal to surrender. Poor decisions notwithstanding, their incineration was one of the more quietly disturbing scenes of the season.
5. Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg)
It says a lot about the quality of the main character deaths this season that the Queen of Thorns acts as the midpoint. Her final scene with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is an all-timer in the pantheon of Lady Olenna scenes, almost always the highlight of any episode she participated in. Even in death, Olenna managed to inflict some damage on her enemies, all while suffering a death even more painless than what Thoros experienced. If you’re going to go out, it’s not a bad way to exit the scene.
4. House Frey (Various)
The opening scene of the season, in which Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) poses as Walder Frey (David Bradley) and wipes out the late lord’s wicked family members, was among the most satisfying sequences in Game of Thrones lore, let alone this season. The Red Wedding has officially been answered, and the answer sounds something like this: “The North remembers.”
3. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma)
It would be hyperbolic to discuss the way in which Cersei (Lena Headey) killed her Dornish rival as an even more stunning act of cruelty than the Sept of Baelor’s destruction. But if you want to get hyperbolic, I won’t stop you. This was a deeply unsettling scene, a horrid fate for anyone, let alone the person who already suffered one of the greatest traumas of the series: being witness to the head-crushing death of the love of her life, the Red Viper (Pedro Pascal). You don’t need to see Ellaria’s death firsthand; the vivid image Cersei paints is all the nausea you need.
2. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen)
He thought he could fight every battle, everywhere, all at once. He was wrong. Lord Petyr Baelish’s death at the hands of the Stark sisters was Westerosi karma at its finest, vengeance for all the wrongs he committed against their house along the way. Ned, you have been avenged. Catelyn, you would be proud. And Aidan Gillen should also be proud, given his enormously powerful final performance — assuming that was his final performance. Dot, dot, dot hmm …
1. Viserion (Visual effects, sometimes a tennis ball)
Ladies and gentlemen, the Hodor (Kristian Nairn) of season seven. At first, it was shocking that only one member of the Eastwatch elite died in battle “Beyond the Wall,” but it only helps to add weight to the impact of the sudden death of one of Dany’s dragons. Watching Viserion drop out of the sky will go down as one of the most sickening sights in the entirety of Thrones, a testament to the brutal power of the Night King and the White Walkers, not to mention the end of an era for the Dragon Queen. What’s worse, death isn’t even the end for Viserion, who now has a new lease on afterlife as the Night King’s undead mount. Here’s hoping Viserion’s inevitable second death is a more joyful occasion.
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