In less than a week, the final season of Game of Thrones airs. Unlike most of the previous seasons, this time the threat is immediate and clear – the army of the Night King. And as excited as we are to watch Jon and Arya reunite, and hopefully catch a glimpse of Nymeria and Ghost too, is there really much else that can truly shock us?
Because most of the players who constructed the cynical, messed-up, unexpected, at times horrific but always edgy world of Game of Thrones are dead (justified in most cases) – all except the queen of all things sinister and evil, Cersei.
So here’s a look at the characters whose death meant that even as Game of Thrones moved towards a climactic end, it also became a much simpler universe to navigate:
1. Joffrey Baratheon
When Joffrey Baratheon succumbed to his death, gasping for air, the audience’s excitement was hard to contain. But even as Cersei plotted and planned, his single act – of killing Ned Stark rather than pardoning him – sparked the very chain reaction that led to his death. And even in his death, a single pointed finger ensured that Tyrion embarks on a journey most of us could not have envisioned.
2. Oberyn Martell
An exceptional fighter combined with a flamboyant personality – what was not to love about the ‘Red Viper’. In his thirst for revenge, he had us hoping for a win for him and Tyrion both – until a single instance of cocky confidence once again turned the tide of the show. And his death sealed more than one character’s fate.
3. Olenna Tyrell
Cersei may be the most cunning queen, but she could certainly take a lesson or two from ‘The Queen of Thorns’. Strategic thinking came as easily to her as smartass responses – and even as death claimed her, her parting remark to Jaimie became one of the most memorable moments from the show.
4. Petyr Baelish
If there was a character who personified cunning, it was Petyr Baelish. Let’s admit it (since Season 7 already made it glaringly obvious), he was the one who ultimately set the ‘games’ in motion. He may have never got the ‘love’ he wanted, but he certainly managed to get a whole slew of people killed, dismembered, and disappeared before he succumbed to Arya’s ‘needle’. And his death does signify that season 8 is no longer about scheming politics (which he was an ace at), but something much bigger (and perhaps, more sinister?).
5. Walder Frey
Another person who succumbed to Arya’s ministrations was Walder Frey. But before he did that, he managed to shock the hell out of not just the Starks, but each and every one of us. He was undoubtedly evil, but it’s impossible to think of Game of Thrones without The Red Wedding. And for that horrific tragedy, Frey deserved the end he received.
6. Tywin Lannister
When it came to ‘noble’ family patriarchs, Game of Thrones never really set up great examples (leaving the Starks aside, of course). But what they lacked in nobility they made up in deceit and duplicity. Case in point: Tywin Lannister. And he may have been devious and devoid of basic empathy, but he certainly was an intelligent Hand of King.
7. Ramsay Bolton
In all the times that come, and all the universes that exist, no list of evil characters can ever be complete without mentioning Ramsay Bolton. When we though Joffrey was the epitome of what evil could like, he entered the scene and redefined cruelty. And watching him die was cathartic. Yet, his actions proved to be the catalyst in bringing the great war to an end.
8. Jonathan Pryce aka The High Sparrow
For the longest time, Cersei was the one woman who always had an ace up her sleeve. And then the High Sparrow set certain things into motion that not only lead to her fall from grace, but also to her ‘wild’ (fire) revenge.
9. Roose Bolton
Whose legacy do you think Ramsay Bolton was truly taking forward? His father Roose Bolton’s of course. Lest you forget, he was the one who betrayed the Starks and sided with Lord Frey – ultimately giving rise to the infamous Red Wedding. No wonder he faced death by betrayal, at the hands of his son.
10. Catelyn Stark
When the war was declared against House Stark, it was Catelyn Stark who helped keep the rebellion alive. From raising her son to be the Lord of Winterfell to circumventing tough negotiations and interpreting her daughter’s messages – Catelyn kept the fight going. And had her character followed the same arc as in the books, she was all set on a path of far more cynicism and violence than the series awarded her.
It is easily one of the greatest fantasy universes created, but Game of Thrones got much of its flavor from these cunning players – who, at the very last moment, had the show embark on altogether unexpected direction. Though we still have faith in the creators and a heartbreaking experience from the last seasons, we still wonder if Game of Thrones will have us gasping in shock one last time?