Sometimes it seems pretty incredible that Game of Thrones has been such a hit, considering how cruel it can be to its own fans. You pour your heart into these characters, you root for them, and then one day Game of Thrones sits you down and explains that this character has been lit on fire or cut in half or shot full of an improbable number of arrows. They’re rough stuff, these heartbreaking Game of Thrones death scenes, and they’re everywhere in the HBO series.
Any one of Game of Thrones’ cruel killings is enough to upset kind-hearted fans, and it’s hard for a reasonable person to say that one loss was greater or lesser than another. It would take a pretty deranged person to actually rank the Game of Thrones death scenes, which is why The Portalist reached out to me to do it. Spoilers follow, of course, so don’t read on if you’re not caught up.
10. Jon Snow
Not actually dead! Nobody liked watching Jon Snow get shanked 800 times by his former allies, but when you don’t stay dead, there’s only so tragic it can be. Sorry, but those are the rules. NEXT!
“How can Hodor be this low?” you may ask, or tweet at me, or write in all caps in an email to The Portalist. Well, first of all, please just use the comment section and don’t send cut-up magazine letters to my house. And, second of all, Hodor got a hero’s death in a series that gives most people pointless ones, so we should really count ourselves lucky.
8. Oberyn Martell
We didn’t know Oberyn Martell well at all, but thinking of this scene still makes me mad. Poor Oby’s demise is the perfect encapsulation of what makes Game of Thrones so different from other fantasy sagas: there’s no respect here for honor or fairness, no sense of destiny or wrongs righted. Martell has every right to win his fight, and then he sort of does, and then he still loses and gets his head crushed in front of everybody. Unreal. What a great show!
7. Rickon Stark
Rickon Stark was just a kid when Game of Thrones killed him off in front of his own half-brother. Rickon didn’t get the most screen time of the Stark siblings, but he still deserved better than an arrow in the back. Also, I wish I could tell you that Rickon is the last kid on this list, but he’s not.
Not much has gone right for Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, so it was really nice that he had a girlfriend for a while, even if she did occasionally try to kill him. Ygritte, of course, decided not to kill Jon in the end – but Jon’s then-ally Olly didn’t get the memo, and he shot Ygritte with an arrow. Oof.
5. Robb Stark
It’s easy to forget how important ol’ Robbie was early on in Game of Thrones. And when he finally got the real George R.R. Martin treatment, oh boy, it was ugly. Robb Stark was murdered in the infamous Red Wedding scene, and he’s the first of a few people from that scene that make our list. For now, being murdered at his own wedding is more than enough to net Robb a top-five spot.
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4. Shireen Baratheon
We’ll be back to the Red Wedding in a moment, but oh my God, remember the time that Game of Thrones burned a child at the stake? Shireen was a minor character, but she was also a CHILD WHO GOT BURNED AT THE STAKE, and that’s pretty heartbreaking stuff by anyone’s standards. She has earned her spot on this list.
3. Talisa Stark
We didn’t know Talisa Stark quite as well as some of the other characters on this list, but she got one of the most upsetting deaths of the series so far, so she ranks pretty high despite her limited screen time. Talisa, as you may recall (but hopefully don’t) was pregnant when she was murdered at the Red Wedding. It was super messed-up stuff. Eesh. Let’s move on.
2. Catelyn Stark
Of the characters who meet their end in the Red Wedding scene, Catelyn is perhaps the one we knew best. On top of that, she’s the last to die in the scene: she’s witnessed the whole horrible thing, and she knows that she has lost her son and her daughter-in-law and her unborn grandchild (she’s also not that far removed from losing her husband and seeing the rest of her family scatter). It’s a very emotional capper to the grisliest scene in the series so far, and ranks deservingly high on this very depressing list.
1. Ned Stark
It’s been awhile since Game of Thrones wrapped up its first season, but oh man, do you remember what a gut-punch this was? Ned Stark’s dramatic execution was the most upsetting moment of the first season, and it remains the most heart-wrenching death in the entire series. This was the moment the Stark family was torn apart, and all of the other Starks were still alive at this point to see it and react to it. And, of course, this was the moment that we as an audience were shocked into the realization that Game of Thrones is willing to kill off just about anyone. This heartbreaking death deserves its spot at the top of our list.
Disagree with this ranking? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured photo from "Game of Thrones" via HBO