When it comes to fiction, there’s a certain set of rules that writers tend to follow, rules set long ago by the writers who wrote before them. Basic stuff, like how your main character should always want something even if it’s a glass of water, or how if a gun is shown in a story it must eventually be fired. These rules and a multitude of others have helped fiction come to whatever twisted, amorphous state it’s in now.
The twisted part is interesting, since it originated from writers breaking those sacred rules. Storytellers’ constant play between honouring and shattering the traditional rules of storytelling is the source of all suspense and surprise in fiction, and we’re thankful for it…
… unless we’re talking about one particular agent of fiction by the name of Mister George R.R. Martin. This man does not stop at breaking the rules: he chops their heads off after saying he’d spare their lives; he makes their father burn them at the stake and doesn’t wince as their screams pierce the night; he kills them and their entire family at their damned wedding. In Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin breaks our hearts over and over again, and we the addicted masses keep coming back for more. What on Earth are we supposed to do but think about all the precious faces we’ve lost over the years as we wait to see how he’ll crucify our souls next.
SPOILER WARNING! (You have been spoiler warned.)
15. When Ramsay Killed Rickon
Oh, Rickon… all he had to do was run in a zig-zag pattern. Maybe his decision to run from Ramsay’s arrows in a perfectly straight line down a super visible field of battle is natural selection at work, in which case we can’t feel all that bad for him. Besides, let’s face it, Rickon is the one and only Stark no one gives a peach’s pit about. It’s just so maddening that Ramsay managed to commit this final act of murderous douchebaggery before meeting his gruesome (re: delicious, extremely satisfying) end. The sense of heartbreak we feel during this scene is more for Jon Snow than Rickon; Jon was running so damn fast, and was so close to saving his brother before the arrow got him. The fact that we’re more bothered by Jon being sad than by Rickon being dead would be weird if the boy wasn’t essentially a filler character throughout the series, especially when compared to literally every other Stark. R.I.P., Rickon and f*** you, Ramsay.
14. When Theon Greyjoy Lost His Stuff
This one was a hard and heavy watch, especially for us sons of Adam. Sure, Theon was acting more and more like a dingus as the episodes progressed, but what Ramsay did to him is just… wrong. No man should have his willy sliced off unless he decides so himself, and no man should ever decide to slice off his own willy. Though it might be a controversial stance to take in this day and age, we believe that all men should be firmly attached to their willies till death do them part. This includes poor Theon Greyjoy, who was reduced by the flaying knife of Ramsay Bolton to be the dead-eyed, despondent Reek. Ramsay, in true Bolton fashion, even had the atrocity in him to put the knife to Theon’s willy smith after he teased him with two smoking GoT babes. Too far, Ramsay, and Theon: we are very sorry, dude. That sucks.
13. When Maester Aemon Died
Poor old Maester Aemon was never quite in the thick of the Game of Thrones plot line, but he was a very comforting side character nonetheless. He was the classic old man who’s seen it all, having been among royalty in Kingslanding and being a brother of the Night’s Watch. We didn’t think much of Maester Aemon early into the series, as he seemed to be nothing but the typical wise old man. It’s only when we found out that he was Aegon Targaryan’s brother and the Mad King Aeris Targaryan’s uncle that Maester Aemon truly opened up to us as a character. We learned that he had the legitimate right to the throne which he passed on, thinking he was not right to rule a kingdom. Little did he know that the next heir to the throne would be the maddest of all kings, so poor Aemon carried that guilt with him until he died. His last words to the memory of his brother, “Egg, I dreamed I was old,” kill us slowly every time.
12. When Shae Betrayed Tyrion
Seeing poor Tyrion Lannister’s sad face just breaks our hearts right in two. In a perfectly karmic universe, this little man with the heart of gold should be able to have anything his mind can fathom. But sometimes life works in cruddy ways, like sending you a silver platter of zebra turd in the form of the love of your life betraying you to your death as you stand trial for murdering your nephew (which you did not do, like at all). Tyrion loved Shae with every string in his golden heart, and we always thought she reciprocated that love fully. But no, she was always a zebra turd that waited until that trial to show her true form. At any rate, Tyrion is now smooth sailing back home with Daenerys and Shae is food for the worms. Maybe karma’s a thing after all. Can’t say we feel too bad for her.
11. When Ned Stark Killed Lady
It’s strange how animals don’t say much of anything in a piece of fiction, but their deaths seem to carry as much weight as when a beloved human character dies, if not more. For whatever reason, this is especially the case with dogs and wolves, even more so with direwolves. So far in this beautiful and beautifully sad TV show we have lost four direwolves (we’re not counting Nymeria, since we’re hoping that the show followed the books in this one and she’s heading her own mega cool wolf pack), the first of them being Lady at Ned Stark’s hand. This accomplished a lot for the show in terms of building character, demonstrating Cersei Lannister’s cruelty as well as Ned Stark’s honour, but to us viewers, it was just so tough to watch. The blood-hungry Cersei convinced the king to sentence the innocent Lady to death in Nymeria’s place, and Ned, knowing the beast deserved more than an execution from a butcher, killed her himself. A painful scene that was necessary in setting us up for the direwolf deaths to come.
10. When Mance Rayder Died
Leading up to Mance Rayder’s death, the wildlings had been progressively handing over the antagonist’s torch to the Night’s Watch, and Mance Rayder’s execution essentially finalized the exchange. Where the show is at now, things seem to be more or less fine between the wildlings and the men of the Night’s Watch, though it’s quite unfortunate that Mance had to die before that happened. We’re not sure how you felt about him, but we liked Mance Rayder. He was a strong man who believed in Jon Snow and only wanted to see his people (and humanity by extension, we hope) survive the coming Winter. We also give him major respect points for not kneeling at Stannis Baratheon’s feet. So Stannis decided to set him on fire (Mr. Baratheon has a tendency to let things burn, more on that below), and faithful Jon Snow put Mance out of his torture by firing an arrow through his heart.
9. When Myrcelle Baratheon Dies
We know that Game of Thrones tends to put out material purposefully made to get a gut-wrenching reaction from the audience, but come on. Myrcelle Baratheon’s death on the ship was really too much. Not only was the innocent girl poisoned for no good reason by the hateful snakes of Doorn, but she dropped dead right after Jaime opened up his heart to tell her that he was her father, right after she told him that she always knew that and loved him ever so much for it. By this point in the show we were already trained to know that that little girl was going to drop dead right there, and that she and Jaime will never have a daughter-father relationship, but knowing it was coming did nothing to soften the blow. Jaime, who becomes more of a hero every episode, deserved to be with his daughter. At least outside of the GoT world, anyway. This one stayed with us for a while after watching it.
8. When Jaime Had His Hand Sliced Off
It’s very much like Game of Thrones to set something up as beautiful and flawless only to have it eventually taken away forever (or in this case, sliced off). Jaime is renowned in the show as being the best swordsman in the land (he has his fair share of competitors but we’ll just roll with what was explicitly stated), and that title is directly dependent on Jaime’s right hand, his sword hand. So what happened to that sword hand? Well, if you haven’t seen the episode, you already know by reading this entry’s title: it was sliced right off, separated cleanly from the rest of the arm. This single slice of the blade singlehandedly changed our view of Jaime from best swordsman in the land to mediocre swordsman forced to use his weaker hand. Other characters on the show have met a far worse fate, as we all know, but the loss of Jaime’s sword hand is still a hard pill to swallow.
7. When Khaleesi Banishes Jorah
If there’s one characteristic we can attribute with certainty to Jorah Mormont, it is his undying loyalty to his queen, Daenerys Targaryen… that is of course until he totally betrayed her by feeding information to Varys about what she was up to. This came as a big shock, though it really shouldn’t have. GoT fans with acute knowledge of the mythos will note that Jorah was exiled before the main storyline of the show for selling poachers on his land to slave traders, which is very much illegal by the laws of the Seven Kingdoms. Of all reasons for him to do something like that, he did it to fund his wife’s lavish lifestyle. Doesn’t seem so honourable now, does he? Still, Sir Jorah Mormont stood faithfully (we thought) by Daenerys’ side before anyone else has, and he put his life on the line for her a bunch of times. All of which made it hit pretty hard when she essentially told Jorah to f*** off.
6. When Shireen Was Burned Alive
The build-up to this event in the episode where it occurred was so painfully suspenseful. The optimist within us prayed vehemently that Stannis would change his mind and stop this monstrosity before it could occur. But the wisest of Game of Thrones fans learned early on that we must lobotomise our inner optimist if we are to watch this show without dying inside completely. Still, we prayed, but of course our prayers did nothing. Shireen burned and burned till she died, her last cries echoing excruciatingly inside the walls of our skulls, all because Melisandre thought it necessary in order for Stannis to become king. Did Stannis end up getting that crown he so desperately desired? No, he died under a tree. So all that poor little girl’s burning and screaming and dying was for absolutely nothing. Breaks our hearts, and Melisandre would have been scribbled permanently into our black book if she hadn’t lent Jon a hand out of the grave.
5. When Ned Stark Was Executed
Yep, this is the first very, very big one, the first significant loss of the series that firmly ingrained in the minds of all viewers that no one is safe from George R.R. Martin’s pen, not even the main friggin’ protagonist of the series. Ned Stark had more screen and talking time than anyone else in the show’s first season, but by the end of that season his head fell cleanly off his shoulders. In conventional fiction, you keep your main character alive at least until the final act. Even the death of a protagonist at the very end of a series is a tough thing to take. But not here, here we chop off his head at the very beginning to set up for the nightmares that follow. So because of the lunacy of his creator, honourable Ned Stark is no more. It still messes with our heads to this day, though certainly not as much as George R.R. and Joffrey messed with his.
4. When Jon Snow Was Murdered
When watching this scene for the very first time we found ourselves audibly, clearly saying “No” over and over again to the TV screen. Did the screen listen? No. Jon Snow was betrayed by his brothers of the Night’s Watch, was stabbed over and over again and left to bleed out in the snow. Even that little bastard Ollie got a knife in him. This was easily the biggest death of the series since Ned Stark’s way back in season 1, and it made for a very gloomy several months until Jon was brought back to life in season 6. His resurrection is really the least the show’s creators could have offered us after gobbling every morsel of our hopes and dreams throughout the series. Jon’s back now and ready to stir some dung, but we still have a band-aid over our poor little hearts from when he was murdered in the cold.
3. When Hodor Held The Door
Nevermind the fact that, logically speaking, door or not, the white walkers should have still had plenty of time to catch Bran Stark and rip him to shreds. Shush those logical thoughts and shush them now. All that matters is that Hodor held that door, dammit did he ever hold that door. In holding the bejesus out of that door, dear Hodor left us for good. It was a sad, sad day for Game of Thrones fans. Hodor never said much of anything aside from his name, but his legacy spread into the memeverse and out to the hearts of every man, woman, child and deer on the planet. His dedication to Bran Stark was so strong, it semi-lobotomized him by pseudo-retroactively making the act of saving Bran’s life his entire identity. It’s weird and we still don’t quite understand it, but what we do understand is that Hodor is no more. The door was held, and it will forever be held in our hearts. Hodor Hodor, Hodor Hodor Hodor: Hodor Hodor (Hodor); Hodor… Hodor!
2. When The White Walkers Killed Summer
Poor, dear Summer… this one hurts us in a really twisted way, since Summer’s sacrifice seemed to have accomplish absolutely nothing. Maybe it bought Bran like 4 seconds, but it seemed to us like the White Walkers pummelled Summer into pulp with much haste before resuming their death run for Bran. It was a heavy hit to the heart, seeing Bran’s spirit animal go like that. If only Summer would have known that Hodor would end up buying them several dozens of seconds by holding like hell onto a door, maybe he could have still been alive wandering the snowy desert with his master. Instead, all we get are dried direwolf guts on the floor of a forgotten cave. Summer’s death brought a haunting fact to mind: that Ghost, Jon Snow’s direwolf, is the only one confirmed to be alive (though there have been rumours that Shaggydog’s head was a ruse, and of course we’re still pulling for Nymeria’s appearance alongside her wolf pack). We tell you, this show was made by sadists. Sadists!
1. The Red Wedding
So, the Red Wedding, yeah. So there was a wedding and… some stuff happened. We’ve never really been able to talk about it, and writing about it isn’t proving to be much easier. Mister George R.R. Martin, does your pen know no mercy? Have you no regard for the devoted fans of this great world you created? Fiction or not, you should be put to trial for this. What is there to say about the Red Wedding other than it being the most atrocious surprise we ever had, and that we weren’t able to properly function at work for days after seeing it. Fiction can not normally do that to a person, it isn’t supposed to. So dammit do we ever praise George R.R. Martin as well as the show’s creators for breaking the rules in order to accomplish an extreme and extremely lasting effect. That said, f*** you guys! How dare you, seriously?