In the span of a few years Game of Thrones has gone from just another TV series based on a series of books to a global pop culture phenomenon. Its popularity has reached previously unfathomable levels and brings in countless millions of viewers every year. Whether it’s the multi-layered plot, gratuitous sex and violence, the relatable and interesting characters or the incredible world crafted by George R. R. Martin, the show has something for everyone.
Since the show takes a Machiavellian approach to medieval politics, the one thing that’s featured more regularly than anything else is death. From the very first scene of the very first episode, GoT has not shied away from killing many characters, whether minor or major, in very notable and graphic ways. It’s done a lot to paint the show as a very dark interpretation of human nature and how we interact with one another.
For the majority of the show’s history, it has been the good guys dying instead of the bad guys. This has created a viewer mentality that suggests the world is a cruel place where bad things happen to good people and evil people succeed in life. But after so many tragic scenes that saw beloved characters killed unexpectedly (Red Wedding, anyone?) we finally got to see many of the most despicable characters in the series get what they deserved. There were some antagonists whose deaths were met with relative apathy, and there were others that gave us incredible joy. This article will look at the 20 most satisfying character deaths from the entire Game of Thrones series.
Locke was responsible for cutting off Jaime Lannister’s hand and being an unpleasant character in general. As one of Roose Bolton’s men, Locke was vicious and cared little about the consequences of his actions, hence his decision to put Brienne of Tarth in a fighting pit against a bear.
When he was sent to The Wall in an undercover mission to kill Jon Snow, there was hope among fans that Jon would tear him to pieces, especially after he showed his true colors and attacked Bran and his friends. While we didn’t get to see Jon kill Locke, we did get to see Locke meet justice in a different way. Bran warged into Hodor and used the lovable giant’s unbeliable strength to snap Locke’s neck.
This was an interesting scene because we got to see what the otherwise gentle Hodor is capable of when he’s angry, as well as getting rid of an easily-dislikeable secondary antagonist.
19 Tommen Baratheon
If there was one word that could be used to describe Tommen as king, it would be ‘meek.’ He was manipulated by more powerful characters all too easily, and didn’t seem to have much of a personality.
While some might applaud him for trying to be a level-headed king, it was obvious that his easy-to-manipulate nature would be his downfall. He was seduced very quickly by Margaery Tyrell (although, to be fair, one cannot blame him for that), he was used as a pawn by his mother, and he was manipulated even further by the High Sparrow. It was as if he were the living version of the magic keys to the kingdom, and all the great players of the game had their hands on the keychain, trying to yank it away from the others.
Tommen is the only character on this list that dies by his own hand, jumping out of a window after seeing the Sept of Baelor demolished. But instead of being a moment of shock or despair (he was in all likelihood a much better king than his predecessor), his death was met with humor, spawning countless memes and punchlines involving jumping or falling. But while he might’ve become a good king, given how easy it was to control him, his death was one of the few things that fans went into the seventh season expecting to happen sooner rather than later.
It took all of 45 seconds for fans to hate Craster after he first appeared. A corpulent wildling who married and impregnated his own daughters, his gluttonous and incestuous ways were made even more despicable when we learned that he sacrifices newborn sons to the White Walkers, directly increasing their already-huge army’s numbers.
Craster was no man’s friend, but his keep was critical to the Night’s Watch survival. As a result, he could make demands of them and they’d have to comply, knowing full well they’d die without him. But being so self-absorbed can only get you so far, as seen with Craster’s death.
After abusing his position too much, several Night’s Watchmen rebelled, including Karl Tanner, who stabbed Craster in the mouth after kicking all of them out of his house after they had returned from a failed ranging starving, exhausted, and dying. Though Craster was killed by another wicked character, he was finally given the justice he deserved after trying to pass himself off as ‘a godly man.’
17 Balon Greyjoy
Upon returning to his homeland, Theon Greyjoy expected a warm welcome from his father. But apparently, the Ironborn are as salty as the water that surrounds their islands, and Balon is no different from that mentality.
Damning his own son for acting like his adopted family, Balon plays a key role in causing Theon to become a ‘turncloak’, becoming one of many people to betray the Stark family. Everything Theon does is undermined by Balon, to the point where Theon has to do something rash and stupid just to be accepted by his father. That leads to Theon eventually becoming captured and tortured by Ramsay Bolton, who sends Balon Theon’s severed penis. Not even that elicits much of a reaction from Balon, which shows what kind of person he really was.
Although not as malicious as other characters on the show, Balon was nonetheless a character few people really cared about. So when he was thrown into the sea by his brother Euron, it was more of a moment of apathy than one of shock or satisfaction. If it he had been built up more or had more of a dramatic scene before said death, maybe it would’ve been more satisfying.
16 Karl Tanner, Rast & The Other Night’s Watch Mutineers
Lord Commander Mormont was a beloved character in the first few seasons that did everything that was right and honorable. So it makes perfect sense in the brutal GoT Universe that he would be stabbed in the back (literally) by one of his own men.
To be honest though, it was kind of expected. Many in the Night’s Watch were fed up with doing the honorable thing for so little reward, and the prospect of eating well and having Craster’s daughters all to themselves seemed like way too good of an opportunity for the mutineers to miss.
With betrayal being such a common theme in Game of Thrones, it’s always refreshing to see those people that betray others get their share of justice. After organizing a mutiny and later drinking wine out of Mormont’s skull while their fellow mutineers satisfied as many hedonistic pleasures as possible, Rast and Karl Tanner both got what they deserved for betraying their fellow Night’s Watchmen. Rast ended up mauled to death by Ghost after running away from Jon and the others, while Karl ended up with a malignant case of sword through face. Seeing such a malevolent character die in such a way proved that maybe, just maybe, bad things happen to bad people just as much as they do to good people.
15 The Waif
The Waif was introduced as a faithful servant of the House of Black and White who did everything that was commanded of her, especially as it related to training Arya to become one of them. But beneath her loyalty to her profession, you couldn’t help but notice that she took a sick pleasure in tormenting Arya. Maybe it was jealousy, or maybe it was hatred towards the highborn. Regardless, the Waif beat Arya senseless and made every moment of her servitude in the House far more painful. She even smiled sadistically as Arya suffered, especially when she threw savage punches at Arya’s face.
Although we didn’t get to see the Waif’s actual death scene, the sight of her bloody face on the walls of the House of Black and White was one of the most thrilling moments of the entire season. Arya tried her best to escape the Waif’s unrelenting pursuit, giving some fans the idea that she was some kind of "Braavosi Terminator." Yet no matter how strong she thought she was, not even she could keep Arya down once she drew her Needle.
14 Lysa Arryn
Lysa Arryn was hard to like from the moment she first appeared. She had that ‘crazy lady’ look on her face, she was paranoid beyond comprehension, and she breastfed her 8-year-old son. She was clearly missing something upstairs.
Although she played a minor role in the grand scheme of things, she was insufferable whenever she shared the screen with anyone. She was one of those characters whose words and actions led you to want to see her meet some kind of grisly end…which thankfully ended up being the case.
When Petyr Baelish kissed Sansa, Lysa went into full crazy mode, trying to force Sansa out the Moon Door and to her death. But Petyr interfered and calmed the crazy lady Arryn, before pushing her out the Moon Door himself, in a shocking and unexpected moment. While her death was surprising and seemingly unnecessary at the time, it did allow Sansa to become much more of a key player in the great game, and helped get rid of an annoying lesser character whose mind wasn’t in the right place from the beginning.
Heck, Arya's sudden outburst of laughter upon learning of her aunt's death pretty much sums up how the rest of us felt about Lysa anyway.
13 Roose Bolton
This one’s an interesting case. A lot of people despised Roose Bolton for backstabbing (or front-stabbing, in this case) Robb Stark at his own wedding, killing off another fan favorite (and by extension, his mother). He always came across as cold in his expression and his voice sounded eerily soft, but by killing his own king he involved himself in what many call the most brutal episode of Game of Thrones yet.
Then again, there was some sense to what Roose’s motives were. Robb never listened to his council, seemed more concerned with being the good guy than making tough decisions (especially vis-à-vis killing enemies), and made many selfish decisions that harmed his followers (ex: marrying the woman from Volantis, thereby betraying the Freys, reducing his army’s numbers, and making it more likely for his remaining soldiers to die due to lower numbers). That said, stabbing someone at their own wedding is incredibly low, even for the GoT universe.
This made it all the more surprising and satisfying to see Roose die at the hands of the one person no one ever expected: his own son Ramsay.
Roose was rigid in his views on tradition and still referred to his own son as ‘bastard’ and ‘Snow,’ despite Ramsay’s decisions benefiting his father’s house. Yet no matter what Ramsay did, he was always treated as secondary to a true-born son, which culminated in Roose’s joy at his wife birthing a son. Then, when his guard was down, Roose was killed by his own son with a knife to the heart, exactly like Robb Stark when his guard was down. It was one of the most unexpected deaths in the entire season; one that no one saw coming at all.
12 Viserys Targaryen
Cersei Lannister once said famously that, ‘when a Targaryen is born, the Gods flip a coin’. When Viserys was born, that coin clearly landed on the wrong side.
Viserys was an abusive, careless, mentally-unstable older brother to a young Daenerys, trying to make her into his obedient servant by threatening to ‘wake the dragon’ if she crossed him. He carried himself as the most self-important person in the world and the one who truly deserved to be king of the Seven Kingdoms, unaware that the entire world mocked him as ‘the beggar king.’
Over the first half of the first season, Viserys never concealed his contempt for the Dothraki or their customs, seeing them as nothing more than a means to an end for his supposed conquest. But as Danerys embraced that culture and became part of it, she saw just how mad her brother was. It was thrilling to see her finally strike back at him after he hit her, and it was even more joyous to see him get the golden crown he had been blathering on about since the series’ pilot episode.
Although his actual death was somewhat tame by Game of Thrones standards, it was poetic justice nonetheless: the man who wanted a crown so badly finally got one, but didn’t actually enjoy having it on his head for even one second.
Although one of the most insignificant of antagonists in the entire series, the way Polliver died remains one of the greatest moments in GoT history.
Most fans remember Polliver as the soldier who stole Arya’s Needle and killed her friend Lommy with it. Since that moment, he was on Arya’s list, and she (and us) waited for the opportune moment get revenge. That took place when she and the Hound wandered into a tavern where Polliver and some other Lannister swordsmen were abusing their power.
After an awesome and simultaneously hilarious conversation between Polliver and the Hound over some chicken, Arya saw her moment to cross someone off her list. Slicing his legs from behind as he approached the Hound, Arya proceeded to utter the exact words that Polliver said to Lommy when he killed the boy, before killing Polliver in the exact same way he killed Lommy. The cold look of determination she had on her face was 100% concentrated badassery, and it helped solidify Arya’s status both as a fan favorite and as ‘the cool girl who doesn’t do all that girly stuff’' on the show.
10 Janos Slynt
Janos Slynt might’ve been the most despised secondary antagonist of the first two seasons. He sealed his fate with the fans when he turned on Ned Stark, and really showed just how ruthless and morally-depraved he could be when he slit a baby’s throat in front of his mother. He was one of Queen Cersei’s most loyal pawns, but even she didn’t really care about him. Although she did complain that Tyrion sent him to the wall, that didn’t really last long, showing just how little she thought of the man whose loyalty she bought from Ned Stark.
Upon arrival at The Wall, Slynt didn’t take much time in aligning himself with Thorne and other dislikable characters. Even in a place like the Wall, where one’s previous life means nothing, Slynt still acted like a pompous ass that looked down on everyone else (especially Jon, referring to him as ‘the traitor’s bastard’ on several occasions).
That pomposity eventually got the best of him, as he refused to follow a direct order from new Lord Commander Snow. This, coupled with his cowardice during the Wilding attack on the wall, sealed his fate as Jon chopped his head off after his refusal. Even his last words show just how despicable he was; instead of saying something noble or badass, he cried and whimpered while admitting his own cowardice. Taking his head off might’ve been the easiest thing Jon Snow had ever done.
Even Stannis Baratheon, who didn't seem to like anyone, nodded in approval at this death, channeling our feelings into that very scene.
9 Meryn Trant
There was nothing to like about Meryn Trant. He always looked menacing and stared daggers at everyone, he didn’t hesitate to beat Sansa Stark on Joffrey’s orders, he enjoyed challenging Tyrion’s authority and ruining his life at every opportunity, and, as seen during season 5, he was a savage pedophile, staining the supposed purity of his position as Kingsguard. Yet given how close he was to those in power, it was hard to believe he’d ever receive his comeuppance…but receive it he did.
After delving into his pedophilic tendencies, Trant began beating three young girls. When the third one wouldn’t scream, he looked at her, and she revealed herself to be Arya Stark herself. She then stabbed him multiple times, gouged out both of his eyes, and killed him slowly in a moment of brutally-satisfying revenge. It was one of Arya’s best moments, seeing her take down the man who is believed to have killed another fan favorite in Syrio Forel. She had already solidified herself as a badass little girl in earlier episodes, but this was one of those excellent moments where she threw the GoT Universe’s expectations of a 'lady’ out the window.
8 Stannis Baratheon
Although we didn’t see him actually die, it was heavily implied that Brienne did indeed strike the killing blow and end Stannis’ life in the season 5 finale…and it couldn’t have come sooner for such a morally misaligned character.
From his very first scene to his last, Stannis truly defined the term, ‘hard as iron.’ He didn’t show sympathy to his enemies, he showed complete disregard for his followers’ lives (as seen by his passive response to Melisandre burning people alive), nor did he even smile. Throughout the first two seasons he was built up as this cunning warrior, but suffered two critical defeats. But that didn’t stop him from aligning himself with dark magic to kill off his closest family members. I’m pretty sure the shocking sight of Stannis sending his own daughter Shireen to the pyre and the sound of her screaming and begging for help from her own parents will haunt viewers for a long time.
It would seem that his fanatical devotion to Melisandre and her Lord of Light finally caught up with him. As his forces died around him at the hands of the Boltons, Stannis’ first major kill, his own brother Renly, was avenged by none other than Brienne, as she condemned him to die for his actions. Ever the stoic, Stannis didn’t even flinch as she passed the judgment and swung her sword.
While he might’ve had good intentions in the long run, Stannis methods certainly weren’t the best way to go about them. Thankfully, the gods in the GoT universe (or the writers, depending on your point of view) saw fit to punish someone who murdered his own children with the execution he so rightfully deserved.
7 The High Sparrow
This character is different from the rest. He doesn’t have any really negative personality traits about him (religious zeal notwithstanding) and doesn’t appear to have any major political ambitions aside from doing whatever he can to help the poor in the GoT universe. But to many fans, there’s something irksome about a holier-than-thou preacher who thinks he’s better than you and uses his knowledge of scripture to disturb the established order.
The High Sparrow was unprejudiced in his targeting of supposedly sinful characters, targeting both major antagonists (Cersei) and fan favorites (Margery & to a lesser extent, her brother Loras) for breaking holy law. The way he carried himself in conversations and the way he maneuvered himself throughout the show, you got the feeling he wouldn’t get his comeuppance for being such an overbearing zealot…but get his comeuppance he did.
His overt conviction would be his own downfall, as he refused to let Margaery or anyone else out of the Great Sept of Baelor, even when Margery knew something was up. As a result, he was the first person to go up in flames (literally) when Cersei’s wildfire destroyed that great building. His death scene lasted only one second, but it was great seeing him pay for his militant devotion to that faith nonetheless.
6 Tywin Lannister
While a lot can be said about Tywin’s intelligence and political skill in GoT, more can be said about just how cold and remorseless he was, especially vis-à-vis Tyrion. He didn’t let such petty things as emotions or love get in the way of his grand vision of a surviving family legacy, and refused to accept that his twin children were incestuous lovers.
The very thought of him not having a perfect family irked him to the very core, but it was his ire for his dwarven third child that really brought out the dark side of Tywin’s personality. He hated Tyrion so much he wished his own son were dead on many occasions, while the only thing Tyrion ever craved was love from his own family. That is why watching Tyrion shoot his own father with a crossbow is so satisfying while at the same time being so heart-wrenching.
Tyrion’s entire life was filled with misery due to his stature, but that reached its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) with Tysha, the woman Tyrion loved. Though mentioned in greater detail in the books, Tysha was, in essence, the first woman who loved Tyrion genuinely, at least from his perspective. She was denounced as a whore by Jaime, but in the books it’s revealed Tywin forced Jaime to say this to Tyrion, when in actuality Tysha was a normal girl who happened to love the younger Lannister.
That kind of sick manipulation, coupled with all of the other cruel things Tywin did over the seasons (arrange the murder of the Starks at the Red Wedding, send the Mountain to slaughter the Riverlands, be an all-around Machiavellian in the worst sense of the word to everyone around him), made his death on the toilet such a fantastic moment in both the books and the series.
5 Grand Maester Pycelle
Pycelle was a Lannister ass-kisser, plain and simple. He even says so straight up to Tyrion himself. ‘All I did, I did for House Lannister’ (Season 2, episode 3). He was the GoT equivalent of a corporate yes-man, always agreeing with whoever was in charge and singing their praises at every opportunity. This made him a very easy character to hate, especially when his actions and inaction led to serious trouble for fan favorites like Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister.
Yet despite all the ass-kissing he did and the trouble he caused, when he finally did meet his end it was…underwhelming.
With everyone’s attention focused on what was going on in the Great Sept of Baelor, Pycelle was summoned to a hidden location, where he was stabbed repeatedly by the young children serving Qyburn, who is/was arguably a more malevolent character than Pycelle himself. Because of this character combination, Pycelle dying made him an almost sympathetic character, as if he were a lesser evil being killed off by something far worse than he. While that might be interpreted as some sort of cosmic justice (as he was being hit after biting the hand that fed him), it would’ve been much more satisfying to see Pycelle meet his end at the hands of someone he had wronged far more than Cersei, whom he had been serving loyally until her arrest.
Nevertheless, Pycelle’s bloody death was a satisfying moment in itself as one of the most important minor antagonists who had been plaguing the show’s protagonists from the first season finally met his end.
4 Walder Frey
The Frey patriarch played an instrumental role in setting up what has become arguably the most shocking, gruesome and devastating collection of deaths in the entire Game of Thrones series: the Red Wedding. Frey sat idly by as his family and soldiers massacred the Starks and their bannermen at Rob’s own wedding under Walder’s own roof, which included Rob’s new wife being stabbed in the belly while carrying his child. He was considered nothing more than a prickly old gizzard before, but after that moment he established himself firmly as a despicable antagonist.
Yet three seasons went by with nary a mention of him, leading many to believe his was just another plot thread that had been forgotten by the TV series’ directors. Thankfully, he was brought back in season six, and met his end in one of the most gratifying of ways.
Sitting there on his high table looking down at the rest of the world, the Frey patriarch ate away at his meat pie looking for his sons. As he wondered where they were, his serving wench revealed they were in the very pie he was eating, and unveiled herself as none other than Arya Stark. Though Frey had never seen her, she was at his castle when they paraded her brother Rob’s corpse with Grey Wind’s severed head attached around the castle grounds. She swore revenge, and after spending too long in Braavos, she finally returned to Westeros and slit the throat of one of the show’s most hated lesser villains.
One can only hope that the rest of Arya’s scenes in the remaining two seasons are just as badass.
3 Alliser Thorne, Olly & The Other Traitors
You know fans hate someone when they create an entire website devoted to their hatred of that one character. That’s exactly what happened with Olly, a small child who stabbed Jon in the heart in the season 5 finale: the website F**k Olly was created just for him.
Of course, despite the fifth season ending on one of the most shocking and depressing tones, the following one was quick to give justice to Jon’s killers. Olly, Alliser Thorne (whose hatred of Jon was obvious from all the way back in season one), and the other traitors were all hanged for betraying their Lord Commander. While some might find it morbid to cheer on the execution of a child (Olly), for most people it was a well-deserved dose of justice considering Jon had done the right thing in saving the Wildlings from the eventual onslaught of the White Walkers, and Ollie and the other Night's Watchmen had betrayed him.
Considering how much of a lovable character Jon is, and how easy it was to hate all of his treacherous murderers (even if Olly had a reason to hate the Wildlings for eating his parents), this character basically ended up being more of a foregone conclusion than something that might not happen.
2 Ramsay Snow/Bolton
When it comes to pushing the boundaries of GoT’s loose limits on depravity, none did so more frequently than Ramsay Bolton. From his first appearance, you could tell he was a vicious savage who loved to torment others and had no regard for human life. He orchestrated Theon’s escape and killed his own soldiers that followed him, only to bring him back to his prison and remove Theon’s body parts one by one. He tormented Theon at every turn, and later transferred this sadism onto Sansa. From raping her on their wedding night, to killing anyone who tried to help her, Ramsay was arguably a more savage monster than anyone else on the show.
He cemented his place in the show’s history as one of its most dangerous and vicious during season six. In the span of a few episodes, he fed his now-dead lover to his dogs, killed his own father, fed his mother and her newborn baby to those same dogs, and killed Rickon Stark in front of his family with a smile on his face. He was so evil that everyone wanted him to die, and the show’s producers were determined to give the fans what they wanted. The only question was…how?
Well, the creative masterminds of the show did a perfect job of showing poetic justice to Ramsay Bolton. After losing a major battle, he was tied to a chair and was ripped apart by his own hounds after Sansa released them onto him. Although she simply walked away smiling softly as Ramsay’s hounds devoured him, fans around the world were surely jumping for joy at the sight of this merciless savage finally being given what he deserved.
1 Joffrey Baratheon
There wasn’t a character more despicable than Joffrey. The hatred garnered towards him was so fierce that there were rumors suggesting Jack Gleeson quit acting because of the hatred he got over his portrayal of the character. It wasn’t hard to see why: unlike the book character, who was an obnoxious brat, the TV version was also unrelentingly misogynistic, sadistic, and sociopathic. He had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, yet he was for a time the most powerful person in Westeros.
He had caused so much suffering to other characters in the GoT universe…which was returned tenfold when he started choking at his own wedding.
As fans of the show, watching him die was a moment of great justice, and it was arguably the first moment in the series’ history where a major antagonist got what they deserved. As viewers, we had seen a lot of injustice in the show: Ned’s execution, Sansa’s and Tyrion’s continued humiliation, the Red Wedding, and much more. In watching the show, it became clear that the world in which this show takes place has no justice and the worst people always survive…until Joffrey’s wedding.
Watching this episode live, the people I watched it with who hadn’t read the books were elated at the sight of Joffrey finally dying after causing so much misery to so many people. His death was one of the best episodes of the entire series, and gave many fans the first glimpse of hope that maybe justice does exist in the GoT universe after all.