There are so many reasons why Game of Thrones is thought of as one of the best shows on television. While there have been other shows that have been based on best-selling book series, there's no way to even compare the way HBO has been able to bring the characters to the small screen. The fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms features everything from black magic to dragons, and the conflicts amongst the characters are jaw-dropping. Yet, it's not just the fantasy lands and mystical characters that draw in viewers with each new episode. Since the series is based on the George R. R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire books, none of the characters are safe.
While other shows tend to have a handful of lead characters that make it all the way to the end, there are no guarantees in Game of Thrones. Beloved characters are killed off at an alarming rate, and the story can change drastically from one episode to the next. While killing off a lead character is definitely great for viewers looking for a bit of excitement, it's also hugely important for creating depth in the overall story line. The death of a character can create a chain of events that takes the plot into an entirely new direction, which is extremely interesting to watch. Check out our list of the 15 Game of Thrones character deaths that hugely impacted the series, and take a guess at who'll be the next one to go in Season 7.
15 Eddard Stark
As the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North, Eddard Stark was a huge character in the series. After becoming Hand of the King, Ned Stark garnered power that eventually led to King Robert Baratheon leaving him the realm until his rightful heir came of age. Rather than taking the Iron Throne for himself, Stark chose to back Stannis Baratheon as the rightful heir to the throne. This set into motion the War of the Five Kings and ultimately led to his imprisonment. Fans of the series that weren't familiar with the book series assumed that all would work out well for Ned Stark since he was a huge part of the show. Yet, even though King Joffrey's advisors all wished for mercy, he was ultimately beheaded. His death led to the other Northern Houses following his son, Robb, into war.
14 Robb Stark
When Robb Stark united the Northern Houses in order to free his father from imprisonment in King's Landing, people were amazed at his strength and strategy at such a young age. Yet, he continued to prove himself and went on to win every battle he fought. However, he also committed a series of mistakes that created discord amongst his men. From breaking the oath he swore to Lord Frey to killing his bannerman, Lord Karstark, it seemed like his string of luck had run out. His death at the infamous Red Wedding was more than just a devastating blow to loyal fans since it completely reshaped the story of the series. Most of the Northern Houses changed their allegiance to House Bolton, and it furthered the strength of the Lannisters.
13 Joffrey Baratheon
When Joffrey Baratheon was first introduced into the Game of Thrones series, it was clear that he wasn't going to be a beloved character. From his spoiled behavior to his treachery behind the scenes, it was plain to see that there wouldn't be many rooting for him to succeed. Once he became engaged to Margaery Tyrell, fans hoped that he would stop torturing Sansa Stark. Yet, it didn't seem like he was done with that little aspect of his life, and it didn't look like there was anything anyone could do to stop it. When he was ultimately murdered on his wedding day, most fans rejoiced at seeing him poisoned at the royal feast. Yet, his death set into motion a series of events that would never have come to pass if he had lived. Tyrion was imprisoned for his murder, his brother Tommen took the throne, and Cersei became even more unhinged.
12 Tywin Lannister
Out of all the characters that have been featured in the Game of Thrones series, Tywin Lannister seemed to be the best when it came to strategizing and putting his House first. While there were definitely some questionable moments with regard to his parenting tactics, no one can say that he wasn't a force to be reckoned with. He was the only person who was able to keep King Joffrey in check, and he created a reputation for his House that was genius on his behalf. Even after Casterly Rock stopped producing gold, the Lannisters maintained their reputation of being the richest House in all of the Seven Kingdoms. He also had a great way of bringing the most powerful Houses together, which is how the Tyrells were brought into the fold after they had previously aligned with Renly Baratheon. His death created chaos that put all of the power in Cersei's hands, which turned out to be a huge mistake.
When Daenerys Targaryen started her journey in Slaver's Bay, it was a tricky decision to take the side of the slaves rather than the Masters'. Rather than aligning herself with the richest families that could further her voyage to Westeros, she took on the slaves' fight due to her own experience of being sold to Khal Drogo. Yet, she wasn't able to conquer each city without the help of the slaves she was freeing. She encouraged them to rise up against the Masters and ultimately earned their love as their "Mhysa." However, she didn't just liberate and move on to take the fight to Westeros. Instead, she stayed around and ruled in Meereen. Mossador was the former slave that spoke for the others who previously wore chains. Once he disobeyed Daenerys, she had him publicly executed, and that's when the tide truly turned for her.
10 Tommen Baratheon
When Tommen Baratheon came to sit on the Iron Throne, it became instantly clear that he would be a far better King than his brother, Joffrey. Yet, he seemed to have a number of challenges during his reign as well. While Joffrey's challenges came from his sadistic behavior and rash decisions, Tommen was far too timid in dealing with the growing problem of the High Sparrow. Things might have been different if he still had Tywin Lannister there to guide him, but that changed once he was killed by Tyrion. Without much guidance, Tommen was far too indecisive and gentle to rule the Seven Kingdoms. The book series depicted Tommen in a far more simplistic way and talked about him spending his days repeatedly slamming down a stamp on royal decrees without even reading them. Yet, even that would have been better than him dying and thus handing the Iron Throne to his mother, Cersei.
9 Qhorin Halfhand
When Jon Snow first made it to The Wall in order to become a sworn brother in the Night's Watch, he became quickly disillusioned over the fact that the rest of his sworn brothers were cutthroats and criminals. These weren't the honorable men he thought they were once he decided to join his uncle in the Night's Watch. In fact, the majority of them were utterly without honor. Once he went with the ranging party beyond The Wall, it was Qhorin Halfhand who became his mentor and leader. While the wildlings knew of his greatness, fans of the HBO series weren't privy to all of the legends surrounding his bravery. Yet, he was a huge figure in the book series, and his death on the show was pivotal in shaping the way Jon Snow's story progressed. If it weren't for Qhorin Halfhand sacrificing himself, the wildlings probably never would have accepted him into their camp.
8 Jeor Mormont
When Jon Snow first arrived at The Wall, there weren't many friendly faces there to greet him. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont was the saving grace amongst the brothers of the Night's Watch because he seemed honorable and soon took Jon Snow under his wing. He began training him in order to take command, and he also protected him against Alliser Thorne. Once Jon Snow attempted to attack Thorne, there was no telling what would become of him. Yet, he was able to change his fate by saving Lord Commander Mormont from a White Walker and thus solidified his role in the Night's Watch. While there was a time when the brothers of the Night's Watch were honorable, it eventually became a place where criminals from all over the Seven Kingdoms were sent. The newly sworn in brothers were the ones who attacked him at Craster's Keep, and he was ultimately killed by the men he was meant to lead. His death was pivotal in paving a path for Jon Snow to become the new Lord Commander.
7 Talisa Stark
Talisa Stark was actually a hugely pivotal character in the Game of Thrones series since her marriage to Robb Stark caused him to break his sworn oath to Lord Frey. Stark had previously agreed to wedding one of Lord Frey's daughters but wound up marrying a woman from Volantis instead. The book series handled the entire Red Wedding scenario differently; in the HBO series, Talisa was killed alongside the rest of the Stark group. In fact, she was the first one killed, and nothing was left in the air regarding her unborn baby. Talisa was stabbed repeatedly in the belly and ultimately died in the arms of Robb Stark. Her death was meaningful because it was the spark that led the archers to let loose on Robb Stark, and it also definitively answered the question as to whether or not the Stark lineage would go on upon Robb's death.
6 Robert Baratheon
The HBO series ensured fans got a complete picture of the kind of leadership the realm was receiving at the hands of King Robert Baratheon. He was seen as an overweight King with a propensity toward whoring and drinking. While he was always described as a fierce warrior and strategic soldier, there was a stark difference between being good in battle and leading the Seven Kingdoms. When he was off on a hunting trip, Eddard Stark was able to figure out the secret of Joffrey's parentage. He had planned to inform the king once he returned from the hunt. Yet, the boar attack stopped him from doing so, and the death of King Baratheon became a huge obstacle in revealing the secret. His death created the War of the Five Kings.
5 Aemon Targaryen
When Jon Snow first arrived at The Wall, there were a variety of different characters for him to meet. While there were those who were clearly biased against him, there were others who seemed to want him to succeed. When Snow learned about his father's imprisonment and Robb's plan to go to war, it was Aemon Targaryen that tried to convince him to heed his vows with the Night's Watch. Maester Aemon was hugely influential in all that occurred at the Night's Watch and seemed to take the place of Lord Commander Mormont upon his death. When the brothers of the Night's Watch were asked to vote on who would become the next Lord Commander, it was Maester Aemon's vote for Jon Snow that ultimately won the vote. His death marked the start of the uprising against Lord Commander Snow.
4 Khal Drogo
When Daenerys Targaryen was first introduced to Khal Drogo, it seemed like she was being sold off to a beast of a man. The Dothraki seemed like savages in comparison to the Lords and Ladies depicted elsewhere on the series, and the wedding night between him and Daenerys was far from romantic. Yet, she was able to learn the ways of the Dothraki, and the couple ultimately came to love each other deeply. Khal Drogo was a fierce warrior that had made plans to cross the Narrow Sea and claim the Iron Throne for his unborn son with Daenerys. Yet, all of those plans were dashed once his wound became infected. His death led to the majority of his followers leaving. Yet, it also led Daenerys to come into her own and eventually grow to become a female leader of a Dothraki hoard far bigger in size.
3 Margaery Tyrell
While the majority of the Houses in Game of Thrones are ruled by the men, there are some that prove that the women can be just as fierce. House Tyrell is known for having men who aren't very bright or cunning and women that dominate in every manner. In the case of Margaery Tyrell, she had been raised and schooled by her grandmother, Olenna "Queen of Thorns" Tyrell. Margaery knew how to play the game in every way possible and managed to wed both Renly Baratheon and Joffrey Baratheon without becoming utterly despised by the people of King's Landing. Yet, she did manage to make one enemy for certain, and that was Cersei Lannister. When she was killed (along with practically everyone else in King's Landing), something snapped in Lady Olenna. There will be no holding her back from the vengeance she will try and unleash on Cersei.
2 Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark's role in the book series is quite different from her role in the HBO adaptation. Although the series has predominantly remained within the guidelines of the books, the showrunners decided to make a few changes. In the book series, Catelyn Stark was indeed killed at the infamous Red Wedding, but she returned just as Beric Dondarrion returned time and time again. Her new name was Lady Stoneheart, and she seemed more like a zombie with purpose. It doesn't look like the Game of Thrones showrunners will be including the Lady Stoneheart character in the series, but that doesn't make her death any less pivotal. Her death marked the final crush to Robb Stark's rebellion, and without her, the Northern Houses didn't have anyone to back against the Lannisters.
1 Oberyn Martell
Oberyn Martell wasn't introduced until the fourth season of the series, but he was an overwhelming presence in the storyline. When he arrived in King's Landing, it became clear that he wasn't there to wish the happy couple well on their wedding day. He was there on a mission and determined to seek out vengeance for the death of his sister, Elia Martell, at the hands of the Lannister's servant, The Mountain. When it came time for Tyrion Lannister to choose a Champion, it was Oberyn that volunteered. While he did seem to have sympathy for Tyrion, the real motive was to exact revenge against The Mountain and to get him to divulge that it was Tywin Lannister who had given the order to murder Elia and her children.
Sources: Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones Wikia