The final season of Game of Thrones left a lot of fans arguing about a lot of plot points, but there’s one thing for sure that we can all agree on. No other show on television has ever come close to Game of Thrones in regards to killing off named characters. By the end of the series, well over 200 characters had died in a myriad of ways: fire, poison, suicide, beheading, stabbing, or crushed by a giant. Many died in battle, but even more were victims of personal attacks. Some we were happy to see go (Bye, Joffrey. See ya never), but some were absolutely crushing. Thank you George RR Martin and HBO for introducing us to so many characters just to make us fall in love with them and then have them ripped away from us. That’s cruel and unusual. But I guess maybe that’s our own fault for watching it. We learned that lesson pretty early on.
Obligatory spoiler warning. It goes without saying that if you haven’t finished the series, you should stop reading here unless you just really want to know who dies. But you have no excuse for not being caught up at this point. Here’s our definitive ranking of the saddest deaths on Game of Thrones over the past eight seasons.
Lady Lyanna Mormont’s death itself wasn’t sad. She died a warrior’s death, bravely standing off against (and killing) a giant during the Battle of Winterfell. But it was sad in that we hate to see her go. Lyanna was merely a child, but she never had an issue putting the men around her in their places. And not only their places, she put them all to shame. Lyanna was one of the most badass characters in all of Westeros, and while she died valiantly, it was beyond heartbreaking to lose a character we loved so much.
After killing Cersei’s only daughter Myrcella, Ellaria Sand is captured alongside her daughter Tyene and brought to King’s Landing to face the Queen’s wrath. We technically didn’t see Ellaria die, as her punishment for Myrcella’s murder was to spend eternity in the dungeon. However, this was particularly brutal for a few reasons. Cersei poisoned Tyene the same way Ellaria poisoned Myrcella, so she was forced to watch her daughter die in front of her, and then spend the rest of her days in a cell with her lifeless body, unable to even reach her. It’s also safe to assume that Ellaria starved to death. That’s a pretty miserable way to go.
Okay, so King’s Landing isn’t exactly a character. But there were a lot of deaths and they were all very shocking and very sad. Daenerys and Drogon took to the skies to attack King’s Landing, but rather than just burn down the Red Keep where Cersei was, or even have her armies simply fight the opposing army, she set fire to everything. Countless innocent civilians died in the fires. Jon Snow’s expression watching Grey Worm and his Unsullied army continue to attack a surrendering army just for the hell of it was rough. So was Arya Stark’s watching women and children get slaughtered in the streets.
Oh, Jaime Lannister. We hated him, we loved him, and then we hated him some more. His character changed a lot throughout the show, but as he said in his final words to Brienne, Cersei is hateful and so is he. It was great to finally see Cersei get crushed by a collapsing Red Keep, but the fact that Jaime went back to King’s Landing for no other reason than to die with his awful sister/lover/Queen when he could have been alive and happy with Brienne just made his death depressing. It didn’t have to end this way, Jaime.
Sandor Clegane, better known as The Hound, died fighting his brother Gregor — better known as The Mountain — during Daenerys’s attack on King’s Landing in the final few episodes of the series. We all knew Cleganebowl was coming sooner or later, but I think we were all hoping The Hound, lovable cynic that he is, would somehow find a way to survive. His death was especially sad, though, because he realized the only way to kill his brother was by killing himself too, and in the one way, he was most terrified of: jumping off a tower into the raging fire below, bringing Gregor with him.
Shae was a sex worker Tyrion Lannister fell in love with while fighting for the Lannister army. He brought her with him to King’s Landing where he hid her in his tower until he was able to arrange for her to work as Sansa Stark’s handmaiden. Their relationship was a secret, but their love was beautiful. Until of course Tyrion has reason to fear for her safety and attempts to send her away from King’s Landing. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so in return, she gives a false testimony at his trial for Joffrey’s murder and then sleeps with his father Tywin. Ultimately, Tyrion kills the woman he loves in self-defense after she tries to attack him.
Missandei was a slave freed by Daenerys who chose to follow her and work as her advisor. She fell in love with Grey Worm, the commander of the Unsullied, a once-slave soldier army that also chose to fight for Daenerys after she freed them. Missandei and Grey Worm both had hard lives as slaves, but they planned on sailing back to her home, the Isle of Naath, after Daenerys’s war was won. Heartbreakingly enough, Missandei didn’t live to see Naath again, as she was captured by Cersei and beheaded in front of the people she loves. Her last word was “Dracarys,” an instruction for Daenerys to burn Cersei and her land to the ground.
Margaery Tyrell was a noblewoman who didn’t care who she had to marry in order to become Queen: first Renly Baratheon, then Joffrey Baratheon, then Tommen Baratheon. Despite the power-hungry nature it seems like she may have, Margaery was truly a kind and loving woman. She had a pure heart and wanted to use her power to help the less fortunate people of Westeros. But Cersei Lannister felt threatened by her, so she killed her along with many of her other enemies by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor with everyone inside.
Tommen was the son of Cersei Lannister, but unlike his mother and older brother Joffrey, Tommen was a good person. As King, he cared about his people, and he loved his wife Margaery, despite it being arranged and her third marriage. His death was arguably even sadder than hers, as it was his mother who was responsible for Margaery’s death, among countless others, and although he wasn’t in the blast, he couldn’t live with himself afterward and jumped out of a window to his death.
Theon Greyjoy was raised by the Starks after his father’s failed attempt at overthrowing the King. He initially pledged his loyalty to Robb Stark, but betrayed him, before being betrayed by his own men and being captured by the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay broke him, both physically and mentally. Eventually, Theon finds his way back to the Starks, who forgive him and allow him to pledge his loyalty once more and fight with them against the White Walkers. He dies protecting Bran Stark.
Rickon was the youngest Stark. Like Theon, he was also held captive by Ramsay Bolton. Arrangements were loosely made to give Rickon back to Jon and Sansa, but being that Ramsay is a sadist, it did not go quite as Jon had planned. Ramsay tells Rickon to run across a field to Jon while he shoots arrows at him. He is so close to reaching his brother when an arrow goes right through him, killing him in an instant. He was young and innocent, but his death was cruel. It was an absolutely crushing scene.
Jorah Mormont has been through a lot. He was first exiled from his family and land in the North. Then he falls in love with a woman (Daenerys Targaryen) who will never love him back in the same way. Then he’s released from her service and shipped away when she learns that he’s secretly been spying on her — of course, this was before he realized he loved her. He then contracts greyscale, a disease that has only been known to leave one previous survivor. And after being miraculously saved from the greyscale, he finds himself in a war against the undead. He dies doing what he felt most called to do: protecting the woman he loves. Daenerys seemed to use him as a shield against the wights while in battle, and he dies in her arms.
Robb Stark was the oldest of the Stark children, and after his father was beheaded, he was declared King in the North. He was betrothed to a daughter of Walder Frey, a political move on his part in order to gain more allies for an attempt to attack the Lannister’s Casterly Rock. He didn’t realize falling in love with a healer on a battlefield would be his ultimate downfall. His wife and their unborn child were murdered by the Freys during an ambush massacre, the Red Wedding, and while he was heartbroken and in despair by her dead body, he was stabbed to death.
The mother of the Stark clan, Catelyn, was forced to watch her eldest son murdered at the Red Wedding before having her own throat slit. The pain she was forced to endure watching someone she loves so much taken from her was cruel. She almost didn’t need to be killed. Watching Robb die should have been enough. But for Walder Frey, it was not. The entire wedding was a shock, and we were rooting for the Starks, so losing both eldest son and matriarch was a devastating blow.
Talisa was the saddest of the deaths at the Red Wedding. Robb Stark’s newly pregnant wife only ever wanted to help people. She was a healer and she believed in freedom for slaves, despite being born into a noble family herself. Her only crime was falling in love with — and then marrying — Robb while he was betrothed to one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Talisa was the first Stark killed by the Freys. She was stabbed in the torso, a very personal attack killing her unborn child before she bled to death as well.
Hodor — whose real name was actually “Wylis” — was a simple-minded, yet a sweet and humble servant of House Stark. He only spoke one word, “hodor,” but he was loyal to Bran Stark until the very end. His story was heartbreaking, as we learn that the reason why he can only say “hodor” is because Bran accidentally warged into his body from many years earlier, while in the present day he’s being instructed to “hold the door” against wights threatening their lives. We see Hodor’s story as we watch him get killed while protecting Bran. Poor Hodor deserved so much better.
Ygritte was a wilding who won the heart of Jon Snow while in the North. She was talented with a bow and arrow and fought with Mance Rayder’s army for the Free Folk. Jon and Ygritte were an adorable power couple. Who could forget her catchphrase, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” But he betrayed her by being unable to commit himself to the wildlings’ cause, choosing to stay loyal to the Night’s Watch instead. She was still heartbroken over him when the Free Folk attacked Castle Black, where she was killed by another member of the Night’s Watch. Jon holds her as she dies, and I am still upset they never got back together.
Shireen Baratheon’s death was by far the most shocking and heartbreaking of all the deaths on Game of Thrones, and that’s obviously saying a lot. The young princess was the definition of innocent. She caught a deadly disease, greyscale, as an infant, and rather than let her die, her father Stannis Baratheon took her to every healer there was to cure her. He succeeded, but she was left permanently scarred. We see her teach her friend and father’s advisor Ser Davos how to read, and later she helps to teach wildling Gilly as well. She’s friendly with everyone, and just a pure, loving character. Her father loved her enough to save her life as a baby, but not enough to keep her alive as a young child. With the advice of Red Priestess Melisandre, Stannis sacrifices his daughter to the Lord of Light, tying her to a pyre and setting it on fire. The last we see of Shireen, she’s screaming for her mother and father to help her before she burns to death.