Misery loves company, and watching Game of Thrones can be like signing up for a weekly dose of tragedy. Though it may not strike each episode (with one exception, Season 6 has been fairly tame), the terms of living in Westeros are clear: violence begets violence, and if you are with the living, you’re always one breath away from dying.
Since the show premiered in 2011, countless characters have been eliminated in deeply unsettling ways. Fans of the show have screamed at their televisions and cried in public as they watched in disbelief as they watched their favorite characters bite the big one. From the pilot episode to now, the Seven Kingdoms have become an increasingly unstable place to inhabit. As we approach the 9th episode of the season, unequivocally named “The Battle of the Bastards,” let’s revisit the most disheartening moments in all of Game of Thrones.
Here are the 20 Times Games of Thrones Ruined Your Life:
20. Bran Gets Pushed
For newcomers to Game of Thrones, the pilot episode presented a fairly ho-hum depiction of a fantasy drama. Other than the violent introduction of the White Walkers, the show seemed like a heightened version of an Medieval-era story. With morally upright people like Ned Stark and a boisterous Henry VIII-like Robert Baratheon, our first hour in Westeros felt fairly welcoming.
Then, the unexpected happened to the most undeserving of all. In a one-two punch of unexpectedly witnessing Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship, then watching an innocent Bran get pushed and paralyzed by the Lannister brother, we realized Game of Thrones meant business. Things are never quite as they seem, and more importantly, no one is safe. Especially not the children.
19. Daenerys Banishes Jorah
Despite being a soft spoken man, Jorah Mormont could never conceal his abiding life for Daenerys Targaryen. Since his introduction at the wedding feast of Khal Drogo, his fealty to the Breaker of Chains has been deep and true. Through serving and protecting his Queen, Jorah found tremendous purpose as her steward.
Things were too good to be true. When his past indiscretions and secret alliances were exposed, regret and shame consumed him. Though he apologizes profusely and confesses his love for her, Daenerys refuses to even look the man in the eye as she banishes him from Meereen and sends him back to King’s Landing. Of course, this was not the last time Jorah would defy her orders and go to great lengths to win her back. After fighting and surviving in the Great Pit, she rejects him yet again in an even more brutish way. Only when he and Daario are able to rescue Daenerys from the Khals does she finally embrace the integrity of Ser Jorah Mormont — only to send him away again, though this time to find a cure for his believed-fatal illness.
18. Shae Betrays Tyrion
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Indeed, as Shae grew increasingly frustrated with her private lover, Tyrion, her allegiance cracked under pressure. After her lion had broken up with her in order to safe her life (in another heart-wrenching scene), the former prostitute was shooed away from King’s Landing, but she didn’t stay gone for long. In one of the most frustrating scenes in the show, Shae returns to stand in court before Tywin Lannister and Oberyn Martel and engages in public defamation of the highest order. She publicly admits to being Tyrion’s erstwhile whore, claims the dwarf has sexually abused her, then affirms the (wrongful) allegations that he conspired to kill King Joffrey.
As the Judas Iscariot of Westerosi lovers, Shae burns a bridge that lights a fire in Tyrion. With his life in great danger, he turns his back on the ungrateful populace of King’s Landing, whom he helped save in the Battle of the Blackwater, and begins his ultimate revenge. More on that later.
17. Daenerys Locks Up Her Dragons
Though a paragon of self-control, Daenerys’ dragons lack the same discipline. In the season 4 finale, Dany defined her role as the Mother of Dragons when she reluctantly chained two of them in the Great Pyramid. Though Drogon remains independent and the most powerful of the three, Rhaegal and Viserion are lured into their cage and distracted by meat as Daenerys clasps heavy chains around their necks.
She weeps as she tethers them to the wall. Though a purveyor of justice, she is clearly pained by her decision and responsibility to the citizens of Meereen who have suffered the dragons’ fire-breathing attacks. When she reaches the Pyramid’s exit and turns back a final time, Rhaegal and Viserion realize that they have been fooled by their mother. Like dogs sensing their master is leaving for an extended period of time, the dragons shriek with sadness — and pet owners watching at home probably did the same thing.
16. Theon’s Torture
As we approach the “Battle of the Bastards” between Jon and Ramsay Snow, we must remember the atrocities Mr. Bolton committed on poor Theon Greyjoy. Though guilty of many crimes and misdemeanors himself, Theon bore the brunt of Ramsay’s sadism on a daily basis, slowly shedding his natural identity for his new one: “Reek.”
Each moment in the Dreadfort of House Bolton was one of unrelenting cruelty, physical torture, and sexual harassment that included a truly warped seduction scene with Ramsay’s girlfriends, Myranda and Violet. To maximize its mental malice, this sequence culminated in Theon’s emasculation, stripping him of his identity and taking away his will to live. We can only hope Ramsay Snow will pay for his crimes in the wars to come.
15. Jon Leaves Ygritte
Amid all of the loss and sadness in Game of Thrones, one bright spot shined through. Indeed, the love between Ygritte and Jon Snow may have seemed too special to some, but fans greatly relished their romance. Through their relationship, Jon grew from boyhood to manhood, meeting his mental and physical match in the form of the fire-haired wildling who wasn’t afraid to challenge him.
Alas, Jon’s allegiance to the Night’s Watch loomed over the love, and though he climbed The Wall with Ygritte, Tormund, and other wildlings, he could never abandon his roots as a Stark (at heart if not in name) and sworn protector of Castle Black. Romeo and Juliet were sworn to different houses, and Ygritte and Jon’s love could never last in such an unforgiving world.
14. Arya Rejects Nymeria
Though most of the Stark children’s Direwolves are now deceased, Nymeria remains alive and wandering in the Riverlands — as far as we know. We haven’t seen her since Arya shooed her away from Robert Baratheon’s searching soldiers. Indeed, Nymeria led the first attack on Joffrey, and had she been caught for her crime, she surely would have been executed (as happened to Sansa’s Direwolf Lady, who paid her price).
When Arya says goodbye to Nymeria, the wolf won’t walk away. She stands proud and protective, prompting the youngest Stark girl to yell, “Go! Leave!” Even then, the Direwolf stays, forcing Arya to toss a hefty rock in her direction until she gets the point. It’s a heartbreaking moment in Game of Thrones, the inverse of Homeward Bound but painful all the same.
13. Jaime Loses His Hand
The trials and tribulations of Jaime Lannister turned him from a hateful man into a sympathetic character. It’s a trajectory only Game of Thrones can successfully fly. After all, the incestuous, child-paralyzing, Ned Stark-betraying man seemed truly detestable until he wandered in the woods with Brienne of Tarth. Through their eventful travels and pithy conversations, we began to recognize Jaime as a more complicated person than we first thought.
When the lisping Locke sliced off his sword hand, Jaime received the fullest extent of our compassion. He had already been starved and abused up until that fateful moment, but without his right hand, he was no longer one of the greatest fighters on the planet, and the Kingslayer was fundamentally changed forever. Though an awful scene to witness, it became a watershed event in the evolution of the lusty Lannister, one that seems to have made him a better man in the long run.
12. Daenerys Mercy Kills Drogo
Euthanasia wasn’t always a hotbutton topic. For Daenerys Targaryen, it was the merciful and just way to end the life of her beloved husband, Khal Drogo.
Episode 10 of season 1 dedicated a lot of time to Daenerys’ unenviable decision. Though she waits for “the sun to rise in the west and set in the east,” she knows her warring husband has slipped into the nether, thanks to the spurious blood magic of the Lhazareen witch. When Daenerys finally kisses him goodbye and summons the strength to continue in his stead, she places a pillow over Drogo and escorts him out of his mortal prison. While an ironic way to die for such an accomplished fighter, it remains one of the most upsetting scenes in Game of Thrones.
11. Ramsay Releases The Hounds
The rage of Ramsay knew no bounds. His ultimate goal, to carry the Bolton mantle, led him to commit countless atrocities that even Joffrey Baratheon couldn’t stomach. Though the patricide of Roose Bolton deserves attention, his followup act of barbarity was infinitely worse (plus, Roose Bolton killed Robb Stark, so he doesn’t get a lot of sympathy).
Still, after Roose’s death, his innocent and doting wife, Walda, became the immediate threat to Ramsay’s title as the Warden of the North. Holding his newborn brother, Ramsay looks at the child with spite. Pretending to lead her to her husband, he takes Walda into the kennels of Winterfell and unleashes the hungriest dogs available on Walda and her son. It has become one of Ramsay’s most loathsome acts in the show.
10. Ned Stark Loses His Head
Newcomers to Game of Thrones never expected the leader of House Stark — who to that point was considered the series’ lead character — to meet such a horrific end. Eddard was a good man and a great father, choosing justice and peace over violence whenever he had the chance. Worst of all, he swallowed his pride and confessed to crimes he did not commit, including conspiring to kill the King, for the sake of his children.
Though the tyrant ruler Joffrey (long may he…stay dead) first promised mercy, he rescinded his vow and ordered the executioner to do his deathly duty. To the shock of Sansa Stark and even Joffrey’s cruel mother, Cersei, Ned Stark was beheaded on the spot. This moment, the last of the penultimate episode in Season 1, left audiences in shock.
It wasn’t the show’s first heart-stopping moment (Bran’s crippling came 8 episodes before) and other moments may have proved to be a bit more devastating (see: the rest of this list), but the beheading of the noble Lord of Winterfell blew just about everyone away — except the folks who’d read the books, of course.
9. Ygritte Dies
After Ygritte loaded Jon Snow’s back with a litany of arrows, we knew her days were numbered. Alongside her bloodthirsty and vengeful wildlings, she didn’t want to merely see Jon Snow a final time, she wanted to kill him. Upon arriving at Castle Black, it doesn’t take long for her to have Jon squarely between her bow and arrow’s sights. The former lovers’ eyes finally meet, and as she debates whether or not to let that first arrow fly, Ollie shoots her from a safe distance. Jon sprints over to Ygritte and cradles her, knowing her wound is a fatal one.
With an arrow protruding through her heart, she asks him, “Do you remember that cave? We should’ve stayed in that cave.” Ever the strongman, Jon finally surrenders to his emotions and promises that they’ll return to it. Just before she dies, Ygritte reminds him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” leaving audiences utterly flattened.
8. Oberyn Martel Gets Crushed
For pure shock-value, the sudden death of Oberyn Martell remains one of the most extreme. Filled with rage and vengeance, Oberyn had Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane literally on his back. The Red Viper paraded around the giant’s collapsed and poisoned body, shouting, “You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!” After ramming his signature nine-foot spear into The Mountain’s core, the battle over Tyrion Lannister’s fate seemed all but over. He simply had to finish the job, collect his prize (Tyrion’s freedom), then return back to the brothels in which he felt most at home.
Unfortunately, pride came shortly before the fall, and the Prince of Dorne got a little too close to the monstrous Mountain while he was demanding his answers. One well executed Cobra Kai leg sweep later, and Oberyn’s teeth were smashed, his eyes gouged out, and his skull crushed for all to see. This was Game of Thrones at its most merciless.
7. Jaime Confesses to Brienne
When the Oathbreaker finally reveals the circumstances of his regicide, his will to live has deteriorated. In the warm baths of House Bolton, Jaime Lannister soaks alongside Brienne of Tarth. Both have suffered greatly in their long journey since leaving Robb Stark’s war camp. Naked, broken, and missing a hand, Jaime exposes the truth surrounding his murder of the Mad King Aerys.
Though he has been vilified as the Kingslayer, Jaime tells Brienne that he abandoned his commitment to the King’s Guard when Aerys intended to burn the whole of King’s Landing to the ground with wildfire. His gut-wrenching monologue puts Brienne in his shoes: a loyal servant to the king about to witness the death of tens of thousands of men, women, and children. He asks her, “Would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?” It’s clear she wouldn’t. In this moment, the nadir of Jaime Lannister’s life, he forges a bond with Brienne of Tarth that will not easily be broken.
6. Tyrion Kills Shae
Tywin Lannister long abused his dwarf son. Having once stolen the love interest of his youth, the Lannister patriarch repeats the same mistake a second time, paving the way for his death. Indeed, when Tyrion finds Shae in the bed of his father, a direct callback to the dwarf’s most despised memories, nothing is left to be said. She has embarrassed him in court, spurned his love, then disgraced their relationship by sleeping with his own father.
Knowing the gravity of what she has done, Shae immediately reaches for a bedside knife and attempts to stab Tyrion, who quickly subdues her and strangles her with her own necklace. It’s a graphic and wildly upsetting sequence that quickly leads to the death of Tywin, killed via crossbow atop the commode. That second death was a bit more satisfying.
5. Hodor’s Sacrifice
The full implications of Hodor’s death, and Bran’s orchestration of it, remain to be explained. One fact is incontrovertible: Hodor was a hero who lived to protect his enfeebled friend and did so until he died.
The haunting beauty of Hodor’s simpleton character was that he never questioned his responsibilities, only himself. Perhaps the most goodhearted soul in all of Westeros, Hodor felt fear and desperation on many occasions, but he always followed through. Though Bran occasionally used his warging abilities to give Hodor a boost of courage, the half-giant hero lived his whole life so he could hold the door long enough for Bran to reach safety. It was a moment we’ll never forget, and far and away the most crushing moment of season 6 thus far.
4. Stannis Burns Shireen
This moment was almost spiteful of its audience. To use Shireen as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light turned Stannis Baratheon –who’d spent the previous few episodes actually being a likable person for once — into public enemy number one. Frankly, we should have seen this bit of utter brutality coming.
Even his wife could only live with the torment of this incident for a brief time. She succumbed to her guilt and hung herself in a remote forest. As for Stannis Baratheon, the presumptuous hero without much regard for the life of his darling daughter: he was quickly exposed as a false prophet and a man destined to die. Providing an all too real insight into the barren depths of religious fanaticism, the sacrifice of Shireen will not be easily forgotten amid the panoply of miserable moments in Game of Thrones.
3. Jon Snow Dies
Season 5 played the blinking game with its viewership and won by a mile. After the harrowing death of Shireen in Episode 9, the season finale ended with the betrayal and murder of Jon Snow. It was a chthonic conclusion that had fans wondering if they should abandon the series altogether. Having watched Jon survive fifty episodes of Game of Thrones and become the fan favorite, the proverbial rug was ripped from under our feet as we witnessed a cabal of the Night’s Watch take turns plunging their daggers into his stomach.
This moment made us despise young Ollie and yearn for revenge. With a blackened pool of blood engulfing the snow around his body, the lingering view of Jon’s corpse left audiences in a state of disbelief. He didn’t stay dead for long of course, but that was a downright brutal 10 months.
2. The Rape of Sansa
Each of the Stark children paid a heavy price after the death of their father. Sansa in particular suffered a great deal, especially when Littlefinger gave her to Ramsay Bolton. Their wedding played out like a dirge with Sansa surrounded by her enemies in a place she once called home. Indeed, Winterfell, the site of her birth, would host the loss of innocence she would experience at the violent hand of the vile Ramsay Bolton.
Forcing Theon Greyjoy, or Reek, to watch the proceedings, Ramsay forced himself on Sansa with great violence. Though their wedding night marks the beginning of a regrettable relationship, it becomes clear that Sansa’s marriage to Ramsay is one of recurring violence, as she later recounts to Littlefinger. You can bet Sansa will play a much-deserved role in the coming “Battle of the Bastards.”
1. The Red Wedding
As one of the most tragic scenes in television history, the Red Wedding left millions of fans stupefied. The well-documented and highly-emotional reactions to this scene turned the tables on Westeros and confirmed that no hero, however beloved, is safe from the wrath of George R. R. Martin. Because Robb Stark simply broke his promise to Walder Frey and took Talisa Maegyr for a wife, the whole of his army was slaughtered in a sweeping show of genocide.
Catelyn Stark, the last to die in the Great Hall, witnesses her pregnant daughter-in-law get stabbed and her son shot with arrows before being killed by Roose Bolton. In one fell swoop, that evil genius known as GRRM managed to wipe out an entire storyline — quite possibly your favorite one. Without question, the Red Wedding remains the most appalling scene in Game of Thrones, a title that will hopefully be left unchallenged in the coming seasons. It simply can’t get any worse than that, right? RIGHT?!
Which Game of Thrones scene upset you the most? How many times have you rage quit the series, only to come crawling back the following week? Tell us in the comments. You can trust we’ll sympathize.
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