Few series end the lives of major characters with quite as much abandon as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Fans of the novels know that no one is safe, no matter how beloved they may be and when the books were adapted for HBO, the writers knew that they needed that sense of precariousness to translate to the small screen as well.
Since its Freshman season, Game of Thrones has consistently proven that it was not afraid of offing fan favorites. Now that it’s approaching the final six episodes, viewers are braced to see more characters that they adore fall before series' end. There’s no way that everyone gets to live happily ever after here and no one who wants things tied up neatly with a bow would be much of a fan of this show anyway.
This list is not about characters who were offed too soon due to narrative purposes - the writers know that they’re doing. The point here is to look at the most soul-crushing exits, the characters that fans wished could’ve survived a little longer, even if the scene that took their lives was a brilliant one.
Then there’s the other side of this: the players who need to leave the board. It’s not about whether we like them or not. Some of them have to go because it would better complete their narrative arc or it simply makes sense. Others, though, we just want to see gone!
Here are 13 Characters Who Left Game of Thrones Too Soon (And 9 Who Need To Go.)
22 Left Too Soon: Ned Stark
Although fans of Martin’s books were braced for the demise of Eddard “Ned” Stark, many viewers were shocked to see a main character and all around decent human being so unceremoniously offed. Sean Bean’s Ned was always kind of too good for the world of Game of Thrones. Even though it seemed that he couldn’t possibly survive on the board when facing off against such dishonest players, it was unthinkable that he’d lose his head before the first season finale.
This brutal moment showed everyone watching in no uncertain terms that nobody on this show was safe. It’s a reality that fans have come to know very well and as we approach the final episodes of the series, far more bloodshed seems a safe bet.
21 Needs To Go: Cersei Lannister
There are some villains that you love to hate and some that you just plain hate. Cersei definitely falls into the former category. Unlike her monstrous son Joffrey or the deeply psychotic Ramsey Bolton, Cersei is an incredibly complex character. Much of this comes down to Lena Heady’s nuanced performance, but even when she’s the worst, most fans don’t actually want to see Cersei gone. That’s because as awful as she is, she’s also an excellent villain.
The thing is, there’s really no way that Cersei can survive what’s to come. As resourceful as she may be, it seems unlikely that she’ll wind up on the Iron Throne. Cersei has survived a long time, but the game is almost finished and we doubt that she’ll still be standing when the final moves are made.
20 Left Too Soon: Robb And Catelyn Stark
There was no shock that quite equaled Ned’s beheading, at least not until the Red Wedding. Again, those who read the books may have been waiting with bated breath for “The Rains of Castamere,” but those unfamiliar with Martin’s novels never saw that particular betrayal coming. With a single blow, the hopes of House Stark were crushed. Losing Robb would’ve been bad enough, but his mother Catelyn too - not to mention his wife and unborn baby?
Even as we approach the show’s last season, there are few scenes that can match this one in either brutality or intensity. Sure, Game of Thrones is forever upping the stakes, but witnessing the end of several important and beloved characters in the same scene was a devastating blow for fans. Both Michelle Fairly and Richard Madden gave incredible performances and are still missed.
19 Needs To Go: Jaime Lannister
Look, Jaime Lannister has become one of the most complex and enjoyable characters on GoT and there’s nothing we’d like more than to see him ride off into the sunset. Much of this is undoubtedly due to the immense charms of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. However, it’s doubtful that Jaime will get a happy ending and honestly, there’s still an argument to be made that he doesn’t deserve one.
The issue is that Jaime can’t really win. According to the prophecy, he could be the one to take Cersei’s life and villainous though she may be, we're not sure he could live with himself after ending his sister/the woman he loves. The truth is, we want him to find redemption, but he could still prove himself unworthy of it by betraying everyone for Cersei in the end.
18 Left Too Soon: Oberyn Martell
Pedro Pascal was the perfect Oberyn Martell and he managed to make the character just as memorable as his written counterpart despite his relatively small role in the series. The battle between the Mountain and the Viper was heart-stopping. Even as viewers were shouting at their TV (or novel) for Oberyn to stop taunting his foe and just end it, everyone knew that his pride would be his undoing.
The end of Oberyn’s life was an amazing scene, but many viewers would’ve liked to see Pascal remain on the show a little bit longer. Dorne may have been a huge disappointment for fans, but most felt that the casting of Pascal as the prince was spot on.
17 Left Too Soon: Hodor
The reveal of how Wylis became Hodor was as heartbreaking as it was surprising. Everyone had always blamed his mental state on him being “simple” and assumed that his one word response to everything was nothing but nonsense. However, “The Door” proved this theory completely untrue. Even those who’d read the books were staggered by Hodor’s end, because he’s still alive in the novels - although Martin has confirmed that he will not survive The Winds of Winter.
Kristian Nairn’s subtle performance quickly made the character a fan favorite. Bran never would’ve survived without the gentle giant and he’d had a constant presence in the series since the beginning, despite being more of an ancillary player. Most viewers were crushed to see his life lost in such a tragic manner, although he did go out like a hero.
16 Left Too Soon: Shireen Baratheon
Speaking of gut-wrenching exits of characters who deserved better, few got quite as much of a raw deal as Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram.) She was one of very few unequivocally kindhearted characters on the show and her father paid her back for it by literally burning her alive. It was a horrible scene that illustrated in brutal clarity the lengths that Stannis was willing to go to become the “one true king.” Even those who read the books weren't prepared.
Shireen was a sweet kid, whose only crime was sharing the blood of a monster who was willing to sacrifice her for it. Watching him send Davos away was particularly difficult, because the Onion Knight was the only one who was actually in Shireen’s corner. Some fans initially backed Stannis’s claim, but taking Shireen’s life made him impossible to root for.
15 Needs To Go: Robin Arryn
Okay, we admit it. There is no real narrative purpose that would be served by Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) meeting his end. This is one case where many fans are just ready to see the character gone. From the moment he was introduced, Robin has done nothing to endear himself to viewers. Let's chuck him out the Moon Door and be done with it.
Robin has never been a likable character, nor has he been given enough complexity to make him even remotely interesting despite that. Unless GoT changes that during its final episodes, it’s safe to say that fans will mourn him about as much as Lysa, which is to say, not very much. Still, we wouldn’t put it past the writers to make him matter a bit more before taking his life.
14 Left Too Soon: Maester Luwin
When everyone looks back on the many crimes of Theon Greyjoy, there are several that spring to mind immediately: betraying the people he called family, taking Sir Roderick’s head (badly,) and burning two orphans beyond recognition to pass them off as Bran and Rickon.
Theon was also indirectly responsible for Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) meeting his maker. Sure, he didn’t stab Luwin or even order someone else to. However, it was still one of Theon’s men who did the deed and Luwin’s end was a result of Theon’s failed plot to take and hold Winterfell. The maester was a loyal servant of House Stark and a surrogate father for Bran and Rickon when their own parents had left home. He even attempted to help Theon save himself when the Ironborn had given him no reason to do so.
13 Needs To Go: Melisandre
Melisandre has always been a controversial figure. She was responsible for bringing Jon Snow back to the land of the living, but the Red Woman also burned an innocent young girl at the stake. There was doubt that Melisandre would return at all after playing such a small role in the story last season, but she did state that she would have to go back to Westeros to meet her end.
It seems that Carice van Houten’s enigmatic character will be a part of season 8 and her own words make it clear that she probably won’t survive the experience. The Red Woman has presumably lived a long life - she’s certainly older than she looks - and although Melisandre recognizes the mistakes of her past, she’s unlikely to escape them unscathed in these final episodes.
12 Left Too Soon: Margaery Tyrell
Margaery Tyrell is a fascinating character and Natalie Dormer’s performance expertly captured all of the young queen’s complexity. Thrown from one political alliance to another, and through it all wearing a perpetual smirk, Margaery was clever, strong and manipulative. Cersei was jealous of her for many reasons, but all the while, she continually underestimated her - and Cersei knows better than anyone what it feels like to be underestimated.
Margeary was one of the best female characters that Game of Thrones has ever had, although there are plenty to choose from. Much like the Red Wedding crushed House Stark with a single blow, Cersei’s vengeance had a similar effect on the Tyrell line. Thanks to her, the hopes of their house quite literally went up in flames. It was a surprising exit for Margaery and most viewers were sad to see her go.
11 Needs To Go: Euron Greyjoy
Euron Greyjoy might not be all that similar to Joffrey or Ramsey, but he certainly does an excellent job filling that hateful hole that both of them left in our hearts. Cersei may have done awful things over the years, but she’s simply a better character. Point being, there’s kind of no one who needs to meet their maker this season quite as much as Theon’s evil uncle.
Pilou Asbæk has done an incredible job of making the character supremely unlikable and we’re all ready to stop looking at him. The final season has enough in the way of great antagonists without us all having to deal with Euron’s attitude when the series comes back. Let him set sail and never return.
10 Left Too Soon: Ser Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) had a particularly interesting character arc. After being fired rather cruelly from his post as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by Joffrey, the legendary knight sailed across the Narrow Sea to offer his services to Daenerys Targaryen. From the moment she accepted him, Ser Barristan was incredibly loyal to Dany. He served her valiantly and when he lost his life, he went down fighting like the champion that we all knew he was.
Ser Barristan’s exit was a heartbreaking one and although it was a heroic moment for him, it would’ve been nice if he was able to stick around a little longer. Better Ser Barristan should fall in that battle than Grey Worm, perhaps, but the brave knight is still missed.
9 Needs To Go: The Mountain
If there was actually any justice in the world of Game of Thrones, Oberyn would’ve emerged from his battle with the Mountain victorious. At the very least, his poison should’ve been the end of Gregor Clegane. However, thanks to the meddling of Qyburn, a version of the Mountain remains.
He may be more Frankenstein’s monster than man, but Ser Gregor is now more equipped to strike fear into the hearts of his many enemies than ever before. The most poetic reckoning for this creature would have to be the unavoidable showdown between him and his brother, Sandor. The Hound has a lot to atone for, but the guy is downright heroic when considered against his older sibling. We're all hoping that Sandor wins this fight.
8 Left Too Soon: Ygritte
Remembered most perhaps for her refrain of “You know nothing Jon Snow,” Ygritte’s chemistry with him was palpable. There’s good reason for this, since Kit Harrington and Rose Leslie were married last year. Ygritte brought out a more fun side of the regularly dour Jon Snow and even though their romance was obviously doomed, most fans were rooting for them.
The way that Ygritte lost her life was perhaps even more heartbreaking in the show than it was in the books, because in the former, she was mortally wounded right in front of Jon. For a moment, it seemed that their reunion would be a happy one, until Olly’s arrow destroyed any chance of that. Their love story was never going to have a happy ending, but many viewers weren’t quite ready to let go of Ygritte.
7 Left Too Soon: Syrio Forel
It’s true that Arya’s “dance” teacher (Miltos Yerolemou) had a very brief role in the show, but Syrio Forel’s life, as well as his demise were quite memorable. The fact that Ned understood Arya well enough to know how much she needed to learn sword play meant everything to her. The world of GoT has some pretty strict gender roles that the youngest Stark girl was not made to adhere to.
Syrio was instrumental in shaping the person that Arya became and he fought for her until his last breath. It was an incredibly heroic moment that quite possibly saved her life and at the very least, allowed her to keep her freedom. Viewers didn’t get to spend too much time with the master swordsman from Bravos, but were saddened by his demise nonetheless.
6 Needs To Go: The Night King
This one really should require no explanation, but in the battle between the living and the Night King’s army, we’re betting on humankind. Portrayed originally by Richard Brake and later by Vladimir Furdik, the Night King may be a fascinating character in terms of what actually drives him, but the guy needs to be defeated before series end.
As if we didn’t already know that the Night King was a major Big Bad, what with his army of reanimated bodies and all, he also took Viserion’s life, which is obviously unforgivable. Now, the dragon's siblings will have to go up against him in an epic battle that will undeniably break Dany’s heart. They are her children, after all. The Night King is going down, because if he doesn’t, everyone else is.
5 Left Too Soon: Osha
Osha (Natalia Tena) was a great character. She began as a member of the Free Folk trapped in a position of servitude due solely to the mercy of captors. Sure, Osha and her pals attempted to steal Bran’s horse and no one really knows if he would’ve survived the experience. However, Osha repaid the faith that the Starks placed in her in kind.
Bran, Rickon and Hodor wouldn’t have made it very far without Osha. Aside from all of her aid to the Stark brothers, she also gave her body and eventually her life to keep them safe. Seeing Ramsey take her down was gut-wrenching, both because viewers were already hoping for Ramsey’s demise and also because it was so sad to say goodbye to Osha.
4 Needs To Go: Qyburn
This one probably also probably doesn’t require too much explanation. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) has served as Cersei’s undeniably creepy right hand man and was also responsible for bringing the Mountain back to life - if that’s what one could call his current state of existence. Thus far, Qyburn has proven himself a true ally of Cersei’s and she’s in short supply of those at the moment.
Viewers still aren’t clear on everything that Qyburn is capable of, but we wouldn’t put it past him to find a way to slither out of this battle unscathed. We’re hoping that he gets what’s coming to him. It may be difficult for some of us to say farewell to Cersei, but few will mourn the loss of her former maester.
3 Left Too Soon: Rickon Stark
Portrayed by Art Parkinson, poor Rickon basically reappeared after quite some time just to remind viewers that he was still alive before being unceremoniously offed by Ramsey Bolton. Seriously, it had been several seasons since viewers had seen the youngest Stark and we really weren’t given much time to get reacquainted with the character (who was never terribly developed to begin with.) Rickon was basically just brought back so that his tragic demise could cause Jon Snow to play right into Ramsey’s hand.
The point is, Rickon never really had the opportunity to become more than a plot device; not that his final scene didn’t break viewers' hearts just the same. It was sad to see Rickon again after so long only to witness his end.
2 Needs To Go: Theon Greyjoy
This isn’t necessarily about Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) being made to suffer for his past crimes, although they are numerous. Most fans can acknowledge that the Ironborn has endured enough for several lifetimes. This is more just kind of about Theon’s quality of life in general. He found some redemption by aiding Sansa, but thanks to Ramsey, he still remains more Reek than Theon.
We want Theon to wind up a hero, but we still think that his story should end before the show does. The guy has suffered enough. Hopefully, he can gather the strength that he has left and achieve an honorable end by rescuing his sister, Yara. At the very least, he’s prepared to try.
1 Left Too Soon: Lady, Summer, Shaggydog, and Grey Wind
Game of Thrones is a difficult series for animal lovers, since no one is safe. From the show's beginning, the Starks have been very strongly linked to their direwolves. Unfortunately, not every member of House Stark who remains alive is still connected to their lupine counterparts. Lady was the first to go, punished for the crimes of Nymeria - who, to be fair, had committed no real crime at all. Grey Wind ended up separated from his head so that it could be sewn onto poor Robb’s body.
Shaggydog and Summer both lost their lives defending their masters, Rickon and Bran, respectively. Nymeria had a run-in with Arya last season, only for her to realize that the wolf was no longer hers. There’s a good chance that we’ll see Jon’s wolf, Ghost, this season and hopefully, he’ll survive whatever is to come.
What Game of Thrones characters do you think left the show too soon? Who do you feel shouldn't survive until the end? Let us know in the comments!