Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of countless fans across the world. It has redefined what makes great television, providing a cinematic quality and scope to each and every episode. Few series can rival its rich character development and world-building.
Plot twists are another essential component of the show's success, as it is constantly shocking fans with developments that are thoroughly unexpected.
Of course, an effective plot twist can't just rely on surprise alone. It also requires the twist to move the characters and plot forward in new, meaningful, and fascinating ways. The show is most well-known for the demises of significant and beloved characters, but that is only one of the many types of plot twists that the story delivers.
Even a series as masterful as Game of Thrones can provide lackluster plot twists, though.
These twists hurt the show in the long run not because they lack shock value, but because they don't push the characters or story forward in valuable or intriguing ways. A twist can also be harmful if it is counter-intuitive to a character's core beliefs or goals.
This list will only look at plot twists from the television series. Some have occurred in both Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, while others have only happened within the show.
It's time to don your boiled leather as we take a look at the 7 Plot Twists That Hurt Game Of Thrones (And 20 That Saved It).
27 Hurt: Daenerys' Promise To Hizdahr Zo Loraq
In order to combat the Sons of the Harpy, Daenerys allowed Meereenese noble Hizdahr zo Loraq to reopen the fighting pits and promised her hand in marriage as long as Hizdahr put a stop to the Sons of the Harpy.
As the breaker of chains, she needed to rise above flawed traditions of the past and move into a better future.
She didn't even like Hizdahr as a person and only promised marriage for political reasons.
Following the tradition of arranging loveless, purely political marriages turns the wheel that Daenerys says she wants to break instead of destroying it.
The compromise wasn't even worth it, as the Sons of the Harpy attacked when the fighting pits were reopened, during which Hizdahr lost his life, all of which made the deal with Daenerys meaningless.
26 Saved: Littlefinger Betrays Ned
Ned Stark thought he made an unlikely, invaluable ally in Littlefinger. This alliance would be crucial if Ned was to rule the Seven Kingdoms-- until Joffrey came of age-- as per Robert Baratheon's last wishes.
Betraying Ned thus solidified Littlefinger as one of the show's most unpredictable and cunning characters.
Littlefinger had no more loyalty to the Lannisters than he did to Ned, but he sided with the Lannisters because that's what was best for Littlefinger in his continuing climb to greater power.
This showed that he could just as easily befriend as betray in order to advance his own cause.
25 Saved: Ned's Demise
Ned Stark was the primary protagonist in season 1 of Game of Thrones, one of the only honorable figures in a cutthroat world. He was too important and too much of a hero to perish, leading fans to believe that he was safe.
That idea was blown to smithereens with Ned's demise. If the story's main character and biggest hero could have his life taken before season 1 even concluded, it truly meant that no character was safe, no matter how important, heroic, or likable they may be.
The stakes were forever raised and characters wouldn't survive or be rewarded just because they did the right thing or fought for what they believed in.
24 Saved: The End Of Khal Drogo
Khal Drogo was a strong character, integral to the development of Daenerys. His ongoing presence would've overshadowed Daenerys, though, making his end necessary for her growth.
It was a refreshing change of pace to see a male character perishing in service to a female character's development.
There was also a poetic injustice to Drogo's demise in that the mighty warrior's downfall wasn't some epic battle, but an infected wound.
That in her attempt to save Drogo, Daenerys lost her child, Drogo became an invalid, and she smothered him to put him out of his misery lends more tragedy to her character.
Most importantly, these twists proved that Daenerys could use tragedy to make herself stronger than ever before.
23 Hurt: Littlefinger's Season 5 Schemes
Littlefinger's schemes were brilliant throughout seasons 1-4. He was always thinking ahead of everyone else as he engineered chaos and tragedy that allowed him to profit.
In contrast, this made his schemes in season 5 to control Winterfell and the North feel like a letdown. It's difficult to believe he was ignorant of the fact that Ramsay Bolton was a psychopath.
As much as Littlefinger cared about power, he also loved and cared about Sansa in his own twisted way and would never arrange a marriage between her and Ramsay if he knew the truth.
Littlefinger seemed to think that through Sansa he'd be able to take the North. His plans were very convoluted, and unlike in the past, failed utterly as he walked away from season 5 no closer to having the North.
22 Saved: Baby Dragons
Between Khal Drogo and the many dynamic individuals in Westeros, the character of Daenerys often felt eclipsed by others in season 1. Emerging from Khal Drogo's funeral pyre unscathed and with three baby dragons completely changed this.
Except for a few encounters with wights by the Wall, the story in season 1 seemed mostly to be medieval fantasy. A woman who couldn't be harmed by fire and could make three baby dragons hatch launched the show into the realm of magical fantasy.
Daenerys became the gateway to the deeper exploration of magic that would follow.
Her actions cemented her as a potential dark horse in the game of thrones, wielding abilities and inspiring devotion like no other king or queen.
21 Saved: Tyrion Becomes Hand Of The King
The actions of Joffrey and Cersei had torn Westeros apart and sparked the War of Five Kings. With Tywin Lannister's command needed in the field of battle and Jaime captured by the enemy, Tywin named Tyrion Hand of the King, at least until he could return to King's Landing.
Tyrion showed how to play the game of thrones wisely and effectively without becoming a ruthless tyrant, and still managing to do good without being naive.
Despite Tywin hating his son, he turned to Tyrion out of desperation more than anything else, but at least he did recognize Tyrion's talents and potential for once.
Without Tyrion's actions as Hand of the King, the Lannisters most likely would've lost control of the Iron Throne.
20 Saved: Jaime Loses His Hand
Jaime Lannister proved himself a horrible person throughout seasons 1 and 2, lacking much of the nuance exhibited by other characters.
Losing his sword hand in season 3 forced him to forge a new self-identity, as he could no longer be defined as the greatest swordsman in Westeros.
This twist did the unthinkable, humanizing the same character who pushed a child out a window in the show's very first episode.
Jaime went on to become a complex character and fan-favorite, especially in regards to his unlikely relationship with Brienne of Tarth.
19 Hurt: Arya's Blindness
Arya Stark's storyline with the Faceless Men in Braavos had a promising beginning and stayed entertaining for a while as she learned how to become a master assassin.
Eventually, the storyline felt as though it had overstayed its welcome.
Punishing Arya's transgression by blinding her felt like an attempt to drag out the Braavos and Faceless Men story until the characters in Westeros were ready for her to return.
After becoming blind and before her final confrontations with the Waif and Jaqen H'ghar, for the most part it felt like the same events were happening over and over again.
18 Saved: Ramsay's Introduction
There's little that Ramsay loved more than cruel mind-games. This was perfectly established through his character's introduction.
Theon Greyjoy found himself captive at the beginning of season 3. Theon was of course grateful when a stranger arrived claiming he was there to save him on behalf of Yara.
The stranger freed Theon and showed up again to take out those in pursuit of their escaped captive.
It turned out that the stranger was actually Ramsay Snow, playing the world's most brutal mind-game in order to break Theon and bend him to his will.
This was the perfect way to introduce Ramsay.
17 Saved: The Red Wedding
Weddings are supposed to be joyous affairs. The wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey seemed like it was following suit and healing the broken promise between Walder Frey and the King in the North, Robb Stark.
Before anyone knew what was happening, the seemingly minor wedding turned into the show's biggest bloodbaths yet and took the lives of Catelyn Stark, Robb, and his wife Talisa.
Audiences thought they were watching the tale of Catelyn and Robb working to get justice for what happened to Ned.
Despite winning every battle on the field, Robb lost the War of Five Kings when he, his family, and those loyal to them were betrayed and taken out at a wedding.
16 Saved: The Purple Wedding
While it's not as infamously referenced as the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding was another terrific twist. The name comes from the poisonous wine Joffrey drank at his wedding.
Joffrey seemed destined to be a long-term villain, but even with all of his power, protection, and privilege, he couldn't survive the harsh world of Game of Thrones.
Jack Gleeson delivered an incredible final performance in which he not only portrayed Joffrey in his cruelest element, but also managed to make the despicable character's demise feel tragic as he perished in his parents' arms.
15 Hurt: Sand Snake Coup
Doran Martell is a compelling character in the books, but was not done justice when introduced in season 5. Season 6 continued to do him a disservice as he was swiftly dispatched in the premiere as part of Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes' coup to take control of Dorne.
The worst part about this twist is that very little came out of it.
Dorne was completely sidelined from the story until the season 6 finale when Olenna Tyrell and Varys showed up, convincing Ellaria and the Sand Snakes to make Dorne an ally of Daenerys in the fight against their common enemy-- the Lannisters.
The alliance barely lasted, though, as Ellaria and the Sand Snakes all suffered horrific ends early in season 7, spelling the end of Dorne from the series entirely.
14 Saved: The Purple Wedding Masterminds
The Purple Wedding was a great twist in itself and left many far-reaching consequences and questions in its wake, including the mystery of who engineered it in the first place.
Joffrey had no shortage of enemies, leaving the door wide open for potential suspects despite Cersei's conviction that Tyrion was the one responsible.
Olenna Tyrell certainly wasn't shy about speaking her mind, but revealing that she worked with Littlefinger to mastermind the Purple Wedding took her character to another level.
She was far more than the sharp-tongued, witty Tyrell grandmother. She was a woman who would do whatever was necessary to protect her family.
13 Saved: The Stannis Inquisition
Stannis arriving to defeat the Wildlings and save the Night's Watch is most important because it launched a thousand "No one expects the Stannis Inquisition" memes.
In all seriousness, the twist worked because it was thoroughly unexpected and paved the way for new, fascinating character dynamics.
It breathed new life into Stannis, as his whole story felt rather stagnant ever since his defeat at the Battle of Blackwater.
Stannis finally proved himself a just king by coming to save the Night's Watch while the rest of Westeros ignored them. As a result, he forged an intriguing relationship with Jon Snow, as did Davos Seaworth and Melisandre.
It also brought Shireen to Castle Black, which eventually led to an essential reveal via Gilly.
12 Saved: Tyrion Takes Out Tywin
For a man who cared so much about legacy, there's no end more fitting than perishing on the toilet at the hands of the son he tried to destroy.
On a larger scale, this twist was crucial because even after Joffrey's demise, House Lannister remained strong and in control of Westeros.
Taking out Tywin changed this, as his end made House Lannister more vulnerable than they'd been since taking control of the Iron Throne.
Tywin's end also meant that all of his children-- Tyrion, Cersei, and Jaime-- were all able to finally climb out from under their father's shadow and become who they were meant to be.
11 Hurt: Melisandre's Age
The season 6 premiere delivered a fascinating reveal in that the sorceress Melisandre was not the beautiful young woman fans had seen since season 2, but was actually an ancient individual.
It provided more insight into her character and furthered her vulnerability at her lowest point.
This twist had the potential to go much deeper and have far-reaching effects, but nothing more ever came out of it. It's been pretty much ignored and forgotten since the season 6 premiere.
You don't drop a bombshell like that and never come back to it. Hopefully we'll see more in the future.
10 Saved: Attack On Hardhome
While the army of the White Walkers was indicated to be the endgame threat of Game of Thrones, for a long time it was difficult to buy into this idea.
The White Walkers and wights would show up every now and then beyond the Wall, but for the most part were never seen in full, terrifying force.
Their unexpected attack on Hardhome shifted the narrative. The slaughter that they left in their wake and the countless fallen they added to their ranks after it was over finally convinced everyone that they deserved to be the show's long-teased endgame threat.
It also proved to the Wildlings that the Night's Watch-- at least Lord Commander Jon Snow-- was truly on their side, as he fought beside them and tried to save as many as possible when the Night King and his soldiers attacked.
9 Saved: Dragon Rescue
Daenerys and her fully grown dragons working in tandem was teased for a while, but was essentially denied until Drogon arrived at the fighting pit.
The dragons weren't fully grown until Daenerys reached Meereen, but she conquered the city and ruled it without her "children." Rhaegal and Viserion had been locked up while Drogon roamed free.
All of these elements made Drogon's surprise rescue satisfying. Only he could save Daenerys and her allies from the savagery erupting inside the fighting pit.
Not only was Drogon's bond with Daenerys still strong, but she was also able to ride him for the first time, demonstrating a new level of connectivity.
8 Saved: The Assassination Of Jon Snow
Game of Thrones proved once again that no character was safe when the beloved Jon Snow met his demise.
He'd been so focused on allying with the surviving Wildlings in order to combat the army of White Walkers that he was blindsided by the impending betrayal within the Night's Watch.
The show made Jon's assassination even more devastating than in the books with the choice to make Olly part of it, the one to lure Jon into a trap and deliver the fatal blow.
This twist left fans buzzing between seasons 5 and 6, constantly debating if Jon was truly gone, and if not, how he would return.
It kept the show very much alive in between seasons, all of which led to season 6 being one of the most heavily anticipated seasons of television ever.
7 Hurt: Goodbye, Daario
Overall, Jorah Mormont, Barristan Selmy, and Grey Worm all demonstrated ceaseless loyalty to Daenerys. The sharp contrast between them and Daario Naharis is largely what made his character such a delight to watch.
He was just as loyal and skilled as the others, but he was also witty with an infectious happy-go-lucky attitude.
This made the moment Daenerys broke up with him and left him in Meereen rather disappointing. Being romantically involved with a lowborn would enable her to be the breaker of chains in yet another way, destroying the tradition of highborn individuals entering into arranged marriages solely for power and wealth.
Here's hoping Daario will return in some capacity in season 8.
6 Saved: Daenerys Burns The Khals
Everyone knew at a certain point in season 6 that Daenerys would no longer be captive to the Khals and the khalasar would become loyal to her. The question was how this would come to pass, especially since the books have not yet reached the culmination of this storyline.
Daenerys burning the Khals alive and emerging from the flames unharmed was the perfect way to handle it.
She saved herself rather than relying on her dragons or someone like Jorah or Daario to save her.
The Dothraki follow strength and Daenerys proved her strength through these actions.
5 Saved: Hold The Door
Hodor was a longtime staple of Game of Thrones. He was the sweet, simple, gentle giant who was fiercely loyal to Bran and provided him with mobility.
Losing a lovable character like Hodor would be inevitably devastating.
Game of Thrones twisted the knife even further with the way in which Hodor lost his life.
In the present, he sacrificed himself to hold the door so Bran and Meera could escape, while in the past, his mental state was forever hampered and the name "Hodor" was born. Hodor sacrificed his life in the present and his mental state in the past so Bran could live.
This provided Bran's story with emotional weight, something that it had been lacking.
4 Saved: Cersei Eliminates Her King's Landing Enemies
Despite being one of the show's most despicable characters, fans started to sympathize with and root for Cersei Lannister in the late episodes of season 5 and much of season 6.
Her child Myrcella tragically perished and Cersei suffered greatly at the hands of the High Sparrow, Septa Unella, and the Faith Militant. She seemed to have lost all her power.
This made her actions in the season 6 finale a brilliant twist.
Many fans had been lulled into sympathizing with her and forgot how ruthless she could be, making her plan all the more shocking.
Through the Sept of Baelor explosion, she masterfully destroyed her King's Landing enemies. Major characters like Margaery Tyrell and the High Sparrow were eliminated in one fell swoop..
3 Hurt: Tyrion's Plan To Capture A Wight
Tyrion was a masterful strategist in the past, but he made many grievous errors in season 7, the worst of which was his plan to capture a wight beyond the Wall.
It was an incredibly risky plan, placing far too much on the line with the only reward being that they could convince Cersei that the White Walkers were real.
Tyrion knows Cersei arguably better than anyone, though, and should've known that she'd never fight alongside her enemies, even against the White Walkers.
While a wight was successfully captured, Thoros of Myr and the dragon Viserion perished, and Cersei's concession to ally with her enemies was a lie.
In the end, Tyrion's plan just seemed like a narrative excuse for Viserion to become an ice dragon that the Night King would use to destroy the Wall.
2 Saved: Euron Destroys Daenerys' Fleet
Heading into season 7, Daenerys seemed invincible given her massive array of forces. However, Euron Greyjoy changed this with his surprise attack.
He destroyed Daenerys' fleet, and along with it all of the allies provided by Dorne, and those loyal to Yara and Theon Greyjoy. Stripped of any naval advantage and crucial allies, Daenerys was no longer an unstoppable force.
The scales were beginning to balance in the war between Cersei and Daenerys.
The attack also legitimized Euron as a terrifying force to be reckoned with. He was introduced relatively late in the show and had mostly been little more than lot of boastful talk so far. This proved what he was capable of and solidified him as an invaluable ally to Cersei.
1 Saved: Jaime's Strategic Maneuver
In the past, Tyrion Lannister was always the strategic one while his brother Jaime was the warrior. However, Jaime finally learned from the past and outsmarted Tyrion.
While the Unsullied executed Tyrion's plan to seize Casterly Rock, Jaime took the bulk of his army to Highgarden. Jaime and his soldiers easily defeated the Tyrell soldiers, destroying yet another of Daenerys' crucial allies.
Meanwhile, while the Unsullied had taken Casterly Rock, they were unable to leave and aid Daenerys as Euron Greyjoy's fleet cut off their escape.
By giving up Casterly Rock, Jaime destroyed one of Daenerys' crucial allies and trapped the Unsullied.
It was incredibly satisfying to see Jaime learn from his failures and from his strategic father and brother.
What are your favorite Game of Thrones plot twists? Sound off in the comments!