Over the years, Game of Thrones has earned a reputation as a brutal murderer of beloved characters. And, to be perfectly honest, even when the creators aren't outright slaughtering our favorites, they still have a tendency to really put them through the ringer. Here are some of the saddest deaths and tearjerking moments in general from the show's eight season run, in no particular order.
Ned Stark's Death
Game of Thrones let fans know what it was about early on, beheading its apparent protagonist, Ned Stark, before the end of the first season.
The Red Wedding
The Red Wedding—the focal point of the penultimate episode of season 3, and frankly, one of the most talked-about events in GoT history—is synonymous with death and heartbreak at this point, and saw the brutal slaying of Robb Stark, his wife and unborn child, and the Stark matriarch, Catelyn.
Olenna Tyrell's Death
Olenna Tyrell was a badass, even on her way out of the world. It was as fitting a death as the character could have had, but that didn't make us mourn her any less.
When Cersei destroyed the Sept of Baelor with Wildfire, she didn't realize that the extreme move would drive her youngest son, Tommen, to suicide. The scene is one of the most jarring deaths in all of Thrones.
Speaking of "Baratheon" kid deaths, Myrcella's was a real heart breaker. She's poisoned by the Sand Snakes, but the slow-acting agent only kicks in after she's just acknowledged her "uncle" Jaime as her father for the first time and made it clear that she accepts his relationship with her mother and loves him like the father he is to her.
Tyene Sand's Death
Cersei Lannister isn't one to let a tragedy like Myrcella's death stand. When she rises to power, she kidnaps Ellaria Sand and one of her daughters, Tyene, and proceeds to murder Tyene in exactly the way Ellaria killed Myrcella—and then leaves Ellaria chained to a wall to watch her daughter die and then decompose. Ouch.
Lyanna Mormont's Death
Lyanna Mormont was a fan favorite, which is why she got a hero's death, taking out the Night King's undead giant. Unfortunately, she gave her own life in the process.
Jorah Mormont's Death
The Battle of Winterfell claimed several of our favorite characters, including Ser Jorah Mormont, who died just as he would have wanted to—protecting Daenerys.
Khal Drogo's Death
When it comes to people who loved Dany dying, however, Khal Drogo's death is truly tragic, mostly because it was 100 percent avoidable. Dany's insistence on letting the witch Mirri Maz Duur treat his wounds eventually leads to not just his death, but to the death of their unborn child as well.
Viserion's Death and Resurrection
While we're on the subject of Daenerys' dead children, we can't forget Viserion, who is speared to death by the Night King and then resurrected as an ice dragon.
In Season 8, Dany loses a second dragon, Rhaegal, in a battle against Euron Greyjoy. Dany is shaken by the incident and it throws her off her game, leading her to retreat.
Jon Snow's first love, the Wildling Ygritte (played by Kit Harington's eventual real life wife, Rose Leslie) was definitely tragic and the first of many reasons we had to hate Olly.
Jon Snow's Murder
Olly cemented his place as a hated character when he participated in the murder of Jon Snow by the men of the Night's Watch. Jon was soon resurrected by Melisandre and the Lord of Light, but still.
Varys' death was tragic but true to character. He has always been dedicated to doing what's best for the realm, so when he realizes that Daenerys isn't the best ruler, he changes course, even though he knows the treason will likely get him killed.
Jaime Leaving Brienne for Cersei
Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth had a few beautiful nights together in Winterfell before he decided to go back to his objectively toxic relationship with Cersei. The moment when he leaves Brienne is the absolute worst.
Hold the Door
Hodor's death—which through Bran's split consciousness and simultaneous presence in the past and present—explains how he became the Hodor we knew for most of the series, was tragic and heroic.
Game of Thrones is known for shocking and appalling deaths, but few were as shocking or as appalling as Shireen Baratheon's. The beloved little girl was burned alive by her father, Stannis, in his quest to become the Lord of Light's chosen king.
Arya Tells Nymeria to Leave
When Joffrey first shows his true, sadistic colors in Season 1, Arya's Direwolf, Nymeria, springs into action to protect her. Knowing that the wolf will be put down for biting Joffrey, even though it was in her defense, Arya forces Nymeria to leave, even throwing rocks at her to get her to go.
Ned Stark Kills Lady
Arya was right about Nymeria's fate if she stayed in King's Landing. Unfortunately for Sansa's wolf, Lady, Cersei demands that she be killed for Nymeria's crimes instead—and Ned Stark insists on doing the deed himself.
Summer Dies Protecting Bran
Speaking of tragic Direwolf fates, Bran's wolf, Summer, dies protecting him in a moment that's touching but also tragic.
Shae Betrays Tyrion
Tyrion hasn't had the easiest time (but who on the show has?). One his toughest moments, however, came as his only love, Shae, betrays him when Cersei puts him on trial for Joffrey's murder.
Cersei's Walk of Atonement
Whatever you may think of Cersei Lannister, her naked walk of atonement through the streets of King's Landing was one of the hardest moments to watch in Game of Thrones history. It's impossible not to feel for her by the end of it.
When Tyrion requests a trial by combat over the whole Joffrey murder thing, Oberyn Martell volunteers as his champion for the chance to fight the Mountain, who raped and killed his sister. Oberyn is an amazing fighter and pretty much has the fight in the bag, but loses when he insists that the Mountain admit to his crimes before he'll kill him. The Mountain then grabs Oberyn's head and delivers one of the show's most gruesome deaths of all time.
Arya Goes Blind
We invested a lot in Arya's arc early on, so when she lost her eye sight while training with the Faceless Men, it was a real blow (especially since we didn't know at the time that she would eventually regain her sight).
Sansa's Wedding to Ramsay Bolton
Sansa's love life has been a parade of misery and the low point was definitely her marriage to Ramsay Bolton, best summarized by their wedding night, during which Sansa is humiliated and attacked by Ramsay.
Sansa Being Forced to Look at Ned's Head on a Spike
Even before her marriage to Ramsay, Sansa was being terrorized by sadists she was betrothed to. Joffrey forced her to look at her dead father's head on a spike in King's Landing.
Margaery Tyrell's Death
Margaery Tyrell was one of the strongest, smartest characters on the show and her death marked a huge loss. Even sadder? She was the only one who was insightful enough to realize what was happening, but she wasn't able to escape before Cersei blew up the Sept.
Samwell Tarly's Family Dinner
Samwell Tarly has always been one of the kindest, gentlest characters in the series and we've known since early on that he was essentially banished to The Wall by his father, who didn't think he was good enough to carry on the family name. When Sam and Gilly end up at dinner with the Tarly family and we see that emotional abuse firsthand, it's crushing.
Missandei was Daenerys' best friend and most loyal ally for years, which is why her death sends the Mother of Dragons over the edge and into full Mad Queen territory.
Daenerys Burns King's Landing
In Season 8, Dany went full Mad Queen and set King's Landing ablaze, killing not just the armies who were standing against her, but thousands of innocents in the process.
Jaime and Cersei's Death
When Dany burns King's Landing down, Jaime and Cersei try to escape together, but they don't make it out and die in each other's arms as the castle crashes down on them. Love or hate them, it's a sad moment.
Lyanna Stark's Death
We only get to meet Jon Snow's mother, Lyanna Stark, in flashbacks, but that doesn't make her death during childbirth any less impactful, especially as she begs her brother, Ned, to keep the child safe.
Theon Betrays the Starks
Theon Greyjoy was raised by the Starks, almost as a Stark himself. And that's what makes his betrayal—an effort to win his father's approval—such a punch to the gut.
Theon spent a lot of the series on a long-term redemption arc for his early betrayal of the Starks, culminating in a sad death defending Bran against the Night King during the Battle of Winterfell.
Rickon disappeared for a long time, but when he returned, he was gangly and awkward and apparently incapable of running in a zig zag pattern. That made his murder by Ramsay more frustrating, but not less sad.
Daenerys Banishes Jorah
Dany has put her rule above her own feelings time and again and she hit us all in the feels when she banished Ser Jorah.
Daenerys' Vision of the Life She Could Have Had
Daenerys has had a very long, hard road, but things could have gone very differently for her if Khal Drogo and her son had lived. She wouldn't have walked into fire with her dragon eggs and started her journey to the Iron Throne and, according to the vision she has of Drogo and their son, she could have been very happy without her Mother of Dragons moniker.
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Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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