Aside from a brilliantly woven web of stories and more twists than you can shake a dragon egg at, one of Game of Thrones best-known traits is the relentless murder of its characters, both big and small. Whereas some are huge shocks and the complete opposite of what fans want, others are almost too little too late and see a truly despicable character finally get what they deserve. Some deaths are simple, others are unseen, but most are graphic, bloody, painful, and gruesome – here is our list of Game of Thrones’ most brutal deaths.
Amongst a host of bloody, gory, and gruesome deaths there are a few notable ones that don’t quite make the cut of ‘the most brutal’, but are definitely worth mentioning. The first honourable mention goes, of course, goes to Ned Stark himself, whose death was a huge shock and sparks The War of the Five Kings. The next goes to The Mountain’s horse, who is beheaded with terrifying ease during the first season for failing The Mountain in his joust against Ser Loras Tyrell. Others include a random Kings Landing solider that has his head cut clean in half by Stannis Baratheon, during his assault on Black Water Bay, Walder Frey’s sons who were murdered and baked into a pie, only to be eaten by their father, Jory Cassel being stabbed through the eye by Jamie Lannister, and the guy who got his head crushed by the mountain – mid-pee (along with many, many more).
As far as friends at Castle Black go, Jon Snow didn’t start out with many. But after Tyrion helped him see that he should be helping his fellow brothers, rather than judging them, he quickly became close to Sam, Grenn, Edd, and Pyp. Unfortunately for Jon, he ends up losing both Grenn and Pyp during Mance Raider’s attack on the wall in the fourth season episode, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’.
Whereas Grenn’s death happens offscreen, whilst facing off with a giant, Pyp’s death is definitely seen and delivered a particularly harrowing moment for both Sam and the audience. Pyp and Sam had been moving around Castle Black trying their best to help the battle from afar, with neither having any real combat experience (other than Sam’s encounter with the White Walker). Pyp shoots the crossbows whilst Sam loads them, but he proves to be a pretty terrible shot and is only spurred on by Sam’s encouragement.
Seconds after finally shooting a Wildling, Pyp is shot himself, straight through the neck, and by Ygritte no less. Pyp falls into Sam’s lap where he bleeds out from his wound, as Sam panics and tells him that everything will be okay. It’s a sad and bloody scene that goes on just a little longer than you’d want it to. Sam’s attempts at comforting his dying friend, the added blow of Ygritte being the one to do it, and lots of blood all add up to a particularly gruesome and emotional death for Pyp.
Shae’s turning on Tyrion is still one of Game of Thrones’ most shocking moments, with her testimony at his trial being one of the biggest betrayals of the entire show. Not only is Shae essentially the final nail in Tyrion’s coffin, lying to the judges and all but condemning him to death herself, but it’s made even worse when we realise that it isn’t just out of her own bitterness towards Tyrion, but also seemingly under the orders/payment of Tyrion’s father, Tywin.
That part of the reveal comes after Jamie frees his brother, and Tyrion decides to take a slight detour during his escape, to murder his Tywin. After getting to Tywin’s chambers he comes across Shae in his father’s bed, who, to add insult to injury, calls Tywin her ‘lion’ (just like she did with Tyrion). When Shae realises it’s Tyrion and not Tywin she immediately tries to stab him, presumably in fear for her own life as well a showing how much she now hates him. Tyrion and Shae fight, with Tyrion eventually gaining the upper hand and strangling her.
Shae’s death is another in which the immediate aftermath is what really makes it a particularly hard-hitting death, namely Tyrion’s reaction as he cries at killing the woman he loves, with the golden necklace he had given her as a gift no less.
Going into the final few episodes of the sixth season, there is no denying the show had gone an unusually long time without killing off a Stark. But never a show to disappoint, or one to play into expectations, the Battle of the Bastards managed to kill a Stark, it just wasn’t Jon as fans may have expected. In true Ramsay Bolton style, the bastard turned Lord of Winterfell managed to not only make a sadistic game out of killing Rickon, the youngest Stark but turn the murder into a show, one that threw Jon off his game and made him completely ignore his own battle plan.
After almost baiting Jon into an impulsive attack by showing the decapitated head of Rickon’s Direwolf, Shaggydog, Ramsay finally gets a rise out of Jon when he makes Rickon run for his life across the battlefield outside of Winterfell. As Rickon runs Ramsay taunts him by shooting arrows at him, and intentionally missing. Jon mounts his horse and rides towards Rickon. Proving how evil Ramsay really is, he finally shoots Rickon through the chest just before Jon gets to him. Dying almost immediately, what really adds to Rickon’s death is not just that he literally had to run for his life, or even Jon’s reaction, but the fact that straight after his death his body is shot full of even more arrows.
The Night’s Watch Traitors (aka Jon’s Murderers)
Ser Alliser Thorne, the Master-at-Arms of Castle Black, was a real ‘thorn’ in Jon Snow’s side ever since Jon arrived at the Wall, mockingly calling him ‘Lord Snow’ and ‘bastard’ at every opportunity he got. Olly, however, seemed to like Jon (at first), and although his killing of Ygritte was unforgivable he admittedly did think he was helping Jon (and Ygritte did kill his parents right in front of him). And so Olly, who Jon was preparing to possibly take over as Night Commander one day, participating in Jon’s murder was the final blow, both physically and emotionally.
So, after his resurrection, the first thing on Jon’s to do list was to execute Ser Alliser, Olly, and the other’s who stabbed him (leaving the rest of the men that participated to live, presumably as they didn’t actually stab him). The execution, in classic Game of Thrones style, lingers a little longer than is comfortable to watch, as you see Jon’s murderers slowly suffocate, swelling and turning blue – it’s one of the few on the list where you’re definitely on the killer’s side, but it doesn’t make it any less unsettling to see.
Robb, Talisa, Catelyn, and The Red Wedding
By the closing episodes of the third season, it was no secret that Game of Thrones was a show more likely to kill off its main characters than keep them around, but it hadn’t yet shocked audiences with the mass murder of a number of central characters all at once, until The Red Wedding that is. The ninth episode of the third season fittingly titled ‘The Rains of Castamere’ (the Lannister’s song), features ‘The Red Wedding’, which has since become one of the most infamous scenes of the entire show.
The first hint that something bad was going to happen was the simple fact that everything seemed to be going too well. After Robb Stark realises that he needs Walder Frey’s help, he decides to take his men, mother, and wife back to the Twins, and apologise for breaking his sworn vow to marry one of Walder’s daughters. He instead arranges for his uncle Edmure to marry one of Frey’s daughters, and after the ceremony, the celebrations ensue. Later in the evening, however, as only Robb, Talisa, Catelyn, and a number of Stark bannermen are left, the doors are locked, the band begins playing The Rains of Cashmere, and the massacre begins.
The bannermen are shot and stabbed, one of Walder’s sons brutally stabs Talisa in the stomach before slitting her neck, and Robb is shot with arrows a number of times. As Robb crawls over to his wife, Catelyn desperately grabs Walder Frey’s latest wife, hoping that using her as a hostage will ensure Robb goes free. Instead, Roose Bolton reappears (having left just before the massacre) and stabs Robb, speaking the infamous “the Lannister’s send their regards”. Catelyn’s own throat is slit after doing the same to Walder’s wife, and the shot lingers on the blood gushing from her neck for a little longer than you’d like to see. The scene was a true game-changer for the show, and definitely one of the most bloody, horrific, gruesome, and brutal scenes of the entire series.
Karl Tanner is one of those Game of Thrones characters you just know you’re going to hate, and there was no way in Westeros that Tanner was going to have any kind of nice streak or redemptive arc, he was a bad guy through and through, and one of those characters that was just asking to be killed at nearly every turn.
After hearing, for a number of episodes, about how Tanner was once one of the most dangerous assassins in Kings Landing, he shows off his skills by very nearly besting Jon Snow, in fact if it wasn’t for the help of one of Caster’s daughters/wives (who had seemingly been Karl’s main victim), Jon definitely would of died.
Thankfully, after being distracted by the stab to the shoulder, and turning to face his new attacker Jon gains a second wind and manages to drive his sword, Longclaw, through the back of Tanner’s skull. The resulting shot is a disgustingly bloody scene where you see Tanner about to kill in one moment and a sword all the way through his head in the next.
Ser Rodrik Cassel
As perhaps the most loyal bannermen to House Stark, the Cassel’s met some pretty gruesome deaths, just like many of the Starks. As if seeing Rodrik’s son, Jory Cassel, stabbed through the eye and killed by Jamie Lannister as Ned Stark is arrested, wasn’t bad enough, Rodrik’s murder is even more painful to watch.
With Theon now in over his head after impulsively deciding to take Winterfell, against the orders of his father and sister, and being all but forced by his fellow Ironbron to harm and kill the people he once thought of as family, he decides to behead Ser Rodrik himself. Unfortunately for Ser Rodrik, Theon’s attempt isn’t as clean or strong as other beheadings we’ve seen. It takes several hits of the sword to properly breakthrough Rodrik’s neck, in what looks like a truly agonising beheading, only worsened by a young Bran and Rickon being made to watch.
Although Khal Drogo was one of the most feared and respected Khal’s of the Dothraki horde, he faced his share of rebels and upstarts, one of whom was Mago, who disagreed with Drogo seemingly taking orders from Daenerys, who Mago called ‘a foreign whore’.
Even without a sword, Drogo was able to beat Mago easily, completely outmanoeuvring him and then using Mago’s own blade to slit his neck, after which he reached into his throat and ripped out his throat and tongue whole. As badass and disgusting as it was, however, the one cut Drogo did take during the fight proved to be his undoing, quickly becoming infected and eventually killing the Khal.
Ser Meryn Trant
As Joffrey’s key protector and enabler, Ser Meryn Trant was more than happy to perform a number of villainous acts on his King’s behalf, from humiliating and hitting Sansa Stark in the throne room, to countless murders and schemes, Trant clearly took pleasure in being one of the show’s most notorious henchmen.
That said, there wasn’t much to him aside from being a murderous ‘yes man’, or so it seemed, as in his final few episodes we found out how disgusting he really was. Thankfully his trip to Bravos, whilst protecting Mace Tyrell, meant that he caught the attention of Ayra Stark, who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to kill the first person on her list. After tricking Trant with a mask she had taken from the temple of the Many-Faced God Ayra stabs out Trant’s eyes (foreshadowing her own loss of sight as punishment for taking the mask and killing Trant). Whilst Trant cries in pain Arya stuffs a gag into his mouth to stop his screams, and she proceeds to stab him relentlessly. After numerous stabs, screams of pain, and Arya making sure Trant knows who she is and why she’s killing him, Ayra calmly slits Trant’s throat, killing him in a very slow, painful, and gruesome way.
For a long time Ygritte and Jon Snow were ‘the’ Game of Thrones couple, and seeing the two together was always a highlight, so much so that it was almost a sure thing one of them was going to die sooner rather than later. Jon, an otherwise very honourable man, broke his vows and clearly fell in love with Ygritte, and for Ygritte’s part, she loved Jon despite knowing he was still a man of the Nights Watch. And yet despite this, the two were forced to part ways and Ygritte overcome by Jon’s betrayal shot him full of arrows, but didn’t kill him (despite her already proven deadly accuracy).
In their time apart Ygritte plundered and murdered her way through the villages surrounding the wall and Castle Black with the other invading Wildlings. In the process, Ygritte murdered the parents of a young boy named Olly, right in front of him. Olly escapes to Castle Black and joins up with the Nights Watch, where Jon is recovering from his arrow wounds.
Jumping forward to the Wildling attack on the wall Jon and Ygritte come face to face, unable to attack each other, and just as it seems everything might work out for the two (bearing in mind they are in the midst of a brutal battle) Ygritte is shot with an arrow, straight through her chest. Jon looks over in shock to see Olly as the shooter. In a roundabout way, Olly was getting revenge for his parents and village, and he thought he was saving Jon’s life, so can’t really be held at fault (not until he turns on Jon a little while after). That said seeing Jon’s reaction to Ygritte dying in his arms as she mutters one last “You know nothing, Jon Snow”, is one of the saddest moments of the show.
Grand Maester Pycelle
Despite siding with, and working for, House Lannister for many years, Grand Maester Pycelle did eventually turn on Cersei Lannister, who finds him creepy, annoying, and disgusting (apparently unlike his replacement Qyburn…). And so as someone who turned against Cersei Lannister relatively publicly, or at least someone who made little effort to hide it from her, Pycelle’s days were numbered. Unfortunately for him, he met a particularly violent and unceremonious death.
After being lured into Qyburn’s underground dungeon/laboratory, Pycelle is swarmed by Qyburn’s ‘little birds’ (the spies he inherited from Varys, after he left the Seven Kingdoms), at first the camera pans away, whilst Pycelle is overwhelmed, and it almost feels like that’s all we’ll see, but sure enough we cut back to the group of children mercilessly stabbing Pycelle, and blood pouring from his mouth.
Starting out as a lowly Winterfell ‘resident’, Ros became increasingly important over the first few seasons, eventually positioning herself as Petyr Baelish’s right-hand woman. But Ros’ rise to power wasn’t without its setbacks, she was mistaken for Shae, and beaten by the King’s Guard on Cersei’s orders, struggles to deal with seeing one of Robert Baratheon’s bastard babies murdered in front of her, and is forced into beating another whore at arrow point by King Joffrey.
Ros finds some solace in becoming one of Vaerys’ birds, reporting on all of Littlefinger’s actions to Vaerys. But at some point, Baelish finds out about this and decides it’s time to kill Ros. Not one to do the job himself (very often at least) Littlefinger decides to use this opportunity to further his favour with the King, seemingly gifting Ros to him, for Joffrey to murder in a manner of his choosing. We then see Joffrey had Ros tied up to his bed, where he proceeded to shoot her full of arrows, in one of the shows more gruesome and sickening deaths.
As the snotty, spoilt, and self-important older brother of Daenerys, Viserys Targaryen, who proclaims himself ‘the last dragon’ quickly made himself one of the least likeable characters on the show. Viserys had been raised as the one true King, unseated by a usurper, and he made sure everyone knew it, he even treated his younger sister with very little respect, selling her in exchange for an army to take back the Seven Kingdoms.
Even as Daenerys slowly earned Kahl Drogo and the Dothraki’s respect, Viserys didn’t hold back on letting Daenerys know that he was supposed to be a King, not her a Queen (or Khaleesi). But after drunkenly confronting Daenerys and Drogo, Viserys’ open disrespect of not just them, but the whole Dothraki Horde (who he thought of as no more than ‘savages’), finally became too much for Drogo to stand. Drogo melted some gold and finally gave Viserys the crown he had promised him… only it was still molten hot at the point he poured it on to Viserys’ head, making for a pretty graphic, and although deserved, brutal death.
As one of the most caring and kind characters on the show Shireen Baratheon, really didn’t fit in the bloody and violent world of Game of Thrones, which made her horrific murder that much harder to watch.
Although Stannis had seemingly alternated between being distant, weary, or possibly disgusted by his daughter, we eventually learn that his attitude was primarily due to the guilt over her giving her the dragon scale ideas in the first place, when he told her this he made it clear how much he loved her, and if anything seemed to love her a lot more than her mother did. And yet Stannis’ thirst for the Iron Throne eventually drove him to sacrifice Shireen to the fire, in the hopes that the King’s Blood within her would help his victory. Unfortunately for both of them, it only led to his wife killing herself, most of his men abandoning him, and his eventual death. Seeing not only Shireen being led to the fire, followed by her screams in protest, but the discomfort of the soldiers being made to watch, and even Shireen’s mother, who up until this point had never been nice to her daughter, trying to stop it, all add up to a particularly heartbreaking and brutal death for the young Princess.
By the closing episodes of the sixth season of Game of Thrones, it was clear that although there are plenty of awful deaths for some of the good guys on the show, the worst, most gruesome, ones are reserved for the villains. With Ramsay Bolton, one of the shows best villains, appropriately receiving one of the more violent and painful looking deaths.
After years of torturing a number of fan favourite characters, the ones to finally kill Ramsay were fittingly Sansa, and his own dogs, who he had famously used to torture and hunt his prisoners. Although it’s a shame Theon wasn’t around to chop a certain body part of Ramsay, what makes Ramsay’s death particularly brutal is his slow realisation that his dogs will no longer listen to him (thanks to him not feeding them for seven days), and that the option of eating their master versus starving to death is an easy choice for them, no matter how he’d trained them. After one dog licks some blood from Ramsay’s face, it pulls back a little, and as Ramsay opens his mouth to shout the dog pounces, clamping its mouth around Ramsay’s lower jaw. The rest of the dogs swarm and Ramsay’s screams are heard whilst the dogs rip him to pieces, as Sansa walks away smirking.
Aptly named ‘The Purple Wedding’ the loathed Joffrey’s death finally came during the third season, and after years worth of tormenting other characters like Sansa and Tyrion, Joffrey finally gets his comeuppance at the hands on an unknown poisoner.
As Joffrey celebrates his wedding to Margery Tyrell, he takes the very public opportunity to mock his uncle Tyrion once again, and in the process manages to inadvertently frame Tyrion for his murder. After forcing Tyrion to be his cupbearer, Joffrey takes a drink and is totally fine, but after putting his drink down his next drink (which had at this point been tampered with), was his undoing. The scene that follows shows Joffrey slowly realising he can’t breathe and turning purple as he chokes to death, with both of his parents as witnesses, unable to help. Thankfully, although very intense, it wasn’t quite as graphic as the books, which sees Joffrey actually scratching at his own throat until he bleeds, in a desperate attempt for more air.
The death of The Red Viper of Dorne was one Game of Thrones most memorable twists and saw Oberyn Martell beat the infamous Mountain with (relative) ease, only to be killed whilst insisting that The Mountain admit what he had done to Oberyn’s sister Elia Martell. Oberyn’s reputation as a fierce warrior had been hinted at numerous times, but the show cleverly avoided actually showing us how good he was until the final showdown between himself and The Mountain, in Tyrion’s trial by combat.
Alongside the references to his prowess as a warrior, almost every scene with Oberyn made clear that he was in Kings Landing to find The Mountain and see him confess to the rape and murder of his sister Elia, as well as killing her children. All of this builds into the final battle, where Oberyn repeats it over and over again, trying to force The Mountain into admitting what he did, and, more specifically, that it was on Tywin Lannister’s orders. And even with his mind on this, he managed to outmanoeuvre The Mountain and impale him into the ground.
Although once there he realised he couldn’t let The Mountain die before admitting his crimes, and so removed his spear from The Mountain’s chest, moments later The Mountain knocks Oberyn to the ground, punches his teeth out, pops his eyes into his head, crushes his skull, and finally admits to killing Elia Martell, all whilst Oberyn’s lover Ellaria Sand watches in terror. It’s one of the most gruesome and harrowing deaths of the show, made that much worse by Ellaria’s scream and look of pure pain.