The end is almost here, and while Game of Thrones has been trimming its core cast down for a few episodes, the lineup took some major hits in the show's next-to-last episode.
**The following contains major plot spoilers for "The Bells," Episode 5 of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season.**
Game of Thrones wasted no time in wasting one of its major characters during last night's penultimate fifth episode of Season 8. After Dany (Emilia Clarke) is tipped off about Varys' betrayal by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Westeros' bald-headed master of whisperers went up in a ball of dragon fire, never to send messages to his "little birds" ever again.
"At the time, nothing could console me. I kept thinking: 'What did I do wrong?' There wasn’t any pre-warning," Conleth Hill, who played Varys, said of his character's demise during a chat with EW. "All these famous stories about [actors on Thrones] being taken out for a meal or being phoned at the very least [to notify them that their character was being killed off]. This was just reading cold hard copy."
Time and again, Varys insisted that his interests lay not with whomever ended up on the Iron Throne, but with the people of "The Realm," the thousands of faceless men, women, and children we rarely get to see. When it became apparent that Dany was slowly slipping into the madness that claimed her father, he plotted a plan to usurp her right to rule and install Jon Snow (Kit Harington) instead. Jon was much more worthy in terms of his temperament and reluctance to be a leader, according to Varys.
"He was absolutely true to his word the whole way through," Hill continued. "All he wanted was the right person on the throne and a fair person on the throne. He said it so many times in the scripts. I don’t have the distraction of love or desire or any of those things. And the people he needed to see clearly were both in love. So that makes perfect sense. And now with hindsight, I’m okay, but I really was inconsolable."
It turns out his character was right, because even after King's Landing rang the bells and ceded victory to Dany, she went all Mad King and burned the city (and its Red Keep) to a smoking Pompeii-esque crisp. The horrified looks on the faces of Jon, Tyrion, and Arya (Maisie Williams) are enough to tell us that the Breaker of Chains' days as queen of Westeros are numbered.
Despite nearly making it all the way to the end of the series, Hill is a bit bummed that Varys didn't get a final scene with Aidan Gillen's Littlefinger, who was sentenced to death by Sansa at the end of Season 7. He also wished he got to be part of that season's daring mission to obtain a White Walker beyond the wall.
"That’s been my feeling the last couple seasons, that my character became more peripheral, that they concentrated on others more," he said. "That’s fine. It’s the nature of a multi-character show. It was kind of frustrating. As a whole it’s been overwhelmingly positive and brilliant but I suppose the last couple seasons weren’t my favorite."
As some have pointed out online, Varys may have sent out several ravens with the message of Jon Snow's true parentage and right to the Iron Throne before he was executed. If true, the remaining kingdoms may, as we speak, already be planning to overthrow the Dragon Queen in the name of the King in the North. After last night's episode, we don't blame them.
"The Bells" didn't see the death of just Varys. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Cersei (Lena Headey), The Hound (Rory McCann), The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), Qyburn (Anton Lesser), Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), and tens of thousands of nameless King's Landings inhabitants also perished as a result of Dany's fiery rampage.
“It’s maybe the first time that Cersei has been at peace," Headey told EW of the Lannister sister's final moments, where she's consoled in the arms of Jaime as the ceiling of the Red Keep collapses on them.
Read our recap of last night's episode here.
Game of Thrones will wrap up for good when the sixth and final episode of Season 8 airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.