The tragic body count keeps rising as Game of Thrones wends its fateful way toward the series-capping finale, but the deaths in Sunday’s epic Battle of Winterfell episode were especially poignant, swapping the shock and awe factor of previous surprise character kill-offs for good old-fashioned feels.
For legions of fans of some of the show’s most loyal and longest-running characters, the waterworks were fully operational as the Army of the Dead surged out of the blackness to storm the castle gates. It wasn’t just who died that hit home; it was also how they died — and how those deaths elevated the idea of noble sacrifice in a show that’s famous for ignominious endings.
**Spoiler Warning: There’s a giant spoiler for a Game of Thrones character death below.**
Of all the deaths that counted, the bitterest of all may have been that of young Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), head of House Mormont and cousin to Ser Jorah (we know, we know, these body blows just keep coming, and we’re still crying, too.) Fiercely unafraid to confront evil and always backing her truth-to-power bravery with action, Lyanna’s death put those qualities to their highest and best use as she literally stared — and then stabbed — death right in the eye, even though it cost her her life.
In HBO’s behind-the-scenes look at Sunday’s episode, Ramsey said sacrificing Lyanna to stop the White-Walking giant’s killing spree by stabbing it in the face was a fitting end for a character so dedicated to loyalty. In fact, said Ramsey, the only other outcome she could get behind for Lyanna was nothing less than having her sit atop the Iron Throne.
“It sounds strange, but I either decided I’d be happy if I ended up on the throne — which I thought was very, very unlikely — or [if] I had a great death. So I’m very happy,” said Ramsey. “And the whole ‘giant’ thing…that’s just really cool.”
In a better world, Lyanna would make a worthier ruler of the Seven Kingdoms than most of the other contenders who’ve vied for the top spot. And thanks to social media, we’re consoled by the fact that the fans seem to agree. Twitter lost it over seeing such a brave character meet an untimely end, and you could almost taste the salt in all those tears as the reactions came pouring forth:
Lyanna’s death was just one among a handful of gut-punch casualties from the winter that swept over Winterfell Sunday. Ser Jorah, Theon, and even Melissandre ended up leaving it all on the battlefield. But with three episodes to go, and plenty of fan favorites still alive whom we’d hate to lose for good (we’re looking at you, Samwell Tarly), we know from experience that when it comes to Game of Thrones, anything can happen.
Stay tuned for the new Game of Thrones battle brewing in King’s Landing, when the final season’s fourth episode airs this Sunday on HBO.