WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the finale of Game of Thrones, "The Iron Throne," which aired Sunday on HBO.
HBO's Game of Thrones is famous for breaking fans' hearts and providing us with surprising deaths -- some gory, some a bit more subtle and, as Season 8 showed with Drogon's massacre, some that are quite explosive.
But whether these kills are a surprise or not, or directly pulled from George R.R. Martin's novels, it's safe to say that, with the emotional attachment we have to these characters, their deaths resonate deeply. With the final season saying goodbye to quite a few familiar faces, let's look at which ones hit home the hardest.
9. LYANNA MORMONT
The Bear Island ruler was a small but feisty warrior who made it clear, despite her size, that she was going to represent her house out on the battlefield. In her brief time since debuting in Season 7, Lyanna won over fans with her no-nonsense attitude, so when the time came for her to die at Winterfell battling the Night King's legion, it certainly reminded us how high the stakes were.
Lyanna ended up in the clutches of a reanimated Wildling giant, but, as he crushed her to death, she managed to stab him in the head, taking him out in the process. He dropped her several feet to the floor, killing the young ruler in what was one of the show's most virtuous stands ever. It truly was a David and Goliath situation, cementing Lyanna as a fan-favorite.
The young girl truly represented the fighting spirit of the season and illustrated all hands would be needed on deck to destroy the dead. It was a huge blow to the North and one that definitely stayed with Sansa and company as they made it clear later on that sacrifices like Lyanna's were exactly why they deserved independence from the other kingdoms.
8. EDDISON TOLLETT
Dolorous Edd, as he's more affectionately known, was Jon Snow's brother in arms from the Night's Watch, and one of his most loyal companions since Season 2. When Jon left, Edd became Lord Commander and would eventually help keep Bran Stark and his team safe at Castle Black. Subsequently, the warrior would reunite with Jon to fight the Night King's army.
After the battle at Hardhome, it all came to a head when Edd battled the White Walkers at Winterfell and ended up in a precarious spot saving Sam Tarly. After rescuing Sam from a wight, Edd got stabbed in the back by another zombie, dying before Sam's eyes.
Luckily, the Night King was killed, so when Edd reanimated he didn't get to do much more damage, but it was quite sad to see him perish in front of Sam, another of his best friends. Edd might have been a bit player, but by protecting Jon and Sam he safeguarded two men who'd change Westeros' destiny for the better.
7. BERIC DONDARRION
Beric was a tough one to feel sympathy for because, early on in the series, in addition to multiple resurrections thanks to the Lord of the Light, he also ran afoul of Arya and the Hound. As part of the Brotherhood Without Banners, he also offered Gendry up to Melisandre, so he certainly wasn't in anyone's good books.
That is, until he allied with Jon Snow and once more decided to fight for humanity. Beric journeyed beyond the Wall to retrieve a wight, proving he still had heroism in his veins. Sadly, his story would come full circle in the halls of Winterfell as he sacrificed himself to save Arya from a rushing zombie horde that swarmed him a la World War Z.
It was a virtuous end, but one he wouldn't come back from. He redeemed himself in Arya's eyes while helping turn the tide. As he found purpose and a higher calling, little did we know the girl he saved would go on to kill the Night King.
6. JORAH MORMONT
Jorah kept reminding us season after season that, apart from his undying affection for Daenerys, he really was willing to die for the good of the Seven Kingdoms. He was also willing to lay his life down to uphold the Mormont legacy and, so, he too died in the third episode, "The Long Night," fighting the White Walkers at Winterfell.
It was a fitting end, as he perished defending Dany from wights after she fell from her dragon. With the zombies encircling and outnumbering her, he came to her aid, protecting her while taking multiple stabs. Jorah eventually faded, staring into his queen's eyes as she grieved.
This was one of the reasons she began her slip into madness, because, despite his heroic end, Dany knew Jorah deserved much better than this, as he was fiercely devoted to liberating all of Westeros. His death was tough to swallow, as he was her bodyguard since Season 1, and, seeing as his love was never reciprocated, this sacrifice stung a bit more.
5. THE HOUND
Sandor Clegane (the Hound) was driven by revenge the entire series, as all he wanted to do was kill his brother, Gregor (the Mountain), for scarring him with flames in their youth. He got his shot when Dany razed King's Landing in Episode 5, "The Bells," and the CleganeBowl certainly delivered with the brothers duking it out to the death.
The zombified Mountain beat Sandor to a pulp, taking stab wounds to the head as if they were nothing, all while squashing Sandor's eyes and skull in. Luckily, in a brief window of opportunity, Sandor charged the Mountain through a wall and they both fell hundreds of feet into the fires of the capital.
We all knew it was coming, but seeing as Sandor redeemed himself fighting at Winterfell and for Jon, it felt like we lost a great hero. Even Arya realized he'd gotten his humanity back and, while Sandor may not have been a true blue, he definitely made up for causing the Starks so much pain in the past by standing up to the Night King and Cersei's main muscle.
4. VARYS THE SPIDER
Varys went from being a shifty politician to one of the show's most altruistic figures. He kept Dany safe by using Jorah as a spy since Season 1, and vouched for an alliance with Jon and the North against the Night King. However, when the time came to take Cersei off the throne, he saw Dany had become a 'Mad Queen' and decided to leak Jon's true identity as Aegon so her claim would be ruined.
He paid the price for this treason, as Tyrion was left with no choice but to report his betrayal. It was a highly emotional scene that ended with Drogon roasting him in front of Jon's inner circle, affirming she truly had no more compassion left. This was one of the big red flags, as Varys simply wanted a ruler who'd protect the realm and rule through peace, not war -- so, Jon.
Seeing Varys fearing for his life and accepting Tyrion's betrayal was quite intriguing, because he helped the Imp guide Dany as they laid the groundwork to eventually take the throne. What also made this so gut-wrenching is Varys ended up being right, as Tyrion noted in the series finale, "The Iron Throne," as everyone finally saw the cruel and merciless queen Dany devolved into.
After Viserion fell to the Night King and was turned into a zombie, it was easy to predict another dragon would fall. However, when it didn't happen in the battle at Winterfell, many assumed Dany would have both remaining beasts to sack King's Landing. As she ventured forth, though, Euron shot Rhaegal out of the sky with the scorpion. The beast landed in the ocean en route to the capital in Episode 4, "The Last of the Starks."
Rhaegal, damaged after fighting the Night King's forces and Viserion, was simply having a breezy moment in the sky with his mother and Drogon, only to take arrows through the chest and neck in an ambush. Hearing him cry out and then plunge into the waters below left us grimacing, because, honestly, these dragons were underrated heroes.
They were simply turned into weapons of mass destruction by Dany, and once more they ended up paying the price. Luckily, Drogon would go on to get his revenge in the last two episodes, incinerating the same army that killed Rhaegal -- named after Jon's father and Dany's brother, Rhaegar.
2. JAIME LANNISTER
Jaime seemed well on his way to redemption when he fought for the living at Winterfell, leaving Cersei and King's Landing behind. After he and Brienne moved forward with their relationship, we even thought he'd go to the capital to kill Cersei, but he only ended up there to protect her from Dany's fury and help her escape.
Whether we endorsed that or not, it's hard to argue his fate was a cruel one. As Jaime guided Cersei out of a collapsing Red Keep, they ended up in the tunnels only for the structure to crumble down on them in "The Bells." The finale saw Tyrion discovering their bodies, confirming they died from the sheer weight of the bricks that fell. While many felt this was Cersei's karma, people empathized with Jaime because, no matter what, he merely had to die with the woman he loved.
He went out the same way he came into this world, with her, in some dark poetic tragedy. He always said he wanted to die in this fashion and, in the end, all that mattered was the mother of his children. The Kingslayer's rocky ending definitely wasn't the one we hoped for, but, after defending King's Landing, as we saw Ser Brienne log in the records for the Knights, Jaime did his part to save the Seven Kingdoms from an icy oblivion.
1. DAENERYS TARGARYEN
Dany's death was certainly divisive, but it's one we saw coming a mile away. After Jon witnessed her getting ready to liberate the Seven Kingdoms through bloodshed, he had no choice but to follow through on the cynicism shown by Sansa, Arya and the imprisoned Tyrion. As they kissed and embraced at the base of the Iron Throne, Jon stabbed his queen in the heart, murdering her in the show's most symbolic death.
"Duty is the death of love" rang out in our minds as Jon sacrificed the woman he loved for the greater good. Dany would have killed all her enemies, maybe even Jon's sisters, and with Cersei gone, he simply couldn't have another despot on the throne. Seeing Dany staring into his eyes, bleeding out the nose and not saying a word, left us in tears because, while she did descend into villainy by murdering innocents in the capital, she was still our Khaleesi, our Stormborn and the slave-freeing Mother of Dragons.
Many still argue she was a hero or antihero who deserved better, but, even if you backed her, Dany had to go because her iron fist would have pushed Westeros from war to war. Jon tried his best to give her the benefit of the doubt, but as Drogon melted the Iron Throne to "break the wheel" of power and corruption, it became clear to us all her death had to happen so a better tomorrow could be created.
Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.