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It is often said that George R. R. Martin has a penchant for killing off significant major characters. This is usually contrasted to "traditional" works of fiction where the core characters live through any ordeal no matter what.

However looking back at the Game of Thrones TV series, I can't help but feel that this stereotype is actually wrong. Let's take a look at the most important characters killed in Season 1 for an example:

  • King Robert, secondary character
  • Ned Stark, major character however the entire season is about his downfall
  • Viserys Targaryen, secondary character
  • Khal Drogo, secondary character

It is true that a lot of deaths are happening, however they all seem to be predictable as a part of the story or not related to the major characters. So is this reputation deserved?

closed as primarily opinion-based by TimSparrow, Aegon, Skooba, Edlothiad, Jason Baker Aug 30 '17 at 14:06

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    I'm not sure how objectively answerable this question is. How can we define a "truly significant" character? A viewpoint character? That would exclude Robb Stark, and include e.g. Kevan Lannister and some random Frey. A 'good guy' character? That's pretty hard to pin down too, especially in GoT/aSoIaF where most characters are morally ambiguous at best. – Rand al'Thor Aug 30 '17 at 13:42
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    Rhaegar Targaryen....Most important character in the series....Dead before it even began. Can't beat that – Aegon Aug 30 '17 at 13:43
  • 5
    Characters seem less significant after they're dead. Yep, just as ksjohn said in an answer just now. – Jolenealaska Aug 30 '17 at 13:46
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    "the entire season was about his downfall" yes, in retrospect, but while the story was going on, he was a significant character (arguably THE significant character) and died with no last minute escape or reprieve as we've been conditioned to expect (indeed, after such a reprieve, the 'take the Black' compromise, being dangled and taken away from us). Especially in a TV show, that's almost never done, kill off your lead in the first season. One is enough, especially combined with significant secondary characters. When you go beyond S1 and get into other characters, I'd say the series qualifies. – starpilotsix Aug 30 '17 at 13:59
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    @JonathanReez: it’s easy to see Thrones deaths as predictable when you go into the show having heard that characters tend to get killed off. – Paul D. Waite Aug 30 '17 at 14:07
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Spoilers (duh) through end of Season 7.

The following is a list taken from here that I have edited to include anyone who:

  • Was a "POV" character
  • Was a major player in the game of thrones
  • Was a fan favorite
  • Seemed to be important
  • Was introduced as an "important" character (even if killed within an episode or two)

Keep in mind that the people we thought to be main characters in season or book one, are almost 100% gone. And sure, rewatching/rereading we can see thing from a new light and pick up on clues, but it doesn't change the fact that many of these people would be expected to be still alive considering common storytelling tropes.

Viserys Targaryen
Role: Exiled head of House Targaryen and brother to Daenerys Targaryen
Time of death: Season 1, Episode 6

Benjen Stark
Role: First Ranger of the Night's Watch, Brother of Ned Stark
Time of death: Season 1, Episode 7

Robert Baratheon
Role: Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
Time of death: Season 1, Episode 7

Eddard Stark
Role: Hand of the King and Lord of the North
Time of death: Season 1, Episode 9

Drogo
Role: Chieftain of the Dothraki people and husband of Daenerys Targaryen
Time of death: Season 1, Episode 10

Yoren
Role: Recruiter for the Night's Watch
Time of death: Season 2, Episode 3

Renly Baratheon
Role: Master of Laws, Claimant to the Iron Throne, brother of Robert and Stannis Baratheon
Time of death: Season 2, Episode 5

Jeor Mormont
Role: Lord Commander of the Night's Watch
Time of death: Season 3, Episode 4

Robb Stark
Role: King of the North, son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn of Winterfell
Time of death: Season 3, Episode 9

Catelyn Stark
Role: Wife of Eddard Stark, Mother of Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon
Time of death: Season 3, Episode 9

Joffrey Baratheon
Role: Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 2

Lysa Arryn
Role: Lady Regent of the Vale, sister to Catelyn Stark, briefly the wife of Littlefinger
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 7

Oberyn Martell
Role: Prince of the House Martell
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 8

The Mountain
Role: Knight and Head of House Clegane, loyal to House Lannister
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 8

Ygritte
Role: Soldier in Mance Rayder's army and Jon Snow's lover
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 9

Jojen Reed
Role: Warg, brother of Meera Reed, traveling companion of Bran Stark
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 10

Shae
Role: Prostitute and girlfriend of Tyrion Lannister
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 10

Tywin Lannister
Role: Head of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, father of Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion Lannister
Time of death: Season 4, Episode 10

Mance Rayder
Role: Leader of the Free Folk
Time of death: Season 5, Episode 1

Barristan Selmy
Role: Former member of the Kingsguard, advisor of Daenerys Targaryen
Time of death: Season 5, Episode 4

Shireen Baratheon
Role: Daughter of Stannis and Selyse Baratheon
Time of death: Season 5, Episode 9

Stannis Baratheon
Role: Lord of Dragonstone, brother of Robert and Renly Baratheon, claimant to the Iron Throne
Time of death: Season 5, Episode 10

Jon Snow
Role: Commander of the Night's Watch, bastard son of Eddard Stark (or maybe not)
Time of death: Season 5, Episode 10

Roose Bolton
Role: Lord of the Dreadfort, Warden of the North
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 2

Osha
Role: Wildling loyal to Rickon Stark
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 4

Hodor
Role: Servant to the House Stark
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 5

Brynden Tully (The Blackfish)
Role: Lord of Riverrun
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 8

The Waif
Role: Acolyte of the Faceless Men
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 8

Rickon Stark
Role: Lord of House Stark
Time of death: Season 6, Episode 9

Ramsay Bolton
Role: Warden of the North
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 9

Grand Maester Pycelle
Role: Grand Maester in King's Landing
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Lancel
Role: A brother with the Sparrows
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

The High Sparrow
Role: High Septon
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Loras Tyrell
Role: Knight of Flowers, Rainbow Guard to Renly Baratheon, brother of Margaery Tyrell
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Margaery Tyrell
Role: Queen of the Seven Kingdoms
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Tommen Baratheon
Role: Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Walder Frey
Role: Lord of the Crossing, Lord of Riverrun
Time of Death: Season 6, Episode 10

Olenna Tyrell
Role: Head of House Tyrell, Queen of Thorns, grandmother to Margaery and Loras Tyrell
Time of Death: Season 7, Episode 3

Randyll Tarly
Role: Lord of Horn Hill, Father of Samwell and Dickon Tarly
Time of death: Season 7, Episode 5

Benjen Stark
Role: Coldhands, wight that retained sentience
Time of death: Season 7, Episode 6

Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
Role: Lord Protector of the Vale
Time of Death: Season 7, Episode 7

  • 1
    Good answer, but Jon and the Mountain didn't really die. – JonathanReez Aug 30 '17 at 14:15
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    Great list. 19 of these have been listed in the opening credits at least once, if Wikipedia is correct. Out of 43 characters who were listed there in total (-> 44% mortality). I don't know many other shows that can keep up with a body count like that. – Annatar Aug 30 '17 at 14:15
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    @JonathanReez They did, but magic. Same as Catelyn, Beric and Benjen. Especially in the books, we don't know for sure whether they are truly "alive" (or may just drop dead for good at any moment, when the magic ends). – Annatar Aug 30 '17 at 14:20
  • Still in shock about Littlefinger dying on the show. The guy had it coming for years, but always seemed to be a step ahead of everyone. Anyway, good riddance to an arrogant bastard – m1gp0z Feb 14 at 16:31
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The story is not about the deads.

Sometimes along the story, there are indeed major characters who die.

But the remaining characters fill their shoes. Power vacuums are filled too, tears eventually dry off and the story continues, depicting you these precise things.

New major characters emerge and you just move on.

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