Valar Morghulis. All men must die, and as predicted, the body count on Game Of Thrones is rising as the number of episodes before the finale shrinks. This week saw thousands of innocent bystanders burnt to ash on the flaming-hot BBQ grill of Daenerys Targaryen’s ambition—and quite a few named characters died as well. The Last War was a bloody one indeed, and with the fall of the House of Lannister comes your guide to the recently deceased.
Who died? Lord Varys, the Spider, the Master of Whisperers, advisor to five different rulers of Westeros and the sharpest wit in the Seven Kingdoms, Tyrion and the late Queen of Thorns excepted. Unlike those other two, Varys was not born into influence, but clawed his way up the ladder from his childhood as a slave across the narrow sea in Lys to a member of the Small Council of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. In the interim, he was sold to a sorcerer who castrated him to use his genitals in a magical ritual, dumped onto the streets of Myr to die, and educated as a pickpocket before forming the clandestine spy network of servants, beggars, and assorted dirty children he affectionately referred to as his “Little Birds.”
He began his political career serving Daenerys’ father, “Mad King” Aerys II, and worked for all the assorted Baratheons and Lannisters in between before joining up with the woman who would end up being his final ruler, Daenerys Targaryen. He briefly attempted to serve Jon Snow instead by approaching Jon on the beach and begging him to take the Iron Throne for himself—an act that ultimately precipitated his downfall—but his true loyalty was to the common people of Westeros and beyond.
How did they die? Ironically, it was hearsay that killed the Master of Whisperers, as rumors of Varys’ betrayal had reached Daenerys before Tyrion showed up to tell her himself. Although not explicitly stated, it’s possible that Varys was attempting to poison Daenerys as well, as the last “little bird” we see on screen works in the kitchen at Dragonstone and Daenerys refused food for three days before Varys’ execution.
Shortly thereafter, Varys was arrested by Grey Worm and his men and taken to a cliff on the shores of Dragonstone, where Daenerys condemned him to death for treason before her assembled advisors and allies. From there, all it took was the magic word—“Dracarys”—and poor Varys was vaporized.
How shocking was it? Last week, Varys was set up for some sort of dramatic confrontation with Daenerys, although whether it would be of the self-immolating or regular old immolating sort wasn’t entirely clear. No one gives a speech about the common good on Game Of Thrones unless the end is near.
What does it mean for the show? With the show so close to its finish line, Varys’ death—as much as we loved him—means less than his final acts in life. When the Unsullied come to take Varys to his death, we see him burn a scrap of parchment upon which he was written the truth about Jon Snow’s parentage; Varys is composing a similar scroll in the opening scene of the episode, suggesting that he wrote a bunch of these and ravened them out to all the great houses of Westeros in the days before his death.
Who died? Euron Greyjoy, self-made king of the Iron Islands and a real insufferable bully, to be honest. Euron was not the smartest man, but he did have the headlong confidence of the intellectually untroubled, which served him well as a warrior.
Euron’s rise to power began with murdering his brother Balon back in season six, shoving him off of a bridge in the midst of a windstorm and throwing the Iron Islands into chaos. Although his nephew Theon—and, it should be noted, a sizable portion of the Iron Fleet—supported his niece Yara Greyjoy in her bid to replace her father on the Salt Throne, Euron was intent on taking power for himself, mocking his nephew and dismissing his niece’s claim on the basis of her gender. He then pulled out a bullshit story about marrying Daenerys Targaryen and conquering the Seven Kingdoms with their powers combined, prompting all the captains of the Iron Fleet to declare their loyalty to him.
Once crowned, Euron’s obsession with marrying a queen led him straight into the claws of Cersei Lannister, who secured the assistance of Euron and his fleet in the battle against Daenerys and the Starks with vague promises of marriage and a half-hearted invitation into her bed. She also told him that the baby she was carrying was his, and had they all survived, it probably would have taken him years to figure out that the math of the pregnancy pointed to a different father altogether.
How did they die? In a seemingly impromptu battle to the death with Jaime Lannister, who Euron stumbles upon after miraculously washing up at Tyrion’s secret getaway spot hidden underneath the Red Keep. He really ought to have died when Daenerys and Drogon sent his ship up in flames along with the rest of the Iron Fleet a few scenes earlier, but the show saved his demise for a knock-down, drag-out mud pit fight that saw both Jaime and Euron take a sword through the stomach. Jaime walked away, though, leaving Euron to bleed out right there on the beach with defiance in his heart and an insult on his lips.
How shocking was it? Euron was always a reckless idiot as well as an asshole, so him choosing to take a final stand that doubled as smug “stole your girl” taunting completely tracks.
What does it mean for the show? The one remaining Greyjoy, Yara, is alive and well on the Iron Islands, having wisely chosen to stay out of all this mess.
Sandor and Gregor Clegane
Who died? The brothers Sandor and Gregor Clegane, known as The Hound and The Mountain, whose mutual animosity began in childhood, when the viciously psychopathic Gregor burned half of Sandor’s face, leading to Sandor’s lifelong fear of fire. The occasion was also the first (that we know of) in a long history of Sandor’s abhorrent behavior, which included killing Elia Martell and her two children during Robert’s Rebellion. Sandor, on the other hand, emerged as an unlikely moral compass for the show, as he tried to help Sansa while she was tortured by Joffrey and went on to take a sort of guardianship over Arya, keeping her safe and, in this last episode, imploring her not to go down the same road he did, living a life only motivated by vengeance.
How did they die? It was an appropriately gnarly fight for these two soldiers of Westeros, especially once The Mountain’s post-Qyburn face was revealed to be a bloated, gruesome mask that matches his rotten personality. Despite a sword to the stomach and a dagger to the head, The Mountain still wouldn’t die, so The Hound, despite his brother’s now-signature move of attempting to smush his eyes out (he did the same to Oberyn Martell in season four), tackles him over the edge of the Red Keep, where they both fall the long ways down to the inferno below.
How shocking was it? CleganeBowl has been anticipated for years, so the eventual matchup is only shocking in that it gave fans what they’ve wanted for a long time, and did it well.
What does it mean for the show? These two characters were mostly relevant in terms of who they were protecting/fighting, with CleganeBowl the destiny for both. So their deaths don’t carry stakes for the final episode, unless it’s Arya taking to heart The Hound’s parting entreaty to avoid living life defined by revenge.
Cersei and Jaime Lannister
Who died? Cersei and Jaime Lannister, twins, lovers, and parents, whose incestuous love has been creepy, toxic, co-dependent, sweet, and weirdly affecting, with their love for each other giving them some of the most interesting character motivations and arcs of the whole series. Not that “The Bells” did much in the way of really building off their complex relationship—Jaime simply goes back to Cersei, not to confront her with her past actions, not to reckon with how he’s enabled her and how he’s been evil himself. Just to be with her so they leave the world the same way they entered it: together.
How did they die? The Red Keep collapsed on top of them as they found their escape route blocked.
How shocking was it? Cersei wasn’t long for this world, not after she killed Missandei and refused to surrender the Iron Throne to Daenerys. Jaime’s death is the more shocking one for its relative pointlessness—though dying with Cersei makes a poetic kind of sense, it doesn’t gel with his redemption arc.
What does it mean for the show? With Cersei gone, Daenerys must now deal with the fallout of going full Mad Queen on King’s Landing, something most of her allies are sure to feel is worse, in many ways, than anything Cersei did as queen. Jaime and Cersei’s deaths also mean Tyrion must reckon with the future of his house, and while he probably won’t mourn Cersei’s death, his relationship with Jaime was one of the show’s most rewarding relationships.
Who died? With all the carnage in this episode, you may have missed the death of Harry Strickland—a name that sounds like the greatest insurance agent in all of the Seven Kingdoms, but really belonged to the captain of the Golden Company. The Golden Company, as Cersei and Jaime discussed a few episodes back, was a mercenary army based across the narrow Sea in Essos that Cersei hired to assist in her final stand against Daenerys and her army. Harry was also the head of the House of Strickland, which was exiled from Westeros four generations ago after taking the side of the bastard king Daemon I Blackfyre in the inter-Targaryen civil war known as Blackfyre’s Rebellion, as well as the dude who neglected to bring Cersei her elephants.
How did they die? Skewered through the back by Grey Worm after Drogon and Daenerys’ surprise breach of the wall of King’s Landing threw the Golden Company into chaos. That prompted a big old “fuck this” from Strickland, who turned to flee before meeting Grey Worm’s spear a few seconds later.
How shocking was it? We thought he was a fourth-tier Lannister for a minute when he first appeared in this episode, so—who now?
What does it mean for the show? We hope that Cersei paid up front, but knowing her, she probably didn’t.
Who died? Qyburn: former maester, Varys’ replacement as Master of Whispers on Cersei’s Small Council, then Hand of the Queen, faithful to his queen to the very end. Qyburn was one of the more interesting side characters. Stripped of his maester chains for unethical experimentation, he was a great healer, helping cure Jaime’s infected arm after his hand was severed; that same talent was put to arguably less moral ends when he brought The Mountain back from certain death, transforming him into a unkillable monster in the process. After accompanying Jaime to King’s Landing, he ingratiated himself with Cersei, gaining a seat on her Small Council, advising her through her trial with the High Sparrow, and using Varys’ former army of “little bird” street children to his own ends, including having them place candles in spilled wildfire and setting them on his rival, Maester Pycelle.
How did they die? Perhaps the most comically unceremonious death this whole show has produced, Qyburn’s demise came from The Mountain seeing his brother and promptly abandoning his duty to Cersei and his loyalty to Qyburn—something Qyburn of all people should have seen coming, really, considering Qyburn was The Mountain’s prisoner at Harrenhal way back in season three, when The Mountain had all his prisoners put to death, which Qyburn survives, then gets what could be seen as revenge by turning The Mountain into a sentient zombie, though he never shows any animosity toward the man. At any rate, The Mountain never had any honor, so abandoning his post and shoving Qyburn out of his way to get to his brother is very in character.
How shocking was it? Qyburn’s demise was shockingly abrupt and pretty humorous in the grand scale of the episode, as his brother’s appearance seems to snap him back to his old self—someone who doesn’t care about Cersei or the fact that the Red Keep is disintegrating around him, and picks up Qyburn and throws him hard against the rubble when he gets in his way.
What does it mean for the show? Cersei’s whole political circle died with her, extinguishing all their various motivations and storylines.