You Win Or You Die: Ranking the 99 Game of Thrones Deaths

2 of 53

Image credit: HBO/Helen Sloan


Although he’s not onscreen long enough for audiences to form much of an attachment to him, Will’s death sets the tone for the entire series. While on a mission for the NIght’s Watch, Will and his fellows encounter the army of wights and White Walkers that are the stuff of fairy tales. But as it happens, Game of Thrones is no fairy tale. The ones the characters tell don’t have particularly happy endings, either. And such is the case for Will, whose comrades die at the hands of these mythical ice zombies.

Upon facing this threat, Will hightails it away from the Night’s Watch—a punishable offense—to seek distance and subsequent safety. But when he’s captured by Stark bannermen, it’s death he finds instead. In this case, though, perhaps death is the ultimate safeguard. So long as his body was burned, Will won’t encounter the White Walkers again.

And so it goes, that the first character we meet is the first to die. This should have served as a warning to viewers that Game of Thrones doesn’t pull any punches. Then again, how could we know that such a secondary character would serve as an appetizer for the emotional blows to come? In this way, Will’s death is something of a red herring. His purpose to the narrative is spent almost immediately. Thus, his death follows. But we never expected more prominent characters to fulfill such morbid qualifications.

Ned Stark plays by the rules and beheads Will for abandoning the Night’s Watch. There is hardly further mention of the White Walkers afterwards. Despite Will’s testimony, the creatures are treated as little more than a scary story. Seasons later, the truth is uncovered and the White Walkers have arrived. In the interim, Will’s death is superseded by nearly one hundred others. By now, Will’s fear has been realized by the entire North, and taken on by the presumed son of Will’s executioner.

The dots are connecting, and we’re beginning to come full circle.