Game of Thrones: A eulogy for the women we lost


Many memorable female characters have populated Game of Thrones over the years. Here, we remember the women who have died in the fight for Westeros.

Throughout its seven seasons so far, Game of Thrones has garnered plenty of attention for its treatment of women, particularly its extensive (some might say excessive) use of sexual violence and nudity. Somewhat less attention has been paid to the actual women.

Although few would call it “feminist” (whatever that means in the context of art), HBO’s epic fantasy offers a refreshingly complicated portrait of women, challenging conventional notions of strength and power. From Sansa and Arya to Cersei and Brienne, the female characters of Game of Thrones have their own personalities and desires and their own ways of navigating the patriarchal world of Westeros. Like the male characters, they can be courageous and cowardly, noble and corrupt, cunning and naïve. And like the male characters, they are subject to the whims of death, the one true god.

In advance of the eighth and final season, which premieres April 14, we would like to pay tribute to the many women whose watch on Game of Thrones has ended.

Season 1

Septa Mordane (Susan Brown) died in “The Pointy End.” She was killed by Lannister soldiers after Ned’s arrest. As the septa of Winterfell, she instructed Sansa and Arya Stark in needlework, history, and etiquette, accompanying them to King’s Landing. Even though her young pupils often treated her with disrespect, not even bothering to learn where she came from, she remained dignified to the end, sacrificing herself for Sansa just like Syrio did for Arya.

Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou) died in “Fire and Blood.” She was burned alive on Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre. A Lhazareen godswife taken prisoner by the Dothraki during a raid, she used blood magic to heal Drogo from a wound, leaving him comatose and his child stillborn. She was the first of many Essosi to reject Daenerys as a savior, and her fate was a harbinger of the Targaryen conqueror’s ruthlessness.

Season 2

Irri (Amrita Acharia) died in “The Old Gods and the New.” She was killed during the theft of the dragons in Qarth. She served as a handmaid to Daenerys, teaching the new khaleesi about Dothraki language and culture as well as taking care of her when she was pregnant. The guilt Daenerys felt for not being able to protect Irri fueled her maternal attitude toward her subjects.

Doreah (Roxanne McKee) died in “Valar Morghulis.” She was locked in Xaro Xhoan Daxos’s vault as punishment for helping him steal the dragons. Given as a wedding gift from Viserys, she taught Daenerys how to assert authority through sex, though she herself turned out to be rather passive, easily seduced by wealth and status. Her betrayal, along with Xaro’s, drove Daenerys to keep her future allies at a distance.

Season 3

Ros (Esmé Bianco) died in “The Climb.” She was killed by Joffrey, tied naked to a bed and shot multiple times with a crossbow. Originally a prostitute in a town near Winterfell, she moved to King’s Landing and joined Littlefinger’s brothel. Her story was maybe the most brutal on Game of Thrones, consisting mainly of her being exploited and abused by various characters. She both lent humanity to the numerous sex workers on the show, being one of the few dignified with a name, and emphasized their role as disposable eye candy.

Talisa (Oona Chaplin) died in “The Rains of Castamere.” She was killed in the Red Wedding along with her unborn child. A native of Volantis, she renounced her aristocratic upbringing and trained as a healer, treating soldiers during the War of the Five Kings. She had no interest in the intrigue of war until she met, fell in love with, and married Robb Stark. In addition to providing practical advice, she gave her husband emotional support, allowing him to be a person instead of a king, if only briefly.

Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) died in “The Rains of Castamere.” She was the last person to be killed in the Red Wedding. True to the words of her parents’ house, she supported Robb in his rebellion against Joffrey and fought to bring her family back together in the wake of Ned’s death, though sometimes the two came into conflict, as when she released Jaime Lannister. Despite her steely demeanor, she was one of the show’s more sympathetic characters, weighed down by grief yet still carrying on. Her final despairing cry distilled Game of Thrones to its essence.

Season 4

Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) died in “Mockingbird.” She was pushed out of Eyrie’s Moon Door by Littlefinger. Like her sister Catelyn, the Lady Regent of the Vale was rigid in her beliefs. Unlike Catelyn, however, she lacked the discipline to keep her emotions in check. Often dismissed by others as madness, Lysa’s passionate nature made her both foolish and dangerous. It drove her to murder Jon Arryn, and it blinded her to Littlefinger’s true intentions. She was responsible for the War of the Five Kings and her own downfall.

Ygritte (Rose Leslie) died in “The Watchers on the Wall.” She was shot with an arrow by Olly during Mance Rayder’s attack on Castle Black. With a temperament as fiery as her hair, the wildling warrior tested Jon Snow’s allegiance to the Night’s Watch. She challenged his assumptions about wildlings, women, and the social order, showing him the possibility of a life dictated by passion rather than obligation. She represented the freedom that will likely forever elude the Stark and Targaryen bastard.

Shae (Sibel Kekilli) died in “The Children.” She was strangled by Tyrion when he found her in his father’s bed. Brought to Tyrion as a prostitute the night before a battle, she ended up falling in love with him, and he took her to King’s Landing disguised as Sansa’s handmaid. Armed with exceptional self-preservation skills, Shae succeeded in blending in, but she felt stifled, viewing Tyrion’s attempts to protect her as proof that he didn’t value her. Ironically, her ability to survive proved to be her undoing, leading her to betray her lover.

Season 5

Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) died in “The Dance of Dragons.” She was burned at the stake by her parents as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Despite being Stannis’s only living child and, therefore, his heir, Shireen was confined to a cell in Dragonstone due to her facial scars, leftover from a greyscale infection. She made the best of her situation, occupying herself with books and teaching Davos to read. Her optimism – no doubt the result of having only experienced Westeros through her imagination – made her unique on Game of Thrones.

Selyse Baratheon (Tara Fitzgerald) died in “Mother’s Mercy.” She hanged herself, unable to face the fact that she let Shireen die. Plagued by illness and haunted by the loss of her three stillborn sons, she sought salvation in religion, embracing the Lord of Light with fanatical devotion. To its credit, Game of Thrones refrained from reducing her to a caricature, allowing her to be as stern as her husband Stannis while also emphasizing her tragic nature.

Myranda (Charlotte Hope) died in “Mother’s Mercy.” She fell from the rampart of Winterfell in a fight with Theon. The daughter of the Dreadfort kennel master, she shared Ramsay Snow’s fondness for hurting people, frequently taking part in his torture and hunting sessions in addition to being his lover. Perhaps the show’s most purely evil female character, she defied the idea of sadism as a gender-specific trait.

Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson and Nell Tiger Free) died in “Mother’s Mercy.” She was poisoned by Ellaria Sand in retaliation for Oberyn’s death. Sent to Dorne by Tyrion to arrange an alliance with the Martells and isolate Cersei, she grew accustomed to her new home and rebuffed Jaime’s rescue attempt. Her death confirmed Cersei’s assertion that no place in Westeros is safe for little girls.

Season 6

Walda Bolton (Elizabeth Webster) died in “Home.” She was killed by Ramsay’s hounds along with her infant son. The second wife of Roose Bolton, she struggled to fit in and tried to befriend Sansa, a fellow newcomer. Her pregnancy made her a threat to Ramsay, whose status as a bastard rendered his claim to the North tenuous. Walda was the only semi-prominent female character on Game of Thrones who was fat, which apparently doomed her to life spent as a Frey and a Bolton, the two most miserable houses of Westeros.

Osha (Natalia Tena) died in “Book of the Stranger.” She was killed by Ramsay in a failed effort at killing him. One of many wildlings to cross the Wall with the White Walkers approaching, she became a prisoner and servant at Winterfell, where she grew close to Bran Stark, listening to him talk about his dreams. She helped Bran escape from Theon but refused to cross the Wall, instead agreeing to take Rickon to the Umbers. She was the first character to take the threat of the White Walkers seriously, though her warnings went unheeded.

Lady Crane (Essie Davis) died in “No One.” She was killed by the Waif for hiding Arya. The lead actress in a Braavosi theater company, she portrayed Cersei in a reenactment of the War of the Five Kings that Arya watched. Her performance and brief friendship helped spur the Stark girl’s decision to return home.

The Waif (Faye Marsay) died in “No One.” She was defeated by Arya after a chase through the streets of Braavos and a fight in the dark. An assassin for the Faceless Men, she trained Arya in the House of Black and White, though she seemed less interested in teaching her apprentice than punishing her. She provided a glimpse of what Arya might have been like if she’d committed to relinquishing her identity.

Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) died in “The Winds of Winter.” She was killed in the wildfire explosion devised by Cersei that destroyed the Sept of Baelor. Twice married and twice widowed, the would-be queen inherited her grandmother’s ambition but not her wit, instead using more covert means to manipulate people. Depending on what the situation required, she could play the role of an ingénue or a femme fatale, wielding virtues and sins like weapons. She acted as a foil to Cersei; whereas the Lannister queen ruled through fear, Margaery strove to rule with love.

Season 7

Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) died in “The Queen’s Justice.” She poisoned herself to avoid being captured by the Lannisters in their seizure of Highgarden, though first, she revealed to Jaime that she was behind Joffrey’s death. The aptly nicknamed Queen of Thorns excelled at court politics even as she scorned those who participated in them, cutting everyone from Cersei to Varys down to size with her sharp tongue. When she was present, conversations played like chess matches, as tense and electrifying as any battle.

Next. Game of Thrones season 8: Predictions for the show’s major women. dark

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.