When first premiering on HBO back in 2011, no one other than those that had read the books upon which the show was based on was prepared for the carnage that would follow over the next eight seasons of Game of Thrones.
With the popularity and recent release of the first Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon, it feels like a good time to go back to revisit what is widely regarded as one of, if not the best HBO show, and certainly its raunchiest, most graphic and shocking show.
Organized by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, ‘The Red Wedding’ was one of the first truly shocking moments for Game of Thrones fans, with it hammering home the point that not one single character was safe or had any plot armor. Even with his sacred oath that Robb’s soldiers, his newly pregnant wife, his mother, and himself would be safe, Frey betrayed the Starks in an incredibly gruesome scene.
Stabbing Talisa, Robb’s wife, slitting his mother’s throat, and beheading Robb, before parading him through the camp with his direwolf’s head in place of his own, was a message of shock and awe to the fans. Many years later, anyone hearing ‘The Rains of Castamere’ still experiences flashbacks to the event.
Everything Ramsay Bolton
This entire list could be devoted to Ramsay Bolton. The man is despicable and psychotic, levels above any other character in the show, which is saying something. From his rape and entrapment of Sansa to his torturing, castration, and treatment of Theon, turning him into the sub-human Reek, Bolton is a terrifying character in the show.
Thankfully his eventual end was nothing short of poetic, with Sana tying him to a chair and setting the very dogs on him that Bolton used to threaten and kill others with. His screams were a welcome sound to many fans and it was the kickstart of Theon’s redemption arc.
Stannis Sacrificing His Daughter
Throughout Game of Thrones, Stannis Baratheon made no secret of his desire to sit on the Iron Throne, and his actions certainly highlighted how he was willing to go to any lengths. The biggest and most shocking move he made was when he was told by Melisandre that her God required a sacrifice, and in turn, would ensure his victory in the upcoming battles and his eventual seat on the Iron Throne would be guaranteed.
Unfortunately for Stannis, the sacrifice was his daughter’s life, who would end up being burned at the stake. Whilst it wasn’t an instant decision for him, Stannis did as he was told, burning his daughter and walking away, her screams of pain in his ears as he walked passed all of his soldiers. Not a fan favorite to win anyway, this disgusting choice cemented fans hating him, and most celebrated his death not too long after.
Melisandre Wasn’t The Beauty She Showed Us
As already mentioned above, Melisandre was the long-time advisor and spellcaster for Stannis Baratheon. Evident to anyone paying attention, it was clear she had a secret to hide as well as her motivations for Stannis winning.
Her secret came to be something surprising to viewers, when she removed her necklace during one scene, a necklace which, up till this point, we’d not seen her without. She transformed from the beautiful, young woman we’d grown accustomed to, to a decrepit, hunched-over old hag in an instant. Her claims of being much older than she seemed were proven true in this instance and left many fans at the time wondering about the direction of her story going forward.
One of the few characters in Game of Thrones that was pure and good, Hodor was the lovable giant that had some sort of impediment. Whilst he was strong, helpful, and could move as normal, he was limited to one phrase, no matter the situation… Hodor. Named after his limited vocabulary, fans were hopeful of an explanation as to what happened to him and left him in that situation.
Fans got their wish during one of the later seasons, where Bran, Hodor, and the rest of the traveling troupe found themselves trapped by a huge group of White Walkers. Bran was busy warging and seeing the past, which indirectly caused the boy called Wyllis at birth, to become the lumbering oaf we know as Hodor.
In an attempt to escape the crowd of white walkers attacking them, Bran simultaneously wargs into present time Hodor to control him and aid their escape, whilst also viewing the past. When screaming at Hodor to stay and “hold the door”, it’s also heard by the younger version in the past, resulting in the seizure and his repeating of the phrase, which ultimately got shortened to the name he then goes by.
Equal parts shocking and sad, especially when you realize the resulting pain and suffering that present time Hodor would have suffered at the hands of the White Walkers.
Daenerys Goes Full Mad Queen
It’s no secret that the last couple of seasons dropped off with the quality of the storytelling, and that includes this contentious storyline/character decision. Having spent seven seasons saving and liberating innocent people, adamant her dragons or her forces won’t kill those not taking arms against her, and generally proving she’s going to be a good leader, Daenerys loses all character development over the course of a couple of episodes in season eight.
As a show of force and revenge after Cersei murders her ward, Daenerys jumps on top of one of her dragons and releases dragon fire upon the entirety of King’s Landing, no doubt resulting in the death of thousands of innocent people, as well as Cersei herself.
Ned Stark’s Early Demise
Back in season one, no one knew what to expect from the show regarding the ‘anytime, anywhere, and anyone’ deaths of the characters. Having spent the first season following Ned Stark and his children, it seemed obvious the story was centered around Ned and he was the character we were going to be following.
That all changed come the end of season one. Having been imprisoned by the Lannisters, fans watched as Stark was led up some stairs ready to be beheaded. As with any show, we all thought ‘ah, he’ll get out of this somehow, they can’t kill their main character’… Well, looking back now it makes us look stupid, but boy was we wrong.
The Mountain And The Viper
The Mountain was never a particularly likable character. From his introduction in the first season as the torturer/bully of his brother The Hound, all the way to his constant unerring service to the Lannisters, The Mountain performed some disgusting acts.
In a fight to the death, The Viper decided to try and take his revenge for one such act, which turned out to be the rape and murder of his sister. In what looked like a win for The Viper, he unfortunately grew complacent and cocky in his anger, ultimately losing his eyes and having his head squashed between The Mountain’s hands. He still won in a way mind you, as The Mountain succumbed to the poison in his veins, and was brought back by a necromancer as little more than a zombie bodyguard.
King Joffrey Gets His Comeuppance
King Joffrey is one of the only characters that had fans foaming at the mouth in literal hate and anger to the same level as Ramsay Bolton. Another character that decided to torture Sansa in a myriad of ways, murder prostitutes indiscriminately, abuse his powers, and generally be a human piece of excrement, fans rejoiced when we got to see him die at his wedding, one of the most celebrated moments of Game of Thrones.
Choking on his blood, stomach fluid, and saliva after consuming poison unknowingly, it was one of the many deaths in the show where fans were thankful to see the back of him. Not many characters can boast such a feat.
Bran Takes A Tumble
Back in season one of Game of Thrones, the first episode did a fine job of showing us that the new HBO show wasn’t going to mess around, and was certainly not for children. Throughout the episode, there are constant mentions of Bran and his climbing, how adept he is, how he shouldn’t do it, etc.
At the very end of the episode, we see Bran climbing one of the tallest towers in Winterfell, before happening upon the incestuous tryst between the Lannister siblings, Jaime and Cersei. In a declaration of his love to his sister/lover/mother of his three children, Jaime pushes young Bran from the tower in an attempt to kill him. Fortunately, in a way, it only paralyzes the young child, leaving him unable to move for the remainder of the series.
Anyone that has watched Game of Thrones will tell you how graphic, gory, and shocking the show is as a whole, and this list could have another twenty entries and still not be complete. However, Tyrion’s understandable murder of his father after years of abuse, both physical and mental, or the ‘Battle of the Bastards’, a huge battle showing Jon in a claustrophobic predicament, both have to be mentioned here.
What other shocking moments would you mention from Game of Thrones?