All Men Must Die — Except for One, Maybe
Winter is gone and Game of Thrones is back with a vengeance (or two or three, maybe)...
...everybody dies for a reason...
Unstoppable women have been the narrative force of HBO’s and George R.R. Martin’s pop-culture-captivating series.
Unstoppable men? Well, they’re unstoppable until they’re dead — except for Jon Snow, who might die twice before this is all over. But if there’s any consolation, guys, it’s that everybody dies for a reason (more on that further down).
Ah, but the women. As the penultimate Season 7 of Game of Thrones is about to be unleashed, so too is the fury of four major heroines/anti-heroines, whose paths might soon cross.
CERSEI LANNISTER (LENA HEADEY)
There’s revenge and then there’s revenge. Having suffered the indignity of being forced to walk naked and abused through the streets of King’s Landing by order of the High Sparrow, you just knew that Cersei’s rage would return tenfold.
As Season 6 ended, she thwarted her own trial and execution by having the Great Sept blown up. Many were killed, including the High Sparrow and Cersei’s hated daughter-in-law, Margaery.
Cersei — who until that point had schemed to rule through one or the other of her sons (the psychopathic brat Joffrey and the religious turncoat Tommen) — is now her own villainess. By season’s end, she had pronounced herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN (EMILIA CLARKE)
Turns out Mother of Dragons wasn’t just a fancy title. Daenerys cemented her power as Khaleesi by burning a bunch of brutish, mocking Dothraki khals in their own temple, and walking out through the flames — her clothes burned off but otherwise unscathed, to the astonishment of her people.
Saving the city of Meereen from slavers by having her dragons reduce the attacking fleet to cinders was just the cherry on top. We can’t wait to see what she does for an encore.
SANSA STARK (SOPHIE TURNER)
Maybe there is a contender for a more righteous revenge than Cersei Lannister’s. Ever since Sansa’s brutal wedding night rape at the hands of “the new Joffrey,” Ramsay Bolton, we expected something. But watching the defeated Ramsay be devoured by his own dogs at Winterfell? That’s cold. And of course, Sansa engineered it all, convincing half-brother Jon Snow to take on Ramsay last season in the infamous Battle of the Bastards, the tide of which was turned by the 11th-hour intervention of the Knights of the Vale.
ARYA STARK (MAISIE WILLIAMS)
It may be that you just can’t kill a Stark woman. After Arya’s ordeal on the streets of Braavos, she was blinded, tormented daily by Jaqen’s acolyte (The Waif), stabbed, and forced into killing to save her own life. By the end of Season 6, she had killed The Waif (cutting off her face and putting it in the Hall of Faces), returned to Westeros, dispatched Lord Walder Frey’s sons, and fed them to him in a pie before murdering him, too. All to avenge the deaths of brother Robb and mother Catelyn at the infamous Red Wedding.
"...there is good in a world that has shown him none..."
Dead Like Me
Like so many before him on Game of Thrones, Ian McShane’s Season 6 character, Brother Ray, was born to die. And the actor is fine with that.
“I was looking for something with a beginning and an end, and Game of Thrones was a very specific role with a specific purpose,” says McShane. In Episode 7, “The Broken Man,” Brother Ray brought back Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. The Hound.
An ex-mercenary who had given up violence for The Faith of the Seven, Brother Ray also resurrected The Hound in spirit with his peaceful community — that is, until the day the latter found everyone (including Ray) massacred.
As the episode ended, The Hound had taken revenge on the murderers, rogue knights from the Brotherhood Without Banners. But he was subsequently convinced by other righteous Brotherhood knights to join their cause and fight the invading White Walkers.
“My character was a warrior who’d become a man of peace,” McShane recalls. “And the whole point of him being there was to show The Hound that there is good in a world that has shown him none, that there was more to life than being cruel. The things I did in that one appearance will resonate in the next season as we see what becomes of The Hound.”
McShane says GoT is often accused of senseless deaths, “but they all have reasons that propel the story. That’s the beauty of it.”
Jim Slotek is a Toronto movie critic and freelance entertainment journalist.