Spoilers ahead for Season 8 of Game of Thrones on HBO.
Ever since the moment that good old Ned Stark lost his head in Season 1, Game of Thrones has had a reputation for willingness to kill off just about any character at just about any point in just about any gruesome way. This is a show that killed several of the heroes at a wedding! The eighth season is also the last one, so fans have had every reason to fear that their favorites really could die and stay dead.
Season 8 took its time before getting to any big deaths, but the ones that went down were doozies. That wasn’t always a good thing, though. Now, with Game of Thrones coming to an end, check out the grades for every major Season 8 death! Let’s start with the Fs.
Missandei – F
How She Died: Missandei was captured after the Iron Fleet caught Daenerys’ ships by surprise and destroyed them. She was taken to Cersei and used as a hostage while Tyrion desperately tried to talk Cersei into unconditionally surrendering to stop Dany from sacking King’s Landing. When neither queen was willing to give an inch, Cersei had The Mountain execute Missandei, decapitating her in front of Dany, Grey Worm, and everybody else.
Why It Gets An F: The way Missandei’s death was staged was actually rather Ned Stark-esque, as it was pretty clear that she was not getting out of her situation alive. While Ned’s death was the culmination of a long and nuanced series of events, however, Missandei died due to contrivances such as the Iron Fleet somehow taking Dany by surprise, Euron fishing Missandei out of the sea, and the way-too-fast travel. If she was going to die, she deserved a better death than this.
Rhaegal – F
How He Died: Rhaegal survived his injuries at the Battle of Winterfell only to perish in the very next episode. Dany took him with her to Dragonstone rather than send him with Jon while recovering, which proved to be one of many bad ideas. When Euron’s fleet somehow caught Dany by surprise, the ironborn fired three scorpion bolts into Rhaegal’s body, killing him and sending his body plunging into the ocean.
Why It Gets An F: That Rhaegal died because Dany forgot to look out for the Iron Fleet felt incredibly contrived, not least because the next episode gave the impression that the only reason Rhaegal had to die was that Jon had to be on the ground rather than on dragonback while Dany roasted King’s Landing. Rhaegal’s death could have been great, and if it had happened in “The Bells,” it could have been an inciting incident for Dany to more convincingly snap.
Euron Greyjoy – D
How He Died: Euron survived Dany’s initial assault on the Iron Fleet in “The Bells,” despite Drogon burning his ship and the rest of the ironborn seemingly roasting and/or drowning. He made it to the beach that was an entrance to the tunnels into the Red Keep, where he encountered Jaime and challenged the Kingslayer to become a double Kingslayer. Although he managed to stab Jaime a couple of times, he ultimately lost and died after a sword through the gut.
Why He Gets A D: How exactly did he just so happen to survive the assault on his fleet, just so happen to make it to shore, just in time to encounter Jaime Lannister on his way into the Red Keep? There was enough going on in the episode without a main character throwing down with Euron Greyjoy. Still, I couldn’t give Euron’s death an F. The fact that he’s dead is pretty great. Did anybody actually like Euron?
Jaime And Cersei Lannister – D
How They Died: Jaime arrived at King’s Landing in “The Bells” on a mission to find Cersei. For her part, she refused to accept defeat even as Daenerys roasted the city, and it wasn’t until the Red Keep began literally crumbling around her that she fled her balcony. The twins reunited, but their attempt to escape to Pentos for Cersei to have their baby was foiled when the ceiling collapsed on them, presumably killing them both.
Why It Gets A D: If there were any two characters that most Game of Thrones fans could probably agree were doomed, they were Jaime and Cersei. On the one hand, it is fitting that they died together, as they made much of their twin/lover connection over the years. On the other hand, Cersei was the #1 most villainous character on Thrones until Dany torched the city, so her off-screen death via falling rock was underwhelming to many, including those with valonqar hopes.
Edd Tollett – C
How He Died: Good old Dolorous Edd was debatably the last man standing of the Night’s Watch, considering how fast and loose Jon and Sam played with their vows. He fought bravely for as long as he could at the Battle of Winterfell, but he died before the wights even breached the walls when he stepped up to save Sam. In doing so, he was distracted long enough that a wight managed to stab and kill him.
Why It Gets A C: As a character fans had reason to care about but wasn’t key to the game of thrones, Dolorous Edd was always likely to die. His death wasn’t awful due to the fact that he gave his life in service of fighting for the realm and saving his brother in black. His death also wasn’t great, if only because Sam wouldn’t have needed saving if he’d just gone down in the crypts like Jon suggested. Dolorous Edd, we hardly knew ye.
Varys – C
How He Died: Determined to work for what is best for the realm rather than any individual person’s agenda, Varys was convinced that he had to promote Jon as the Targaryen with the best claim to the throne so that Dany couldn’t take it for herself. Writing letters and dispatching a “little bird” to maybe poison Daenerys backfired, and Tyrion gave him up to Dany. As she promised she would back in Season 7 if he betrayed her, she burned him alive with Drogon.
Why It Gets A C: Varys’ death scene actually looked pretty incredible, with the torches and the performances and Drogon looming in out of the darkness to get his roast on. It might have been one of the best deaths of the season if it hadn’t come about somewhat inorganically. The man known as “the Spider” and “Master of Whisperers” surely should have known better than to debate treason in the throne room and write treasonous letters all but out in the open!
Qyburn – C
How He Died: Qyburn stuck by Cersei’s side until the very end, trying to convince her more and more urgently that her cause was lost. When they were finally hurrying down to Maegor’s Holdfast as their last resort, the retinue was stopped by the arrival of The Hound. When The Mountain moved to engage his brother, Qyburn tried to stop him and force him to stick with Cersei. Instead, The Mountain smashed Qyburn’s head against a wall and flung him down some stairs to his death.
Why It Gets A C: Dr. Frankenstein, eat your heart out! Qyburn dying at the hand of the monster he created was fitting, and it set up the way for Cersei to be alone and unprotected by the time she encountered Jaime. It was very quick for a pretty slimy character, though, and the scene may be better remembered for the slightly hilarious moment of Cersei hotfooting it between the Clegane brothers to make her escape.
Melisandre – B
How She Died: Melisandre returned to the mix in the final minutes before the Battle of Winterfell kicked off, and circumstances were so dire that neither of the people who’d once vowed to kill her knocked her off. She was instrumental in fighting off the wights for a time, and her words were what caused Arya to realize her destiny. When the battle was won and her work was done, Melisandre strode out into the snowy dawn, removed her necklace, and aged herself to death.
Why It Gets A B: Unlike many women on Game of Thrones, Melisandre had full agency in her final day and ultimate death. She was allowed to help the heroes, but Davos’ glowering presence guaranteed that nobody forgot what she did to Shireen. Also, by killing herself, we didn’t have to watch Davos execute somebody who had helped save the day, or else make the difficult decision to spare her. She died well, and not how many of us could have predicted.
Beric Dondarrion – B
How He Died: Beric survived the trip to fetch a wight and then fall of The Wall to die at Winterfell. Initially part of the fighting force outside the walls, he retreated back to continue the fight. When he (and The Hound) spotted Arya running for her life with wights on her tail, they went after her. Beric saved Arya’s life by giving his own.
Why It Gets A B: Beric was brought back from the dead time and time again by Thoros, and Thoros’ death in Season 7 made it all but inevitable that Game of Thrones would kill Beric off for good. He got a heroic death and made peace with Arya, with Melisandre revealing that he’d fulfilled the purpose for which the Lord of Light had kept him alive. Arya wouldn’t have killed the Night King if not for him.
The Night King – B
How He Died: “The Long Night” saw the Night King finally advance his army of the dead on Winterfell as part of his grand effort to destroy the Three-Eyed Raven. The Night King had all the advantages: sheer numbers, dragon-killing spears, weather, and the ability to reanimate the people his army killed. But he failed to anticipate trained assassin Arya Stark, armed with a Valyrian steel dagger and driven by sheer desperation. He died for his oversight, ending The Long Night before it really began.
Why It Gets A B: Debate over whether or not Arya should have gotten the big kill has been ongoing ever since the episode aired, and it will likely continue. The Night King’s death gets a B, because Arya is truly the only one with the skills to have broken through the ranks to get to the Night King. He anticipated and was ready for everything… except for a girl who said “not today” to the god of death. She has the skills, the twist was incredible, and the death gets a B.
Lyanna Mormont – A
How She Died: One of Winterfell’s fiercest defenders was also the littlest. Young Lyanna Mormont stood her ground and led the fighters of Bear Island in holding the gate against the dead for as long as she could, and it was only because of an undead giant that the gate was so quickly breached. The giant got hold of her and began squeezing her to death. Her final act was to stab him in the face with a dragonglass blade, killing him before she perished.
Why It Gets An A: If Game of Thrones was going to be at all realistic in the fight featuring dragons and ice zombies, then young Lyanna Mormont was unlikely to survive. Fierce as she was, she was still a young girl. She sacrificed her life and the future of her house in the fight against the dead, and her death wasn’t grotesque as it could have been. In an episode that didn’t really kill off enough characters, her death was positively poignant. An A for you, Lyanna!
The Mountain And The Hound – A
How They Died: The Hound rode south from Winterfell with one goal in mind: revenge on his brother. After The Hound sent Arya away and The Mountain dispatched with Qyburn, they began to fight. The Hound skewered and stabbed The Mountain enough times that he would have died if he wasn’t pretty much a zombie. Bloody, bruised, and furious that nothing was working, The Hound finally just knocked them both through a crumbling wall, down hundreds of feet into fire. R.I.P. House Clegane.
Why It Gets An A: CleganeBowl actually happened, and it was as epic as it was bittersweet. The Hound just wanted his vengeance on his brother, and nothing was working. He never expected to survive the clash, but he consciously made the decision to kill himself in order to kill his brother. Naturally, that involved plummeting into fire. For his sake, I hope The Hound wasn’t alive long enough to register that he was being burned again!
Ser Jorah Mormont – A
How He Died: Ser Jorah was in the thick of The Battle of Winterfell from the very outset, leading the ill-fated Dothraki charge against the army of the dead and returning bloody. He fought with every ounce of will and strength he had in his body, and he had just enough left that he was able to protect Dany after Drogon knocked her from his back. He was stabbed by too many wights to survive, but he lived long enough to save his queen.
Why It Gets An A: Ser Jorah died exactly the way he would have wanted to: in defense of Daenerys. Iain Glen was excellent, but it was Emilia Clarke’s performance that really elevated the death scene. Already scared when she saw Jorah taking hit after hit, her breakdown when he died was heart-wrenching. She’d never shown such raw grief after any loss, even Viserion. Jorah was her oldest friend and may have loved her better than anybody else, even if she never loved him the way he wanted. Poor old bear.
Theon Greyjoy – A+
How He Died: After returning to Winterfell to fight for Sansa and the family he betrayed, Theon defended Bran in the godswood with everything he had. He was the last of Bran’s defenders standing when the Night King arrived, after waves of wights had killed so many others. With his arrows spent and no chance of survival, he took up a spear anyway and charged the Night King in a hopeless but valiant attempt to save Bran and humanity.
Why It Gets An A+: If there was one Game of Thrones character who truly earned his redemptive arc, it was Theon Greyjoy. Always more arrogant and ambitious than evil, Theon suffered greatly for his acts and came to repent. He didn’t want glory or credit, but to make amends. He got a “thank you” from Bran/the Three-Eyed Raven, a tear rolled down his cheek, and he died valiantly. Theon Greyjoy came home to Winterfell and earned his redemption. Alfie Allen also knocked his performance out of the park.
Tune in to the series finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET to see how many more characters join the list of the dead before the final credits roll.