***SPOILER ALERT! Major spoilers ahead for GAME OF THRONES seasons one through five, and minor spoilers for season six.***
GAME OF THRONES is not a horror series. It is pretty much a straight-forward fantasy series, but a dark and brutal one. Who needs Michael Myers with a knife when you have guillotines and no real system of law enforcement. (The most popular form of prosecution is Trial by Combat. You can imagine how much “evidence” is used in such an exercise.) Yet GAME OF THRONES has some distinctly horror elements: the Stone Men attack like zombies; the white walkers are actual zombies; the Hall of Faces looks like a serial killer’s trophy room; and there is enough rape to make I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE look tame by comparison.
Then, of course, there are the murders. Nearly every episode contains the death of at least one named character. Some deaths are rather pedestrian: arrows, sword fights, poison. But then there are some deaths that stand out in a sea of blood.
Viserys Targaryen – Episode 106 – “A Golden Crown”
No one liked Viserys. He was spoiled, entitled, manic, and he molested and sold his sister Daenerys like she was a sheep. No one, not even Daenerys, was sad to see Viserys get what he always wanted: a golden crown. Of course, this golden crown was served up as a pot of molten gold, poured over Viserys’ head by Khal Drogo. Viserys is dead almost instantly, and his new “crown” (more of a helmet) clangs when his body drops to the ground.
Ned Stark – Episode 109 – “Baelor”
Ned’s murder was perhaps the most shocking in a long line of shocking deaths. When Game of Thrones began, the Stark family was ostensibly the “heroes” of the show. We started with them, we followed them, and their stories drove many of the major plot points we still see in the current season. Ned was beheaded for treason (a false confession given in hopes of saving his daughters) and the beheading was all off-screen. All you see is a sword coming down, then the camera cuts to youngest daughter Arya, hearing the squoosh of sword through flesh and bone. Similar to the techniques used in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the gore is all in your head. However, Ned’s death came as a huge shock to viewers (at least in my house) because you usually don’t kill off such a major character in the first season of a show. By episode nine, viewers already loved Ned, and in an instant, he was gone.
Oberyn Martell – Episode 408 – “The Mountain and the Viper”
Tyrion Lannister is on trial for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey. He chooses Trial by Combat, and picks Oberyn Martell to fight for him. Oberyn must face off against the Mountain, who you can imagine is a huge wall of a man. Oberyn is small, but fleet of foot and acrobatic, plus he has the need for revenge on his side: the Mountain raped and murdered his sister and her children. The crowd is surprised when Oberyn brings down the Mountain, but Oberyn doesn’t just want to kill him – he wants him to confess. When the Mountain is down, Oberyn chooses not to kill him; instead he pokes the bear, trying to get him to confess to his crimes. Instead, the Mountain knocks down Oberyn, punches out all his teeth with a single blow, and gouges Oberyn’s eyes out with his thumbs until his head literally pops beneath his mammoth hands. All that is left of Oberyn is a bloody pool of mutilated skull fragments.
The Red Wedding – Episode 309 – “The Rains of Castamere”
Even if you have never seen an episode of GAME OF THRONES, you have surely heard of the Red Wedding. The brutal attack had political intentions and wide-ranging fall-out that is still felt in the current season. Basically, Robb Stark, lord of Winterfell, was promised to Rosalin Frey, but instead married Talisa Maegyr for love. To make up for it, Robb’s mother Catelyn arranges for Rosalin to marry her younger brother, Edmure. Rosalin’s father, Walder Frey, is none too happy about this, but allows the marriage to take place under a strained smile.
But this is GAME OF THRONES and nobody ever lets bygones be bygones. Instead, he teams with Roose Bolton to seek revenge. After Edmure and Rosalin are carried off in the “bedding” ceremony, the banquet hall is sealed, arrows start to fly, and knives appear from shirtsleeves. Talisa, pregnant, is stabbed repeatedly in the belly. Robb and Catelyn are hit by arrows, and various other revelers are killed in the massacre. In a desperate attempt to save her eldest son’s life, Catelyn holds Walder’s young wife Joyeuse hostage and threatens to kill her if her son isn’t set free. “I’ll find another,” Walder says with a shrug (she is, after all, his eighth wife), and he motions for Roose to stab Robb to death. Catelyn slits Joyeuse’s throat, then waits for her own throat-slitting to occur. The arterial spray is something to behold.
Theon Greyjoy – Pretty much all of season three
Theon has already gained quite a reputation by this point in the series: he is cocky and arrogant and when the two youngest Stark boys escape his captivity and he can’t find them, he kills two random children and burns their bodies to disguise their identity and save face. It is not too surprising to see him kidnapped – until the torture begins. His skin is flayed and screws are turned in his foot. He is freed by a young man who claims to have been sent by his sister, and rides off into the woods. His captors catch up to him and are about to rape Theon when his savior appears and kills them. His savior leads Theon to where his sister is waiting, but it is all a game: instead, the boy takes Theon back to the dungeon he had been held in, where he is strung up on a cross and tortured some more. This time, the boy – who we later learn is Roose Bolton’s bastard son Ramsay – is the torturer. He continues the torture purely because he enjoys it.
The “climax” of Theon’s capture comes when two lovely young ladies free him and tend to his wounds… then undress and seduce him. With his guard down and his cock hard, Ramsay returns, taunts Theon as he tries to crawl away, then has his guards castrate him. Again, the actual act is all off-screen, but Ramsay does delight in sitting down for a meal of pork sausage immediately after, as a way of taunting him. It is at this time that, after the abuse, the torture, the castration, Theon Greyjoy becomes Reek, Ramsay’s whipping boy. Theon is not physically dead, and he casts off the shackles of Reek in season six, but for two seasons, he is unrecognizable as Theon.