One of the things that arguably makes Game of Thrones one of the most compelling shows of the last decade is the fact that it is filled with shocking deaths of much loved characters.
The first of these surprise killings was the execution of Eddard Stark in Episode 9 of the first series. Up until then, he had served as the show’s principal character, and the driving force of much of the plot. Most viewers assumed that something would conveniently come along to save him from his fate. But no, the executioner’s was not stopped, and beheaded the much-loved character with one clean stroke.
Indeed, it seems that no-one is immune being suddenly snuffed out. And with the recent revelation that some characters that survived in the books would not be so lucky on-screen, not even the book-readers know what to expect.
And whilst this may seem incredibly exciting, George R. R. Martin’s gleeful willingness to routinely wipe out his own characters has left the show looking a little sparsely-populated.
Take the Lannister family, for example. Right from the off they were established as the main antagonistic force in Westeros. The key figure here was King Joffrey, the tyrannical teenager who was far more sadistic than can possibly be healthy.
Ever since his coronation, audiences have waited anxiously for him to meet a suitably brutal end. This finally came early on in Season 4, when he was poisoned at his own wedding.
Whilst some celebrated his death, it nevertheless caused a huge vacuum, not only in Westeros, but also with viewers. Who was left to hate, now that Joffrey was no more?
One character who we could direct our hatred towards was Tywin Lannister, the stone-hearted (but not like that) patriarch of the Lannister family, who was utterly ashamed of his midget son Tyrion.
But of course, he only made it to the end of Season 4, at which point he was shot with a crossbow while on the lavatory. So again, we were left with no antagonist.
For me the real dearth of characters became apparent after the “Red Wedding” at the end of Season 3, which took the lives of King Robb of House Stark, as well as his mother, Catelyn.
These characters arguably represented the “good guys” of the show, the Stark having been with us from the very first episode. Their deaths left us scattered, unsure of who to root for now that the apparently more moralistic faction was defeated.
This is what made Season 4 lack any real excitement. It was very difficult to enjoy Joffrey’s death, as it made little difference given that his enemies were no longer around to benefit from it.
Looking to the upcoming fifth season, it appears that we will be treated to a host of new characters. Firstly, we have the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, out for vengeance for their father’s murder in the previous season.
We also have the High Sparrow and his followers, who make up the Faith of the Seven, a fanatical religious order who look like they’re going to shake up King’s Landing in a big way. Hopefully these new characters can make up for characters lost in previous seasons.