It seems a lifetime ago that we were issued the prime directive of Game of Thrones: You win or you die. Since then, we’ve watched our favorite characters (and a whole lot of expendable randos) compete valiantly or end up stabbed, shot, frozen, and burned in the ensuing unpleasantness.
Death is the only true god in Westeros and the show reminds us every week. What better way to prepare for Season 8 than to visit the literal ghosts of the past? Mashable combed through all seven seasons (tens of thousands of deaths) to remember the most shocking, brutal, and numerous deaths.
Enjoy at your own peril.
Game of Thrones Season 1’s murderous ice zombies, almost equally murderous Lannisters, and the death of the show’s de facto protagonist set our expectations for just how treacherous Westeros can be.
Most unexpected: Ned Stark’s was the death that shockingly illustrated how unsafe every character is in this world, and his death thrust the seven kingdoms into chaos.
Most gruesome: Khal Drogo kills his own tribesman Mago by ripping out his tongue after a fight.
This season brought death upon Robert Baratheon’s bastards (except Gendry) and introduced Jaqen H’ghar’s preferred method of killing, a lot of which he did at Harrenhal and then later teaches to Arya. Also purged were Qarth’s dramatic leaders The Thirteen, which gave Dany the assets she needed to continue her conquering of Essos slave cities.
Most unexpected: Renly Baratheon had no real claim to the throne but you gotta admit, he was one of the nicest men on the show. No one expected him to win but he died unexpectedly early thanks to Melisandre’s killer shadow baby.
Most gruesome: No big names are involved but themost underrated grossest death on Thrones come by way of Harrenhal’s torturer The Tickler: tying a bucket full of rats around a man’s guts and then setting it on fire, forcing the rats to chew through his body and organs. Sheesh.
The Season defined by Red Wedding also included Daenerys decimating slaveowners and a lot of wildling deaths (a preview of what’s to come).
Most unexpected: No matter how early or late you started watching Thrones, you remember exactly where you were when you witnessed the bloody massacre of Catelyn, Robb, and Talisa Stark at the hands of Walder Frey and his Lannister cohorts.
Most gruesome: Ros, who was always possessed of intellect and ambition beyond her station, was killed off-screen by Joffrey during the sickly sadism he practiced with Baelish’s prostitutes. Based on her first encounter with Joffrey, it was not a swift death, and her body is riddled with arrows as she hangs from a post.
Tis’ the season of the Battle of Castle Black, Joffrey’s long-awaited assassination, and the start of Ramsay Bolton’s fatal brutality towards those he dislikes. Lots of important Thrones events occurred here but death toll-wise, it was relatively not the worst.
Most unexpected: Tywin’s death bycrossbow while on the privy (thanks, Tyrion!) marked the downfall of the Lannister clan. In the words of George R. R. Martin, “Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.”
Most gruesome: The Mountain gouging out Oberyn’s eyes and cracking his skull open like a piñata with his bare hands will go down in history. One of the hardest deaths to watch, tbh.
This season had the highest overall death toll with “Hardhome,” as well Meereenese fighters and Sons of the Harpy and the decimation of the Baratheon line.
Most unexpected: You’d think we would have known better than to think anyone was safe on this show, but two years after the Red Wedding Thrones viewers had cautiously begun to trust again. This was naive as Season 5 concluded with Jon being stabbed to death by his own men of the Night’s Watch.
Most gruesome: Meryn Trant meets his comeuppance at Arya’s hands in Braavos. You want to pity the gagged man howling for mercy after a teenager stabs him repeatedly in the eyes and chest, but he was also abusing little girls and has been on Arya’s list for years.
Season 6 will go down as the deadliest in terms of major characters being popped off…at the same goddamn time. Cersei ensured all her enemies burn by wildfire. This season is home to Battle of the Bastards and the end of the Bolton rule on the North (finally!) as well as Arya’s return to her motherland and killing off Walder Frey.
Most unexpected: I’m still not over Hodor’s surprising (and emotional) end. No one saw it coming but understandably, he gave up his life to save Bran and Meera from the icy undead. His death opened up even more time traveling possibilities and theories for the show.
Most gruesome: Ramsay Bolton died a satisfactory but ghastly death. Eaten alive by his own starving dogs? Horrendous but well-deserved.
As Thrones braced internally for the end, it felt like we lost the looming risk of earlier seasons in which a major character could drop dead at any moment. In Season 7, not a single major or main character died, more than likely because Thrones was saving them for the final showdown.
Most unexpected: Bad guys rarely get what’s coming to them in Game of Thrones, which made it immensely satisfying to watch the conniving Petyr Baelish slain before the Stark sisters he betrayed so many times over.
Most gruesome: The death of Viserion at the hands of the Night King was also shocking, and boy, that was a lot of blood.
Game of Thrones returns April 14.