- "Joffrey... Cersei... Ilyn Payne... The Hound... Polliver... The Mountain..."
- ―Arya Stark's "prayer"
I'm going to enjoy watching you die
This is a list of characters which I'm going to enjoy, indeed savor, watching when/if they die. To be honest I was never a major fan of the Starks, I’m a Targaryen supporter, but even though I disliked Robb Stark (he’s an awful politician) I was utterly disgusted at the Red Wedding. A major theme of the story is the debate over doing the honorable thing or the pragmatic thing; up until the Red Wedding, the theme of the story seems to be that honorable men cannot survive in a ruthless world, and that it actually pays to be a ruthless, amoral man who breaks all the rules. That’s the real point: not a matter of good/bad, but a matter of “breaking the rules we’ve all agreed upon”. No god or gods are going to smite the Freys and Boltons for breaking guest right and betraying Robb Stark, nor are they going to smite Tywin and Joffrey.
The first three books were originally one long book that got cut up; initially intended as part one of a trilogy. So the Red Wedding was the climax of “part one of three”. The real fear by the time of the Red Wedding in the books is that the bad guys truly do win because they’re smart enough not to follow the “rules”. After this, at least partially, or I hope, the direction that the subsequent books seem to be leading to is that people really do care if you break the rules, that “Rousseau was Right” – people are generally good, and will put honor above cynical politics. You see up until the Red Wedding there are many intermediate steps in which the Starks do the honorable thing, their enemies do the ruthless thing, and apparently emerge the winner: killing Ned Stark while he was their prisoner under a flag of truce? Fine. Slaughtering peasants? Fine. Every step of the way, the Lannisters and their allies seem to be outright *rewarded* for “breaking the rules”. And this escalates into the Red Wedding; taking this principle to a logical extreme: they *broke every law of gods and men* by betraying their liege-lord while he was a guest under their roof, at a wedding no less. This is the point when people really turn their heads and say “you guys aren’t just ruthless, you are monsters…and we want nothing to do with you”. Even lords in the Vale of Arryn, who had nothing to do with the war and *nothing to gain* by hating the Freys, start openly hating the Freys and Boltons for their despicable actions.
Ultimately it isn’t really a matter of “good vs evil” – even from a point of ruthless practicality, evil is stupid. I mean this much in the sense that Varys would: politics is war and intrigue and murder, that’s all part of the game, everyone accepts that. But the *manner* in which you conduct yourself is another thing entirely. Joffrey stupidly executing Ned Stark while he was a prisoner, on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor itself? Stupidity. Then forcing Sansa to look at his head, and having his Kingsguard *beat her in public* to vent his frustrations? Utter stupidity.
In short, we’ve had vicious kings….but vicious idiot kings? What this all comes down to is an unstated truth: if you and a friend are outrunning a lion (a Lannister lion), you can outrun your friend and let him get eaten by the lion – and an idiot might then congratulate himself on his “intelligence” at ruthlessly breaking the bonds of friendship….but then who will save him when the lion comes for him? The *entire reason* that during war you don’t execute enemy prisoners, is so that on a purely reciprocal level, your enemies won’t execute *your men* they’ve taken prisoner.
So the Lannisters, Boltons, Freys, Littlefinger are on top for now….but what goes around comes around. Breaking all the rules means people will feel no need to show mercy to you, nor would they be hypocrites for doing so. Ramsay Snow killed Rodrik Cassel under a flag of truce; now no one will agree to any parley or truce with Ramsay.
Well that explanation dragged on a bit but I hope the point is clear. I won’t enjoy seeing the death of say, Kevan Lannister or Mace Tyrell: men who fought in a war, even against the “heroes” like the Starks, but generally obeyed the laws of war and didn’t do anything particularly repugnant. Even Pycelle, indeed particularly Pycelle, I wouldn’t enjoy to see die: betraying Ned Stark was a matter of political survival, I don’t blame him for that. Cersei starts out like that…but she is to be blamed for stupidly supporting Joffrey long after it became apparent how crazy he is. Pycelle, at least (mild spoilers) gradually starts speaking out against Joffrey and Cersei; not really speaking out but trying to give them advice to serve their own interests that they won’t follow. He’s “the voice of reason” which they increasingly will not listen to; much like Kevan Lannister, just in the thick of it. So Pycelle gradually starts speaking out against the sheer stupidity of Joffrey and Cersei, so I won’t relish his death. I don’t know if Varys was actively trying to harm Ned Stark or not but even if he did, as a secret Targaryen supporter….it’s all part of the game. Varys, however, didn’t even want to execute Ned Stark, his plan was just to have him sent to the Night’s Watch. Even Stannis, who had Renly “assassinated”, I wouldn’t enjoy seeing die: people forget that Renly usurped his older brother and *would have killed Stannis himself* on the battlefield with his army, if Stannis hadn’t gotten to him first. Even Sandor “The Hound” Clegane; the only outright “evil” thing he did was to kill Mycah, but his defense was that he was following a royal order. Yes it makes him morally grey, but I think he made up for it enough by later denouncing Joffrey’s constant vicious stupidity that he doesn’t deserve to die much more than the next man.
While I would enjoy seeing the deaths of Khal Jhaqo and Khal Pono, they didn’t do anything particularly outside of the normal Dothraki code: when a Khal dies you break up the old khalasar and ride away with the fraction who are personally loyal to you. No one ever sticks around with the khal’s widow, indeed she’s supposed to head back to Vaes Dothrak. So I’ll get mild enjoyment out of that, but no particular “code” was violated in that respect.
That’s what it all comes down to: “it’s all in the game”. Murder, assassination, intrigue – these are “in the game” and don’t “break the rules”; just because someone is on the other side in a war doesn’t mean I’d enjoy seeing their death. Even Robert pardoned Ser Barristan Selmy because he fought with honor and loyalty.
These other idiots, though, I won’t savor their deaths so much because I hate them for being amoral: but their sheer stupidity at not realizing that truly moral, or even simply pragmatic, people would eventually become disgusted with them.
What adds urgency to this is the “Karma Houdini” effect; bad guys who do seemingly impractical, despicable things yet manage to escape punishment for a long time. For example, how Gregor Clegane is a brute of a man a step above a shaved gorilla, yet escaped all punishment for killing Rhaegar Targaryen’s family; bashing his infant son’s head in and raping Elia Martell while still covered in gore? The killing her was one thing, but raping her on top of that? Even Tywin thought Amory Lorch was an idiot for killing Rhaella Targaryen; yes as Rhaegar’s daughter she had to die, but he could have smothered her with a pillow – instead he cut her to pieces by hacking her up with a thousand stabs from his swords. Basically, actions have consequence, and it’s going to be fun when not “good or evil” but simple “consequences” catch up with these characters.
Thus in no particular order the list of “I’m going to enjoy watching you die” includes:
A vicious idiot, and I’m not offended so much by the casual brutality as his stupidty: stripping and beating a young girl in open court? *Shooting starving refugees in the head with a crossbow* who come to the castle gates to beg for bread? Ordering his outnumbered guards to “kill them all!” when outnumbered by a massive crowd of starving peasants? The utter lack of foresight, killing Ned Stark not even realizing the political disaster that would ensue, is why I’ll enjoy seeing him die.
Similarly, Tywin likes to think of himself as a ruthless but pragmatic man. At times, he is correct – he chides Joffrey that they should give the Riverlords peace on generous terms to make them surrender more quickly. But he doesn’t even live up to his own standards: the Sack of King’s Landing, with more women raped than you can count? He just let his army run wild. Not punishing the men who raped Elia Martell and hacked her children to pieces – yes they had to die, but the *manner* they died was insulting. Planning the Red Wedding, spouting a fake rationale that he saved lives by ending the war quickly – yeah, his own men’s lives, the Stark army was still slaughtered. Above all, his crazed, petty, almost childlike hatred for Tyrion – simply because he’s a dwarf and his mother died giving birth to him. As the books go on, you realize that under the mask that Tywin puts forward to the world as a guy who does what needs to be done…what *possible* purpose did his torment of Tyrion serve?
As the books go on you start to realize just how crazy Cersei actually is. She dotes on Joffrey but barely knows him – you realize she’s been delusional for the past 17 years about what a great boy he is. Meanwhile she’s a hypocrite, ignoring Myrcella and Tommen. Overall, her sheer stupidity and petty self-centeredness deserves the consequence of death – she’s a child in an adult’s body, NO ONE can be this stupid and expect to survive. Above all, her unwavering support for Joffrey – the points when she gets POV chapters and it reveals she honestly believes the narrative of the War of the Five Kings is that the world ganged up on her and her poor innocent children. How she openly chides Tommen that “you should be more decisive, like your older brother”. She’s living in a dream world (contrast with Jaime, who never engages in petty cruelty, honestly doesn’t think he’s an innocent or good person – just that there’s no such thing and everyone is flawed – and who actually hates Joffrey and tries to be nice to Tommen). (I didn’t include Lancel in this list because assassination is part of politics, other than getting King Robert drunk enough to die in a boar hunt he didn’t really do anything else particularly heinous – Robert should have known better. And Lancel feels very guilty about it).
I was on the fence about this one, he was “just following orders” and didn’t engage in petty cruelty. But again, he was “just following orders” – killing Ned Stark would plunge the Seven Kingdoms into civil war. As Varys points out, when the sword came down and decapitated Ned, who was ultimately responsible? It’s not as if it magically fell down. Cersei says “I tried to stop it!” but Tyrion points out she did nothing significant other than frown, when she could have, I dunno, *grabbed Joffrey by the shoulders* and shouted that the executioner should stop? Payne knew that killing Ned Stark was such a ridiculous order that he may have wanted to do a *double-take* back at the royal party to see if this is what they really wanted – he isn’t a machine, he’s a man, but instead he robotically carried out his orders without even pausing to consider the implications. He should have waited and looked at Cersei.
Payne was at least just a creature made to keep orders. Janos Slynt on the other hand actively went above and beyond to betray Ned Stark simply because he’s a greedy and corrupt thug who was promised a lordship in return, a petty man with delusions of grandeur.
Meryn Trant and Boros Blount
The only surviving members of the Kingsguard who were present when Ned Stark was betrayed (other than Barristan, who doesn’t count because he didn’t move to attack but had no time to react, and soon afterwards was the only one to openly denounce Joffrey). They’re supposed to be shining examples of knighthood and just turned into petty thugs, stripping and beating Sansa repeatedly, cutting out a man’s tongue, drowning Dontos with wine (that may have seemed a minor moment, but it’s when they truly looked like a bunch of fraternity thugs beating up a pledge, not honorable dignified knights. Moreover, unlike Payne who seems to be just “following orders” (but should have double-checked them) Meryn Trant is a thug who actively revels in brutality; he enjoyed beating up Sansa.
Personally, I think Meryn and Boros don't deserve to die by the sword. Thugs who sullied the Kingsguard and even basic knighthood don't get to die with that dignity. Instead, I think they should be hung - stripped naked and hung from the front gate of the Red Keep, to die in public shame as the smallfolk pelt them with rotten vegetables, and little children beat them with sticks like a piñata
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
A cunning ruthless grasper, political mastermind, who you think has some grand scheme in all of this. Baelish’s entire reason for betraying Ned Stark and starting a war in which thousands died? He’s a stalker who hates Catelyn Tully for spurning him – and now he’s sexually obsessed with Catelyn’s daughter Sansa as the next best thing. I mean just his loose grip on reality gets to me, that for all his cunning, he's just a stalker obsessed with Catelyn who honestly can't see how she judges him. That whole thing when (admittedly just in the TV series, but note-perfect) he comes to Renly's camp and meets with her, and starts rambling to her that now they can finally be in love because "fate has handed us this opportunity!" -- never stopping to consider even his own common sense, that she was deeply in love with Eddard, and the entire reason he hates the Starks and Tullys is because Catelyn never particularly loved him in the first place.
Ser Gregor Clegane
Basically a shaved gorilla who thinks he can get away with stunning acts of brutality simply because he’s an 8 foot tall brute exemplifying “might makes right” – yeah but you’re still one man and how would you do against an army of thousands?
The Mountain's Men
Several of the worse members of Gregor Clegane’s men, such as Polliver or The Tickler (though the Ticker's death was moved earlier in the TV series and already happened in Season 2). Also the others who haven’t been identified in the TV series specifically yet, i.e. Raff the Sweetling and Dunsen.
Oh, “your daddy isn’t here now to protect you?” – well Tywin is one of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms and you just maimed his son. Moreover, cutting off the sword-hand of THE Jaime Lannister is like slashing a masterpiece painting, or smashing a stained-glass window. Granted, in the books it was a more calculated move because he wanted to drive a wedge between Roose Bolton and Tywin, and Hoat thought he could marry into House Karstark – but dude, if you betrayed the Lannisters by switching over to Roose Bolton when he took Harrenhal, you *run back to the Free Cities* to escape him. Did he honestly think the North would overpower the Lannisters? Not just bleed them until they acknowledged independence, but outright overcome them? Chopping off the sword-hand of Tywin’s eldest son, in any circumstance, means he’s going to have his armies hunt you to the ends of the world.
The other Brave Companions
Similarly, and I don’t know how the show will handle this, Vargo and all of the Brave Companions – simply for their shocking level of brutality. This includes Rorge and Biter who subsequently joined them. No one is this sadistic without consequence. No one commits atrocities like this without consequence. I love a moment from the books that the TV show sadly didn’t have time for; when Jaime leaves Harrenhal, he has successfully negotiated with Roose Bolton that Jaime will tell Tywin the truth, that it was Vargo and the Brave Companions and not Roose himself who were responsible for maiming him. The Brave Companions are not amused at this turn of events, and as he leaves Jaime almost cheerfully says goodbye to them all, and bids them to remember that “a Lannister always pays his debts”.
Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton
No one is this vicious and sadistic without consequence. Hunting girls for sport in the woods outside Winterfell, then raping and skinning them alive? Wearing their skins as capes?! Thankfully, even Roose eventually points out how utterly stupid Ramsay’s vicious, half-feral nature is – he couldn’t possibly hope to rule. I love how Stannis eventually points out that he doesn’t fear Ramsay, given that the bastard boy *has won no battles* and any idiot can pull the wings off a fly, any idiot can skin a prisoner chained up in his dungeon. Ramsay now and again shows a low cunning and quick thinking on his feet, tricking Theon with the whole switcheroo with his servant Reek and ambushing Rodrik’s army at Winterfell – but this only worked because people didn’t know Ramsay yet, and betraying Rodrik’s army when they thought the Bolton men had come there to support them doesn’t make Ramsay a particularly good strategist. He’s played his hand, everyone knows what he is at this point – NOW what, you idiot?
To a much lesser degree than Ramsay. Granted, even Roose is smart enough to “play the game” and points out that he tries to live under the mantra “a peaceful land, a quiet people” – Tywin Lannister makes public examples of his enemies, but Roose makes it a point that people don’t “tell stories” about him because infamy is a bad thing (now and then he’ll flay a prisoner, but only a man who was condemned to execution anyway, for rape or murder etc., men Ned Stark would have killed but with a simple beheading). The combination of the Battle of Duskendale and the Red Wedding, however, was supposed to be his master-stroke: the one time when he shows his true, utter level of ruthlessness. This included sending thousands of men under his own command – whose lives were placed in his care – to die at Duskendale, then betraying his own lord under flag of truce at the Red Wedding. In this realpolitik world of treachery, it’s not a problem to switch sides, technically treason….but the way the Florents “betray” the Tyrells by siding with Stannis. Not turning on your own allies within your own base camp; that’s cheating. Granted it was the Freys and not Roose who mutilated Robb’s corpse. Even so, Roose’s modus operandi is to always send out others into harm’s way while protecting his own men – given 9,000 men in the eastern theater, and he sent 6,000 men to die at Duskendale and Ruby Ford – bleeding any Stark loyalists by sending them on suicide missions while leaving his own 3,000 Bolton men unscathed. Betrayal every now and again is understandable, but the habitual backstabbing that Roose displayed to men under his command and his liege-lord – again, to use the “outrun the lion” analogy, no one in the North will ever trust Roose again. Maybe he realized this and took a chance, hoping that they’d be so badly crushed they couldn’t rise up against him even if they hated him. But he doesn’t seem to understand that there reaches a breaking point where people loathe you so much that they’d fight you literally tooth and nail rather than submit, so great was the insult of the Boltons’ betrayals. So maybe Roose wasn’t being shortsighted, maybe he just took the calculated risk that all of the betrayals would be worth it – he does say that he has no illusions that the Manderleys and Umbers hope to turn on him if they ever get the chance, he’s just hoping he’s in a strong enough position to stop them before they get the chance. Even so, for all of the betrayals, and lets not forget for being the man who personally killed Robb Stark, I’m going to enjoy watching Roose Bolton die. Particularly for his almost smug sense of calm, calculating, as if he honestly thinks nothing can go wrong, or at least, he knows how bad things are in the North but still thinks he can come out on top.
Lord Walder and the leading Freys
Particularly Walder Frey; it would be difficult to list all of them, but the general breakdown is that the children of his first four wives have to die. The fifth died childless. The children of his sixth wife were mostly loyal to Robb, and those of the seventh too young. I’m on the fence if innocent Freys barely three years of age should die. At least, lets kill the ones who were directly responsible for the Red Wedding and see were we go from there. The big ones are Black Walder, Lothar, Hosteen, Emmon, and Walder Rivers.
From there we move down the list. I would spare Luceon because he’s a septon and member of the Most Devout, and Willamen who is a maester; both have taken vows of celibacy and thus couldn’t further the Frey line, you see, technically not part of the House. Still, I want Walder Frey to die *last* - I want all of his 100 children’s heads piled up in front of him, then Walder Frey to be castrated, and *allowed to live* knowing that his bloodline will not continue but die with him.
Frey children down to the last child
While I was on the fence about this for a while, the question remains of what to do about Walder's bloodline - should his three year old granddaughters also die?...Probably, as a warning to future generations who would make such a monstrous betrayal, breaking Guest Right. The Freys are basically the White Trash of Westeros, honorless nouveau riche, even though they're still fairly grubby and unrefined. The thing that the Freys can't seem to get into their heads is that being "white trash" is a state of mind - they insist that other Houses look down on them for being a relatively new upstate. Actually, people look down on them because they're faithless hooligans who break every oath they've ever taken. What also strikes me is that back in Season 1, all of the other Tully bannermen joined them in the war because it was their duty. Walder wasn't just "some guy" they needed to ally with; Catelyn even points out that he's sworn an oath to raise his soldiers and join the Tullys if commanded to - instead he extorts them into giving him a marriage alliance. Walder waves all of this aside with "I said some words". This mentality goes up to the betrayal of the Red Wedding, betraying his overlords and even being crazy enough to break the pact of Guest Right - "I said some words". In short, while still on the fence, my hope is that all of the Freys directly responsible for the Red Wedding are killed...and that as for the rest of Walder's bloodline, his two or three dozen grandchildren less than ten years old who had no part in this? All must have their tongues cut out - down to the last baby girl - and dumped in a pile in front of Walder Frey. And Walder himself will have his tongue cut out - if oaths are just "some words" to him, he will never speak words again. And of course we follow this by castrating all of the grandsons, and forcing the few survivors into religious organizations i.e. the Silent Sisters which enforce vows of celibacy. Harsh perhaps, but I think of how the Frey guards in "Mhysa" were outright gleeful at killing the Starks, like backcountry hicks triumphant that "haha we killed those city-folk" - the Freys are like the god-damned mutants from The Hills Have Eyes. I'm also disgusted with the Boltons but at least Roose had the token good quality of being ruthless and a master planner. Walder isn't particularly intelligent; any idiot could have broken guest right, but only an animal actually would break it.
Rolph and Sybell Spicer
I lump them in under the Freys because this is a difference between the books and TV series. In the books, Robb marries "Jeyne Westerling" (not "Talisa") who is the daughter of a minor but prestigious noble family from the Westerlands, House Westerling. As it turns out, Jeyne's mother Sybell of House Spicer was in on the Red Wedding, as was her maternal uncle Rolph Spicer. I do appreciate the minor losses they've taken so far: Sybell has two sons and two daughters (including Jeyne) but rather stupidly, she let her eldest son Reynald Westerling go to the Twins for the Red Wedding without informing the Freys that they should make it a point to spare him (and she didn't tell Raynald because she knew he was too loyal to Robb). As a result her son Raynald was indeed killed during the Red Wedding, due to a simple lack of communication between the plotters - Raynald actually set Grey Wind loose from his chains when the attack began, allowing him to The Lannisters do reward her brother Rolph with lordship of Castamere, but as for her, Tywin promised one of her sons a bride from Casterly Rock "that he might have joy from him". As it turns out, Tywin was specifically referring to Joy Hill, the bastard daughter of his younger (and deceased) brother Gerion. Amazingly, not considering that her complicity in the Red Wedding affected her honor in any way, she shouts "You want a Westerling to marry a bastard?", causing Jaime to (while visibly restraining himself from the urge to strangle her with her own necklace) to bluntly counter, "No more than I want Joy to marry the son of some scheming turncloak bitch. Your daughter is worth ten of you, my lady." So they didn't really help plan the Red Wedding, but Sybell knew it was going to happen, she's on the hit list too, lumped in with the Freys.
An idiot with no sense of politics. His *functional plan* is to “go for the low-hanging fruit” and attack the Starks, even though they’re natural allies given that they both want to secede from the Iron Throne. Even Theon points out how stupid this plan is: Balon honestly thinks that the Lannisters will reward him with independence for helping attack the North. Obviously this is a man who never understood Tywin Lannister, who never forgets a slight. Tywin’s answer to Balon’s request to negotiate is delicious: he simply points out that had the Iron Islands *not* declared independence again, he’d have expected the ironborn to attack the North anyway *as their sworn duty*, much as the Tyrells were supposed to come to the aid of the Iron Throne (and ultimately did, after coaxing with an offer of a royal marriage). Quite simply, why would Tywin reward Balon for doing what he was *supposed* to be doing as part of his regular duty? And not just with rewards of marriage or lands but flat-out *independence*? So it’s this great little moment when the ironborn realize how screwed they are because their official long-term plan was “hope the Lannisters reward us for betraying the North”. Granted, the Greyjoys didn’t “betray” the North to the extent the Boltons and Freys did – they chose their own political actions, attacked openly, they don’t have to like the Starks – though *not* siding with the Starks was political suicide. Thus I don’t blame the Greyjoys as much as the Boltons or Freys, but Balon in particular was an idiot for not realizing how stupid his “plan” actually sounded once he said it aloud. Moreover, there’s the mild annoyance that the Greyjoys didn’t fight any real battles to harm the North so much – they attacked castles with skeleton garrisons because the army was away south. The war is still like a game to the Greyjoys, they haven’t suffered for it. I’m almost cheering on the Boltons when they kill Greyjoys at this point because at least all of the bad guys are finally doing damage to *each other* (for too long the Starks were in the middle; now the Boltons and Greyjoys find out that if they want *all* of the North they will have to fight others to keep it).
A charlatan who just smooth-talks his way out of situations, is manipulative without actually doing anything concrete. His *functional plan* is basically “lets side with the Targaryens” which while not the worst plan in the world, is shockingly far-fetched in execution.