When characters appear on "Game of Thrones," they live or they die, with very little room for middle ground — unless you're talking about Beric Dondarrion, natch. But the Lightning Lord aside, there are numerous men and women who seem safer than others, thanks to their counterparts in George R.R. Martin's novels remaining alive at this point in the story, if not exactly well.
Well, we can now officially throw that assumption out the window, thanks to last night's episode of "Game of Thrones." In "Sons of the Harpy," the HBO adaptation of GRRM's beloved fantasy series killed a beloved character in brutal fashion, and it's a huge step away from what fans of the books have come to expect.
We're officially entering SPOILER territory, as we're talking about the death of…
…Barristan Selmy, the great knight who served House Targaryen through several kings, Mad King included. He served a brief tenure working for Robert Baratheon, and a considerably briefer turn under Joffrey Baratheon's employ, before returning to Team Targaryen as the newest knight in Daenerys Stormborn's service.
But now, Ser Barry's watch has ended. He's the latest victim of the Sons of the Harpy, masked maniacs and murderers rampaging through the streets of Meereen, rebelling against the anti-slavery Targaryen regime. Even though he took several Sons with him on his way out the proverbial moon door, the man most often known as Barristan the Bold wasn't bold enough to win the battle with his life intact.
The death of Barristan is especially brutal for book readers, because he's still very much alive in GRRM's books. Indeed, he's in a pivotal position, as he's one of very few POV characters still kicking in Meereen. ("Whoa, wait, what about Daenerys," you ask? Well…) Barristan's death on the show strongly suggests he won't survive for much longer in the books, or that everything he accomplishes in the books can somehow be accomplished with other characters on the show. In any event, it's the latest example of the show making bold departures from the books, if not exactly the first time a major character still alive in the novels has died on "Game of Thrones."
(Yep, still not over Jojen Reed, but we'll get there. Maybe.)
But beyond the books, Barristan's death is a big blow for "Game of Thrones" fans, because he was just starting to open up about one of the most fascinating topics in recent Westeros history: Rhaegar Targaryen, the prince who started a war when he allegedly abducted Lyanna Stark. At least, that's how the events are remembered in Westeros.
Sansa Stark and Littlefinger don't seem to have high opinions of Rhaegar, describing the fallen Targaryen as a kidnapper and rapist. But Barristan sings a very different song about Rhaegar, describing him as a man of the people with an open heart and generous spirit toward the arts and the impoverished. Whose opinion of Rhaegar do you trust: wicked little Petyr Baelish, or the fiercely loyal and honorable Barristan Selmy?
Doesn't matter much now, does it? Barristan's dead — and so too is the positive spin on Daenerys Targaryen's deceased brother, at least for now. Sucks, doesn't it?
YEP, PRETTY MUCH.