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Game of Thrones can be counted on to deliver all kinds of good stuff—dragons, swords and sorcery, royal intrigue—but above all, every episode promises an emotional hour of entertainment. Thrones viewers are pretty much guaranteed to feel sorrow, despair, hopelessness, and above all, anger—and after these moments, many fans were left seeing red.
Sansa Stark’s wedding night
Let’s get one particularly brutal Thrones moment out of the way right up front. Fans were absolutely disgusted to see Sansa Stark assaulted by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton. Until this point, many viewers enjoyed how Sansa’s storyline diverged from the novels, as this gave her character some extra depth, but that changed with the season five episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” Fans not only felt the scene returned Sansa to a place where she’s a perpetual punching bag in the story, but many also argued that Game of Thrones just didn’t need to go there—there’s already enough horror and brutality in the show.
Jon Snow’s death
Jon Snow is one of the few likable Game of Thrones characters—in fact, he’s arguably the only heroic character in the entire series. So of course fans cried out in grief and outrage when he met his end in “Mother’s Mercy.” Almost immediately, they jumped from the second to the third step of grieving as the internet was overrun with theories explaining (hoping) that Jon wasn’t really dead—and those hypotheses continued spreading even after “The Red Woman” confirmed his death. As of this writing, his ultimate fate is unclear, but this is Game of Thrones: even if Snow returns, it may not be in a good or long-lasting way.
Cersei’s walk of shame
During Game of Thrones’ fifth season, Cersei Lannister ignited fans’ ire in “Mother’s Mercy”—twice. Viewers originally felt some angst for the brutality the nude Cersei endures as she walks through a crowd of angry Faith of the Seveners. But keen-eyed observers noticed something even more shocking than the violence of that scene—they caught Lena Headey using a body double, possibly Game of Thrones’ greatest crime. Fans felt duped by the CGI trickery, and they weren’t going to take it lying down. If a show’s going to depict a woman’s debasement, went the argument, that show had better use the actual actress.
Prince Oberyn’s death
Prince Oberyn’s offing in the season four episode “The Mountain and the Viper” left numerous fans shocked and appalled. Martell had all but won his duel against the Mountain, but instead of finishing the job, he let his mouth run a bit, which led to his cruel demise. Shortly thereafter, fans took to Twitter to voice their horror and sorrow, with one fan saying, “Wow I need to stop liking characters in #GameOfThrones cuz they all die.” With apologies for resorting to cliché, truer words have never been spoken.
The Red Wedding
Here’s one of those moments where George R. R. Martin seems to have thought “I’ll just kill everyone.” The Red Wedding, in both its book and television forms, irked fans not just because of who died, but for the buckets of blood that accompanied their deaths. The violence and body count truly disturbed numerous fans who tweeted things like, “I need a hug. I have never been so traumatized by a television show.” Of course, it gave the novels’ readers a chance to gloat over those who only watch the show. Snooty literati. Aside from provoking widespread outrage, the Red Wedding also inadvertently set up another upsetting moment for Game of Thrones fans.
A Lack of Lady Stoneheart
Catelyn Stark wasn’t the most well-liked character, but her death meant she’d return as the awesomely vicious Lady Stoneheart. But the season four finale “The Children” featured neither hide nor hair of her. At this, an outpouring of annoyance burst forth from Twitter, with offended Stoneheart fans professing things like, “I’m just going to set fire to everything I own and cry over the ashes.” What’s worse, as of this writing, there’s no confirmation as to whether she’ll be featured in the series at all. Hopefully Twitter has a lot of backup mainframes.
Shireen Baratheon’s death
In a series that already had more than its fair share of hard-to-watch moments, Shireen Baratheon’s death ranks among the most difficult. In another case of going too far, the episode titled “The Dance of Dragons” shows Shireen’s father Stannis burning her at the stake for good luck in his upcoming battle against the Boltons (he loses anyway). It didn’t win him much favor with fans, either. However, not everyone horrified by the scene felt shock for long. As Joanna Robinson put it for Vanity Fair, “it’s just…another devastating brutality on Game of Thrones.” Indeed.
No one was outraged by Joffrey’s death, with the possible exception of those who thought he didn’t die painfully enough. It’s his father/uncle’s conduct at the funeral that’s the issue here. In the episode “Breaker of Chains,” Jaime Lannister forces himself on Cersei, but that isn’t entirely what upset fans—it’s the deviation from the source material. In the novel, Cersei swiftly returns Jaime’s advances after a brief hesitation. The show omits this, making for what looks to be another violent scene added for violence’s sake. The scene became so controversial that George R. R. Martin weighed in. And in the midst of all this outcry, nobody seemed bothered by the fact that it’s his sister—and their son’s body lies inches away. It is Game of Thrones, after all.
Jaime pushing Bran out a window
The very first episode of Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming,” set the tone for the whole show with a rather controversial scene. While tame compared to what’s come since, Jaime Lannister pushing the child Bran Stark out a window shocked viewers of the show, turning a few off before it really even got started. The fact that Bran is only about seven at the time, coupled with the revelation of Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship, was just too much for some people to handle. (Boy, would they be surprised now!) Still, that was really nothing compared to what came after—especially in the season’s penultimate episode.
Ned Stark’s death
If Game of Thrones followed conventional fiction tropes, then Ned Stark, as the hero of the story, would be safe from any lasting harm. But any fans who harbored notions that Thrones intended to follow those rules were in for a rude awakening with Ned’s decapitation in “Baelor.” Ned’s death, at Joffrey Baratheon’s command no less, proved a particularly heartwrenching moment for many viewers, and left behind a sense of hopelessness that’s been equalled only by the death of Jon Snow. Early on, it proved that Game of Thrones isn’t a show for the timid.