‘Game of Thrones’ Kills Off Major Character in Shocking Twist

Season 5 finale also features public shaming, daring escapes and revenge best served cold

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read if you have not watched Sunday’s season finale of “Game of Thrones”)

Five seasons in and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” may have pulled off its most shocking death yet.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Ned Stark’s bastard and the Commander of the Night’s Watch, had seemed poised to be the man most likely to win the Iron Throne and rule Westeros in the end, but by the end of the episode titled “Mother’s Mercy,” he, like so many before him, lay dead on the frozen ground of the North.

It was an episode full of twists and turns that surprised even the most careful book readers before that shocking death scene, with characters still very much alive and in contention for the throne in George R.R. Martin‘s novel series – at least so far – being killed off.

An early casualty was Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillaine), who to be fair, had seemed doomed ever since last week’s episode, in which he sacrificed his own daughter in order for a chance at ruling the Seven Kingdoms. His selfish ambition was cut short by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christine), who finally got to avenge the death of Stannis’ younger brother Renley (Gethin Anthony) from way back in Season 2.

Another death which deviated from the books likely will have little impact on the Game of Thrones itself, but also came as a shock as Myrcella Baratheon (Nell Tiger Free) fell to a deadly poison from Ellaria Sand (Indira Arma), who clearly felt vengeance against the Lannisters had not been fully paid for the death of her lover Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) from Season 4. Perhaps more shocking than her death, however, were the moments just preceding it. As Jaimie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) struggled to find the words to form the confession, Myrcella surprised him by embracing him and telling him she already knows he’s her father.

Back in King’s Landing, Myrcella’s mother Cersei (Lena Headey) was publicly shamed for her infidelity – though she confessed only to sleeping with her cousin Lancel and not her twin brother, in a scene book readers had been anticipating but was still difficult to watch on screen.

Meanwhile, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) made a daring escape from Winterfell and in another realm, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) landed somewhere mysterious. She’s surrounded by green hills, seemingly alone with her exhausted dragon Drogon, until thousands of men atop horses ride in, circling her but making no move to kill or capture her.

All the surprises lobbed at the audience were just the precursor to the shocking scene, however, as Jon Snow is called outside by his young protege, Olly (Brennock O’Conner), who says a man has news that Jon’s erstwhile uncle Benjen Stark was still alive. Alas, it was a ruse and as Jon sees nothing but a cross bearing the word “traitor,” he’s stabbed multiple Night’s Watch men, who leave the final fatal strike to Olly himself.

Anything could happen, especially on a show where magic is a major element, but for now, it looks like Jon Snow is just the latest casualty in the bloody battle for Westeros, and it’s official: Nobody is safe.

As expected, social media exploded with shock over the death: