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How these GoT actors reacted to their characters' big moments on the show

The series finale of Game of Thrones aired on May 19, 2019, and after eight seasons of intrigue, death, destruction, and doomed romances, there was no way that the millions of fans across the world would go quietly into the night. Audiences flocked to the internet in the wake of the last episode, "The Iron Throne," to voice their thoughts — including a widespread disappointment largely shared by critics, which is pretty unsurprising after the increasingly negative response to the entire final season.

For the cast, who had to keep the secrets of the endgame guarded from viewers for over a year, it was likely extra stressful to keep everything under wraps, especially as they made the talk show circuit and were completely unable to talk about anything that happened during season eight. As each episode aired, the actors were finally free to discuss their personal biggest twists with varying reactions — and thanks to the documentary focusing on the final season, The Last Watch, fans got even more details on how each actor felt. Here's how some of the Game of Thrones actors reacted to their characters' biggest moments and twists during season eight.

Kit Harington

As Jon Snow, one of the show's leading characters for the entire series, Kit Harington experienced plenty of twists and turns. At separate points, he found out his girlfriend was his aunt, he discovered that he was the true heir to the Iron Throne, and he fought off the Army of the Dead, not to mention the time when he died and came back to life. There was no doubt that Jon's ending would be one of the show's biggest, and he didn't disappoint, providing one of the finale's biggest shockers. After Daenerys, his aunt and girlfriend, laid waste to King's Landing and killed thousands of innocent people in the process, he did his duty for the realm by putting a dagger in her heart before she could kill again.

When it came time for the final table read, Harington purposefully didn't look at any of the scripts so his reactions could be as genuine as possible, and he definitely got a shock. During The Last Watch, Harington's surprise at Arya's Night King kill was fun enough, but when it came time to read the final scene between Daenerys and Jon, he became visibly emotional and even tearful, giving birth to plenty of memes. In the end, he defended the finale despite negative reactions, proving that he's just as loyal as Jon.

Emilia Clarke

For her part, Emilia Clarke, who played Daenerys Targaryen, was less visibly shocked than Kit Harington was during the final table read, but only because unlike Harington, she at least had some warning. After playing Daenerys, the fiery, fierce Mother of Dragons and claimant to the Iron Throne, for eight full seasons, Clarke likely expected a pretty explosive ending, and she couldn't have asked for anything more. After losing two of her closest friends, Daenerys showed no mercy to King's Landing, continuing to siege the city even after its forces surrendered, killing innocent women and children in her rampage. Eventually, even though she tried to convince Jon to start a new world with her, he killed her to save Westeros, and her dragon, Drogon, carried her off to lands unknown.

Clarke was clearly emotional during the table read as well, tearfully nodding at Harington as he cried, but since she already knew Daenerys' fate, her biggest reaction happened offscreen. After reading her final script for the first time, Clarke did everything from cry to call her mother and take a five-hour walk around London in a daze, mentally preparing herself for the biggest acting challenge of her life. Despite all this, Clarke stands by Daenerys, backing the character who sent her career soaring to a whole new level.

Lena Headey

After eight seasons of treachery, cruelty, and downright despicable acts, it seemed certain that Cersei Lannister, as played by Lena Headey, would end up meeting an appropriately cruel end. From her affair with her twin brother to her frequent attempts to have their other brother killed and the time she blew up half of King's Landing just to avoid standing trial for said affair, Cersei was ruthless, vindictive, and single-minded in her goal to keep control of the Iron Throne. After the Night King was out of the way, she was the last obstacle for Daenerys and her forces to overcome; despite her attempts to hold King's Landing, the city's defenses and Cersei's armies were no match for Daenerys' dragon. As the Dragon Queen destroyed the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, Cersei reunited with her beloved twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) underneath the city's ruined Red Keep, and audiences watched as the two of them — as well as their unborn child — were crushed underneath the rubble.

Fans were definitely disappointed with Cersei's ending, which many felt seemed anticlimactic after so many seasons of buildup, and they weren't alone; Headey herself was let down by her character's final moments. Headey did describe her initial reaction as "mixed" and said that she hoped for a bigger fight, and even though Coster-Waldau initially talked her through it, it's easy to understand her gut feeling about the scene.

Conleth Hill

As Lord Varys, the resident secret-keeper of Westeros, Conleth Hill had one of the show's most fascinating roles as the man who pulled all of the strings right from the very beginning. Originally aligned with the Lannisters, Varys went wherever was best for him, eventually following Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the least-loved Lannister, out of King's Landing. The two of them joined forces with Daenerys, ready to fight to put the Dragon Queen on the throne, but once Varys realized Daenerys might be following in her father's footsteps to become the Mad Queen, he started a campaign against her, spreading word about another heir to the throne and even trying to potentially poison her before she caught wind of his betrayal and barbecued him on the beaches of Dragonstone in Thrones' penultimate episode.

After his last episode aired, Hill was pretty vocal about his disappointment, saying that nothing could console him and admitting that he thought the writers could have made better choices throughout the show's last few seasons. The Last Watch gave fans a direct look at Hill's reaction in the moment. During the table read, as Varys dies, Hill pushes his script as far away as possible and crosses his arms, clearly upset at his character's fate, and is eventually comforted by fellow actors like Lena Headey and Gwendoline Christie.

Isaac Hempstead Wright

Not many viewers thought that Bran Stark, played by Isaac Hempstead Wright since he was a young child, would end up becoming the King of Westeros by the series' end. After being pushed out of a tall tower in the show's first episode, Bran spent the series without the use of his legs, and after exploring the far North and becoming the Three-Eyed Raven — a mystical, all-seeing, and all-knowing being who can explore the past, present, and future — he returned to Winterfell. After reuniting with his family, who all noticed there was something weird going on with their brother, Bran spent most of the final season staring into space and saying cryptic things, so it seemed to some fans like a pretty weird pivot to put Bran the Broken, First of his Name on the throne.

Hempstead Wright, apparently, was just as surprised as anyone else; when he first read the script, he thought the entire thing was a joke script written by showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss meant to trick him. Though he was eventually excited to learn that he would become king, it definitely makes sense that he thought it was a prank, considering that most fans probably thought the same thing — wondering how an omniscient, unqualified kid ended up in the most powerful position on the show.

Sophie Turner

Throughout Game of Thrones' eight-season run, Sophie Turner's Sansa Stark evolved from a wholly irritating child who just wanted to marry the prince to a calm, shrewd, and practical strategist, as well as one of the show's most beloved characters. A consummate survivor, Sansa took down several of her abusers, protected her family, and often acted as a voice of reason. As the show came to a close, Sansa stuck to her bottom line by defending the North, maintaining that it should be independent from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and once her brother Bran was crowned King, Sansa was assured that the North would remain its own territory.

Not only did Sansa successfully lobby for Northern independence, she ended up ruling it. Crowned as Queen in the North in the great hall of Winterfell during the series' final moments, Sansa ended up with a satisfying finish. Though many fans would have preferred to see Sansa rule the Seven Kingdoms, Turner was perfectly happy with her character's ending, realistically noting that though Sansa probably would have been able to protect the Realm, she would rather be in the North where she's always belonged. Turner is right on the money — there's no better candidate to rule the North. Ultimately, the series ended the way it started, with a Stark at Winterfell.

Maisie Williams

As Arya Stark, Westeros' favorite faceless assassin, Maisie Williams had no shortage of huge moments to react to this season, starting with her character's first romantic scene. After years apart, Arya and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) finally consummated their mutual attraction on the eve of the Battle of Winterfell, and due in large part to the fact that Williams grew up on the show, audiences didn't quite know how to feel as they watched Arya have sex for the first time. Williams laughed off criticism of the scene, tweeting that her entire family had also watched it, and her castmates had some input as well — specifically, Williams' best friend Sophie Turner, who played her sister Sansa, had jokes ready for the occasion.

However, Williams' biggest moment was arguably yet to come; during the Battle of Winterfell, just when it seemed that the Night King would win out and destroy humanity, Arya leapt out of the darkness in Winterfell's Godswood and plunged a Valyrian steel dagger into his body, taking down the show's scariest villain. During The Last Watch, table read footage showed the cast's overjoyed reactions, but Williams, despite her excitement, was worried fans might not love it as much as she did. Eventually, Williams stopped worrying, realizing Arya had been meant for this moment forever and fully claiming it as her own.