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Game Of Thrones Characters That Are Less Important Than You Realized

We already know Game of Thrones is set to conclude after its eighth season, so it's already tempting to take stock of the series so far as we guess at what's to come—and look back on some of the many ways the show has subverted expectations. 

For example, a handful of major characters—like Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, and Arya and Sansa Stark—are still going strong, but plenty of players we expected to see stick around made shocking early exits. Ned Stark's death was a surprise, which is hard to imagine after everything that's come since. And the fatalities just kept coming, from Khal Drogo to Catelyn and Robb Stark to basically the entire Baratheon family.

The constant threat of death hasn't just cut down major characters—it's cut down some who seemed like they'd be important, but were gone too soon to fulfill that potential. Here's a look at Game of Thrones characters who died when it looked like their most important stories were still to come.

​Viserys Targaryen

Viserys, played by Harry Lloyd, is introduced in the premiere episode of Game of Thrones as the rightful king of Westeros, living in exile. The son of King Aerys and younger brother of Prince Rhaegar, he's been on the run with his younger sister since the rest of their family was killed in Robert's Rebellion. King Robert Baratheon, the Usurper, would love to see them both dead, but they've survived in Essos all this time. As the series begins, Viserys is finally making his move: he's sold his sister Daenerys to the warlord Khal Drogo in exchange for an army of fierce Dothraki fighters. Will this give him the power he needs to invade Westeros and take back the throne?

Of course not, because Viserys is a callow fool with no talent for leadership or strategy. He can only demand things of the Dothraki, and will never gain their respect. Meanwhile, his sister learns to adopt their ways and becomes beloved. After Viserys continually disrespects her and her new husband, Khal Drogo kills him by pouring molten gold over his head in the fittingly titled episode "A Golden Crown," the sixth installment of Season One. The man who thought he was meant to be King of Westeros made it no further.


Osha's a Wildling, one of the Free Folk who live north of the Wall. She's memorably portrayed in the show by Natalia Tena, who fantasy fans remember as Tonks in the Harry Potter films. Having fled South of the Wall in fear of the monsters that are rising in the cold, she's captured by the Starks while attempting to steal a horse from Bran Stark in "A Golden Crown," and becomes a servant at Winterfell. She's the first Wildling to really become a character in the series, and she brings important information about what lies in the North. The monsters aren't just legends to her, especially not after her husband was killed and returned to life as a Wight, one of the icy zombies that do the White Walkers' bidding. When she escapes the siege of Winterfell along with Bran and Rickon Stark and Hodor, it seems clear that she'll play a key role in leading Bran to his destiny.

Except she doesn't. Bran is instead joined by Meera and Jojen Reed. Neither of them has been north before, but Jojen's psychic abilities provide guidance while Meera's combat skills offer protection. Osha, meanwhile, is sent to take young Rickon Stark to the Last Hearth, where he'll be protected by the Umber family who've always been loyal to the Starks. But the Umbers betray them, taking them back to Winterfell, which is now under the control of the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay quickly kills Osha in the episode "Book of the Stranger," and later kills Rickon too.

Mance Rayder

Prior to fleeing South, Osha had been in the service of a great Wildling leader named Mance Rayder, called the King Beyond the Wall after uniting the usually fractious Free Folk into a massive army. Longtime HBO viewers recognized actor Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar from Rome, which underlined Mance's impressiveness as a military leader. Prior to the beginning of the series, Mance was already a major threat to the Night's Watch, who guard the wall against anyone who would cross. When Jon Snow was sent to infiltrate the Wildlings, he befriended Rayder and even gained a little of his trust. Even though he was an enemy to the Night's Watch, it became clear that Mance was a reasonable man who cared about his people—which seemed to indicate he'd be an important ally to Jon and the other main characters. 

Then Stannis Baratheon showed up with his army and took the Wildlings by surprise. Dedicated to the principles of the Free Folk, Mance refused to kneel before King Stannis, and in "The Wars to Come," he was put to death under the watchful eye of Melisandre, the Red Priestess who seeks power by burning kings and those with kings' blood.


Ros, the beautiful red-haired sex worker played by Esmé Bianco, was the first character to be created entirely for the show, consolidating a number of nameless women in the books into one character with a name and a personality. She initially works in the town outside of Winterfell, but in "A Golden Crown," she follows the action down to King's Landing, where she becomes an employee of Littlefinger, and later a spy for Lord Varys.

Smart and literate, she rises in the ranks at Littlefinger's brothel until she appears to be a figure of authority, second only to the man himself. She's also extremely charismatic and naturally audiences invested in her beyond her level of involvement in the plot. Given the character's popularity and adaptability, who knows what her future could hold as the series went on?

Sadly, it held an all-too-common fate for women in her line of work. After Littlefinger learned she was spying for Varys, he gave her to the sadistic King Joffrey, who killed her with a crossbow, just for a thrill, in Season 3's "The Climb."

Salladhor Saan

Salladhor Saan is a pirate—and a hugely successful one, commanding a fleet of 30 ships. As played by Lucian Msamati, he's also one the first black characters introduced on the series. Saan is recruited by his old friend Davos Seaworth to lead his ships into battle on behalf of King Stannis—and although he couldn't care less who's the King of Westeros, he goes where the money is, and he also hopes to seduce Queen Cersei once they raid King's Landing. When he enters the series in "The Night Lands," he's an exciting addition, offering a perspective on the world that viewers hadn't previously encountered.

Unfortunately, nothing comes of his involvement. His ships do aid Stannis, but as a character, Saan just fades away, appearing only once apiece in Seasons 2, 3, and 4. Unlike most characters covered her, he hasn't died—he just never became an ongoing character before he stopped appearing entirely.

​Jojen Reed

Jojen Reed is what's known as a Greenseer, meaning he has psychic visions. His gift leads Jojen and his sister Meera to Bran Stark, who his visions have told him will need their help. First appearing in Season 3's "Dark Wings, Dark Words," and played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jojen is an odd young man, but his unique ability gives him something to contribute. Not only are his own visions helpful, but he's uniquely positioned to help Bran understand his own growing psychic abilities, and he appears to be an important ally for Bran in whatever strange adventures are to come.

But with time and Jojen's help, Bran's own abilities come to surpass Jojen's. So it's not that surprising in "The Children," the fourth season finale, when just as their group finds the lair of the Three-Eyed Raven who will complete Bran's training, Jojen is killed in an attack by undead wights, leaving Bran to carry the torch for all the young psychics himself.

Ser Barristan Selmy

As Game of Thrones began, Barristan Selmy was the Captain of the King's Guard, having served not just King Robert Baratheon, but the King who came before, Aerys Targaryen. Selmy, portrayed by Ian McElhinney, is regarded as one of the best swordsmen in Westeros, and a respected veteran warrior. However, in "The Pointy End," immediately after King Robert dies, young King Joffrey dismisses Selmy from what was supposed to be a lifetime appointment. The veteran Knight reacts angrily and leaves, disappearing for more than a season.

When he resurfaces, it's across the sea in Essos, where he saves Daenerys Targaryen from assassination and asks to serve her as he once served her father. He soon becomes one of the young queen's most respected advisors. After the way he was disrespected by Joffrey and Cersei, it's satisfying to imagine Ser Barristan riding into King's Landing by Queen Daenerys' side, smiling as he helps overthrow the family that cast him off.

That satisfaction never came. Selmy was killed by the Sons of the Harpy, a rebel group in the city of Meereen, halfway through Season 5. Of course, King Joffrey died in the meantime anyway, and who knows if Cersei will live to see the inevitable conquest of King's Landing. It seems very likely that Daenerys will have her moment of triumph, but Ser Barristan won't be by her side.

Prince Doran Martell

There was no shortage of excitement among genre TV fans when Alexander Siddig, the actor best known as Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was cast as Prince Doran Martell, the ruler of Dorne. In George R. R. Martin's novels, Doran is a master planner, playing a very long strategic game he hopes will lead to the downfall of the Lannisters and the restoration of the Targaryens to the Iron Throne. And when he finally appears in Season 5's "The House of Black and White," he seems to be very much the same character—even in reaction to his brother Oberyn's death at the hands of Gregor Clegane, he's calm, slow to show anger, and seemingly calculating. There's little doubt at that point that he'll be a major player, possibly allying with Daenerys and playing a key role in the coming war.

But in the premiere episode of Season 6, he's murdered by his late brother's lover, Illyria Sand, who's taking over Dorne with the help of Oberyn's other daughters, the Sand Snakes. The character's ultimate role in the novels remains to be discovered, but on television he never amounted to much.

Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish

Ser Brynden Tully, also known as the Blackfish, is the bachelor uncle of Catelyn Stark, and a respected warrior. Scottish character actor Clive Russell plays the role with a likably gruff sort of swagger. We never find out why he refused to marry, but considering how most of the weddings in Westeros seem to go, it's hard to blame him. In fact, he's the only person to escape the slaughter of the Red Wedding, and managed to reassemble the remains of the Tully army and retake the castle Riverrun from the Freys. When Sansa Stark and Jon Snow want to retake the North from the Boltons, they send Brienne of Tarth to recruit the Blackfish to the cause. With so many of their relatives dead, it's nice to imagine Ser Brynden serving Jon and Sansa as a valued knight and military leader, not just against the Boltons but in the conflicts to come.

Unfortunately, the Blackfish refuses to go North. That would require him to surrender his ancestral home to the Freys and Lannisters, which he simply can't bring himself to do. In fact, he sacrifices his life fighting them even when the battle is already lost. Brienne has no choice but to head home with the sad news that Ser Brynden didn't make it.

​Brother Ray

Brother Ray is a character created for the television series, and the first thing anyone knew about him was that he was being played by Ian McShane—a big gun when it comes to prestige television—so people took notice. He starred as Al Swearingen on Deadwood, and has since gone on to star as Mr. Wednesday in American Gods on Starz. From the moment his name was announced, it seemed a safe bet that whoever he was playing on Game of Thrones would be someone important.

And Brother Ray is important, in his way. He saved the Hound's life, finding Sandor Clegane after his battle with Brienne of Tarth and nursing him back to health. When we join the two characters in the Season 6 episode "The Broken Man," they're building a Sept out in the country, alongside Ray's congregation of followers. Ray is a former mercenary who got fed up with violence and became a country preacher, spreading the word of pacifism throughout the war-stricken land. He seems to be having some impact on the worldview of the usually very violent Hound, although Sandor is still cynical about the world at large.

In a world where most of the extremely religious characters we meet are villains, Ray seems like a genuinely good man and a positive influence on Sandor. It even seems possible that Sandor may become a different person, and dedicate his life to helping Brother Ray make the world a better place. But just when hope seems possible, Ray and his entire flock are murdered by roving outlaws, and the Hound picks up an axe to take his bloody revenge.

The world of Westeros is a violent place, and Game of Thrones has shown that basically any character might be killed at any time. But even though he only appeared in a single episode, Ray's death might be the saddest, because he was dedicated to improving his world—and in the end, he was unable to do so.