Game of Thrones: The Top 5 Most Shocking Moments so Far

In light of the latest episode of TV powerhouse ‘Game of Thrones’, fans have been reminded that George R R Martin may literally be Satan himself. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, the series has pulled off a shocking turn of events that has left fans shaken to the core, and speculating intensely as to just what heart-breaking twist is coming next in the epic HBO show. With this in mind, I present the top 5 most shocking events within Game of Thrones:

5. Ned Stark Loses his Head


In at number 5 is the beheading of fan favourite Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark. Admittedly, the character had been in peril for several episodes and was played by Sean Bean, who is renowned for being a walking spoiler, but his death still took viewers by surprise. Ned was arguably the main character in the show, and Sean Bean was certainly the biggest name of the cast list at the time. With these factors in mind it seemed incredulous that he would be dismissed in the very first series, so it naturally made sense for Ned to be sent to the Wall, as the Lannisters claimed his character would be.

Fans were already looking forward to the reunion with everyone’s favourite bastard Jon Snow when Joffrey, in a typical outburst of dickishness, ordered his execution. Eddard Stark was the stereotypical good character in a TV show, being honourable to the point of stupidity in his actions. His death wasn’t in the script for how a TV show is supposed to go; it just wasn’t right. Eddard’s sudden execution after he was supposedly spared sent fans reeling. Sadly, this has proved to be just a taste of the misery that is the life of a fan of Game of Thrones, as we shall see as we delve further into this list.

4. Theon is Parted from “his Favourite Toy”

Game of Thrones

“Reek Reek, it rhymes with meek.” The complete breakdown of the once proud Theon Greyjoy has been one of my favourite parts of the show so far. To take a character so universally despised for his destruction of Winterfell and create a genuine sense of sympathy for the pathetic creature he has been reduced to takes some doing, but George R R Martin and the show-writers have managed it. The transformation of Theon Greyjoy into the miserable wreck that is now Reek has yielded one of the more jaw-dropping moments in Game of Thrones: the removal of his “favourite toy.”

After being tortured by the Bolton’s, it appeared that Theon would be granted a respite from his misery in the form of two rather attractive prostitutes. Fans are aware that during his days at Winterfell, Theon was known as much for his prowess with women as he was for being a bit of a dick. So we know just how tempting this scenario must have been for his character. The audience was with him as he dared to hope that his luck was finally in. However, as is often the case with Game of Thrones, this was not to be, and what followed definitely merits its place in any list of the most shocking events from the show. Ramsay castrates him.

This event is so utterly shocking, not just because it came as Theon was beginning to feel positive about his chances, but the sheer suddenness in which this feeling is turned on its head. The most horrifying thing that can happen to any man, carried out with glee in the blink of an eye, left many male viewers shook to the core. It gained a greater shock-factor as to remove someone’s manhood represents exactly that: the complete breakdown of what primarily makes a man a man. It signified not just the total physical demise of Theon at the hands of his captors, but the complete mental breakdown of his character, into the shivering wreck that is Reek. Throw in the young Greyjoy’s reputation as a renowned playboy, and you have a recipe for one of the most chilling moments in the show so far.

3. The Purple Wedding:

Joffrey Purple Wedding

There are few certainties in the Westeros. Alliances crumble and fall, threats to the Iron Throne emerge and fall away whilst as we are well aware by now, all men must die. But the one universal fact of The Seven Kingdoms is that Joffrey is a prick. His dickishness is a legend that will be told across the ages in Westerosi history. His general delight at tormenting those around him made him one of the most despised characters in any TV show ever, to the point where George R R Martin wrote an email to Jack Gleeson (who plays Joffrey) congratulating him on his magnificent portrayal of the character because everyone hated him. So in many ways, viewers were already rubbing their hands in glee and looking forward to his seemingly inevitable demise. Sure enough, just as George taketh away, George occasionally giveth, and fans were treated to Joffrey departing this world for the next, early into the current season of the series. Before his demise, fans of the show would have predicted an outburst of joy at the news of his death akin to that of Thatcher’s in the north of England.

However, when his death did arrive, it came in a completely unanticipated way, with far reaching consequences. Firstly, it came in the midst of his own wedding, which after the events of the Red Wedding, was almost too obvious to be expected. Game of Thrones has a history of twists and turns, so the repetition was out of synch with the series’ usual MO, leaving viewers slightly surprised at the background for his death. However, the real shock came as a result of the manner of his death, as the King was poisoned, departing this world turning a shade of purple and clutching at his own throat, helplessly looking to his mother to save him.

Then the kicker came as, in one final dickish move, he casts the blame firmly at the diminutive feet of fan-favourite Tyrion Lannister. This is where the shock factor of his death really came into the show, as not only did the King die in a mysterious circumstances, but his death placed another fan favourite well in the way of danger, as we have seen in the episodes that have followed. With Tyrion’s fate seemingly sealed as of the latest episode, Joffrey’s death proved to be a shocking one, as it came unexpectedly, and the resulting joy for the fans was short lived as it sent another favourite character heading for the chopping block. Whilst Tyrion is still alive for now, the Purple Wedding has definitely proved one of the most shocking scenes in the show to date.

2. The Red Wedding

Red Wedding

This is the big one, and is a strong contender for the number one spot of shocking events in the series, narrowly missing out. The complete destruction of the Starks as a house of note provided viewers with their first true taste of just how heart wrenchingly upsetting Game of Thrones can be, and the Young Wolf being brought to his knees in such a brutal fashion is definitely one of the most outrageous events within the show. Where does one even start when explaining the extent to which the Red Wedding rocked the Game of Thrones fan-base?

Firstly, it led to the death of Robb and Catelyn Stark as well as their army – thus brutally ending the most serious threat to Lannister rule in Westeros and leading to the utter destruction of the characters who were perceived to be the main focus of the show. Robb was becoming a fan favourite. For him to be cut down so violently, betrayed by his own allies at his uncle’s wedding was too much for most viewers. The pain in his eyes as Roose Bolton drove the sword into his heart, and the screams of his mother before her own throat was slit, sent social media into a frenzy of grief due the shock of what had just unfolded. Fans just could not believe it. Readers of the books had been eagerly anticipating this episode since the very first season aired, knowing the viewer backlash it would provoke. But when it finally happened, the experience was bittersweet.Even though the viewers reacted just as readers hoped, the shock was not diminished by knowing what was coming. The hurt of the Red Wedding was only amplified by the visualisation of it. Robb’s unborn child being murdered in the womb of his new wife was an unexpected addition to show, and the graphic depiction of it definitely added to the disgust and disbelief of viewers.

In essence, the Red Wedding represented the most brutal and unpredictable massacre the show has seen to date: a case of a wholly unjust act. The timing, the perpetrators and the victims, coupled with how it came seemingly out of nowhere all serve to make the Red Wedding the one of the most shocking events in the Game of Thrones universe to date. But what could top this? Which action could possibly be more haunting than the Red Wedding? Step forth…

1. The Mountain and the Viper

Mountain vs the Viper

Number one on the list goes out to the climatic events of the last episode ‘The Mountain and the Viper.’ When Prince Oberyn geared up to fight Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane there was much at stake. Oberyn was fighting for the innocent Tyrion’s life, and on a personal note, for revenge for the Mountain murdering and raping his sister Elia as well as her infant child. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Oberyn actually managed to seriously wound Gregor as he tried to extract a confession from the gigantic warrior and had for all intents and purposes won the duel. Tyrion’s life was to be saved, and the new fan-favourite Oberyn would get to grace our television screens for just a little while longer. But sadly, his hubris and lust for revenge got the best of him, and he strayed just a little bit too close to the Mountain’s huge fists, with the rest being history.

Again, a lot of the shock comes from the unexpected nature of this twist. In one second, Oberyn is on top and winning the fight confidently. In the the next he lies dead on the ground, sentencing Tyrion to death as a consequence. But that hardly qualifies the death of The Viper to be the most shocking moment in Game of Thrones so far, as arguably most of the moments in this list contain that same quality. The true shocking nature of it comes from the manner of his death. All throughout the season, Oberyn has been cool, calm and supremely confident. He shows scorn for the establishment, and has no qualms about standing up to Tywin, going as far as to accuse him of ordering the Mountain to murder his sister. He refuses to be phased by popular opinion during the trial of Tyrion, and volunteers to be his champion after delivering one of the most touching monologues of the season.

Pedro Pascal brought to life a character who had been likeable in the book, but more for the promise of big things to come and the fact that he represented Tyrion’s chance for survival. The nuances and swagger that Pascal brought to the show was incredible: He was Oberyn Martell. The confidence of his character was perfectly shown through his assertion that “today is not the day I die” as he entered the fight, and the fluid manner in which he fought during the trial.

This only meant that his death was more shocking for viewers. After one step too close to the Mountain, he was caught by a flailing punch that knocked half the teeth from his head, before Gregor was on top of him. Viewers watched in disgust as the Mountain pushed his eyes back into their sockets, all whilst confessing to the murder and rape of Elia before Oberyn’s skull was crushed under the weight of those mighty fists, sending his blood and brains across the courtyard. It was single handedly the goriest death I have witnessed in Game of Thrones and shook every viewer to the core. To see the most confident and collected character so helpless and out of control as he writhed in pain and screamed his life away left was something else, beyond even Game of Thrones.

And then it was over. The credits rolled to the sound of complete silence, letting the horror sink in. The unprecedented gore, the suddenness and the complete juxtaposition of Oberyn’s death from how he lived all shook the viewers to the core. Days afterward, the screams of the dying Red Viper still ring out in the heads of viewers, and will stay with them for some time yet. In terms of shocking moments in the show it definitely has to be the top scene for me. Oberyn’s death is the latest in a long line of astonishing and harrowing twists within the show and it certainly won’t be the last. As Ramsay Snow reminds Reek: “if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” The same goes for Game of Thrones.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Kristin Carroll

    What about Renly’s death by the shadow demon?

    • Christopher Sycamore

      Renly’s death is a strong contender, but I never really viewed him as a serious possibility for the throne, so when he died to me it didn’t come out of no-where. Admittedly it had big changes in sending the Tyrell’s over to the Lannisters, but that was more a ‘that’s interesting’ than an ‘oh my god’ moment for me.

      • KingThrushbeard

        Yeah, I mean the Red Wedding kind of de-sensitized us to the deaths of potential challengers to the throne. Joffrey’s death certainly blew us away more, as we assumed evil means they get to live, right? And then George R.R. Martin pulled another fast one, and I don’t know what to say. What’s going to give me fits, though, is if Arya Stark dies. That will absolutely send me over the wall. Yes, the 800 foot one.

  2. Red Wedding was probably the biggest twist of all seasons of Game of Thrones combined.

  3. Kelly Warren

    Spoilers: I’m waiting for Lady stoneheart!

  4. The red wedding not only reminded us that no one is safe, but that nothing is predictable. A whole storyline was beginning to take form where the Starks were going to take the Lannister homeland away from them, and this new arc was receiving enough focus to make me think it was the next major event, then that string was cut so fast it made my head spin.

  5. Its funny, as someone who got into Game of Thrones not until recently I binge watched seasons 1-3 knowing that many people were going to die that people liked and because of that I felt far less effected by the deaths in the show. I don’t know if it is because of the short time of watching them all or what but I wasn’t surprised by most of these deaths

  6. Latarsha Hays

    Sean Bean was probably the biggest to everyone. I think for those who had never read the books and got into the show, it was probably that way. After that though you kind of knew that all bets were off and anyone could die at any moment.

    • Christopher Sycamore

      Yeah, I agree with you on that, although I don’t believe that point was completely rammed home until the 3rd series and all the climatic events that occurred then.

  7. The biggest death to me was Ned Stark. They whole reason I wanted to get into GOT was because of Sean Bean playing him and they go and kill him at the end of the first season. I still watch and enjoy the show but I would have enjoyed more Ned and the entire Stark family for that matter.

  8. The Red Wedding topped them all for me.

  9. Danny Cox

    Great article, I like the way it turned out!

    The Red Wedding… my only gripe with this was the actual motivation for it. As someone who has not read the books, I am probably missing something, but it just seems a little bit extreme for Walder Frey to massacre the Starks just because Rob married another woman, not to mention that Rob himself (I think?) never made a face-to-face pact with Walder Frey.

    • Christopher Sycamore

      I think in the books it’s made a bit clearer, but Robb breaking his vow to marry one of his daughters represents a huge slight to Walder Frey, who feels he has been looked down upon and sneered at by the other houses for years. It represents the last straw for him, and it made Tywin’s offer too good to turn down for him.

  10. Jemarc Axinto

    I’m still reading through the books before I take my next step into the rest of the seasons, but this list only excited me more for what’s to come. I can’t wait!

  11. Darrick

    There’s more shocking deaths coming up soon.

  12. Mavis Steinberg

    None of these deaths are really that surprising. Ned acted stupidly in the capital, made enemies with people he knew were cold and cunning and was killed because of this. Robb made a bunch of stupid mistakes such as breaking his oaths and not listening to Roose Bolton, which led to his death. Renly was a usurper to the throne who was never a warrior, and thus was killed by his older brother who was.

    • Christopher Sycamore

      Got to say I disagree with you on a lot of points. Robert Baratheon took the throne by conquest when he was not the legitimate next in line to the throne yet he succeeded. Why should Renly automatically fail just because of this?

      As for Robb, the only real mistake he made was breaking his vow to marry a Frey, but I don’t think he could be reasonably expect to anticipate the depth of Walder Frey’s revenge. As for beheading the Karstark, if he did not, he put both Arya and Sansa’s life’s at the risk of a retribution by the Lannisters. More a victim of outside forces than his own stupidity, i would say.

  13. I hope Sansa breaks bad and kills everyone.

  14. Jazmine Roche

    Stayed away from spoilers and watched season 1 all the way through in 2 days. Ned dying was amazingly shocking to me, i kept thinking it was a dream or a joke. This show has hooked me in a very unhealthy way..

  15. First time I watched the show I hadn’t read the books yet. So when Ned’s head came off.. yeah, it shocked the s*** outta me! I realize Sean Bean often dies in the movies he’s in; but I’ve seen him survive a few.

    • Alice Bishop

      I had the same experience. I genuinely didn’t think a TV show would have the guts to do that but I think we’ve all learnt Game of Thrones is a bit different…

  16. Hye Barbour

    Joffrey’s death made me cry. I didn’t hate him, but i loved him. He was such a great character. He was annoying, and stubborn, and basically a threat to himself which made him a valuable enemy to the Starks. If only he married Sansa, he could’ve prevented his own murder.

    • Christopher Sycamore

      See, I don’t really understand that feeling. Characters like Littlefinger, the Hound and Tywin all have redeeming qualities, or you can at least appreciate where their immoral actions come from. With Joffrey, it appears to be for the sake of spite and malice, making me him utterly unlovable, at least for myself.

    • John McDonald

      I’d love to see you expand upon your point.

  17. Robb Stark death is the one that really hurt me the most cause i was thinking this was the one guy that is going to get revenge for his father, my expression during the red wedding was like “nooooo” then i was relief that Robb was still alive then i was thinking he could talk his way out of it but nope then he died then i was like “fuck this show i aint watching it nomore” but yet im still watching the show cause its great and unpredictable show.

  18. BertramWallen

    Ned’s was probably the most shocking for me, I was like “You can’t kill the star of the show! Whats next?!”

  19. TheKukkiBeast

    All of these had wincing and and covering my face. Especially the castration…sure he was a bit of a douche bag but, I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on any man.

  20. Helen Parshall

    The number one rule of game of thrones is that everyone you love with die and Joffrey, while an exception to the love part, managed to get his own two cents in when he died. Excellent article and I definitely agree, having read all the books so far – George R.R. Martin could quite possibly be Satan!

  21. Ned’s Starks death wasn’t that shocking to me. I thought it was kind of predictable. I mean, what were people expecting? Joffrey would just send him to the wall? That would be anti-climatic.

    Now Rob, Cat and Joffreys death, they were surprising.

  22. Khal Drogo’s death was definitely a big one for me just because of how much I liked him as a character. As opposed to all the fanciness and etiquette of the nobility in Westeros, Drogo was no proper gentleman. He was a brutal, bonafide warrior who wasn’t afraid to throw down yet still had a great sense of honor and gentleness towards Daenerys.

    • Christopher Sycamore

      I would have loved him to have made it across the Narrow Sea just to see the carnage of his Dothraki horde rampaging across the Seven Kingdoms. Imagine a Jamie Lannister-Drogo fight!

  23. Pollack

    That white walker was a shocking death. Though more surprising and shocking who killed it. Samwell Tarly has uber skills and he killed one of the most ominous threats in Game of Thrones.

  24. Plenty of TV shows and books have shocking, out-of-nowhere deaths of many main characters (Lost springs to mind), but none of them make them as shocking as GoT. I can’t really figure out why that is, but the way George RR Martin twists your emotions at the worst possible time never gets old.

    • John McDonald

      I think we can say it is a real hallmark of the series, and what made it originally stand apart as a fantasy series.

  25. samanthacass

    Although I agree with all of the entries on this list, I have to state that the Red Wedding really should be number 1. For all those that read the books first, we all know what it was like not so watching the episode, but watching the reactions of those that had not. And as horrific as the book was, the murder of Robb’s pregnant wife was still a shocker to all of us who thought we knew all that was going to happen.

  26. Thersa Ogle

    I’m probably the only one here but I actually felt bad for the way Joffrey died. Plus Tyrion’s been framed with his death, not good!

  27. the red wedding was brutal.
    I am still recovering.

  28. As for the Red Wedding, I have eagerly been waiting for Walder Frey to receive his comeuppance from the gods for orchestrating the murders. In an episode following this horrific scene, Bran tells the story of the man who was punished by the gods for murdering someone who he had received as a guest in his home. It was not the murder itself that offended the gods, but the violation of “guest rights.” This suggests that Walder Fey will too be punished, but so far it seems that he has remained off the hook. For a man like Frey, who cares so little for his family, what would the ultimate punishment consist of?

  29. I think the Khal Drogo death kind of had me feeling depressed for a while because I never imagined it to be so sudden. It’s pretty easy to tell that Martin just absolutely doesn’t care about his readers or watchers and does whatever he wants, which is probably one of the reasons why his work is so good. I could have lived without seeing my shocked expressions in the black background of the end credits, but whatever.

  30. John McDonald

    Great list, I really enjoyed your analysis. This will make me sound like hipster but I read the books – like many other people – before the HBO series. One of my favourite things to do was loan or suggest the first book to friends and colleagues. Once they had got into the book and started enjoying it I would say something along the lines of ‘text me when it happens’. Invariably, down the line I would get an email saying ‘he killed Edard Stark!!!!’ A genuinely shocking moment that is only topped by the red wedding i believe.

  31. Every wedding I go to from here on I am going to make sure I pay the wedding band to play “rains of castamere”. Any GOT fans in attendance will get it.

  32. Eddard Starks dead brought me to stop watching the show for a long time, because he was my favourite character.
    The following seasons are great but I hate that every character, you could liked seems to be killed of fast and a lot of the evil guys never seem to go down.

  33. It’s funny how much a character’s character can influence whether or not I think a death is shocking. Ned and Robb were both some of my favorite characters, but their deaths were spoiled for me so there wasn’t any surprise there. Joffery’s death, though a surprise, was so gratifying to watch that I didn’t feel shocked. To me, shock means that not only am I surprised by the death, but I’m sorry to see the character go. It’s a mix of anger and surprise I guess. That’s why I’d say the only real shocking death for me was Oberyn because I thought he was going to beat The Mountain. And it’s a testament to the power of the show that even after a day or two, I was still reeling from Oberyn’s loss. Fun article all around Christopher. I’m sure there will be many more shocks in store for all of us.

  34. Alice Bishop

    As someone who hardly ever reacts to the things I watch, I was impressed that the red wedding and purple wedding actually made me shout out loud.

    Such a fantastic and unpredictable show.

  35. I think the Red Wedding should be first. I wasn’t that shocked when Oberyn died because I knew that the Mountain is hard to kill and I never saw Oberyn fighing before. I wanted him to win though…I even cried…silly me 🙁

  36. I can most definitely agree with most of these making the top 5. The only one I might disagree on would be the one involving Theon. It was definitely disgusting but I am not completely sure if I would consider it one of the most shocking. The other 4 though made me jump out of my seat. In my opinion, I thought the Red Wedding was #1 with the Purple Wedding coming in a close second. Those deaths were by far unexpected and made me want to throw my television out the window (even though I did not thankfully). The only thing I have against “The Mountain and The Viper” being #1 is that you could sort of see it coming. Once he started going on all “Princess Bride” on the mountain, it was obvious that he was not going to just kill the mountain and be done with it. But to each there own. Great article though!

  37. Let’s hope that someone’s “return” becomes the latest shocking moment of the show…I have a feeling that despite insistent comments that it’s not going to happen, that it totally is.

    Yes I understand how vague this sounds. I don’t want to spoil it for show!fans so those who get it, will get.

  38. I definitely agree with number 1. I’ve never read the books, but I was so sure that Oberyn was going to win that I let myself get hopeful – big mistake in Game of Thrones. I was so excited that Tyrion would be saved, and then I was screaming in horror and jumping back from my computer screen. Cutting straight to the silent credits was a nice touch though as I sat there in my own mute shock. Nice detail and explanation for your choices. Good read!

  39. I have never seen the show but I have heard a lot of talk. This article makes it seem really sad but very compelling.

  40. I believe that the red wedding should have been the number one shocker rather than the mountain and the viper. The red wedding led to the murder to death of Robb Stark, his pregnant wife, and Kat Stark. It was a wedding, it was supposed to be joyous. The scene of the Mountain and The Viper however was supposed to be a violent trial by combat: a fight to the death. Sure the viper was winning at first, but that seemed too easy. It was still a shocker but I cannot rank it as number one.

  41. Should have waited for the show to finish to make the list, or should have made a list by seasons or some other structural standard.

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