The fourth season of Game of Thrones premieres on HBO this Sun, April 6th, and as we prepare to watch dozens of kings, queens, lords and ladies murder and scheme for the chance to warm the Iron Throne, we're still mourning the titular characters who have moved on to the Nightlands. The treacherous pilgrimage for power this season is shaping up to be even more dangerous than an episode of The Bachelor without booze, so let's pay tribute to the ones who got away, and fondly recall the night we all frantically Googled “how quickly can boiling gold poured on your head kill you." By Sharon Steel
Who: Gared of the Night's Watch
Gory details: Gared, an experienced ranger, is sent on a scouting mission to track wildings, but that's cut short after his head is quickly and efficiently ripped off by a White Walker.
Narrative importance: Gared's death harkens the return of the White Walkers to the land north of the Wall.
Degree of difficulty: Easy. Bow down, bitches, because murder ain't no thing for a supernatural being that rides dead horses and speaks in screams! (Unless you happen to have fire and/or dragonglass on hand.)
Creative scale: 1
Who: Bran's nameless Catspaw assassin
Gory details: Bran is knocked unconscious after Jaime Lannister pushes him out of a tower window for catching him and Cersei having incestuous twin sex. He's comatose and paralyzed, but the Lannisters still aren't certain their secret is safe and hire an assassin. At the last moment, Bran's direwolf Summer jumps up, rips the nameless killer's throat out, then hops back into bed and snuggles his master.
Narrative importance: It's not often a Lannister plot goes awry, and Bran and Summer's bond will only get stronger.
Degree of difficulty: Easy. The Stark children have each adopted a direwolf, and the pups have proven to be loyal companions.
Creative scale: 2
Who: Robert Baratheon
Gory details: Besides giving her servants the side-eye and fooling around with her brother, Cersei's other favorite hobby is plotting. She has Robert's squire serve him extremely potent wine during a hunt in the Kingswood. When Robert finally tracks down a boar, he's so drunk he misses the shot; the boar charges, and Robert dies in bed several days later. The Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms is dead — but not before naming Ned the Protector of the Realm until Joffrey comes of age.
Narrative importance: Robert's demise is the catalyst of the War of Five Kings. In the meantime, while helping Robert write his will, Ned replaces “my heir" for “my son Joffrey," since he knows Joffrey's father is actually his uncle.
Degree of difficulty: Intermediate. With a little luck on her side, Cersei was working a few thoughtful moves in advance, banking on Robert to get sloshed enough to either kill himself or not notice if someone turned on him to finish the job.
Creative scale: 3
Who: Eddard (Ned) Stark
Gory details: When Ned warns Cersei that he knows her children are the product of her incestuous relationship with her twin brother Jaime, the Lannisters ensure the Warden of the North's days are numbered. Joffrey, delighted that he has an early opportunity to do something vile, orders Ned's execution. His head is sliced off with his own sword, Ice, in front of a bloodthirsty crowd that includes his two daughters. The head is later placed on a spike lining Traitor's Walk to rot in the summer sun of King's Landing and generally gross out everyone.
Narrative importance: Ned's son, Robb, is proclaimed the King in the North by his bannerman, who refuse to accept Joffrey as king.
Degree of difficulty: Easy to kill, intermediate to orchestrate. Ser Ilyn Payn carries out the actual chopping, but Joffrey is careful to give the order at a climactic moment, when a savage crowd will back him and his mother and grandfather stand powerless.
Creativity scale: 5
Gory details: Mago calls Daenerys a “foreign whore," which not surprisingly causes her husband, Khal Drogo to become…let's say slightly agitated. The two men square off, and the mano-a-mano ends with Drago ripping Mago's tongue out of his face. Khalessi's reputation is saved, but for a price: In the process, the Khal sustains a small knife wound to the chest that festers. Daenerys eventually suffocates her spouse with a pillow to put him out of his misery.
Narrative importance: Mago's insult precipitates Drago's death, but also Daenerys' liberation: On what must double as one of the worst and best days of her life, she places her dragon eggs inside Drogo's funeral pyre, walks into the flames, and hangs out in the fire all night. In the morning, the eggs have hatched into baby monsters, and the Mother of Dragons is ready for her close up.
Degree of difficulty: Advanced. Have you ever tried to rip someone tongue out of his or her face? Trust us, it's not easy.
Creative scale: 4
Who: Kraznys mo Nakloz
Gory details: Daenerys' dragons are all grown up — and can breathe fire on command now! With a roaring belch, Drogon — the dragon Khaleesi fake-traded Kraznys for his Unsullied slave army — engulfs the trader in flames as the warriors sack the city and prepare to fight for Daenerys as free men. Kraznys just lies there, burnt to a crisp, as they march away. (You can check out the clip here.)
Narrative importance: Daenerys is armed with a Iron Throne-caliber entourage, including her trio of teenage dragons, a massive army of trained warriors, the Dothraki, and the sworn allegiance of knight Ser Jorah Mormont. Girlfriend is poised to take back the Iron Throne as the rightful queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Degree of difficulty: Easy. Unlike actual adolescents, Khaleesi's dragons are ever obedient to her whims and wishes.
Creative scale: 7
Gory details: As soon as Littlefinger learns Ros has been spying on him for Varys, he punishes the one prostitute he risked as a confidante by presenting her to Joffrey for “something new, something daring." Ros's death is bleak and violent: After shooting her with a crossbow in numerous sensitive body parts, Joffrey leaves her arrow-pierced corpse pinned to his bed.
Narrative importance: Littlefinger writes Ros off as a “bad investment," but her death and the manipulations involved fuels his passion to continue climbing up the social ladder amidst all the chaos.
Degree of difficulty: Intermediate. When you're a depraved boy king who prefers to creatively torture women rather than woo them, systematically killing a royal hooker is a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Creative scale: 6
Who: Viserys Targaryen
Gory details: Daenerys and Khal Drogo's marriage was originally orchestrated to get Viserys back on the throne. But his sister and the Dothraki have other ideas: During a feast, Viserys demands that he be presented with the army he was promised, and threatens to cut Daenerys' unborn child out. “I am the dragon! I want my crown!" Viserys shrieks. Ever the literalist, Drogo melts some gold medallions over a fire and pours the whole mess over Viserys' blond head. A dragon with cooked brains was never a dragon to begin with.
Narrative importance: With Viserys out of the way and the Dothraki army standing behind her, Daenerys is the last of Targaryens and is ready to Lean In before winter arrives.
Degree of difficulty: Expert. It's an imaginative and poetic death for Viserys, hinting at Drogo's secret sensitive side. Nobody messes with the Moon of his Life!
Creative scale: 8
Who: Renly Baratheon
Gory details: After crawling out of Melisandre's vagina, the smoke monster heads straight for Renly's tent on the night before the surprise attack planned against Stannis. The demon takes on a human form that resembles Stannis before skewering Renly into a nice Baratheon kebab.
Narrative importance: Renly's brother Stannis is now free to pursue his own aims, with the Red Priestess writing all his hits behind the scenes, like the Stevie Nicks to his Lindsey.
Degree of difficulty: Difficult. The same day Melisandre, er, “delivered" her baby shadow slayer at a seaside cove near Renly's camp, it was immediately dispatched to find Renly and end him, leaving Renly's newest guard Brienne to blame for his death.
Creative scale: 9
Who: Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn Stark
Gory details: “The Lannisters send their regards," Roose Bolton growls, before driving a dagger into Robb Stark's heart. Robb's mother Caetlyn, his wife Talisa (and unborn child), and all of his bannermen are all slaughtered in an eye-popping betrayal. Walder Frey drinks his wine and enjoys the show: Robb is shot with arrows before being stabbed; Talisa is butchered with knife wounds to the stomach; and Catelyn goes down when her neck is slit, though not before trying to bargain for her son's life and killing Walder's wife in the process. Later, the head of Robb's direwolf (Grey Wind) was sewn onto his body, and paraded around for laughs.
Narrative importance: The Red Wedding ends the northern rebellion and puts a question mark around the future of the Stark lineage, since Bran and Rickon are believed to be dead and on the run.
Degree of difficulty: Extremely difficult. The massacre was carefully scheduled to take place after the wedding ceremony and the bedding, a point where none of the Starks expected a thing — they'd eaten bread and salt when they arrived, supposedly guaranteeing their safety. While the musicians played “The Rains of Castamere," Walder gave a short speech, ending with the words “My King has married, and I owe my new Queen a wedding gift." This triggers a rain of arrows from the balcony followed by the main assassinations. Put that on your aspirational royal wedding Pinterest board.
Creative scale: 10