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Game of Thrones: Why Those Two Major Characters Had to Die

Emotions. Emotions everywhere.

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Lindsay MacDonald

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.]

As predicted, Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell, where we finally got the major battle between the living and the dead, was a bloodbath, and not everyone made it out of "The Long Night" alive.

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Let's start by breaking down the most important death of them all: the Night King.

Just when all defenses were broken and all hope for Winterfell was lost, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) came out of nowhere to save the day like the MVP she is. As the Night King raised his arm to kill Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) in the Godswood, Arya flew in like an avenging angel -- after sneaking past a whole courtyard of white walkers and wights by the way -- wielding her Valryian dagger. The Night King turned at the last minute to catch her mid-air, but Arya used the same sleight of hand as she did in her fight with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), dropping the knife from her trapped hand into her free one, and then stabbed him in the chest, killing him and his entire army instantly.

And thus ends the fight between the living and the dead.

Honestly, it feels a little crazy that the entire confrontation with the Night King only took one episode, though it was over an hour long and one of the most intense battles ever filmed, movie or TV. And when all was said and done, this victory didn't come without its toll.

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Two characters who have been on the show since the pilot lost their lives tonight, but they both got fitting ends. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Dany's (Emilia Clarke) trusted servant and oldest friend, died protecting her from wights after she fell off of Drogon. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) also kicked the bucket, defending Bran until the last minute.

Besides the obvious reasons for killing off these characters -- battles need deaths, it's time to thin out the herd of remaining characters, etc -- there's the most obvious explanation for why Jorah and Theon had to go. You can't have high stakes and emotional impacts without major deaths, and given that it's the final season, major deaths mean original characters we've grown attached to over the course of the past seven seasons. Of course, there's also the fact that both of these deaths come at a time when they'd be most impactful to the story.

Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones

For Theon, we've watched this boy turn into a man and make every wrong decision along the way. He betrayed his best friend and the family that raised him, eventually bringing ruin to Winterfell. For him, standing with the Starks to protect Winterfell (and defending the boy he'd essentially unseated as the Stark heir) brought Theon full circle in a redemption arc that has seen many ups and downs. As Bran said, everything he did brought him to where he is now... home. His story, for all intents and purposes, was always leading here, and his death, sadly, made that journey complete.

For Jorah, there's a much bigger (and consequently more heartbreaking) reason we had to bid him adieu.

With all the blood, gore, and white walkers front and center in this episode, it's easy to forget that Dany just got some life-changing news, which will eventually force her to make a very major decision. Will she disregard Jon's (Kit Harington) lineage and claim to the Iron Throne, or will she step aside and let the true Targaryen heir assume the title she's been fighting for all her life?

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Ever since she was that young, timid girl, married off to a terrifying warlord and powerless in the face of her abusive older brother, Dany has relied on Jorah for his friendship and counsel. Even with all the advisors and supporters she's accrued, Jorah was the first and most important person in her life to follow and support her. No doubt, Dany would have taken this issue to him and asked for his counsel making her decision. From a storytelling perspective, though, this choice needs to be one Dany makes all on her own, so taking Jorah out of the equation seems necessary at this point. Not to mention, losing Jorah will take an incredible emotional toll on Dany, complicating her decision even more. Are we sad we'll never get to see whether Dany and Jorah could have ever truly fallen in love? Sure. But in the end, it's necessary for where Dany's character needs to go.

Other deaths include Dolorous Edd Tollett (Ben Crompton), Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) (who took down a whole freaking zombie giant, by the way), the finally out-of-lives Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), and Melisandre (Carice van Houten), all of whom (besides Melisandre) were later raised again by the Night King to join the army of the dead. Game of Thrones sure knows how to give the old one-two punch.

And now we head to King's Landing to take on Cersei (Lena Headey), presumably with what's left of Jon and Dany's army.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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HBO/Helen Sloan