Best Served Cold: The Most Satisfying Acts of Revenge in ‘Game of Thrones’

Most Game of Thrones characters have at least one bone to pick by now. Between the murder, back-stabbing, double-crossing, and betrayal that we routinely witness, the men and women of Westeros have racked up plenty of vendettas. And they’re not shy about reminding us, or each other, that, like winter, retribution for misdeeds will always come for those that deserve it.

Sometimes, it’s swift. But the best instances of revenge so far on Game of Thrones have come when characters spent seasons stewing and plotting. Here are the greatest moments of vengeance on Game of Thrones, ranked from satisfying to downright epic.

7. When Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor

The Sept of Baelor explodes with wildfire in a scene from season six of 'Game of Thrones.'

Wildfire at the Sept of Baelor | HBO

Cersei Lannister has never held back when it comes to dealing with her enemies. She’s not above issuing executions, or sabotaging anyone she thinks could stand in her way — just ask Ned and Sansa Stark. But in the Season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, she went torched earth, quite literally.

Granted, Cersei’s anger was valid. She’d been humiliated by the High Septon and High Sparrow, and the Tyrells had slowly stripped her of her power after Tommen Baratheon married Margaery Tyrell. And she was facing even more restriction with a new impending trial. But to blow up the entire Sept, and everyone inside of it, was maybe a little extreme.

6. When Brienne found Stannis in the woods

Brienne of Tarth brandishes her sword in a clearing in the woods in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'

Brienne of Tarth | HBO

Loyalty can be hard to come by on Game of Thrones, since so many characters are primarily concerned with saving their own skin. But Brienne of Tarth is nothing if not fully committed to those she’s sworn to protect. Back in Season 2, she pledged her allegiance to Renly Baratheon. Then, his brother Stannis conspired with Melisandre, and conceived a demonic ghost baby with her, which then floated on over to Renly’s camp and murdered him right in front of Brienne.

It was traumatic for the brave soldier, who swore she’d stop at nothing to avenge him. And though she became consumed with other tasks, she never forgot that promise. In the fifth season finale, she came upon Stannis, wounded and completely defeated. It’s to her credit that Brienne didn’t seem smug or particularly happy about delivering her king slayer’s fatal blow. But however solemn the moment, it felt like justice truly served — for viewers, for her, and probably even for Stannis as well, whose last words were, “Go on and do your duty.”

5. When Ellaria and Cersei used the kiss of death

In side by side images, Ellaria Sand kisses Myrcella Lannister by the water, and Cersei Lannister kisses Tyene Sand in scenes from 'Game of Thrones.'

Two kisses of death on Game of Thrones | HBO

Sometimes, what goes around comes around. And on Game of Thrones, it’s not unusual for revenge to beget revenge to beget revenge. In the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones, Ellaria Sand finally got a chance to avenge her paramour Oberyn Martell’s death by taking the life of an innocent. As Myrcella Lannister, Cersei and Jaime’s daughter, was on her way out of Dorne, Ellaria placed a kiss on the young girl’s lips. It seemed, at first, like an unusually kind gesture — until Myrcella collapsed, and began bleeding out of her nose, once she and Jaime had boarded the ship home.

Ellaria poisoned Myrcella because she believed Cersei was responsible for Oberyn’s brutal death. In Season 7, Cersei got a chance to repay the favor after Euron Greyjoy captured and delivered Ellaria and her own daughter, Tyene. The queen chained both women in the dungeon and delivered the exact same method of revenge to Ellaria when she, too, poisoned Tyene with a kiss. Never let it be said that Cersei doesn’t enjoy a good narrative bookend every now and then.

4. When Jon Snow dealt with his betrayers

 Jon Snow turns his back on the men who betrayed him as they stand at the gallows in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'

Jon Snow at the gallows | HBO

When the men you thought you could trust turn their backs on you and you end up dead, it’s bound to make you a little bit crabby. So it was only fair when Jon Snow, after becoming un-dead thanks to Melisandre, sought some retribution for his fellow watchmen’s deadly betrayal in the Season 5 finale.

He didn’t exactly seem happy about stringing up Olly, Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh, and Othell Yarwyck. But as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, it was his responsibility to not only pass the sentence, but swing the sword, so to speak. And there was definitely some poetic justice in the fact that he could avenge his own death.

3. When Tyrion had finally had enough of his father

Tywin Lannister sits on a toilet and stares at his son, Tyrion, who is aiming a crossbow at him on 'Game of Thrones.'

Tywin Lannister | HBO

Parent-child relations on Game of Thrones are, as a general rule, incredibly unhealthy. But the way Tywin Lannister treated his son, Tyrion, was downright cruel. From blaming him for killing his mother in childbirth to tormenting him over his size to trying to frame him for the murder of Joffrey, Tywin always made his distaste for Tyrion clear.

That’s why it was not only understandable, but actually satisfying, when Tyrion killed Tywin after discovering his love, Shae, in his father’s bed. What made it all better was that, by shooting him with a crossbow as he sat on the toilet, the long-suffering son was finally able to give his father a taste of his own humiliating medicine.

2. When Sansa got to decide Ramsay’s fate

Sansa Stark stares through the bars of a jail cell at Ramsay Bolton, offscreen, on 'Game of Thrones.'

Sansa Stark | HBO

Ramsay Bolton inflicted trauma on numerous characters during his time on Game of Thrones. But by raping and brutalizing young Sansa Stark — and forcing her childhood friend, Theon, aka Reek, to watch — he proved himself to be truly evil. So, after the Battle of the Bastards, when Ramsay was being held prisoner and Sansa came to his cell to dole out his punishment, it felt, in some small way, like two wrongs could just make a right.

Sansa knew that Ramsay didn’t deserve a quick death. So she unleashed his own hungry hounds on him, and then listened as they ate him alive. The smile on her face as she walked away said it all. There was relief in knowing that not only could he not torment her anymore, but that he’d experienced some fraction of painful torment, too.

1. When Arya got the best of the Freys

Arya Stark behind Walder Frey, smiling while she slits his throat

Arya avenges the Red Wedding. | HBO

We’ve known, since Season 2, that Arya Stark keeps a running list of the enemies she’d like to kill. And her thirst for vengeance has kept her going throughout most of her time on Game of Thrones. So, when she finally got a chance to dole out some of her long-awaited punishment, it felt like a long time coming. And the result was absolutely epic.

In Season 3, Walder Frey arranged for the brutal deaths of Robb Stark, his wife Talisa, his mother Catelyn, and pretty much his entire army. And all because Robb reneged on a promise to marry one of Walder’s daughters. It was a devastating event that changed the course of the war for the Iron Throne and left the remaining Stark children — including Arya, who witnessed the aftermath — as orphans.

In the Season 6 finale, Arya — disguised as a servant — served Walder Frey a pie made entirely of his own sons. Then, she revealed herself, and told him, “The last thing I want you to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die,” before slitting his throat.

That moment, alone, was intensely satisfying. But in the Season 7 premiere, she took her revenge one step further by disguising herself as Walder, calling all of his family and bannermen to a feast, and then poisoning them. It may seem a bit extreme, but given that the Freys were responsible for the Red Wedding that took both her brother and her mother, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t have it coming.

Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.

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