It looks like Game of Thrones has done it again, with the traditionally-shocking ninth episode of the series killing off a fan-favourite character in a grisly and upsetting scene.
Shireen Baratheon, daughter to wannabe King Stannis (Stephen Dillane) was burned alive by red priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten), as a sacrifice to their deity the Lord of Light in an attempt to save Stannis’ starving army.
Played by Kerry Ingram, Shireen had become a fan-favourite and was significantly fleshed out in comparison with her appearances in George RR Martin’s source novels through extended scenes in which she taught Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth to read.
Notably, the scene does not occur in the books, where Shireen is still alive – but series co-creator DB Weiss says he felt the change was necessary.
“Horrible things happen to people in this show, and this is one that we thought was entirely [narratively] justified,” Weiss told EW. “It was set-up by the predicament that Stannis was in. It will be awful to see, but it’s supposed to be awful.”
Weiss also noted that the incident (and the subsequent reaction from viewers) raised questions about human empathy, considering many other minor characters had been burned by Melisandre and Stannis in the series before.
“If a superhero knocks over a building and there are 5,000 people in the building that we can presume are now dead, does it matter? Because they’re not people we know. But if one dog we like gets run over by a car, it’s the worst thing we’ve we’ve ever seen,” he explained.
“I totally understand where that visceral reaction comes from. I have that same reaction. There’s also something shitty about that. So instead of saying, ‘How could you do this to somebody you know and care about?’ maybe when it’s happening to somebody we don’t know so well, maybe then it should hit us all a bit harder.”
Game of Thrones is on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9:00pm