Game of Thrones has become almost synonymous with the concept of a plot twist, weaving a tangled web of subverted expectations and delightfully convoluted schemes that can, at times, get a little chaotic, especially when you're trying to keep track of them all.
But chaos isn't a series of plot twists. Chaos is a list of those plot twists that were underwhelming, didn't make any sense, or were good in concept while somehow managing to totally bungle the delivery. Many who try to read it fail, and... well, I think that's about all the mileage we're going to get out of that joke.
So if you're still with me after that awkward bit of attempted humor, you've probably ascertained that we're going to look at some of the most unfulfilling plot twists that Game of Thrones has ever thrown at us. But given how totally amazing, engaging and well written the series as a whole is, it wouldn't feel right to go at it without highlighting some of the twists that have kept us hooked for the past seven years. Without further ado, here are ten plot twists that missed the mark in Game of Thrones, as well as twenty that made the series what it is today.
30 HURT: Benjen Stark Saves Bran
As great a character as he is, Benjen Stark's big reveal north of the Wall is essentially plot armor manifested as a character. He's been kept on the bench and yanked into the scene when someone that the show can't lose yet needs saving in wight country.
Before he presents himself to valiantly rescue the embattled Bran and Meera, we hadn't seen the man in what, three entire seasons? Seriously, there are probably extras with more screen time than old Cold Hands, and being honest, that's a bit of a shame.
29 SAVED IT: Bronn Becomes Tyrion's Champion
While we'd seen a bit of him in action leading up to this, nothing serves as a more perfect set up for Bronn's character than when he volunteers to serve as Tyrion's champion during the trial by combat at the Eyrie.
See, Tyrion suffers from a lack of volunteers when Lady Lysa demands that the trial take place immediately. Bronn, fully aware of the Lannisters' deep pockets and influence, offers to fight on his behalf. The no-nonsense sellsword handily bests his honorable opponent, proceeding to deliver one of the most solid one-liners ever spoken over the length of the series. You know the one.
28 SAVED IT: Daenerys Speaks Perfect High Valyrian
The slave master Kraznys certainly has a colorful vocabulary, and he puts it on full display while Daenerys is negotiating to obtain his powerful host of Unsullied warriors. He delivers an absolute deluge of vulgarities directed at her, hiding them behind his translator, whom he knows will leave out his insulting commentary.
So you can imagine his shock when Daenerys reveals that she speaks his native tongue perfectly once the deal is concluded, and has understood every word. The embarrassment may have stung worse than the torrent of fire that she commands the dragon he'd "negotiated for" to unleash upon him.
27 HURT: The Night King Reviving Viserion
Of course, it's cinematic and the scene itself creates some necessary drama in the context of the story. But the Night King managing to claim Daenerys' fallen dragon during season seven elicited no shortage of scrutiny from fans.
Firstly, there's the matter of where, precisely, the White Walkers managed to find the comically oversized, seemingly purpose-built chains with which they haul the dragon from the bottom of the frozen lake. The second, and perhaps more controversial point is the fact that the wights can't swim – this has been a caveat that's pointed out, acknowledged and utilized to the advantage of the living more than once, so how did they manage to actually get those chains onto Viserion in the first place?
26 SAVED IT: The Hound Survives
Things aren't looking good for Sandor Clegane when Arya leaves him in season four. Having had the absolute stuffing beaten from him by Brienne of Tarth and taking a scary plunge from the cliff soon after, it looks as if we've seen the last of the man who so loved a good roast chicken. Or perhaps two chickens.
Our relief was palpable when we saw him alive and well in season six, it's even a bit heartwarming to see that he's taken to charity work and pondering life's greater mysteries. Of course, his peaceful interlude is as brief as you'd expect such a thing to be when it comes to Game of Thrones. Nonetheless, it was great to have him back, alive and well. That's not a treat the series gives us very often.
25 SAVED IT: Samwell Cures Ser Jorah
When our greyscale afflicted one-way romantic was sent off to find a cure for himself under Daenerys' orders, I'm not sure that any of us really knew what to expect. But plenty of us certainly knew to assume the worst at this point in the series. Imagine our collective relief when he turned up at the Citadel! Well, partial relief, anyway. There was still the matter of him getting cured.
Driven by Jorah's relation to the late Lord Commander Mormont, Samwell resolves to attempt a risky and painful procedure to make him well again. The scene itself can be difficult to watch, but the payoff is entirely worth it when Jorah emerges healthy and cured of the affliction.
24 HURT: Daenerys Rescues The Party North of the Wall
First, let's put this sequence of events into context. Gendry runs an Olympic quality marathon back to the Wall after the party finds themselves in trouble, then from there, a raven is sent to Dragonstone to inform Daenerys. Finally, Daenerys and her triplet of dragons make an express flight to scoop the good guys out of their predicament. And all of this takes place over what we can only assume is the course of a single day.
Sure, we're talking about a fantasy world in which dragons, magic, and the undead stroll about in broad daylight. But the convenient and rushed nature of this twist rose the eyebrows of even the most dedicated fans.
23 SAVED IT: Tyrion's Revenge
Tyrion has a talent for getting himself into tricky situations, to put it mildly. And he has just as much of a knack for managing to find his way out of them. However, it almost looks like he's in over his head when he's tried and found guilty for poisoning Joffrey, sentenced to the chopping block by his father, and betrayed by the woman he loves.
After he's saved and provided with an escape route by his brother, he can't resist his thirst for vengeance and decides to even a few odds before departing. The scene in which he deals with Shae is heart-wrenching, and his confrontation with Tywin in the privy is probably some of the best dialogue in the show.
22 SAVED IT: The Purple Wedding
King Joffrey was one of the most famously disliked characters in the series, and with good reason. His twisted nature made him pretty easy to dislike, and if that wasn't enough, he was directly responsible for ending the well-loved and honorable everyman, Ned Stark.
So it should go without saying that the twist resulting in his dramatic and painful demise elicited a cheer from living rooms the world over. As fans, we certainly do suffer more than our fair share of losses with Game of Thrones, but that makes the moments like these all the sweeter.
21 HURT: The Coup In Dorne
The Sand Snakes themselves are a matter of hot contention among Game of Thrones fans, from their heavily diminished role after translation to the show's format from the books to their incredibly campy presentation and dialogue during what little screen time they're afforded.
So you'd be pretty safe assuming that almost every plot and scene they're involved in tend to turn out pretty subpar. Their successful coup in Dorne is no exception. There's very little lead up to them taking out Prince Doran and Trystane, and the performances therein are fairly lackluster.
20 SAVED IT: Hodor Holds The Door
Even mentioning his name might tempt a tear to wiggle free from the corner of your eye, but that's the very reason this plot twist belongs here. When a scene ties together the threads of a plot well enough to really impact you emotionally, you know it's good.
After all, we'd been wondering for many seasons why Hodor could only say his own name when speaking. We just weren't ready for it to be so tragic. If you noticed anyone in the room sitting stone-faced and dry-eyed during Hodor's heroic last stand against the wights as Bran and Meera flee the scene, then rest assured that person doesn't possess feelings.
19 SAVED IT: Jon Snow's True Identity
Sure, it had further implications that might've turned a few people off. But this incredible twist confirmed the infamous R+L=J theory that fans had been eagerly anticipating confirmation of for a very long time.
It was well paced and developed, from Bran's piecemeal visions concerning the events at the Tower of Joy to Gilly's throwaway line in the Eastwatch episode that foreshadows its legitimacy. But the real gravity of this revelation becomes most apparent when Jon shares it with Daenerys, who immediately recognizes that it provides him with a claim to the Iron Throne. And if there's anything we know about Daenerys, it's that any threat to her own claim will be taken incredibly seriously.
18 HURT: Melisandre's Magic Necklace
During an unsettling scene in season six, the beautiful Melisandre shows her true form after removing what is presumably an enchanted necklace of sorts – revealing her to be a hunched and withered woman much further along in her years than we'd been led to believe.
However, previous scenes have shown her retaining her youthful illusion even without said necklace, namely in season four. While interesting, it seems unnecessary, poorly planned and tacked on in terms of continuity.
17 SAVED IT: Jaime Reveals How He Became The Kingslayer
While Jaime had previously made allusions to the fact that his reputation as the Kingslayer fails to take the circumstances of his betrayal into account, he lays the entirety of the truth bare during a vulnerable and intimate scene with Brienne in season three.
It's made abundantly clear that his ending King Aerys saved many thousands of lives, as the Mad King fully intended to set King's Landing ablaze with wildfire, and all of its citizenry along with it. Here we truly begin to empathize with his actions, and are afforded a rare peek at the man that truly resides behind all of his arrogance and bravado.
16 SAVED IT: Petyr Baelish Betrays Eddard Stark
For a lot of us, this was where the hammer dropped, and the show truly informed us that justice is a fickle concept in Westeros. Sometimes, being the good guy doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. Quite the opposite most of the time, really.
I'm sure most of us felt just as betrayed as Ned did when the city watch, supposedly paid off to support him when he confronted Joffrey and Cersei in the throne room, instead turned on his men, with a smug Lord Baelish putting a knife to Ned's own throat. "I did warn you not to trust me," he hisses. And he's right. We shouldn't have. But it did keep us glued to the series, hoping for some sort of reckoning.
15 HURT: Jon & Daenerys Are Related
Yes, yes. I know that the revelation of Jon Snow's true identity is a central and thematic plot twist, one that was paced and executed quite well to boot. But did they really have to cut away to a passionate love scene between Jon and Daenerys just as we learn that she's actually his aunt?
"The Targaryens wed brother and sister for generations," as the show keenly informs us earlier on. But you have to admit, it was really difficult not to cringe as this reality set in after the initial shock of confirming Jon's Targaryen heritage wore off.
14 SAVED IT: Cersei Destroys The Sept Of Baelor
Though it didn't achieve the sheer notoriety of the Red Wedding, this was another plot point that flatly erased an entire host of our favorite characters in the breadth of an instant, leaving us stunned and wondering what would happen next.
Having been brought up on charges by the fanatical Faith Militant, Cersei and the Tyrell siblings are summoned to the Sept for trial. Cersei refuses to attend, a fact that Margaery doesn't take lightly, realizing her tardiness indicates she's plotting something terrible. We share in her distress and the urgency of the situation as the looming catastrophe becomes clear, and the Sept is engulfed in wildfire, along with most of the Tyrell family.
13 SAVED IT: Daenerys Becomes The Mother Of Dragons
I mean, how could you not include the breathtaking moment that introduced us to Daenerys' dragons, and tacked "Mother of Dragons" onto her ever-growing list of titles?
A lot of us were just as baffled and concerned as Jorah when Daenerys chose to wade into the intense flames of Khal Drogo's funeral pyre, but the incredible spectacle of three baby dragons, the first ones seen in the world for more than a hundred years, mind you, clinging to a perfectly unharmed Daenerys was a marvel to behold. Well, almost perfectly unharmed, anyway. Her wardrobe didn't fare as well as she did, obviously.
12 HURT: Bronn Is Poisoned By the Sand Snakes
With the Sand Snakes being often derided as the most poorly characterized personalities in the series, their being featured prominently on this side of the list shouldn't be much of a surprise.
This one takes place following Jaime and Bronn brawling with them over Myrcella in Dorne. Bronn shares a dungeon cell neighboring their own and begins to feel unwell during an uncomfortably cringe-worthy dialogue with the youngest Snake, Tyene Sand. She reveals that her daggers were poisoned when she wounded him, then offers him the antidote. The whole scene felt unnecessary outside the opportunity to show off some of Tyene's skin, and comes to absolutely no consequence or plot development.
11 SAVED IT: Eddard Stark Learns Joffrey's True Parentage
While attentive fans and book lovers likely already had this one pretty well figured out, the moment that Ned unravels the truth Jon Arryn gave his life for is a crucial development that sets one of the series' defining conflicts into full gear.
Realizing that none of Cersei's children were fathered by King Robert, Eddard goes about attempting to set things right the honorable way, even going so far as to confront Cersei directly, warning her of his intentions for the sake of her children. But as we well know, a shield of honor is about as effective as a flimsy sheet of paper in King's Landing.
10 SAVED IT: The Red Wedding
The Red Wedding is so notorious as a plot twist that even people who don't watch the show are familiar with it. It's almost impossible to mention Game of Thrones without it coming up in the discussion, and that should be taken to mean that they did something incredibly right with it.
Was it emotionally jarring? Oh, absolutely. We lost several characters that we'd been rooting for, all in one fell swoop. But it sparked an immense amount of intense and engaging drama within the fan community, and you can't deny that it put you on the edge of your seat. If nothing else, we'll definitely be looking over our shoulders every time we hear anything resembling the tune of The Rains of Castamere.
9 HURT: Jon's Rescue By Uncle Benjen
I've said it before, and I'll say it again – Benjen Stark is basically just plot armor, and his sudden appearance to snatch Jon away from the clutches of the Night King's army is probably the most perfect example that can be given of this.
What's more is that he's practically been discarded, now that we're presumably done with any plot lines that would lead any important characters north of the Wall and render them in need of rescuing. He drags Jon onto his horse, claims that there's "no time" for him to escape as well, and charges in to "hold off" the wights for all of... two entire seconds? Seems like an awfully small head start to sacrifice yourself for, but alright, Uncle Ben.
8 SAVED IT: Theon Rescues Sansa
Theon's story arc led a lot of fans to despise him. And understandably so, as he's done some pretty terrible things. It's difficult to feel sympathy for the guy even after the sadistic Ramsay has had his way with him, and it seems practically impossible for him to redeem himself until finally reaching this final, desperate turning point.
Having been caught in her attempt to effect a rescue, Sansa finds herself cornered by Ramsay's psychotic beau, Myranda, and Theon. Sansa's bravery inspires him to fling Myranda from the wall and rescue Sansa himself, taking her over the wall and eventually into the capable and trustworthy care of Brienne.
7 SAVED IT: Beric Dondarrion Survives The Hound's Trial
Our first indication that there might be something to this whole "Lord of Light" thing comes after the Hound manages to best Ser Beric during a trial by combat, walking away with his life and seemingly depriving Beric of his own in the process.
After being dealt a mortal blow, Beric collapses and expires. Or so we think. The Hound's expression of utter disbelief says it all when when we hear Beric speak from off screen, then cut back to him having risen, alive and well after Thoros of Myr offers the Lord of Light a humble prayer for Beric's return to the realm of the living.
6 HURT: Bran Saw the Night Of Sansa's Marriage To Ramsay
As we're all painfully well aware of by now, Bran isn't quite Bran anymore. Not since his fateful visit to that northern cave, anyway. He's the Three-Eyed Raven now, and he possesses a nearly omniscient capability to see the past, the future, and of course, any plot-relevant twists, so long as he knows where to look.
I get that they're trying to show how distant and unfeeling he's become towards his former life as Bran Stark and all. But they couldn't have chosen a creepier way to showcase it than to have him almost callously recount "how beautiful" she looked during her traumatic experiences at the hands of Ramsay Snow.
5 SAVED IT: Jaime Loses His Sword Hand
The sudden and unexpected separation of Jaime from his right hand by Locke happened so quickly that it took most of us a minute to process what we just witnessed. Initially, it feels like Locke is simply grandstanding and threatening the Kingslayer to put him in his place, then the cleaver comes down and Jaime's scream echoes as the screen cuts to black.
While it's certainly a terrible thing to experience, the loss of his most valued asset forces Jaime to adopt a bit of humility that eventually blossoms into a renewed sense of honor and purpose, setting up one of the most incredible character arcs in the series.
4 SAVED IT: Petyr Baelish's Final Moments
We're purposefully led to believe that Baelish has driven a wedge between sisters Sansa and Arya over the course of season seven, manipulating them into conflict to better serve his own ends.
It seems to reach a boiling point when Sansa is convinced to summon Arya for a trial, and just as Baelish is about to witness his manipulative scheme come to fruition, Sansa turns and coldly reveals that he's the one being placed on trial, not Arya. Seeing Baelish finally paid his dues is nothing short of gratifying as he grovels and pleads, only to be callously ended by Arya.
3 HURT: Varys Captures The Sorcerer From His Past
While the idea of Varys getting even with the sorcerer that had disfigured him in his youth is an incredibly interesting point to visit, we never really follow up on this plot twist and it seemingly amounts to absolutely nothing.
Maybe the idea is to leave it to the imagination, but that seems so incredibly unfulfilling given how intriguing the subject at hand is. I mean, why exactly did he do that to Varys? As a practitioner of the darker magics, it feels like some opportunity for exposition or an intriguing thread of plot was totally wasted.
2 SAVED IT: Olenna Tyrell's Confession
The Queen of Thorns certainly lived up to her name when she delivered this final, razor-sharp barb to Jaime Lannister. Having been cornered and defeated by the Lannister armies, she reveals beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was the one who poisoned Joffrey at the Purple Wedding. "Tell Cersei it was me," she adds, wanting to ensure the news reaches her long-standing rival.
It stings a little more when you consider that Jaime had talked Cersei out of ending her in much, much more painful ways than the humble and painless method of voluntary poisoning that he'd suggested. Olenna Tyrell goes out as she lived – with absolute style and dignity to spare.
1 SAVED IT: Arya Erases House Frey
I had a lot of difficulty choosing between this and Arya taking out Walder himself. But as what is probably the most memorable and satisfying season opener the show has ever produced, winter coming for House Frey was the clear choice.
The scene initially confuses us as we see Walder Frey hosting a banquet, as we'd seen Arya end him quite thoroughly. But as his monologue over the feast gradually takes on a sinister tone, we slowly begin to realize that Arya has taken his face, and made the vengeance of house Stark complete by not just taking out Walder and his sons, but his entire house. The pacing and delivery are exquisite, making for one of the most satisfying and well-played plot twists featured in the series.