We might, collectively, not have forecast that Arya Stark would end up killing the Night King—even though she’s the one who’s trained the hardest for the job—but Lyanna Mormont delivered the real gut punch during Sunday night’s epic, hour-and-a-half-long Game of Thrones battle sequence. Midway through the battle for Winterfell, the salty young cousin of Jorah Mormont (bad day for the Mormonts), lady of Bear Island, and foremost shamer of grown men died in a moment of heroism at the hands of a giant zombie, because this is Game of Thrones.
Though the Washington Post wrote, in its review of the third episode, that the series “seemed almost timid about slimming down its formidable cast,” this underestimates how much everyone loves Lyanna Mormont—and Bella Ramsey, the 16-year-old English actress who portrays her.
But as Ramsey tells it, Lyanna’s exit from the show went exactly as she would have wanted. Last spring, amid filming her character’s funeral sequence (apparently coming in next week’s episode), Ramsey spoke with Entertainment Weekly about Lyanna’s longer-than-expected tenure on the show and eventual demise.
“It was originally gonna just be one bit,” Ramsey said. But showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff requested that she return again, and again; “Bella is such an incredible actress that we kept bringing her back because we wanted more Bella,” Benioff told Entertainment Weekly. “I didn’t think it was going to be anything. I just thought that I turned up and did it,” Ramsey added. But then the fan response ignited: “It was mad,” she said.
She was lucid about her character’s prospects on the show: “Her story maybe had the potential to grow but she was going to go at some point because everyone does,” she said. (She’s not wrong: Among the other casualties of Sunday night’s carnage were Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, Dolorous Edd, and Beric Dondarrion, and there’s likely to be more to come during the “final battle,” as Daenerys termed it in the teaser for next week’s episode.) “This way she went was the best way she could have.” Because, according to Ramsey, there were only two ways Lyanna Mormont was going to go out: sitting on the Iron Throne, or with a spectacular death. She got the latter, taking a giant-sized undead zombie creature down with her as she went. (There was a heart-stopping near-miss in which she was briefly reincarnated as a zombie herself.)
Then again, Ramsey was equally blunt about the way her fight scene went down: “My only real bit of fighting is just stabbing,” she said. That’s more than Daenerys Targaryen can say, really—and Arya Stark can testify to the power of a bit of light stabbing.