In the finale of the fifth season of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow descends the stairs of Castle Black to meet the Night’s Watch. He sees a post with the word TRAITOR written across it and in that moment, both Jon and the audience realize he is in trouble. A beat later, Alliser Thorne moves forward and swiftly stabs Jon in the stomach. “For the Watch,” he says, withdrawing his knife and stepping back.
One by one, Jon’s brothers of the Night’s Watch step forward and drives their knives into Jon’s stomach, each whispering, “For the Watch.” Jon falls to his knees.
The last to approach him is Olly, Jon’s own steward. He drives his knife into Jon’s stomach, uttering a quiet, determined, “For the Watch.” The man and the boy share one long, final look. Jon collapses and Olly retreats with the rest of the Watch, his face frozen in an expression of pain.
Jon is left dying on the ground, his blood pouring from his wound and staining the white snow.
Goodnight, sweet prince.
Jon Snow’s death was, in many ways, a long time coming. After all, he had been dancing in between allegiances with the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings for a long time. But we weren’t exactly sure when it would happen–and if you aren’t a book reader, you might have thought that maybe, just maybe, he would make it out alright.
Game of Thrones has a reputation for killing off its audience’s favorite characters. It’s become a running joke and a warning that fans give to new viewers: don’t get too attached to any character, because they’ll probably get axed. Or poisoned. Or stabbed. Or pushed into an abyss. You get the idea. Seasons will typically wrap up with at least one major death (or massacre) in either the finale or one of the later episodes–y’know, just to leave viewers feeling good.
The point is, there is a lot of murdering and double-crossing in Game of Thrones, and it’s generally in a character’s grab for power. Betrayals between allies are a regular day occurrence in Westeros.
We decided to take a closer look at these acts of betrayal. We wanted to see: who double-crosses who? Which characters gain the most from their acts of treachery? Who rises in power and who falls? What were the relationships between the betrayers and the betrayed? What were their motives? Was it for power, love, revenge, money?
To do this, we combed through the last five seasons of the show to chart the acts of betrayal and the resulting shifts in power for each character involved. We recorded 65 different acts of betrayal–every betrayal in the show, to our knowledge. We define betrayal as an act of going against one’s word, or an act of breaking the trust of a family member or ally. We then recorded the acts and categorized them by perpetrator (the one who committed the act of betrayal) and victim (the one who was betrayed), the relationship between both characters, and the motive behind the betrayal.
You can view the full spreadsheet of our findings here.
I want to make it clear that we are looking strictly at the TV show. Any differences between the books and the show are not accounted for–we’re just looking at the events as they have unfolded in the show.