Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Lyanna Mormont, the littlest badass in the Seven Kingdoms and a teenager who makes grown men cower with a withering glance, got the memorable death she deserved in Sunday’s epic “Game of Thrones.”
The 82-minute episode, appropriately titled “The Long Night,” featured the long-anticipated battle between the living and the dead. While most of her peers hid out in the crypt — not exactly a safe move, it turns out — Lyanna, Lady of Bear Island, bravely fought against the Night King and his army as they set upon Winterfell.
In a moment straight out of the Old Testament, a giant wight (or “zombie” to you and me) stormed the gates of Winterfell, scooped up the pint-sized Lyanna, played by 15-year-old Bella Ramsey, and began to crush her in its hand. With her dying breath, the young head of House Mormont stabbed the giant in the eye and killed him — like, for good this time. It was a move replicated later in the episode by another teenage girl from the North, Arya Stark, who slayed the Night King and saved all of humanity in the process.
Little Lyanna was one of the relatively few named characters to die in the episode, which resulted in the mass extinction of the Unsullied and Dothraki — as well as a hero’s death for her first cousin and loyal Daenerys protector Ser Jorah Mormont — but did not turn out to be the Red Wedding-style bloodbath of remaining favorites that many fans expected.
We spoke to Ramsey about playing her character’s valiant send-off, as well as the memes it’s inspired.
How did you react when you read the script and found out what was going to happen to Lyanna?
I was pretty excited. I think it’s a great death. If you’re going to die on “Game of Thrones,” at least die well. There’s been so many deaths over the series so I was very happy to be given the death that I did. It’s heroic, which I’m very grateful for.
Lyanna has become a real fan favorite. Did you expect that?
I was definitely surprised. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if people were going to like her, hate her, so I’m very pleased that she’s been received how she has. So yes, thank you to all the fans for getting behind her and supporting Lyanna and House Mormont.
With Jorah also dead, the Mormont line is wiped out, isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s the end of House Mormont.
The scene with the giant obviously involved a lot of CG. How was it all filmed?
Basically, I was in this massive claw machine; it was on green screen. I was sitting on this bicycle-seat thing and I was strapped in and I got raised in quite high in the air and this machine did this series of moves — like a simulation, which made it seem like I was being shaken by a giant. Then I had to grab the dragonglass dagger out of my belt and stab it into a green polystyrene ball which was representing the giant’s eye. It was surreal. There was lots of fake blood mixed into that, which was fun.
So what is that like for you as a performer?
There’s so much discussion, and they showed me what the giant would look like, so I had an idea I was imagining in my head. I couldn’t really see anyway because I was being shaken about.
Did you have to do any night shoots?
[The crew] did 55 days or something. I probably did about a week altogether, but that was enough. It was tough. It was very cold. It made it feel very real.
So just to clarify, did Lyanna die when the giant crushed her, or when he fell to the ground with her in his hand? It’s not totally clear.
If you listen, you can hear the bones crushing, which is a bit gross. But I think she was already battered before that because obviously he swiped her out the way with his hand. I was in a harness for that and I got pulled sideways onto a crash mat. She was already beaten up. When I was running toward the giant doing that battle cry, we imagined that I’d broken my ribs and had a broken leg as well. So she was already pretty bashed up, so I think that was the final straw. So I think she did die getting crushed. I like to imagine she took her last breath just after she stabbed him.
What sort of direction did you get?
I was talking to [director] Miguel [Sapochnik]. We talked about whether Lyanna would be scared or show her more vulnerable, childlike side. We decided it didn’t really fit. He gave me a great bit of direction. It’s like someone removed her fear gene. It’s like fear wasn’t a word in her vocabulary, which was amazing. It gave me a clear picture in her head in how to play the death, just with absolute confidence and sheer determination. She knew that’s what she had to do and she did it.
Are you allowed to watch the show?
I’ve been watching Season 8. And I’ve watched a bit of Season 7. I’ve not watched the rest of it. I’ll probably watch it all when I’m 18, maybe. There’s a few bits where my mom and dad just stand in front of me.
Between Lyanna and Arya, teenage girls really saved the day.
That was empowering. I hope people take from it to keep going and persist in the battle because she could have easily stayed on the floor and just died. She kept going, kept fighting ’til the end. She has a sheer courage and confidence. Also Arya, she could have easily retreated or could have gone to hide in the crypt, but she went out and fought as well. Just the fact that everybody is as good as each other. Some people may be more physically fitter or stronger than others, when it comes to a battle everyone can fight.
I don’t know if you’re on social media but there’s been a lot of love for Lyanna online.
I have an official Instagram and Twitter on my mom’s phone. I’m overwhelmed. I have had a quick look and I’m overwhelmed by the response. There’s a great meme which is a lamb with this like death stare. I like that one a lot.
Do you have any predictions about who will claim the Iron Throne?
I think it would be cool if Arya did. She killed the Night King, so I think she deserves it. How likely that is to happen? I don’t know. I reckon Daenerys might end up getting it because she’s very power-hungry, isn’t she? But I’m rooting for Arya.
“Game of Thrones” airs on Mondays in the U.K. Have you even gotten to watch the episode yet?
I watched it at 2 o’clock in the morning [via simulcast on Sky Atlantic]. I went to bed and my mum woke me up at five to 2 to watch it. I thought we should watch it when it first came out. You only live once, don’t you? Trying to get back to sleep afterward was the hardest bit. Then tonight more of my family are coming over. Not everyone got up at 2 o’clock for obvious reasons. My grandma and my grandpa and sister are coming to watch it with us tonight at 9 o’clock.