2. Ned Stark (Season 1, Episode 9)
We’re going back to the start of the show for this one, with arguably the very first shocking death of the series. While we had seen some deaths on the show by this point, for sure, none were as mind-blowing as Ned’s. Maybe that’s because, since the start, Ned had been presented as a primary protagonist. There was seemingly no reason to expect he wouldn’t be around for some time to come.
When Joffrey Baratheon took the throne after Robert’s death, this put Ned in a horrible spot. With the promise of being exiled to the Wall in exchange for confessing his treason, Ned does so publicly, and declares Joffrey as the true king. But instead of exiling Ned, Joffrey decides to execute him instead, and orders the elder Stark to be decapitated.
This execution of a fan favorite character is hard enough to watch as it is. Seeing it from his point of view, however, makes it even worse. He’s being executed in front of his young daughters. He notices young Arya in the crowd, watching him at one point. Later, he notices that she’s vanished. As that blade came down towards his neck, the last thing crossing Ned’s mind was likely the safety of his young girls and the fact that he could no longer protect them.