Portrayed by: Sean Bean
Dies in: "Baelor" (Season 1, Episode 9)

In the immortal words of Avon Barksdale, the game is the game, and in the presently ubiquitous words of Meek Mill, there are levels to this shit. Ned Stark, respectable protagonist, cool dad, and honorable man as he was, did not adhere to either of those two adages, and his sudden plummet from Hand of the King to Headless Lord is a cautionary lesson for those who think they can operate in the political machinations of Westeros armed with honor and, worse yet, mercy.

If you’re going to come at the Queen, then you best not miss. You certainly don’t warn her that you’ve got dirt on her, and when your advisers tell you to take action at the first opportunity it’s best to listen. Ned Stark thought the law would protect him; the Lannisters only obey the laws as they suit them. But even amidst noble yet foolhardy blunders, spend a full season with a guy, then that’s our hero, no question, right? And the hero can’t lose for long, right?

We, non-readers of A Song of Ice and Fire, that is, spent two whole episodes wondering and waiting to see how Ned would escape the Lannisters. Then Joffrey marched him out for a whole courtyard to see, dangled a lifetime banishment in front of him and...had his head lopped off for treason. In front of both of his daughters. Here endeth the lesson, and there goeth the TV rulebook.