Unlike poor Irri’s death, this was one I had prepared myself for… but damned if it still didn’t bring tears to my eyes. It was partly Natalia Tena’s emotive performance as Osha, partly Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Art Parkinson’s heartbreaking looks, seeing this man they knew and loved dying before their eyes.
But mostly it was Donald Sumpter. It was the way he smiled tremulously at the children, wanting to keep their spirits up even though he knew his death was imminent. The way his hand, steady for so long, shook, betraying his agony. And all the emotion in his eyes…
I knew it was coming and it still punched me in the gut.
A lot of it is the eyes. Actors act with their eyes, it’s almost rote to say it, but Sumpter’s Maester Luwin relied on it probably more than any other Game of Thrones icon. His was a still character, a quiet, unobtrusive man whose hands were tucked into his own sleeves more often than not. (Oddly when his hands did move, forced to shrug aside the voluminous sleeves of a maester’s robe, the action was quick and certain.)
A slightly raised eyebrow conveyed more than a quiet word ever could. And when Luwin looked at you, he really looked at you.
It’s not just the character as written; as is the case with many characters in this series—played by so many worthy actors—we got to see so much more depth when played by a worthy man, and Sumpter proved to be a fantastic choice. Luwin was the proverbial glue that held Winterfell together even while it seemed to be crumbling around him, and this is a testament to Sumpter’s skill.
He wasn’t always Luwin. Donald Sumpter made his name in the theatre, as is the case with so many quality British actors, but was perhaps best known for roles in the earlier incarnations of the Dr. Who television series, and through the years has appeared in over one hundred films and television programs.
(Seriously, that is a good-looking man. His worthy chin alone should turn an eye or two.)
For us, though, he will always be Luwin—now gone, killed casually, tragically, at the tail-end of a betrayal. He gave us so much depth, whether it was doggedly teaching Bran the histories of the great houses, or in the soulful, resolute look he gave to Osha as he asked her for sharp mercy. And this great character is gone, yes, but by no means is this the end.
Donald Sumpter is an actor by trade, and his career isn’t ended here. He is currently shooting The Secret of Crickley Hall for television, along with (of all people!) Maisie Williams, and like as not will have more roles in other cool things—all of which I will seek out, simply to see him perform again.
He will be welcomed with open arms to any Game of Thrones convention. (He hasn’t attended any yet that I know of, but I can hope for TitanCon or ThroneCon one of these days.) And if I happen to be there, well, the man’s drinks are on me.
Fire And Blood: Fare you well, quiet maester! You did this great story proud. I hope you know this was one for the ages.