They say a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair. Using those standards, last week’s episode of Game of Thrones was a resounding success. “First of His Name” saw the exits of three murderous and mutinous members of the Night’s Watch. The body count after the showdown at Craster’s Keep was high, and time was up for Rast, Karl, and Locke. And in losing these admirably nasty antagonists, we also say goodbye to three actors that were always simply a pleasure to watch even when they were doing terrible things.
Join Fire And Blood and Ours Is The Fury in saluting Noah Taylor, Luke Barnes, and Burn Gorman.
Noah Taylor as Locke
In the summer of 2012, we heard an interesting casting rumor: Noah Taylor, costar of Shine, Almost Famous and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, had joined the show for season 3. Even not having a clue what his role was, I was ecstatic. When people heard his role was a renamed and altered version of the book character Vargo Hoat, the speculation kicked in even further with viewers grumbling about changes, such as Vargo’s infamous speech impediment being missing. There was bound to be an adjustment as there always is with a deviation in the adaptation, but a funny thing happened with Noah Taylor as Locke: I just didn’t care about the changes, because he is that great.
Gone was the slobbering mercenary from the novels, with his fetish for chopping off limbs, and in place we had a Bolton man-at-arms with a focused rage against the highborn. One that actually makes sense, given the way the nobility tears up the Seven Kingdoms and kills the lowborn in the name of thrones in this series. But Locke is no champion for others, no- he’s a survivor, he only looks out for himself. Taylor’s Locke was cunning, ruthless and unpredictable, and there was nothing comical about the scary glint in his eyes. But in season 4, when Locke was unexpectedly sent to the Wall to hunt for the Stark boys, we saw another side of him, as he used rough charm in his attempt to befriend Jon Snow.
When we first learned Locke was headed for the Wall, fans couldn’t imagine what he would get up to, but now, it feels like we were only beginning to tap his potential, and Locke’s death is a loss. I would’ve enjoyed seeing him sow more discord among the Night’s Watch, allowing Noah Taylor to shine with his mixture of intensity and average-Joe charm, but it’s not to be.
Locke has gone from being a casting mystery to a character firmly entrenched in our minds, and Taylor deserves a round of applause for making the hunter who de-handed Jaime Lannister into someone memorable. ~Ours is the Fury
I met Luke Barnes late last year in Belfast, during the annual TitanCon convention, and posited to him my theory on Rast: basically the fact that Rast was the most reasonable trainee at Castle Black. He agreed, and so shall you!
Hear me out. Rast was brought in under the accusation of being a raper, yes? That in and of itself is no proof of guilt. He very well may have been falsely accused. Additionally, Rast has taken a lot of flack to showing everyone how weak Samwell was. But is that wrong? Aliser Thorne was right when he said they needed men, not boys. Much as I love Sam, would you want him guarding your back?
Rast was right. No room for cowards.
Now then, his killing of Lord Commander Mormont? Let’s face it; the Old Bear had failed in his command at that point. And he never even located Benjen Stark! A little “field decisiveness” on Rast’s part was needed.
Is it Rast’s fault Karl turned out to be a murdering psychopath? That’s not on Rast!
(Okay, he was a little mean to Ghost. Maybe he’s allergic?)
Anyway, whether you want to argue Rast’s moral compass or not, it can’t be argued Luke Barnes played him to the hilt. Luke is a quiet-spoken Liverpudlian, but proudly so; a scouser to the nines. Just following him on Twitter (@northernluke), you can tell he’s got that classic Liverpool way about him: never too high when things go well, and ironically funny in bad times.
I loved his gritty, weary take on a man who’s basically just been given a sentence in hell. Might as well make the best of it. Luke reminds me, in all honesty, of a younger, beaten-down Russell Crowe. Less chiseled, maybe, but real. And there’s something in that squint that just delivers. I’d see him in just about anything.
His talent doesn’t stop there. Luke is a playwright and screenwriter; he wrote the short I Want To Be Happy Cha Cha Cha, and remains a stalwart supporter of theatre.
I’m kind of sad Rast is gone; he was the everyman face of the Night’s Watch. But Luke sails on. Can’t wait to see what he does next. ~Fire and Blood
Watch Pacific Rim, or an episode of the scifi series Torchwood featuring Burn Gorman as Owen Harper. Check him out as Thomas Kish in the fifties news drama The Hour. Dig up a copy of the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and see his classic turn as Guppy. If you do that, you’ll begin to understand what an accomplishment Burn’s performance as the mutiny ringleader Karl in Game of Thrones is, if you weren’t already a huge fan. Even his character’s gravelly voice is a complete departure from Gorman’s own light and friendly tones.
Karl was introduced in season three as an amalgamation of mutineers from the books, including one with that name; his main purpose was to growl, “You are a bastard. A daughter-fucking, wildling bastard,” and to kill Craster. And that was about all we saw of the actor in his first two episodes. In an interview, Gorman himself described his role in season three as being “like two seconds” long.
His lengthy film and television resume didn’t concern Gorman at all when it came to accepting the smaller role on Game of Thrones. In the same interview from DragonCon 2013 he elaborated, “I do try and choose work I would like to be involved in. I’m not too bothered about the size of the part. I just, I like working with the creative minds behind something I love. And I’ve been very lucky to do that.”
In season four, he was rewarded with the juicier storyline at Craster’s Keep, and Gorman played Karl’s villainy to the hilt, stewing in menace and fighting dirty. Karl’s life came to a quick and brutal end, giving us only a few episodes of Gorman’s work. But it’s not the size of the part, really- it’s the caliber of the actor in the role, and Burn Gorman was a vicious treat. ~Ours is the Fury