Ian McElhinney (Barristan Selmy) on the final scene in “Sons of the Harpy”



That was the uniform cry of fans heard round Twitter last night, as Meereen’s mightiest Queens Guard took out a dozen Harpies only to fall himself at the end, as he was wearing no armor. (It was his afternoon off, damn it!) It was our first time seeing the Arthurian throwback of an old knight in serious action since he took off from King’s Landing so long ago. In the books, Barristan the Bold still breathes. Why did this fight have to be his last? Why did he have to die?

And most importantly, was Ian McElhinney the actor who was so blindly quoted back before the season premiere aired who revealed that, as a book-reader, he was surprised to discover that he died? In fact, yes. Yes it was. We learned that, and much more, from McElhinney when he sat down with Entertainment Weekly for some parting words.

First off all, he tells the book-readers not to be upset that his character’s time has come to an end.

[T]he demands of TV are different than the demand of book writing. With TV there’s a pressure to create a number of high points. One of the big things about this series—it’s true in the books and even more true in the series—is the surprise element, the shocks. They’ve got to keep that up because people expect that. You can’t predict anything but what you can predict is that there will be surprises. 

McElhinney was also pleased that Barristan got to show off his fighting prowess before the end:

He had to be seen fighting. He’s been talked about as the greatest knight that ever was, so he’s got to fight. So it’s great that he does. There’s a lovely contrast with that scene that we did today [on the balcony with Daenerys] and what happens right after.

EW does note that the fight with the Harpies wasn’t the last scene he shot. That honor went to the scene with Daenerys on the balcony, when he talked to her about Rhaegar.

On McElhinney’s favorite scene of the entire series:

…the scene where he [tells King Joffrey in season 1] “to hell with this” and storms out. I enjoyed shooting that. I would have liked to work more with people like Lena, for instance. I find it extraordinary I’ve gotten to this stage and never met Peter.

Wait, really? He went five seasons on the show and never met Peter Dinklage? Well, Tyrion doesn’t make it to King’s Landing until after Barristan departs, and he hasn’t made it to Meereen yet. Such is the size and scope of the production that these things can happen. But it’s still a startling fact to put together that if Barristan had lived only a couple more episodes, he could have finally worked with Tyrion.

Ah, well. Let’s all toast Barristan Selmy, an unflinchingly loyal knight who believed in Daenerys’ cause enough to give his life for it. Drinks are on Rhaegar Targaryen and his street musician money.