Curtain Call: Richard Dormer

The Brotherhood Without Banners is a strange grouping of outcasts, outlaws and oddballs, led by the oft-killed and oft-resurrected Beric Dondarrion. The Northern Irish actor Richard Dormer was a perfect fit for the decent but mysterious character; his ability to mix humor and wit with grim seriousness made him fun to watch, and he will be missed.

Lord Beric Dondarrion had once been (and nominally still is) the Lord of Blackhaven and head of the House Dondarrion. When Ser Gregor Clegane committed a series of unforgivable atrocities in the Riverlands during the early stages of the War of the Five Kings, Lord of the North Eddard Stark tasked Beric to lead a company of 100 men to arrest Clegane. (Back then, in season 1, he was played by actor David Michael Scott.) Dondarrion was reported to have been killed by Clegane during the Battle at the Mummer’s Ford, felled by a spear thrust through the heart.

Dondarrion did not die, of course; he was unintentionally resurrected by the simple prayers of his friend, the Red Priest Thoros of Myr.  Caught behind enemy lines, Dondarrion and Thoros retreated into the wilderness and formed the Brotherhood Without Banners, a shadowy collection of soldiers, deserters and highwaymen carrying out guerilla warfare against Clegane and his Lannister allies.

Since his resurrection by Thoros, Dondarrion believed the Lord of Light was now controlling his destiny. Most of the Brotherhood of Banners members are also followers of R’hllor.

No One

When The Brotherhood Without Banners capture both Arya and the Hound at Hollow Hill, Dondarrion sentences the Hound to a trial by combat against himself. This is the first time we see Dondarrion perform pyrokinesis, the ability to coat his sword with flames. When the Hound chops Dondarrion nearly in half (death number six), Thoros resurrects him once again.

Dondarrion ends up on Arya’s list, but the character does not reappear onscreen until season 6, when the Hound comes across the Brotherhood hanging the same outlaws he’s hunting in retribution for the murders of Brother Ray and his followers. Dondarrion convinces the Hound to join the Brotherhood as they head north to help confront the White Walker threat.

After adventuring north in season 7, Dondarrion, Thoros, the Hound and the Brotherhood are eventually accepted into Jon Snow’s army. When Thoros is killed during an attempt to capture a wight north of the Wall, Dondarrion stoically realizes that his next death will be his last; he is atop the Wall at Eastwatch when it collapses under the attack of the Night King in the final episode of season 7.

Dondarrion dies courageously at the Battle of Winterfell, using his body as a shield to save Arya Stark from the Night King’s wights. According to Melisandre, R’hllor had kept Dondarrion alive for the purpose of protecting Arya, who will later be the one to kill the Night King; it’s interesting to note that Dondarrion’s last death is his seventh, a magical number in the mythical fabric of human history and Game of Thrones.

Beric Dondarrion was a fascinating character, wrapped up as he was in the limbo world between life and death, a good knight too often resurrected, a willing follower whose fate was bound to R’hllor’s implacable, indecipherable and sometimes brutal demands. Richard Dormer delivered a superb performance as he brought this complex character to life, and in the end we can buy the idea that both Eddard Stark and the Lord of Light saw the lion’s heart in Beric Dondarrion, and chose him to do their bidding.

If you’re a Richard Dormer fan, look for his latest work in the Fortitude TV series (2015-2018) and the TV mini-series Rellik (2017), both gritty crime dramas.

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