One character's death brought a conversation about diversity on the show back up.
HBO
  • Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the final season of "Game of Thrones."
  • "Game of Thrones" has often been criticised for a lack of diversity in its cast and production team.
  • Many feel that has lead to story lines that objectify people of colour.
  • This week's episode saw many of those criticisms coming to light again.
  • For more, go to Business Insider SA.

When Grey Worm and Missandei kissed on episode two of this season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" and started making post-war plans, someone should have started construction on their funeral pyres. If there's one promise that "Game of Thrones" has made to fans since the very beginning it's that characters are going to die - especially if they're beloved.

Missandei's death on this week's episode, however, struck a nerve with some viewers who feel that the show doesn't have the best track record when it comes to how it treats black characters.

In the latest episode, Missandei of Naath, played by actress Nathalie Emmanuel, was captured during an ambush

She was later beheaded atop a wall at the command of Cersei Lannister, all while her beloved Grey Worm, her Khaleesi Daenerys, Tyrion, a dragon, and a couple dozen soldiers watched helplessly from the ground below. Her death reduced the show's black female population to 0% (Emmanuel self-identifies as being of "mixed heritage"), which didn't go over well on Twitter.

Missandei was Daenerys' translator and closest friend so it makes sense that Cersei and Euron would take her prisoner, or even kill her in order to get a reaction out of Daenerys, but that doesn't change the unfortunate optics of the scene.

For some, the public execution of the show's only black woman (a former slave) as she stood bruised and shackled between two feuding white women is hard to write off as purely fantasy, even on a show with magic and dragons. Having the character die in another way would have still sent ripples through the Twitterverse, but seeing her die in bondage had many saying that Missandei deserved better. (For her part, Emmanuel praised the way her character died).

As the so-called "Breaker of Chains," the main talking point during Daenerys' campaign tour has been about freeing people from slavery and doing away with the status quo. While the sentiment is admirable, a blonde haired, green-eyed woman riding across the continent to liberate an army of non-White warrior eunuchs and other enslaved peoples who in turn pledge their undying loyalty to her does evoke memories of the White savior trope that many would like to move away from.

Many also brought up the show's history of brutality against women and POCs and noted that the "Game of Thrones" writers' room is primarily white and male.

'Game of Thrones' has been called out for controversial choices regarding people of colour in the past

One major criticism has been that, save for the now virtually extinct tribe known as the Dothraki, POCs are few and far between in Westeros and Esos. There was Lucian Msamati the pirate, Xaro Xhoan Daxos the wealthy back-stabbing merchant of Qarth, the people of Dorne (Oberyn, Ellaria, Doran), Grey Worm, Missandei, and a few others, but the list is tragically short.

In addressing the melanin deficiency in his fantasy world in a blog post in 2014, author George RR Martin explained that "Westeros around 300 A.C. is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America." Martin wrote that his upcoming book ("Winds of Winter") would feature more non-white people as "secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance," and added that he thought HBO and showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss were "doing what they can to promote diversity."

With only two episodes and maybe two characters of colour left, it's unrealistic to expect "Game of Thrones" to fix its diversity problem, but there's still hope for the medium and the genre. Hiring more writers of colour and women to help tell stories - both in the fantasy genre and in general - that won't enrage fans feels like an easy enough solution.

Then again Weiss and Benioff are still planning that alt-history Confederate series, so maybe they aren't the duo to fix this.

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