A lot of people perish on Game of Thrones, but one big death last week really hurt. (Spoilers ahead, obviously.)
Missandei, Daenreys’ trusted advisor played by Nathalie Emmanuel, saw a brutal end in the fourth episode of the show’s final season. It’s not just that she was one of the smartest, kindest, most reliable characters in a show filled with back-stabbers and selfish survivalists. She was also the show’s only (named) woman of color.
Missandei’s sudden death was one of the most controversial parts of last week’s episode, singled out by, among others, filmmaker Ana Du Vernay. (Jessica Chastain took on another troubling aspect: the show’s depiction of sexual assault against female characters, among them Sansa Stark.)
Turns out Emmanuel herself wasn’t thrilled with the plot twist, either. The actress spoke to Entertainment Weekly a few days after the episode aired.
“To be honest with you, when I read the script for it, I was, like, not surprised that she died because I had been expecting it for a really long time … So many people die in that show and I guess I didn’t think I was any safer than anybody else in that respect. But I am fully aware and engaged in the conversation of representation because I am the only woman of color in this show that has been on there regularly for many seasons.”
To add insult to injury, Missandei’s death occurred in front of Jacob Anderson’s Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied and now the only main character of color left alive on the show.
“It’s safe to say that Game of Thrones has been under criticism for their lack of representation and the truth of it is that Missandei and Grey Worm have represented so many people because there’s only two of them,” Emmanuel added. “So this is a conversation going forward about when you’re casting shows like this, that you are inclusive in your casting. I knew what it meant that she was there, I know what it means that I am existing in the spaces that I am because when I was growing up, I didn’t see people like me. But it wasn’t until she was gone that I really felt what it really, truly meant, until I saw the outcry and outpouring of love and outrage and upset about it, I really understood what it meant.”
Missandei entered the Game of Thrones-verse in Season 3, when she was a slave freed by Daenerys. She went on to prove her mettle as a multi-lingual, savvy advisor — a rock to her sometimes wary superior. After her final episode aired, Emmanuel wrote a moving tribute to her former colleagues, some of whom still have two, or maybe only one, episode left.