If someone comes back to life in Game of Thrones, it has to be for a specific purpose, right? That’s been a central question for Jon Snow’s storyline since season 6. But long before Jon met his unfortunate end at the hands — and knives — of his Night’s Watch brothers, Beric Dondarrion pondered this same question. And in the third episode of season 8, we finally got our answer.
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night.”]
Beric first came into our Game of Thrones lives back in season 1, when Ned Stark sent him to hunt down Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. He made his mark in season 3, when he returned as the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a small fighting force that sprung up during the War of the Five Kings and was dedicated to fighting not for monarchs but for common people. More importantly, Beric was a famous warrior — in part thanks to his flaming sword, but mostly for the fact that he had been brought back to life after being killed four different times.
The more time the show spent with Beric, the more we came to understand that the questions around his resurrection were just as much a mystery to him as to us. He assumed that the reason he kept being brought back had to be for some greater purpose.
Beric himself frequently said that every time he came back, he came back less himself. But throughout the series, he never lost his most important qualities: his desire to fight for good and for the protection of people, or the faith that his life was meant to serve a greater purpose. He may have served as the inspiration for Melisandre to bring Jon Snow back from the dead, but in the end, his most important purpose was to sacrifice his life, finally, for the life of someone else.
Beric gave his life to protect Arya, and as Melisandre said to her shortly after Beric falls for the final time, that was his purpose: to give his life for the one who, we later discover, will defeat the Night King once and for all.
It’s very fitting within the world of Game of Thrones that in our final moments with Beric, he himself never discovered whether his life was meant for a higher purpose. Because Beric assumed his life had meaning, it ended at Winterfell, fighting the dead. He died in the Battle of Winterfell just like hundreds of others. To him, he saved one life. But we know the truth: Without Beric and his sacrifice, the living may have died at Winterfell. For Game of Thrones, that kind of ambiguity is at the heart of all questions of fate. Are people fated by destiny to be where they are, or is destiny shaped by action?