(Spoiler Alert: This story contains major plot details and reaction to “Game of Thrones” Season 4, Episode 9, “The Watchers on The Wall.” If you haven’t seen Sunday’s episode, bookmark this page to come back to after you’ve watched.)
One week after Prince Oberyn Martell was crushed in the arena, “Game of Thrones” brought audiences more devastating heartbreak, as the girl who was “kissed by fire” — Rose Leslie’s Ygritte — died in Jon Snow’s arms during the battle at The Wall.
And she went out the way she came in – putting Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in his place. As Ygritte took her last breath, she (again) uttered her most famous line – “you know nothing, Jon Snow” — words straight out of George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords,” and kept in the script by the HBO show’s executive producers – David Benioff and Dan Weiss.
“It was a lovely swan song and I was happy that I got to say it one last time,” Rose told AccessHollywood.com. “It was a wonderful kind of arc. It was a way to kind of finish it off and I thought that it was beautifully written by George and also by David and Dan, and I felt that it just summed everything up. And of course she’s going to have the last word, and of course it’s going to be that sentence.”
The battle at Castle Black was shot over nearly two weeks in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but the death of Wilding Ygritte was filmed on Rose’s final day.
“They were incredibly thoughtful in making sure that the scene where I die in Jon Snow’s arms was my last day. That was the last thing I was ever going to do for ‘Game of Thrones,’ and so, obviously, I was feeling incredibly emotional that day anyway, and so when we were done, when we were wrapped, I was presented with the most lovely wrap gift and I was bawling like a baby and kind of like, hopping from each crew member to the other and just hugging people and saying how much I loved them. It was a little bit ridiculous on my part, to be fair,” Rose laughed.
To honor her work on the show, Rose was given Ygritte’s most valuable possession.
“They actually presented me with Ygritte’s bow and I had no idea,” Rose told Access. “They changed the strap and they replaced it with white leather and then there was a silver plaque on one side, saying, ‘kissed by fire.’ And then, on the other side, there was a rose emblem — like a red rose, so it was very, very beautiful and I was hugely touched.”
Rose began her “GoT” journey bringing to life the tough, flirty and courageous Ygritte in Season 2. Her character found a great love that turned to heartbreak in Season 3, but in recent episodes, she found her strength again, even if it was driven partially by revenge. On Sunday, in one of her last moments, Ygritte told Jon they should have stayed in the cave, but Rose said her Wildling character doesn’t blame her former lover for how things turned out.
“I think that she’s an incredible creature. She’s aware that when she’s going into battle that she’s also putting her life on the line, but at the beginning — at the top of the battle — she is so in the zone. She is still on this murderous mission, this rampage to find Jon Snow and still, in her head, to kill him, simply because he needs to feel some of the pain that he gave to her,” Rose said. “I don’t think she does blame Jon Snow. … I think she blames the world that they live in. I think that it was circumstances beyond her and beyond him as to why they left. I don’t think there’s any blame going on in her mind. It’s just a wishful thought of, ‘Oh God, wouldn’t it have been wonderful,’… but it’s also, you know, our lives took us our separate ways and that is life.”
Life, on “Game of Thrones,” also ended up with Olly, the boy Ygritte chose not to kill earlier in the season, delivering the fatal blow.
“Didn’t that come back around to bite me in the a***,” Rose laughed. “But the boy has his reasons, of course. I killed his dad. Olly has got a point.”
With her “Thrones” arc over, Rose told Access that being part of the HBO show was, “such an incredible privilege.”
And her co-star, Kit, said he was lucky to have her as the Ygritte to his Jon Snow.
“She is the most emotionally astute actor I’ve ever worked with, and quite honestly, I couldn’t have got luckier – either of us, I think, with the casting of these parts. For us, anyway,” Kit told Access. “We got on so well from day one as friends and as a working relationship. … And the payoff at the end, the whole kind of – her death — it felt like one big story arc coming perfectly to an end. I can’t say enough good things about her. She’s a wonderful actress.”
Rose, who called Kit “a very generous actor” and “so talented,” had similar thoughts about bringing the Jon/Ygritte story arc to conclusion, when Access asked if she thought Ygritte’s death was fair (considering all she went through).
“I have always thought, since the beginning, that George Martin and the way that David and Dan write the show – the beauty of it is that no one is safe and I feel keeping the audience on the tenterhooks and toying with their emotions and building up the anticipation is a wonderful kind of – it’s an entertainment. That’s what it is, and I think that with the storyline that Jon Snow and Ygritte have, I feel that the arc has come to an end, but also, this is a way for Jon Snow to then move on and be on his own and battle his own storyline so to speak,” Rose said. “So I do feel it needs to happen, but I mean, I read the books before I even started Season 2, so I was well aware of the state of my character before we even began shooting and I do genuinely just feel so happy to have been a part of it.”
And she never once thought of petitioning her bosses to deviate from GRRM’s text.
“No, there wasn’t, just because I knew that this is part of the books and certainly, I think it would have been disloyal to George’s story and to the world that all of these men are creating – David and Dan and so forth. You’ve got to stay loyal to the books,” she said. “There are so many fans out there, I don’t think you can toy around with it like that.”
Currently stateside filming “Sticky Notes,” with Ray Liotta (the directorial debut of screenwriter Amanda Harlib), Rose is feeling grateful to have been a part of “Thrones.”
“From the beginning, I have felt incredibly privileged to have been a part of the show and I know that I will be eternally grateful for all the platforms that it has put me on as an actor,” she said.
“Game of Thrones” Season 4 wraps up next Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash