Curtain Call: Anton Lesser

QyburnWhat is it about bad guys? I just love ’em, ya know? I waxed poetic about Ramsay for years, and have been on board with Euron the past couple, but all the while, there’s been a more silent baddie chewing his way through the scenery: [Formerly Maester] Qyburn. Often quiet, but ever deadly, Qyburn has been a lingering presence on Game of Thrones since season 3, and ever since he showed up, he has made his presence known. This of course would not be possible without the pitch perfect performance of the Maestro himself, Anton Lesser.

Through thick and thin, Qyburn has always been there to lend our characters a hand – quite literally, if you recall that he fitted Jaime with his golden hand.

Jaime and Qyburn

Qyburn’s helpfulness is shown through Anton’s dedication to the craft of acting. He meticulously molded Qyburn into that quirky little side character who was always intriguing to watch. And I think one of the reasons he was so fun is that Anton took as much pleasure in Qyburn’s fascination with weird stuff as the character did. Remember how mirthful he was when he told Cersei that his dark magic would keep The Mountain strong, whatever else happens?

The Mountain and Qyburn

Qyburn: “You should know the process may change him…somewhat.
Cersei: “Will it weaken him?
Qyburn: “Oh no.

Two words. “Oh no.” That’s all it takes. The gleeful way in which he says this is so memorable because Anton makes it so.

Through thick and thin, Qyburn was there for our main characters. After Cersei’s devastating walk of atonement shame, Qyburn was the first to put a cloak on her, showcasing that he was not without empathy. In doing so, the softer side of Qyburn was able to come to the forefront. I honestly believe that he truly loved his queen and that is all due to Anton’s softly spoken, but carefully crafted work.

Cersei and Qyburn

And of course we can’t forget the comedy bits. Who remembers where they were during the summit at the dragonpit? *raises own hand* – I still remember the reaction from our viewing party when Qyburn went to pick up the wight’s hand and examine it – so much laughter. It was a truly meme-able moment:

Qyburn 2

Qyburn ultimately got killed by his own creation towards the end of 805’s ‘The Bells,’ in a death scene has gotta be a top 5 of all time, for me. It was quick, out of nowhere, and just perfectly fitting for the moment. He may be gone, but with Anton Lesser’s deft approach, the legacy of Qyburn will live on. RIP to Qyburn, and Bon Voyage to Anton Lesser. I wish him well in his next endeavors.

Qyburn 3

54 responses

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    1. Qy was definitely quirky. GoT has done such a great job of side and small characters. One dimensional or not, they are fun. Qy is a perfect example. He was just weird and creepy and icky. But definitely a nice add.

      Props to Anton and thank you!

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    2. He was quiet and deadly, for sure!
      Disliked his character very much, but like the Lord Septon guy and the first Maester of KL, played by extremely talented actors. Never a misstep or mischaracterization on the interpretation.

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    3. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. Particularly his reprisal of the Mouth of Sauron scene.

      It’s the little gleam in his eye and accent…

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    4. “The pox will take her within the year”

      One of the best lines in the show, ever. Nothing “lesser” about it. Derp!

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    5. Anton Lesser’s Qyburn more than made up for the lack of creepy-cool Silent Sisters. I particularly enjoyed the panic in his voice as he realized he was losing control of Mountainstein.

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    6. For a relatively low-key bad guy, Qyburn sure made an impression. From sewing up Jaime’s stump, to (probably his most infamous act) bringing the Mountain back, to his many actions on behalf of Cersei (including providing the Scorpion ballistas), Qyburn was certainly a quietly dangerous man. And Anton Lesser imbued him with a certain calm, yet excitable energy.

      From the moment Qyburn told Jaime how he was banished from the Citadel for “too bold” experiments, I was intrigued by him. From then on, I kept my eye on him, and after he told Cersei he could bring back the Mountain, I was always interested to see what he would do with him, and what other things he might cook up.

      Something about Anton’s voice and mannerisms were just perfect for this character. He had a voice that exuded calm wisdom, but always had a certain excitement underneath it, especially when talking about his experiments. And his expressions were similar. He could be straight-faced at most times, but his excitement would often shine through while watching his creation – the frankenmountain – work (and while examining the wight hand), and there was even a bit of sadistic enjoyment on his face when watching Pycelle die.

      Qyburn died pretty much how I expected – killed by his own creation. Thank you, Anton, for your portrayal of this, maybe less prominent, but still unforgettable villainous character.

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    7. Iceman240857: Qy was definitely quirky. GoT has done such a great job of side and small characters. One dimensional or not, they are fun. Qy is a perfect example. He was just weird and creepy and icky. But definitely a nice add.

      Props to Anton and thank you!

      Ditto!

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    8. What really grabbed me about Lesser’s portrayal of Qyburn’s character was the fact that he was a science geek through and through. One got the feeling that he wasn’t evil for evil’s sake, but sincerely dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge using the scientific method – without any regard whatsoever to ethical considerations, of course. There’s something arguably intellectually pure and noble in that, existing right alongside the revolting, detestable nature of his experimentations on living people. There were bits of Qyburn that were relatable. Lesser kept the suggestions of sadism very low-key in playing a character who could very easily have gone over the edge into a campy cartoon of mad scientist or Mengele-style Nazi doctor.

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    9. BigMac:

      Something about Anton’s voice and mannerisms were just perfect for this character. He had a voice that exuded calm wisdom, but always had a certain excitement underneath it, especially when talking about his experiments. And his expressions were similar. He could be straight-faced at most times, but his excitement would often shine through while watching his creation – the frankenmountain – work (and while examining the wight hand), and there was even a bit of sadistic enjoyment on his face when watching Pycelle die.

      Exactly. And when Cersei asks if the rumours about caches of wildfire under KL are just rumours or if there’s more to it, his gleeful answer is spot on: “More, much more”.

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    10. Nina Gold FTW. A(nother) perfect cast. Props to Lesser for taking a small role and making it memorable.

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    11. I’d never seen Anton Lesser in anything (anything that I can recall right now, anyway) before GoT, and I was so impressed from the start that I Googled him. As it turns out, he was Romeo in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet back in 1980 or 1981. I wasn’t remotely surprised; his turn as Qyburn was brilliant and, dare I say, charming. He was one of my very favorite “bad guys,” and I do wish we had discovered how he crossed over to the dark side.

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    12. Back in 1982, I was lucky enough to be taken to see Anton Lesser as Hamlet in London as part of a school trip! He made that much of an impression I can even remember the date! It was not a happy time for me, but for an entire afternoon an unhappy 16 year old girl forgot her troubles and lost herself in the performance of the title character. I was mesmerised by Anton Lesser’s Hamlet. He injected so much humour into it! He made me love the play. He’s been my bench mark for all the other Hamlets i’ve seen over the years and none of them have come close. It’s the Shakespeare performance I remember most. I’m so pleased that he has a relatively high profile career these days. If anyone is interested in seeing him in something else I would recommend the detective series ‘Endeavour’ (the prequel to Inspector Morse) as he has one of the lead roles in it. (It’s probably what he’s most known for in the UK).

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    13. Great stuff by Anton Lesser

      I’ve noticed him in Endeavour (Inspector Morse prequel) but nevertheless wish him all the best in future endeavours

      One of the many Shakespearean actors who have really given the acting aspect of the show a deep sense of class

      And on of the undersung peripheral roles that provides the backdrop for the major actors to be able to shine, eg like Alliser Thorne or Tormund types

      And he nailed the role, the terrifying paradox of Qyburn of the books (and show) is that the fellow is so likeable in his demeanour, is unflinchingly loyal, is never judgemental…

      …but then he carries out abominable tasks in the name of this service, eg not letting the Mountain get put out of his misery so that he may be of further use, giving a Sellsword the Crossbow to kill his Masters brothers – especially Jaimie whom he was initially helping to heal and was serving alongside Cersei.

      Setting a whole bunch of kids to stab Grand Maestar to death, and of course some could have hidden info on Sept Wildfire but he is happy to dutifully carry out a heinous order that involves destroying the religious Epicentre of a major 7 Kingdoms religion/faith along with much of the upper nobility of major Houses

      This is no east act yet I can’t imagine anyone other than Lesser being able to do the role any better

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    14. Fabulous actor. Definitely one of “those guys,” you see him in everything and he’s always great. I’m glad GOT could raise his profile. One of the benefits of hearing tidbits from sources behind the scenes is that sometimes you hear whispers about which actors are particularly nice and people have never said anything but the nicest things about Anton Lesser. So he is apparently a lovely man as well as very talented.

      Thanks for the creepy good time, Anton!

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    15. History Girl:
      Back in 1982, I was lucky enough to be taken to see Anton Lesser as Hamlet in London as part of a school trip! He made that much of an impression I can even remember the date! It was not a happy time for me, but for an entire afternoon an unhappy 16 year old girl forgot her troubles and lost herself in the performance of the title character. I was mesmerised by Anton Lesser’s Hamlet. He injected so much humour into it! He made me love the play. He’s been my bench mark for all the other Hamlets i’ve seen over the years and none of them have come close. It’s the Shakespeare performance I remember most. I’m so pleased that he has a relatively high profile career these days. If anyone is interested in seeing him in something else I would recommend the detective series ‘Endeavour’ (the prequel to Inspector Morse) as he has one of the lead roles in it. (It’s probably what he’s most known for in the UK).

      Thanks for this – will look into it.

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    16. History Girl,

      Hamlet is arguably the biggest role in Shakespeare. Anton is a class act.

      I loved his portrayal of Qyburn. No matter how creepy, and even though he killed Pycelle, I found him rather amiable in a sinister sort of way. Very fitting he got squished by Un Gregor lol.

      I wonder if, had he survived, he would have thanked the Starks for Robb’s Army saving him from the ruins of Harrenhal. How did he get there anyway?

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    17. Wolfish,

      I first saw him as a baddie in “Foyle’s War,” in the episode about art thievery. He didn’t want to sell the purloined sculpture. His motivation was “just to have it.”

      Conleth Hill was also in that show, in a different episode. I think several other GoT actors too. Wonder who Michael Kitchen could’ve played in Westeros.

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    18. Haha I didn’t find him very evil at all and not very creepy.. more of a student of science. Sure, he was team Cersei. But his loyalty and devotion to her on the show could only be matched by the likes of Ser Jorah to Dany, Jaime etc. He stuck wih her to the end when he could have abandoned her to her fate. I concur it was an epic death scene.
      Team Cersei as a whole doesn’t seem so evil now by comparison anyways. She blew up the Sept but Dany took out the whole freakin city.

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    19. Qyburn really should have considered offering up his services to Dany. Just think what his physics-defying and biology-defying mind could have devised for a dragon!

      Lesser turned a minor character into a tremendous, mountain-preserving, dragon-killing force on the show. I can’t imagine a rogue maester, cast out of the Citadel for inappropriate analytical techniques, being any more shifty and devious than how Lesser played him. Bravo, dark maester!

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    20. Never a character I was that invested in but the actor played him perfectly as a creepy and twisted dark scientist with low morale code.

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    21. I never thought of Qyburn as evil, especially compared to Ramsay, Joffrey, etc. Lesser’s nuanced performance made Qyburn an interesting addition to Kings Landing. I loved his curiosity in the macabre.

      Lesser was also terrific in Wolf Hall and The Crown.

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    22. He wasnt a big enough character I guess screentime wise for more, but I was always really interested in him. Even though it was inevitable, I was honestly hoping he didnt get the creation kills the creator outro.

      Although he was a hard character for me to think of another death. Maybe euron kills him for lying about the baby when he put those clues together, then the mountain kills him instead? That both gives the zombie mountain one actual combat scene with his armor on before he is too gross to enjoy, and gets rid of that weird euron jaimie fight.

      Also seemed like he could have been varys’ kill before his demise.

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    23. Amazing actor. He made qyburn interesting and mysterious and one of the scariest character of the show because of that mystery.

      And an amazing voice he has that made qyburn who he was.

      Mr Derp,

      Brilliant scene. But it seems the pox didn’t take her after all.

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    24. I just love Anton Lesser, he is especially perfect as Reginald Bright in “Endeavour” these past few years, and seeing the completely different character he plays as Qyburn has been a ton of fun. I’m a little sad he’s gone, as who knows what he could have done in the new ‘era’ coming up? FrankenRhaegal? 😜

      Speak softly and carry big knowledge. Thanks so much to Anton.

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    25. I loved Qyburn. This story has so many great side characters. The man of science when science barely even exists, ousted from the Citadel, but we’ve seen what those idiots are worth and I’ve always had a soft spot for people who betray the norms of stuffy institutions because they serve the ideal itself and not the institution. Oh well. I never thought of him as a bad guy, or at least like others have said not evil for the sake of evil. Maybe like some German doctor in the 1930s carrying out abominable experiments on people who are going to die anyway, then being secretly brought to the U.S. for Operation Paperclip. Not a hero by any means, but an interesting character and reminds me of first ever favorite television show and possibly still my favorite in The X-Files (another that ended horribly, but it doesn’t tarnish the legacy).

      I’ll always wonder what his backstory was. Was he somehow the Maester for Lady Whent even though he wasn’t a Maester? Or did he actually serve the Mountain at some point and perhaps his ultimate revival and enslavement of him was the ultimate karmic justice only for the Mountain to get the last laugh anyway?

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    26. Adam: Oh well. I never thought of him as a bad guy, or at least like others have said not evil for the sake of evil. Maybe like some German doctor in the 1930s carrying out abominable experiments on people who are going to die anyway, then being secretly brought to the U.S. for Operation Paperclip.

      I won’t comment on this curtain call but this post had me aghast. just sayin

      Loved his character; I too wanted to know his background and just what happened at the citadel. He was the perfect actor; could have been played over the top, but he kept the character under control.

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    27. Pigeon,

      Agree. I first saw him as Bright in Endeavour and Qyburn is so very different. He plays them both perfectly. I also so him in Wolf Hall and the Hollow Crown, he is a fantastic actor. (Those 3 shows are on PBS in the US.)
      ……….

      I just watched episode 5 again to watch how he was interacting with Cersei as the Red Keep starts to fall apart. I thought his layered performance of Qyburn being terrified but keeping it together to convince Cersei to leave was impressive. He can do so much with just how he says a few words.

      I take the view of Qyburn as someone with an intense curiosity who values the pursuit of information and solutions at any cost, regardless of the politics, consequences, or morality. Thank you, Mr. Lesser!

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    28. R.I.P. Qyburn indeed. As much as I despised him, he was one of my favorite characters, and I was so hoping for a Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort-esque wandy showdown between him and Varys.

      But say-la-vee, I suspect even in death Dear Spider just might have one more trick up his sleeve. At least I hope so, because otherwise we may full well be screwed.

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    29. Jaime Lannister: “Odd little man.”
      Cersei Lannister: “I’ve grown rather fond of him. He’s quite talented, you know?”

      Anton is a great character actor, and while not maybe a “star” very well known to TV audiences here, with dozens of roles under his belt. ‘Endeavour’ the most recent long running role – and alongside fellow GoT actor Roger Allam (Illyrio).

      I appreciated the subtlety that he brought to Qyburn, who would have been yet another character easy to portray as an outright evil villain. We can see the shrewdness and intelligence of the character through Anton as a man somewhat bewildered that his experiments are considered even mildly distasteful let alone repulsive. Definitely came across as a kindly uncle at times – provided you didn’t have any inkling of his interests.

      I wonder if GRRM will give us some more background into Qyburn or just leave it to our imagination precisely what horrors he got up to that led to him being stripped of Maester status?

      Another quality piece of casting and thank you Anton!

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    30. One of the more overlooked and underappreciated characters, but absolutely not one of the lesser actors. 😉 Wish he were better known. He looks like a character type–a recognizable face and a versatile, quirky talent. Saw him in one of Lena’s bts video clips and asked her to give him my compliments (not that she’ll see it, but heck, ya never know.)

      Much as I loathed Cersei (and Pycelle–thanks man), his gratitude and devotion to his queen right to the end was…actually kind of sweet. I thought he should’ve just ditched her and tried to save himself. With a couple more morals he could really be a cute, soft-spoken, lovable nerd. Definitely my favorite member of Team Cersei. And I’m sure Anton IS charming irl.

      Adam: Agreed!

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    31. One of the things that make GOT so great, is the casting of the actors. Even the minor roles like Qyburn were cast perfectly! Couldn’t imagine anyone better to play this role.
      I loved him when he wrapped a blanket around Cersei after her Walk of Shame. I thought he used her because she allowed him to do his experiments, but it seems like he also liked her as a person.

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    32. Adam,

      So i guess those experiments were ok in your view because those people were going to die anyway, wtf dude, you know that saying ” Sometimes it’s better to shut up because your own words may turn against you”, sorry i couldn’t read anything more after that sentence, way to shoot yourself in the foot and your argument and no just because the US used nazis that doesn’t make it ok either, Qyburn was an interesting character played by a tremendous actor but let’s not kid ourself here, he is basically Josef Mengele Westerosi version, even moreso in the books .

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    33. Shelle,

      The reason he remained with Cersei was because she was the only one who saw him for his genius and the only one who trusted him, sure Tyrion tried to sweet talk him in the previous episode but he knew that was all bullshit and they would get rid of him as soon as they had no use for him anymore, the Citadel ruined his career, he had nothing else really so if he was going to die, he would rather die alongside the one person who truly had use of him in his life .

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    34. Great tertiary character played artfully well. I’d bet Anton actually expanded the role beyond which D&D originally planned because his take on it was so nuanced and compelling.

      Tip of the hat and I will definitely tune in any time I see him in the credits!

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    35. To me, Qyburn wa

      s no villain. He was a science geek with low ethics. He got kicked out of the Citadel because of his love of knowledge. Just as Sam could have been by those boring, grumpy old men. Cersei took him in (out of pure interest, of course) and he stayed loyal to her up until the end. If a “good” character had been in Cersei’s place, he would have been an excellent ally to “the good cause”.
      But we are lucky he teamed up with the evil Queen, because it gave us great scenes, the best being, for me at least, his excellent final farewell to that wretched little man that was Maester Pycelle.
      For making such an interesting man out of such a smaller character, I am truly grateful to Mr. Lesser (and I think this is the longest comment I have written for a curtain call, so it must be that I am also very admirous).

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    36. From all the small characters in this show, Qyburn has been perhaps the most intriguing. A man of science with questionable ethical standards. A man who was both gentle and terrifying at equivalent proportions.

      Great acting by Anton.

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    37. Jack Nabble:
      Shelle,

      The reason he remained with Cersei was because she was the only one who saw him for his genius and the only one who trusted him, sure Tyrion tried to sweet talk him in the previous episode but he knew that was all bullshit and they would get rid of him as soon as they had no use for him anymore, the Citadel ruined his career, he had nothing else really so if he was going to die, he would rather die alongside the one person who truly had use of him in his life .

      I suppose that’s how he saw it! He had become rather dependent on Cersei’s laissez-faire employment and remained committed to her service ’til the end. :’| Even the bad-guys’ side of the story is touching!

      Absolutely agree with Sou too! 😀

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    38. QYBURN!!!!

      Lesser somehow made this creepy character into a sort of comic relief. Everytime he came on screen I leaned forward to await the dark humor. Was never disappointed.

      “Is there more?”

      “Oh, much more…”

      Sadly there will not be more of our medieval Frankenstein. Bon Voyage Anton!

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    39. Anton Lesser played the soft-spoken, almost kind grandfatherly, yet bordering on creepy science geek to perfection.

      We first saw him when Robb Stark took Harrenhal. Was that late S2 or early S3? He came to more prominence when he treated Jaime’s stump, by then an established “maester” in Roose Bolton’s occupation of Harrenhal.

      Jaime always had some reservations, Cersei found in Qyburn, so expertly played by Anton Lesser, a useful yes-man. A relationship that was to grow from S4 and last to the end.

      Qyburn was a kind of a Westerosi Dr Mengele, but thanks to Anton Lesser’s excellent portrayal, you always kinda liked him. Who can forget him geeking out, all scientific fascination at the wight hand? It was horrific and funny. Anton Lesser played all the facets of Qyburn in a few seconds, there. You were left wondering if Qyburn would want to do somethinh like that himself.

      Sadly, that moment never went anywhere, there just isn’t time for it in these shorter seasons, this shorter last season.

      Anton Lesser made Qyburn, originally perhaps a complete side character, not much above an extra, to stand out and have many meaningful interactions with major cast.

      Anton Lesser is sooooo talented. Go watch him in Wolf Hall and anything else you can get your hands on.

      GoT was graced to have such an amazing actor even in such a minor role. Thank you, Anton.

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    40. Anton Lesser made Qyburn such an appealing but repulsive person to keep an eye on. His delivery of even the shortest of lines was absolutely delightful. He met a fitting end at the hand of his violent creation. I didn’t know when it would happen , just k ew that it would.

      Thank you sir for a job well done!

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    41. “You should know, the process may change him … somewhat.”

      “Will it weaken him?”

      “Oh no.”

      One of my favorite line deliveries of the entire show, and quite possibly ever. Anton Lesser, with that silky voice that never rose above a whisper and that devious spark of deadly curiosity in his eye, always had a special ability to make Qyburn’s smallest moments feel dangerous and impressive. He is a rare talent, and he will be missed.

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