Curtain Call: Ciarán Hinds

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He said his people had bled enough, and he meant it.

Back in August 2012, the announcement that Ciarán Hinds would be portraying Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones was met with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Many were fans of Ciarán’s previous work, yet others could not see him in the part.

After his performance as the King-Beyond-the-Wall, I think all negative notions can be well and truly quashed.

Ciarán played Mance with a sense of understated grimness. He was very clearly of the North, yet with a barely contained jovial side not common among the region’s typical residents. Despite only appearing in five scenes (six if we count Jon’s plea and Mance’s execution separately… which we probably should), his presence was felt throughout all four full seasons so far, and what we have seen of the fifth.

After being built up as a looming threat for two whole seasons, we finally met Mance for the first time in “Valar Dohaeris” – and it seemed a bit underwhelming. But that was the point. Where the audience had been expecting a great warrior, stood a relatively normal man. Mance never quite lived up to the reputation those south of the Wall held of him, and that was partly the purpose of his character. His ambitions and morals were far greater than the man himself. That’s how he lived, and that’s how he died. Ciarán made that apparent with every opportunity he had.

gameofthrones15_30Mance’s scenes in “The Wars to Come” were his very best. He was given more time to breathe as a character, and we were reminded just how Ciarán can dominate a scene when given the chance. From his subtle facial movements to his vocal cadence, the man held a certain unique gravitas. Fans of HBO’s Rome will be well aware of Ciarán’s ability to magnetise the audience. The small taste we were given of of him in his final Thrones episode brought that reality crashing back down, and made the loss of his character that bit sourer.

A lot is being made of Mance’s untimely death in the show. Many are speculating that a certain plot point involving Rattleshirt during Mance’s execution in A Dance with Dragons is being given over to Tormund for the TV audience. However, Ciarán has made it quite clear in numerous interviews that his time on the show is at an end – Mance Rayder is well and truly dead.

Like Mance, Ciarán is no stranger to conflict. A young man growing up in Belfast just before the height of the Troubles, Ciarán would have been familiar with chaos. Despite this, he emerged with his dignity and talent intact, and has firmly left his mark on stage, television, and film since. This year alone he will appear in The Driftless AreaBleed for ThisHitman: Agent 47, and as Claudius in a live production of Hamlet by National Theatre Live, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular prince.

Despite hailing from the same small island as Ciarán, I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing him perform live on stage. Due to his outstanding performance in yet another show that I love (after Rome), I may just change that fact sooner rather than later.

So, join me now in offering a toast to Ciarán and Mance, Mance and Ciarán. Mance was the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and managed to unite one hundred warring clans behind a single purpose. Ciarán came from Belfast. As Mance was once a brother of the Night’s Watch, and given that he fondly remembered Castle Black as his home of many years in his final moments, I propose that it is only fitting to end his curtain call with:

And now his watch is ended.

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54 responses

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    1. And now his watch is ended.

      He was great, glad the show managed to get such a talent to play Mance. I only wish we saw more of him…

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    2. Since this is the first Curtain Call at the new place, as a refresher: we use Curtain Calls to celebrate actors and their time on the show. We ask that commenters stay on topic, and remain positive.

      Hinds is a giant of an actor. I was just falling in love with his Mance and now he’s gone. 🙁

      “We’re not in the seven kingdoms and you’re not dressed for this weather.”

      The best.

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    3. I only wish he had more screentime. Very glad he truly came into his own in the 501 scenes!

      Beautifully written, Cian.

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    4. This show has had so many great actors in non major rolls. Ciaran Hinds is a great actor who made every scene memorable.

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    5. Thanks to your last paragraph, I’m crying like a little girl again right now as if I was mourning the loss of a real life person.

      And now his watch is ended.

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    6. Ciarán Hinds gave a splendid performance as Mance Raydar, especially in his final scenes. I know that some people have expressed concerns that Mance was underused during his time on the show. I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that point of view. But every time he did appear on screen, Hinds’ self-assured intensity and undeniable charisma accentuated the virtues of casting an actor of his caliber in this role.

      Mance’s introduction in “Valar Dohaeris” established him as a man who – if not quite the towering figure of legend – could conceivably unite 100,000 people from ninety warring clans into a single potent force. His parley with Jon Snow in “The Children” reminded us that he was a man of principle and reason. He was willing to shed blood to achieve his goal, but he refused to revel in the necessity of such an action, and he would not allow his people to pay the price when he recognized the cost had become too high. Finally, his last conversation with Jon Snow in “The Wars to Come” provided a splendid level of insight into the King Beyond the Wall’s mindset and unyielding resolve (I’ll note that Kit Harington was great in that scene as well). I was absolutely riveted during his long walk to the pyre – particularly during the painfully extended sequence after Melisandre set the torch to the wood but before Jon put an arrow in his heart. Mance was proud and dignified. He was defiant, but respectful. And yet, when the fire started to creep up on him, you could tell that he was scared. The looks that he exchanged with Tormund in particular broke my heart. It was a brutal fate, and not one that he (or anyone) deserved. But it was a death worthy of a king.

      We do not kneel, but let’s all raise our glasses to Ciarán Hinds for his indelible performance … and make sure to fill them with a proper Northern drink! To echo Cian‘s excellent tribute: And now his watch is ended.

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    7. Wonderfully written piece.
      It was through Mance Raydar that the predicament of the Wildings came to have urgency and gravity. Other Wildings – Tormund, Yigritte – did not manage to convey the message that these are people who also belong in Westeros proper; they are not wild snowbeasts confined to some forgotten dungeons of the continent. Also, though Mance was King Beyond the Wall, through him I got the feeling that monarchy may become outdated in Westeros in the near future. Westeros is one of the last bastions of hereditary monarchy on the planet.

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    8. The Bastard:
      This show has had so many great actors in non major rolls.Ciaran Hinds is a great actor who made every scene memorable.

      My thoughts exactly. His last scene was remarkable and indicative of his extraordinary skills. I’m sorry to lose him so soon. We did not get enough of him.

      And now his watch has ended….

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    9. If I can just figure out what is that recipe for the proper Northern drink, for a proper Northern toast.

      (or is it just milk?)

      … and now his watch has ended

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    10. ace,

      I expect it’s the fermented milk of some kind of massive mammal that resides north of the Wall. A moose, perhaps. Or maybe a mammoth.

      As it happens, I’m a bit short on moose and mammoths at the moment. I also lack both the patience and the expertise to tackle the fermentation process even if I did have such a creature on hand. So I’m going to settle for a strong mountain ale. Maybe chase it with a shot of whiskey. It may not be an exact match for the Northern brew that Mance served to Jon Snow, but hopefully the Free Folk will approve.

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    11. One of the things I liked about Mance Rayder was that he always seemed so honest, and true. Yes, he did forsake the Night’s Watch and become a wildling, but it was for something he believed in. And he seemed like a really talented leader. For example, he gave Jon a chance. And even when he returned, he toasted with him and almost acted as if they were friends. My point being that he was fair to every man, every clan, every enemy. He even wishes Stannis good fortune. In GoT we are used to killing, backstabbing and plotting. Mance was just a damn good leader that fought for what he believed in, it was a nice change of pace. He even admitted how afraid he was to die, which is more than most leaders in GoT would admit.

      Hinds did a great portrayal. If Storms had been a 15-episode thing (without Reek, the parts from Dance etc.), I think he’d have made more impact, appearing in 1, 2, 3 and 15, instead of 20. But in the end, he did a fantastic job.

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    12. Mr. Hinds performance really makes me sad for the loss of his book counterparts WF scenes. Outstanding, Ser! Well played.

      On a different note, can anyone phonetically explain how to say Ciaran, and Cian for that matter. I want to say Karen and Sean, but I know that’s wrong.

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    13. I love parallels in the show and it just struck me how much a parallel Jon watching Mance in his final moments to Arya seeing Ned and the thematic undertone of doing what is honorable only gets you killed.

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    14. Cian–excellent write up! Thank you. Ciaran has always been one of my favorite Irish actors and I will miss him in our GoT universe sorely.

      Jared,
      Reading your comment it occurred to me that Mance was probably the best role model that Jon could have of how to be a leader. IMHO he has shown greater quality of character than Mormont, Stannis, any of the Lannisters and even Ned. If Jon has to learn, he learned from the best.

      Darkstar,
      I think this is how they are pronounced but Cian is the expert.
      Cian = Keen
      Ciaran = Keer-uhn
      Sean = Shawn, although we had a television anchor whose name was “Sean” and he called himself “Seen”. Grrrr, an Irish-American family used an Irish name and then pronounced it wrong! Dumb

      direhound,
      Good point! I made the same point in my recap/review video. We’ll be posting it tomorrow as a brush up for Episode 2.

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    15. I liked him immediately. I never cared about any criticism that he somehow didn’t look the part. You could see it in his face immediately, a sort of bemused way of looking at the world, and particularly of an overly serious, earnest type like Jon Snow. He’s got this great smirk on his face when he first meets him. Jon tries the earnest route: “I want to be free.” “Naw…I think you want to be a hero.” He had me at that moment. Sure, they didn’t include any of the “bard” characterization, but really, that’s not the point – it’s that he’s not a grim, stone-faced hard case. He’s a bit more relaxed.

      Maybe it’s Jon Snow’s earnestness and willingness to take a punch that endears him to Mance and Tormund; they both, on separate occasions, tell Jon that they like him, or at least that he’s a “good lad.” The other scenes in 3.02 and 3.03 aren’t too much, but it’s great to then see him “The Children,” when he and Snow have a drink and talk.

      And the scene in “The Wars to Come” is one of the best in the show’s history, and Hinds’ acting, especially when told he’s to be burned to death, is dynamic. Slow conversations between two interesting people is a GoT staple and this nails it.

      He did great work, and I’ll miss having him on the show.

      “The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.”

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    16. It is great thing to have such a big actor in a small role. That proves that GoT is one of the best shows ever.

      That was the point of his casting. He was a small character, but they made him big with this great actor.

      I loved Ciarán Hinds in GoT, in Rome, in Harry Potter,….

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    17. Hinds is undoubtedly one of the most talented and accomplished actors on the show- but I wasn’t sold on his portrayal of Mance until 4×10, during his scene with Jon in the tent. Between those scenes and this most recent episode, he has totally become Mance in my mind and I am glad the character was done justice before he had to go. Just wish we had seen more of him in season 3 and 4; I felt like he was out of sight, out of mind for a lot of book readers during that long time off screen. A lot of non readers I watch with thought Tormund was king beyond the wall for a long time.

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    18. >
      Ciaran was the best. Also wish he had been in more scenes. He’s one of those actors that takes over every scene he is in. Of course, my guy and I remembered him from Rome, but he was also fantastic in Munich ~ Ciaran’s character, Carl, had a great death scene in that one too.

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    19. To those who say he wasn’t in the show enough, I say that to me he felt like he was in the show far more than he actually was. That is a testament to the level of presence that the actor and character commanded. I am actually amazed at how few scenes he was really in.

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    20. I said it before and I’ll say it again .. I was on the verge of crying watching him on that pyre with flames surrounding him .. I’m a hard man and it’s hard and unusual for me to get this emotional especially for a fictional character..I tried to hold it in but eventually gave in and shed some manly tears though quickly wiped them off .. it shows you how much of an actor Ciarán is .. his portrayal of Mance was all I ever hoped for .. and seeing him go with dignity while holding on to his principles was really painful for me yet gloriously victorious in some way .. he was a true leader .. played by a great actor .. and I already miss him ..

      And Now His Watch is Ended …..

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    21. One of my favourite HBO actors. I was beyond stoked when he was cast.

      I don’t think the showrunners gave Ciaran enough screen time, or Mance enough development. But whenever Ciaran Hinds was on screen, he was seriously awesome. He brought some serious gravitas to Mance’s scenes, right up to the final one. They will always be enjoyable to re-watch. Wish we could have seen more of him.

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    22. Ciaran Effing Hinds. Taking the opportunity to rip my heart out and beat me over the head with it in Episode 1. Will miss that man more than I planned to.

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    23. I’m sad to see him go. Like many others, I wish he had more screen time, but he was amazing at what little time he was given. I’m sorry that we won’t be following his story any further.

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    24. I have been blown away by Ciaran Hinds ever since “Persuasion”. I think he was perfectly cast in GoT – not many actors could pull off playing such a complex character as Mance. I second that he cast a far greater shadow over the plot vs. his screen time. Again, in Nina Gold we trust – well done!

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    25. Shinobishaw: Thanks!!

      so do we know they’re not doing the Rattleshirt switch on the show, or is the timing of this (moving, eloquent and very, very well said) eulogy meant to throw unsullied off the scent?

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    26. Cersei’s Brain,

      Check the National Theatre Live website for where it might be playing near you. We have been going to our local theatre for several years and have gotten to watch some amazing theatre (the most recent being Macbeth and Helen Mirren in The audience). Its not quite the same as live, but its still very enjoyable to see famous actors in these stage productions

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    27. Of the Night:
      To those who say he wasn’t in the show enough, I say that to me he felt like he was in the show far more than he actually was. That is a testament to the level of presence that the actor and character commanded. I am actually amazed at how few scenes he was really in.

      Same reaction, I can’t believe it was only six scenes. And a couple if thise are mostly exposition. Still think his S3 scenes could have been better, but shit he was still really good in them.

      I got very excited when he was cast. Loved him in Rome and he was also really good in the last Harry Potter movie (as Aberforth, another example if him leaving a great impression in just one scene). He never disappointed, and his last couple scenes in “Wars to Come” are just about the best work I’ve seen him do.

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    28. Cersei’s Brain,

      Check the National Theatre Live website for where it might be playing near you. It plays at our local theatre, and we’ve gotten to watch some amazing theatre (the most recent being Macbeth and Helen Mirren in The audience). Its not quite the same as live, but its still very enjoyable to see famous actors in these stage productions

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    29. WeirwoodTreeHugger,

      Maybe that’ why I haven’t known what to say on this thread. He was so brilliant in that last episode, I don’t want to accept that’s all we’ll be seeing of him, but alas…

      Now his watch has ended. 🙁

      On a side note: I’d give my eye-teeth to see Hinds’ Claudius!!!

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    30. I used to think it was odd that they would get such a big-name actor as Ciaran Hinds to play a relatively minor role… After seeing the Season Premiere, however, I have come to realize that the fact that he has so few scenes is exactly why they NEEDED someone like Hinds.
      When you have a character like Mance, who has to leave a significant enough impression and convey all these aspects of his character in just a few scenes, writing on its own isn’t going to be enough – You need to get a really good actor who you know can convey all of these things. And Ciaran Hinds handled it masterfully.

      R.I.P Mance. You will be missed.

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    31. This is a bit premature. It’s like when you did a curtain call for

      Rory McCann, even though it’s not confirmed he’s dead. McCann wasn’t at the dearly departed roundtable discussion on my blu-ray, and you never know, they still might be using a certain storyline for Hinds yet.

      If they don’t, then that’s fair enough, but…

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    32. Rygar:
      Yes yes yes. But can he SING?

      Rygar, I know many (maybe most) of your posts are made with your tongue firmly in your cheek, but CH has appeared in something where he sang. I can’t remember which film/play it was offhand but if I remember I will say.

      Shinobishaw,

      Shobinshaw, I see you have sussed out the spoiler facility now but when I want to insert a spoiler I do it the lazy way – I copy and paste the beginning of the spoiler code, then type what I want to say and finish by copying and pasting the end spoiler end.

      And finally, I also appreciated Mr Hinds’ portrayal of Mance – especially in the most recent episode.

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    33. His gravitas will be sorely missed!
      I only wish that Stephen Dillane and Ciaran had more screentime together before Mance was killed off- I wanted to see those to go toe to toe without Jon as intermediary.
      Thanks for the write-up Cian!

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    34. Cian, you made me cry with your closing:

      So, join me now in offering a toast to Ciarán and Mance, Mance and Ciarán. Mance was the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and managed to unite one hundred warring clans behind a single purpose. Ciarán came from Belfast. As Mance was once a brother of the Night’s Watch, and given that he fondly remembered Castle Black as his home of many years in his final moments, I propose that it is only fitting to end his curtain call with:

      And now his watch is ended.

      What a lovely job you did with this very sad assignment–the death of the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

      I would only add:

      Ciarán, born in Belfast, is an actor who gives his audience gravitas, sly wit, and a lilting cadence that rings of poetry. Mance was the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

      Ave atque vale, Mance. We hardly knew ye.

      ***stumbles off for a good cry***

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