Curtain Call: Paul Kaye

Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr.

Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr.

Pour one (or several) out for a fallen friend — not all of the Magnificent Seven and their redshirt wildlings made it back from beyond in the Wall in the appropriately-named episode 6 of season 7, “Beyond The Wall.” Unfortunately, however, our favorite drunken Red Priest of R’hllor was among the casualties, so it’s time to say a fond farewell to Thoros of Myr and the actor who played him, Paul Kaye.

We first hear Thoros’ name mentioned in episode 4 of season 1, “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” when Jory Cassel, the late captain of the Stark household guard, and Jaime Lannister are talking about the siege of Pyke some ten years earlier. “Do you remember Thoros of Myr charging through the breach?” Jaime asks. “With that flaming sword,” Jory replies. “I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

It was the first time but certainly not the last that we heard of Thoros’ famed charge through the breach, and it was telling that this Red Priest of R’hllor was known more for his fighting skills and his love of drink than for his piety — shortcomings that he never shied away from admitting with a smirk and a tip of his cup (or flask). It was that self-deprecating humor dashed with glimpses of surprising depth — humility, regret and gravity among them — that made Thoros such a likeable part of the Thrones cast, despite his role being confined largely to season 3.

British actor Paul Kaye was the perfect actor to sell Thoros’ particular brand. Kaye got his start in comedy, portraying crass TV personality Dennis Pennis on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, and he brought that to the wry Thoros from the first moment we see him, strolling through the forest singing “The Rains of Castamere” in episode 2 of season 3 just before discovering Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie and ribbing them about stealing castle-forged swords and calling them “dangerous persons.”

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Although he initially appears to be merely the comic relief that the Brotherhood needs from the gravity of their mission, it’s not long before we discover that Thoros is much more. He may have been a faithless priest and a drunk in years past, but by the time we first meet him in Thrones, he’s a changed man — he still loves his rum, but he’s seen larger forces at work. His faith has been restored in a way he never could have imagined.

Kaye was masterful at dipping into and out of the gravity lent to Thoros by humility and the restoration of his faith. Viewers don’t yet know about Beric’s numerous resurrections by episode 4 of season 3, when Beric Dondarrion and the Hound are preparing for trial by combat, but what we see is a man of solemn conviction as Thoros delivers a prayer before the fight begins. It would have been easy for an actor to oversell such a scene, but what Kaye took pains to show us was that Thoros’ miracles didn’t make him a zealot; rather, it was as if his glimpses into something otherworldly had shown him the larger forces at work and placed a grim weight upon his shoulders.

Thoros and BericWe see that versatility of Kaye’s acting again in episode 5 of season 3, when Thoros rushes to Beric’s side to pray over his body after he’s defeated by the Hound. It was heartwrenching to watch him stumble and then fall onto his knees next to Beric, laying his head on his chest and praying quickly, as though he was afraid if he didn’t say the words soon enough his friend wouldn’t return. And an episode later, we see him in a moment of deep introspection, freely admitting to Melisandre that he had lost his faith in R’hllor before he even came to Westeros, and that his first resurrection of Beric wasn’t an act of faith but one of habit:

“I’ve always been a terrible priest. Drank too much rum, fucked all the whores in King’s Landing…it’s a terrible thing to say, but by the time I came to Westeros I didn’t believe in our Lord. I decided that he, that all the gods, were stories that we tell the children to make them behave. So I wore the robes and every now and then I said the prayers, but it was just for show — a spectacle for the locals. Until the Mountain drove a lance through his heart. I knelt beside his cold body and said the old words, not because I believed in them, but because he was my friend and he was dead, and they were the only words I knew.

In the hands of any other actor that scene could have been a maudlin performance, but in Kaye’s it was a moving one, a portrayal of a man who regrets his past but neither wallows in it nor ignores its lessons. As he talks he’s gazing into the distance, flask still in hand, and although his signature wry smile touches his lips, his eyes are far away, remembering.

After season 3, we don’t see Thoros again until episode 8 of season 6, when the Hound finds the Brotherhood preparing to hang the rogue members who slaughtered the villagers that the Hound was working beside to build a sept. Thoros’ face is more weathered and his hair is longer, but the wry humor that Kaye made a hallmark of the Red Priest is the first thing we notice, as he greets the Hound the same way Sandor once greeted him at the Inn at the Crossroads: “The fuck you doing here?” It was refreshing to see that although years of war and hardship had taken their toll on Thoros, he was still himself –- and all the credit goes to Kaye for showing us a man who was weary yet unbeaten.

Thoros Sandor Dragonstone

We got a little more Thoros in season 7, beginning with episode 1 when we see the Brotherhood and the Hound riding north. Kaye again dips into Thoros’ solemnity when he’s gazing into the fire at the farmhouse, reading the flames, and hours later when he finds the Hound burying the corpses of the farmer and his daughter that once lived in the farmhouse at which the Brotherhood is staying the night — the people that Sandor robbed and left to starve when traveling with Arya in season 4. Thoros helps him, at first without saying a word, and doesn’t probe too deeply into whether or not the Hound knew them.

However, it was Thoros’ good humor in the face of odds decidedly against his favor that was his defining characteristic, and Kaye excelled in always delivering it with perfect timing and just the right amount of wit – even after he’s badly injured by the undead bear in “Beyond The Wall.” “Funny old life,” he mutters to Beric, before gesturing for his rum and taking a gulp to brace himself for Beric cauterizing his wounds with his flaming sword.

In “Beyond The Wall,” it’s the first time Jorah and Thoros have seen each other in years, and Jorah brought up the breach at Pyke — and although Thoros has been mortally wounded by the bear only hours earlier, when Jorah tells him that he thought he was the bravest man he had ever seen, Thoros smiles and replies, “Just the drunkest.”

It’s no accident that it was the story about Thoros charging through the breach at Pyke that bookended his time on Thrones. The first time, it was an awed retelling of his bravery; the second, it was more the truth of the matter. Somewhere in between was the real Thoros, who Kaye brought to life with a richness that made him more than just a minor character. He was a bright spot in the grim world of Westeros, and I hope he’s resting easy in the Night Lands.

Photo: Fenris Oswin

Photo: Fenris Oswin

60 responses

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    1. Awww, my favorite bit-character is gone!

      Did anybody other than me keep expecting him to whip out a lute & flute and start singing “Aqualung”?

      No?

      OK, only me, then.

      Oh, and: Seymour!!!!

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    2. 🙏🏻🔥

      Great casting. I am picturing Paul Kaye and hearing his voice while reading aSoS. Kudos to D&D for keeping the role going!

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    3. I loved the dinamic between him and Beric.!
      I did not expect the BwB to come back so was very happy we had Thoros till season 7.
      Best wishes Paul!!

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    4. Thoros, you magnificent drunkard, RIP!! A big shout out to Paul Kaye for a great performance as Thoros of Myr.

      Mr Derp,

      Oooohhhh!!! I like that!!!

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    5. Another brilliant casting that made a minor role such a memorable one. Ahhh Paul kaye, yo were born to don this role. Thank you for those memorable scenes

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    6. Osentalka:
      Wimsey,

      Lend me your ear while I call you a foo-o-oo-o-oo-o-ool.

      At least we know who the Witch was now…

      Lend me your ear and I’ll sing you a song and I’ll try not to sing out of key.

      Oh wait…

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    7. His wouldn’t have been in any list of names I could have come up with for Thoros ( the legacy of Dennis Pennis! ) but what a great choice he turned out to be. Twinkling eyes and great comic timing and that air of not really being sure why he’s been given this chance for personal renewal but happy to go along with it in the motley crew of the BWB. Quite different to the image I had of Thoros from the books but it worked as well if not better.

      @Wimsey – I was thinking more “The Witch’s Promise” 🙂

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    8. “Funny old life”. Laconic, dry and still somewhat smirking till the end, what a perfect line for the character and what a delivery.

      Great character and great acting, thanks, Paul Kaye.

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    9. [Dennis Pennis at a press conference for Braveheart with Mel Gibson]

      Dennis Pennis: “Uh, in the movie you play a guy with long hair, a sort of neanderthal barbarian.”

      Mel Gibson: “Yeah.”

      Dennis Pennis: “Being an Australian, you worry that might get you typecast?”

      [Audience laughs]

      Dennis Pennis: “I gotta thank you though, because I haven’t had sex in a long time, I went to see the movie and slept with the entire audience! So, thanks for everything, man!”

      Mel Gibson: “Great. Thank you.”

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    10. Paul Kaye was also very good in quite a dark (based on a true story) series called Three Girls shown on BBC earlier this year about the father of a teenage girl who had fallen prey to a grooming gang. I liked him as Thoros – well I hadn’t read (well I listened to ASOS) the books when the character of Thoros came into the GoT TV show so I didn’t have any pre-existing idea of how Thoros should look so show Thoros is my mental blueprint for the character.

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    11. Paul Kaye was absolutely pitch perfect as Thoros. He played both the drunk, joking side of the character, as well as the more serious side, excellently. While I enjoyed his performance in his first few episodes, it was his speech to Melisandre about the first time he resurrected Beric, that really made me take notice of Paul. The way he delivered that speech was sombre, but still had that slight drunk slur to it.

      When the Brotherhood returned in season 6, I was so happy, both because of what it meant for the Hound, and of course, to see Paul Kaye and Richard Dormer reprising their fantastic roles. Paul really understood his character, and it came through in his performance. It was clear that, beneath Thoros’ lighthearted demeanor, was a wounded and sad soldier.

      His death was sad, but as the Hound said, “I hear it’s one of the better ways to go.” At least he got one final heroic moment before he passed, when he saved the Hound from the Wight bear.

      Thank you, Paul, for what you brought to this wonderful character. I hope to see you in more fantastic roles in the future.

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    12. The only thing that pissed me off more than Thoros dying, was fucking Benjen dying.

      Such a random HEY LOOK AT ME moment done purely for bullshit shock value.

      FUCK this last episode. What a piece of time-traveling fan-servicing bullshit.

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    13. I remember Kaye from his Dennis Pennis days, when he resembled a young John Lydon and would jump celebrities and ask them daft questions. So, I was thrilled to see him in GoT. Thanks for the performance, Paul. It’s a shame the Brotherhood dwindled in the latter seasons, I really miss Anguy, but Kaye’s Thoros was one half of the Brotherhood right there.

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    14. Brilliant casting. I didn’t know Paul Kaye prior to GOT. He elevated the character of Thoros into a likeable, flawed figure. He became much more than a drunken priest with a flaming sword. Thanks to Kaye’s performance, we felt Thoros’ world-weariness. He is one of my favorite minor characters in this show and I’m glad the D&D gave us more time with him.

      RIP Thoros. Best of luck, Paul!

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    15. A Dornish Tyrell:
      Thoros, you magnificent drunkard, RIP!! A big shout out to Paul Kaye for a great performance as Thoros of Myr.

      Mr Derp,

      Oooohhhh!!! I like that!!!

      I second that… Thoros of Myr was a great character and as others have said, was brilliantly portrayed by Paul Kaye. His interactions with The Hound were hilarious. Both way back in the earlier seasons and in S6/7.

      If there had ever been a drinking contest between Thoros and Tyrion, sure that Tyrion would have lost and Thoros would have ‘drunk him under the table’ 😀

      RIP Thoros of Myr, but ATB for Paul Kaye in the future.

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    16. Violator:
      thorne garnet,

      Oh yeah, he was Vinculus wasn’t he?

      Yes! Like GOT, I read the entirety of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell before ever watching the show, so Paul Kaye had a lot to live up to – especially with so weird a character as Vinculus – but that’s where Kaye excels, isn’t it? Making weird and wonderful characters come to life seems to be his specialty. He was a treat in JS&MN and he was a treasure in GOT – pour one out for him, lads and lasses.

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    17. thorne garnet:
      He was also really good in the series Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell.

      I just saw my first episode of that show last week, and thought that Paul Kaye’s character was by far the best thing in it!

      RIP Thoros. An engaging, nuanced character, played with finesse.

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    18. I liked Thoros ever since his first encounter with Arya (“dangerous person”) Stark, Hot Pie, and Gendry. Even his quips contained exposition that was easy to overlook, e.g. when Anguy comments on Hot Pie’s girth:

      Anguy: Half the country’s starving, and look at this one.
      Thoros: Maybe he’s why half the country’s starving.

      I loved his bombast when his Men reminded fed the hood of their uncommonly large prisoner and Thoros announced: “Not a man at all. A hound !”

      I’ll always remember Paul Kaye’s voice explaining to Arya: “The Lords of Westeros are trying to destroy the countryside. We’re trying to save it,”
      For me, his portrayal of the drunken, slovenly priest empowered by the Lord of Light, was a perfect counterpoint to the exotic priestesses with their décolletage who talked a big game about the Lord of Light, but seemed more preoccupied with “purifying” non-believers by burning them. For all his self-acknowledged faults and humility, Thoros actually DID try to help save people instead of barbecuing them.

      But the best part of Paul Kaye’s Thoros is that “in-universe” he will go down in history as a fooking legend: the first through the breach at the Siege of Pyke with his flaming sword.

      As Jorah, who witnessed it, told him: “I thought you were the bravest man I ever saw.”

      History will never know that Thoros wasn’t the bravest, “just the drunkest”, or that he was so sh*tfaced he didn’t even remember his signature act.

      And that’s the way it should be.

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    19. Wimsey,

      Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson (I think that was his name)….I can see how you are thinking that! (Oooooh Oooh Aqualuuuuung – It has been decades since I’ve heard that song!)

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    20. Wimsey:
      Awww, my favorite bit-character is gone!

      Did anybody other than me keep expecting him to whip out a lute & flute and start singing “Aqualung”?

      No?

      OK, only me, then.

      Oh, and: Seymour!!!!

      A classic riff among classic riffs!

      D > G > B flat > C > D flat > C

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    21. One of the things I love about GOT is seeing talented actors who we don’t typically see in the US. Paul is another good example of that and his contribution to GOT helps to make this show a rich and varied entertainment event. Ditto to much of what has been beautifully said already. I loved that he saw the changes in Sandor, called him over to the fire, and later by the grave side. His line “funny old life” will probably end up in my stash of little phrases and when I say it I’ll think of Thoros and Paul.

      RIP Thoros! Thank you Paul and all the best to you!

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    22. An excellent minor character, portrayed masterfully. Thank you Mr. Kaye.

      Now let us see why R’hllor brought Beric back so many times… what is his role in this story?

      And, Ser Matt the Sullen, I respect your opinion and share it partly, but do you think you could go easy with all this cussing?

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    23. A good performance, with my one quibble being part of the show’s broader inconsistency with accents. They cast a number of continental Europeans to play the characters over from Essos, and they sounded distinct from the largely British cast (Nikolaj isn’t, but sounded a lot more RP than Dinklage). Then this priest “of Myr” shows up and sounds like he grew up on the streets of London.

      A minor note: I recently found out he played the late Terry Pratchett in a tv special. A bit odd seeing Thoros as Pratchett.

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    24. Thoros has passed, Mel has abandoned Westeros…who shall be R’hllor’s proxy as the ultimate battle in the north draws near?

      Thoros went down saving a fire-petrified Hound. Damn, Paul Kaye was excellent in his last outing on GoT. He went down swinging. How I wish we had a glimpse of him during the Siege of Pyke, first in and fearless…but of course, he doesn’t remember a damn thing!

      I’m thankful for the great duo of Kaye and Dormer, a memorable addition to GoT. He’ll be missed. Hopefully his death will bring Beric closer to his ultimate purpose.

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    25. Ten Bears,

      I hope Arya runs into more people of her past. The Hound – Gendry – Beric Dondarrion

      Arya seeing Thoros again would have been great and even better if Gendry was there too… oh well another huge unforgivable season 7 disapointment 😀 😀

      Thoros of Myr will be missed and never forgotten

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    26. Osentalka: At least we know who the Witch was now…

      lol…. Yes, now we do!

      onefromaway: Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson (I think that was his name)….

      One thing that Kaye did was project a sort of manic “gleam,” in which it seemed like his eyes were popping out just a bit too much and with his head rapidly cocking into off-angles. Ian Anderson (and, yup, that is his name!) did (and still does) that a lot while he’s singing. Of course, Ian Anderson also had a similar beard and hairstyle at different points in his career.

      I have no idea if Kaye was deliberately using Anderson as a model when enacting Thoros, but it worked well for me. It gave Thoros a sort of “devil-may-care” breeze that was a nice contrast to those moments when he suddenly got serious.

      And, of course, Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow could have been the Yuletide song on the Wall….

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    27. Hodors Bastard: who shall be R’hllor’s proxy as the ultimate battle in the north draws near?

      Huh, that’s a good question! Perhaps it will be Mel herself: she did promise to return and die! Somehow, I am expecting something a bit more dramatic than her stepping off of a boat and then keeling over dead. If nothing else, then it’s really too late to introduce a random new Red Clergyperson.

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    28. FictionIsntReal: Then this priest “of Myr” shows up and sounds like he grew up on the streets of London.

      It’s probably reflecting the number of times he threw up on the streets of Kings Landing: that always makes you sound a bit Cockney in the end.

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    29. A personal favorite! Thank you, Paul, for brightening up the screen with your performance. RIP Thoros. That top-knot didn’t fool anyone! 🙂

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    30. Wimsey: Huh, that’s a good question!Perhaps it will be Mel herself: she did promise to return and die!Somehow, I am expecting something a bit more dramatic than her stepping off of a boat and then keeling over dead.If nothing else, then it’s really too late to introduce a random new Red Clergyperson.

      You rang?

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    31. Paul Kaye always brought such remarkable empathy to his role as Thoros of Myr. From the moment he first sauntered onto the screen, whistling “The Rains of Castamere”, he conveyed a persistent spark of wit and an immense amount of charm (also, he’s great at playing drunk, as one would have to be). In a land dominated by ale and wine drinkers, I appreciated that Thoros was staunchly committed to rum as his spirit of choice. He and Lady Crane would have gotten on famously!

      Kaye presented Thoros with a perfect blend of sadness, self-deprecation, and good humor. The Red Priest was a deeply flawed man, but even still, he wound up leading one of the more extraordinary lives of any character in the show.

      I think that Kaye is particularly excellent in “The Climb”, when he delivers the long monologue about being a terrible priest, his crisis of faith, and the hopeless moment in which he was able to resurrect Beric Dondarrion (the speech Samantha cited in full). Another one of my favorite quotes from Thoros is his keen assessment of Arya: “You’re a dangerous person. I like dangerous people.” Thoros was a dangerous person himself, but he was also amiable, charming, and incisive. Those were all qualities that Kaye brought out of the character in spades. That’s why even though Thoros was the only major human casualty north of the Wall, I felt that loss acutely. The mission had a real cost.

      Paul Kaye may be best known as a comedian, but he’s one hell of a dramatic actor, and he deserves enormous recognition for the performance that he delivered on Game of Thrones. I wish him all the best with what comes next!

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    32. Wimsey: Ian Anderson (and, yup, that is his name!) did (and still does) that a lot while he’s singing. Of course, Ian Anderson also had a similar beard and hairstyle at different points in his career.

      I can see that. Good reference.
      “The legends lie cradled in the seagulls call, and the promise they made are ground beneath the sadist’s fall.” ~J.T.

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    33. I thought Thoros was at risk in Beyond The Wall but I was still sad to see him die. He may not have been a main character but he was one of my favourite side characters. Paul Kaye did an amazing job. I also watched Three Girls (not an easy watch) but he was great in that too.

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    34. Ahhh I shall miss ol’ TopKnot. An example of how an actor can bring a character to life better than they were even written. For such a short time on screen, he interacted wonderfully with so many others – Beric, Melisandre, Sandor, Jorah, etc.

      They still should have worn hats though, dammit.

      Thank you, Paul Kaye!

      https://www.instagram.com/p/BYJZ0THgQQ2/

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    35. Like many of the actors playing tertiary characters, he has talent that surpasses the screen time he got. He was always one of the funniest ones despite not getting the kind of obvious and highly quotable one liners that The Hound, Olenna and Bronn do. I’ll drink an ale in his honor tonight. Or more accurately, I already did.

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    36. Wow, beautiful write up Samantha. Mr. Kaye brought a lovely touch to the show, and you summarized his time well. Cheers to you both!

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    37. Thank you, Samantha, for the lovely tribute.

      To echo thorne garnet, Violator, and David Rosenblatt, Paul Kaye was one of the highlights of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell… as was Enzo Cilenti (John Childermass), who memorably played Yezzan zo Qaggaz, spared by Greyworm in S6, Ep9 when his two compatriots were turned into human Pez dispensers.

      But I digress.

      RIP, Thoros.

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    38. FictionIsntReal,

      There was a programme – oh DECADES ago – on BBC about some German men who had been prisoners of war in the UK who had stayed on in the UK after World War II and one of them had really picked up the accent of the part of Wales he lived in. I took it to be that if Thoros had been living a sort of knockabout life and frequenting taverns and likely meeting as many “roughs” as “respectable” he’d picked up a Westorosi accent and not a particularly posh one at that. I also met somebody from Berlin who spoke English with a Liverpool accent – “Me girlfriend comes from Knotty Ash”, he said. You have a valid point about the accents in the show sometimes being inconsistent; of those growing up at Winferfell, Robb and John speak “northern”, Sansa and Bran speak RP and Arya started off as having a slight West Country (of England) accent and has now become RP; then again Gendry and Davos are both supposed to be from Fleabottom and Davos speaks Geordie while Gendry has a more generic northern English accent. I don’t know if these differences are picked up by people from outside the UK though – and of course lots of people who watch the show worldwide would not have English as their first language anyway. I tend to be forgiving of the accents because the actors (in my opinion at least) have pulled off the characterisations.

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    39. Black Raven,

      Everyone always wants flashbacks of this and that, but imagine a scene with Thoros and Mark Addy’s Robert getting smashed and reminiscing at the Red Keep. Hell throw Tyrion in there. Would love to see that.

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    40. Hodors Bastard,

      I’ve always wondered: Where the hell was Biggles, anyway?

      heh, I always thought that an Ian Anderson cameo as a Tom of Sevenstrings would have been cool: he could have sung with Kaye! But, I’m a silly middle-aged man…..

      (Now, we wait to read about Kaye getting the lead role in the Jethro Tull biopic…..) 😀

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    41. I didn’t really pay much attention to Thoros’s character to start with, but when he delivered his “because he was my friend” speech I got really moved by Paul Kaye’s acting, he nailed it.

      Another great character who will be missed.

      All the best, Paul !

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