Curtain Call: Richard Dormer

Beric Dondarrion 802 Season 8A character has to make quite an impression to be missing from a story for two full seasons and still be counted as a favorite after he returns – but when you have someone like Richard Dormer in the role, it’s not hard to imagine.

Last week, the body count was high after the grueling, epic battle at Winterfell between the living and the dead, and regrettably the leader of what remained of the Brotherhood Without Banners, Beric Dondarrion, was part of it. It was a not-entirely-unexpected death, to be sure, but it reminded us of Beric’s crucial role in the story, and of Dormer’s superb handling of a complex character who – despite his sporadic appearances throughout eight seasons – we cared deeply for.

If you had looked at Beric’s brief Season 1, Episode 6 appearance – when he’s portrayed by David Michael Scott – you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the last we’d see of the Lightning Lord. He’s charged by Ned Stark to capture and execute the Mountain, which certainly sounds like a death warrant (which it was, technically). However -as book fans knew he would – Beric resurfaces again, this time in Season 3, and we’re greeted by an entirely different person. This is no clean-shaven, clear-eyed youth accepting a mission of honor and sacrifice; this is a man who has stood toe-to-toe with the horrors of war and watched himself die more than once. And yet, he’s also a man who has never let those experiences make him bitter or vengeful.

Beric Dondarrion Thoros Kissed by Fire 305 Season 3

Dormer brings this new Beric to life in a way that no other actor in the role could have, even though we only see him for a handful of episodes in Season 3 — his last appearance until the end of Season 6. By Dormer’s own admission, he’s been drawn to somewhat damaged characters throughout his career, from a small-town sheriff with a dark secret to Irish punk-rock legend Terri Hooley. Certainly, we could call Beric damaged as well — a man who’s died and been resurrected half a dozen times isn’t exactly in tip-top mental or emotional shape.

However, Dormer took this man who could have been played as cold and aloof and made him instead exude both confidence and compassion. He drew on his background in theater to make his interactions with others work on a number of levels — not only making us believe he was invested in the intimate nature of a conversation, but never failing to speak to his “larger” audience: the great war, the threat of evil, the fight against the enemies of R’hllor. Beric was unquestionably devout and given to proselytizing, but he was also non-judgemental toward the people who didn’t buy into the Red God, instead letting his own confidence and rock-solid faith guide him to the belief that they would eventually see the light (pun intended).

Beric Dondarrion flaming sword Beyond the Wall

It was an attitude that certainly made people think twice about dismissing Beric out of hand – Sandor, although not a devout believer, at least came around to the possibility – and one that became crucial to the role that he found himself in as leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group that believed truly in the protection of the smallfolk. Beric and Melisandre had the same god, the same goals, the same beliefs — but Beric was out among the common people, seeing how both the literal war and the Great War would affect them, and his faith was simple and straightforward. Melisandre was at a much higher level, both literally and metaphorically, whispering in the ears of kings and more actively trying to untangle prophecy and meaning. Beric was known among the people; his wounds and scars were not unlike their own.

Dormer’s smiles were welcoming behind his thick beard and his voice, gravelly yet warm: a clear example of someone who’s been through so much and yet still believes so deeply. When Dormer spoke, we heard every wound he taken – every time he had been hung, stabbed and speared – and every reason he had for still keeping firmly to his faith.

Beric Dondarrion Arya Stark Season 8 803 The Long Night

In the end, Beric’s faith and his singular focus in trusting that the Lord of Light was bringing him back for a higher purpose resulted in saving the life of Arya Stark — what I thought was a beautiful callback to Beric’s original mission being handed down by her father. And although we all knew the chances were high that we would lose our Lightning Lord in last week’s battle, it struck me as strangely satisfying to know that Beric was heading into something so dangerous that would ultimately allow him the chance to do what he had earned: to rest.

“He’s died six times. He’s tired. He has been to the Darkness and seen there’s nothing there,” Dormer said in an interview with the BUILD Series in April of this year. “I think he’s literally going to run to the arms of Death. But he will do so if he thinks it’s a good enough sacrifice.”

Beric’s sacrifice was worth it, and Dormer showed us why and how in a way that no other actor in this role would have done. We’ll miss you, Beric.

35 responses

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    1. Richard Dormer, the last of the BWB, you died protecting TPWWP (maybe). And in the books, well, you did that too!!

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    2. His voice…I could listen to him speak for hours. Dormer brought a great sense of gravitas to Beric. He completely understood the character.

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    3. We got so much more than expected out of Beric in the show and Dormer was quite endearing in the role. His increased presence was a welcome treat. It would be a pleasure to hike and scramble among the Frostfangs with his voice and perspective in my ear.

      Since his show “purpose” (according to Mel, more or less) was saving Arya, speculation increases as to what purpose his rezzed protege might serve in the books. I wonder, I wonder…

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    4. Loved Richard Dormer’s portrayal of Beric and have been waiting for this curtain call. Well done Samantha!

      For anyone who wants to see more of Dormer, you may want to check out Fortitude. I’ve watched the first season so far and he’s quite good in it.

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    5. Awesome character, awesome actor, and awesome decision from D&D to bring him back for seasons 6-8.

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    6. Great actor and a very wise choice of re-casting. Beric although a “secondary” character is one of the most interesting, as we get the first chance to see what it is to be “reborn”. GoT really has been blessed with fine actors bringing their talents to the lower profile roles.

      Best memories are the fiery swordfight in the cave and the scene after where Arya is talking about whether Thoros could bring back her father. How wonderfully the three actors portrayed that.

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    7. Thank you Samantha. Great observation this one you made, how true!
      “When Dormer spoke, we heard every wound he had taken”.
      Indeed!!!
      I’ll make sure to hear more of that voice following Dormer’s next works.
      Talking about the character, I was impressed by the connection made to Hodor’s death by having the wights stab Beric standing in the door-like archway, arms spread out in an effort to protect Arya and Sandor as they run to safety.

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    8. Hodors Bastard: Since his show “purpose” (according to Mel, more or less) was saving Arya, speculation increases as to what purpose his rezzed protege might serve in the books. I wonder, I wonder…

      That strikes me as very plausible. People have envisioned a lot of scenarios in which one Lazarus-character or another passed R’hllor’s “blessing” onto Arya as a way of doing that. (I seem to recall that several people here were predicting that Beric would do this last week, although this seemed be be based on the weird premise that Show!Arya is an analog to Book!Stoneheart instead of actually being the homolog of Book!Arya!)

      However, my bet is that if this does happen in the books, then it will be like it is on the show: a much more human act or series of acts that said Lazarus (or Lazara?) commits.

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    9. Ser Not Appearing in this Series: Great actor and a very wise choice of re-casting. Beric although a “secondary” character is one of the most interesting, as we get the first chance to see what it is to be “reborn”.

      This is a good point. Beric could have been nothing more than a gun to hang awaiting Jon’s need for revival. However, the show put him to much broader use.

      What made it extra effective is that Beric was such a distinctive character that, even though audiences had not seen him in years when he returned, he was very easy for Joe & Jane HBO-Subscriber to remember. The eye-bandage, flaming sword and Jethro Tull sidekick helped a lot, but Dormer’s very distinctive performance had to help immensely: people probably placed him in their memory within a few moments.

      In other words, this is what happens when the team coaches and player all get it “right!”

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    10. Too many Curtain Calls this week :(. Losing almost all my favourites really hurt. But like Jorah and Theon, Beric´s end had meaning, and after being brought back so many times, he welcomed his final death. Still, the Lightning Lord will be missed, and so will be Richard Dormer´s beautiful performance and his wonderful voice, second only to one Iain Glen.

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    11. “Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last … The enemy always wins, and we still need to fight him. That’s all I know. You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here. But we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves.”

      And so it’s time to say goodbye to Beric Dondarrion, the Lightning Lord, fearless leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, champion of the Lord of Light, wielder of the most badass flaming sword since Lightbringer. In other words … The Greatest Character in the History of This Show. More importantly, it’s time to pay tribute to Richard Dormer, an excellent and accomplished actor blessed with a voice that the gods themselves would kill for … and then they would bring him back, because they couldn’t bear to lose those mellifluous tones from the world.

      (I’m exaggerating. But only slightly.)

      I’m not exaggerating when I say that Beric became one of my favorite characters in all of Game of Thrones, and Richard one of my favorite actors. I always thought he was exceptionally charismatic and enigmatic since he took over the role in Season 3, but when he returned in Season 6, something deeper clicked for me. It was like seeing an old friend again, one I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed until he walked back through the door.

      Over the course of Season 7, my appreciation for what Richard was doing with Beric grew immeasurably. He effortlessly imbued the Lightning Lord with a quiet sort of empathy and decency that I found profoundly reassuring. I’m not religious, but Beric’s faith struck a chord with me – how clean it was, how simple and true. He believed, but he didn’t pretend to have all of the answers. He harbored no bitterness towards the world for all that it had done to him – only compassion, a calm sense of duty, and an absolute certainty of purpose.

      The speech that Beric delivers to Jon in Season 7 – which I quoted at the top of this lengthy rambling – is my favorite piece of dialogue in the series. I see it as a kind of thesis statement for the entire show. Ever since Jon returned to life, he’s been questioning why he deserves this gift – if one can even call it a gift. Beric, who has been wrestling with those exact same questions, helps him to understand that he’s not supposed to know – in fact, he can’t know. That’s an impossibly hard thing for Jon to hear. But they come to understand that they can still serve the side of the light. They can still help more than they’ve harmed. They can still be “the shield that guards the realms of men.”

      I absolutely love it. I wish I could be more eloquent here in explaining why, but I just … I really, really do.

      Ultimately, Beric’s final death turned out to be far simpler and more elegant than I could have ever imagined. One of my favorite shots in The Long Night is Beric framed in a Christ-like pose in the hallway, holding the dead back with his body as they stab him again and again, standing tall even as life slips away from him so that Arya and Sandor can get to safety (shades of Hodor there). It’s unclear if Beric himself knew the true significance of his sacrifice, but he gave up his final life regardless, and something about the way Richard played his final moments convinced me that at long last, he understood what the Lord had wanted from him all along.

      And so faith was rewarded. Beric never took a Night’s Watch oath, but he truly was the Shield That Guards the Realms of Men. While Arya is obviously more than capable of defending herself, even the strongest among us sometimes need help. Beric gave her that help when she needed it most. He saved her so that she could save the world. It’s one of the best deaths that any character could ask for … and Beric would know. He’s had some experience, after all.

      I’ve rambled on far too long, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give one more shoutout to Richard’s majestic voice. Apparently the key to it is “twenty Marlboros a day”, which may be the single best endorsement for smoking I’ve ever heard in my life (again I jest … but not really).

      Thank you, Richard Dormer, for taking this comparatively minor character and building him into one of the most important figures in the show for me, someone I loved watching and will miss deeply now that he’s gone. Rest in piece for a seventh and final time, Lightning Lord.

      And thank you, Samantha, for such a beautifully written tribute!

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    12. what rough beast,

      Just imagine what it would have been like if the blood bath had been as severe as many people expected! “Long Night” would have been an understatement for the WotW staff….

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    13. Richard Dormer has caught me eye in other productions for years and was surprised to see him show up in GoT. He has ‘presence’ and a voice that sort of grabs .
      Wonder if he has ever been asked to play James Bond?

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    14. I adored Richard Dormer in this role, and was always fascinated by the irony of Thoros’s and Beric’s interpretation of the LoL’s prophecies vs. Melisandre’s: Two fighting men who between them had killed dozens (if not hundreds) of people became advocates for life, while a woman who had never been a warrior became an eager practitioner of human sacrifice. They all played religious zealotry exceptionally well.

      I was touched by Beric’s sacrifice and final scene. I’ve always thought Maisie’s acting is best when she’s playing against people portraying adversaries or former adversaries, and last week was no exception. Arya was on the verge of tears as Beric slipped from the world, and Dormer was utterly believable.

      Last night I watched the episode for the third time, and I was reminded of Maisie’s comment about Arya rediscovering her humanity this season. Beric’s exit was powerful stuff: The last three people she saw before heading to the godswood were all people she had once planned to kill. As it turned out, two of them saved her life and the third clarified her mission for her.

      “What do we say to the God of Death?” I would like to believe Beric Dondarrion knew, at long last, why he had lived so long and lost so much: “Yes, today.”

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    15. Thank you Samantha for such a touching tribute.
      Beric was an intriguing character, who maintained a certain sense of joy in his beliefs even though he didn’t always understand the intent of the LoL. His defence of Arya was bravely done. His exchanges with Sandor were most enjoyable.
      I was not familiar with Richard Dormer before he joined GoT but will most definitely be looking for him in the future. A wonderful actor with a sexy, honeyed voice.

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    16. For HBO to choose Richard Dormer later in the series to play Beric was a great decision. As others have said, he as a great voice and would be perfect as a narrator for future editions of the audio books.

      His relationship with Sandor amused me? Taking on board all the insults from him but always remaining calm. I think below the surface, they both had a great respect for each other. See this short clip:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8Yr8takO4s

      and here’s another of Beric’s memorable scenes throughout the series.

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    17. “And you stare at me
      In your Jesus Christ pose
      Arms held out
      Like you’ve been carrying a load”

      That Christ symbolism seemed perfect for the man who’s original mission was to assemble forces and head out on a likely sacrificial mission to try and help prevent the propogatuon of gross injustice to innocent lives- only to be killed and resurrected, several times, in this unwavering dedication to said mission, all the way to the face of death itself.
      I am not typically into religious posturing in otherwise secular storytelling- typically, it seems obvious, over the top, and a bit too righteously referential, in a kind of misappropriated way. Dany’s crowdsurfing was a bit much for me.
      However, for this character’s sendoff, in this context, it worked well.
      The Lightning Lord- May he finally rest. I loved reading Dormer’s take on this character- seems he really enjoyed this role, and will miss playing him. We will miss you, Mr. Dormer!

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    18. Jared,

      He effortlessly imbued the Lightning Lord with a quiet sort of empathy and decency that I found profoundly reassuring. I’m not religious, but Beric’s faith struck a chord with me – how clean it was, how simple and true. He believed, but he didn’t pretend to have all of the answers. He harbored no bitterness towards the world for all that it had done to him – only compassion, a calm sense of duty, and an absolute certainty of purpose.

      He is quite the comparison to two other people of their faith: the Sparrow and Mel. Clean, simple and true, with honest acceptance of the people whose mission is to save others. A person of faith who understands what that really means, who does not take himself too seriously , who is compassionate as he imagines his lord to be. And yes, I loved how Dormer portrayed him – my fav scene is in the cave with Arya trying to explain why he can’t bring her father back . I figured we’d lose him, but thankfully he used that last life to a good purpose – passing on the torch, as it were

      Looking forward to seeing him on the screen again

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    19. My single favorite of all minor characters, and possibly the only one whose death doesn’t really hurt, given he deserved it and finally gets to rest knowing he served a greater purpose than most could ever hope for. Keeping him around in lieu of a non-speaking Michelle Fairley with her face half torn off is also the best change the show made from the books, in my opinion. I’ve got nothing against killing Freys, but I absolutely love the original Brotherhood, protecting the people who can’t protect themselves, serving the purest purpose that no one else will serve. Guardians of life. The story needs characters like that to remind all of these highborn of the greater good to be served than who sits the throne at the end. I hope they remember and don’t let this all be for nothing.

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    20. ash,

      Absolutely. The High Sparrow was a man steeped in hypocrisy, using his faith as a pretext to further his own self-interest. Melisandre, despite the evolution that she underwent and the good that she ultimately did, was so convinced of her righteousness that she always willing to sacrifice those who she perceived as heretics in the service of her ultimate goal – and that led her to do monstrous things at times (just ask poor Shireen). Beric worshiped the same god as she did, but he represented a different form of faith – one more devoted to selfless service of the greater good and embracing the inherent uncertainty that comes with belief. The quintessential “leap of faith”, as it were (That’s not to say Beric was flawless – selling Gendry to Melisandre was not his finest hour – but his reasons for doing so were more noble than most). In that respect, he wound up having much more in common with someone like Brother Ray – although unlike Ray, he was more than willing to fight in order to in order to defend those under his protection. Now that I think about it, it’s quite cool that both Ray and Beric wound up having such a profound influence on the Hound, one of the least devout people on the entire show.

      I love the scene that you mentioned as well! One of my favorites of his from Season 3.

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    21. Beric Dondarrion was one of my favourite secondary characters, in large part, thanks to Richard Dormer. I was pretty certain we would lose him in this battle. I just hoped it would be a worthy sacrifice. Indeed it was – he saved the life of, not only Arya (my favourite character), but in doing so, the life of everyone else who survived that battle.

      Though I was generally uncertain about Beric in season 3, I always loved the moment where he was talking about Ned to Arya, and said he wouldn’t wish his life upon him. That line really hit me hard, and Richard’s delivery of it was simply perfect.

      Sometime during season 4, I started reading the books. So, after I finished them, I doubted we would ever see Richard again in the show (given what happens to Beric in the books). You can’t even imagine how happy I was when he showed up again in season 6 (ALMOST as happy as I was to see the Hound again). I love that we got to enjoy Richard’s performance throughout these last few seasons, after his 2-season absence.

      Another favourite scene of mine is his conversation with Jon north of the Wall. “The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him.”

      I loved his growing relationship with the Hound as well. From wanting to execute him for murder, to letting him go, believing he has a higher purpose, to letting him execute Lem out of respect for his loss, to recognizing the good in him and recruiting him into the Brotherhood, to fighting alongside him north of the Wall and at Winterfell, and encouraging him to save Arya. I also liked how the Hound tried to comfort Beric over losing Thoros.

      And of course, everyone’s already mentioned Richard’s silver voice. Samantha put it perfectly – “gravelly, yet warm”. We lost two great voices in this battle, with him and Iain Glen. And yes, his smiles were always very comforting too.

      Rest in peace, Beric. After all you’ve been through, you deserve it. You went out like a boss, saving the one who would win the battle.
      And thank you so much, Richard. No one could have played this great character as well as you.

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    22. Thank you Mr. Richard Dormer! I’m glad the show kept his character alive and loved that his final act was working with Sandor to save Arya. Honestly, it was like the Hound and Beric were passing the baton in making sure she stayed alive. Now I will patiently wait for ASOIAF audiobooks narrated by Dormer.

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    23. RIP Beric Dondarrion, you well deserve it. I loved Richard Dormer’s portrayal, he was spot on, and that man’s voice, perfect, just perfect. I will miss seeing him light up that sword, no CGI, that was real and freekin’ awesome.

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    24. Beric is one of the best changes from the books for me, due in large part to Richard Dormer. That voice! And that unwavering faith (no matter what Sandor threw at him, be it words or swords 😆). I looked forward to every scene he was in, his interactions with Thoros, Sandor, Jon, Arya, Mel, even Gendry all had purpose.

      And the sword-lighting photos are truly some of the best stills from GoT.

      I’ll always be thankful for the videos of the jam sessions during filming with Richard, Iain, Kristofer, and Rory just hanging out singing and playing and having fun in the cold.

      Thanks, Beric. I’m glad Houndie didn’t launch you over that wall.

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    25. Black Raven,

      That compilation of scenes really shows what a memorable, and charismatic, character he was.
      Fantastic performances like this have been key in making GoT so rich. Love how they used him in the show.

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    26. I loved show Beric Dondarrion and Richard Dormer’s performance made him memorable. I’m so sad that book Beric dies to give us Lady Stoneheart. Well done, Mr. Dormer! I will miss your warm voice and serene grace.

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    27. To my mind I have only ever seen Dormer in Fortitude other GoT but so he did really well as Beric and kept a tragic character as likeable and interresting.

      My one question is how his fate in the show ties in with Stonehearts from the book. I think D&D probably did the right thing to exclude her but where does that plot line tie in? My guess is she kills the Frey’s rather than Arya and sacrifices herself to save another.

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