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Curtain Call: Ciarán Hinds

“The fault, dear Jon Snow, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

No, Ciarán Hinds did not utter that line in his final episode last night, but if he had it would not have been that out of place. Though Hinds’ has played many roles over the course of his career before landing the part of the King-Beyond-The-Wall in the third season, the one he is best known for on this side of the pond is that of Julius Caesar in HBO’s other budget buster series, Rome. Unlike that show, where Hinds’ fate was sealed hundreds of years before he took the part, Rayder’s fate in the TV show was not assured. This was not a Ygritte or a Joffrey, where their deaths came predetermined. After all, in the books, Hinds’ character is still alive and well…and probably wishing the books had done away with him instead of giving him to Ramsey as his latest torture pet.

The thing about Mance Rayder’s character, both in the books, and in the TV show is that it’s not a large role on the page, but it is in the minds of others. So the show had to cast someone who cast a long shadow. Hinds was never a main cast member. He showed up in all of three episodes his first season, a quiet force of nature, seated in the corner of the tent as Jon mistakes Tormund, so more blustery and loud for the man who united 90 tribes. His appearances were short and mostly to the point–either plot driven or ploty exposition centric. And then he disappeared again, a character only heard about off screen until the end of last season. Adn yet, when he arrived back, once again calmly sitting in his tent, the gravatas of Hinds’ performance once again filled the room, and we, like Jon, hesitated in taking down a man who commands so much respect.

And then he was gone. Supposedly, anyway. It’s hard for book readers to accept when the TV shortens the book dictated life expectancies of certain characters. And we should remember that Mance was deliberately named as a warg in Dark Wings, Dark Words. But the show made a point of the finality of Rayder’s death, no only burning him, but adding an arrow to the heart for good measure.

from Winter is Coming