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Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie on Ygritte, the Wall Battle, and the Perils of Dating in Westeros

Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones. Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Major plot spoilers lurk ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t seen “The Watchers on the Wall,” the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Ygritte has teased Jon Snow for the last time. The wildling who started out as Jon Snow’s captive, who turned the tables and captured him — and his heart — and helped keep his secrets from Mance Rayder’s army is one of the show’s many casualties during the attack on Castle Black, but it’s the one that tugs on our heartstrings the most. Ygritte helped us get to know and like the free folk, to see them as actual human beings, and not just the dehumanized savages the rest of Westeros sees them as. She took Jon Snow’s virginity, and she could have taken his life as well, but instead she died in his arms, the two star-crossed lovers reunited for the last time. Rose Leslie had a quick chat with Vulture about her death scene and the perils of dating in Westeros.

I didn’t want Ygritte to die!
[Laughs] Yes! But that’s the beauty of the show and the books as well, because you genuinely don’t know who is next. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you on tenterhooks.

What was it like to shoot your death scene?
We did that last scene — where I die in Jon Snow’s arms — on my last day, and I remember just crying profusely. And going around to the crew at the end, and hugging everyone, and telling them I loved them. I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of the show, and eternally grateful for the platform that it’s given me as an actor. It was a wonderful farewell. And the crew clapped and presented me with a wrap gift, which was Ygritte’s bow, and they changed the left handle, with a strap with a sort of a plaque that said, “Kissed by fire.”

Before this episode, we had a moment where Ygritte chooses not to kill Gilly. Under different circumstances, these two girls might have been friends. They could have even gone on double dates — Jon and Ygritte, Sam and Gilly.
[Laughs] Yes! I’d love to think that. In another universe, I totally agree! Go to another village, somewhere outside of Castle Black, go on a dinner date. I think Ygritte should have had girlfriends! And you know, she’s very good at weaponry, so maybe she could have taken Gilly aside and trained her, and given her some lessons on how to survive in the wild. Yeah! And then she could have chosen a different weapon besides a mutton leg, which is just the worst sort of weapon. Pick something better. So it would have been good for her to have a girlfriend, because she’s constantly surrounded by men. Constantly. Ygritte doesn’t vent a lot. She just shuts herself off. I wish she confided in Tormund more, or that he was checking that she was okay, and checking up on her. And that’s partly why she’s so brutal, why she’s such a warrior woman.

Although that’s also refreshing, the sheer volume of warrior women on Game of Thrones: Ygritte, Brienne, Arya, Yara. I kind of wish they could all meet up and hang out, partly because some of them could use a friend.
Hells yeah! It is so inspirational, to see that in the world of Westeros, men are answering to women, and they are a force to be reckoned with. It’s empowering and it’s inspirational as well, because you’re just like, this is great! Something that I loved about that scene with Gilly was that you saw a different side of Ygritte, that she’s not always ruthless or vicious, or always focused on making Jon Snow pay for the hurt. She’s all about showing to the men, “I will make sure Jon Snow pays. His balls are going to be hanging around my neck.” When I was reading it in the script, I was unaware of what her next action would be, whether she would allow this mother and child to survive. And when it comes down to it, she does have a heart.

Which we’ve seen both in how she and Jon fell in love, and then her subsequent heartbreak when he left her. They had one of the few love scenes that was actually about love …
They’re a rarity! Yes, and I feel actually that it was a love scene, not a gratuitous sex scene, the norm you see within the series. I feel that it is a beautiful scene, because finally you see these two characters get together, and there is no infiltration from the outside world. They’re all wrapped up in their own little bubble. And that was very, very lovely, and also very tender, because there’s no power play going on. There’s no war going on between them, there’s no more trying to antagonize. It was just two people who’d finally fallen in love. And it was beautiful, and wonderful, and kind of an escape. It doesn’t just have to be brutal.

Until they break up.
Yeah, and after that, she was a scorned woman. She’s a scorned woman, and they are very dangerous creatures. I feel like she could have killed him — she could have shot Jon in the heart in one fell swoop. But when it finally came to that moment, she couldn’t actually kill him. Even when she’s expected to. Even when she wants to. Even when she has a one-track mind, and that’s all she’s been thinking of. I think at that moment in time, she was talking about it and it had been building up inside her, that she is going to track him down and kill him, to make him pay. I believe she convinced herself that’s what she’s going to do, because that’s the only way she knows how to tackle problems — to kill the bastard.

If only they could have talked instead!
I know! Sit down and have a cup of tea. [Laughs]

Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie on Ygritte