Warning! Fiery spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones!
With just one more Game of Thrones episode to go, one of Westeros's most mysterious characters finally whispered his last secret. The mastermind who's spent all eight seasons pulling strings behind the scenes meets his fiery end, just as Melisandre promised he would back in season seven. "I will return, dear Spider, one last time," she says in the moment. "I have to die in this strange country, just like you." So how does it finally happen? Keep reading for the breakdown.
How Does Varys Die on Game of Thrones?
Varys is the first to lose his life in episode five of the eighth season, though many follow after him. After learning the news of Jon's true parentage in "The Last of the Starks," his faith in Daenerys is visibly waning. The Spider notes that Daenerys's actions have been rapidly approaching "Mad Queen" status and raises his concern to Tyrion. The Hand of the Queen asks his friend not to do anything rash, noting that many monarchs need to be tempered by their council. But when Varys asks him if he believes Jon will be a better ruler than Daenerys, Tyrion doesn't answer.
As episode five opens, Vaarys is seen writing letters about Jon's claim to the throne. We never see who he's writing to, but it's safe to say he's sending the message out to all the noble houses to let them know there's a better claim to the Iron Throne. One of his little birds, Martha, comes into his room to report that Daenerys isn't eating, and also warns him that she believes the soldiers are watching her. Varys tells her that they probably are, but that, "The greater the risk, the greater the reward," which is basically a huge red flag to his impending doom.
Varys goes out to greet Jon and the Northern forces, letting the younger man know that he knows the truth about his parents. Jon reiterates that he doesn't want the throne and that Daenerys is his chosen queen. As he walks away, Tyrion is shown to be watching the two from above, and the warning sirens start blaring a little louder.
Tyrion goes to Daenerys and tells her that she's been betrayed. She guesses Jon, but Tyrion reveals it is Varys, notably confused by her guess. Daenerys explains that the only way Varys could have known is if Tyrion told him because Sansa told him, which means Jon betrayed her by telling his cousins. She admonishes Tyrion for allowing himself to be played by the eldest Stark and betraying her by spreading secrets that could destroy her before dismissing him.
Later that night, Varys is penning (quilling?) another letter proclaiming Jon as the true heir to the Iron Throne when he hears footsteps approaching his room. He holds the letter to a flame and removes his rings (that probably contain poison) before his doors open and Grey Worm enters bearing chains. Varys is led to a cliff where several people stand with torches, including Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys. "It was me," Tyrion tells him, which Varys definitely already knew.
"I hope I deserved it, truly I do. I hope I'm wrong," the Spider responds. "Goodbye, old friend." Daenerys subsequently condemns him to death and Drogon burns him alive.
Why Does Daenerys Kill Varys?
In season seven, Varys explains to the Dragon Queen that as a man who grew up poor and was sold as a slave, he understands what it's like to live in the alleys and gutters. His loyalty is to the people, not to any one monarchy, and he will continue to do what he thinks is best for the realm. If that means helping usurp an incompetent leader for a better one, he will do it. "If you demand blind allegiance, I respect your wishes," he says. ". . . but if you let me live, I will serve you well. I will dedicate myself to seeing you on the Iron Throne because I choose you. Because I know the people have no better chance than you."
The Dragon Queen tells Varys that she respects him and makes him vow that if he ever thinks she's going too far, he'll tell her. Then she warns Varys that she will burn him alive if he ever betrays her. However, when Varys brings up this very conversation to Daenerys after she reveals her plan to destroy King's Landing, the Dragon Queen dismisses his advice. So, as he said he would, when he finds a better candidate, he follows through. To Daenerys, this is one step too far. After the deaths of Missandei and Rhaegal, the only thing she has left is her goal of claiming the Iron Throne and nothing will stand in the way of that. As she says to Jon when he meets with her privately, "Now [Sansa] knows what happens to people when they learn the truth about you."
Varys's death is just another blow to Daenerys and Tyrion's strained relationship, and it marks a turning point for the Dragon Queen herself. And that doesn't even factor in the question of the recipients of Varys's letters. Whoever he sent them to knows the secret of Jon's birth, and it's bound to come up in the final episode of the series.