There, I said it!
Though many familiar faces appear in Game of Thrones, the fantasy setting hides most with costumes and make-up. Yet, not all escape notice. One particularly controversial appearance was Ed Sheeran’s cameo in Season 7. This late in the series, the massively popular show had begun a downward slope that left fans more critical than ever, but putting the other issues aside, the hatred for Sheeran’s scene runs deep. This is one of many cameos in the series, and Sheeran isn’t even the first musician to appear. Will Champion, the drummer from Coldplay, can be seen during the Red Wedding with the band.
Gary Lightbody, the lead singer of Snow Patrol, performs “The Bear and The Maiden Fair” in Season 3. Arya (Maisie Williams) watches the Icelandic folk-rock band Of Monsters and Men put on a show about the Starks in Braavos. Even the musicians who perform at Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) wedding are a real band called Sigur Rós. And still, none of these are quite as obvious as Ed Sheeran’s appearance.
His unmistakable face shows up as a Lannister soldier, referred to as Eddie, at the beginning of Season 7. Arya happens upon the small group, hearing Eddie’s voice as he sings. She stops to talk with the soldiers, giving Sheeran a bit of screentime. Unlike the others, Sheeran’s appearance was widely criticized as people claimed it ruined the immersion to see such a recognizable person thrown into the scene.
But Ed Sheeran’s appearance was intended for the cast more than the audience, as it was initially planned as a surprise for Maisie Williams. Though it’s easy to focus on Sheeran, the scene itself is important to Arya, as it demonstrates to her the difference between the Lannister family and their army. Highlighting the plight of the smallfolk, the scene is impactful, and Sheeran’s appearance gives it more attention than this moment would otherwise receive. The cameo met with backlash that it never deserved, and after so many years since the show’s ending, it’s time to recognize that.
Ed Sheeran Appears Alongside Arya in ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7
After getting revenge on the Freys, Arya is on her way to King’s Landing when she hears a new song from a camp of soldiers. Following the noise, she finds a fire surrounded by Lannister men. Though fearing the worst, Arya accepts their invitation to join them at their fire and eats the food they offer. Arya hates the Lannisters, and with good reason, considering everything Cersei (Lena Headey) did to her family. Because of the cloaks these soldiers wear, she wouldn’t hesitate to kill these men on a battlefield, but as she talks to them, she sees them for more than who they fight for. With no knowledge of who she is, they show her kindness and share their few provisions. This scene shines a light on what life is like for the majority of the people in Westeros. While the show primarily deals with lords and ladies in their constant battle for power, it doesn’t give much time to the ordinary soldiers who are the first to die but gain nothing from the war. Arya’s story shows her to be filled with hate for those who wronged her, but this scene shortens that list as she sees that not all Lannister soldiers are innately evil.
Fans of the show were vocal in their hatred of the scene because of Sheeran’s role, so much so that the character got a gruesome end. Though that is Sheeran’s only appearance, his character is mentioned again. In the Season 8 premiere, all the hatred of the character is appeased when two women Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is sleeping with discuss the red-head Lannister boy, Eddie, who “came back with his face burned right off.” An encounter with dragonfire leaves Eddie alive, but he has no eyelids and probably doesn’t look (or sing) much like Ed Sheeran anymore. Yet this makes the original scene much sadder, as his fellow soldiers likely perished in the battle or at least received horrible injuries. In the end, their kindness couldn’t save them from Westeros’ brutality.
Ed Sheeran’s Scene in ‘Game of Thrones’ Wasn’t Just Fanfare, It Served a Purpose
Many of the musicians who appear in Game of Thrones are allowed to either sing or play music, and Ed Sheeran is no different. If Arya had to stumble upon a group of singing soldiers, why shouldn’t they be led by someone who can sing? And Sheeran is good at that. But more than his angelic voice, the scene is important as it shows the audience and Arya a reality that the show hadn’t explored. No, Sheeran wasn’t strictly necessary to this message, but after gaining Arya’s attention, he has relatively few lines in the exchange. His small role doesn’t detract from the significance of the meaning, and in the end, his presence forces people to focus on the scene. Though important, this conversation could have easily gotten lost in the series’ many storylines and battle sequences. Yet, Ed Sheeran’s cameo got a lot of attention. Much of that was negative, but it meant people were focused on it.
Admittedly, the sheer recognizability of Ed Sheeran is distracting, as he appears out of a familiar context in the episode, but only for a moment. Sheeran is far from the only recognizable face in the series, yet no one complained about seeing familiar actors in major roles. Most fans knew Sean Bean before he assumed the part of the honorable Ned Stark, but the casting was praised rather than hated. Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister was recognizable before the series and a fan favorite.
A brief cameo and a lead are two very different things, but if the argument is knowing the actor ahead of time ruins the immersion, why does it only apply to Sheeran? Undeniably, Ed Sheeran is more of a singer than an actor, but this role isn’t demanding, and he has enough stage presence to maintain the character for his short time on screen. Though brief, this scene is significant for the rare perspective it provides and could easily have gotten lost in the series. But Ed Sheeran’s cameo, though not exactly subtle, brings attention to it, ensuring that it cannot be ignored. However jarring seeing such a recognizable modern musician in Game of Thrones may be for the audience initially, this moment never deserved the backlash it received.
Game of Thrones is available for streaming exclusively on Max in the U.S.