Game of Thrones: Why Ilyn Payne Didn’t Return After Season 2
Musician Wilko Johnson played executioner Ilyn Payne for two seasons of Game of Thrones before he and the character disappeared from the HBO series.
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Wilko Johnson portrayed Ser Ilyn Payne for the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, but the character disappeared after a brief stint. Based on the ongoing novel series by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones was developed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO, and ended with season 8 in 2019. Johnson played the mute, grim-faced knight and royal executioner for a total of four episodes.
Born John Peter Wilkinson, then English performer adopted Wilko Johnson as a stage name when he emerged as a skilled guitarist and singer. While serving as a member of the band Dr. Feelgood and The Wilko Johnson Band, Johnson became a heavy influence on the punk movement throughout England in the ’70s. As for acting, his casting in Game of Thrones served as Johnson’s small screen debut.
Ilyn Payne first appeared in Game of Thrones’ second overall episode as the King’s Justice. His primary role consisted of standing by as Robert Baratheon’s executioner. Following Robert’s death, Ilyn continued in his role under the reign of Joffrey Baratheon. When Ned Stark was found guilty of treason, Ilyn was the one to behead him at the order of Joffrey. In season 2, Ilyn was present during the Battle of Blackwater, protecting the women during Stannis Baratheon’s siege. If matters went awry, Ilyn was supposed to execute the women so they wouldn’t fall into the hands of Stannis’ army. That marked Johnson’s final appearance, due to the fact that the famed musical artist was dealing with a serious cancer diagnosis.
Wilko Johnson’s Health Took Priority Over Game Of Thrones
Johnson’s health began to decline around 2012, which coincided with Game of Thrones season 2. Due to his condition, the character of Ilyn Payne began to be phased out of the series. In 2013, Johnson announced that he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. Despite refusing treatment for the terminal scenario, Johnson later learned that he had a more survivable form of the disease. He then had successful surgery after believing he had less than a year to live. As of 2014 Johnson has been cancer-free, and he continues with his career as a musician at the age of 73.
As for Ser Ilyn Payne, the character most likely would have had a recurring role in Johnson was able to continue acting. Although he didn’t have a speaking role, Ilyn would have remained a loyal member of House Lannister. Despite Johnson’s absence, Ilyn was still lingering offscreen in Game of Thrones. The character remained on Arya Stark’s kill list for the majority of the series. Ilyn’s name was also mentioned in season 4 ahead of Tyrion Lannister’s planned execution. Though his fate was left unknown, Ilyn was presumably killed during the Battle of King’s Landing along with the rest of the Lannister’s allies.