With season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones ended and withdrawal setting in, I’ve decided to hop onboard the GoT thought piece/clickbait bandwagon. I’ve delved through the show’s long, long list of characters, old and new, to figure out who I like and relate to most and least.
WHICH GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER ARE YOU?!?! Just kidding. You’ll have to go to Facebook to find that out. Spoiler alert, though: you are none of them.
With season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones ended and withdrawal setting in, I’ve decided to hop onboard the GoT thought piece/clickbait bandwagon. I’ve delved through the show’s long, long list of characters, old and new, to figure out who I like and relate to most and least. Some of my choices may surprise you, but one of the best aspects of George R.R. Martin‘s world is that its characters are far grayer than in other filmed fiction, and I find things to like about even some of the sleaziest of the bad guys. Game of Thrones has some of the richest, most complex characters you’ll come across in modern fantasy (or fiction of any genre, really), and that made putting this list together a lot of fun.
I realize this post would work much better as a 15-minute YouTube video, but I don’t have the time nor the energy nor the editing software to put that kind of video together. Sorry. You’ll just have to read instead. This post will contain spoilers for the show, but if you haven’t already seen all 67 episodes, you’re probably not reading this anyway. Enjoy!
Note: My rankings are based on the TV show only. As always, click on any photo to see the full-size version.
10. Lyanna Mormont (played by Bella Ramsey)
She’s only appeared in a few brief scenes in only a handful of episodes, but Lyanna Mormont has proven she’s got the wisdom and judgment of people thrice her age. She owns every scene she’s in. Bella Ramsey, just 13 this year, is going to have one hell of a career. I’m not in a place right now in life where I want kids, but if Bella’s parents decide to randomly disown her and leave her out on a street corner somewhere, I’d adopt her in a minute. Let it be known I’d gleefully watch a Lyanna Mormont GoT spinoff to see where adulthood takes her.
This speech brings a tear to me eye:
9. Davos Seaworth (played by Liam Cunningham)
Just a handy guy to have around. In a world full of untrustworthy people, here’s a man you could have at your side and know he was actually on your side and not planning his own ascension to power. That’s pretty much the rarest type of person in this world. I love his self-deprecating humor and I’m glad that in Jon Snow he may have finally found the right man to back. The Onion Knight deserves to be on the winning team.
8. Joffrey Baratheon (played by Jack Gleeson)
I mean…how can you hate him now?
I didn’t like Joffrey as a character. How could you? He’s a dragon-sized monster in a skinny blonde boy’s body. But I always appreciated the quality of what I was seeing, in the actor’s performance and in the writing. He was the definition of a character you loved to hate. I dreaded what horrors he would commit each week, but damned if it wasn’t thrilling to watch each time. I was glad when Joffrey died, but immediately sad because I realized there was no way any future villain in the show would ever compare. (Then Ramsay Bolton came to the fore and made it a close race.) Gleeson’s performance as King Joffrey is quite simply one of the best villainous turns in the history of filmed entertainment, movies or TV. I’m talking Heath Ledger‘s Joker great. He played the role from ages 19-23 (but was credible because he does look a lot younger than he is) and then immediately retired from acting once his GoT duties were finished to go to school and study philosophy and theology. It’s one of the greatest career mic drops you’ll ever see.
I do hope he changes his mind one day after he’s finished with school. From the interviews I’ve read and watched with him, his issue is that he really hates celebrity culture and the idea of being famous. Maybe he just needs some space from it all. Perhaps after Game of Thrones has ended and people all over the world aren’t talking about it ad nausea week after week anymore, he’ll return to the craft. We can hope.
Admit it. You miss this, too:
7. Maester Luwin (played by Donald Sumpter)
If I had been alive in medieval times, I’d have wanted this guy to be my grandfather. The kindest, gentlest, wisest man you could imagine. The Starks were lucky to have him, and the show was lucky to have Donald Sumpter play him. His death scene was heartbreaking and beautifully done, as Ramin Djawadi‘s Winterfell theme swept over his final moments. He also has one of the most epic “NOOOOO!!!!” yells you’ll ever hear when he believed the Stark boys had been killed and burned by Theon‘s men in season 2.
6. Bronn (played by Jerome Flynn)
It’s hard to find a person who is loyal (for a price) while simultaneously looking out for themselves at all turns. Bronn’s humor, charm, and skill with a sword make him one of the most interesting characters on the show. He’s the ultimate Bad Boy, so I’m sure he’s as appealing to the ladies watching the show in real life as much as he is to the women of Westeros. His relationship with Tyrion is one of the better long-term pairings the show has had. Like Tyrion, he can usually talk his way out of any situation he can’t fight out of, which I think we’d all like to be able to do. He’s not a particularly good person per se, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans of the show who dislike the guy.
5. Jaime Lannister (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
It’s strange. I hadn’t considered how much I truly liked Ser Jaime until the season 7 finale, when he was willing to leave Cersei rather than betray his foes against their common enemy. It’s one of the toughest decisions any character on this show has had to make. The character starts off as an arrogant, entitled bastard, but as the show has gone on and he’s suffered, he’s become a better person, not taking on the obsessions of status and power that made his father such a prick at times and makes his sister a prick 100% of the time. I love his loyalty and defense of his brother Tyrion (he kept the Imp alive on multiple occasions in opposition to his sister and father’s wishes). I loved his relationship with Brienne in season 2. When all is said and done, I hope Cersei gets a suitable death and Jaime winds up as the unquestioned head of the Lannisters. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he ends up having to kill his sister?
4. Olenna Tyrell (played by Dianna Riggs)
The baddest bitch in Westeros, hands down. She steals every scene she’s in and was frequently given the best dialogue of any character. Much like Tywin Lannister, she spent most of her scenes dominating the other characters in her presence. Where Tywin would simply impose his will, Lady Olenna often made her opponents look stupid, but never in a way that made you feel pity for them. I think Tywin is the only character to truly get the better of her in a scene, and they had several noteworthy exchanges. Diana Riggs is further proof that there is almost no greater pleasure as a viewer of movies or television than watching an older British actor performing meaty material. The fact that she wins her death scene is just the icing on the cake and a perfect way for her go out. Very rarely in modern fiction do you see a character win so thoroughly in defeat. Even George R.R. Martin, who isn’t directly involved with the show anymore, had to be jealous of how well that was handled.
3. Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage)
Clearly the most fun character on the show to portray, Peter Dinklage (winner of a Golden Globe and two Emmys for his work) has created an icon. Other than Jon Snow, Tyrion is probably the character who’s seen and experienced the most fucked up shit. And if we’re being honest, when it’s all over with Tyrion is probably the most deserving person in this world to win the so-called game of thrones. I love his self-awareness and that he uses the skills he does possess (his mind) better than probably anyone else. You could make a list of the 100 best one-liners in Game of Thrones and he’d probably have 75 of them. I would pay money to see an Aaron Sorkin-written GoT episode focused entirely on The Imp. I don’t know what Tyrion’s fate will be come the end of season 8, but of all the remaining characters who have been there since the beginning, his is the journey I’m most interested in finding out how it concludes. He certainly looked none too pleased at the consummation of the Snow-Dany relationship.
Dinklage’s performance during his trial over the murder of King Joffrey is his shining moment in this series:
2. Tywin Lannister (played by Charles Dance)
Probably the most powerful man in Westeros, and he never needed to be king to accomplish the feat. Watching this guy operate and crush the powerful people around him was always a joy, and all credit goes to Charles Dance, one of our finest living actors. I understood why he had to die, but I was never sadder to see someone go then when Tywin met his end in the privy by his son’s hand. Tywin above anyone else shows how someone close to the king (or president or whomever else) can actually wield more influence than the king himself, something that’s frequently said of some of the people around our leaders today. It’s something we see a lot of in Netflix’s House of Cards, and it’s a big reason you could argue that House of Cards is closest thing we have to a Game of Thrones set in modern times. It was also interesting to see a character so singularly focused on one thing; the defense, preservation and continuance of his family’s name and stature. You were never confused about this man’s motives, that’s for sure.
How Tywin Lannister commands respect:
1. Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams)
I love the way she starts out in season 1 and I love what she’s now become 6 years later. You could understandably make the argument that it’s sad what’s happened to that adorable little girl we met back in 2011. I say it’s fucking awesome, because she’s overcome every obstacle, survived every foe, escaped every trap and come out stronger for it. She may now be the last person in this world you’d want to face 1v1 in a fight, which I think is exactly what she’s always wanted. There are few things more satisfying to watch onscreen than revenge, and Arya has become the show’s vengeful angel of death for sins committed against “good guy” characters in the past. Hers has been an incredible journey, and I’ve been smiling at her victories since the very beginning. All credit goes to now 20-year old Maisie Williams. Game of Thrones was her first acting job in film or television. It’s not often an actor creates their most memorable work on their very first attempt. That can be a curse to some people, but I suspect she’ll find plenty of worthy roles in the future.
A girl loves her sword.
My two favorite characters only appeared in a few scenes together, but this one is among my favorite clips in the entire series. We see a lighter, friendlier side of Tywin and Arya trying her best to figure out this formidable opponent:
–Lord Varys (played by Conleth Hill) – Where Littlefinger is a conspirator with self-serving goals, Varys seems to do what he does because he genuinely wants the betterment of the realm. Or so he’s said on multiple occasions. I tend to believe him based on his actions, and I like the scene this season he and Tyrion share where they question with hope whether they’ve backed the right leader in Daenerys. Regardless, few people play the game better than he has over the years.
–Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Balish (played by Aiden Gillen) – You have to admire the man. He actually believed if he could concoct enough schemes and betray enough people, he’d sit on the Iron Throne one day. He was probably the most ambitious character on the show, which is saying a lot. Even though he was a snake, it was always fun to watch him slither about and usually wind up getting the best of his opponents one long con after another. Even though he was completely self-serving, he was one of wisest characters on the show. He was also one of the best-written characters. I like that he got his comeuppance, but I’m still not sure I liked how we got there with the fake Sansa-Arya rivalry. Finally, as an admirer of acting without speaking, you have to love Aiden Gillen‘s complete mastery of reaction shots, from his devilish smirks to his “oh shit I’m about to be found out” moments.
Varys & Littlefinger’s best scene together, “Chaos is a Ladder”:
Hodor – Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor? Hodor Hodor! Amirite?
–The Night King – Mainly because like any cool supervillain, I just want to know more about him. And can we give the dude just one line of dialogue before the show ends? Please? I mean, he’s a gold medal javelin throwing dragon slayer/resurrecter now.
& Podrick Payne (played by Daniel Portman) because he’s the man.
My 5 Least Favorite Characters
1. The High Sparrow (played by Jonathan Pryce)
One of the things I hate most in the real world is religious fanaticism, and this guy represents what that would look like in Westeros. I can’t tolerate people whose entire life is dominated by what they believe their god(s) would demand, and that’s what the High Sparrow and his minions did with their every appearance, to frightening effect in seasons 5 & 6. The fuckers even made me feel some sympathy for Cersei Lannister. Not an easy feat. I wanted to punch this guy in the throat every time he rambled on about the “justice of the gods”. You’re not even wearing shoes, bro. You don’t get to decide what justice is.
2. Viserys Targaryen (played by Harry Lloyd)
In case you missed having this guy’s face annoy you.
A sniveling, entitled twat of the highest order. I wanted the show to be rid him after his first appearance in episode 1. Thankfully, he didn’t last long, never got anything he wanted, and suffered one of the grisliest deaths of any GoT character.
3. Grand Maester Pycelle (played by Julian Glover)
This guy always rubbed me the wrong way and I was happy to see him go bye bye at the end of season 6. Of all the show’s great schemers, at least Varys & Littlefinger are interesting people who are fun to watch operate. Pycelle was merely an annoying sycophant desperate to stay in the good graces of those in power; another type of person I can’t abide in the real world. Remember in season 1 when we learn he’s only pretending to be feeble and hunched over? I wish that had led to something later on. It was a funny little moment but they never used it again. Why?
4. Ramsay Bolton (played by Iwan Rheon)
Ramsay may have been was even more sadistic than Joffrey, and the way he broke down Theon Greyjoy was difficult to watch, even if it came at a time when Theon was a hateable character (this was immediately after he sacked Winterfell and tried to be a tough guy to prove his worth to his papa). Ramsay’s death (particularly the way it was carried out) was incredibly satisfying, coming at the end of one of the show’s top 5 episodes (“Battle of the Bastards”). Like Joffrey, even though you may hate the character, you have to respect how brilliantly he was portrayed. Credit to Iwan Rheon for a wonderful performance. Ramsey was the show’s last great hate magnet.
5. Euron Greyjoy (played by Pilou Asbæk)
I find him to be sort of a one-note scumbag, and this show has had much more compelling scumbags. But he does have a cool ship. I’ll give him that. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to him in the final season. I suspect Theon may find some bravery and exact his revenge, which would be fun to see.
3 Characters I Wish Were Still Alive
1. Robb Stark – I like to imagine a Westeros at peace where Robb is still King in the North, married to Talisa and not focused on vengeance and fighting his rivals in the south.
Here’s a very interesting video on why the honorable, noble Starks always get betrayed:
2. Maester Luwin – So he could’ve seen Sansa, Arya and Bran return to Winterfell and seen the castle come back under control of the good guys following The Battle of the Bastards.
3. Tywin Lannister – Because I miss him, dammit. With him and Olenna Tyrell gone, there are no cunning, powerful elder statesmen left in Westeros. And let’s face it, that makes the world just a little more boring than it ought to be.
We’ve got 6 episodes of season 8 left in Game of Thrones, so here’s hoping showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, along with their talented cast and crew bring it home late next year (or in 2019 if the show is delayed that long). The episode count is sad, but the rumors have been that each episode will be almost movie length, which is awesome. This should allow the final season to be more cohesive than previous seasons, with fewer subplots to follow and more major characters in each scene. But they’ve still got a lot of story to wrap up. Until then, may our collective Game of Thrones Withdrawal Syndrome worsen by the day…
P.S. We got some excellent news recently when the directors of season 8 were announced. We’ve learned that Benioff & Weiss, who have each directed one episode thus far, will team up to direct the series finale together. I like that. Returning to split the remaining 5 episodes are David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik. Nutter has directed 6 previous episodes, including “The Rains of Castamere” from season 3 (aka the Red Wedding episode) as well as the season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy”, which featured Cersie’s infamous walk of atonement (“Shame. Shame. Shame.”). Sapochnik’s return is very exciting, as he directed some of the show’s most epic events, including “The Battle of the Bastards” (often voted one of the best episodes of the series), the excellent season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” as well as season 5’s “Hardhome”, which features some of the best White Walker action we’ve seen thus far. I’d been waiting to hear about this, and I’m not disappointed. I miss some of the other amazing directors the show has used (Alex Graves, Alan Taylor, Michelle MacLaren, Neil Marshall), but with only a handful of episodes to go, you can’t have everybody come back.
More than a little awesome:
I can never have enough Night King memes:
This confused me, too. The Night King is clearly a hardo.