My 5 Favorite and Least Favorite 'Game of Thrones' Characters
As of writing this, there are six crazy seasons of HBO's epic Game of Thrones, a hit series adapted from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books. Martin himself is now less involved in the writing of the show, and some people have noted that some of the cleverness of the show has declined. Will it suffer continuous seasonal rot, or will they be able to come up with a way to make it even better? Either way, I'm never more pumped for any TV show than this. But the odd thing is, it's a mixture of really great performances and really interesting characters amidst really bad actors and characters. There are villains we love to hate, and heroes who are so boring or idiotic we don't care what happens to them. The show leaves a lot of room up for alternative character interpretation and fan speculation. Shae, for example, could be seen as a vicious backstabber, or as a pitiable victim of circumstances.
So, here are my 5 least favorite and 5 favorite characters on Game of Thrones (spoilers below.)
Least Favorite Characters
What I find interesting is how little Shae seems to understand about being a prostitute. It seems weird that Tyrion falls for her when in the first scenes she seems either distant or hostile and confrontational. Her sucky attitude culminates in this stupid scene where she goes, "you think your father can hear us, HE'S 300 MILES AWAY!". Ok, Shae, how is it that someone is a prostitute in a place as established as full of spies as King's Landing without understanding simple discretion? I feel like someone needs to send her back to Whoring 101.
She acts childish and stupid, but the audience is supposed to see it as her being a strong woman. But I don't see her as strong, but weak, stupid, spoiled, and entitled. She was a gold digger all along, hoping that convincing one rich client to fall for her would be a one-way ticket from Whore Island to Ladyville. Doesn't work that way, as it turns out. Especially if you turn on said client, testify against them, and shag their father.
And, her story seems like a big waste of time when all is said and done. She is introduced as someone with a mysterious past, and that past is neither important to the overall story nor revealed. It's probably not that interesting, anyway. She's probably like the prostitute mentioned by Ros, who grew up in Flea Bottom but adopts a foreign accent just to sound exotic. I bet a lot of women adopt such a trick, because Westeros men seem to commonly fetishize foreign girls.
RIP: Shae, the Funny Whore
4. Theon Greyjoy
I get that you are supposed to not like him. It's also easy to feel sorry for him, because he is bullied by his father and the other Iron Islanders when allowed to return home by Robb. And then he gets captured, tortured, castrated, and psychologically tormented by like the one person in the North worse than him, Ramsay Snow. But what he did to Bran and the staff at Winterfell is still not just unforgivable, but it was very stupid from a strategic perspective. And, Theon is just a punk teenager trying to be intimidating, when everyone can see how he's really weak and afraid. He wasn't scary, and you knew when he took over at Winterfell that he had no hope of holding onto it. It might have been more interesting if he had merely remained at Robb's side, perhaps preventing him from doing so many stupid things, or if he had taken up Maester Luwin's advice and taken the black. But instead, he put his own pride before reason, and it led to his downfall. At least he gets somewhat redeemed by helping Sansa escape from Ramsay. And the whole losing his junk thing. But he was originally a very annoying character.
3. Daenerys Targaryen
The main issue is, her plots seem to go nowhere, and she's pretty arrogant. I also think Emilia Clarke is not the best actress, just passable. When everything else is focusing on Westeros, Dany's plots are like a slow, plodding tour of various foreign cultures and places across the sea. Except, none of them are that important, other than serving as hide-out places for various Westerosi characters. Her plots are kind of similar to those of Bran Stark, in that both involve a "this character will be supernaturally gifted and very important to the story... later, much later". If her brother loses his patience and becomes hot-headed (literally!) over the Dothraki taking their own sweet time in invading the kingdom, he would not be happy had he lived to see later seasons.
On second thought, let's not go to Westeros, it is a silly place.
Also, Danearys is a self-righteous hypocrite who prefers burning people to diplomacy, when that is exactly why her father was... not exactly a popular man. Seems like the fashion of burning people you don't like has spread to Cersei though, so we'll get a showdown soon between two Mad Queens. Yay.
And if this bitch claims any more goddamned titles, I swear to gods...
And, no wonder everybody just calls her "khaleesi" and some people even think that's her name, her real name is stupid and I bet no one knows how to effing pronounce it correctly, including myself. Martin made up some good names but this isn't one of them.
2. Sansa Stark
While certainly her life is no picnic, wooden acting, the fact that she acted like a spoiled bitch prior to her trauma conga, and just not being very interesting despite getting lots of attention from the story all work against this character. She's like her mother, but without the wisdom that comes with age, and like her sister, but less badass, making her the least likeable Stark woman. She's a realistic character, in that teenage girls are more like her than they are likely to be as cool as Arya, but that realistic nature also makes her bratty and annoying. One thing that sucks is that she never sees past Tyrion's appearance and gets to know him, and if she had done that, she would see that he's not the monster many people believe him to be. But hey, she's stupid, and easily frightened, and you would be frightened too in her shoes. But the main reason I hate Sansa doesn't have much to do with who Sansa is as a person and how she's treated by the show. Her plots just seem like a series of unfortunate events. It becomes dull, like "hey, look, another shitty thing is happening to Sansa". She's not a terrible character, but constantly seeing her be a cosmic chew toy isn't fun, and I'm really hoping that she will have a better story line, now that she is emancipated from her third bad marriage. But, I can't say I'd be too sad if she were to be the next major character to die.
1. Robb Stark
When Ned Stark first dies in the end of Season 1, you want to root for Robb, because it seems like justice is on his side. But he makes a series of very stupid decisions that cost him his war, his title, his father's legacy, his wolf, his life, and that of his mother and several of his men. I mean, they make a big show of how stupid and incompetent boy terror Joffrey is as a king, but Robb makes so many bad decisions "because muh feels" that it's hard to like him either.
- He should have allied with and supported Stannis, because his father died because he supported Stannis, so if Robb refused to support Stannis he was basically betraying his father, the very thing he claimed to fight for.
- He didn't listen to his mother even though she was basically right about everything.
- He should have never accepted the "king in the North" shit, he should have told his men to sober up and realize that they had no hope of achieving that without getting killed.
- He was unbelievably stupid in falling for Exotic Chick five minutes after pledging to marry a Fray girl, which was probably written that way to show how noblemen in the middle ages were never allowed to marry for love, but instead had to build love up with someone they had already married but didn't know. Which is what his damn mother tells him and he just refuses to listen, again.
- He handled Theon stupidly. Sending Theon to the Iron Islands is letting a captive bear loose in the woods and then going back to it and expecting a hug. I mean, he thought Theon was a friend, but that kid's hatred of the Starks was pretty obvious to anyone else.
So yeah, hated this guy. At the red wedding, I was just like "ha I read the books" and "aw, Catelyn is dead, no!", but I was not crying for this emotion-driven idiot.
5. Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound
"Your friend's dead, and Meryn Trant's not, 'cause Trant had armor. And a big fucking sword."
I like Clegane because he leaves Joffrey at the battle of Blackwater (fear of fire because he was burned by his brother as a child) and from there on, his travels, alone and then with Arya, while not particularly plot-forward-ing, are very entertaining. Clegane has an attitude of being independent and in it for himself alone. This is in contrast with Arya, who cares a lot about a lot of people. I like Bronn and Jaime for being similarly snarky and cynical, but The Hound always seems to get the last laugh.
4. Jaime Lannister
Speaking of snarky and cynical, Jaime is interesting because the beginning of the story starts with him doing a morally reprehensible act: pushing Bran out of a window so the kid can't tell anyone about the "southern hospitality" he saw Cersei giving Jaime. But he goes through some things that make his character much more sympathetic, including:
- We see the hard expectations placed on him as a son, as a knight, as the leader of the King's Guard, etc.
- We see how he gets crap for his role in the rebellion and the pejorative nickname "King slayer", but how he defends his actions because he was saving innocent people.
- Jaime calls out Ned Stark, and later Catelyn and Robb, when they make stupid mistakes, and he shows a lot of intelligence in judgment, even though Tyrion is the "brain" in the Lannister "brains, beauty, brawn" trio.
- Jaime is used to illustrate the moral complexity of the show.
- Jaime has some pretty good lines in his banter with Brienne, and it's heartwarming how they bond gradually over their shared misadventures.
While Tyrion is the undisputed king of witty comebacks in this show, Jaime gets a few really clever ones in of his own.
"How did you know about that?" "I thought you said you knew who I am."
In the show, Varys operates a vast network of spies, and through his command of information on everyone and everything, he wields a lot of influence and few dare to challenge him. Unlike his comrade Littlefinger though, he doesn't seem to be driven by a desire for power, no one is sure what he wants, which makes him all the more feared. The interesting thing about Varys is he is a mystery; he knows everything about everyone else, and yet so little is known about him. No last name, not from Westeros originally, and he eventually tells a story about how he lost his Yankee Doodle, but it could be a lie or something to conceal his real past and therefore his motivations and desires.
In the books, it's revealed that Varys is working for the Targaryens, and scheming to bring back a Targaryen prince thought long dead who's been hiding out in Essos. It's implied that the plan is for this kid, technically Daenerys' nephew but close to him in age, to marry Daenerys and have them take the Iron Throne together. In the TV Show though, I predict that they will simplify this down to having Varys be revealed as simply having been working for Daenerys all along. A bit too late in the game to add even more royal characters, perhaps? Anyway, I like Varys because he seems to have a soft, sensitive center and rich inner life, but successfully puts forth a tough front. He's able to survive and thrive in a vicious, backstab-y court. He's intelligent, and delivers some amazing verbal punches, proving you don't need to have a sword to be a badass.
[Edit: I just realized the potential double entendre joke in that last line, teehee.]
2. Cersei Lannister
"I choose violence."
See, you know you're supposed to hate Cersei, but much like Jaime, she gets more sympathetic over time. Cersei has had to deal with a lot of unfair bullshit in life. First, she was engaged to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, but then has to marry instead Robert Baratheon, the guy who leads a successful rebellion against the Targaryens and becomes king instead. In this world, women are commodities traded to secure political alliances between noble families, much as they were in the Middle Ages in real life. They have no agency, no say in who they marry. So, in light of that, it makes sense that she chooses love in the arms of her brother, who makes her feel safe from her awful husband, who sleeps around, drinks, hunts, fights, and has no real romantic interest in Cersei, due to his constant grief over Lyanna Stark that he is never able to forget.
Then, out of desperation to be rid of him, she has Robert murdered and makes it look like a hunting accident (clever girl!) but of course, she didn't think this through; it becomes a total nightmare for the realm when his son Joffrey is crowned. Ned Stark revealed her secret affair with Jaime to the world, causing Stannis and Renly to declare for the throne, and the Iron Islands and the North rebel against the new king because they think he's weak due to his age and inexperience. It just gets worse and worse for Cersei when Joffrey dies, she loses her political influence, and a new fanatic, fundamentalist cult rises up as a new political power among the masses, who have hated her and her family for a long time. In an attempt to bring down her rival Margaery Tyrell, she ends up hoist by her own petard, getting herself imprisoned by said religious fanatics. Eventually she gives in and confesses her sins to their leader, the "High Sparrow" they nicknamed him, but mere confession is not enough; they force her to walk naked through the streets and cut her hair off. This kind of humiliation would make anyone go crazy with rage, even if they had been a lamb before.
So, Cersei later blowing everyone she hates to smithereens is understandable, and dare I say a bit satisfying. Of course, it's sad because Margaery and Tommen were innocent, but from Cersei's perspective, it's a triumph that she can now take hold of power in her own right, instead of having to wield power vicariously through a man, either a husband, lover, or child.
Did Margaery and Tommen deserve what they got because Good is Dumb? I wouldn't go that far, obviously. But it is also satisfying that season 6 may have seen an end to all the political instability and in-fighting, because I think everyone in King's Landing will be too afraid of their new Queen to try anything. As Robert Baratheon said, it's fear that holds the realm together, right? And Margaery and Tommen as a ruling couple were unable to inspire any fear, and so the religious fanatics were able to gain power they otherwise wouldn't have been able to get. Cersei is essentially Hobbes' Leviathan.
I guess that makes her sort of like Dany, but unlike Dany, at least she's not on a high horse, she doesn't pretend to be morally in the right all the time. She's had a tough life, she's been surrounded by weaklings, cowards, and fools, and yeah, a lot of her plans have failed, but you can't say she lacks courage or ruthless cunning. And when she tells someone off, even if it's mean, it can be very satisfying anyway.
1. Tyrion Lannister
"It's not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do it if it were easy."
I mean, who else? Peter Dinklage deserves all the praise he gets for doing such a good job acting as this character, and being a great role model for little people. He has a great voice and a charismatic face. But, I would argue that the real brilliance of the character comes from George R. R. Martin having written him so damn well in the first place, so that good acting is just icing on the cake. Tyrion is amusing, sympathetic, complex, and driven by intellectual curiosity. He likes "playing the game" of politics, likes outwitting people and beating them at their own game. He uses a lot of self-deprecating humor, but this hides real inner pain he has. His sad back story is tragic and compelling. Similarly to Cersei, he is treated unfairly because of what he is, a dwarf.
One of the reasons I don't like Shae is because I had high hopes for their romance to be real, that she would have feelings for him, so I understood his feeling of betrayal, and the sadness of Tyrion realizing no woman would probably ever love him, except for money. But I guess, this just isn't the kind of story where lovers can run away together and live happily ever after. And maybe, when you're born into a messed up family, you can't help being a bit messed up yourself.
So who are your favorite and least favorite Game of Thrones characters? What do you think will happen to them in season 7?