A Complete Ranking of All the Major ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters, #80-11
Our complete ranking of all 150 major Game of Thrones characters continues with numbers 80-11. For Part 1, #150-81, read here.
80. Daario Naharis
Of all the major characters on Game of Thrones, Daario feels like the one who has never managed to come together in a truly satisfying way. Chalk it up to him being recast with a completely different actor in season four or blame it on the fact that he’s simply not as interesting as the other members of Daenerys’ inner circle. He gets to do enough cool stuff to get ranked higher than Rickard Karstark but there are 79 characters we’d rather see in a spin-off first.
79. Shireen Baratheon
A precocious young princess with a mutilated face whose best friend is a grizzled former sea pirate whom she teaches to read during his extended stay in the Dragonstone dungeon? You had us at hello, Shireen.
78. Edmure Tully
Most the major characters on Game of Thrones are either tough, seasoned warriors or prodigies in the ways of deception and death. Edmure Tully is none of those things. In fact, he’s compelling because he’s a walking mediocrity surrounded by people who are so much more capable than him. He’s an ordinary guy born into a position of power who has no idea how to handle himself. This is what we (and you) would look like if we were warped to Westeros.
77. Jon “The Greatjon” Umber
Although Clive Mantle departed the series after the first season, the Greatjon leaves a huge impression in his few appearances and makes us wish he had stuck around (he’s a much more prominent figure in the books). You have to enjoy a character who gets his fingers bitten off by a Direwolf and only gains respect for its owner.
76. Grey Worm
Daenerys’ Unsullied slave-turned-general spent the entire fourth season growing from a cipher into a genuinely interesting character. Torn between his soldier programming and the life he wants but can never have (because, you know, eunuch), he has steadily grown into one of the’ more promising characters. He’s about two or three great episodes away from skyrocketing up this list.
75. Qhorin Halfhand
Being the most grizzled character in the Night’s Watch is quite the task, but Qhorin out-grizzles the competition with aplomb. He achieves maximum grizzlement in his death, where he asks Jon Snow to kill him so Jon can go undercover with the Wildlings. That’s hardcore.
74. Hot Pie
You will forget dozens of characters before you forget the scene where Hot Pie bakes a loaf of bread shaped like a wolf for Arya. Admit it. You know it to be true.
There are only a few truly friendly faces at The Wall and Pypar was one of them. R.I.P., Pyp.
Since Daenerys’ most loyal translators and servants were wiped out in season two, season three was a bit of a rebuilding year for Team Fire and Blood. Enter Missandei, the extremely intelligent former slave who manages to make translating her boss’ threats look real good.
71. Podrick Payne
The impressively loyal Pod saved Tyrion’s life at Blackwater, accompanied Brienne on her Stark girl rescue road trip and is apparently so good at sex that King’s Landing prostitutes return his money. Good for you, Pod.
70. Xaro Xhoan Daxos
Yes, his name sounds like duck sauce. Make your jokes here. Go ahead. But let’s not forget that this charming, duplicitous schemer is a ton of fun for reasons outside of his silly name.
69. Lysa Arryn
Catelyn’s eccentric sister is five pounds of entitled craziness in a one pound sack. Lording over the Eyrie with her terrifying little son, she’s a paranoid, delusional, and astoundingly unsound woman. And that’s before we learn that she has sleeping with Littlefinger and doing his creepy bidding for the entire series.
68. Karl Tanner
One of the best characters created exclusively for the series, Karl is horrifying reminder that the vast majority of the Night’s Watch is made up of thieves, murderers, and rapists. For every Jon Snow, you have 20 crooks who are there to avoid a dungeon. Every so often, you get a Karl Tanner, a genuinely dangerous and intelligent psychopath who sees no problem with murdering the owner of an incest hut in White Walker territory and establishing his own debauched kingdom.
67. Bran Stark
A young paralyzed kid stripped of his family and his home travels into the unknown north, following prophetic visions and learning that he may have what it takes to be a wizard (or something). Bran’s story is certainly an interesting (if slightly more traditional) journey, but the show frequently struggles to find anything for him and his traveling companions to do. The majority of his scenes over the past two seasons have felt like filler, reminders that he exists and little more. There’s a reason he’s sitting out season five altogether. Still, ranking Bran any lower would be unfair. He’s a good character who is played well and people actually care about his fate. He just needs something to do.
Tyrion’s lover rotated between shrill and endearing on an episode-by-episode basis, but there is no denying the punch to the gut that accompanies her final scenes in season four. Even when we didn’t love Shae, we understood Tyrion’s love for her and that makes her betrayal all the more painful. Her murder at Tyrion’s hands is one of the darkest moments in 40 episodes of dark moments. Shae’s impact on the show (and everyone’s favorite character) cannot be overstated.
Grenn is another one of those rare friendly faces at the Wall. Or at least he was until he died fighting a giant in the tunnels under Castle Black. Aside from his extraordinary final moments, Grenn’s presence as a constant friend and ally to Jon Snow has always been welcome. At least he died well.
64. Talisa Maegyr
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Robb Stark’s wife is a non-character, the result of a childish mistake. In the show, she has been transformed into Talisa Maegyr, an ex-pat from the free city of Volantis who comes to Westeros to offer first aid to wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Her selflessness and resilience make her the perfect match for Robb and after a few post-battle meet-cutes, they’re married. Talisa is a sweet character whose romance with Robb feels genuine and touching. No one deserved to get stabbed to death in her pregnant belly less than her.
63. Alliser Thorne
Remember those handful of friendly faces at the Wall that we were talking about? Ser Alliser is not of them. Jon Snow has made a lot of enemies ever since he took the black, but Castle Black’s master-at-arms is the first and the most hateful of the bunch. The fact that his cruel observations and decisions often make total sense only make him easier to loathe.
62. Ilyn Payne
The King’s Justice (I.e., executioner) says nothing, but his sword does all of his talking for him. Ser Ilyn is one of the most terrifying men in Westeros, a stone-cold brute whose one expression conveys more than most monologues. Bonus: He’s the one who beheaded Ned Stark, so he’s kind of a Big Deal.
61. Viserys Targaryen
Daenerys’ older brother was pompous, weak, impatient, and whiny and oh god he was so great. There was no way Viserys could have ever survived for long on this show, but his death midway through season one is a (spectacular, shocking) bummer. What a totally watchable imbecile this guy was!
60. Grand Maester Pycelle
Grand Maester Pycelle seems kind of dull until you realize he’s dull by design. Underneath that senile, frail mask is one of the best schemers in Westeros and one of the Lannisters’ most powerful allies. Only a real master would spend his days publicly pretending to be a buffoon to further his cause.
59. Eddison “Dolorous Edd” Tollett
The Night’s Watch is a solemn bunch full of dour people who are always cold, miserable, hungry and on the verge of death. Thankfully, “Dolorous Edd” is around to remind them how much Wall-duty sucks. The most cynical man to ever have taken the black, Edd uses his extremely dry and dark sense of humor as his ultimate weapon. If Edd enters a scene, you know you’re in for a little bit of whimsical misery.
58. Brynden “Blackfish” Tully
Brynden Tully sits on top of a list titled “Game of Thrones characters who deserve to have entire episodes devoted to their adventures.” Although he’s been AWOL since season three, Catelyn’s slightly estranged uncle looms large over the Tully family tree as the most capable and reliable guy in the bunch. It’s a shame that the show never found a way to bring him back into the fray after the Red Wedding (which he thankfully didn’t attend).
57. Thoros of Myr
Like Melisandre, Thoros is a Red Priest who lives to serve the Lord of Light. Unlike Melisande, he spends his days battling the Lannisters in guerrilla warfare as key member of the Brotherhood Without Banners while drinking heavily and just being plain a cool dude. More importantly, he’s the chief reason Beric Dondarrion is so damn great (and we’ll get there soon enough).
Ros was originally a one-off character, a guest-star prostitute who existed to provide an exposition dump about Theon Greyjoy’s past. And then she moved to King’s Landing, became Littlefinger’s right hand and then a double agent, a spy working all of the angles. One of the few major characters to be wholly invented for the show, Ros was a welcome addition to the ensemble ... until she was casually killed off in a montage. Boo, Game of Thrones. Boooo.
55. Rodrik Cassel
Before he suffers one of the most painful and humiliating deaths in the entire series, Winterfell’s master-at-arms earns our love with his unwavering loyalty to the Stark family. But let’s be honest with ourselves here: He ranks this high because he has the second best beard on the entire show
Gilly may be simple-minded and she may have grown up in an a incestuous, baby-sacrificing compound, but she is one of the few women trapped in her situation to go out of her way to escape. Sure, she has to rely on the kindness and unexpected bravery of Samwell Tarly, but there aren’t many Game of Thrones characters who are as ultimately brave as her. And her burgeoning romance with Sam is just too cute for words.
Although he’s no more cruel than many Westerosi soldiers, Polliver happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time twice and leaves a lasting impression. When he coldly executed Lommy back in season two, he had now idea he was planting the seeds that would transform the traumatized Arya into a pint-sized assassin. When she encounters him again in a tavern during season four (cue one of the best action scenes in the entire series), those seeds blossom and she murders the crap out of him. Like Arya, we will never forget what Polliver did and how he suffered for it.
52. Mance Rayder
This is where book readers have a serious and righteous beef. In the novels, Mance Rayder is better, richer, deeper character in every way compared to his television counterpart. Watching the show reduce him to another grizzled, scowling guy is hugely disappointing. And yet, Ciaran Hinds is an impressive actor and his simplified Mance remains a commanding, intense presence. But book Mance? That guy is top 20 material.
51. Maester Aemon
Try to not feel soul-punched when Maester Aemon reveals to Jon Snow that he is one of the last remaining Targaryens and that his oath to the Night’s Watch forced him to sit idly by while his family’s legacy was obliterated by Robert’s Rebellion. Game of Thrones never skips an opportunity to force you to sympathize with all sides and Maester Aemon is one of the best examples of how the show twists the knife in your guts.
50. Walder Frey
Look, any guy you hate this much deserves to be top 50 material. There are only a few characters who demand a brutal death more than Walder Frey, whose selfish, cowardly machinations wiped out most of the Stark family at the Red Wedding. This guy is a diiiiiiiiiick. That’s ten i’s and he deserves each and every one of them.
Another character who got his role significantly boosted from the books, Gendry is the show’s intensely likable face for King Robert’s bastard children. Although he never gets better than when he’s partnered with with Arya and Hot Pie (if any trio ever deserved a spinoff...), his later presence on Dragonstone is an elegant way of tying this massive web of characters together. The last time we saw him, he was escaping Melisandre in a rowboat with the help of Ser Davos. Hopefully, he’ll come ashore soon.
48. Gregor Clegane
Ser Gregor, a.k.a. The Mountain, is the biggest physical threat in all of Westeros and a monster who takes pleasure in pain and suffering. Even when he’s not onscreen, you can feel his presence in the carnage he leaves in his wake. It’s a shame that his ultimate impact is diminished by him being recast multiple times (three actors across four seasons), but not even a new face on an old name can tarnish his duel against Oberyn Martell. The idea of Gregor and the pure, black-hearted evil he represents is powerful enough to overcome any unfortunate production woes.
47. Roose Bolton
While Gregor Clegane can’t even begin to hide his dark intentions, Roose Bolton has made a life out of keeping his impulses in check. Yeah, he has no problem flaying prisoners alive or giving his monstrous son free reign to murder for pleasure across the North, but he makes sure you don’t see it. He’s the kind of cold, ruthless psychopath who is canny enough to appear normal in public. Roose’s cruelty is most apparent not when he stabs Robb Stark to death but when he tips his hand to Catelyn moments before the Red Wedding slaughter commences, savoring her horrified reaction.
46. Maester Luwin
No one could fill the Sean Bean-shaped hole in the lives of the youngest Stark boys when their father died, but Maester Luwin certainly tried. A paragon of decency and warmth in a kingdom gone mad, the kind, gentle Luwin got exactly what a guy like him would get in the world of Game of Thrones: a spear through the gut. And yet we’ll always have those wonderful scenes where he teaches young Bran how to rule and represent the Stark family. Good guys finish last in Westeros, but he had a nice run.
45. Ramsay Snow
Some Game of Thrones villains do bad things because they’re practical and efficient routes to power. Ramsay Snow is just a connoisseur of human suffering. Unlike his father, Roose Bolton, Ramsay doesn’t hide behind a veil of civility. He’s a spoiled brat without any barriers, Westeros’ own Patrick Bateman. Some fans have taken issue with just how brutal and over-the-top Ramsay is, but he’s bleak and necessary look at what happens when someone without any sense of decency or sanity is given power. Even Tywin Lannister knows when to ease up.
44. Salladhor Saan
Salladhor Saan probably has the fewest scenes of any character in the top 50, but since each and every line out of his mouth is a gem, he’s totally deserving. Game of Thrones could always use more salty pirates who brag about how they’re going to seduce the Queen after sacking her city. Salldadhor, you ol’ scallywag!
43. Loras Tyrell
Loras initially functions as an incredible deconstruction of the classic medieval knight. He’s dashingly handsome and an object of desire for all women across the kingdom, but he’s gay. He belongs to a profession known for chivalry, but he cheats to win tourneys. However, Loras quickly emerges as a full-fledged character beyond these traits. His fierce loyalty to the late Renly Baratheon and his desire to avenge his death forces him into an alliance with the lesser of two evils (which includes an arranged marriage). Watching him even attempt to have a romantic conversation with a woman is a joy to behold.
42. Ellaria Sand
Game of Thrones isn’t shy about sex and nudity and yes, sometimes it can feel a little tacky and exploitative ... and then a character like Ellaria Sand shows up. Few women on Game of Thrones have owned their sexuality like Ellaria, the paramour of the Red Viper of Dorne who matches her partner’s lust for life in every way. The series does treat her like eye candy, but if the show’s eye candy was always this compelling and commanding, we’d have far fewer angry thinkpieces every season.
41. Robb Stark
Poor Robb Stark. Poor, dumb, stupid, overconfident Robb Stark. Like his father before him, the young Lord of Winterfell thought everyone else would play by the rules and died for his naivete. Also like his father, Robb was a good guy, a straight-shooter who was easy to like and cheer for. Even if you saw his death coming from a mile away, it still hurts. Robb was one of the show’s final true “good guys” and his violent demise effectively scared away anyone hoping that a happy ending could come out of all of this.
40. Tormund Giantsbane
Look at that beard. Look into it. Feel it with your mind-hands. Imagine its warmth. Its history. That beard tells us more about who Tormund is than any dialogue ever could. The best beard in the entire series deserves a spot in the top 40.
For the first two seasons, Game of Thrones fans could be forgiven for thinking that everyone from the north was a halfway decent person and everyone from the south was a deceitful schemer. Locke was a nice slap to face on that front. Despite apparent loyalty to the Starks (and Roose Bolton, of course), he was a walking embodiment of bad feelings who chopped off Jaime’s hand, tried to feed Brienne to a bear, and attempted to track down and kill Bran by gaining the confidence of Jon Snow. He deserved his end, but we’ll miss the cruel bastard.
38. Jeor Mormont
A relic from an age when the Night’s Watch wasn’t a total disgrace, Jeor Mormont is the leader and father figure everyone secretly wants. His presence in early seasons made it clear that no matter what happened, Jon Snow would always have an honorable man in his corner. Mormont’s death at the hands of his own men in a mutiny was the cruelest possible end for a character who had earned our respect several times over.
37. Barristan Selmy
Look, you’ve got to respect a wizened veteran who is told to forcibly retire by his crummy new boss and responds by going to work for a rival. As a member of Robert and Joffrey’s Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy was a mensch among cockroaches. As one of Daenerys’ top advisors, he looks like the smartest man in the room who knew which way the wind was blowing.
36. Yara Greyjoy
The Iron Islanders may be a generally disgusting bunch, but we’d follow the fearless Yara Greyjoy into battle any day. Clever, loyal, and wickedly funny, she commands all of the respect her brother desperately desires and makes it look easy. The fact that the show seems to be sidelining Yara’s book storyline is a real kick in the teeth that needs to be rectified as soon as possible.
35. Jon Snow
It’s easy to hate Jon Snow. It’s easy to moan about his self-entitlement, his whininess, his generally wooden demeanor, and the fact that he’s following a pretty standard hero’s journey on a show that otherwise pours gasoline all over Joseph Campbell and lights a match. And yet, our disdain for Ned Stark’s bastard son (or is he?) has lessened over the years. Jon is at his most interesting when he’s forced to follow a more noble path at great cost to himself and those around him. He may be a stick in the mud, but he’s had so many opportunities to be something different and has turned them all down. There’s definitely something compelling about that.
34. Beric Dondarrion
Westeros’ own insurgent leader/Robin Hood, Beric Dondarrion spends his days living in caves and mounting his own private war agains the Lannisters and their allies. With the small but crafty Brotherhood Without Banners at his back, he’s the kind of enemy Tywin and his allies can’t simply wipe away with overwhelming force and gold. Oh, and he’s died a whole bunch of times but keeps on getting brought back to life through arcane magic that removes a little piece of his soul with every resurrection. Beric is one of those great characters who pops up for a few episodes, leaves a permanent impression and then seemingly vanishes forever. Nothing would be more pleasing than to see what he’s up to now, but why risk ruining a perfect thing?
33. Robert Baratheon
Robert Baratheon is a fascinating character because his best days are behind him. So many of his scenes are all about the man he once was, the warrior who overthrew the Mad King and saved the Seven Kingdoms from chaos. And then he grew fat and angry for 17 years, trapped in a marriage to a woman he hates while his inner circle works against him. Robert is a tragic and pathetic character, the equivalent of an incredible high school athlete gone to seed. In Game of Thrones, the heroes either die or they live long enough to become philandering drunkards who are too rotund to fit in their armor.
32. Khal Drogo
Only Khal Drogo can promise his pregnant wife that he will rape and pillage an entire continent and make it sound so damn romantic. Insert sexy growl.
31. Renly Baratheon
The saddest truth about Renly Baratheon is that he would have made a great king. Charismatic and kind, he was a man of the people with a massive army of supporters. Sure, he was a little high and mighty, but he was charming and had a ridiculously understanding wife who was ready to devote her entire life to crafting his perfect public image. He was no warrior, but that’s what advisors are for. If Kings were elected, he would have won the popular vote. But he had no right to be king and he strolled into a conflict that chewed up and spit out stronger men than him. At least not everyone can say they were assassinated by a creepy shadow baby. His legacy has got that much going for it.
Yoren makes such a strong impression in the second season that it’s easy to forget that he was in the show since its earliest episodes. While he’s certainly entertaining enough as the grumpy member of the Night’s Watch who pops up from time to time, he really comes into his own when he’s tasked with escorting Arya Stark back home from King’s Landing. As Arya’s first traveling partner, he sets the badass bar awfully high when he protects her by threatening to stab a guardsman to death through his groin. He then effortlessly clears that bar when he goes down like a boss, fighting to the last breath against an entire team of Lannister thugs. Game of Thrones is very good at creating these world-weary, lived-in characters, but Yoren is the cream of the crop and one of the best minor characters to ever live and die on the show.
Westeros’ own idol-burning, king-cursing, shadow-baby-birthing Red Priestess, Melisandre is enigmatic nightmare fuel given jaw-droppingly sexy form. In a world where magic is seemingly dead, she’s the constant reminder that everyone is really Jon Snow when it comes the unknown: They know nothing. We’re four seasons into this show and we still have no idea what this woman actually wants, but we do know that she’ll murder as many people as it takes to achieve her goals. Hopefully, she ends up falling in the shade of gray that’s a little closer to good than evil.
28. Stannis Baratheon
Stannis is a tricky character because he’s supposed to be a stodgy, humorless, charisma-free bore who no one in their right mind would want to see on the Iron Throne. He would be tyrannical headache if he was tasked with managing a Burger King, let alone a whole kingdom. And yet he is somehow totally great! Steadfast and cursed with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Red Keep, he’s the only guy on the entire show with the legal right to be king but is totally lacking most of the skills anyone wants in a leader. He’s the show’s most glorious mess.
Osha is so good that George R.R. Martin says that he wants to give her more to do in the books after he saw what the show did with her. But everyone’s favorite Wildling-turned-Stark-bodyguard got disappeared along with stupid Rickon. Stupid, stupid Rickon.
26. Jaqen H’ghar
A show introduces a mysterious Braavosi with an indelible accent. A girl saves a man’s life when she didn’t have to. A man promises a girl three deaths to pay back the Red God. A man becomes one of the most quoted characters on a show. A man vanishes after proving himself to be a real murder champion. A girl sees a man one last time and as he uses his assassin powers to change his face. An audience goes “Whaaaaat?” And then a man vanishes from the show, but never from an audience’s heart.
25. Syrio Forel
Did you really think that Arya’s “dancing master” wouldn’t crack the top 25? In the words of the man himself, “Not today.” Oooh. You got chills just reading that, didn’t you?
24. Theon Greyjoy
Theon Greyjoy is a terrible son, a worse friend, an incompetent leader, and a piss-poor soldier. He also accidentally tried to seduce his sister and that’s not cool, even in Westeros. What he is, however, is a tragic and totally understandable disaster of a human being whose poor decisions come from his inability to reconcile the world he came from with the world that raised him. He’s a mess, but he was not beyond redemption ... and then Ramsay Snow got his hands on him. Now, Theon is no longer on a quest to gain a little respect. He’s on a quest to restore his humanity. And we can’t help but root for him.
23. Catelyn Stark
You know the old cliché: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But that woman has nothing on a mother scorned and that mother has nothing on Catelyn Stark. Raised in luxury in the Riverlands but hardened by her new life in the icy north, Cat is a woman whose passions often get the best of her and her rash decisions escalate the conflict between House Stark and House Lannister beyond the point of no return. However, it’s hard to blame a mother for wanting justice for her grievously wounded son. Later, it’s hard to blame her for wanting to avenge her husband and rescue her daughters. Catelyn’s mistakes are painfully human and heartbreaking, a harsh reminder that the game of thrones can wreak havoc on anyone with conscience. Her final scene, when she cries out after witnessing the destruction of her House and the death of her son, is the most devastating single moment in the entire series.
22. Jorah Mormont
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead and insert your friend zone jokes here. You have a dozen of them. Let the poor guy have it. Done? Okay. Let’s get real: Jorah Mormont is one of the suavest, ballsiest, and coolest motherf---ers on Game of Thrones. Sure, he’s a bit of a creeper, but Daenerys is lucky to have a soldier this experienced and a friend this loyal. Oh wait; she exiled him for also being a liar and a former spy at the end of season four. Well, what can we say? Our man’s got layers.
20. Sansa Stark
No Game of Thrones character has been as unfairly maligned as poor Sansa Stark, but no number of shallow, mouth-breathing internet commenters can diminish one of the show’s strongest and bravest characters. Sansa has spent the past three seasons surrounded almost exclusively by people who mean her physical and emotional harm and her method of survival has been brilliant: She plays the role they want her to play. Sansa isn’t an ineffectual, slow-witted teenage girl, but a smart, crafty young woman who knows that the best way to survive is to play a character. Now that she’s under the tutelage of Littlefinger, her newfound skills are finally going to be weaponized.
At the Wall, we learn that the Wildlings are vicious, cannibalistic marauders who want to tear down civilization and live in anarchy. When we meet Ygritte, we learn that is only true about, oh, 49% of the time. Jon Snow’s spirited lover represents what the Wildlings really are: people. Fun and funny and sexy and bright, Ygritte is the perfect Other Half for the dour Jon and she brings out the best in him. Of course, she responds to him giving up their new life together and returning to the Night’s Watch with a few arrows in the back because she’s also more than capable of kicking ass on her own, thank you very much. Their tumultuous breakup reaches its grand climax at the Battle of the Wall, where Ygritte is stuck down, depriving the show of its most disarmingly sweet romance and the one woman who could make Jon Snow truly bearable.
18. Davos Seaworth
You will never find a more loyal man in Westeros than former smuggler Davos Seaworth, a.k.a. the Onion Knight. He will stand by your side when you convert to a mysterious cult. He will escort your creepy girlfriend to a cave so she can give birth to a magic shadow assassin. He will watch his son get blown up while fighting in one of your battles and then return to your service, no questions asked. Hell, he’ll still have your back after you throw him in a dungeon for half a season. Everyone has a price except Davos, the only living man in the Seven Kingdoms who never breaks his word. And unlike certain honest Stark nobleman, he’s wily enough to still have his head.
17. Margaery Tyrell
Margaery Tyrell is the greatest politician on Game of Thrones. Unlike Cersei and her ilk, who command through fear and intimidation, the young soon-to-be-Queen of Westeros rose to the top of the royal food chain by being a champion of the downtrodden and a friend to all. Of course, her acts of charity and her all-smiling positivity at court are part of an elaborate game to elevate her into the position of ultimate power. In private, Margaery is just as ruthless as her peers, plotting and scheming with the best of them. But when she goes outside, she doesn’t instill riots. Severed heads don’t roll in her wake. She is actually nice to Sansa. Margaery wants to rule, but unlike so many other players in the game, she knows that old adage about catching more flies with sugar than vinegar.
One of the greatest decisions made yet in adapting the A Song of Ice and Fire novels into a television series was giving Bronn more to do. His good cop/bad cop dynamic with Tyrion is the gift that never stops giving and few characters offer such a variety of distinct pleasures. He’s a show-stopping action hero, a hilarious scoundrel, a streetwise foil for Tyrion’s educated machinations, and a damn fine singer. Tyrion getting shipped off to Essos for season five means that we’ll be getting a lot less Bronn moving forward and there is nothing more upsetting than that.
15. Eddard “Ned” Stark
Back in a more innocent time, we thought Eddard Stark was the main character on Game of Thrones and we were so very, very wrong. Poor Ned getting his head chopped off for crimes he didn’t commit is the defining moment of the entire series, the moment where the show revealed what it was really all about. And while everyone still talks about how Ned died, not enough people talk about how he lived. As one of the few truly noble people to ever exist on the show, an anchor of goodness amidst corruption. His presence looms large whenever Jon Snow makes a important decision or when Arya struggles to survive. We recall him when we see scoundrels like Jaime Lannister have changes of heart. Whenever we see those who betrayed him alive and well, we wish he had refused to do the right thing and had fled King’s Landing the moment he realized things were awry. His enemies may have tarnished his name, but Eddard is the only man in Westeros worthy of having a ballad written in his honor.
14. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
With his fluctuating accent, sleazy facial hair, and dual career path as the royal accountant and a sex-trade entrepreneur, everything about Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish screams “Don’t trust this guy!” And yet Littlefinger’s greatest strength is his ability to gain the allegiance of just about anyone, from Ned to Tywin to Sansa to the entire Tyrell family. We’re talking about a guy so confident in his rapid rise to top that he created his own House sigil, a Mockingbird, despite coming from a common background. In fact, that common upbringing has instilled in him no love for the institutions he now influences and if his climb to power means dismantling the foundation of a peaceful society and killing whoever gets in his way, so be it. Remember, every single person on this list is dead or miserable because of this man’s machinations (which were finally revealed in season four). A lot of people would still be alive if not for this guy. This is the most ambitious man in Westeros.
13. Samwell Tarly
The greatest miracle on Game of Thrones is how the show transformed the most miserable character in the books into one of the show’s most endearing presences. Samwell Tarly is one of the few decent people remaining in Westeros. Yeah, he’s craven and can’t swing a sword to save his life, but he’s smart and sweet and loyal and will the rise to the occasion to help his friends. Plus, he killed a White Walker. Jon Snow hasn’t even killed a White Walker! Samwell is evidence of rare natural goodness and his cowardice ultimately feels like less of a negative trait and more a reflection of that goodness. Most importantly, he’s one of the funniest characters on the show, injecting life and humor into those relentlessly grim scenes at the Wall and making Jon Snow’s scenes less of a slog.
12. Olenna Tyrell
In Westeros, women are often viewed as commodities who exist solely to be married off to secure alliances. Olenna Tyrell knows this and takes advantage of the common perception of her gender to actually get things done. While her bumbling son represents the public face of House Tyrell and fails to leave a lasting impression wherever he goes, she works tirelessly behind the scenes to protect the future of her family. Everything Margaery knows is something she learned from her crafty grandmother, who is old enough not to care about being brutally honest with everyone she meets. Each and every one of Olenna’s scenes are a joy, whether she’s comforting Sansa to collect intelligence or verbally sparring with Tywin Lannister. Bonus: She’s the one who actually pulled the trigger on the Joffrey assassin, so she’s a damn hero.
11. Oberyn Martell
“Say it! You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!” The bloody duel between Oberyn “The Red Viper” Martell and Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane belongs on the shortlist of the single best scenes in all of Game of Thrones. But Oberyn is so much more than his final moments. Although we first meet him partaking a smorgasbord of lovers in a King’s Landing brothel (where he doesn’t discriminate between genders), he’s not just some debauched nobleman ... he’s a debauched nobleman who is also wise, observant, and, when the occasion calls for it, truly noble. His suave, wily exterior barely masks the rage that simmers inside of him and his desire for justice at all costs feels necessary in a world as brutal as this. Oberyn shined too brightly and burnt out far too quickly, but man, it was quite a ride.