Now, we’ve all seen these listicles about the very bestest GoT characters – and they’re all pretty much the same. They include the pretty people, the most loveable, and the ones who get the most screen time. This one is a little different. Yes, you’ll see a couple of the expected names on here, but this is a roundup of the most complex characters – whether it’s because of the fabulous brain of Mr. Martin or the fabulous screen writing and acting. Yes, we know there’s a lot of purists out there who believe you’re not a true GoT fan if you a) haven’t read the books and b) enjoy the TV show. There’s also an awful lot of people who adore the show and have never attempted to read the books. We love both in their own right. The books are outstanding – incredibly powerful, complex, convoluted and mind-twisting. The TV show? It’s probably the very first actually watchable and enjoyable TV fantasy adaptation – and they’ve done a pretty remarkable job of capturing Martin’s creation. So, here’s who we think makes the most brilliant characters list.
Ygritte makes our list because she’s just so darn fierce. In a world that’s pretty much dominated by men, with a few notable exceptions in the powerful houses, Ygritte is a breath of fresh air. She has no notion of politics or subtlety. She says what she means. This hard-on-the-outside wildling girl fights like a hell beast, isn’t afraid to kill anyone who gets in her way, yet has a soft spot for Jon that even his betrayal doesn’t completely quell.
Osha didn’t have a huge amount of screen time, and she’s a really minor character in the books, but she still makes our list of brilliant characters. It helps that she’s played by Natalia Tena, best known as Tonks from Harry Potter. Suddenly, Natalia brought Osha to life as an undeniably complex and lovable character. This tough girl starts off as a captive wildling, then find herself the protector of both Bran and Rickon, defending them, and therefore the North, helping them flee Winterfell when it falls to Theon. Ironically, apart from Bran, Rickon and Hodor, the rest of the North automatically want her dead because of her heritage as one of the Free Folk. Racial prejudice at its finest. We were sad to see her die at the hands of the damned Bolton Bastard.
Sam isn’t terribly complex – but his character has come a long way since we first saw him as a snivelling, pampered lordling arriving at Castle Black. In fact, in spite of what his seriously unpleasant father thinks, Samwell Tarly has flourished at The Wall. We’ve seen him step up, even when the self-confessed coward wanted nothing more than to run away. He saved Gilly and baby Sam and killed a White Walker in the process. He’s not outwardly fierce, but he’s fiercely loyal – and there’s a solid backbone buried in there. Yes, he and Gilly provide some comedy and a their relationship is an oddly sweet one in such a brutal world, but his inherent goodness, his kindness, and his willingness to do what needs to be done, no matter how afraid he is, puts him on our list.
Now, Bronn isn’t exactly a mystery. He’s fairly straightforward. He’s a sell-sword – an unapologetic mercenary. He wants a good fight, lots of money, and plenty of fucking. Even after he’s knighted, he’s still feral, with a foul mouth and a bad temper. Another character that has taken quite a turn away from the books, where he was simply a blackhearted mercenary in Tyrion’s employ. But Jerome Flynn makes him wickedly funny and irresistibly charming. There’s just something about him. Although he took a tumble in our estimation when he essentially sold out Tyrion.
She is cheating on her husband with her own brother, and all of her surviving children are the product of that incest. She is scheming and manipulative and is largely responsible for the misfortune that befalls the Starks. She wishes her younger brother dead, is happy when her husband dies, and supports her psychotic eldest son in his truly awful rule. And, when it’s Tommen’s turn to sit on the Iron Throne, she has his wife imprisoned by the High Sparrow. So why is she on the list? Because, thanks to brilliantly clever writing and undeniably good acting, there are moments when we feel for the apparently icy queen/queen mother. There’s times when her visage cracks and we see her vulnerability. That’s why she’s on our list. She’s one of those characters that fucks with your mind. She’s a brutal, unforgiving bitch, and you hate her. You want her to freaking die. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, you feel an undeniable wave of compassion for her.
7. The Hound
The Hound. He’s awesome. Sanndor Clegane is possibly one of Game of Thrones’ saddest characters. As a child, he was dealt a terrible hand with The Mountain for a brother. He’s a real product of his upbringing – crass, vile, and a total hardass. He fights like a demon, drinks a lot, is terrified of fire, and is pretty much permanently angry. And, in spite of everything he’s done and everyone he’s killed, there’s something good that we get to glimpse from time to time, lurking inside. Yes, at first he kidnaps Arya and wants to ransom her – but he continues to protect her and teach her how to fight and to survive, long after there’s nothing in it for him. And we cannot forget his dry, cutting humor that makes you laugh out loud.
Arya was a fairly simple child, but she’s grown more complex as her tragic character has evolved. You undoubtedly feel for this little tomboy. She’s witnessed the decimation and brutal slaying of her family and her house. From her father getting beheaded to the aftermath of the Red Wedding, poor Arya has seen far too much for one so young. Instead of cracking, she grows ever harder, even leaving poor Clegane to die in agony. The Punisher of Westeros and her hit list, quickly losing all regard for the value of the lives of others. All she wants is revenge – except in a few rare moments. And that compassion – when she can’t kill Lady Crane – almost costs her her life.
Jaime is an interesting character – on the surface, the typical Lannister – ruthless, cunning, spoiled. And he killed the king he was sworn to protect – not that you can blame him – the guy was insane. But he loves his family – and actually, he’s an honourable man – look at his unlikely friendship with Brienne and his keeping the oath he swore to Catelyn Stark. His admission that he’d do anything for his sister, no matter what, in season 6, tells us essentially why he’s committed so many atrocities – like his attempt to kill Bran – he did it to protect Cersei. But he wants to be a good man. And he loves his brother, in spite of everything.
The Spider and his little birds. We still don’t really know his motivations. He participated in the plot to kill Daenerys but also ensured it didn’t come to fruition. He says he just wants peace and what’s best for the Seven Kingdoms. But we just don’t know – we don’t know enough about his past and his real self. What we do know is that he was a friend (sort of) to Ned Stark, and he remains a firm friend and ally to Tyrion (we think). Plus he’s insanely clever and witty, and he and Tyrion make a fabulous double act.
Another sad character. We think she’s fab. She really is an outcast – a huge warrior, but a woman, having to prove herself repeatedly in man’s world. The subject of much ridicule, poor Brienne seems to find and bond with other misfits – Pod, Jaime, Renly, Catelyn. She’s a serious woman, but she’s fiercely loyal and her honor is unmatched. And, we love her special friendship with Jaime – she brings out the very best in him without even trying.
Tyrion – another outcast with a truly tragic history. Deformed and ugly, Tyrion Lannister is the shame of his house – yet he’s insanely intelligent. He’s also cunning, ruthless, and so brave. He’s got a way with words, too. He convinces the forces of King’s Landing to defend the city when it looks like Stannis has won. The Imp is wickedly funny, and he loves fucking and drinking, but there’s an awful lot more to him than that. He’s fascinating – possibly the show’s saddest character – he’s been betrayed by everyone – his lover and his family – but there’s something good in him – he always tries to do the right thing. Any scene with Tyrion in it is bound to be brilliant.
1. Olenna Tyrell
Yes, it’s a surprise, but Olenna Tyrell, also known as the Queen of Thorns, tops our list. Dianna Rigg does an amazing job with Grandma Tyrell. IN spite of her great age and her idiot of a son, she holds her house together. Her biting remarks are hilarious, and the wrathful relationship between her and Cersei keeps you glued to the screen. In spite of her long life as the matriarch of House Tyrell, she doesn’t take any bullshit – and she doesn’t give it, either. She won’t play the game in the same way as the rest of the court – she’s a startling contrast to her manipulative granddaughter – and she’s unpredictably awesome. May she live forever!
Edit: Yes, I know, she did not live forever!