Editorial: Top 5 Game of Thrones Characters.
This was genuinely quite a difficult list to do, but I wanted to do something to celebrate the fact that Game of Thrones is back in less than a week, and since I didn't want to do a hackneyed 'top moments' thing, I thought I'd take the route of being even more hackneyed and do a hackneyed 'top characters' thing.
This could have easily been a top ten, but rather than go over the length limit I like to set for these things, I'm going to just list the bottom five.
10. Stannis Baratheon.
9. Catelyn Stark.
8. Cersei Lannister.
7. Gendry Waters.
6. Margaery Tyrell.
And now, the top five:
5. Sansa Stark.
Who doesn't love Sansa? Well, quite a lot of people, actually, for varying reasons of varying quality. I think she's great, though, and that's less because of how she started than what she's become.
Sansa's character development has been some of the most drastic in the show, with her starting the story as the spoiled eldest daughter of a lord, obsessed with young and sadistic prince Joffrey in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Justin Bieber's fans. Having spent most of the show as captives of the Lannisters, she's been through the wringer more than most of the cast, and has come out the other end as an arch-manipulator, able to prey on the neuroses and preoccupations of those around her to achieve her ends.
I don't buy into the guff about how Sansa's great because she conforms to traditional feminine roles - one of my colleagues is frequently vocal about how toxic traditional femininity can be, how it encourages powerlessness and passivity - but she's great because over the course of four series, she has learned how to glean power and influence from a powerless position, and that shows a level of resourcefulness and cunning that most GoT characters don't possess.
The next series will apparently see Sansa's storyline diverge from canon to one extent or another, and I'm intrigued as to how that'll pan out.
4. Oberyn Martell.
Oh, Oberyn. We barely got a chance to know you, and you were snatched from us after less than a series.
Still, in his very short time on the show, Oberyn became a fairly beloved character. In the mess of sinister double entendre and violent innuendo and aggressive use of metaphors that is King's Landing, he was straightforward, straight-talking, and fun. He showed an impressive ability to play the game and a singlemindedness towards his goal.
It helped that, unlike many characters on GoT, Oberyn's goals were undeniably noble and just.
In the end, Oberyn was killed by a combination of obsession, hubris, and approximately two-thousand-five-hundred newtons of force exerted through the hands of a very large and somewhat unhappy man, but I think we all hoped (and even believed, for a few brief seconds) that he might be saved from his inevitable death by an unexpected divergence from canon.
Alas, it was not to be.
3. Tywin Lannister.
Tywin was great. Wasn't Tywin great? Tywin was great.
A large amount of that was that Charles Dance was a flawless casting decision, and Charles Dance doing what he does best - erudite, calculating manipulators in positions of authority - is always a joy to watch. In a series that has had more than a few questionable casting choices (hey there, Daario), it's always nice to see the casting directors get it spot on. I imagine there wasn't even an audition, just a meeting where everyone unilaterally agreed that it was going to be either Dance or Sir Christopher Lee.
But Tywin's a fun character to add to the Lannister family drama, because after the story spent so long bigging him up, actually seeing him in action, bringing to bear all the chief competencies of his children, was a joy.
2. Daenerys Targaryen.
There was a tussle for the top spot, I'm not going to lie, and Daenerys only lost out on that coveted gold prize by a hair.
But Daenerys is great, and a lot of that is that, like Sansa, she's seen some of the sharpest character arcs in the show. Daenerys and Sansa are comparable, in a way, in that their story arcs are about carving power out of a situation where they are rendered powerless - but while Sansa gleaned and nabbed her power where she could, Daenerys simply seized the advantages she had to swing herself up into a position of absolute power and authority.
Daenerys' storyline is starting to suffer from pacing issues, but she still has great moments, like when she strung a group of slavers along to buy a slave army, only to turn around and slaughter every slaveholder in the city and free her army - upon which they decided to serve her willingly.
That, I think, encapsulates something that sets Daenerys apart from most of the cast: Ned Stark and Robb Stark may have unshakeable morals and ethics, and the Lannisters may be cunning players of the game, but Daenerys combines those two virtues.
1. Tyrion Lannister.
Okay, you knew he was going to be here. Tyrion is at the top of everybody's top GoT characters lists. Everyone adores Tyrion, he's an idol to millions.
It's difficult to say precisely why, though. A lot of it, like Tywin, is that Peter Dinklage is pretty much the perfect casting choice for Tyrion, portraying both Tyrion's sharp edges and his vulnerabilities equally deftly.
A lot of it, though, is because of that contrast which makes up all of Tyrion's character. Tyrion occupies a unique position in society where he both wields power and authority and is in a constant position of vulnerability; he loves his family dearly, but he also hates them; he's sharp and cutting and witty, but he's also easily bruised, possibly even emotionally needy.
The most popular characters tend to be the ones who have some kind of contradiction in their nature, and Tyrion is basically a walking mass of contradiction.