Which Game Of Thrones Character Are You?
The HBO blockbuster is back. We round up Westeros’ saints and scoundrels for the ultimate personality test
Mr Kit Harington as Jon Snow, Season 5. Photograph courtesy of HBO
Sex and violence notwithstanding, what is it that keeps viewers coming back to Game Of Thrones? HBO’s record-setting fantasy drama returns to our screens for its seventh and penultimate season next week, riding a wave of hype as high as the Wall and promising plot twists as explosive as a barrel of wildfire. Previous seasons have been received with such fervour that it seems silly to suggest this new outing will be anything other than a monumental success. And it should be. Because GOT is among the most ambitious and biggest-budgeted TV dramas of all time.
It’s worth taking a step back, though, to consider just how remarkable this is. How did an R-rated fantasy show with a vaguely medieval setting, a looming threat of some Great Evil™ – not to mention the sheer fact that it has dragons in it – become the biggest draw on the small screen? What sorcery is it that has fully grown adults with jobs, families and pension schemes huddled around the watercooler feverishly discussing Valyrian steel, white walkers, direwolves and dragonglass? Not to mention the constantly swinging moral compass that can flip from good to downright despicable in the space of a one-hour episode. Is this not the sort of conversational subject matter that would have quite rightly earned us an atomic wedgie at school?
Peel back the layers, though, and a very different show emerges. With its tangled political backstory, its meandering plotlines that often seem to end up nowhere and its central themes of loyalty, ambition and betrayal, the true Game Of Thrones has far more in common with HBO’s The Wire or The Sopranos than it does with The Lord Of The Rings and its many imitators.
That it has been able to subvert the tropes and sidestep the clichés of its genre is entirely down to the efforts of Mr George RR Martin, the author of the epic fantasy series on which the show is based. When plotting the story, he eschewed the black-and-white morality typical of the high-fantasy genre, and elected instead to populate the fictional world of Westeros with a cast of flawed heroes and redeemable villains.
“I believe in grey characters,” he has said, and these characters – brothers Tyrion and Jaime Lannister, Lord Petyr Baelish, the scheming Lord Varys, “the bastard” Jon Snow, and many more both alive and dead – are the beating heart of Game Of Thrones. It’s true that the show has had its share of pantomime villains – step forward, Ramsay Bolton, Joffrey Baratheon and Cersei Lannister – but generally speaking its characters inhabit an ethical plane not too distant from our own. When they fight, they do so for what feels like a justifiable reason at that very moment.
Further muddying the waters is the sheer unpredictability of it all. There is no such thing in Game Of Thrones as a good side and a bad side, so the terms are meaningless. Even the good side has characters who are difficult to admire; even the bad side has characters for whom it is impossible not to feel sympathy. And, crucially, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the good side will triumph.
This point was bludgeoned home in the penultimate episode of Season 1, when Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, and the character around whom the show had pivoted until that point, had his head lopped off. (Said head then spent much of Season 2 slowly decomposing on a spike in plain view of his imprisoned daughter, Sansa.) It was a watershed moment that established the single, concrete rule of Game Of Thrones, which is that no character, big or small, is safe.
The tendency of the show’s creators, Messrs David Benioff and Dan Weiss, to gruesomely slaughter its lead characters makes for gripping viewing, but it has somewhat limited the scope of the following personality chart. After six seasons, there simply aren’t that many players left to choose from. What you’re about to read, then, is necessarily streamlined. Scroll down to discover which of Westeros’ many shades of grey corresponds best to you and keep your fingers crossed that your favourite character doesn’t kick the bucket over the next seven weeks.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet seen Seasons 1 to 6, be warned, for this article is full of spoilers.
THE INTROVERT: JON SNOW
Mr Kit Harington as Jon Snow, Season 7. Photograph by Ms Helen Sloan/HBO
It’s less a chip that Jon Snow carries on his shoulder and more an entire sack of potatoes. The bastard son, or so he thinks, of Ned Stark, Warden of the North, he’s spent his life being compared unfavourably to those around him, first to his true-born siblings and then to his brothers in the Night’s Watch, who take his claim to nobility as arrogance. Not only has the experience of being marginalised left him sullen, introverted and pessimistic, but he’s also full of angst at having lost his wildling lover, Ygritte, and he’s probably got seasonal affective disorder from spending so much time north of the Wall, too. That explains the perma-furrowed brow and the pale skin, then.
This emotional reticence makes the power and responsibility thrust upon him, first as lord commander of the Night’s Watch and then as Warden of the North, all the heavier to bear. A reluctant leader, he is nonetheless far more suitable for the job than he thinks. Honourable, brave, willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing and equipped with an unshakeable moral compass, which makes him something of a unicorn in Westeros, Jon Snow is the closest that Game Of Thrones gets to a conventional hero figure. Which means he’ll probably die this season. Again.
LIKES: flame-haired wildling women, fostering cross-border relations
DISLIKES: white walkers, being betrayed by his own men
THE SOCIAL CLIMBER: PETYR BAELISH
Mr Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger, Season 6. Photograph by Ms Helen Sloan/HBO
If Petyr Baelish (otherwise known as Littlefinger) were a real person – and perhaps we ought to be thankful that he isn’t – then it’s fair to assume that he would keep a copy of Mr Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince close to hand at all times. From a position of lowly birth he has schemed, manipulated and backstabbed his way to the very top, and in the process “armoured himself in gold”, as Tyrion Lannister puts it.
Despite his apparent status as a supporting character, his mucky fingerprints are all over Game Of Thrones’ most pivotal moments. It was he who secretly instigated the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters in Season 1; he who forged the alliance between the Houses Lannister and Tyrell that secured victory at the Battle of Blackwater in Season 2, he who was responsible for the murder of Joffrey Baratheon in Season 4, and so on. Using his low-born status as camouflage to go about his business unseen, Littlefinger has conspired to plunge Westeros into chaos. And why? Because chaos, as he reminds Lord Varys at the end of Season 3, is a ladder – and he intends to climb it.
Steadily growing in influence as the show has progressed, Littlefinger nevertheless remains one of its most enigmatic characters. His ambition is no secret, but his motivations remain unclear. Is he suffering from an inferiority complex as a result of his middling birth? Can we think of him as the Game Of Thrones version of Jay Gatsby, determined to live the Westerosi dream at all costs? Is this all because he was rebuffed by Catelyn Stark? If so, we’ve all been there, buddy. Let it go.
LIKES: power, money, big pimping, romancing women above his station
DISLIKES: being rejected by women above his station
THE SCHEMER: LORD VARYS
Mr Conleth Hill as Master of Whisperers Lord Varys, Season 5. Photograph courtesy of HBO
There are those among us who are condemned to observe, never to participate. Lord Varys (aka The Spider), the erstwhile Master of Whisperers on the small council, is one such man, though we do use the word “man” loosely. Born a slave, he was sold at a young age to a sorcerer who gelded him and used his genitals in a magical ritual. (A typical Game Of Thrones origin story, then.) The stigma of being a eunuch has bestowed upon him an outsider status, which, combined with his meek, obsequious nature, has allowed him to reach a position of immense influence without ever being seen as a threat. It helps that he lacks – or, at least, seems to lack – any sense of personal ambition. Unlike his rival arch-manipulator Petyr Baelish, he is more kingmaker than king material, motivated not by his own potential gain but by what he sees as “the good of the realm”.
Never far from the action, yet somehow able to keep a respectable distance, known to all yet beholden to none, alone in a crowded room... Lord Varys is Game Of Thrones’ most detached character. In the spirit of expecting the unexpected, then, we’re putting our money on him to be sitting on the Iron Throne by the end of the series.
LIKES: the thrust-parry of witty repartee, knowing what you had for breakfast
DISLIKES: team-building activities, organised fun
THE NIHILIST: THE HOUND
Mr Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, Season 7. Photograph by Ms Helen Sloan/HBO
Gruff, sweary and prone to random acts of extreme violence, Sandor Clegane is nonetheless one of the series’ more relatable characters. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case, the first and most obvious being that the nearest point of comparison is his brother, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, perhaps the most monstrous and depraved character in all of Westeros. (And that’s saying something.)
But to dismiss him as the lesser of two evils is to entirely miss the point of this character. Far from a villain, Sandor Clegane is, in fact, the paragon of Westerosi morality. Which is another way of saying he doesn’t have any. In a world ruled by chaos, he is its lodestar. His continued presence in the show – let’s not forget that he could easily have been killed off on several occasions by now – serves to remind viewers that there is no such thing as good and evil in Westeros, that all men must die, and that the posturing and politics of aspiring kings will likely add up to nothing in the end.
He’s not without humanity, of course, and his desire to help the innocent – as made plain by the way that he offered protection to the two Stark sisters – may yet see him develop a sense of purpose in the coming series. For now, though, the Hound holds a mirror up to the bleak sense of nihilism at the heart of Game Of Thrones. Cheers!
LIKES: nothing. No, wait. He has an avuncular-style soft spot for Arya Stark
DISLIKES: everything else
THE REFORMED CHARACTER: JAIME LANNISTER
Mr Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Season 6. Photograph by Ms Helen Sloan/HBO
At the risk of sounding a bit New Age and hippy-dippy, Jaime Lannister has been on what you might call a bit of a journey since Season 1. Viewers who tuned in to watch the very first episode will have seen an arrogant Prince Charming in gilded armour, a hard character to like even before he slept with his twin sister Cersei, and then threw a 10-year-old boy out of a window. The Jaime who stands before us six seasons later is a changed man, even if he is prone to the odd relapse of character, as emphasised by one memorable (read: can’t scrub it out of your mind) scene from Season 4, in which he indulges in a spot of not-strictly-consensual lovemaking with his sister in worrying proximity to the corpse of their lovechild, Joffrey. But, hey. We’re all human.
Humbled by the loss of his sword hand – even if he did get fitted with a natty gold replacement – Jaime Lannister has emerged as something of a hero figure in recent seasons. Revelations about his past have cast his reputation as a “kingslayer” and “oathbreaker” in a radically different light, and the way he reacted in horror to his sister Cersei’s murderous ascent to the Iron Throne suggests they won’t be reigniting their incestuous love affair any time soon. All in all, then, we’re willing to attribute Jaime’s narcissism and past misdemeanours to a dysfunctional upbringing and move on. Doesn’t everybody deserve a second chance?
LIKES: gold (armour, prosthetics), his sister (in a not-OK way), Brienne of Tarth (whom we hope he ends up with)
DISLIKES: being reminded about his hand
THE THINKER (AND DRINKER): TYRION LANNISTER
Mr Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Season 6. Photograph Mr Macall B Polay/HBO
Played by the brilliant Mr Peter Dinklage and blessed with all of the best lines, Tyrion Lannister has emerged as the standout character in Game Of Thrones. A dwarf possessed of a brilliant tactical brain, he is nonetheless still a dwarf, and much like Jon Snow he has been looked down upon – both physically and metaphorically – for his entire life. Loathed by his father, ridiculed by his nephew, his many gifts left unrecognised, his many achievements attributed to others, Tyrion has, out of necessity, developed a thick skin and a wicked tongue. But it his mind that is his sharpest weapon. “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone,” he tells Jon Snow in Season 1.
It’s a troubled mind, nonetheless, and not without its faults. He drinks to excess, he carouses, he engages the services of women of the night. Oh, and he kills people, too. Only ones who had it coming, though, such as his exceedingly unpleasant father, Tywin Lannister. Whether or not Tyrion himself is a “good guy” remains to be seen. The final shot of Season 6 had him sailing towards Westeros alongside Danaerys Targaryen to support her shaky claim to the Iron Throne (even though it’s his sister currently residing on it). Here’s hoping that he’s backed the right horse (or dragon); the Game Of Thrones universe would be a far duller place without him.
LIKES: wine, women, wordplay, patricide
DISLIKES: family gatherings