Monday, June 6, 2011

Top Ten Game of Thrones Bad-Asses

Spoilers through end of “A Feast of Crows.”

It has been 6 years since I’ve read a new Game of Thrones book and even longer since we’ve had chapters from certain perspectives, due to the split nature of “A Feast for Crows and “A Dance with Dragons.” But despite all of that, several of the characters are still quite fresh in my mind. So, they are the Top Ten Game of Thrones Bad-Asses.

The great thing about these novels is that these are by no means the only 10 bad-asses, they’re just the ones that really stuck with me over the years. As I’ve recently gotten on the web and started to refresh my memory about the novels I see tons of other worthy contenders that had for whatever reason slipped my mind over the years like Roose Bolton or Bronn the sellsword.

So anyway in no particular order…

1) Varys- Known as the master of Whispers or the Spider, this guy is a master manipulator. I think it’s been his goal all along to get the Targaryens back on the Iron Throne, he has done so by seeming to help such people as Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister, while in reality he was only helping them destroy themselves. He’s finally been kicked off the King’s small council, but the damage he’s done has been tremendous and he’s escaped to manipulate another day.

2) Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish - For a guy that started life as the lowest of lowly lords he really used his guile to rise to the top. He’s had his hand in almost every evil plan since the first novel. He poisoned John Arryn and Joffery and now murdered his new wife Lysa Arryn. He’s never got over his first love Catelyn Tully and now he has his eyes on her daughter Sansa, whom he’s kidnapped. Don’t miss understand me, this guy is a monster. But he is such a charming monster. He’s like Iago or Dexter. It’s always fun to see a master at work.

3) Tyrion Lannister- Probably the best character in the whole series. He’s one of the most devious and calculating men in all of Westeros, and yet in this series, he’s one of the good guys. He is a dwarf in a world where combat skills are a necessity and yet his keen mind (along with some luck) has seen him through all of his adventures so far.

4) Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully- According to my calculations he is the greatest military mind still alive in Westeros. He is also one of a few people alive who beat back the rebellion of Maelys Blackfyre during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. He’s a hard man. Battle is the only thing for him, to the point where he refused to get married. I don’t think he’s gay, I think he’s not interested in marriage, relationships and/or children. He just wants to bust heads and die in glorious combat. Plus, he proved himself worthy of his name by jumping in the moat around Riverrun and swimming away from an army. How Batman was that?

5) Sandor “The Hound” Clegane- His brother Gregor burned his face when he was a boy. It’s safe to say it was tough growing up with Gregor as a brother. Sandor was always adamant about the fact that he wasn’t a knight. I guess he never thought much of them. The Hound may be dead or he may be living in a monastery as a monk (As has been heavily hinted). I hope the Hound gives up the quiet life and goes back to fighting, the one thing he’s ever been really good at.

6) Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane- Seeing him portrayed on television doesn’t do him justice, in my minds eye the Mountain That Rides is larger than life. He is the biggest and badest human being that ever walked the earth. He is a monster, he rapes and he pillages without mercy. It would take a small army to stop this man; hence why the Brotherhood Without Banners were originally formed with one purpose: track Gregor down and bring him to justice. During the single combat fight with Obyrn “Red Viper” Martell, Gregor received injuries that later killed him, but his body may live on as an awful creation by Qyburn

7) Jamie Lannister- It seems like Jamie lost a hand and gained a brain. Jamie was just about my least favorite character at the start of the series. He was a one-dimensional, incestuous, and pompous villain. He may or may not have been the best swordsman in the land, but was certainly the biggest braggart. However since the loss of his sword hand he has been a completely different character. He seems to have had his eyes opened and suddenly I find I can’t wait to see what he does next.

8) Brienne Tarth- Brienne just doesn’t fit in; The Lady lords of Westeros are supposed to be demure waifs whose purpose is to birth many baby lords. Instead of a shrinking violet, Brienne is a great warrior strong enough and crafty enough to stand up to anyone in the realm. After killing many members of the evil Brave Companions, Brienne has been injured and captured by Brotherhood Without Banners, who plan to hang her due to her newfound friendship with Jamie Lannister.

9) Jon Snow- has been imbued with all the best Stark qualities such as strength and leadership and his direwolf Ghost is a force to be feared. During Jon’s adventure on the other side of the Wall his loyalties became unclear possibly even to himself. But since his return, and his election to Lord Commander of the Night Watch, they are clear again. Jon may be a Targaryen heir and just doesn’t know it yet. I think his father was Rhaegar Targaryen and his mother Lyanna Stark. Ned believed that his sister had been taken by Rhaegar against her will, but in reality the two of them may have been in love.

10) Daenerys Targaryen- The last of the Targaryens, the Khaleesi, The true heir to the Iron Throne. Time and again she has proven herself worthy of the crown. Her latest exploits with the Unsullied has established her as ruler of all Slaver’s Bay. There she will consolidate her power and meet several envoys that are coming her way, Victarion Greyjoy, Marwyn the Mage, representatives from House Martell, and possibly Tyrion.

On the other hand there have been several characters that were over-hyped or that I have become disillusioned with over time. These are the Top 5 Game of Thrones Disappointments

1) Stannis Baratheon- The first time I read Game of Thrones I thought, “Stannis wasn’t even in that. He’s gonna appear in the second book and really stir things up, isn’t he?” I was convinced he’d be the biggest and badest enemy of the whole series. And yes, Melisandre his R’hllor priestess makes him dangerous, be he isn’t really all that interesting otherwise. He’s kind of milk-toast and boring really.

2) Obyrn “Red Viper” Martell- He was totally played up as a great warrior and he comes to Kings Landing with four of his Sand Snake daughters like he was something out of “Kill Bill,” but soon after he comes to Kings Landing he fights Gregor Clegane in single combat and is killed. At least he killed Gregor too…or did he…

3) Cersi Lannister- Cersi has long thought herself the chief evil-doer in the realm. However, in reality she was riding the coattails of others. In “A Feast for Crows” we see what happens when there is no one left to help her, her own ineptitude and naivety are finally leading her to her destruction. Even her brother/lover Jamie has abandoned her.

4) Tywin Lannister- In my mind, Tywin was the true master of the realm. He was letting everyone else play at the Game of Thrones sure that no matter who won he’d end up on top. But, as you got to see his character in action he became more and more of a disappointment. He wasn't the master schemer I thought he was, he was just an angry old man.

5) Melisandre- The Red Priestess has real powers, but I can't seem to figure out what her end game is. And fanatics are usually touched, so she has that against her too.

Follow up to previous post Game of Thrones Fever!
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance with Dragons" part 1
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance With Dragons" part 2
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance With Dragons" part 3
All artwork is from an Italian Game of Thrones site Terra-di-Mezzo


  1. John, this might be why Game of Thrones didn't do it for me. I have no interest in villains. I don't find them fascinating, and I certainly don't find them romantic. Many people do, but not me.

    And I don't like to read about suffering, either - especially, but not exclusively, the suffering of innocent people (which is pretty much what villains do, right?). I would have put a bullet through the eye of Osama bin Laden myself, but I wouldn't have wanted to waterboard him. Rational people don't torture even torturers, and I certainly wouldn't want to watch it, or even read about it.

    My own preference is for authors like Hal Clement, who tended not to have villains in his books, because "the universe makes a perfectly adequate villain." I thought he was quite right. You can have danger, and even conflict, without real villains. (People make plenty enough mistakes from noble motives!)

    In fantasy, I enjoy reading about heroes, and I especially enjoy reading about ordinary people who do heroic deeds. But I'm not at all interested in villains. I suppose villains are necessary in fiction,... sometimes (not as often as they're used), but no more than that, not for me.

    So I think you've probably explained to me why I'm not a Game of Thrones fan. :)

  2. Yes, I guess we are polar opposites in that way. I have always been fascinated with villains. Even when I was a kid watching cartoons and reading comics. The Joker was more exciting and complex a character than Batman, The Darkling Lord in Visionaries more interesting than the Spectral Knights and Skeletor more entertaining than He-man.

    As I've grown up I'm much more drawn to stories of anti-heros or villains that are possibly redeemable. Darth Vader for instance is probably the most popular villain of the last 30 years. Is that because of his villainy or his last minute redemption?

    I think "Game of Thrones" brilliantly points out that all the good intentions of a hero are worthless in a world full of ruthless people. Eddard Stark is a true hero. He tries again and again to do "the right thing." But we see that the right thing is actually a poor choice. Right and wrong are not absolute and it is a person capable of "playing the game" a bit that will do better in the long run. Life is rarely black and white. People aren't heroes or villains, they are something in-between. And it is most interesting for me to read about people that are in-between and to see which side they end up on when they are truly tested.

    Jamie Lannister is a great example of that, he seems like an irredeemable villain for the first 2 books or so, but he has had a change of heart and is on his way towards becoming something very different.