The Ever-Shifting Hate-O-Meter: Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

Game of Thrones features a lot of ambiguous “gray” characters, which makes it difficult to love them or hate them. Some of these also apply to the books; some either don’t apply, haven’t yet, or never will. So for this post, I decided I’d share my “Hate-O-Meter” readings for a few of these characters and how my observations shifted or changed their positions on the meter over their appearances. Here we go!

1.) Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Seasons 1-4, 6-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 6
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 3
Current Hate-O-Meter: 1
I was not a big Hound fan in the early seasons; his crass nature really grated on me, and though some early moments – saving Sansa from the riot, saving Loras from his bro, his vulnerability around fire – helped to lift him into likability/sympathy status, a lot of his early “softer moments” are spoiled by something crude he does or says right after. But starting in season 3 and continuing up until his “death” in season 4, the Hound became one of my all-time favorites. His journey with Arya is one of the best relationships in the series, as they both go through a significant character shift as they learn from one another and come together as an (admittedly dysfunctional) “team” of sorts, and, as I mentioned in a previous post, his “death” after his feud with Brienne in season 4’s “The Children” made me cry, I was so moved by Rory McCann’s performance. The Hound’s overall character arc, which picks up again in season 6 and into season 7, has made him drop down to the middle of the Hate-O-Meter, and then to the bottom. He hasn’t lost much of his initial crassness and has kept the coarse language, but now, he’s also garnered a greater sense of humanity and a desire to “defend.” He’s no longer as much of a cynical killer with no remorse, but someone who is seeking a greater purpose from his life. Plus, he consistently has some of the BEST one-liners and insults in the series.

2.) Jaime Lannister (Seasons 1-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 8
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 2
Current Hate-O-Meter: 3.5
If he could just snake his way out of Cersei’s clutches, he’d be as gold as his hand! I hated Jaime in the first couple of seasons; he attempts to kill Bran/cripples him, he kills Jory, he stabs Ned in the leg, and generally, he’s a total asshole to everyone except sister/lover Cersei and his family. But starting in Season 3, when Jaime is set free by Catelyn and travels with Brienne, my hatred for him began to wane, especially when he saved Brienne from being raped (and lost his sword hand as a result) and went on to reveal his inner-turmoil over being named “Kingslayer” and the continuing damage it has done to his sense of honor and duty and the perception of him across the realm. From there, I actually wanted to root for Jaime, as his character showed signs of redemption and remorse for his past, and a willingness to change and reform moving forward… until he got back to King’s Landing and reunited with Cersei. In season 4 it wasn’t so bad, but since then, he’s started on the downward slope again. Jaime’s love for Cersei has been his character’s downfall, and seeing him continue to dedicate himself to her despite the fact that she LITERALLY BLEW PEOPLE UP, WHICH IS WHAT HE STOPPED MAD KING AERYS FROM DOING has made me start to dislike him again. I understand his motivations, and it’s clear that he’s at least a bit conflicted about Cersei’s actions, but it almost feels as though all of his character progression has stalled, or even slipped backwards. I still have hope, however, that he will turn it around and break free from Cersei by the end of this season, or early in the next.

3.) Shae (Seasons 1-4)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 5
Hate-O-Meter Mid: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 8
I was never a big fan of Shae, but I didn’t hate her in the beginning. During her first appearances I found her irritating, but when Tyrion made her Sansa’s handmaiden she actually grew on me a little. To me, it came across that she genuinely cared for Sansa and her well-being, especially in season 2, when she tries to help Sansa hide the evidence of her flowering, when she aims to protect Sansa during the Battle of Blackwater, and in season 3, when she tries to encourage Sansa to eat after the news of the Red Wedding. Shae also warns Sansa about Littlefinger’s intentions and, even after learning that Tyrion and Sansa are to be (forcibly) wed, she is conflicted, but still cares for them both. However, her redeeming qualities are all tossed aside when the scorned Shae, furious at Tyrion’s rejection, testifies against him (and implicates Sansa) at his trial for Joffrey’s murder, then, just to rub more salt in the wound, she sleeps with his father, Tywin. I understood why she did it, since she felt like she had been carelessly discarded by the man she loved, but while that’s a paltry justification, that’s the only reason she’s at an 8 instead of a 10.

4.) Stannis Baratheon (Seasons 2-5)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 10
As far as the books go, I’ve always had an appreciation for Stannis “The Mannis” Baratheon, and that feeling more or less carried over to the TV series… up until season 5, with a few questionable points in between. At the start, I had admiration for his ironclad resolve and his leadership ability, as well as his general sense of justice, but his reliance on Melisandre, the murder of Renly, and his near-murder of Gendry were all massive low-points, even though he clearly struggled with some of those decisions. However, his efforts at Blackwater were impressive and would have succeeded if not for the wildfire, his last-minute charge to save the Wall from the Wildling Army was instrumental in saving the Night’s Watch from slaughter, and his grammar was always on-point. His interactions with Davos and Jon in particular were highlights of his arc, and it is clear that he was conflicted on the whole “Warrior of Light” story Melisandre was trying to sell him. Stannis grappled with many of his questionable decisions, but ultimately, his last choice – to burn his daughter, Shireen, at the stake as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light per Melisandre’s suggestion – was what made me turn on him for good. Her murder was reprehensible and though he seemed to realize it was a mistake by the end, he got what he deserved, and I’m glad Brienne delivered the final blow. I’m hoping Book Stannis doesn’t do the same thing so I don’t have to hate him, too.

5.) Tywin Lannister (Seasons 1-4)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 4
I almost never agreed with anything Tywin did, seeing as he more or less orchestrated the Red Wedding, was willing to sacrifice Tyrion after Joffrey’s murder, generally treated Tyrion like the contents of his chamber-pot, and considered the preservation of his family name and his reputation the most important things in the world. But it’s so hard to hate Tywin because, even though I wasn’t rooting for him exactly, he was so badass, and Charles Dance played him extraordinarily well. His interaction with Arya in season 2, and the fact that he brought an end to the torture of the prisoners at Harrenhal, were a couple of positive highlights, but everything Tywin did from a militaristic and political standpoint was all about self/family preservation and ensuring his and his family’s position in the realm. He is the perfect kind of villain; you want to hate him, but he’s so compelling to watch and he executes his plans with such cunning, cool precision, you can’t help but admire him at the same time, because he isn’t a mindless demon or a sadistic torturer, he’s just aiming to achieve his goals and stomping on all those who stand in his way. If he treated Tyrion better – and didn’t shack up with Shae in the last season – he’s probably be very low on the Hate-O-Meter, but the scorn he showed his youngest son is the main reason for the hatred I felt toward him. He spurned the one son who was, probably, the most like him in the end, and that was his (well-deserved) undoing.

6.) Theon Greyjoy (Seasons 1-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 9
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 5
Current Hate-O-Meter: 4
I absolutely hated Theon as a character in seasons 1&2. His punch-worthy smugness and his betrayal of House Stark, his murder of the two peasant boys and of Rodrik Cassel, and his treatment of women, was almost a “point of no return” for me, as far as characters go. But it’s hard to really hate him once he starts spiraling into the mentality of “Reek” at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. I may not have been a fan of Theon, but it was still very difficult to watch him being tortured, and his complete breakdown and transformation into Reek through seasons 3-5 were some of the toughest scenes to stomach, to the point where I felt at least a scrap of pity for him. But honestly, even though Alfie Allen’s portrayal of him is absolutely brilliant, I still don’t like Theon. Sure, he saved Sansa from Ramsay and has dedicated himself (more or less) to Daenerys, but he still hasn’t shed all of the shame of his past, but he certainly is getting there. I wouldn’t say I hate him anymore, and he still has time to win me over, but I just can’t bring myself to say I’m a “fan.”

7.) Melisandre (Seasons 2-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 5
Current Hate-O-Meter: 6
This… is a tough one. Melisandre is motivated by her beliefs; by the Lord of Light, and the “visions” that he sends her to interpret. So even though she’s done some horrendous shit (Shireen’s murder, Renly’s murder, and all the other “burning” she’s done) she genuinely thought she was doing “good,” which is absurd, but she wasn’t acting out of malice or hatred. She even admits of her actions, “I didn’t lie, I was wrong,” which… I don’t know. It doesn’t make anything much better, considering thousands have essentially died because of her, and the second she realized she had “misinterpreted” her visions, she turned tail on Stannis and ran to save her own skin. I still find it hard to hate her, though; and Carice Van Houten plays her so well, I consider her one of my favorite “gray” characters. She is distraught by her failures and mistakes and does not relish in the burnings she commits, but once her faith is restored by the resurrection of Jon Snow, she cannot shed that prior shame, and her poor decisions ultimately come back to haunt her once she is cast out of the North for her hand in the death of Shireen. I do have hope, however, that Melisandre will turn it around by the end, though I also don’t see a happy ending in store for her, after all that she’s done. I think she might contribute to the War for the Dawn and go out in a blaze of glory as penance for her past mistakes; or perhaps she’ll meet her end at the pointy end of a needle.

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