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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Tearjerker Moments (S1-6) on 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.

For this post, I’m going to examine five moments on HBO’s Game of Thrones that made me (and may have made fellow viewers) a bit misty-eyed. I will, however, be selecting more subtle moments and will be AVOIDING the most obvious sob-worthy moments, which include, but are not limited to, particular weddings, door-related incidents, merciful pillow-smothering, and all traumatic head injuries, which includes both “loss of” and “smushed like an egg.”

1.) “You would be m’lady.”
My opinion on the “Gendrya” ship wavers a bit (I’m in favor but I think it’s more likely in the books than the show) but one of their final moments in season 3 episode 5 (“Kissed by Fire”) just about made me scramble for the tissue box. After traveling together for about a season and a half, Arya and Gendry part ways when he decides to stay (for a hot second) with the Brotherhood Without Banners and smith for them, while Arya is set to continue north. Though Arya pleads with him to come with her, telling him that she can be the family he’s never had, he tells her that isn’t possible; due to their difference in status, Arya wouldn’t be his family, she’d be “m’lady.” The look on Maisie Williams’ face when she says “I could be your family,” killed me, it was delivered so well. I loved Gendry and Arya’s friendship on the show and was sad to see it end, so I hope they reunite this season or the next… maybe for a pie at the Inn at the Crossroads, so Hot Pie can join in on the reunion.

2.) “Do I have to beg you?”
Of all the deaths (or, I suppose in this case, “deaths”) across the many episodes of the series thus far, I did not expect to get choked up in season 4 episode 10 (“The Children”) when the Hound, broken and dying at the base of a steep drop after his fight with Brienne, was delivering what was believed to be his final speech to Arya, who then leaves him to perish alone and in agony. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge Hound fan until that moment, but after witnessing his last bout with Brienne, his admission about watching over Arya, and his plunge over a cliff, I was swayed. Rory McCann’s performance moved me to actual tears, and on a subsequent rewatch of the series, I developed a deeper appreciation for the character and all of his complexities and The Hound rocketed to a top position on my favorite character’s list, a testament to his development across his initial 4 season appearance.

3.) “I will be your champion.”
Most folks remember Oberyn Martell’s story arc in season 4 for its gruesome end, when hubris gets the best of him and his head gets squashed between the Mountain’s meaty fists. But for me, the most memorable moment comes one episode earlier (“Mockingbird” season 4 episode 7) where Oberyn visits Tyrion in his cell and offers to be Tyrion’s champion at his trial by combat. Hearing Oberyn’s story – about seeing Tyrion as a baby, disappointed that the “monster” he expected was “just a baby”, and how he wants nothing more than vengeance for the deaths of his sister, nephew, and niece – solidified his position as one of my favorite characters in the show, despite his short stint. Though Tyrion claims that he’s come to the wrong place for the justice he seeks, Oberyn asserts that he’s “come to the perfect place” to get the vengeance he so desires, and when Oberyn plucks up that torch and tells Tyrion, “I will be your champion,” I get choked up EVERY TIME.

4.) “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
I know, I know… to which specific Ygritte quote am I referring? Not the last one, actually – that would be too obvious. I’m speaking of the tearful moment in season 3 episode 10 (“Mhysa”) where Jon, having fled the wildlings, thus revealing his defection from the Night’s Watch as a ruse, is tracked down by Ygritte, who promptly aims an arrow at him. Though she has the opportunity to kill him, he confesses that although he loves her, he needs to go home – and when he tells her that he knows she won’t hurt him, she says “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Ultimately, she shoots him with three non-fatal arrows, which only proves him right. I think the doomed Jon/Ygritte romance is one of the most tragic, shown in scenes like this one, but also their final moment together at the Battle of Castle Black, and also when Jon flees in the rain, and Ygritte watches, dumbfounded, at his retreating back. Love is the death of duty, all right – but Jon’s allegiance to the Watch was not conquered by his feelings for Ygritte. And Rose Leslie was perfect as Ygritte, providing a compelling balance between her ruthless wilding spirit and her moments of vulnerability, which made it so much easier to be moved by her performance.

5.) “Promise me, Ned.”
Like many fans (both book and show) I was not surprised by the confirmation that R+L=J, since the theory’s been tumbling around for ages. I’m actually really proud that I gleaned the theory from the books on my own, before I scoured the internet for details I may have missed post-reading binge. But the way the show revealed it in Season 6’s finale “The Winds of Winter” was so beautiful that I actually shed a tear or two… or twelve. The build-up with the music, (“The Tower,” by Ramin Djawadi) and the on-point acting of both Robert Aramayo and Aisling Franciosi as young Ned and the dying Lyanna, the whisper of “Promise me, Ned,” the seamless transition from brooding baby to “DAKINGINDANORF” vol. 2, all served as the culmination of what Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire fans have been waiting years for. It was done so well, I can’t imagine any fan to be disappointed by that brilliant Tower scene, even if the theory has been kicked around for so long now that it’s basically been purported as the truth long before being officially confirmed. I re-watched the episode before S7 came out and still cried. Definitely one of the biggest tear-jerking moments on the show so far.