The Worst of Westeros- Revisiting the Best Villains from Game of Thrones
HBO’s Game of Thrones was a ground-breaking series. The monumental popularity of a fantasy series was unheard of up until that point, the intricacy and political intrigue were compelling, and as the show progressed, the budget and scale of each episode competed with that of many films.
One of the things that Game of Thrones excelled at was creating characters that the audience loved to hate. After spending seasons watching the following characters inflict pain and suffering on the characters viewers loved the most, their eventual demises were all the more satisfying.
(Please note the following article contains important plot spoilers for the entire Game of Thrones series.)
One of the first and most memorable villains we encounter in Westeros is none other than King Robert’s supposed son and heir, Joffrey Baratheon. Prince Joffrey is able to keep his villainous nature under wraps long enough in the first season for Sansa Stark to become obsessed with the idea of marrying him and becoming queen some day, but his true, terrible colors begin to show as the season progresses.
When King Robert is killed by a boar and Joffrey takes his place as King of the Seven Kingdoms, Joffrey becomes the most powerful person in Westeros and no longer has to answer to anyone. The depths of his depravity are on full display when, against what had been decided and planned by his advisors, Joffrey fails to offer Ned Stark clemency and instead sentences him to an immediate and public execution.
Joffrey’s evil endures for several more seasons, ranging from torturing his once would-be bride Sansa Stark at every opportunity he gets to a memorable and horrible scene involving his crossbow. His death by poisoning at his own wedding, especially after the Lannisters orchestrated the Red Wedding, was joyously celebrated by fans of the series.
Just when fans of the series had thought they had seen the worst that Game of Thrones had to offer in Joffrey Baratheon, the series introduced Ramsey Bolton, who at the time was known as Ramsey Snow. Ramsey and Joffrey both found hurting others amusing, and unfortunately for fans of the Starks, the Northern family often found themselves in both villains’ crosshairs.
Ramsey does unspeakable things to his prisoners, torturing and then often killing them. One of Ramsey’s final cruel acts is killing Rickon Stark in front of Jon Snow after giving both of them the impression that he would be given a fighting chance to survive. Following the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsey is captured by the Starks.
His fate is put into Sansa Stark’s hands, as she had to bear much of his cruelty on her own. In a turn of poetic justice, Sansa allows the dogs that he starved and weaponized against others to attack him while she watches through the bars of his jail cell.
The White Walkers and The Night King
Perhaps some of the most unsettling and frightening villains in Game of Thrones are the White Walkers and their leader, the Night King. Viewers are introduced to the supernatural, icy beings in the first few minutes of the series, witnessing the seemingly senseless violence they inflict upon humans, regardless of their age. They are quiet, deadly fast, and can raise the dead as minions in their army.
As the series progresses, the audience gets more background on the White Walkers’ nature. The Children of the Forest, ancient beings that predated man, felt threatened by humanity encroaching on their lands. In an attempt to ensure their safety, they use a ritual to turn a man into the Night King to serve as a protector for them and an assailant on humanity. Unfortunately, the Night King’s brutality and vision reach far beyond what the Children of the Forest intended, and he becomes his own agent with his own intentions and vision.
The Night King builds his army by taking male human babies and turning them into White Walkers, and raising those that they have slain into an army of the undead. Seemingly invulnerable, they are a horrific foe to face from the start. They become all the more intimidating when the Night King fells one of Daenerys’s dragons, raises him from the dead, and uses him to burn down the Wall.
Through research, Samwell Tarly learns that dragon glass and Valyrian steel can slay the creatures, finally giving the heroes a chance to end the ancient threat. Several White Walkers fall during the series using these weapons against them, but it is not until the Night King is vanquished that the entire army of the dead is entirely eradicated.
Using the lessons she learned in her travels, her training, and her intrinsic determination, Arya Stark slays the Night King just as all hope seemed lost at the Battle for Winterfell.
Dishonorable Mention: Daenerys Targaryen
As a longstanding heroine of the people and destined leader, the fall of Daenerys Targaryen is one of the most painful twists Game of Thrones offers. In a story full of violence and brutality, some of Dany’s more Draconian choices throughout the series seem just and sensible. When viewed in hindsight, it is clear that the daughter of the Mad King was honing and practicing vengeance, not justice.
Surveying the kingdom that she had spent her entire life trying to win back, the audience sees pain and anger flicker over the would-be queen’s face. Dany is likely considering all the price she paid to get to that place; Dany endured pain and humiliation and lost her husband, her unborn child, several of her dearest friends and advisors, and two of her dragons.
In that moment, Dany makes an unforgivable and terrible decision to burn King’s Landing to ash. Riding her most formidable and only living dragon Drogon, she engages in a sustained and malicious attack on the citizens she once claimed to want to free from Cersei Lannister’s rule.
Following the violence, Jon Snow makes the heartbreaking decision to kill Dany to stop her from continuing her rampage against the world. A devastated Drogon melts the Iron Throne and flies away with Dany’s body.
While the dragons, the fight for the throne, and the breathtaking lands helped make the show stand out, what really kept the audience coming back were the fascinating characters. Viewers experienced heartbreak when beloved characters died or endured pain, and cheered when the villains finally got what was coming to them.
The villains of Game of Thrones were often challenging to watch and left viewers filled with rage, but they were necessary evils to make the story as fascinating and powerful as it was. Who was your favorite villain in Game of Thrones? Let Your Geek Sideshow and let us know in the comments!
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