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Tyrion, Daenerys … Hot Pie? The greatest Game of Thrones characters

As the final season of the fantasy saga gets underway, our writers pick their favourite Westerosi citizens, from blunt Bronn to deliciously vicious Cersei

gentle giant

Jaime Lannister

Theres nothing like a good redemption story to thrill viewers and Jaime Lannisters is a redemption like no other. Hes the man who dreamed of knightly glory, only to find that the gold all too quickly wore off, leaving him sustained only by the illicit love he feels for his sociopathic twin Cersei. That we dont entirely hate him is down to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who cleverly conveys both Jaimes impetuousness and the self-loathing hiding behind every smirking quip. In recent seasons, the show has faltered in its portrayal of the older Lannister brother, but now he has finally broken with Cersei theres every chance hell get the death hes been flirting with since season one. Will it be a noble end? The jury remains out. Sarah Hughes

Arya Stark

Silent assassin … Arya Stark. Photograph: HBO

The youngest Stark daughter has the best arc on the show, going from wide-eyed tomboy to silent assassin. Though her time training at the House of the Many Faced God was too Karate Kid for comfort, Maisie Williams has always been enough to keep viewers on side. It helps, too, that Arya has had some of the shows best pairings, whether forming an uneasy alliance with The Hound (Rory McCann) or going toe-to-toe with Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). She may not be the wittiest character, but her desire to survive and reunite with her family is one with which we can all identify. Besides, who hasnt got to sleep by whispering the names of those they will kill as a prayer? SH

Tyrion Lannister

The third, youngest child of Tywin Lannister and brother to Cersei and Jaime, the ongoing survival of the dwarf Tyrion in a world where life is so cheap is a miracle. This is not down to his martial skills he has none. Its certainly not down to his ascetic discipline. He has none of that either. Hes a drunken, debauched womaniser. Rather, its down to his wit, his wisdom, his clear-eyed political acumen. And so, despite his pariah status in his own family, and bouts of mortal danger, he has manoeuvred himself to a position of tremendous courtly influence, as Hand to Daenerys. He is like a latterday intellectual, a Christopher Hitchens perhaps, transposed to a mediaeval era; the most modern-minded character in the show, and as such among the most relatable. David Stubbs

Olenna Tyrell

An armoury of putdowns … Olenna Tyrell. Photograph: HBO

Olenna Tyrell brought razor-sharp levity to each and every scene she was in, with an armoury of putdowns so precise that the queens of RuPauls Drag Race would commit mass slaughter to wrap their mouths around them. Dame Diana Rigg savoured every quip, going head-to-head with Cersei as nobody else could. (Ah yes, the famously tart-tongued queen of thorns, said Cersei at their first meeting. And the famous tart, Queen Cersei, she clapped back.) But as all titans should, she saved the best for last. Saying her farewells in The Queens Justice, she uttered one of the most iconic lines in a show full of them: Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me. Rebecca Nicholson

Podrick Payne

A quiet sort of excellence … Podrick Payne with Brienne of Tarth. Photograph: Sky Atlantic

Sometimes greatness isnt about money, status, wit or even intelligence. Sometimes greatness is nothing more than decency. Honour. Humility. Your Cerseis and your Danys run around the place, either trying to take over the world or trying to save it. But not Pod. Pods is a quieter sort of excellence, there in the background, saving Tyrions life here, Briennes there, an unshifting moral compass in an ocean of chaos. He doesnt want glory. He wants to perform his duties with honour, and thats it. His desires end there. But in case this is making him sound like a dullard, its worth remembering the time he impressed three of the working women at Littlefingers brothel so much that they refused payment. Luke Holland


It is telling that several of Game of Throness most recognisable goodies Jon, Daenerys, Samwell sodding Tarly are missing from this list. In the world of Westeros, moral murkiness is far more appealing than uncomplicated heroism. No character tiptoes so elegantly along the ethical tightrope than the man they variously call The Spider, The Eunuch or, to give him his official and very cool honorary, Master of Whispers. Varys has elevated double-crossing into a noble art, carrying out his acts of scumbaggery with such decorum you almost expect him to politely curtsy as he sends you to your premature doom. Yet his pathological propensity for betrayal isnt down to malice or a lust for power, but simply survival. In a world where so many lose sense of that, and lose their heads as a result, its a quality that makes him the shows most relatable figure. Gwilym Mumford


Played with hooligan panache … Jerome Flynn as Bronn. Photograph: HBO

Broken of nose. Pliant of morals. Bawdy of temperament, yet blessed with a tavern croon that recalls several number one hits of the mid-1990s. Bronn, played with hooligan panache by Jerome Flynn, may have made a fortune bodyguarding for the Lannisters but his sarcastic perspective has provided a relatable toehold in a thundering saga of ice zombies and dragons. As early as season two, Bronn demonstrated he saw Westeros more clearly than any three-eyed raven. As Tyrion mused whether getting young King Joffrey bedded might relieve his sadistic urges, the savvy sellsword memorably got straight to the point: Theres no cure for being a cunt. Graeme Virtue

Lyanna Mormont

The North never forgets, and neither do we … Lyanna Mormont. Photograph: Helen Sloan/HBO

No 10-year-old in history has had such gravitas. Few will forget Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Islands epic soliloquy at Winterfell, in which she got to deliver one of George RR Martins most notorious lines: The North remembers. There, she berated all the grown men around her in a moment of staggering oration in defence of Jon Snow. Your son was butchered at the Red Wedding, Lord Manderlay, but you refused the call … Your father was skinned alive by Ramsay Bolton, still you refused the call. Hers are the rousing rallying cries of a leader who really could defeat the coming dead. Forget Jon Snows mum: here is the all-important Lyanna in the North and just as the North never forgets, neither do we. Kate Abbott

Syrio Forel

There is only one god and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death Not today. Syrio Forel, First Sword of Braavos, secretly appointed by Ned Stark to teach Arya the art of swordfighting, appears for fewer than eight minutes in the first series. Nevertheless, he makes an enormous impression as an agile, wily, effete and fearless mentor to the Stark girl. In his final scene, Lannister guards led by Ser Meryn Trant arrive to take Arya into custody, claiming to have been sent by her father. Syrio bids Arya flee and faces down the guards, armed with just a wooden sword, fighting them off until only Trant is still standing. Trant breaks Syrios sword and presumably finishes him off but we cannot be certain Syrio is dead. Diehard fans hope that rumours of his improbable return are true. D S


A ribald Wildling … Rose Leslie as Ygritte. Photograph: Helen Sloan/ HBO

It could have all been so different, if know-nothing Jon Snow had just stayed in that cave with the ribald wildling Ygritte. Early on in Game of Thrones there was little to cheer for: villains won, bastards were bastards, and anyone with a hint of honour had their head chopped off. But the ephemeral romance between Snow and Ygritte was in its own awkward way a thing of beauty. Ygrittes no-nonsense Ill cut your balls off if you look at me appearance belied a character who just wanted to live free and do a bit of hiking. Jon Snow might yet ascend to the Iron Throne but his first lady wouldnt fly about on a dragon; she was Ygritte of the free folk. Lanre Bakare

Cersei Lannister

Conscience, for her, is a drag … Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister. Photograph: HBO

It doesnt feel appropriate to think of Cersei as loveable, given that she is one of the most ruthless characters in a saga where being cutthroat is as essential for survival as having romantic feelings towards a close blood relation. But every time Cersei appears on screen, it brings on an internal cheer. She is cruel, she is callous, she is bloodthirsty (she is also, simply, thirsty; Cersei sipping wine must be one of the most gif-ed scenes of the entire series). She relishes being a baddie. Conscience, for her, is a drag. Yes, she adores her children, with a love disproportionate to their ability to actually survive, but thats about it. Her later post-shame Joan of Arc stylings appear to have honed her delicious viciousness. Cheers, and long live the queen. RN

Hot Pie

Hot Pies transformation across these seven seasons can rival any. From risible little bully in season one to occasionally brave coward in seasons two and three, right through to friend of the Starks, imparter of important plotty information and bread-maker extraordinaire in season seven. Now bread-maker extraordinaire may not be quite as exciting a job title as Mother of Dragons or Kingslayer. But that doesnt matter. Somehow, Hot Pie managed to carve out a niche all of his own in Westeros a way to not only survive, but thrive, a Fleabottom orphan come good. It also goes without saying that, by any conceivable measure, Hot Pie has by far and away the best name of any character in the entire show. LH


Every epic needs a gentle giant … Hodor. Photograph: HBO

Every epic tale worth telling needs to have a gentle giant, whose screen time implicitly reassures the nervy viewer that there are bear hugs available if all the maiming becomes too much. Its Hodor thats taken this Hagrid-esque role in Game of Thrones. Surrounded by the selfish and self-righteous, you cant help but appreciate Hodors puppy-like loyalty to the Starks, even if thats what caused him to become the one-word hero he is. Hes skilled in protecting, carrying and listening (basically the ideal companion after a Friday night out), and in a show that unfolds as intricately as a Kasparov chess game, the brevity of his one episode-long backstory is reason enough to favour the fella. Shilpa Ganatra

Robin Arryn

Joffrey is such a humongous turd of a boy that hes helped to obscure my own favourite Game of Thrones Horrible Child: Robin Arryn. Theres none of Joffreys calculation with Robin; hes a creature of pure knee-jerk entitlement, enabled by his damp twig of a mother. Hes every toddler youve ever seen having a meltdown in a supermarket. He has no skills or talents to speak of. His favourite toy is a hole that he throws his enemies through. Hes Jacob Rees-Mogg drunk on breast milk a fully loaded, quintessential chump. Stuart Heritage

Whos your favourite character and why? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/apr/10/tyrion-daenerys-hot-pie-the-greatest-game-of-thrones-characters

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