With a show with as many characters as Game of Thrones, it’s inevitable that a herd of stinkers would work their way into the fold. Although, it’s a bit misleading to outright say the show has a lot of outright bad characters, and that’s not exactly what this list is about. There are some interesting, well-acted characters on this list, but my criteria for what makes them the worst is how much they actively hurt the watching experience. It’s not just about sucking, it’s a combination of how much damage they do to the show, how much wasted potential they represent, and how outright annoying they are. It’ll make more sense as you read through, so here are Game of Thrones’ 10 worst characters.
Otherwise known as “The Spider”, Varys represents the pinnacle of wasted potential on the show. The reasons for this are largely because his whole character arc from the books was straight up cut. Once a feared and unpredictable character, Varys has now been reduced to being a weird helper elf for more interesting characters. I don’t know who he is anymore, and what he wants (peace in “the realm”), is supremely boring . As the spymaster of King Robert, he has a fascinating backstory, and the story of how he became a eunuch remains one of the best scenes on the show, but we’re now at the point that every time he shows up on screen I get mad because I know he’ll do nothing of note and that he could have been so much more as a character. He’s only this low on the list because he is another in a long line of characters who are completely carried by their fantastic actors.
9. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes
If you’re a fan of the show, you already know why they’re here. Ellaria and her “brood bitches”, as Cersei refers to them, are bafflingly lame characters. Their motivations don’t make a lot of sense since their quest to avenge Oberyn leads them to killing a ton of people he really didn’t want to see harmed, but as a whole, just their very presence is totally lame. The acting, the directing, the choreography of their fight scenes, everything about them is off. It’s another case of wasted potential, taking a potential interesting location like Dorne and making it super lame. The only good thing to come from them is their deaths at the hands of the Lannisters.
8. Ramsay Bolton
I liked Ramsay’s actor’s performance. I enjoyed seeing Ramsay on screen. What I hated was what he did to the character arcs of Sansa and Littlefinger. When they should have been spending their time in the Vale developing their characters and relationship in season 5, the show’s commitment to turning Ramsay into a supervillain sucked all the oxygen out of the room and made too much of the show about Ramsay. Ramsay is a wild sociopath that likes to flay people, while his relationship with his father is interesting to a point, it isn’t enough to sustain what is otherwise a surface level character. Joffrey was so great because we understood what made him into the monster he was, and he never overstayed his welcome. Ramsay was a rabid dog that was given way too many toys to chew on, and his stink ended up sticking to characters who really should have been elsewhere.
7. The Douche From Meereen
You probably don’t know this guy’s actual name, I don’t blame you since it’s long and dumb and no one actually says it on the show as far as I can recall. He’s on this list mainly because he was annoying and was given a weirdly large amount of screentime. Also, his mannerism, his voice, his countenance… basically his very presence bothers me on a fundamental level. He has this weird void of anti-charisma that sucks out all the energy in every scene he’s in, and the fact that his actor and character plays into it is doubly annoying. He’s truly an incredibly annoying piece of work, between his constant whining and his implicit defense of slavery. The fact that his whining somehow manages to be more annoying to me than his defense of his beloved “owning other human beings” tradition is incredible and says volumes about why his character doesn’t work as a whole.
6. The Waif
The Waif sucks for a variety of reasons, but she would work so much better if she was instead The Gremlin. Seriously, all of her problems as a character would be fixed if the show just went all in on magical creatures in this specific instance and just labeled her a gremlin. Suddenly, everything about her would make sense. Her excessive antagonism, her constant foul expression, and her vague sense of viciousness would be contextualized by her background as a gremlin. Her weird fixation on Arya could be #justgremlinthings rather than a hamfisted artificial obstacle for Arya to overcome. The hilariously inhuman way she runs after Arya and the sheer buffoonery on display on both their ends could be forgiven if it wasn’t presented as a battle between two actual humans but was instead a classic case of gremlin shenanigans. She was way over the top as a human, but would be the right amount of… top as a gremlin. What I’m saying is, there’s a version of this character that isn’t terrible, and that version is a gremlin.
5. Stannis Baratheon
Look, Stannis sucks OK. There isn’t a single likable thing about this character besides his hall-monitor like obsession with protocol. He’s basically the biggest stickler in Westeros, but he’s also a cowardly loser that constantly fails. If I know Stannis fans, and I’ve had a number of run ins with them on reddit and the youtube comment section (the Stannis fandom’s natural habitats), I probably angered a lot of them who are reading this. And to that I ask of them to for once take book Stannis out of the equation. Book Stannis is a separate entity from show Stannis, and I’m only discussing the latter here. Stannis, as presented in the TV series, is a loser chump with next to no redeeming qualities. His love for his daughter was obviously superseded by his ill-fated campaign for the throne. Not only did he burn his own child alive, upon hearing the sounds of her screams he did nothing to help her and hung his head in shame out of her line of vision. He can burn her alive to appease some witch’s God, but he can’t look at what he’s done to her. He is the very definition of a coward. The kicker is that it was totally in character too. Throughout the TV show, he’s shown a complete willingness to follow the will of his Red Priestess over the sound advice of Davos (except in one case he very clearly regretted), and a desperation for the Iron Throne above all else. The worst part of his character though is how much time we spent with his loser ass. He wasn’t worthy of being someone to follow, which is why so much of his screen time was through Davos’ perspective, but even then, he was just this unpleasant loser who was constantly failing who also killed off the one thing he did right. And ya, he has some pretty damn annoying fans too.
4. Bran Stark + His Squad
Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and whatshername were some of the most boring characters in the series to follow. The fact that Bran started as a legitimately interesting character and ended up where he is now, as a pretentious exposition machine that actively hurts the show, is really something. He learned this behaviour from these forest siblings who also did nothing but spout exposition about someone called the “Three-Eyed Raven” and basically dragged Bran’s butt through 4 seasons of snow for him to actually get to this “Raven”, but the journey was filled to the brim with characters talking about how important what they’re doing is without doing anything to justify it. There isn’t a single distinct thing about any of these characters, but we end up spending so much time with them. Yes, the “Hold the Door” thing was cool, but it didn’t actually make me care any more for Hodor. He spent 6 years being this giant idiot who could only say one word, but then it turns out there was a good reason for it and that it was all Bran’s fault… but so what? We spent 6 seasons on this garbage group of characters all for this big revelation on a character the show spent no time getting us to care for prior. It felt like a punchline to a joke you stopped caring about halfway through the build up. Bran’s entire group was like that, except that it led to the creation of a psychic exposition machine that demystifies the show and makes it harder to justify several plot beats. Writers never seem to realize that creating a character that knows literally everything doesn’t free them, but restricts them. Bran is a perfect example of this.
3. Theon Greyjoy
Honestly? Screw Theon. God bless Alfie Allen and his amazing performance, but Theon is the definition of a character that works way better in the books than he does on the show. We don’t know what’s going on in his head, we can’t see all the fascinating ways a person’s mind can fall apart and how someone can completely lose their identity. What we’re left with here is a guy who made huge mistakes and then paid for them. And paid for them. And paid some more for them. Seeing him get tortured had its appeal, but they keep trotting him out so the audience can wonder if he’s “still Theon” or “Reek”. My response? Who cares. Stark, Greyjoy, whatever the hell Ramsay turned him into, he isn’t interesting. When a character’s arc is about them coming to grips with their identity, and you don’t care about any of their personas, it completely falls apart. So much of his screentime and his story assumes we care about Theon as a person and whether or not he should be redeemed, but we don’t. The show hasn’t put in the work on that front. Simply seeing a bad person suffer tremendously doesn’t automatically get people on his side. He burned two children to a crisp, why should I feel bad when Ramsay destroys his spirit? It’s not that I can’t sympathize with bad people in fiction, it’s that their arc should work whether or not we do end up having sympathy for them. The scene where Cersei is denied a trial by combat and is ostracized by both her uncle and the other ladies of the court works because Cersei’s arc doesn’t depend on us sympathizing with her, it depends on us understanding her. Theon on the other hand, has this big scene in the season 7 finale where he beats up a random Iron Islander and takes control of 20 good men, where the music swells and we’re supposed to feel like it was a moment of triumph. It was contrived and painfully stupid for a lot of reasons, the main one being what Theon’s problem as a whole is. It severely overestimates the amount of craps we give about him.
2. Barristan Selmy
The poster boy for unearned hype. He’s a character the show desperately wants us to believe is more than a geriatric has-been way passed his prime, but then goes out of its way to demonstrate that yes, that’s exactly what he is. When he meets an ignoble death in an alley way, you’re definitely not thinking “damn what a worthy way for a great warrior to go out”, you’re thinking “why was he here at all?”. He got fired for failing to protect a King from a wild boar (even though Cersei orchestrated Robert’s death, she was right to fire Selmy if he couldn’t even protect the King from a freaking boar), and then scurried away to Daenerys to save her life once and then be a total waste of space for a couple of seasons, and then die. He’s so high on this list because he’s a waste of potential, a waste of time, and a waste of a decent actor. Besides a couple of scenes, nothing he says or does is of consequence, he’s a tedious nothing whose death only leaves us with the feeling that maybe the show would have been better if he never showed up at all. He’s such a worthless loser, but the show gives him such an enormous pedigree. The dissonance on that front alone makes him worthy of this spot on my list.
1. Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful queen of the Andals and the First Men, protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains…
If you’re shocked at Daenerys’ placement, please refer to my guidelines at the start of this article. Daenerys hits every criteria I set and then some. She sucks in every way a character on Game of Thrones can suck, only amplified since she’s one of the chief protagonists on the show. For six seasons, we were subjected to her boring adventures a sea away from Westeros where all the interesting things were happening. Her story mostly felt like a disconnected side adventure that artificially extended an episode’s running time, and always played as something we could have done without. She had one character arc in season 1 where she was vaguely interesting and learned to be confident, but they coasted off of that for the rest of the series and the character suffered. Because she was so separated from the main story of the show but was given so much screentime anyways, her flaws were magnified in a way that meant the more her arc suffered, the more the show itself did. In fact, you would have characters like Tyrion Lannister entering her sphere and immediately becoming less interesting as a result. Everything she touches turns to boredom. On top of that, she’s another character whose lack of internal thoughts hurts her. Without insight into her pain from being cast away from the only land she knew, and the conflict at the heart of her character (whether or not she even wants the Iron Throne), the character becomes a boring mess. It’d be bad enough if we were left with a character who wants simply to rule for the sake of ruling, but no, around the fifth season they added another wrinkle to her “motivation”, which is that she wants to “break the wheel”, which I guess is a metaphor for the corrupt feudal system in Westeros. For one thing, this comes right the hell out of nowhere for her character, and another, her main justification for the throne she wants so badly is based on the very wheel she thinks she wants to break. Her dad is both the embodiment of the “wheel”, and literally her only claim to the throne. Another issue is that she’s provided precisely zero insight into how she would “break the wheel” or what exactly that would mean. So either her character is a poorly developed mess, or she’s excessively platitudinous. I suspect it’s both, which makes it even more maddening that everything comes so easily to her throughout most of her journey, and that everything she does is presented as a hugely triumphant moment when the character as presented really isn’t too remarkable a person. She is mostly lifted up by her crowd of shameless sycophants, half of which being men that are in love with her, and all of which being mistaken by the show as being sterling examples of friendship. Her theme song is great and all (probably her best feature), but it swells to obnoxious heights whenever she does her usual Daenerys thing, which constitutes having her dragons slaughter brown people/being worshipped by brown people (if I went into the obnoxious white saviour-ism of her character we’d be here all day). There are certainly worse written and acted characters on Game of Thrones, but none are more damaging to the series than Daenerys Targaryan.
Dishonourable Mentions: I pretty much covered it on my top ten list as far as characters I seriously dislike go, but I’m not too fond of Thoros of Myr. The Hound is right, his top knot is super obnoxious and I really dislike having to look at him for an extended period of time. The fact that his death was hilariously anti-climatic was a mercy for me as a viewer.
Daenerys’ fawning worshipers during one of Game of Thrones‘ very worst scenes.