Game of Thrones has had more than its fair share of villainous figures. These are characters so hated and detested at one point or another that it felt like there was nothing capable of redeeming them. The great thing about Game of Thrones, though, is that most of its characters are fully alive and completely human. They also live in a brutal world, one filled with dangers that requires the characters to act drastically and occasionally maliciously. In the game of thrones, you win or you die.
In many cases, the characters we hate the most are some of the show’s most complicated. Of course, this isn’t to say that there aren’t characters on Game of Thrones that are completely irredeemable (Ramsay ), but many of the people on this show can be understood, if you’re willing to see the situation from their perspective. Game of Thrones is a great show because it follows both the heroes and the villains, and suggests that sometimes the wrong side wins. But as we all know, it’s rarely as simple as that. Here are 15 of Game of Thrones’ most hated characters who deserve sympathy.
15 Orell the Warg
Orell was one of many figures who stood against Jon Snow, the ostensible protagonist of Game of Thrones. Orell was the poor soul who saw through Jon the second he joined the Wildlings. He knew that Jon would eventually turn against the Wildlings and rejoin the Watch, and when he did, he was vindicated just as Jon stabbed him through the gut.
Orell was annoying, of course. He was Jon’s antagonist, and he was designed to be the one figure of doubt, the nagging wound that keeps Jon from becoming fully integrated with the Wildlings. He never actively engaged with Jon, and he allowed Jon to be the spy that he always knew he was. Jon’s experiences with the Wildlings was hugely important in shaping who he would become for the remainder of the show. Without Orell, he may have gotten just a little bit too comfortable. Really, we should be thanking him.
14 Roose Bolton
Game of Thrones has two cardinal sins. There are two founding tragedies on which the rest of the series is built. One of these is Ned’s decapitation. The other is the Red Wedding, where Roose Bolton betrays his king and kills him to seize power. Roose is certainly one of the show’s most hated characters for this event alone, but his reasons were somewhat understandable. Not only was he trying to keep himself alive, he truly believed Robb’s cause was a lost one, and he wasn’t willing to go down with the ship.
Perhaps more significantly, Roose attempted to raise his son in his own image, as twisted as that might sound. He legitimized his bastard, and treated him as he would any other child. In the end, though, Roose was just another victim of Ramsay’s brutality and insanity. He was killed just as so many others were, even as he tried to show his son some sort of humanity. Roose was terrible, sure, but he was kind to his son, and Ramsay killed him anyway.
13 Alliser Thorne
Alliser Thorne was a Night’s Watch man through and through. He knew that the duty of the watch is to keep the Wildlings from coming South, which didn’t exactly jive with Jon’s plan to use them in the greater war that he knew was coming. When Alliser stabbed Jon, he truly believed it was “for the watch,” which is exactly what he said as he sent the first knife into Jon.
Ultimately, Alliser hanged for his crime, but he didn't regret what he did. He believed with all his heart that Jon was dooming them all. To Alliser, the Wildlings were an enemy, and they always would be. Jon was right, in the end, that the Wildlings would be a valuable ally in the wars to come, but Alliser had no idea what was coming. He didn’t experience what Jon did, and he chose to betray his oath to save his brotherhood. He fought, and he lost, and now his watch is ended.
12 Robin Arryn
Robin Arryn never really had a chance. He was raised by a deranged woman who refused to stop breastfeeding, and catered to his every whim. So sure, he’s a spoiled brat with no manners, but it’s hard to imagine that he could have turned out to be anyone else. Early on, Robin is annoying and cruel. He has power, and he abuses it. In his more recent appearances on the show, though, Robin has a feeling of palpable sadness about him. He was a spoiled boy, but now he’s a weak man, completely unable to make his own decisions, and relying only on Littlefinger for his own survival.
In this new form, Robin is an object of pity. His horrible relationship with his mother set him up for a pitiful and miserable existence. We can expect little more from him than becoming a mere puppet in Littlefinger’s grander scheme. Robin’s annoying, of course. But he is a product of his background.
This is the young boy who killed Ygritte, and delivered the death blow to Jon Snow. Almost from the moment he showed up on screen, he was widely hated and an object of scorn, and that reputation only grew as seasons passed. The thing about Olly, though, is that all of his hatred is justifiable. Wildlings killed his family and ruined his home. He's a member of the watch because of that loss, and it can be seen as the chief reason why he did most of the things he did.
When he kills Ygritte, he thinks it’s a good thing. He’s killed a Wildling, completely unaware of the fact that this particular Wildling happens to be Jon’s lover. By the same token, Olly’s part in Jon’s murder can be wholly justified by the way Jon chose to treat the Wildlings, welcoming the people who murdered his own family into Castle Black as if they were equals. Olly was Jon’s protégé, and he betrayed Jon. From Olly’s perspective, though, it was really Jon who committed the betrayal.
10 Lysa Arryn
Lysa Arryn gets pushed through the moon door of her own castle. Sure, she was kind of unbearable before that, but she was also more than a little unstable. She raised her child terribly, and ultimately kept him from being able to function without her. She was also horrendous to her sister on the single occasion when we saw them interact. Lysa was crazy, and she wasn’t exactly fun to watch.
On the other hand, she was also convinced of a conspiracy to kill her husband that was actually completely real, and she made a deal with a devil she didn’t understand, believing that her relationship was far more legitimate than it actually was. When Littlefinger pushed her through that moon door, all we could do was pity this poor, insane women who got in over her head with a man who only used her as a pawn in his game. She got played, plain and simple.
9 Tommen Baratheon
Tommen isn’t evil, really, he’s just annoying. He was king of the Seven Kingdoms for almost three seasons, and he may have been even more horrible as a king than Joffrey was. Joffrey made awful decisions, but at least he made decisions. Tommen’s entire reign was crippled by indecision, and it made him an extremely frustrating character to watch, especially after he’d attained such enormous power.
In the end, though, Tommen really just couldn’t bridge the enormous chasm between his wife Margaery and Cersei, and that chasm ultimately led to his demise. When Tommen realizes that his mother has willfully killed the woman that he loves, Tommen chooses to end his own life in brutal and glorious style. Tommen has lost his mother’s love, and he’s proven to be a completely ineffective ruler. It’s a shame, really, that he had to be king. If only he could have played with Ser Pounce forever.
8 Grand Maester Pycelle
Above all else, Grand Maester Pycelle is a survivor. When you really think about it, he and Cersei are basically the only constant figures in King’s Landing. Pycelle knows how to survive, and that’s admirable. It also means that he’s had to shift allegiances frequently, ensuring that he never gets too cozy with any one side, knowing that they may eventually lose power. Pycelle is a killer player in the game, in that he's managed to keep himself alive so long.
In doing all of this, though, Pycelle rarely conspired in any meaningful way against anyone. He wasn’t plotting to overthrow governments. He was just looking out for himself. In a world as crazy as Game of Thrones, that can hardly be considered a crime. Pycelle managed to survive for six full seasons without committing any notable crimes, other than farting. We can’t begrudge a man his own survival on this show. This old man lasted six seasons. Good for him.
7 The High Sparrow
The High Sparrow believed that the end justifies the means. He was a fundamentally good man who punished people brutally because he believed that it was the only way to bring them to a place of holiness. Of course, the Sparrow was also a master manipulator. He used Cersei to obtain power, and then betrayed her when he discovered what she’d done. You’ve got to give him this. He was a man of principle.
Unfortunately, many of those principles were awful and more than a little bit horrifying. His crimes against Cersei were particularly brutal, but his actions to many of the show’s major characters were horrific, even if they are justified. Cersei has done some awful things, but no one deserves the walk of shame she was forced to carry out under the High Sparrow’s orders. The High Sparrow meant well, and that counts for a lot. He got caught up in a game that he wasn’t prepared to play, and he ultimately lost his life as a result.
Littlefinger’s done some things. Perhaps his greatest offense was against Ned, who he agreed to help before stabbing him in the back. It worked out really well for him, but it also led to the death of the man who might be the most consistently good person this show has to offer. Initially, then, it would look like Littlefinger has a deck that is primarily stacked against him.
Our sympathy for Littlefinger stems largely from his upbringing. Unlike many of the characters on this show, Littlefinger is a self-made man. He wasn’t born into wealth, and his current title is something he earned through only scheming. He deserves respect for that, and sympathy for the horror of his upbringing. We also must acknowledge that Littlefinger only ever loved one person, and she was stolen away by men with better looks and bigger swords. If that doesn’t make you a little bit hateful, we don’t know what will.
The Red Woman has a ton of baggage. She’s apparently quite old, and seems to have had a crisis of conscience during this past season. For most of the show’s run, she believed that Stannis was the one true king, and she was willing to do anything she had to to ensure that he ascended to the throne. After Stannis died in the battle for Winterfell, Melisandre got lost. That’s exemplified perfectly in the single scene in which she removes her necklace, revealing her actual age and her vulnerability as well.
In this moment, Melisandre questions everything she though she knew about the world. She’s completely lost, and begins to reckon with all of the horrible things she’s done in the name of a God she’s now not certain exists. This is best crystallized in a single word. “Please,” she whispers over Jon’s body. She’s desperate, praying for hope when all is lost. She regains some faith following Jon’s resurrection, but is still forced to reckon with the crimes she committed, and is eventually banished from Winterfell altogether.
4 Stannis Baratheon
Stannis got caught up in his own hype. He believed he was the chosen king, and he was ultimately willing to sacrifice anything in pursuit of that goal, including his own daughter. It’s true, much of what Stannis was guilty of was redeemable, right up until his final act. As he burns his daughter at the stake, ostensibly as a sacrifice to ensure a victory at Winterfell, Stannis becomes a true villain; someone we can no longer root for.
At the same time, though, we understand how horrible this decision is for Stannis. He doesn’t hate his daughter. In fact, he loves her, and once worked much harder than he had to in order to save her. He burns her alive because he believes he has to. Melisandre has convinced him it’s the only way forward, even though it’s ultimately worthless. In the end, Stannis loses everything he once believed in, and he doesn’t win the crown he believed would eventually be his. He was a good man, but that doesn’t excuse the actions he took.
3 Cersei Lannister
Cersei is a tricky character. She’s plotted and killed every opponent she’s ever had, culminating in her blowing up the Sept, along with every political enemy she has in the city. In blowing up the Sept, she ostensibly wrote her son off. He was a necessary casualty of a war she had to win. What this says about Cersei is huge, because her defining character trait thus far has been her love for her children, and so the fact that she so ruthlessly tossed one aside suggests that she has given up on what was central to her goodness.
What’s important to note here is that if anything drove Cersei to this point, it was the world around her. She was forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing, and deal with the loss of her children one by one. She lost everything, and it’s no surprise that this is who she became. The prophecy she heard as a child came true, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. She devoted her life to her children, and she lost them anyway.
2 Theon Greyjoy
Theon has done a lot of reprehensible things, but he’s also suffered more than almost any other character on the show. For a couple of seasons, he was subject to such gruesome torture that he became convinced that he was no longer Theon, but in fact a creature named Reek. Theon was broken, and it almost destroyed him. Of course, Theon’s struggles came after he betrayed Robb, choosing to take Winterfell for the Iron Born instead of doing as Robb had asked. He also burned two young boys alive, and then claimed that they were Bran and Rickon.
These were Theon’s crimes, but they were ones he committed to please his father, who saw Theon as garbage worth tossing away. Theon’s boldness ultimately led to his own undoing. He deserves sympathy because he’s a fundamentally decent person who is constantly put in indecent situations. Theon has done his time, and he’s ready to be part of a winning team. Let’s hope he gets a little taste of victory before all’s said and done.
1 Jaime Lannister
Jaime Lannister is Game of Thrones’ ultimate tragic figure. He’s torn between the shadow of his father, a man who believed only in preserving his family’s legacy, and his own desires to be seen as a decent man. This conflict is summed up in his name, “The Kingslayer,” which he got for stabbing the Mad King, a king he was charged with protecting, though the back.
The Mad King was planning to burn the city to the ground, and Jaime killed him to prevent this. It was a noble act that was rebranded as betrayal after the fact. Jaime began playing into that stereotype, pushing boys out of windows and accepting that the world was cruel and unfair, so he should be too. The problem is, that’s not who Jaime is. Whenever the pressure is high, he reveals his own decency, and underlines the tragedy of his character. He’s a good person, but he’s done horrible things.
What hated character Game of Thrones character do you have sympathy for? Let us know in the comments!