Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: The Most Poorly-Developed Characters Of Westeros


We’d like to think that when Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that he’d never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than Mos Eisley Spaceport, he was really talking about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Of course, as any Game of Thrones fan will tell you, some of the show’s best characters are vile wretches, precisely because their flagrant disregard for decency is captivating to watch. Unfortunately, even a show as high in quality as Game of Thrones has had its share of lousy characters. Whether they’ve long overstayed their welcome or are just plain boring, these 23 are the most poorly-developed characters that Westeros has ever coughed up.

23. Qyburn

Qyburn started off as a potentially interesting character. He first appeared in Season 3, surviving the slaughter of Harrenhal by Ser Gregor Clegane and eventually aligning with Roose Bolton (pre-Red Wedding). He helped Jaime Lannister survive the loss of his hand, revealing in the process that the Citadel had stripped him of his maester title for experiments that were “too bold.” In other words, he was a highly trained, although slightly unethical, a medical practitioner. It could have become something really interesting.

Instead, he just sort of settled into the role of “Cersei’s evil henchman.” He transforms the dying Mountain into Zombie Clegane through some unexplained process (and ignoring the fact that The Mountain tried to kill him earlier). He’s the puppet master of the destruction of the Sept of Baelor. He “invents” the scorpion crossbows that eventually kills one of Daenerys’s dragons. And while those are significant events in the overall storyline of Game of Thrones, Qyburn is barely a memorable character despite his influence.

In the end, Qyburn has his skull crushed by The Mountain (ironic, isn’t it?) in the pre-game warm-up for Clegane Bowl. It happened so fast that some viewers didn’t even catch it. And those who did catch it probably didn’t even much care.

Screenshot via HBO

22. Melisandre

Much like Qyburn, Melisandre was part of some key moments in the series. Hell, she was the one who resurrected Jon Snow! That’s a biggie! She also negatively influenced Stannis Baratheon for a long time, leading to his eventual defeat. Despite all that, she was a character who produced a lot of mystery and intrigue, but no real satisfaction.

She worshiped R’Hllor, the Lord of Light, and talked often about the prophecized return of the Azor Ahai. The Prince that was Promised. She also had a weird magic necklace that somehow kept her young and beautiful, revealing her true ghastly form in Season 6. There was some good build-up there! But then the show rushed its way through Seasons 7 and 8, and simply forgot about it all.

There was no Azor Ahai. No explanation for how she is apparently hundreds of years old. Instead, she (a little too conveniently) arrives at Winterfell the night of the battle against the Night King, despite previously heading to Volantis is Essos. She sets some stuff on fire, gives Arya a pep talk, and the disintegrates into dust at dawn. Yawn.

Screenshot via HBO

21. Gilly

Honestly, we were shocked when we pulled up some basic research on Gilly and saw that she has been around since Season 2. It seems a long time ago for a character that doesn’t really do much at all. Mostly she just puts Sam in life-threatening situations over and over again. We suppose it could be argued that Gilly is Sam’s motivation for much of the series, but that’s a thin claim.

Sam is loyal to the Night’s Watch. And then to Jon Snow himself. And then dedicates himself to becoming a master and living up his family name. Sam has plenty of motivations that didn’t need to include protecting a wildling woman who gave birth to an incest baby. Gilly just sort of… existed.

Screenshot via HBO

20. Euron Greyjoy

Book readers were telling everyone what a great character Euron Greyjoy was. A murderous pirate, the scourge of the seas, leader of a mutiny against Balon Greyjoy. He has this rich backstory including a crew of mutes (he cut out their tongues in search of silence), belonging to a noble family, and generally being a charismatic villain for the later portions of the Game of Thrones lore.

Unfortunately for show watchers, that’s not what we got. The HBO version of the character was nothing but a slightly more rugged Jack Sparrow wannabe. His motivations were lacking, his personality was one-dimensional, and his loyalty to Queen Cersei was kind of silly. She easily fooled him into thinking she was carrying his child. He stupidly got his entire fleet burnt by Dany’s dragon (who couldn’t have predicted that?), and then spent the last minutes of his life dueling with Jaime Lannister over… reasons(?), and then died like an idiot, still spouting corny one-liners with his last words.

Screenshot via HBO

19. Robin Arryn

Lord Robin Arryn should have been more. He was the son of the great Jon Arryn, former Hand of the King for Robert Baratheon, and eventual heir to the Eyrie and Defender of the Vale. Instead, we was shown as the weirdo kid that was still breastfed by his crazy mom Lysa into his pre-teen years, and displays a number of social and physical shortcomings.

Fast forward a couple seasons and Lord Robin is being groomed by Littlefinger (never a good thing). At least he decides to send the army of the Vale north and save Jon Snow’s butt in the Battle of the Bastards. Then his mentor is executed by the Starks for treason, leaving the fate of Robin Arryn up in the air for a bit. He suddenly pops up again in the series finale, looking much older (and much more sane), and helps choose Bran Stark as the new King of Westeros. He never did get to push anyone out the Moon Door. What a shame.

Screenshots via HBO

18. Doran Martell

Remember Doran Martell? He was the grumpy older brother of Oberyn Martell, assumed leadership as the Prince of Dorne, and then refused to take any military or political action against the Lannisters, who caused the family considerable pain and suffering. The Mountain murdered his sister Elia (and her kids) on the orders of Tywin Lannister. The Mountain then murdered his brother Oberyn in a trial by combat. But he just chilled down there in the sunshine, soaking up the rays and refusing to get involved.

Eventually, Ellaria Sand (Oberyn’s lover) became fed up with the inaction and staged a coup. Together with Oberyn’s bastard daughters (the Sand Snakes), Ellaria murdered Doran in cold blood. And also stabbed Doran’s son Trystane through the skull, just to ensure her rise to power would succeed.

Unfortunately, Ellaria was quickly captured and tortured by Queen Cersei, and almost certainly wouldn’t have survived the final attack on King’s Landing. Dorne becomes a complete non-factor, which is a shame since Oberyn helped it burst onto the scene with much fanfare. A new Prince of Dorne was seen at the council meeting of Lords and Ladies that appointed King Bran, but his identity if a complete mystery.

Screenshot via HBO

17. Missandai

There was a brief moment in time where Missandei seemed like a landmark important character. Not only was she one of Daenerys’s most trusted advisers, but many fans rejoiced in seeing a female minority character achieve such an important place in the show’s hierarchy. Game of Thrones has been criticized by some for being “too white, too masculine,” and Missendai’s story was definitely one of the stronger counter-arguments.

The show shifted her role, though, in the later seasons. Tyrion, Jorah, and Jon Snow all became more important to Dany’s quest for the Iron Throne, and Missandei was relegated to a lazy romantic plot with Greyworm (who, it should be pointed out, is a eunuch).

Screenshot via HBO

16. Stannis Baratheon

Stannis is one of those characters who would show up from time to time when the pacing needed to be slowed down, as the would-be King of the Seven Kingdoms was a real drag right from moment one. Though actor Stephen Dillane did the best with what he was given, Stannis was much more poorly-written on Game of Thrones than he was in George R.R. Martin’s books, where he was a stoic, yet charismatic figure. You got a sense of why figures like Ser Davos Seaworth continued to hold a torch for Stannis in the face of ever bleaker odds but in the show, Stannis is a wet blanket who is controlled completely by Melisandre.

The only redeeming quality of Stannis was his warm interactions with his daughter Shireen but the show still managed to screw that up by having Stannis burn his daughter alive at the behest of the Red Woman, a move that was considered highly controversial (and one that presumably went against Martin’s text; we say presumably because the author hasn’t gotten to that point yet). In the end, Stannis’ fate was as unremarkable as his personality: executed by Brienne of Tarth with an off-screen beheading.

Screenshot via HBO

15. Renly Baratheon

The other Baratheon brother who died before getting to sit on the Iron Throne, Renly is one of those characters who others speak of highly but never really did anything during his short time on the series to warrant such an opinion. Sure, his presence allowed much more compelling characters like Brienne of Tarth and Margaery Tyrell to enter the story, but the main problem is that it was never made clear why so many people would have backed someone like Renly to be king.

The Tyrells were clearly in it to prop up their own position in the world, but why was Brienne so hopelessly devoted to a man who barely seemed to acknowledge her existence? Even Renly’s lover, Loras Tyrell, seemed to get over his king really quickly, suggesting that while Renly was a much better option to rule Westeros than the likes of his brother Stannis or his “nephew” Joffrey, it was more because he was a tolerable figure rather than a remarkable one.

Screenshot via HBO

14. Kevan Lannister

Kevan Lannister’s time on Game of Thrones was so forgettable that we actually had to refresh ourselves on the circumstances of his death (he perishes in the Sept of Baelor explosion alongside Queen Margaery and the High Sparrow). The big problem with ol’ Kev Dawg (or more accurately, Kev Lion) is that the show diminished his presence in favor of giving more screen time to Charles Dance and his outstanding performance as Kevan’s older brother, Tywin.

Kevan was characterized as a much meeker version of his brother, whereas in the books he’s Tywin’s closest ally and a brilliant leader in his own right. He puts his niece Cersei in her place quite a few times but on the show, it’s Cersei who gets the upper hand, ordering her uncle to leave King’s Landing at this point. While this helped make Lena Headey’s Cersei even more formidable, it made Kevan look totally pathetic and a character who really made no impact on the series at large.

Screenshot via HBO

13. Meera Reed

Bran Stark’s longtime ally Meera Reed is a likable enough character but she’s always just kind of … there. While her late brother Jojen actually got to have meaningful interactions with Bran thanks to his greenseer powers, Meera more often than not has been relegated to servant duties (she spent the majority of Season 6 dragging Bran around on a sled).

Yes, Meera fulfills an important role in the series, since Bran would be dead without her. But would it kill the writers to try and do something to flesh her out a bit? We could have had an interesting dynamic between her and Bran wherein she tries to maintain her companion’s humanity as he becomes more and more lost in his visions, but instead, she’s essentially a glorified background character. The series wrapped without giving her so much as another mention. Nor did they ever introduce her father Howland Reed, an important book character and the last surviving person from the Tower of Joy scene (other than Jon Snow himself). A missed opportunity, for sure.

Screenshot via HBO

12. Rickon Stark

The youngest of the Stark children, Rickon is a very minor character in George R.R. Martin’s novels, so it’s no surprise that the HBO series didn’t give him a big role either. Still, considering just how significant the Stark family is to Game of Thrones as a whole, Rickon is a character who arguably should have been written out of the show altogether. In the books, Rickon and his brother Robb are the only characters who don’t get any point of view chapters but you wouldn’t have known that from just watching the series since Robb’s role was significantly expanded in comparison to his book counterpart.

Unfortunately, Rickon seemed to have his role diminished, which is really saying something given how little he’s in Martin’s books, to the point where we had nearly forgotten about him until he showed up again in Season 6 as Ramsay’s prisoner. In theory, Ramsay holding one of the Starks hostages should have been a tense subplot but Rickon was such an underdeveloped character that by the time he died in Jon Snow’s arms during the Battle of the Bastards, we more relieved than saddened to see him go.

Screenshot via HBO

11. Petyr Baelish

There was a time when Littlefinger was one of Game of Thrones‘ most fascinating characters but ever since he stopped playing political games with the worst of the worst in King’s Landing, the show really hasn’t known what to do with him. Killing Lysa Arryn and taking control of the Eyrie was an admittedly awesome power play, but Littlefinger didn’t seem to know what to do next.

Helping Jon Snow secure the North by defeating Ramsay Bolton was a move that benefited the Starks the most, as Littlefinger seems to have just done it to get closer to Sansa, who continues to spurn his advances. We miss the Littlefinger who used to seem three steps ahead of everyone else. All his scheming eventually caught up to him, though. His role in Ned Stark’s death was exposed and Littlerfinger was promptly executed by Arya Stark at Winterfell.

Screenshot via HBO

10. Lancel Lannister

Given that power-hungry figureheads like Tywin and Cersei receive the lion’s share (pun intended) of the spotlight when it comes to House Lannister, it’s all too easy to forget about minor players such as Lancel, the self-righteous dweeb who is kind of terrible no matter what end of the morality spectrum he’s sitting on.

The nephew of Tywin Lannister, Lancel started out as the sheepish squire to King Robert Baratheon and was quickly revealed to be sleeping with Robert’s wife (and his own cousin) Cersei. He was also involved in Cersei’s plot to have Robert killed, deliberately getting him drunk while on a hunt. He later disappeared for a while after being severely wounded in the Battle of the Blackwater, only to return as a religious fanatic of the Sparrows.

Lancel was even more intolerable following his return, emitting a dead-eyed stare while condemning the actions of his family and other members of the King’s Landing court. That’s the kind of moral inconsistency that puts you on the family “do not call” list. Unfortunately, his flip-flopping didn’t endear him to viewers either, so it was hard to be very sympathetic when he ended up being incinerated in Cersei’s spectacular wildfire attack on the Sept of Baelor.

Screenshot via HBO

9. Ros

While viewers who never read Martin’s books probably would not have been able to guess that Ros the prostitute was invented for the show, given HBO’s preoccupation with full-frontal nudity, it makes perfect sense. Ros was clearly created to not only increase the breast count of the show’s early seasons (gotta do something to bring in the viewers, right?), but also as a thinly-veiled way to give certain other characters more of a role than they had in the books. Littlefinger, in particular, benefited from Ros’s inclusion, given he owns the brothel where she works in King’s Landing.

The main problem with Ros is that she is never able to ascend above her nefarious origins, as she is presented as little more than eye candy for the show’s male viewers. While attempts are made to give her a more important storytelling function, acting as a spy for Varys at one point, not much comes from this before she is unceremoniously murdered off-screen by a sadistic Joffrey, who uses her for crossbow target practice. In the end, we knew her body well but didn’t really get to see her as a human being.

Screenshot via HBO

8. Talisa Stark

In retrospect, it feels kind of cruel to highlight Robb Stark’s love interest as one of the show’s worst characters when she suffered such a brutal, undeserving death. While Talisa may have been the victim of one of Game of Thrones‘ most gut-wrenching death scenes (no small feat, to be sure), it doesn’t excuse how uninteresting she was for pretty much every moment leading up to it.

While Talisa’s marriage to Robb was the main catalyst for the events that would unfold at the infamous Red Wedding, the third season was clogged down with scenes between the two lovers, notable for how out of place they felt in comparison to pretty much every other plotline. Game of Thrones is a show about death, destruction, and political backstabbing, not courtship romances that feel ripped out of a fantasy-themed soap opera. Talisa remains a sympathetic, tragic Game of Thrones character but she’ll also always be one of its dullest too.

Screenshot via HBO

7. Olly

Jon Snow’s young steward is so universally-reviled by Game of Thrones fans, the sixth season might as well have just been called “Everyone Hates Olly.” Look, we can understand that Olly was more than a bit perturbed by Jon’s decision to allow the Wildlings safe passage through The Wall, considering that he witnessed his parents being killed by a group of them only a season earlier. To be fair though, Jon offered Olly reasonable explanations for his actions, but Olly refused to listen. It may seem a bit cheap to call Olly one of the show’s worst characters merely for turning against a fan-favorite character, but regardless, he’s just poorly written.

Giving Jon a death glare for an entire season is a good way to telegraph your eventual betrayal from a mile away and if that wasn’t enough, he kills Ygritte (who may or may not have actually killed Jon at the time). Maybe while he was busy plunging a knife into his Lord Commander (and essentially, adoptive father), he should have given some thought to the fact that he killed Jon Snow’s lady love. You’re the worst, Olly, and we’re totally okay with the fact that Jon hanged your scrawny neck.

Screenshot via HBO

6. The Sand Snakes

How did this show mess up a group of characters with a name that cool? Prince Oberyn Martell was one of the best additions to the fourth season, so we reasonably expected that his illegitimate daughters — a group of take-no-prisoners warrior women called the Sand Snakes — would be just as awesome. When we first see Oberyn’s three oldest daughters — Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria Sand — they are depicted as highly skilled warriors who are eager to avenge the death of their father.

Unfortunately, their potential was quickly squandered through a combination of bad characterization and the show’s own mishandling of depicting their prowess in combat (their few fight scenes are easily some of the show’s worst). Out of the three Sand Snakes, the only one who actually makes any kind of impression is Tyene and that’s probably because she received the worst fate of them all, being chained up in Cersei’s dungeon while her mother Ellaria is forced to watch her die. Although all three met very unfortunate ends, their exit from the series was ultimately for the best.

Screenshot via HBO

5. The Mountain

Ser Gregor Clegane AKA “The Mountain” is without a doubt the biggest brute in Westeros… and that’s part of the problem. We can buy that The Mountain is a merciless dullard who only knows how to swing a sword really hard, but when his brother Sandor “The Hound” Clegane is written with so much depth in mind, it makes you wish that Gregor would at least receive some attention in this department too. The Hound makes a big deal out of his childhood trauma suffered at the hands of his cruel older brother, but it doesn’t land with as much impact as it could have when the two characters never even share a scene.

As a result, The Mountain simply becomes a one-dimensional monster that fans can direct their anger at for killing off Oberyn, who was easily one of the most interesting characters in Game of Thrones history. And now that we’ve seen quite a lot of the new “zombified” Mountain, now referred to as Ser Robert Strong, we can honestly say that there is no discernible difference between dead Mountain and his former self, but this is hardly surprising considering he had no personality to begin with. At least we got #CleganeBowl, in the end.

Screenshot via HBO

 4. The Waif

The Waif is arguably the most irritating character in the history of Game of Thrones. Ostensibly Arya Stark’s mentor while she trains with the Faceless Men, the Waif turned out to be more of a jaded bully, jealous of the attention Jaqen H’ghar gave Arya over her. This show has proven that annoying characters can still be good characters — Joffrey was such a good villain because he was so committed to being a petulant little turd — but the Waif is so thinly sketched out, she’s little more than a one-dimensional intrusion preventing Arya’s story from being, well, good.

At one point, the Waif tells Arya a sob story about being the daughter of a widowed lord, but it turns out to be a lie designed to mess with Arya’s head. Why would a character who professes to be “no one” be so selfish in her resolve to undo Arya, anyway? Perhaps if some context for the Waif’s actions had actually been provided, we could have sympathized with her position, but since this never happened, at least we can now take solace in the fact that she’s just another (eyeless) mask in the Hall of Faces.

Screenshot via HBO

3. Hizdahr zo Loraq

It’s never a good sign when you have to refer to a character as “that guy” because you can’t recall his name. Such is the reality of the ill-fated Hizdahr zo Loraq, the posturing aristocrat from Meereen who repeatedly (and annoyingly) pesters Daenerys Targaryen to re-open the gladiatorial fighting pits in a bid to appease the city’s masses. We’re pretty sure we’d relent on any firm stance too if this guy was in our throne room every day making demands, which seemed to be Hizdahr’s primary function for most of the fifth season.

The show’s writers tried to drop hints that Hizdahr was actually working with the Sons of the Harpy insurgency group to try and murder Daenerys, but given the forgettable nature of the character, it was hard to muster up any interest one way or the other in this possible subplot. Luckily for everyone, Hizdahr was killed by the Sons of the Harpy near the end of the fifth season, which proves his innocence but also proves that he was just as boring as we suspected. Hizdahr zo Loraq — you will definitely not be missed.

Screenshot via HBO

2. Shae

The prostitute that won (and eventually betrayed) Tyrion Lannister’s heart, Shae is easily one of the most annoying characters to ever appear on the show. Jealous and vain, Shae constantly chastised Tyrion after he takes her to King’s Landing for failing to spend all of his time with her. Despite Tyrion’s repeated and completely understandable explanations for why the then-Hand of the King couldn’t spend all his time in bed with a woman who’s only interested in his money, Shae never seemed to get the message and became a constant grate on the nerves.

Things got even worse when Tyrion was forced to marry Sansa Stark, as Shae’s jealousy seemed to reach new levels of absurdity. The final Shae-related atrocity was her one-two punch of betrayal against Tyrion, testifying against him in Joffrey’s murder inquest and sleeping with Tyrion’s father Tywin on the side. Fittingly, her death was the one of the show’s most satisfying, with Tyrion breaking his chains by literally choking her with one. Now that’s great writing!

Screenshot via HBO

1. Ramsay Bolton

The Bastard of Bolton is not only the worst Game of Thrones character in terms of being the evilest person in Westeros but is also just the worst character, period. Ramsay was essentially the show’s primary villain for the better part of four seasons, but the problem with this is that having a clear-cut villain has never been something that Game of Thrones is about. The show’s ability to feature a cast of characters that are primarily all morally grey is part of the reason it’s such a hit (well, that and dragons). Ramsay, however, was more like a cartoon villain who somehow spent multiple seasons making life miserable for everyone but himself, including the show’s viewers.

It’s fine to have a sadistic character with a predilection for torture and mutilation, but there’s a point where all the shocking body violence simply drags the rest of the showdown with it. Even worse, Ramsay seemed to get lucky all too often, with giant armies at his disposal for whatever problems came his way. When his own father’s demands to stop torturing folks go unheeded, you know you’re dealing with a grade-A psychopath. At least Joffrey’s indignant cruelty was entertaining to watch. Nothing about Ramsay was in the least bit entertaining — besides his death, of course — and that is why he is the worst Game of Thrones character, period.

Screenshot via HBO

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)