In a Facebook Live chat about his character Samwell Tarly, actor John Bradley described the Game of Thrones cast as an "embarrassment of riches." The show contains more fascinating characters than it knows what to do with, inevitably pushing certain individuals to the sidelines. This proved truer than ever in the shortened, frenetically paced Season 7. While fans were delighted by the ample spotlight given to characters like Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, others didn't get the development and focus they deserved. Here are the five most underused characters from Season 7:
Warning: Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers ahead.
Few individuals have masterfully played the game of thrones from Season 1 to Season 7. Varys is such a rare individual, constantly adapting to shifting power dynamics and making consequential decisions that shape Westeros. In Season 7, however, Varys only had three substantial scenes:
- Daenerys demands loyalty and Varys asserts that he doesn't give blind loyalty, he gives loyalty to those who deserve it for the good of the realm ("Stormborn").
- Varys passive-aggressively tells Melisandre to leave Dragonstone, followed by Melisandre hinting at the deaths of both herself and Varys ("The Queen's Justice").
- Tyrion and Varys discuss Daenerys over wine, Varys encourages Tyrion to find a way to make Daenerys listen to his counsel so she doesn't become the Mad Queen ("Eastwatch").
Conleth Hill slays as #Varys in all these scenes and it's a shame there aren't more. The problem is not merely in the low number of scenes, but that none of these scenes are that consequential to the events of Season 7. Daenerys and Varys come to respect each other for the efforts they'll make for the good of the realm, even if their philosophies differ. Yet, Daenerys foolishly doesn't give Varys much of anything to do. After seeing Jon about to meet Daenerys, Melisandre had already decided to leave Westeros before Varys spoke with her. Tyrion is more determined to make Daenerys listen to his counsel after the conversation with Varys, but he still can't make her listen when she takes all three dragons beyond the Wall.
It's ridiculous that Daenerys doesn't take advantage of Varys's myriad of skills and knowledge. Varys plotted for years to put a Targaryen on the Iron Throne. He saved Tyrion's life and convinced him to find and serve Daenerys. They maintained Daenerys's vision while ruling Meereen during her absence. Varys acquired Dorne and Highgarden as allies. Varys has proven his worth and neglecting his abilities is a short-sighted move for both the characters and writers.
2. Bran Stark
Isaac Hempstead Wright excelled in Season 7 at playing a character who has become more of a supercomputer than human. His robotic performance contrasted with more emotional acting from the likes of Arya, Sansa, Littlefinger, Meera Reed and Samwell Tarly and that created compelling scenes. Still, Bran ended up being underused concerning his abilities as the Three-Eyed Raven.
Back in Season 6, many of the best moments came through Bran's visions. Audiences were able to:
- Learn of the White Walkers' origins
- See Winterfell when Ned and Lyanna were children, including the tragic backstory of Hodor
- Catch the first-ever glimpses of the Mad King
- Experience the events at the Tower of Joy that culminated with the revelation that R+L=J
In Season 7, Bran mentions things he's seen concerning Arya, Sansa, and Littlefinger. However, other than progress reports on the Army of the Dead, the only new vision fans got to experience was the wedding of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This was cool to see, but hardly matched the epic visions of Season 6 considering Gilly had unintentionally already revealed the truth surrounding R+L=J. Bran shouldn't just become a flashback machine to provide necessary backstory, but with everything he can access now, it's disappointing that there weren't more critical visions.
3. Yara Greyjoy
I predicted big things for Yara and Theon Greyjoy in the Season 7 finale. Theon delivered, but Yara was absent from the episode. Euron tried to use her to bully Daenerys and her allies, but she then seemed to be forgotten by all key characters other than Theon after the wight was unveiled. I'm glad the episode provided satisfying focus and development for Theon, finally earning the respect of the surviving ironborn loyal to Yara and setting up a mission to rescue her next season.
Yet it's a shame that after Euron marched Yara, Ellaria and Tyene Sand through the streets of King's Landing, the badass reaver did not appear again. She got to engage in awesome fighting when Euron attacked her fleet, but was pretty much relegated to the sidelines after that. It's disappointing considering not only her prowess as a warrior, but as a leader, sister and lover. When discussing the episode "Stormborn," showrunner D.B. Weiss spoke of the scene in which Yara discusses strategy with Daenerys and her other key allies and advisors at Dragonstone:
"I don't think there are that many situations in film or television where you see four women sitting around a table discussing power and strategy and war. We didn't really plan it that way but once it landed on that we knew these things needed to be discussed."
This somewhat self-congratulatory statement is less meaningful when considering that by the end of the next episode, three of the four women would either be dead or captured, including Yara. She is also an important character in terms of representation. She is one of the few LGBTQ characters still alive on the show, and her fierce and compassionate nature provides positive representation. As a key ally to Daenerys, and much more to explore in her identity as a sister, lover, leader and warrior, Yara was not used as effectively as she could have been.
4. Brienne Of Tarth
Back in Season 2, Brienne of Tarth swore an oath to serve Catelyn Stark. This oath led #Brienne down the path of returning Jaime Lannister to King's Landing and then finding and protecting the Stark sisters. This journey and her unwavering dedication to uphold her oath has not only defined Brienne of Tarth as a character, it has also led to seriously consequential moments, like her fight with the Hound and provided fascinating character development to Jaime. She's the rare combination in #GameofThrones of an incredible warrior who's also honorable.
Sansa and Arya reunited and safe at Winterfell provided the end to Brienne's epic journey, leading to a heartwarming moment in which Podrick tells Brienne to feel proud, yet leaves the show unsure of what to do with her character. There's her delightful duel with Arya in the Winterfell courtyard, and then she later convinces Jaime in the finale to speak to Cersei about her refusal to unite against the Army of the Dead. Compared to past seasons, Brienne is not as influential and does not participate in hugely consequential moments and character development. It's disappointing to see so little action from arguably the greatest warrior in Westeros and the writers seem unsure of what to do with her now that her oath to Catelyn is fulfilled. Hopefully she plays a pivotal role in fighting the Army of the Dead in Season 8.
5. Lyanna Mormont
The fierce Lady of Bear Island was the first to declare Jon Snow the King of the North. She provided 62 invaluable men to fight against Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards. Yet again she put the lords of the North and the Vale in their place when she championed the arming and training of all able individuals, regardless of gender. Despite her young age, Lyanna Mormont has proven she can make the tough calls and has a progressive mind.
Sansa has given her many smiles and approving looks and it would've worked well for the two characters to directly interact. Both characters could've provided one another with sound leadership advice. It would've been interesting to hear what Lyanna thought of Littlefinger and how Sansa should handle him. It would also be intriguing to see how Lyanna feels about Jon considering his lengthy absence and the excellent job Sansa has done ruling the North. Would the young lady who championed Jon Snow still support him? Or would she believe that the powerful Lady Sansa who stayed in the North and ruled effectively would be a better leader? It'd be equally interesting to see Lyanna interact with Arya — two brilliant, tenacious young ladies who've transgressed societal expectations and learned how to thrive using their unique skills. There would be immense respect between them, and hopefully a powerhouse duo as well. This needs to happen in Season 8.
Which characters do you wish we'd seen more of in Season 7? Who do you hope to see more of in Season 8? Share your opinions in the comments below!