Spoilers up through episode 3 of season 4. Let’s keep it that way in the comments; no references to the books at all, please.
Game of Thrones features a vast cast that is rivaled by next to none on television. However, thanks to its exemplary source material and a certain degree of commitment to that material, the HBO blockbuster performs an impressive balancing act in regards to screen time and development for its main characters... of which there are thirty six.
An admiration for Game of Thrones’ proper character development has led me to feeling significantly different about some players now than I did back nearer to when they were first introduced. I thought I’d take a closer look at the evolution of some (not all thirty six of ‘em) characters and my resultant feelings.
Jaime Lannister - Jaime was a primary villain in the first season, a natural position for one who attempts to murder members of the ever-likeable Starks on at least two occasions. After spending over two full seasons in captivity, never not caked in mud (instance one of “my goodness, did that actor know what was in store for his character when he signed onto the project?!?”), Jaime had his ultimate moment of redemption when he told the honorable Brienne the story behind his ‘Kingslayer’ moniker.
I disliked Jaime’s pretty face in the beginning. When he lost a hand, he started gaining my sympathy. The current season’s first couple of episodes further pushed him into my good graces. But then just about all of the character’s likability was undone with one swift stroke. Or... repeated swift strokes.... The incestuous nature of it aside, Jaime’s rape of Cersei (it was rape, regardless of whether or not we’re to understand that Cersei became willing before the scene cut in the middle of the act) is basically unforgivable. Dude can face the same fate his son did in the previous episode, I don’t care.
Bran Stark - Before finally getting around to watching the show, I had heard that Bran was boring, his scenes were disposable, and his chapters in the books were skip-able. I heedlessly bought into that train of thought. Bran immediately became bedridden, restricting his moments to the claustrophobic Winterfell and too-mysterious visions of the three-eyed raven. Over time, however, his story really piqued my interest. The kid can possess other living things! To an extent that no one else is able! Needless to say, I’m excited to follow Bran’s journey with Jojen, Meera, and his warg-ness. It helps that he has developed into a leader with a mission.
Ramsay Snow/Bolton - Initially, his cruelty scared me and left me wanting to look away. But then the character went so far that I started to see a bit of Moriarty in him (the endlessly entertaining one from BBC’s Sherlock). His animated villainy is a joy to watch. Being the blade wielded by Theon’s karma (Theon being the second instance of "goodness, did that actor know what he signed up for?"), then being pitted up against his own despicable father, makes me feel as if we’re meant to like Ramsay in that ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ sort of way.
Jon Snow - I’ve always liked him well enough, but his newfound confidence and sassiness exhibited upon his return to Castle Black has me seriously interested in seeing what deeds reside in the future of Ned Stark’s bastard. The prospect of Jon and Bran reuniting bears so much potential for answers and satisfaction.
Shae - I was pro-Shae early on. Tyrion has always been in my favor, so I was inclined to root for whoever he rubbed elbows... or anything else... with. My feelings for Bronn the sellsword are unchanged - he remains as awesome as ever (especially if we somehow get more Bronn/Jaime sword training scenes). Shae, however, has gone from the winning companion of a protagonist to a whiny, irritating parasite that was harder to remove than a head under Theon’s sword.
Steady as She Goes
Arya Stark - I’ve loved Arya all along. From her touching ‘see you later’ with Jon when she received Needle, to her repeated displays of showing how different she is from her [formerly?] prim and proper sister Sansa, through to her more recent embracing of Valar Morghulis. Arya’s murder of Polliver was equal parts awesome and terrifying. That girl has seen things, and now she’s starting to do things... how far will she go?
Tywin Lannister - Talk about a scary guy portrayed fabulously. He’s always frustrated me though, with deeds like blatantly ignoring the incestuous acts of his children and disowning the somewhat unfortunate Jaime. I’m curious to see how he moves forward with future-king Tommen under his wing. Tommen is infinitely more malleable than Joffrey ever was.
Stannis Baratheon + Melisandre - I was a wary supporter of their cause (Stannis’ right to the Iron Throne) in season two; nothing has really changed there. I don’t like their methods, but I’m really interested in seeing what Melisandre and the Lord of Light do as their story unfolds. My feelings for Daenerys are much the same, just substitute the Lord of Light with Miss Targaryen’s dragons.
Cersei Lannister - Does she take Joffrey’s title as the show’s ‘most detestable, love to hate ‘em’ character? Considering her intense interest in having Tyrion murdered, I fear she’ll have no problem inheriting her son’s mantle. Will I love to hate her? Surely not the way I did Joffrey.
Ser Jorah Mormont - Go die. I never liked you or your perfunctory exposition.
Oberyn Martell - This guy. My muse, the one who is responsible for my sudden desire to write something here about Game of Thrones.
I’m unbelievably excited to see what his future holds. Remember when Tywin Lannister commanded every scene/room he was in? Yeah, that became a thing of the past the moment Oberyn Martell stepped foot in King’s Landing. He walks and talks with all-but-tangible confidence, and he’s got me believing that he can come out on top in any conversation. With anyone. Even the aforementioned Tywin. In the last episode, we saw Tywin apparently recruit Oberyn to stand for his causes against Tyrion and the Seven Kingdoms. I don’t believe for one moment that Oberyn will play honest in that alliance... and I’m eagerly awaiting the day when that possibility rears its beautiful face in front of Tywin....