So we’ve gone through good and evil. What’s left? Everything that makes Westeros so damn interesting. We have your survivors, schemers, and hedonists. The folks who aren’t quite bad enough to be evil, but never quite got around to being good people. They’re the shades of grey that keep #GameofThrones from looking like Lord of the Rings. George R.R. Martin prides himself on Game of Thrones being the fantasy series that deals with the hard truths that most other fantasy series don’t want to deal with.
“And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?”- George R.R. Martin
These are the characters that have made #ASongofFireandIce and it’s subsequent TV adaptation Game of Thrones into one of the most fascinating and complex fantasy sagas ever conceived.
Oberyn served as the Inigo Montoya surrogate that everyone didn’t even know they wanted in Game of Thrones. Hailing from easily the most tolerant and progressive of the seven kingdoms, he is one of the very few characters with the power and influence to actually be in a position to fight injustice. But his generally chaotic demeanor tends to be his own undoing. Living a life of wanton passion always seeking the next great pleasure made him a charismatic supporting character, but ultimately the lack of restraint as seen by his older brother turned #Oberyn’s head into a split watermelon after he tried to fight The Mountain that Rides.
Martell was always more interested in his own personal passions and vendettas, treating the people close to him with dignity, love, and respect while seeking to redress injuries to his family without a thought to the greater good or putting off his own whims for the freedom and prosperity of others. He’s more than willing to put aside his differences to work with #Tyrion if it means getting a chance to destroy #GregorClegane, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stab a man for singing “The Rains of Castamere.”
He might seem like an alright guy, almost kind of heroic in a certain light, but let’s face it. He started a civil war not because the Targaryens were incestuous assholes, but because they were incestuous assholes who stole the girl he loved. He managed to bash his way onto the throne and proceeded to screw and drink the kingdom into debt, squandering the accumulated wealth of a 300 year dynasty. He didn’t really care about anything except what would give him the most pleasure at the moment. Bashing in someone’s head, drinking himself into a stupor, or plowing the local tavern wench, his life is completely defined by excess and the desire for instant gratification. Hell, there was one time where his rebellion was nearly crushed where he was surrounded by all sides, but managed to screw his way through an entire brothel and survive certain death. The only thing that comes close to focusing him is having someone good to fight.
His reign would have collapsed far earlier if he didn’t have the ever so convenient Greyjoy rebellion. But ultimately #RobertBaratheon only cares about what will bring him enjoyment, and he puts that need above anything else. That isn’t to say he ever intentionally tried to do anything evil. He was no #RamsayBolton out to sate the darkest human impulses imaginable; he was just kind of a drunk. When he thinks about it, he tries to do the right thing, like helping his numerous bastards along by apprenticing them off, but most of the time he was too distracted to really make much more than a cursory gesture before he was off chasing another pretty serving wench or gorging himself at a feast. Which leaves him as being particularly unreliable with the only person he’s looking to satisfy is himself.
Theon’s an interesting character. He’s not an especially noble character, but he doesn’t really fall into being either good or evil. Ultimately his main motivation is to do whatever will boost his sense of self worth. Whether that’s fighting alongside Rob Stark in the whispering wood cutting down Lannister Bannermen or betraying his brother-at-arms so he can try to earn the respect of his douchebag father by sacking the north with the Ironborn. You remember those old anti drug commercials or cartoons? The ones where one kid would be peer pressured into smoking marijuana because he wants to be accepted by the cool kids? Theon’s kind of like that guy; his sense of self worth is ultimately decided by whomever he’s in the company of.
When he’s with Rob, he’s completely committed to the Stark cause and having the time of his life with his wolfborn brother-in-arms. When he’s with the Ironborn, he just wants to appear like a ruthless viking-pirate-raider-type so the Ironborn will show him the same respect they give his sister. Everything he does is to serve his own sense of self worth which is always flipping chaotically depending on the company he keeps. This leads to his ultimate punishment with Ramsay Bolton who completely obliterates any ego or sense of self that might have remained turning him into his new Reek.
Tormund Giant’s Bane
Tormund is easily the closest thing the Wildlings have to Robert Baratheon. He’ll bash your skull in, but if you have the wits and the strength to knock him upside the head first, he’ll toast to your might as you share a freshly roasted rabbit. Generally he just wants the best for his people, and he’s willing to do whatever he needs to accomplish that. Whether that’s murdering the Night’s Watch so the Wildlings can climb over the wall or joining forces with them so they can weather the coming storm, it all depends on the circumstances. His free spirit makes him a bit unpredictable, but if you manage to make a friend out of him, Tormund is nothing if not loyal. Sure if you meet him he’d probably try to slit your throat to steal your leather vest or kill you over who gets the best parts of the meat roasting on the spit, but if you can survive that, then you’ve probably made a friend for life who’ll be willing to split someone else’s skull on your behalf.
Mance isn’t a bad guy. He’s not a particularly good guy either, but he’s not a bad guy. He just wants to do the best for his people. He’s one of the few people who understands precisely the kind of absolutely horrifying frozen hell storm that’s coming, and the only way the #Wildlings stand of surviving is getting the hell out of the Dodge or in this case the north. Like we said, he’s not exactly a good guy though, as he doesn’t really care who he kills to make sure his people can get beyond the wall before the wrath of the White Walkers comes busting out of the North.
He’s willing to let his people burn and pillage, fight the Night’s Watch, and pretty much do whatever just so long as he can keep them safe. Like I said, not a great guy. But not a bad guy either. He’s just trying to do right by his people. But what makes him chaotic? Maybe the fact that he rage quit the Night’s Watch over a cloak. Not to say it’s not an awesome cloak; it is. But he valued his own personal freedom so much that he stormed off beyond the wall for a bunch of fabric. Yeah, there was some meaning behind it, but at it’s core, he couldn’t handle arbitrary rules. Any arbitrary rules. And now he’s taken his place among people who care about Westeros laws and oaths as much as he does.
If Ygritte lived in our world she’d probably be running around playing ultimate frisbee on the quad of a liberal arts school. Or maybe she’d be one of those sovereign citizen prepper types. Either way, she’s the closest thing to a free spirit out of any of the characters seen in the series. Despite the Wildlings largely being seen as savage murdering rape-monsters of the forest, if there’s any romanticism for the strength and will of the free folk it’s best embodied by Ygritte. She takes immense joy at mocking Jon Snow and all of the seemingly dumb customs of nobility and civilization. She sees these things as absurd traditions that just get in the way of living. She doesn’t quite understanding that these are the customs of greater civilization that have allowed the Seven Kingdoms to subjugate the Wildings despite their tenacity.
Most of Ygritte’s actions are driven by her pure pragmatism. She’s not an inherently mean person but she will kill a villager or anyone who gets in her way of trying to make a home south of the wall. The White Walkers are coming, and the only thing she’s concerned with is her general survival and the survival the Wildling people. But her free spirit ultimately leaves her being largely chaotic and unpredictable. It might be great to live a free life in the woods doing whatever you want, but bringing that against the regimented and organized armies of the Seven Kingdoms is a death sentence. There’s no better testament to the fact that chaos does not stand a chance against order then the fact that Jon Snow was able to hold off all 100,000 of Mance Rayder's troops with a skeleton crew of less than 100 Night’s Watchmen. Despite the fact they were out-manned and flanked on both sides the Night’s Watch still managed to beat the Wildlings back with just a little bit of organization and discipline. It’s no wonder she was killed unceremoniously off screen in the book, she would never survived prolonged exposure to civilization.
Lisa was the ugly duckling of the Tully clan. She seemed to get the worst of the lot. She wasn’t as pretty as her sister #CatelynStark, who got pledged to marry not one, but two hunky Stark men, and she was also stuck with largely loveless marriage to the ailing Jon Arryn. Sure we’ve all heard how noble he was, a paragon of virtue for young Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. But he’d long passed his prime, leading to many an awkward night of marital duty and twice as many failed pregnancies. The son she did get was sickly child who she coddles and spoils to the point of breast feeding him even though he’s eight-years-old.
She already had a screw loose and the death of John Arryn only served to accelerate her madness. Her only desire was the safety and well-being of her son making her generally neutral, especially with her isolationist attitude towards the larger War of Five Kings. Her proximity to easily most impregnable fortress in all of the Seven Kingdoms certainly helps her maintain neutrality, with no one daring to try storm her castle. But her ailing mind just means she’s more likely to lash at anyone who looks at her the wrong way. Let’s be honest, listening to her tiny child’s advice on who to throw off the side of a mountain does not exactly speak to her dedication to law and order. Tyrion was almost subject to her wrath and poor Sansa tread very close to suffering her abuse. When #Littlefinger quickly realized how much of a liability her chaotic nature would prove to be in the long run and quickly put an end to her while advancing his own station as well.
Dario is like the textbook definition of hired muscle. A career sell-sword, Dario has spent most of his life going from one mercenary company to the next. Generally looking for the next fight or maybe someone to bed, whichever comes first. That’s probably half the reason why Daenerys is so attracted to him in the first place. His warrior spirit reminds her of #KhalDrogo. But generally the only way he understands how to handle his problems is by stabbing them to death with a sword. Any issue he runs into can only be dealt with violence. He even horrifies #Daenerys when he suggests his own version of the red wedding to get rid of the insurgents that plague her in Mareen. He uses bloodshed as a short term solution with little consideration towards its long term consequences. He doesn’t really have any true allegiance except to whoever is paying him making him truly neutral like many of the other sell-swords on this list. He’s not truly evil, but his lack of a moral code of conduct other than profit and adventure does further reinforce the idea that he’s just neutral.
Shae is kind of the Westeros version of a groupie. She finds her way to Tyrion as a camp follower chasing after Tywin’s army. Getting in Tyrion’s bed was the equivalent of winning the jackpot considering how well a Lannister pays their debts. She was always in it for the money. Although book Shae and tv Shae have a few...shades of difference (I’m so sorry for that). In the show she’s portrayed more as a passionate lover who’s completely devoted towards Tyrion. Of course Tyrion soon realizes that his sister would love nothing more than to torture her and use her as leverage against him and tries everything he can do to get her to go away. Even Varys sees how she’s going to become a potential problem and tries to bribe her away.
Ultimately after he marries Sansa ,Tyrion has to give her a sort of fake rejection speech, but she’s too dense to really realize he’s trying to save her life, so she lashes out at him. Ultimately the only thing she consistently cares about is herself. She’s mostly interested in what will benefit her the most in the long run and even goes into Tywin’s bed because of the obvious benefits it provides. In both the show and the book, she testifies against Tyrion because of whatever great reward Cersei is offering her. She does not care for the good or ill of the realm, but rather flits about on a larger stage wherever the tides of fate may take her beholden only to anyone who will pay.
Everyone’s favorite amoral mercenary, Bron is the very definition of neutral. His bond with Tyrion is perhaps one of the best relationships on the show, but ultimately the only person Bronn is looking out for is Bronn. He’d kill a baby if someone paid him enough. I mean, he’d really really prefer not to murder said baby, but if the coin is good he’d probably do it. His union with Tyrion came out of simple pragmatism. The only reason he said he’d fight on Tyrion’s behalf is because he knew the old saying: “A Lannister always pays his debts.” And boy did Tyrion pay out.
Thanks to following Tyrion, Bronn was knighted then promoted to the captain of the City Watch, and when his relationship reached to the point where Tyrion could no longer give him the best offer, he took what Cersei had to offer him, accepting a lordship and a marriage to a noble girl that might potentially yield to him land and castle. He was fond enough of Tyrion to name his first child after him, but he’s pragmatic enough to understand when Tyrion had stopped being the best deal in town. But living a life looking out for number one has treated Bronn quite well. Out of all the characters in Game of Thrones, he’ll probably be the only one who has a chance of living a full life because if anyone is stupid enough to try and trick him out of it he’ll stick a dagger in their eye for the nuisance they caused him.
You might think Sansa should be in neutral good, but she’s not quite there. She’s far too interested in her own prospects for that; not that we could ever blame her. At first, it’s because she’s too obsessed with her own fantasies. This is made pretty clear early on with the confrontation between Arya’s direwolf pup and Joffrey. She should have told the truth. I could have understood if she lied out of fear, but at the time, the idea of being wed and impregnated by medieval Justin Bieber was just far too appealing for her to pass up. Of course this decision snowballed into a huge series of of consequences that would ultimately lead to the execution of her father. She’s been suffering the fallout ever since getting the monkey’s paw version of her original dream of living a life filled with the gallant pageantry of royal life.
In some ways you could say that both Arya and Sansa got the monkey’s paw version of what they were both looking for. After the horror show that was watching her father’s execution, her disillusionment about courtly love and royal politics was absolute, and her self interest became based entirely out of survival instinct. She’s not interested in the law and order or the lure of personal freedom. She’s kind when she can be, and she’s certainly not evil, but in truth her goal is just staying alive. She can’t afford to cling too tightly to ideals as she wafts around like leaf in the hurricane of war in both the political and physical realm. To survive, she lets herself be used, with people fighting to control her for her house name and right to claim the North, and unless something major happens she’ll probably remain neutral and at the mercy of the schemers and conspirators for the rest of the series.
Sandor Clegane AKA The Hound
The Hound mostly just cares about himself. He always finds himself in murky grey area mostly influenced by self-interest. He murders Mycah, the innocent butcher's boy, because he was told to. He didn’t care about the boy, so when ordered to, he killed him. But then, he also forms a weird protective relationship with #AryaStark, and he makes himself responsible for her care, looking out for her well being long after it would offer any benefit to him. He’s a man who prides himself for seeing how hypocritical and awful the world is and loves to remind everyone about it. In a better world, Sandor would have been neutral good.
I would almost say that had he not been born as a brother to The Mountain the Rides, he probably could have kept his innocence just long enough to care about the world around him. Even still, a tiny little spark of his better nature shines through despite the drab, miserable world he finds himself in. He protects his most vulnerable inner self with a crude angry facade all the while trying to save the few people he sees as corrupted. He is also one of the very few people with the guts to tell Joffery to screw off with next to no fear of the consequences. But in the end, the Hound doesn’t have any greater allegiances to anyone other than himself. He accepts the world for what it is and has no desire to try and change it. He just goes with the flow, living day by day under whatever terms work for him.
Ser Jorah Mormont
Jorah is one of the more difficult characters to fit into the classic D&D alignment guide. At first glance, he appears to be lawful good when you consider how loyal he is towards Daenerys Targaryen’s cause. He serves as her most trusted advisor, but you also have to keep in mind that he ultimately was forced into exile because he sold some poachers into slavery. A pretty douchey move that earned him the ire of Ned Stark who sought execute him for engaging in the slave trade, the one thing in Westero that even they find too barbaric. Unlike other bastards on this list Jorah never made the same mistake twice, but his only real regret was that he got caught.
From there on he started by spying on Daenerys for the capital, but during his time with her he began to respect her and ultimately fall in love with her, forever becoming ser friendzone in the eyes of fans. Ostentatiously he’s ultimately serving her to help her reclaim the Iron Throne. But in truth he’s fighting for the right to get into the iron panties, a truth that becomes more and more evident throughout the books and the show. He walks a unique grey zone. Doing the right things for usually for the wrong reasons. Ultimately he’s a man whose sins always seem to come back to haunt him despite his best intentions. No matter what he does try to do, he will never really get what he wants. At this point, he’s just firmly looking for some kind of redemption and at the very least a good death. The best he can hope for is to win back the good graces of his queen and use his life as some bargaining chip to help her in her long climb towards the Iron Throne.
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Pycell isn’t evil, but he’s definitely not good. If he were a little more committed to his vows as a maester, he’d be lawful, but there’s no way the cowardly old man is chaotic. He doesn’t have the guts to go for personal freedom. Instead, Pycell is interested in staying alive. His position as a Maester means his services are in demand, and he’s kept in comfort. He’s willing to bend the rules of his order though in order to enjoy sex or to dabble in poisons to make himself even more useful to the Lannisters whom he is truly loyal to. He’s willing to help Ned Stark when he breaks his leg, and of course, Qyburn is too much of a monster for Pycell, so we definitely know Pycell has his limits. But then again, he is willing to betray Ned Stark’s trust, smuggle information to the Lannisters, and pretty much act like a toady to anyone in power as long as they take care of him. So neutral it is.
Catelyn is a hard character to place. Eliminating #LadyStoneheart from the equation helps bring her alignment up though, and the reason I did was because I’m still not sure if that is actually her or how the resurrection magic affected her. She could be possessed, brought back wrong just like in Pet Semetary, or just feeling angry and spiteful because of the massacre of her entire family. I can’t be entirely sure until the next book comes out, so until I have more information, I’ll be looking at pre-red wedding Catelyn.
In that case, Catelyn only cares about law and order to the extent of when it helps the people that she cares about, but she is not bound by it nearly as much as a true Stark. Mostly she cares about her family, but she has shown that she is willing to treat others, even potential enemies, with respect and goodwill, such as when she arms Tyrion to help fight bandits. Yes, there was some political motivation there, but she could have just as easily thrown him in a sack and tied him to a horse for most of the journey. Still, she really only cares about her family. She won’t be needlessly cruel or evil, but she’s willing to push things pretty hard, such as with her treatment of the captured Jaime Lannister.
To become one of the faceless men you need to reach complete neutrality. You must not kill in anger or passion. The gift of death is something a master assassin like Jaqen can dispense very easily, but it is something he only does when commanded by his order in tribute to the many faced god. There can be no sense of self or ego, and if any is present then one is not worthy to be a servant of the Faceless Men and dwell in the House of Black and White. Jaqen H’ghar displays these qualities in his interactions with Arya. She saves him, putting him in her debt, and he gives her three deaths for the one that she stole away from the many faced god.
He does not care who they are, much like he doesn’t care for deaths of those who come to the House of Black and White and those whose deaths are commissioned for his order. It is a lesson in dispassionate amorality that Arya will never learn as she continues to whisper her nightly litany of people she wishes to kill. And given the fact that her becoming truly neutral would completely derail whatever interesting development that GRRM has been building up to, it’s best that she continues to remain completely incapable of making herself neutral and becoming no one.
So Jaimie’s a hard one. He probably started as neutral, dropped to neutral evil thanks to the influence of his sister and father, and then hauled back up to neutral through a grisly set of circumstances and a little help from Brienne of Tarth. I say probably because Jamie is more mentally complicated. I mean, he unseats the Mad King to save a city, but a few years later he throws a small child out of a tower. I think deep down, he wants to be a good person, but he has the worst influences imaginable.
Everything finally changes when he’s captured. It pulls him away from his sister and his father and leaves him to finally contemplate his actions. With the lose of his hand, he’s forced to question pretty much everything in his life. Currently, he’s trying pretty damn hard to fix the mess he’s made, and I’m going with neutral because while I think Jamie finally recognizes that he has some serious problems in his life, he never really had a firm regard for law and order. Really, all he cares about is his sister, and now he’s finally realized that she’s kind of evil and he’s put her out of his life.
With her influence out of the picture, he’s free to pursue his interests, romantic or platonic, with Brienne, even going so far as to try to remake himself in the image of her perfect knight. The reason he’s probably neutral at this point is everything he’s done, he’s done for other people. People he’s cared about. He balks at evil for it’s own sake, but is willing to do it for others. If the people around him are power hungry schemers, he’ll be more than willing to help them. If the people around him are decent, caring folk, he’ll model himself after them.
Despite Grey Worm being framed as a heroic commander, you have to remember fundamentally he is an unsullied. He will follow whatever rules his master gives him. Hell, he’d probably have eaten a baby if whoever was holding the scourge at the time told him to. He just had the fortune to be sold to Daenerys who's generally benevolent. But even if she supposedly “freed him,” his relationship with her is still one of subservience. Just because you tell someone they’re free doesn’t make them free. Grey Worm still has to contend with years upon years of mental conditioning.
While Barriston Selmy might represent the proud knight with his courtly laws, honors, and rules that we think of when we think of the concept of lawful neutral, Grey Worm is an equally valid representation of the lawful neutral ideals. Honestly, the unsullied remind me a great deal of formians. Grey worm and his men will follow any law and rule governed by Daenerys; his only moral compass are the rules set by his queen.
Nobody really likes Stannis. Even Stannis doesn't particularly like being Stannis. The only reason why Stannis wants the the throne is because by all lawful rules of succession, it should be his. He doesn’t really care that some fire priestess has christened him as Azor Ahai which is basically evil fire Jesus or particularly dig the religion that much, but after a lifetime of being overlooked despite dutiful service, he’ll take what he can get. What sort of makes Stannis kind of weirdly endearing is that he’s the Frank Grimes of the Game of Thrones Universe. He’s someone who trudges through life with little reward as he watches people less skilled and worthy than him reap rewards they don’t really deserve. He’ll always follow the law to the letter, but never particularly care about whether anything is good or evil. As long as he follows the laws of the land, his behavior will always be justified in his own mind.
There is no better poster child for lawful neutral then Barristan Selmy, a lifelong member of the Kingsguard. His sworn duty is to protect the king. Easily one of the greatest members of the Kingsguard even back when Jaime Lannister was an evil arrogant piece of shit, even he respected Barristan’s unyielding dedication to his duty. This was a man dedicated to dying by the sword in the name of whatever king was entrusted with ruling the realm and upholding the laws of the realm. That makes him lawful, but it does not make him good. Barristan stood beside the mad king Aerys Targaryen as he burned people alive, raped and abused his queen and committed any number of atrocities that came to his incest rattled mind. But Barristan Selmy never did the right thing.
His duty was always to his king, and no matter how terrible and flawed that King might be, he always stayed completely neutral without ever betraying the trust of whomever he was serving. King Aerys was largely loathed by the people and nobles, but because Barriston defended him till his last breath instead of stabbing him in the back like Jamie did, he was able to maintain his sense of honor. He even protected the absolutely rotten Joffery. Even after storming out of the capital, he proceeded to offer his services to another royal noble. He tracked down Daenerys, so he could go serve her instead. His transfer of loyalty to another in line for the throne was something he only offered because he was dismissed from service. He will always follow the laws of the land to the letter even till his dying breathe since he’s a man of the sword, and the last thing he’d ever want is a peaceful death.