As everyone knows, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die (duh.) But while your imminent death in Westeros is an all-but bygone conclusion, your killer could be anybody. Let’s take a look at the biggest villains and pro/con them (with spoilers only so far as the end of season 2; by the fifth book this list would be a novel in itself.)
The King on the Iron Throne.
Pros: Doesn’t do his own killing, so you’ll at least be in the capable hands of the royal executioner or a knight of the Kingsguard.
Cons: Joffrey is cold-blooded and cruel, the closest thing Thrones has to a pure evil villain. He will most likely make your death brutal and painful, or your life brutal and humiliating (see: having his betrothed stripped naked in the throne room and beaten.) Oh, and don’t forget that he is the preeminent king in the land, with almost unlimited power at his frivolous disposal.
The Queen Regent.
Pros: Ummm… she’s really pretty? I guess she’s a fiercely protective mother, even if some of her children aren’t really worth protecting.
Cons: Where to begin? Her children are really her brother’s. She plotted to have her husband murdered. She stood by and let Ned Stark be executed, which incited a war. She’s manipulating, conniving, impulsive, and volatile – basically a stone cold bitch. Do not cross her.
It’s not a game.
Pros: Eminent Westerosi weight-loss option.
Cons: Will not only kill you, but make you crazed so that you incite a mob to throw shit at the king, who will have you killed. Either way, you die.
The Imp, currently Hand of the King.
Pros: Obviously one of the best characters in the series (slash ever), but it’s easy to think that when you’re not one of the starving denizens of King’s Landing.
Cons: A dwarf, which people are much less accepting of in Westeros. Scapegoat for many of the ills the royal family inflicts on its people: as King’s Landing shuts its gates for protection and war ravages the fields in the Riverlands, food becomes more and more scarce, and starving people want someone to blame (this is why they formed a mob and literally tore apart the High Septon.) Tyrion (wrongly!) takes the brunt of this.
Exactly what it sounds like.
Pros: Will totally burn the fuck out of your enemies.
Cons: Will totally burn the fuck out of you.
The Hound, member of Joffrey’s Kingsguard.
Pros: Your death will be quick and clean. If you happen to be a sweet young hostage in the king’s court, this man will be your only protector. Though not “a true knight”, he is one of the most honest and forthright characters; i.e., pointing out that there are no true knights.
Cons: Literally loves killing. The Hound makes no excuses about enjoying his vicious acts, and might just laugh in your face as he cuts you to pieces.
Lord of Casterly Rock.
Pros: One of the smartest guys around. A skilled general with extreme familial loyalty, Tywin justifies all he does in the best interest of his family. He is cold and calculating, meaning he rarely if ever errs in judgment.
Cons: Certainly not winning any father-of-the-year awards, Tywin all but disowns Tyrion, berates Jaime, and allowed Cersei to get totally out of control while also, of course, marrying her off to some guy to advance their family’s standing. Beyond that, his cons are much the same as his pros: he will deftly and swiftly eradicate his enemies, so gods help you if you’re one.
Ser Gregor Clegane
The Mountain That Rides, a knight in the service of Tywin Lannister.
Pros: Not really any. The Mountain is a beast with no conscience.
Cons: He’s about 7 feet tall and could likely rip your head off with his bare hands. Doesn’t think twice about his kills. This is a man who, as a child, pushed his baby brother into a fire for playing with his toys. Don’t mess.
The Brave Companions
AKA the Bloody Mummers, a sellsword company currently in the employ of Tywin Lannister.
Pros: Cool name? Ish? Ah, who are we kidding, there’s nothing good about them.
Cons: Besides not being on the show, strikes against this group are their ill repute, their leader’s godawful lisp, and the fact that they tend to kill innocent people and have a propensity for cutting off feet. Remember when Arya and Gendry first arrived at Harrenhal and there was that rat-torture situation? Those were supposed to be The Bloody Mummers.
Melisandre of Asshai
The Red Witch, in service to Stannis Baratheon.
Pros: If you’re Stannis, she will (apparently) fuck you and birth a shadow baby to kill your enemies. In all seriousness, while that sucks, it’s probably better to kill one man than thousands.
Cons: A total religious zealot and, as previously stated, a witch. Interprets visions her god sends her in the fire, but is fallible in her readings. Has her own religious agenda, to which Stannis is kingpin.
Two X chromosomes
99 problems and a bitch IS one.
Pros: There’s like a 90% chance you’re a cooler character than any other contemporary heroines. You are probably a scion of feminism in a medieval-ish world.
Cons: You’re right down there with bastards on the inheritance scale (unless you live somewhere forward-thinking like Dorne.) You won’t be a ruler or a government official. Basically, just pray your father or brothers marry you to someone not awful.
The Prince of Winterfell, also called Theon Turncloak.
Pros: In Theon’s defense, he at least has the most complex and compelling reasons behind his actions. Not truly belonging to either the Greyjoy family or his surrogate Starks, Theon craves love and respect, acting in a way he hopes will garner them, from one family at the cost of the other. He is easily influenced by public opinion of him, which belies his insecurity.
Cons: Obviously, he hugely betrayed Robb Stark and besieged Winterfell. Oh, and he killed two small children. Being killed by Theon may mean getting the world’s shoddiest execution, terminating in him kicking your head off your neck. Living with Theon will leave you open to his rash and foolhardy decision-making as his legacy further decays and he grows more desperate.
The Bastard of Bolton.
Pros: Seriously none.
Cons: Literally everything. Ramsay hasn’t yet arrived on the scene as of episode 7, but beware. His presence will be a devastating and sociopathic one. Do keep in mind that the Boltons’ sigil is the flayed man, and Roose once tells his bastard, “Don’t make me wish I’d never raped your mother.” Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, amirite?
Lord of the Dreadfort, a bannerman of Robb Stark.
Pros: Quiet and calculating here take the place of reckless and cruel, which makes him more judicious in his killing. Also note that Roose is less inclined to the legacy of the Boltons than his bastard son.
Cons: The guy is really into leeches and has a pure evil bastard son. He hasn’t shown his cards yet, but keep your eye on this one, so close to the King in the North of late.
The Kingslayer, a member of Joffrey’s Kingsguard.
Pros: Perhaps the best sword in Westeros, which means you’d probably be dead before you realized you were about to die. Also perhaps one of the only honest men in Westeros (along with the Hound?!), as he admits to the impossibility of maintaining all the knight’s oaths. He’ll shoot you straight before killing you, and instead of having to traverse the country on a wild goose chase to find out who pushed your son out a window, you can just ask him and get an honest answer.
Cons: Sleeps with his sister (though he’s more loyal to her than most are to their wives.) Killed the king (though he was about to burn the city to ashes and asked Jaime to bring him the head of his father, Tywin.) Judge if ye will, but there’s more to Jaime than public perception would have it.
Pros: Not just yet? It’s still autumn for a few more seasons, so to speak.
Cons: It will kill you.
Ser Alliser Thorne
A man of the Night’s Watch.
Pros: One of the few black brothers who’s not a criminal; during the Sack of King’s Landing that won Robert’s Rebellion, Thorne stayed true to the Targaryens and was thus sent to the Wall when the wrong side won. Harsh though he may be, he strives to prepare new recruits for the horrors beyond the Wall.
Cons: A big bully. If you happen to be a fat coward, he will literally make the other kids beat you up.
Who’s your daddy?
Pros: Based on evidence, you may likely be a stone-cold fox. Good for you!
Cons: Everyone everywhere will constantly just call you “Bastard,” usually with a sneer. Very little upward mobility in life. You won’t inherit a damn thing, even if your dad raises you with his real family. And, of course, lifelong mommy/daddy issues.
The King Beyond the Wall.
Pros: Unites the Free People. Seeks to re-take the lands wrongly taken from them (which would be the Seven Kingdoms.) Unlike any other contestant kings, has the vast majority support of his people.
Cons: An oathbreaker; Mance was once a brother of the Night’s Watch until he deserted. Also, from the southern point of view, he does seek to overtake the Wall and invade the Seven Kingdoms. Yikes!
AKA The Free Folk.
Pros: Most easily likened to Native Americans, they were basically here first, then the ancestors of our current Westerosi denizens put up The Wall to keep the Free Folk out and inhabit their lands. So, their cause is sort of righteous.
Cons: Free means uncontrollable; they answer to no one, even their own King. These folk are a bit savage, and they’ll protect their rights with blood.
Not the indigenous inhabitants of The Island, but in fact a mysterious ancient race beyond The Wall.
Pros: They haven’t been seen for thousands of years!
Cons: …Until now. They’re back, they’re reanimating corpses as their thralls, and they’re coming for, well, everyone. Also, you know basically nothing about them and only really know how to kill a wight, which is like their pawn. Oh, and no one besides the Night’s Watch actually knows they’re back or cares, so you’ve got a couple hundred scraggly men as your only defense. Good luck with that one.
Mirri Maz Duur
Wise woman of the Lhazareen.
Pros: Avenged her people by eradicating the threat of the Stallion That Would Mount the World (aka Dany’s son, whom she killed) as well as Khal Drogo, who sacked her city.
Cons: The same as her pros, but from a different perspective. She murdered Dany’s baby and turned Khal Drogo into a vegetable. Her betrayal will stay with Dany forever.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos
Member of the Thirteen of Qarth.
Pros: Vouches for Dany to enter the city, saving her and her people from starvation. Rich, and generous to a degree. Though somewhat ruthless on the show, in the books he is self-serving but non-threatening (and certainly never steals Dany’s dragons!)
Cons: Does in fact want to marry Dany to procure one of her dragons. Denies her ships or men to retake Westeros.
Warlock of Qarth.
Pros: In the books, he doesn’t steal her dragons. Soon he will bring Dany to the House of the Undying, where if all goes according to the book, should offer her course-altering visions.
Cons: Probably untrustworthy, with his creepy blue lips and all.
The Beggar King.
Pros: He’s already dead, so the only person he can still hurt is Daenerys with a lifetime of psychological damage. In his defense though, Viserys suffered much like my beloved Theon. He grew up believing he would one day marry his sister and be a prince and life would always be peachy. Then his entire family was killed, he was driven from his home and country, and left to care for his sister (when he was only 6!) as they lived in poverty and constant fear. All he did was in the interest of avenging his family (Is that so different from our Stark kids? Viserys never killed near so many people as Arya, yet we love her and hate him. Just saying.)
Cons: A total prick. It’s not so bad that he married off his sister to a stranger, because that’s sort of what sisters were for, but he probably didn’t have to tell her, “I’d let all 40,000 of his men rape you, and their horses too, if that’s what it took.” Just rude. Also, he possessed a woefully false sense of entitlement and insecurity that led him to cruelty and petulance, which in turn led to his death.
Ser Jorah Mormont
Exile knight in the service of Daenerys Targaryen.
Pros: Is, as my friend Chris says, “a total fox” on the show. Utterly loyal to Daenerys, and one of the few people she can really trust.
Cons: Did I say trustworthy? I meant except for that time he sold intel about her to Varys that led to assassination attempts on her. Oops. Also, he was exiled for selling slaves in post-Emancipation Westeros. All in all, not much to be feared unless you’re anti-Dany: any enemy of his friend, y’know?
So, in conclusion, pretty much everything is bound to kill you in Westeros. My advice is to get yourself a direwolf and keep it near you AT ALL TIMES. Beyond that, you’re on your own.