Game of Thrones is one of the biggest shows on television — literally. Its cast dwarfs that of most other shows, which is a necessity, given the show’s predilection for offing even its most popular characters. George R.R. Martin’s source material also makes it easy, considering the show writers have nearly endless personalities to adapt from book to screen.
That said, even a show as lauded as Game of Thrones has made its share of missteps. The following is a list of character additions that improved the show and a few that decidedly didn’t. Sometimes a character really hits because of what they bring out in the rest of the cast, and sometimes they were just exceptional adaptations that transcended the books. And sometimes a character found their way onto the show and just didn’t make the right impact, disappointing audiences rather than pleasing them,
Regardless, now that the show’s poised to wrap up the myriad storylines in play, it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane to see look back on what additions from season 2 onwards did the show justice and who deserved whatever miserable fate befell them.
It is a serious silver lining that many of the characters we felt “hurt” the show actually did wind up paying for that karmically. But that’s tempered a bit by knowing some of our favorites have also met horrible ends they didn’t deserve . What can we say? Game of Thrones is cruel mistress, but we’re too addicted to stop now.
Here are 12 New Character Additions That Hurt Game Of Thrones (And 13 That Saved It).
25 SAVED – LYANNA MORMONT
Lyanna Mormont is the best Mormont, hands down. We’ll always have a soft spot for sassy little girls who refuse to act their age, especially in a place like Westeros, which aren;t that fond of women in power.
It speaks to how loyal Bear Islanders are that they would follow a little girl because she’s the reigning Mormont and not try to take advantage of her youth to seek their own power.
Lyanna Mormont’s very existence represents the kind of values the North is known for and what sets them apart from the scheming of places like King’s Landing.
24 HURT – DAARIO
Despite how handsome both Daarios were, and despite how charming Michiel Huisman’s performance was, Daario was another one of Dany’s suitors that was just a placeholder.
The writing’s been on the wall for a while now regarding Jon and Dany’s potential romance, so any suitor she was into between Seasons 2-6 obviously wasn’t in it for the long haul.
We didn’t mind watching Daario go full Daario on the Sons of the Harpy in “Battle of the Bastards,” but he didn’t add much to the story, except to give Tyrion a reason to roll his eyes.
23 SAVED – GENDRY
On a show that doesn’t exactly lean in to comedy, Joe Dempsie always manages to make us giggle, no matter what the scene or episode. He was funny saying goodbye to Hot Pie. He was funny strapped down to a bed and covered in leeches. He was literally funny packing up his things and leaving King’s Landing with Davos.
He really gives us a glimpse of what a young Robert Baratheon would’ve been like – a good-natured guy who loved to swing a hammer and not much else.
As sad as Robert’s end was, it’s some comfort that Gendry will be his legacy, not Joffrey.
22 HURT – DICKON TARLY
Audiences were well-aware of Sam Tarly’s family despite them not showing up until season 6. After all, when you learn someone’s father threatened to destroy them if they didn’t join the Night’s Watch, it sticks with you.
Sam’s brother is supposed to be a dashing prince, by all accounts, but he fails to make an impact.
We also would’ve accepted him being a surprise good brother to Sam. Instead he was just handsome and kind of vacant – a wasted opportunity.
21 SAVED – SHIREEN BARATHEON
Shireen could’ve been a really problematic adaptation from book to show had they not found the right actress. She’s a pivotal and adorable part of Stannis and Davos’ storyline and has to wrestle with incredibly dark and mature themes despite having been so young.
Luckily, they cast Kerry Ingram, who rbought the Baratheon princess to life in a way that was heartwarming without being treacly.
Her passing is one of the most tragic in the series, especially considering her only desire in the game of thrones was the love of her parents. Way to go, Stannis. Way to go.
20 HURT – THE SAND SNAKES
The Sand Snakes are supposed to be dangerous and vengeful assassins motivated to burn the Lannisters to the ground in response to the death of their father Oberyn.
While these women are fierce and terrifying in the books, they were petulant children on the show.
Plus, Oberyn perished in a fair fight because he decided to swagger instead of eliminate the Mountain.
T he fact that all the Sand Snakes ever did was fight with each other or swear vengeance against the Lannisters for their father’s stupidity made them more annoying than entertaining by a long shot.
19 Saved – SHAE
Shae represents one of the rare examples of the show actually improving on the book.
George R.R. Martin’s Shae is a conniving child whom we never believe for a second has any real feelings for Tyrion. She’s a courtesan always on the lookout for herself first, and it’s heartbreaking to see Tyrion fall in love with her in spite of knowing that.
On the show, Sibel Kikelli and the writers redrew her so the character had genuine feelings for Tyrion, but still manages to get caught up in the web of lies and deceit perpetuated by the Lannisters.
Her story on the show became so much more impactful as a result.
18 HURT – DORAN MARTELL
Poor Prince Doran. His brother’s gone, his mistress-in-law causes way too much trouble, his nieces are no help, and his bodyguard is woefully ineffectual. Oh, and he’s got gout and is wheelchair bound.
Whatever authority he did have went the way of the Stark parents once Oberyn perished and he decided not to exterminate House Lannister immediately.
However, Prince Doran is far more interesting in the books. He’s interested in vengeance for his sister Elia, but he’s playing the long game, waiting for Daenerys to cross the Narrow Sea and seek allies. Unfortunately, the show dropped the ball.
17 SAVED – YARA GREYJOY
Yara Greyjoy was an utterly necessary addition to the show – she’s the only person who believes in Theon and understands him despite the sins he’d committed.
It’s very hard to feel sympathy for Theon during his first few seasons because despite the difficult upbringing he’s endured, he eliminates a bunch of innocent people in his quest to impress his father.
If it weren’t for Yara chasing after him time and time again and proving to the audience that he mattered to someone, we don’t know if the progression of his story would’ve been so resonant.
Plus, she’s a female pirate – she is literally the coolest girl in Westeros.
16 HURT – JOJEN REED
Jojen was necessary to move Bran’s story along, but that doesn’t make us like little psychic any better. It’s not that we don’t love Thomas Brodie-Sangster and it’s not that he didn’t do an incredible job with what the writers gave him. But Bran’s story dragged him around the frozen North for so, so many seasons, and the only dynamic characters in his entourage were Meera and Oosha.
Jojen supposedly had prophetic dreams, but we never even got to see one.
He just wheezed and dreamed and then perished.
15 SAVED – TORMUND
You know a character’s good for a show when you find yourself wishing you could go ranging with him. We’d absolutely brave the frozen tundra north of the Wall if it meant we got to enjoy a jug of fermented goat’s milk with our favorite ginger.
Kristofer Hivju has brilliantly portrayed the good-natured Wilding, imbuing him with a sense of humor on top of pragmatic principles.
In a world with so much tragedy, darkness and cynicism, Tormund’s lighthearted attitude and positive outlook are a breath of fresh air.
God knows Jon Snow’s not one to crack a smile more than once a year.
14 HURT – ROS
Esme Bianco is a wonderful, wonderful actress, and Ros was literally the only person who treated Theon with the weird combination of sass and tenderness he deserved. But unfortunately, the character ultimately became an unnecessary addition that wound up getting gratuitously used and victimized by both Littlefinger and Joffrey.
When she wasn’t the background for exposition or used as target practice for Joffrey, she clunkily served to move the plot forward by acting as a spy for Varys and somehow teaching herself accounting.
To put it simply, Ros never had much of a character of her own and we got tired of seeing her used and abused.
13 SAVED – MANCE RAYDER
Ciarán Hinds was the perfect choice to play Wildling leader Mance Rayder. He had a demeanor that was both roguish and scholarly, balancing out his other paternal influences, the honorable and righteous Ned Stark and Jeor Mormont.
It was an essential part of Jon’s development to be able to live with the Wildlings and emotionally connect with members of their culture. Otherwise he wouldn’t have become the leader he is in seasons 6 and 7.
If Jon wasn’t to suffer the same fate as his father or former Lord Commander, he needed the influence of someone who knew how to think independently and break the rules every once in a while.
12 HURT – BERIC DONDARRION
It’s not that we’re not big fans of the idea of Beric Dondarrion, but the execution left much to be desired.
His scenes with Arya and the Brotherhood Without Banners in season 2 are wonderful, but then we don’t see him for literal years.
It was fun that he turned up in season 6 again, but the amount of screen time he got during season 7 felt out of place and weird. He served only to bring back the spiritual element of the show that had fallen by the wayside.
11 SAVED – THE HIGH SPARROW
As nemeses go, the High Sparrow kind came out of the blue. Cersei was too busy convincing herself she’s a master puppeteer to see what’s happening in front of her face.
We’d watched for seasons as Cersei had mercilessly tormented anyone that so much as looked at her the wrong way, and to have the rug pulled out from under her in such an hilarious way was ultimately very satisfying. What made it even more satisfying was the inherent villainy in the High Sparrow.
As much as we enjoyed seeing Cersei taken down a peg or two, it was also great that we got to watch her blow him to smithereens.
10 HURT – TALISA
Robb’s wife didn’t make any friends during her time on the show – the audience didn’t really take to her and we know the Northern lords didn’t. Her modern, pacifist ideals were ludicrous in the context of Game of Thrones, and on top of that, it was Robb’s devotion to her that caused the Red Wedding.
While Oona Chaplin is a wonderful actress, she should’ve played the girl Robb actually fell in love with – Jeyne Westerling.
She wasn’t a pushover, but she also wasn’t someone an intelligent leader would know not to marry because she was politically problematic and he was in the middle of a war.
9 SAVED – YGRITTE
Ygritte was a character whose story was so predictable that it was an uphill battle for us to like her. But Rose Leslie created exactly the kind of girl we’d want Jon to be with – someone who lightened him up a little and forced him to stop taking himself so damn seriously.
Their early scenes when she teases him mercilessly reminded both Jon and us how to have fun in Westeros. We hate that she died in such a cliché way, but her early scenes with Jon – including that epic kiss – more than make up for it.
8 HURT – THE WAIF
The Waif seemingly had no other motivation other than to harass and eventually eliminate Arya. No real reason was ever given for the enmity she felt towards the Stark girl, so Arya spent most of season 6 going through the Game of Thrones version of Mean Girls.
It was lazy writing to ask audiences to accept that the Waif would be so threatened by Arya simply because they were at the same school.
It felt like we missed a scene where Jaqen H’ghar explained to the Waif and Arya that their face-off was required to graduate.
7 SAVED – OLENNA TYRELL
All we want is to be on Olenna Tyrell’s team in whatever capacity she’ll have us. The Queen of Thorns was such a marvelous addition to the show because she remains a rare bit of feminist representation in Game of Thrones.
It’s easy for a fantasy show set in a medival-esque universe to lean a little too heavily on victimizing women because of “realism.”
Olenna Tyrell was so formidable that she balanced out the toxic masculinity that ran rampant around her. We still miss her.
6 HURT – OLLY
Olly, the Northern refugee whose parents were destroyed in a Wildling raid in front of him, was a show addition, and we’re still not sure why he was ever there.
He was only supposed to be around for one episode, but writer’s assistant Dave Hill suggested Olly join the Night’s Watch and eventually be the one to take down Ygritte. If it had ended there, it might have been fine, but then Olly had to become part of the anti-Wildling movement and help eliminate Jon.
It was a cheap, unnecessary trick to make him part of Jon’s destruction, and an even cheaper trick to see him hanged.
5 SAVED – RANDYLL TARLY
James Faulkner could not have done a better job meeting our expectations when it came to Sam’s withholding father. He was exactly as judgmental and disappointed in Sam as we hoped he would be, but he was also loving enough toward the other members of his family that we didn’t hate him full stop.
As much as we loved Sam, we also understood why a career soldier like Randyll wouldn’t think Sam would be able to care for Horn Hill and the Tarly legacy the way someone like Dickon would have.
Randyll was probably wrong about Sam’s abilities, but he just felt like a product of his environment, more than anything else.
4 HURT – HIZDAHR
To be fair, Hizdahr hurting the show isn’t really his fault.
Nothing that happened in the slog that was Meereen went over very well, including this most forgettable of Dany’s suitors.
The dragon queen spends most of season 5 hemming and hawing over how to deal with the love/hate relationship the Meereenese people have with her. She decides to marry a Meereenese socialite, and that’s where Hizdahr comes in.
Unfortunately, he’s about as interesting as a piece of bread. All anyone does is make fun of him and then when he perishes, Tyrion kind of frowns and that’s literally it.
3 SAVED – QYBURN
Sure, Qyburn is demented and lacks boundaries, but honestly? He’s surrounded by so, so much worse.
What’s a little human experimentation compared with pushing Bran out a window or, say, flaying people alive? Straight up ask yourself whom you’d want to get dinner with — Qyburn or Walder Frey? We bet we know the answer to that question.
As nutty as he might be, Qyburn is an optimistic individual in a world that can be incredibly dour.
We wouldn’t want to be roommates with him, but we’re glad he’s around.
2 HURT – AREO HOTAH
In the books, Areo Hotah is one of the most formidable warriors in Westeros. He’s up there with Arthur Dayne and Barristan Selmy in terms of reputation, so the idea that the show reduced him to a glorified bodyguard who got taken down by a poisoned knife didn’t go over well.
Season 5 committed a lot crimes against George R.R. Martin’s source material and Dorne got the worst of it, unfortunately.
Anyone associated with that storyline who wasn’t a female warrior got offed at the beginning of season 6 and deservedly so.
1 SAVED – EURON GREYJOY
Adapting Euron Greyjoy was always going to be next to impossible. In the books he cuts a terrifying figure, and George R.R. Martin took his time drawing the character to ensure readers knew just how much of a sociopath Theon’s uncle was.
Unfortunately, the show has far less runway to work with, and considering they barely got around to introducing Euron Greyjoy by season 6, there was no way they were going to have time to translate him to the screen faithfully.
Instead of the hardened, evil pirate that appears in the books, the show went in a totally different direction and just made him the biggest, most powerful jerk in Westeros. And it works.
Who’s your favorite new character on Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!