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Now that its pay cable reign has come to an end, Game Of Thrones has carved out a place in television history as one of its most beloved shows and also one of its most controversial.  Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of acclaimed novels, it delivered a sprawling tale of intrigue between multiple kingdoms in a mythical bygone era. Over eight seasons, it brought the fantasy genre into the mainstream in a way that shocked and delighted a fanbase that grew with each year. 

It also had one of the most hotly debated final seasons of any show ever. Schlockmania’s quick, spoiler-free take: between having to continue an adaptation without source material and deciding to wrap things up in a six-episode season, showrunners/creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss rushed events and character arcs that needed a few additional seasons to unfurl smoothly. Thus, you had changes in character behavior that felt unnatural, shorthand plotting that often felt implausible and an overall feeling that the story got to what could have been a satisfying end place in the wrong way.

That said, the journey is still worth taking for the genre-minded viewer: the first five seasons in particular are really strong. The scope of the production is mindboggling for television, feeling like an epic movie in virtually every episode. Best of all, there is a sprawling cast of characters brought to life by a fantastic ensemble of actors. One of the great strengths of Game Of Thrones was its ability to handle develop rich and involving arcs for multiple characters at once. 

The following is the second half of a list of Schlockmania’s favorite characters from the show, with an explanation of what makes each noteworthy.  It mostly shies away from the expected lead characters in favor of the second and third-tier players who made vivid impressions with less time than the more prominent characters in the narrative.  Watching their journeys was the most rewarding part of Game Of Thrones for Schlockmania.

Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal): there are plenty of colorful characters who pop up in a season to flesh out the plot but few are as colorful as Oberyn. He was a prince who flouted convention by being openly bisexual, a revenge-driven fighter who could also be kind to the downtrodden.  Pascal gave the character an appropriately fiery and charismatic performance, working beautifully with the show’s writers to create a character arc that is emblematic of the show’s complexity and ability to deliver take-your-breath-away surprises.

Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram): dealing with the misfortunes that fate can deal out is a running theme on Game Of Thrones – and poor Shireen gets some of the cruelest treatment fate can dish out: born a girl to parents who needed a boy to carry on the royal line, dooming her to be resented by her mother, and cursed through no fault of her own during infancy with a disfiguring medical condition.  Despite all these strikes against her, she is a kind and welcoming soul and a virtual ray of sunshine to fellow traveler Davos during some dark hours. In an unexpectedly heartwarming subplot, she even teaches him how to read. Warning: there are plenty of characters in this show whose plights might make you misty but Shireen will break your heart, guaranteed.

Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham): over the eight seasons of Game Of Thrones, you see many characters whose fortunes wax and wane – and their character is revealed by how they handle the shifts in fortune.  Davos is one of the most satisfying to watch because he actually learns from missteps, conducts himself with humility and does his best to do the honorable thing in even when those he is dealing with aren’t willing to do the same. Cunningham delivers a compelling performance that finds a blend of charisma and subtlety that fits the role perfectly. Few of the show’s tough guys are as charming or likeable as Davos.

Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg): There’s no shortage of arrogant, sharp-tongued royals on Game Of Thrones but the boss of the group has to be Lady Olenna Tyrell.  The grand matriarch of her clan, she is as canny a player of court politics as anyone else on the show and she delivers the best putdowns of anyone on the show, which is saying a lot (her verbal duels with all the members of the Lannister clans offer many of the show’s wittiest barbs).  Even when faced with dramatic reversals of fortune, she never loses her sense of control or her scorching wit – and veteran English actress Diana Rigg is a delight to watch in every scene.

Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen): of everyone associated with the Stark clan, this is the character who inspires the most complicated responses. He starts off as an adopted member of their group then rejects them to prove himself to his birth family, becoming hateful and monstrous. He falls from grace in a reversal of fortune that brings him unimaginable suffering… and he struggles his way to redemption, attempting to piece his identity and confidence back together while trying to right his past wrongs. Allen dives into the role’s challenges fearlessly and creates what is in Schlockmania’s estimation the most complex and rewarding character of the entire series.

Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen): Jorah fits into the group of Game Of Thrones characters who are driven by the idea of regaining a sense of honor. When we meet him, he has been rejected by kingdom and family alike, relegated to the depths where he is ordered to kill the young Daenerys to gain favor with the Lannisters.  He regains his dignity by choosing to serve her instead.  This begins a grand, tragic/romantic arc where he loves her from a distance and gives all to protect her. Even when he’s on the losing end of political machinations, he refuses to give up on his beliefs and proves his honor again and again in a way that humbles his staunchest critics.  This makes him one of the most heroic characters on the show – and Glen’s performance is pure class all the way.