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Alternative Character Interpretation / A Song of Ice and Fire

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As a consequence of having complex characters and many Unreliable Narrators, pinning down someone's true character is very difficult to do. Opinions differ regarding the characters' motives, personalities, and moral alignments.

  • Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish: Power-mad Manipulative Bastard with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Heartbroken Badass, a Yandere Psychopathic Manchild or tragic Gatsby? Why not all four?
  • Is Stannis Baratheon a complete Jerkass who needs to lighten up, a Woobie who can't open up or exactly the king that Westeros needs? Or is he all of the above — a man so emotionally dysfunctional thanks to his unfortunate childhood that he can barely function socially, but also a brave, just, and pragmatic man who would make an excellent king, especially with winter on the way? Likewise, is Stannis really as much of an Unpopular Popular Character given that he commands the loyalty of Davos, Melisandre, several retainers who follow him even after defeat and exile, and later wins over Jon Snow and Sam Tarly to his side as supporters and well-wishers? The only people openly opposed to Stannis are the Lannisters, Varys, Littlefinger, Renly and the Tyrells, who are shown to be corrupt and two-faced.
    • There's also the theories that Stannis may be autistic, such as his ability to be very good in some areas (military, law) but lacking in social skills, his obsession with duty, and his uncomfortableness around women, though it has been theorized he's asexual. It is implied that even before his parents' deaths Stannis was a dour figure who had trouble lightening up, since his parents had brought the jester Patchface to teach Stannis how to laugh.
  • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane is considered by pretty much everyone in-universe to be a sadistic psychopath who kills for fun. His explanation is that everyone is like that - he just doesn't try to disguise it like they do. However he also shows a nicer side, like when he offers to take Sansa from King's Landing and keeps protecting Arya, though his intentions with Arya seem to be to sell her to her relatives. His cynicism and disrespect of the Knighthood seem to be largely due to his brother the Mountain, a monstrous psychopath who burnt Sandor's face and was knighted, meaning Sandor doesn't respect that institution.
  • What is Varys really doing? Every explanation or justification he has ever given for his various actions is undermined in some way by one of the many schemes he has running in parallel. Does he really just want to serve the realm as a whole (even if it requires a lot of dog shooting to do so) or is he concerned more for his own power and survival and his various contradictory schemes are simply him being Crazy-Prepared to make sure he'll always have Vetinari Job Security with the winning side? And despite his claim that he "serves the realm", his actions, helping the Lannisters instead of helping Ned Stark and Stannis, may have brought more chaos to the realm. Considering ADWD, he may have been deliberately weakening the current regimes for when the Targaryens invaded, even though this will inevitably lead to even more bloodshed.
    • Also, "The World of Ice and Fire" suggests that Rhaegar Targaryen may have been attempting to use the Tourney at Harrenhal to call a Great Council to solve the matter of his father as Aerys began to lose his sanity, possibly even deposing Aerys. However, Aerys left the Red Keep for the first time in years, possibly because Varys warned him, and so the GC never happened. Despite Varys claiming he serves the realm, did he deliberately avert something that could have ended the reign of an insane King and the wars that have resulted from this?
    • A common theory claims that Varys actually serves (or perhaps even is a member of) House Blackfyre, which is thought to be extinct but actually isn't (Young Griff, according to the theory, is really a Blackfyre heir).
    • Another theory, not necessarily opposed to the Blackfyre theory, is that Varys himself is a Targaryen, perhaps the descendant of a Targaryen exile, or maybe a Blackfyre himself. This is supported by a number of factors, including the magic ritual of his past where his privates were sacrificed, when magic in the setting has often been linked with king's blood (eg: Melisandre wanting to burn Robert Baratheon's bastards) and his familiarity with the secret passageways of the Red Keep when it's mentioned in Book One that "only the blood of the dragon" would ever know it's secrets. It's for the Blackfyres he's preparing Westeros by secretly hindering Targaryen, Stark and Lannister alike. In this interpretation, all that he does is not only to bring the Targaryens/Blackfyres back to prominence, but to destroy the Great Houses that had overthrown them in Robert's Rebellion.
  • Should we actually applaud honour in this world? Getting yourself killed with Honour Before Reason is one thing, but when it's been explained to you that refusing to get your own hands dirty will cause a war in which tens of thousands will be killed, and you still prioritise The Needs of the Many less than your personal honour, can you really be considered a "good" person? Ned Stark, we're looking at you.
    • On the reverse side, is completely setting aside honour but acting for The Needs of the Many going to have a positive effect on your self-esteem and moral character? Jaime Lannister, we're looking at you.
  • The Lannisters are frequently subject to this: Is Jaime sincerely trying to atone for his deeds or simply manipulate his public image? Is he genuinely remorseful over what he has done or simply self-justifying? Is Cersei a tragic case of paranoia? Did Tyrion's murder of his father and his lover take him from a tragically misunderstood character to outright villainy?
    • Let's not forget that even though Jaime has apparently become a better person he is still willing to let the Freys and Boltons be rewarded for the Red Wedding even though he personally despises them.
  • How decent is Tyrion really? Even though he gets sympathetic POV chapters and cultivates an image of a Hero with Bad Publicity, the fact remains he engages in a lot of quite villainous activity, and doesn't help this image by deliberately playing up his unpleasant side to make people feel uncomfortable, along with showing some quite elitist and sexist qualities, such as when he deliberately scares an enslaved prostitute before having sex with her. And even though Tyrion knows his nephew Joffrey is not the rightful King and describes him as a "vicious idiot", along with his father ordering atrocities to happen throughout the Riverlands, Tyrion helps Joffrey remain on the Iron Throne because his family is fighting for them, enabling a huge civil war to continue. Also, the fallout from his schemes are shown to have impacted badly on others. When he gives better weapons to Hill Tribes as a gesture of revenge against Lysa Arryn, the people who are really hit badly by this are the common people of the Vale. Meanwhile Tyrion planning to help Daenerys take the Iron Throne will probably cause even more warfare for the already devastated Westeros, yet Tyrion is helping her partially to get revenge on his family, even though he is one of the characters who supposedly most cares for the smallfolk.
    • Are his increasingly darker thoughts and actions at A Dance with Dragons an understandable behavior for a Woobie who experienced a devastating Trauma Conga Line that pushed him on the Then Let Me Be Evil ground? Or he was always a self-centered and somewhat ammoral character who only cared about someone else as long as they kept providing the trust and love he thinks he deserves?
  • Tywin Lannister is a big one for the series and the fandom. Is he a megalomaniacal Evil Overlord who will crush any and everyone in his obsessive quest for unrivaled superiority as his enemies believe? A complex Broken Ace forced into Pragmatic Villainy because of his father's mismanagement and wife's death, as per Pycelle and Kevan Lannister? A corrupt hypocrite who justifies his atrocities as being "good for the realm" when they are merely self-serving and spiteful (and criticises the son most like him for flaws he possesses)? Were his cruel actions Disproportionate Retribution and Evil Is Petty or a case of Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work as he justifies to Tyrion? Related, was is planning of the Red Wedding really motivated by pragmatism, or by getting harsh revenge against the teenage general who outclassed him on the battlefield at every turn?
  • Daenerys gets a lot of sympathy points for her Sympathetic P.O.V. chapters, but the fact remains she is still willing to start a war with "her" people to reclaim her "birthright", even though it has been repeatedly explained to her that the common people she believes are her subjects don't care who rules them, just as long as they can get on with their lives in peace. It has also been explained to her that her father really was a lunatic, and that some of the "Usurper's dogs" truly were good people, yet she still plans on obliterating them all for revenge. She seems to be acting like her brother in calling herself the Queen of Westeros, and though more likeable has still done some quite horrible things. She even claims the famously honorable Ned Stark had no honor for rebelling against her father, even though Aerys murdered Ned's father and brother without a trial then tried to have Ned and Robert killed, showing how out of touch she is with the truth. She could even be seen as a slightly nicer Foil of her very unsympathetic brother Viserys, yet still sharing his flaws and still thinking of themselves as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. She also runs on an incredibly egocentric view of herself, committing atrocities like the torture of a wineseller and his children not because of an insurgency, but because a singer she liked was among one of the slain.
    • Actually a lot of the various lords, even the sympathetic ones, get this, because they are still prioritising their personal honour and rights over those of the people they are meant to be ruling and protecting. Possibly excusable by the Deliberate Values Dissonance of the Medieval Stasis Crapsack World, but still jarring for the readers. Some of the only ones to not display this are people like Ned Stark, who ruled the North justly and is still fondly remembered, and Stannis Baratheon, who actually grows out of this mentality and acknowledges him only caring about his rights instead of the people of Westeros was "putting the cart before the horse."
  • Viserys gets some of this in fanon, despite being one of the most unsympathetic characters in the series. Is he just a jerkass who uses everyone, especially her sister, as pawns in his quest for his father's throne or has the pressure of having to restore the family name turned him into a tragic figure? Harry Lloyd definitely plays up some of the latter on the TV series. Also, the fifth book reveals that he was planning on taking Dany's virginity before her wedding to Drogo, but Illyrio placed guards in front of her bedroom to prevent him from doing that. In-universe, he views himself as the rightful King of Westeros and the last dragon, but most of the world just sees him as the pitiful Beggar King (along with the various unsavory epithets given to him by the Dothraki).
  • Robert Baratheon, especially In-Universe. Is he a Heartbroken Badass still mourning the loss of his Lost Lenore, a fat, drunken lech who drove the kingdom into debt, or just a soldier who never adjusted well to being a king? Definitely some combination of all of the above. While some believe that Robert raped Cersei after reading the latter's POV chapters, there is still a sizable number of other readers who consider Cersei too much of an Unreliable Narrator to trust her word alone or who believe that her chapter merely describes something more akin unenjoyable yet still consensual sex; the topic is hotly debated with differing interpretations over the subject. It depends on who you ask (and often which character the person you are asking holds more sympathy for).
    • To further complicate the matter is the fact that George R.R. Martin himself claimed that Robert was a "good man". This could mean that Robert didn't do the horrible things attributed to him, that he did and that Martin considers him a good person even after having done them, or even that Martin doesn't consider those things that bad. Or, that even people who generally mean well and usually behave in ways easily labelled "good" can screw up and do bad things they wouldn't normally do when under stress or in a state of chronic depression.
  • Rhaegar Targaryen. Robert sees him as a vile rapist and monster while Targaryen loyalists (and to be fair, pretty much everyone who isn't Robert) see him as a beloved figure. There is a seedier side to him, given that he abandoned his sickly wife Elia Martell (as well as the two children he had with her) in favor of Lyanna Stark. However, it should be noted that every single viewpoint or account of him is either from characters who were loyal to his cause or against it. More so, it is not exactly clear what he did in order to become beloved in the first place.
    • Probably some halo effect going on. Rhaegar was talented, intelligent, of great martial prowess (even though he ultimately couldn't hold a candle to Robert Baratheon), very handsome and - and this sets him apart from plenty of other lords - not a jerkass to the people. In other words, an easy person to swoon over.
  • Theon Greyjoy, especially since he's a character who changes drastically and dramatically. Most see him as a Jerkass, but this begins to shift after the fifth book.
  • Is the rap on Ned Stark, that he put Honor Before Reason and foolishly got himself killed and helped bring about a disastrous war, entirely, or at all, fair? What should he have done? Let Joffrey take the throne, as Petyr suggested? Joffrey was a sadistic psychopath, as Eddard well knew. Back Renly, as, well, Renly wanted, in exchange for the support of Renly's followers in taking the Red Keep and seizing the Queen and her children? What on earth makes anyone think that Renly would have been a good king, or even not a terrible one? Both Maester Cressen, who raised Renly, and Renly's grandmother-in-law, described Renly in basically the same way, as someone who looked good, sounded good, and therefore thought he ought to be king, despite having no valid claim and no real qualifications to rule, and they certainly seemed to have his number. Why should Eddard have wanted to put him on the throne? Would that have been for the good of the common people of Westeros? Crowning Joffrey would have meant putting another Aerys on the throne. Crowning Renly might not have been as bad, but it certainly would have meant a huge civil war, since Renly's claim was, frankly, nonexistent. Also the precedent of the youngest son usurping the throne would have completely disrupted the succession system the nobility was based on and would have been a cause for further conflict. Robert could be justified in that he was overthrowing a monster but Renly was basically just using Appeal to Force and in the long term could have plunged Westeros into a mass of fratricidal wars. So wasn't Eddard's plan, realistically speaking, the best available option for the good of the realm? Put the rightful king, Stannis, on the throne, and then explain to the whole country just why Stannis was the rightful king, and point out to everyone that, even if they don't particularly like Stannis, the alternative is civil war? Obviously it didn't work out, but what was his better choice? If he wanted to avoid war and disaster, what should he have done? Let's not forget that Stannis already knew about Joffrey's illegitimacy, was an experienced and ruthless military commander, and had command of the royal fleet, so either way there would have been war.
    • To add to that, the events and revelations in the rest of the series, after Ned meets his untimely end, make blatantly clear that there were some in the kingdom- looking at you, Varys and Littlefinger- who were bent on causing a war from the start, and there were others- the Lannisters, the Boltons- who were expecting and perhaps even looking forward to some sort of reckoning with the Stark clan and just waiting for any excuse to bring it about. Ned was a pawn from the start- it was Littlefinger who arranged for the death of the previous Hand of the King, even though everyone thought it was the Lannisters, and the point was to sow seeds of chaos for his own advantage, something killing Ned also achieved. Most of the people who have less honour than Ned Stark don't end up in enviable positions either, many dying even more humiliating deaths or otherwise watching their world collapse around them. In short, there were people who were playing a totally different game from everybody else, and many of those people had likely decided Ned Stark was going to die before he set foot in King's Landing; neither Ned, nor anyone else, was as "in the know" as they thought they were or needed to be to avert disaster, and compared to the rest, in the final analysis, Ned Stark comes across as the Only Sane Man and a Doomed Moral Victor.
    • The rap that the Starks suffer because they don't 'play the game'...also runs into the problem that those who do 'play the game' haven't exactly done stellar either. Renly Baratheon: dead. Tywin Lannister: dead and his legacy crumbling immediately. Doran Martell his secret and shadowy plan nearly got his family to tear itself apart and is still in flux for how long it was taking. Cersei Lannister: locked up, humiliated, abandoned. Only the Tyrells and Littlefinger have avoided this fate, and both have two more books to prove otherwise. The world makes both 'playstyles' suffer for it, and the Starks just seem to do worse because of how many of them we follow.
  • Pycelle is not a Lannister bootlicker. He just understands with a clarity no one else seems to have that the Order of Maesters, and by extension every other neutral Westerosi institution, cannot just stand by and let the realm ruin itself. They must choose a side.
    • Alternatively, not only is Pycelle loyal to the Lannisters, but he's a Manipulative Bastard on-par with Varys and Littlefinger, who worked to undermine Aerys' regime and ultimately bring down the Targaryens, and helped pave the way for House Lannister to eventually come to power. The television adaptation helped fuel these perceptions with it being made blatant that Pycelle is practicing Obfuscating Stupidity and is in much better physical and mental condition than he lets on; in the books it's unclear if he's just a Lannister toady, or if he really is a schemer working to further their agenda behind the scenes. Accordingly there are theories that he's a former member of a Lannister banner house who didn't really shed his house loyalties as the maesters are supposed to.
  • Is Melisandre a ruthless fundamentalist trying to enforce her religion or a sorceress who really is an agent of divine will? Is she a fanatic and Well-Intentioned Extremist whose commitment to the greater good of defending the realm against the Others makes her nearly as much a threat as what she fights against? Or is she Not Evil, Just Misunderstood as her own Sympathetic P.O.V. in A Dance With Dragons suggests? Despite her sinister methods Melisandre is right about the threat of the Others, and many of the more popular characters are ultimately just trying to benefit themselves and their families. Ironically, while some of her magic involves parlour tricks and illusions, it is her genuine clairvoyance which casts doubt on the efficacy of her magic. While she can, indeed, see the future, she still has to "interpret" it with her own biases and flawed judgment.
  • The Tyrells. They certainly seem like nice characters who care about the smallfolk and try to pacify Joffrey. However the fact remains they happily support Renly's poor claim to the throne, then after his death support Joffrey, before having Joffrey poisoned so his more easily influenced brother Tommen can become King. They then allow Tyrion, who has been one of the people most helping King's Landing and without which they couldn't have taken power, to take the blame and go through a farce of a trial in which he gets sentenced to death for their crimes. Are they really benevolent rulers, or villains with a good image whose political philosophy is mere Bread and Circuses? They take credit for giving out free food to end the starvation in King's Landing, but Tyrion points out they are actually responsible for the starvation by closing the Roseroad, showing they are willing to start wars, throw a city into chaos, and disrupt the laws of inheritance the realm is based on just to increase their own power. They could even be seen as basically the Lannisters with better PR.
    • Margaery in particular invites a lot of speculation to her character. Most likely she's neither the pure-hearted saint she portrays herself as nor the amoral shrew Cersei paints her as, but the extent to which she's one or the other is an open question. On one hand, she is just a teenage girl with a charmed life and unless she was aware of the plot to murder Joffrey, she hasn't really done anything wrong. But on the other hand, she was tutored in politics by the Queen of Thorns and shows signs of being much more clever and manipulative than she lets on. Littlefinger hints that Margaery doesn't even want to be queen, but then again we all know how reliable Littlefinger is. And let's not forget that despite her "sisterly" affection to Sansa she is not really motivated by trying to protect her, wanting her to marry a Tyrell so they can gain control of the North, and shuns her when Sansa is forced to marry a Lannister.
    • Ser Loras Tyrell. Knight in Shining Armor who joins the Kingsguard to protect his sister and out of grief for losing his lover Renly, or an arrogant jerk who continues to idealize Renly as an ideal King despite there being a lot of evidence to the contrary? Or simply a cocky boy, high on the adoration of the public and struggling with his sexuality and the political consequences of it in Westerosi society?
    • Lord Mace Tyrell. Bumbling buffoon or a continuously underestimated man with his eye on the prize? There are a lot of comments that would back up the former. His own mother calls him a fool and many other characters find frustrating and annoying. That said, he has successfully strengthened his family's position at relatively little expense. His daughter is queen, his son a member of the kingsguard, and he himself is now Hand of the King. However his plan to crown Renly would have in the long term probably turned out badly, creating a dangerous precedent for future Kings. Mace may be more cunning then first thought, but still lets his greed and arrogance blind him.
  • Sansa Stark is either an Alpha Bitch who morphs into a cold manipulator who's willing to kill a child for power or a normal, good-hearted pre-teen girl who copes with her horrible situation without succumbing to madness and hysteria. Also is Sansa a "true Stark" or the Black Sheep of the family in being too "Southern" for the North? Likewise, some wonder if Sansa's suffering from Loss of Identity, since she is able to misremember incidents, such as the "Un-Kiss" of Sandor, and that she is blending too well into her Alayne Stone identity? Did she honestly not remember what happened between Mycah, Joffrey, and Arya, or was she lying through her teeth?
  • There are heated debates as to whether or not Arya is turning into a sociopath, if she isn't one already. On one hand she shows a lot of compassion to the poor and downtrodden; but on the other hand she has little hesitation in slitting people's throats, even if they are generally Asshole Victims.
    • Well, she's unlikely to be a sociopath (seriously, people should stop throwing that term around every time a character shows some form of dissociative behavioural state: it's wildly inaccurate), simply because an antisocial personality was never her baseline to begin with, even at her most annoyingly bratty. But, a psychotic break (post-Red Wedding, upon discovering the death of her mother is the most likely point, but there are also other candidates), combat stress reaction (acquired over many incidents from and including the day her father died and she made her first kill), PTSD (her behaviour in Braavos would indicate this is possible, given her inability to switch down to relative non-combatant) and/or some flavour of a dissociative disorder (she gets rather too good at putting various personality traits and emotional states into boxes from at least Harrenhal onwards) of some degree? Likely. Whatever her exact issues, she's never going to be Arya Underfoot the way she used to be ever again. She's a solid depiction of a Child Soldier suffering many of the huge raft of interlocking issues they can acquire as they go.
  • From over a century before the books is Viserys II. When he succeeded to the throne he was seen as an Evil Uncle, due to suspicion he had poisoned his nephew, the very well-liked Baelor the Blessed. However, many historians think it is more likely Baelor died from his excessive fasting. Even if Viserys did poison Baelor, the fact remains he had been basically running the realm as Baelor's Hand for their 10 year reign and before that as Hand to Baelor's brother Daeron I and to Daeron and Baelor's father, his brother Aegon III. Baelor himself, while by far the most pious King of the Seven Kingdoms, and kind to the smallfolk, doesn't seem to have shown himself an efficient ruler, meaning Viserys basically had to run the realm for much longer than when he was officially King. It is even thought Baelor may have tried to convert the whole realm to the Faith of the Seven, which would have led to trouble with the North and Iron Islands, so his death may have been better for the realm. Tyrion even says if Viserys had ruled for longer than a year he may have been remembered as one of the best Kings the Seven Kingdoms ever had.
  • Aegon the Conqueror. He is remembered as The Ace among Kings for conquering most of Westeros and uniting six of the squabbling Seven Kingdoms, bringing about an era of relative peace, building King's Landing and other institutions which did not exist before him. However his claim to rule was basically that he had dragons and forced the other Kings to submit to it or perish. So was he really a great ruler, a Visionary Villain who brought progress to Westeros or merely a warlord hungry for glory, and as such no different from the likes of Renly with his Appeal to Force?
  • Long before Ageon's Conquest we have Theon Stark, also known as "the Hungry Wolf". After driving back an attempted Andal Invasion of The North, he sailed to Andalos and raided the lands in revenge. The ASOIAF Wiki describes it in the following manner; "Theon burned a score of Andal villages, killing hundreds and capturing three tower houses and a fortified sept. The king displayed the spiked heads of his victims along his coastline to deter future invaders". Some consider this an act of outright Genocide and see Theon Stark as a bloodthirsty monster. Other readers, on the other hand, consider his killing raids completly justified retribution against The Andal Race for trying to invade The North and see him as a heroic defender of his people. As with many things, this depends entirely on who you ask (as well as whether they identify more with the Andals or with the Northmen).
  • Was Viserys I really being a kind and loving father who sought to go against the gender bias of Westerosi inheritance by keeping his daughter as heir even when he had sons? Or was he a rather foolish Genre Blind figure who failed to see the obvious flaws in his plans for inheritance, leading to the worst civil war the Seven Kingdoms knew for over a century?
    • His children Rhaenyra and Aegon II can go through this depending on who's telling the story. It is claimed Aegon was convinced to take the crown by his mother and wife, yet he could have easily been motivated by the laws of Westeros obviously favoring him, despite his father's intentions. Similarly Rhaenyra may have felt justified as her father clearly wanted her to succeed, but could have been Genre Blind herself in just assuming the people would accept this, and went ahead with starting a huge war that killed thousands of people. Then there's her oppressive rule of King's Landing and her appalling treatment of the Dragonseed and Corlys who had proved completely loyal to her. So was she just as villainous as her brother, but gets treated worse in the Histories for being a woman?
  • The Blackfyres and their supporters. Did Daemon Blackfyre really believe himself the rightful King, having Targaryen parents on both sides, along with his father Aegon IV giving him the Targaryen ancestral blade Blackfyre when he was knighted and legitimizing him? Or was he just a greedy, but charismatic warrior who used Appeal to Force like Renly? Did Daemon and his supporters really believe that Aegon's heir Daeron II was a bastard by Aegon's brother Aemon? Or was that just a story Aegon helped fabricate to disown his decent son for opposing him so he could make one of his bastards the heir?
    • Did Ser Eustace Osgrey genuinely believe Daemon had more right to the throne than Daeron and was the better man and would restore lands he believed were rightfully his? Or was he just a greedy, self-entitled figure?
    • Was Daemon Blackfyre really an ambitious power-hungry man who rebelled on his own initiative, or was he just the puppet of the anti-Daeron camp (led by his half-brother Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers) who induced him to rebel?
  • What of Brynden Rivers, the infamous Lord Bloodraven? Similar to Tywin Lannister he gets a reputation as an Evil Chancellor, yet he seems to have been acting out of pragmatism. Shooting arrows into his troops to kill enemies and helping to kill his half-brother Daemon Blackfyre and his sons seem to have been instrumental in winning the Battle of the Redgrass field. His plans for hard penalties against the rebels may have been necessary as peace was kept for many years and when Aerys tried the milder penalty of trying to send Aegor Rivers to the Night's Watch they escaped. Like Viserys II, Bloodraven basically had to run the Seven Kingdoms during the reign of his inefficient nephew, Aerys I, who preferred reading to ruling. His police state methods and spies may have been necessary considering the Blackfyres are shown to have still posed a very real danger to the Iron Throne, and his methods were instrumental in containing the Second Blackfyre rebellion. Finally killing Aenys Blackfyre despite the offer of safe conduct before he could take part in the Great Council, an act which led to the newly-elected Aegon V sending him to the Night's Watch. Is Bloodraven a pragmatic character who acts always for the good of the realm even if he has to use dubious methods, like Varys claims to do? Or a ruthless figure who is too quick to use brutal methods?
    • Another idea is that Bloodraven's ruthless methods made a bad situation worse, as he focused more on the Blackfyres then protecting Westeros, making no move as Dagon Greyjoy ravaged the west coast, and just made people distrust the monarchy at a time when support for them was so important.
    • The present, man-tree form of Rivers is also a fountain of conflicting notions. Is he working against the Others or he is actually in cahoots with them?
  • Is Robb Stark an honorable figure and great King who always thinks of justice? Or a child in over-his-head situations, who constantly puts Honor Before Reason (executing one of his Lords even though he loses much of his troops, marrying Jeyne Westerling to save her honor even though this loses the support of one of his most powerful Lords)? Keeping the title of King in the North and trying to hold the basically undefendable Riverlands when he could have kept to the law by declaring for Stannis shows a habit of Didn't Think This Through.
    • It must be noted that the troops had secretly deserted before the execution. Lord Karstark had given them instructions to flee while he and his men slew the imprisoned squires.
  • In the case of Edmure Tully, fans are divided between seeing him as a can't-do-nothing-right Butt-Monkey Leeroy Jenkins or those who feel he's such a woobie that he's made The Scapegoat for Robb Stark's screw-ups. Fans are still divided as to whether Edmure Tully greatly exceeded Robb Stark's command and messed up his strategy, or that Robb and Blackfish are blaming Edmure for an outcome that even they did not foresee. There are essays arguing both viewpoints. In favor of Edmure and one in favor of Robb and Blackfish's overall strategy which Edmure messed up badly. Within the text however, Edmure Tully does take responsibility for his actions and admits to Robb and Blackfish that he made a mistake.
  • The story of Dany in Meereen and her Character Development and the overall aesop has also created a huge debate among fans, especially with the motivations of the Wise Masters of Meereen. Whether the Wise Masters are merely a Hat-wearing fantasy group whose culture and traditions are being destroyed by the Mighty Whitey Daenerys or if the Wise Masters are hypocritical slave drivers who says Culture Justifies Anything, working under the assumption that their culture rather than those of their slaves is more legitimate and worthy of respect.
  • Is Ser Barristan Selmy one of the most moral and honorable characters in the series and the closest to a "true knight" the series has or a moral coward who hides behind duty? He knew King Aerys was having innocent people burned alive and still served him. He vowed to protect Aerys and his family yet he willingly served Robert instead of either dying trying to avenge Aerys or protect the surviving Targaryens. He was willing to disregard Robert's will and serve Joffrey only deciding to seek out Daenerys after he was humiliatingly dismissed. He served as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for fifteen years, but it fell apart under his watch. He only regrets some of his decisions years after the damage has been done. Yet everyone still speaks of him as one of the best knights to have ever lived.
  • The Three Kingsguards at The Tower of Joy: Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent, and Gerold Hightower. While they are seen In-Universe as paragons of chivalry, there are fans who see them as stooges for following the Mad King Aerys and the maybe-rapist Prince Rhaegar.
  • Ser Kevan Lannister gets some liking from the fandom for showing a softer side in his POV chapter and being more of a family man than his ruthless brother Tywin. Varys even shows some upset over killing Kevan. On the other hand, he does go through with Tywin's order to make the Riverlands burn, and by today's standards would probably be seen as a brutal war criminal who was Just Following Orders. So is Varys right when he tells them they're a decent man working for a bad cause?
  • The High Sparrow. Scheming Knight Templar fanatic who is trying to create a brutal theocracy? Or a man who genuinely wants to help the smallfolk who have suffered most from the war? Even though he did basically gain his position through mob rule forcing the Most Devout to make him High Septon, he does sell much of the Faith's Wealth to feed the people, and he does show he is not willing to let people go unpunished for their sins because of their social status, which is a major problem in the Seven Kingdoms.
  • The story all but uses Night's Watch Desertion as a shorthand for evil (of the numerous deserters shown in the story, only one has been even remotely sympathetic), but is it really such a horrible thing? On one hand the Night's Watch is all that defends Westeros from an onslaught of Others and Wildlings, but on the other hand can you really blame people for wanting to leave? Many of the Deserters were not supposed to be there (Gared and Mance were both raised by The Watch from a young age; Daeron, Gared Tuttle, and Finn were both sent to The Watch for crimes they were not guilty of), and seeing The Watch's alliance with Craster (who, by the way, sacrifices his sons to the Others), can disillusion anyone. In the end, whether or not their desertions were justified or not depends on whether or not you value Loyalty over personal honor.
  • The Others themselves. Are they the ultimate evil bent on turning Westeros into a frozen wasteland, a misunderstood race simply wanting to expand their borders or are they just trying to regain their old territory Beyond the Wall from the encroaching humans, as agreed upon by an (possibly forgotten) ancient pact?
    • The issue of whether the Others are good is complicated (or perhaps simplified) by the fact the Others enslave animals as well (did the bear they enslave in ASOS break a pact with them?) and their first appearance, in the first chapter, has them murdering someone who didn't even know they were there and laughing at it. That said, this doesn't make them much worse than many of the human characters, and their dead minions are, well, dead - with the exception of Coldhands there's no evidence any wights have much in the way of self-awareness.
    • If you account for the fates of Craster’s male children, versus the fates of his female children, its obvious, thralls or not, the male children got the better end of the deal. While the Others could easily still be classically ‘evil,’ they are still achieving a little good on the franchise’s sliding scale.
  • While the Florents are usually regarded as one of the unlikable Jerk Houses do they really deserve this? Unlike the other hated Houses, such as the Peakes and Brackens, we only see House Florent at a single point in history and even then we have only seen a few Florents. While Axell and Selyse are R'hllor fanatics and Axell is especially hateful, Ser Imry Florent being a poor commander and a snob doesn't make him much worse then most of the nobility, and at his worst Lord Alester Florent could be seen as no worse then Mace Tyrell (who is arguably worse in not having previous ties to either of the two villainous usurpers he supports). And for all we know Alekyne and Colin could be decent people.
    • To add to this, Melessa Florent is consistently portrayed as a kind, decent woman who's simply married to a horrible person, not to mention that pretty much all of the people who are Florents through their mother's side (Samwell, Edric Storm, Shireen) are all good people. Imry's snobbishness is also something of an Informed Ability, since he thanks Davos for his advice preceeding the Battle of the Blackwater; Davos then interprets his eye movement as "he hates me". Ease up on the paranoia, would ya, Davos?
  • While Daeron II is thought of as one of the best Targaryen Kings did he really handle the Dornish situation well? His namesake and cousin Daeron I had been treacherously murdered at a peace meeting which understandably had angered much of the nobility. Daeron's peace with Dorne could have seemed massively lopsided to the nobility, as he let the Princes of Dorne keep their title and hold much more authority in their relationship with the Iron Throne then the other regions. This left a feeling of resentment throughout the realm, especially in the Reach, thus enabling the Blackfyre Rebellions.
  • Bran the Daughterless, if he really exists in-universe. Did his decision to pass over his inheritance from his daughter to his bastard grandson is because the former is a woman and the latter is man or because giving free rein of his legacy to someone who develops Stockholm Syndrome and sympathizes with your enemy is bad idea so he chose to name his grandson because of his proven allegiance to Stark (read: grandson murdering Bael the Bard, his father)?
  • Although there is no denying that Aerys II was a dysfunctional mess of a king whose violent actions contributed massively to the fall of House Targaryen, calling him Evil with a great, big E comes with problems. Because it's also very clear that his Sanity Slippage was openly visible for at least a decade, if not longer. He often gets the blame, but for him to get to his "Burn them all!" levels of clearly deluded took many people at Court either sitting on their hands or actively enabling/hiding his decline without planning ways to counter the damage he could do or even to properly help him. By the time Raegar was both old enough and politically secure enough to start making his own moves to maybe fix things, it was at least five years too late. And, Jaime, well: young bodyguards don't generally major in psychiatry, even were that possible... Yet those supposedly qualified in the rough equivalents within the Faith, the Maesters and the Kingsguard held to their misdirected neutrality (and inability to keep the Alchemists far away from him) over years and thereby helped create The Mad King, while letting Aerys the man, his family and, ultimately, the entire Kingdom down. Oh, and let a very helpful Varys establish himself without proper vetting, too. Ser Barristan finally gets it, but it's unclear if other characters besides Jaime do.
  • How aware was Lysa of the lack of consent between her and Petyr in their "relationship"? On the one hand, she's genuinely unstable and seems to think he loves her, but on the other hand the fact that sheet first only slept with him during times that he couldn't say no indicates she had some idea that he wasn't willing.
  • Catelyn Stark freeing Jaime Lannister in exchange for his promise to return her daughters: a stupid act of treason or an understandable response from a grieving mother who believes two of her sons have just been murdered and wants her children back?
  • Was Oberyn's choice to fight the Mountain, and be a bit reckless about it, fueled by the Mountain's death being, at the time, the last person he needed vengeance from over his sister and her children? Per this thoery, did he poison Tywin Lannister already (specifically with a poison called Widow's blood that messed up a man's bowels') which would have killed Tywin even without Tyrion's crossbolt?


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