HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones plays jump rope between medievalism and modernism while firmly retaining staples such as queens, kings, and their loyal armies. On one hand, characters like Tywin and his daughter, Cersei Lannister sought the concentration of power in their family. On the other hand, Daenerys Targaryen aimed to break the wheel of autocracy and save those on the ground.
While evidently, every House on Game of Thrones dreamed of seizing power, the fact is, some members were more democratic in their approach than others. These people understood and believed in modern ideas well before they had gained popularity in the show.
Jon Snow: Egalitarian Leader
Jon Snow’s slow transformation from an angry (but honorable) young boy to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and later, to the King in the North rests on the behavior which stood apart from the typical Westerosi morality.
Jon possessed the characteristics of a democratic leader, in that, he joined allies with the Wildings, fought beside them on battlefields, and happily joined ranks of the Free Folk again. All of Jon’s class acts on the show – from showing remorse after killing Olly to traveling to Dragonstone for his people stemmed from his virtuosity. There’s no denying some Game of Thrones characters were devoid of morality, or the fact that Jon tried his best to transform them into good, human beings who’d work for the collective good.
Daenerys Targaryen: Envisioned Breaking The Wheel
Though Daenerys Targaryen’s slow transformation and eventual doom is a woeful tale, viewers can’t deny that she envisioned breaking the wheel when she was at her strongest. She halted her conquest of Westeros and joined allies with Jon to combat the Dead because she did not want to rule over a graveyard of skeletons.
Daenerys knew feminity had power, and women were destined to be more than wives and mothers. Viewers remember her as the Mhysa who liberated the Slaver’s Bay and chained two of her dragons when Drogon burned a child. She trained her Khalasar to be honorable people, choose not three but the lot of them as her Bloodriders, and they, in turn, crossed the Narrow Sea to fight for her.
Arya Stark: Defied Gender Norms
Eddard Stark’s youngest daughter, Arya started as a valiant girl and later grew into a courageous woman who set out to explore the west of Westeros when she could have chosen to marry a high lord and rule his castle.
Arya was different from some of the other noble girls encountered in the series. In the pilot episode, she snuck off to shoot arrows with her brothers as Sansa stayed in. Eddard, like most fathers of the time, had the exact same plan for Arya that he had for Sansa – to marry them off to powerful men in the kingdom. But Arya’s “no that’s not me,” from the episode “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,” said it all. Viewers knew she’d always give herself the choice, and she stayed true to herself throughout.
Yara Greyjoy: Lead The Ironborn
Yara Greyjoy was one of the skillful warriors in Daenerys Targaryen’s inner circle. She easily outshined her brother, Theon, who had efficiently trained under the Starks in the North. Yara commanded respect amongst the Ironborn due to her prowess as a sailor and as a leader. She wasn’t bestowed with any special powers , but she’d earned her place.
Yara was skillfully able to convince Daenerys that men like her uncle (Euron Greyjoy) who believed women weren’t capable of ruling needed to be knocked into the ground. Thereafter, she willfully parted with her old Ironborn way of life (no raiding, roving, and plundering) and agreed to act honorably. Her forward-looking personality makes her the coolest Greyjoy on Game of Thrones.
Ser Brienne Of Tarth: Sneered At Knights And Knocked Them To Dust
Renly Baratheon’s camp was in awe to witness Brienne best Loras Tyrell in season 2’s “What Is Dead May Never Die.” More than that, people were astonished to find out a female warrior had earned a place in Renly’s Kingsguard.
Aside from being tactful, and a character with quotable lines, Brienne, time and again, proved herself to be the best fighter in the whole of Westeros. She’d overcome hurdles in life to become one of the most-skillful, female warriors in a social structure meant to benefit men. Towards the end of the show, Jaime Lannister rightfully knighted Brienne just in time to fight in the Battle of Winterfell. Her character arc holds up today on account of the fact that she thrived at a time when gender barriers were as rigid as possible.
Lord Eddard Stark: Cheered For Arya
How many girl dads on Game of Thrones can claim to be their daughters’ biggest cheerleaders? Not many and certainly not as early as season 1. Between Ned, Stannis Baratheon, and the honorable, Lord Glover, it is Ned who is deemed to be an excellent example of a patriarch.
Stannis made a choice to kill Princess Shireen, and Lord Glover was astonished when Jon told him they needed women to defend the North. Ned, on the other hand, hired Syrio Forel to train Arya how to swordfight. Ned proved he was ahead of his time because he’d let her daughter do what she wanted and not succumb to societal pressures.
Lord Varys: Served The Common Good, Not Any Monarch
Lord Varys was one of the most fascinating and underrated characters on Game of Thrones. His tête-à-tête with Ned down at the black cells in “The Pointy End” revealed that he truly served the people who made the realm, because in his own words, “someone must.” In a world where power-hungry rulers divided and conquered kingdoms, Varys believed that a true monarch should serve the commoners who pinned their hopes on the high and mighty.
Lord Varys hid behind the might of powerful kings, but not once did he think of betraying the poor and the needy. He did not flinch while looking the mother of dragons in the eye and confessing his true loyalties lay not with any ruler but with the people who suffer under the despots and prosper under the just rule.
Samwell Tarly: Proposed Democracy
Jon Snow’s secret-keeper and the most learned man in Game of Thrones was fobbed off at The Great Council of 305 AC for proposing the democratic rule. When the council was unsure about the inheritance of the crown, Yohn Royce spoke for everyone, saying, “we have to choose someone.”
Samwell interjected him and pointed out the irony of the situation. They only represented the great houses, and whomever they chose wouldn’t have to rule just over the ladies and lords. It was for the best that the decision be left to people because they were going to be affected the most by it. Sadly, Sam’s suggestion proved to be a bit before its time and he was overruled.