To say that Game of Thrones has a lot of characters would be a vast understatement, as the show has one of the largest ensemble casts on television. Hell, this show has had so many characters that in certain cases, names have needed to be changed in order to avoid confusion, such as with the switch from Asha to Yara Greyjoy to avoid that character being confused with the wildling Osha.
It’s gotten to the point where it’s become all too easy to forget about many of the show’s minor characters, especially since the vast majority end up dead not long after they’re introduced. However, just because a character isn’t as important as someone like Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen, doesn’t meant that they haven’t made a valuable contribution to the plot in their own way. While the average Game of Thrones viewers has probably long forgotten about the following 10 characters, it’s hard to deny that each one of them were really important to the show overall.
10. Podrick Payne
Podrick Payne (or Pod, as others are fond of calling him) is neither a great warrior or skilled tactician, but he makes up for his physical and mental deficiencies with his honesty, loyalty, and overall good nature; a rarity among most Game of Thrones characters. While Podrick is pretty much the definition of a sidekick and rarely does anything that significantly impacts the overall narrative, he has had his moments. His greatest achievement thus far is arguably saving Tyrion’s life in the Battle of the Blackwater, proving that Pod is not only proficient in battle when needed, but also someone who can be trusted to have your back. Thus, he became one of the few people Tyrion could actually trust during the rest of his time in King’s Landing, prompting him to declare Pod to be the most loyal squire anyone could hope for.
Brienne of Tarth soon discovered this when he (reluctantly) brought Pod on as her own squire and even though he was laughably bad as a swordsman, his knowledge of Westeros and its people served the pair well, such as when he correctly identifies Arya Stark’s travelling companion to be The Hound. Podrick is a character with no truly exceptional accomplishments, but one who generally makes the lives of those around him better, which in itself is a quality that arguably makes him important as well.
A sworn brother of the Night’s Watch who appeared on the show in Seasons 1 and 2, Yoren is known as the “Wandering Crow,” as his job is to travel the Seven Kingdoms and find new recruits for the Night’s Watch. Yoren is depicted as one of the Watch’s most trusted and respectable members, being close friends with Benjen Stark and also forming a friendship with Tyrion during his stay at the Wall. However, Yoren is best remembered for his time spent with Arya Stark, as he looks out for her after Ned is taken prisoner in King’s Landing.
Without Yoren, it’s doubtful that Arya would have survived after her father’s execution, as he not only helps her flee the city but also gives her the idea of her infamous List, telling Arya that he made it a ritual of saying the name of his brother’s killer every night before he fell asleep. Yoren ends up sacrificing himself so that Arya, Gendry, and their other younger companions can escape Lannister soldiers, but his short time with Arya helped give her the skills needed to survive.
8. Lancel Lannister
Before he joined a religious cult and started carving circles into his head, Lancel Lannister was the dutiful cousin of Cersei Lannister, whom he served at court (and occasionally, in-between the sheets). The son of Ser Kevan Lannister, Lancel was never a particularly memorable character but he did perform the odd important narrative function, particularly in the early seasons.
It’s easy to forget now with the time that has passed, but Lancel was actually King Robert’s squire. Robert treated Lancel horribly but the young squire would get his revenge, carrying out Cersei’s wishes to over-serve Robert wine while out on a hunt, which ultimately ended with Robert being mortally wounded by a boar. While Lancel didn’t kill the King outright, getting him drunk and slowing his reaction time helped contribute to his eventual demise, so it’s fair to say that Lancel was a key player in instigating the War of the Five Kings.
A wildling woman who abandons Mance Rayder’s army and flees south of the Wall, Osha is probably the most significant wildling character next to Tormund Giantsbane and one who plays an integral role in ensuring Bran and Rickon Stark survive Theon Greyjoy’s (and later Ramsay Bolton’s) sacking of Winterfell, as well as on the road north. Osha acts as an adviser of sorts to Bran during her time as a servant at Winterfell, telling the boy of life beyond the Wall and the threats that exist there. She’s a firm believer in the existence of the White Walkers, even telling Bran at one point that his brother Robb is taking his army in the wrong direction and that the real war is to the north.
Her greatest moment is when she successfully escapes Winterfell with Bran and Rickon and tricks a pursuing Theon in the process, thereby ensuring the safety of the two boys. Unfortunately, Osha’s significance drops off considerably after the third season when she and Rickon essentially disappear from the show for two entire seasons, only to emerge in Season 6 as Ramsay’s prisoners. Osha meets an unfortunate end at the hands of Ramsay but hey, at least she nearly succeeds in assassinating him!
6. Qhorin Halfhand
Of the many minor characters to come and go on Game of Thrones, Night’s Watch ranger Qhorin Halfhand is near the top of our list of ones we miss the most. From moment one, Qhorin proved himself to be one of the best men in the Night’s Watch, as the likes of Jeor Mormont and Benjen Stark held him in high regard. Quorin also shares a similarity with Jaime Lannister, as he also lost his sword hand and had to relearn how to fight using his opposite hand.
Like most of the other characters on this list, Qhorin’s importance stems from the formative impact he had on a more significant character. In this case, it’s Jon Snow whom Qhorin takes under his wing and teaches some hard lessons about what it takes to survive beyond the Wall. Qhorin’s noble sacrifice not only spares Jon from being killed by the wildlings, it’s also the first step leading to the eventual peace brokered between the wildlings and the Night’s Watch, as Jon is forced to “become” a wildling and later comes to understand that his enemies aren’t so different from himself.
5. Syrio Forel
A master swordsman who spent nearly a decade serving as the First Sword of Braavos, Syrio Forel was Arya’s first combat teacher, training her in the Water Dance style, which privileges agility and speed over brute strength. Although Syrio’s time with Arya was brief, the lessons he taught her proved invaluable. In addition to teaching her how to be proficient with a blade, Syrio also gave Arya the mental tools to help cope with the horrors she would later face, showing her how to concentrate on the moment rather than be “with her trouble.”
Of course, Arya would pick up many other skills in addition to the Water Dance but Syrio’s teachings still form the foundation of her combat skills, as witnessed in her sparring session with Brienne of Tarth (who, coincidentally, is someone whose combat prowess relies on brute strength). Syrio has become such a legendary character at this point that his death has never actually been outright confirmed in the show, so it’s possible (though doubtful) that he’s still out there teaching his dancing lessons.
4. Lysa Arryn
Game of Thrones fans probably remember Lysa Arryn best as the woman who breastfed her son well past an age that was appropriate and for getting kicked out the Eyrie’s infamous moon door by Littlefinger, but this crazy lady was instrumental in arranging the central conflict of the entire series. Lysa’s arc stems from a lifelong jealousy of her older sister Catelyn and her contempt for her sister is evident in her cold, dismissive attitude with her when Catelyn visits her in the Vale.
While Lysa is undoubtedly an unstable person, it’s later revealed that she was instrumental in turning the Starks and Lannisters against each other. She not only poisoned her husband in order to be with Lord Petyr Baelish, she sends a letter to her sister on Baelish’s orders informing her that she suspects the Lannisters were behind the murder, knowing that this would increase hostilities between House Stark and House Lannister. While Lysa probably could have never come up with a scheme like that all on her own, Littlefinger wouldn’t have made it very far in his climb up the ranks without her being such a willing co-conspirator.
3. Doran Martell
Although he was largely depicted as a weak-willed ruler who wasn’t willing to make tough decisions, Prince Doran Martell of Dorne was actually a very intelligent ruler who saw the value in peaceful resolutions, in contrast to his more hot-headed brother Oberyn. The problem with Doran is that his characterization on Game of Thrones bears little resemblance to how George R.R. Martin portrays the character in his books. Whereas Doran seems to let the Lannisters walk all over him in the show, his book counterpart is much more calculating, working closely with his brother to undo the Lannisters over the years in retaliation for their deaths of their sister Elia and her children during the sacking of King’s Landing.
Even with his disappointing characterization in the series, the argument can still be made that Doran did more than anyone in helping keep Dorne thriving throughout the reign of King Robert and even after Robert’s death, and if he hadn’t been killed by his sister-in-law Ellaria Sand, perhaps the kingdom would have been able to withstand the war with Queen Cersei rather than lose all its rulers in one fell swoop.
2. Mirri Maz Duur
A Lhazareen godswife and healer who is taken captive by Khal Drogo in the first season, Mirri Maz Duur’s most notable action is deveiving Daenerys Targaryen, leaving her wounded husband Drogo in a vegetative state and taking Dany’s unborn child as retribution for what the Dothraki did to her people. While Mirri Maz Duur’s role may have been small, her actions had an enormous effect on the trajectory of the series, as Daenerys would not have achieved what she did without losing her husband and child.
Perhaps even more significantly, Mirri Maz Duur’s actions prompt Dany to burn her alive on Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, which Daenerys also puts her dragon eggs in and later enters herself. In a way, Mirri Maz Duur is responsible for the birth of Dany’s three dragons and without the despair and desperation Dany felt because of her actions, it’s hard to say if Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion would have otherwise been born.
1. Jon Arryn
It’s hard to say whether or not Jon Arryn qualifies as an actual Game of Thrones character, considering he’s already dead when we meet him in the pilot episode, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t play an important part in the events leading up to the beginning of the series. As Lord of the Eyrie and head of House Arryn, Jon was one of the most powerful men in Westeros during his time and played an important role in the formative years of both Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark, fostering the pair during their adolescence.
In fact, it was Jon Arryn who first declared war on the Mad King after he demanded that Ned and Robert be handed over to him, with House Stark and House Baratheon soon following the Lord of the Eyrie’s lead. As we know, Jon served as the Hand of the King under Robert for seventeen years, during which he was largely responsible for keeping the realm together while Robert drank and whored. And it was Jon who made the fateful discovery that Robert’s children were bastard’s fathered by Cersei Lannister’s brother Jaime, though he died before he could make this information known.