Game of Thrones has always felt like a shrine to the Starks, especially in the way the fandom operates. The Lannisters, by contrast, seem to be the villains of the franchise — they’re the Slytherins, if you will.
However, if I had to pledge allegiance to any family in Game of Thrones, I would, by and far, be a Lannister. They are the Most Valuable Family in this series. They are hot-blooded, tempestuous, and just plain cool. They have purpose. Like a set of emotionally abused superheroes, each Lannister wields an icy stare and an unforgiving view of the world. If this were Grease, they would be Rizzo, mooning about on the black top, singing about all the “worse things” they could do. They’re all on the right side of witty , and, most importantly, they all seem to have an affinity for wine.
And the Starks are — in my opinion — just really boring.
Cersei (Lena Headey) has a bad rap in Game of Thrones world, which is somewhat understandable. She made a bad first impression! In the premiere episode, she tried to kill an innocent little boy, albeit indirectly. That’ll really ruin your chances at likeability.
Over the years, though, Cersei’s proven that she’s not just a hissing demon, here to ruin life for the Starks. She’s just a woman doing what it takes to survive in this blasted world. She continues to demonstrate that there are reasons — good reasons — behind her vitriolic madness. Dare I say she’s grab-a-beer-worthy? Even in the first season, when she’s perhaps at her most villainous, she’s not entirely unsympathetic. When Ned Stark captures Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and attacks Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), he seems like a hero. (He’s Mr. Moral Code Ned Stark, blah, blah, blah.) But he still captured an innocent man, and put out his pitchforks for another who was just following orders. Cersei, on the other hand, wants Ned to pay for what he’s done — for what he’s done to her family. When Robert Baratheon wants to softball him, she hisses, “I should wear the armor. And you the gown.” For which, she is promptly slapped. Cersei’s had it rough.
Need I mention that half the Starks are dead? It’s because the only interesting thing they can do is die.
There are other moments where Cersei shines: hanging with Sansa during the Battle of Blackwater; when she gave Sansa advice following the girl’s first “flowering” (period); or the time we saw her in a flashback meet with a witch in the woods and say, “You’re not terrifying, you’re boring.”
If these are the two options in this world — terrifying or boring — then the Starks fit in the latter category. Snooze.
Since he pushed Bran Stark off the tower, Jaime Lannister has steadily earned a good name in the Game of Thrones ‘verse. He started a friendly relationship with Brienne (Gwendolyn Christie) — second only in terms of friendships to Tyrion and Bronn (Jerome Flynn). He earned the sympathy of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). Game of Thrones fans mourned when he watched his daughter Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) die in front of him. Jaime escaped the Starks’ doom by being complex. He, like the rest of the population, has an array of responsibilities, and he responds to them as best he can. Sometimes, that means attempted murder. Other times, it means killing the Mad King, even though you know it’s a thankless task.
And then there are the Starks. Sansa is indecisive and just barely saved her brother during the Battle of the Bastards. Arya is a wannabe super-witch who isn’t even that good at witch school. And Jon Snow’s doe eyes put me to sleep.
I see no need to defend Tyrion, but I will anyway: He’s cool. He seems to understand how the world works. When he was married to Sansa, he didn’t force her to do anything, you know, marriage-y with him. The one kind of bonkers thing he’s done is murder his father, which was a very warranted murder anyway. Now, he’s advising Daenarys, which actually might be one of the more ill-advised things he’s done.
As for the rest of the Lannies, they’re not doing so well — there’s Tywin (dead), Joffrey (dead), Myrcella (dead) and Tommen (defenestrated). Even cousin Lancel (Eugene Simon) died in the dragonfire blast at the end of season 6. Their deaths aren’t received with the same fanfare as the Starks, though. When Starks die, there’s open weeping in the streets. (I had friends call after the Red Wedding, making sure that I was okay.) In the case of the Lannisters, conniving, head-honcho family deaths are more often the result of collateral damage — they’re the smashed glass, thrown on the floor in celebration.
The Lannisters have had a tough lot in life. They aren’t kings like the Targaryens, and they can’t lay claim to the snooty/snooze-worthy “honor” of the Starks. They’re wannabes, in a sense. They pay back their debts and try their hardest to fit in, despite everything. In a sense, it’s not all that surprising Cersei would turn to Jaime for love. Who else is she going to love, Ned Stark?
Game of Thrones has always seemed like the Starks’ kingdom even beyond Winterfell, especially when you leave the confines of the show. They get a lot of attention. Remember when we all thought Jon Snow was dead? Even then-president Obama wanted to know the answer. In my opinion, it was a blissful few months.
The Starks represent a moral compass of sorts for the series — even their take on revenge has the smarmy self-satisfaction of a person who’s done good by the world. This sets them up to be the heroes of the Seven Kingdoms, and also the most heralded characters. The moral compass, though, is rarely all that interesting. In fact, characters with a strong sense of ethics tend to die because, I’ll reiterate, that’s the only interesting thing they can do. That’s why Glenn from The Walking Dead was destined for a bloody ending, and why the infamous Red Wedding was so effective.
The Lannisters, on the other hand, are ambitious, driven, emotional, wise, and always down to repay a debt. I get the sense that they’re the opposite of flaky. Cersei shows up to all her appointments on time, and Jaime never forgets a birthday.
Meanwhile, the Starks just can’t get their shit together. They’re too busy considering the implications of their actions or something moral like that.
The Lannisters rule.
Jon Snow is boring.
Don’t even get me started on the bloviating Targaryens.
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