In “Game of Thrones,” are there any truly kind characters?


The world of Westeros is filled with opportunists, murderers, bigots, thieves, rapists, spies and downright evil. Within this world, kindness is often equated with weakness, and the expansive cast of Game of Thrones (2011) includes few characters who can genuinely be classified as kind. However, there are a few empathetic souls whose personalities and actions, at least so far, are driven by what appears to be a genuine sense of good will and decency.

Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West)

The first character who comes to mind is maestorial candidate Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West), a pinnacle of kindness and the model against which everyone else’s decency is measured. After being sent to the Wall completely unprepared for the duties of the Night’s Watch, he befriends Jon Snow (Kit Harington). While he might not be a remarkable fighter or combatant, he is intelligent and compassionate, repeatedly going out of his way to protect people. He risks his life to rescue Gilly (Hannah Murray, portraying another purely kind character) from Craster (Robert Pugh), sells his possessions to help Maester Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan) and sympathizes with animals that are hunted or trapped. In short, he’s a sweet teddy bear unlikely to be swayed by Westeros’ rampant lack of virtue.

Perhaps the only character as pure as Samwell is Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman), the child king and younger brother of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) who has arguably not lived long enough to have yet acquired a taste for anything but kindness.

Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan)

Maester Aemon, too, shows nothing but kindness in his interactions with Jon and Sam. He trusts Jon when he reveals the tumultuous story of his lineage, explaining that he has essentially become a “forgotten” Targaryen. He finds Jon’s desire to avenge his family a noble cause and speaks nothing but wise and encouraging words.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington)

Jon Snow isn’t unequivocally good—he is tough when necessary and occasionally driven by self-service. Still, the core of his character is kindness. From the moment he presents Arya (Maisie Williams) with her sword, Needle, as a token of his remembrance, it is clear that Jon understands and respects the emotions of those around him. He uses this skill to befriend the Wildlings—a nearly impossible task—and win over Ygritte (Rose Leslie), bringing the group into his territory against centuries of tradition. He embodies many of the same generous personality traits of the man who raised him, Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean). Plus, he’s pretty.

Hodor (Kristian Nairn)

Hodor (Kristian Nairn) is a viewer favorite, not just because of his mysterious nature and one-line speech but also because he is one of the few vessels of true purity in the series. His entire purpose is to protect and mobilize the crippled Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Hodor doesn’t have the ability to be verbally unkind to people, and it’s worth noting that he isn’t particularly kind to those who aren’t kind to Bran—but Bran is the one the audience cares about, so Hodor is a good man.

Osha (Natalia Tena)

Bran’s other protector, Osha (Natalia Tena) is another outwardly kind soul, having risked her life to smuggle Bran and Rickon (Art Parkinson) out of Winterfell during Theon’s (Alfie Allen) massacre of the city. As a wildling spearwife, she has no honor-bound responsibility to Bran or House Stark, particularly since her presence at Winterfell is based on capture and forced servitude. Still, she forms a bond with Bran and saves his life.

Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer)

Do kindness and ruthless, self-serving ambition have to be mutually exclusive? Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) doesn’t think so. While she harbors transparent motives of gaining political power and status, her concrete actions are often expressions of kindness and service, from trudging through the poor corners of King’s Landing to befriending and offering sound advice to Sansa (Sophie Turner). Her means of navigating the social order of Westeros is through acts of kindness directed at the right recipients at the right times. She may have a curious knack for marrying ill-fated kings and her charity usually assists an ulterior motive, but it’s hard to deny that she treats those around her with respect, promoting less destructive courses of action than many of her ilk. She is essentially playing the game of thrones with careful courtesy—whether or not all her kindnesses are truly genuine, we’ll see.

Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)

Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) may be a former slaver and participant in terrible things, but his deeds always seem to be explained as the consequences of unfortunate circumstances. He became a slaver after a bad marriage, not because he enjoyed the trade. He betrayed Daenerys not because he wanted to but because he was given little choice. Seldom do Jorah’s history or present indiscretions mar the honor with which he navigates daily life and the kindness he wishes he were better capable of showing Daenerys. His inner good intentions and dignified way of carrying himself render him a pitiable and decent character, who possesses a loving heart beneath his gruff surface.

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)

And what of beloved Arya Stark? Similar to Jon Snow, she boasts a kind heart which she protects with confidence and a willful spirit. Like Jon, she has survived multiple sketchy circumstances thanks to an uncanny ability to befriend unlikely companions. She keeps a mental hit list of people who have wronged her family and must die at her hand, which is a decidedly unkind motivation for one’s life, yet her resilience as a small girl in the face of unending danger keeps her endlessly lovable. But is she kind? It certainly seems so at first, when she is safe and comfortable in Winterfell, but she quickly hardens as the world turns on her family. Still, she is open to kindness with those she trusts, like Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), suggesting the kind-hearted spirit of her father and childhood remain buried beneath the scabbed surface.

Arguments could be made about a number of other characters, including those whose kind moments are mixed with others of cunning and evil. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) begins the series looking like a truly terrible man, but his character arc reveals a broken, sensitive man who suffers under the weight of conflicted emotional, familial, and dutiful struggles. He has undeniably committed some terrible acts and frequently presents himself with the arrogance and superiority typical of his Lannister surname, but his behavior often suggests if things had played out differently in his life, he would be a different, perhaps even kinder, person.

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendolyn Christie) is a character who has shown no signs of malice, but she would more accurately be classified as honorable than kind, as she acts more in accordance with a personal code of duty than due to a feeling of warmth and good will to humankind. Even the Hound (Rory McCann) seems to have a hidden strand of kindness that has been suppressed by a life of familial torture, murder and his outward projection of a terrifying slayer of men. Perhaps his endless swearing and murderous threats are compensating for the kindness he feels is a weakness.

The Hound (Rory McCann)

For that matter, how about Daenerys? Her kindness is a point of contention within the ScreenPrism office. Some feel she is the kindest character of them all, freeing slaves and listening to their demands for hours on end. Her modus operandi is to do whatever is morally right and benefits the largest number of people. She destroys places of injustice and stands against fighting for sport as an immoral activity that does no good for the public. However, others feel that while she performs good deeds that benefit the lives of thousands, her choices align with her self-interest. Her actions gain support of the people and build armies which can assist her in her ambition to take over King’s Landing and restore the Targaryen name. As with Brienne, many of her “kind” decisions are truly dictated by her ethics, if they are not solely fueled by her personal desires. Is she showing kindness or a blend of ambition, ethics and pragmatism?

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

What do you think? Are there other characters you classify as kind?