HBO smash hit “Game of Thrones” continues to dominate in the ratings, with a record-breaking 8.9 million viewers tuned into the season six finale.
And while much of this past season’s buzz revolved around hero Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and villain Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), the female characters were especially fabulous.
From leading armies to orchestrating a deadly coup, they made equal adversaries to their male counterparts in their ruthless bid for the throne. Warning: spoilers ahead.
Cersei is the character you love to hate. She’s done horrible things to be sure, but all for the sake of her family, particularly beloved children Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Or so it appeared.
At the end of season six, her release of wildfire – to rid her of both enemy Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and the pesky High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) – resulted in the shocking suicide of young King Tommen.
Instead of falling to pieces, Cersei gladly donned the crown and took her seat upon the Iron Throne, making it seem as if that had been her plan all along. Even brother – and lover – Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) seemed afraid as he saw Queen Cersei’s devilish grin, leading many to believe that in the coming season he may strike her down for the good of the realm, fulfilling the Queen’s long-feared prophecy that she will die “at the hands of the valonquar.”
While it’s easy to root against the evil that is Cersei Lannister, “Game of Thrones” would not be the same without the powerful performance of Lena Headey. She gives depth to a character who could have become a one-dimensional villain, with a sharp-tongued delivery and wicked side-eye that make Cersei hard to forget.
Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.
The queen of many names hit a bit of a rough patch going into this season, finding herself stranded by her dragon amidst a sea of unfriendly faces. But as her name suggests, the “Unburnt” showed off her otherworldly skills once again, burning the Khal to the ground when the Dothraki men made the admittedly poor decision to mock her.
She’s back to being a fierce general, bolstered by an army of thousands and literal fire-breathing dragons to finally stake her claim on the Iron Throne. With new alliances with Ellaria Sand and the Dornish Navy, the Tyrells, the Greyjoys, and the Dothraki, she seems poised to put up quite a fight.
Emilia Clarke’s portrayal, led by a stubborn ambition, without lack of vulnerability, makes for a character you can’t help but root for. And that softly smug, knowing smile she flashed as she took a verbal beating from the Khals before setting the whole Dosh Khaleen ablaze, that was enough to give you chills.
Arya has had perhaps the most brutal trajectory this past season, as she struggled to become “No One” as a pupil of the Many Faced God. She suffered blindness for a bit, was beaten to a pulp by the Waif in training, and was eventually stabbed in the stomach after disobeying orders.
But just as it seemed another Stark was about to bite the dust, Arya used her newly acquired skills to fight in darkness to take out the Waif, before standing up to Jaqen H’ghar and taking back her name. Having reclaimed her identity, Arya Stark returned to working on her list of enemies, taking out Walder Frey and his sons in a cringeworthy scene reminiscent of “Sweeney Todd.”
Arya is arguably a fan-favorite of the series, and that is thanks, in no small part, to her brilliant portrayal by Maisie Williams. She’s shown a great depth of emotion as the youngest Stark daughter since she was 14, and has presented a refreshing female character in the down-on-her-luck warrior. Williams was nominated for an Emmy this year for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
Lyanna was the breakout start of season six, appearing as the fearsome Lady of Bear Island, at only 10-years-old. She certainly doesn’t let people underestimate her due to her youth though, delivering a rousing speech to The North in efforts to raise support for Jon Snow.
In scolding the cowardly men for not first offering their support to the King of the North, Lyanna also has the honor of delivering iconic “Game of Thrones” line, “The North remembers.”
Bella Ramsey has not had many roles outside of “Game of Thrones,” but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by watching her. When she is onscreen the young actress demands attention, even eliciting chills from the audience in her strong reproach of the Northern armies.
The Red Priestess had quite the eventful start to season six, using her connection to the Lord of Light to bring back Jon Snow – confirming fan speculation. In another memorable scene, she removed her iconic red necklace to reveal that she is much older than she has led people to believe.
Melisandre’s hundreds of years of wisdom could seemingly come in handy as an advisor to the newly risen King of the North, but she appeared dispirited after Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane) spectacular loss at the end of season five. Her faith has been shaken.
And she does not have long to process her grief, as once Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) discovers that she was responsible for killing the Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) in a bid to win Stannis the Iron Throne, he banishes her from The North.
Carice van Houten is mesmerizing as the dark and mysterious Red Priestess. This season she layered her seductive performance with a vulnerability so powerful it somehow made viewers feel for a woman who had ordered the death of an innocent child.
Yara is another refreshing character on the series, as she is a woman not bound by the restrictive courtly life. She has long been her father’s right-hand woman, leading his armies and helping to rule the Salt Throne.
After her father’s death, Yara makes a play for the throne herself, and seemingly would have succeeded – making her the first Queen of the Iron Islands – had her murderous uncle Euron (Pilou Asbæk) not arrived.
However, Yara didn’t take the loss sitting down, instead stealing 100 ships with her brother Theon (Alfie Allen) and heading to Meereen to charm Daenerys into what will likely be a legendary alliance. She also found acclaim this season after her sexual preferences were revealed during a visit to a brothel. Speaking with Vulture about the inclusive revelation, actress Gemma Whelan explained that she doesn’t categorize Yara as bisexual or a lesbian, but rather pansexual as she is “up for anything.”
“That’s her ethos. I don’t think she swings any way in particular, other than the way she feels at the time. She’s just open-minded, which fits the character perfectly,” Whelan shared. The English actress serves the perfect combination of ferocity and gruffness as the one woman bold enough to inspire loyalty from the iron born.
Sansa may have been used as a pawn up until now, but in season six she found her power. She took her grisly revenge on abusive husband Ramsay, reunited with brother Jon and helped him to a victory in the “Battle of the Bastards,” and finally confronted the manipulative Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) for hanging her out to dry.
And though she’s still playing second fiddle to Jon now, Sansa seemed to be reconsidering Littlefinger’s offer. The newly anointed power player will likely be fighting for more credit for The North’s success come season seven.
Sophie Turner has gotten flack throughout her turn as Sansa, since she showed somewhat of a weaker character in the beginning, what with her entanglements with Joffrey. Although, to be fair, she was like, 13. The actress who plays her, however, has always done a fantastic job of giving a nuanced performance as the eldest Stark daughter stuck navigating the unfriendly terrain of Westeros.
And I mean, that smile as she walked away from Ramsay, leaving him to be devoured by the hounds? Chilling. This year Turner also snagged a role as Jean Grey in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
Brienne set the internet ablaze this season because of her unforgettable meeting with Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), who couldn’t help but unabashedly gaze at the stunning specimen that she is. The pair inspired a series of hilarious memes as the internet openly began to “ship” them as their favorite potential “Game of Thrones” couple. Of course, Brienne is not just to be looked at.
The fierce warrior began the season by upholding her promise to the late Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) by saving Sansa from Ramsay’s henchmen. Brienne sticks by Sansa’s side as she travels to reunite with her brother Jon, and then journeys to Riverrun to try to help her acquire the Blackfish’s (Clive Russell) army.
Gwendoline Christie is a fan-favorite, and it’s no surprise with her relatable performance as the out of place soldier, who pushes through her vulnerability to be a total badass. The rockstar performer also nabbed a spot in another wildly successful fandom, with a role as Captain Phasma in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
It was a difficult season for Olenna, as she saw the deaths of her son and beloved grandchildren at the hands of her enemy, Cersei. But the matriarch of House Tyrell isn’t known as the “Queen of Thorns” for nothing, and she was quickly spotted working out her revenge.
Olenna traveled to Dorne where she was spotted conspiring with Ellaria Sand and Varys (Conleth Hill). And in the final few minutes of the season finale her ships could be seen as part of Daenerys’ massive fleet on its way to take down Cersei and reclaim the Iron Throne.
Diana Rigg is endlessly entertaining as Olenna, who is as frighteningly cunning as she is kind. And she also adds comic relief to darkness of the series, filling each scene with her sharp-tongued barbs.
The Sand Snakes have been pretty maligned in their adaptation to the TV series, but they were certainly interesting this season to say the least. Ellaria has long lusted for vengeance following the brutal murder of her lover Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) in season four, and season six saw her set her plan into action.
At the end of season five, Ellaria orchestrated the murder of Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. And this season her plot for vengeance continued as she brutally murdered the leader of Dorne, Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig), while her daughters killed his son, Trystane (Toby Sebastian).
Indira Varma injects an unbridled ferocity into Ellaria, who is suffering since the loss of her partner. The “Rome” and “Luther” vet will likely play an even larger role in season seven, as Ellaria seeks vengeance against Cersei and the rest of the Lannisters.
Missandei is Dany’s right-hand woman. In her absence, she helps Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in trying to maintain the peace of the city. And when the Hand of the Queen fails to heed Missandai’s advice, the city comes under the attack by the masters of Astapor, Yunkai and Pentos.
Once Daenerys returns, Missandei is by her side as she meets with representatives from the slavers’ cities. And after the Queen silences their complaints by releasing her dragons, Missandei is seen joining her on the deck of the flagship en route to Westeros.
Nathalie Emmanuel’s Missandei is the embodiment of quiet grace – though she has a strength that she’s not afraid to use in support of Daenerys. And the actress has quite the schedule coming up in addition to season seven of “Game of Thrones,” including sci-fi flick “The Titan,” “Fast & Furious 8,” and “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.”
Gilly has come a long way from the quiet, frightened wife and daughter of the repulsive Craster (Robert Pugh) she was introduced as in season two. This season she stood by Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) side, bravely speaking up against the rudeness of his judgmental father.
She and Sam flee from his family’s house – with the stolen Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane – and arrive at the Citadel. Once there she watches over baby Sam as his namesake searches the Citadel library for a way to save everyone from the White Walkers.
The “Skins” actress plays the marginalized Gilly with an innocence and ethereal beauty. Her character has shown growth every season and makes for the perfect partner-in-crime for Sam.
“Game of Thrones” has received countless awards show wins and nominations thus far in its six-season run, including the prize for Best Drama at the 2016 Emmy Awards ceremony. It captivates audiences by putting its characters through the most dire of situations, from losing loved ones and having to fight for their lives, to physical violence, emotional duress, and unspeakable horrors of war.
However, amid the convoluted storylines and enormous cast, compelling, multidimensional female characters still find their time in the spotlight. And though the series has been criticized for its use of violence against women, it still manages to display the enduring strength of women, and how through strong will and determination they can succeed even when everything is stacked against them.
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