There are many things that make Game of Thrones awesome. Dragons, people scheming in rooms, dragons, the way Jorah Mormont says “Khaleesi,” dragons, complicated characters who force viewers to take a nuanced perspective, dragons … you get the picture. I don’t need to sell you on Game of Thrones.
However, perhaps the best part of Game of Thrones is the show’s ability to throw characters together into these pressure-cooker situations and let the sparks fly. There are plenty of compelling relationships on the show that “make sense” — Margaery and Sansa bonding in King’s Landing, Littlefinger and Varys scheming together and against each other on the Small Council, Tywin Lannister clashing with his children — but some of the most compelling bonds are made between people that you wouldn’t expect. Crossing loyalties, family houses, socioeconomic position, age, gender, and a million other things, Westeros’ emotional foundation is built on the backs of odd couples.
Now that Game of Thrones has returned to our hearts and hardhomes, let’s look back at the duos (and a few small groups) that have made us swear fealty to the Iron Throne over the years.
Ramsay Bolton and Reek
Ah, yes. A match made in hell. Someone had to be at the bottom of the list, right? If Theon had played his cards differently, he could have leveraged his position as the last living son of Balon Greyjoy, but mistakes were made and he ended up the broken, abused Reek, vassal to Ramsay Bolton. It’s rare to see one without the other from Season 3 through to Theon’s escape at the end of Season 5, and it’s safe to say that this unfortunate duo made an impact on viewers. However, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the bond was eventually broken. Theon had a lot to atone for, but he more than paid his debts.
Cersei Lannister and Qyburn
Cersei is driven by spite and is cruel to her very core. At the same time, after all that she’s been forced to endure over the years, I don’t really blame her for blowing up the sept. When almost all of her allies had abandoned her after her Walk of Atonement, creepy Qyburn was there to dress her wounds and present her with the Zombie Mountain. Cersei probably didn’t expect the disgraced former maester to become the architect of her revenge, but that’s certainly where she ended up. These two are not to be underestimated.
Arya Stark and Jaqen H'Ghar
If we were just talking about Season 2, Arya Stark and Jaqen H’Ghar would definitely be further up this list. When A Man promises A Girl three deaths, these two are a duo to be reckoned with. Comical and menacing in equal measure, Jaqen was a worthy sparring partner for the spikiest Stark. Unfortunately, Arya’s storyline learning to be a Faceless Man in Seasons 5 and 6 kept her scrubbing floors and separated from the action for far too long. Interesting pay off, but a laborious process.
Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont
Two great characters on Game of Thrones, and they definitely have some worthwhile moments during their short time together. However, it basically ends up being Jorah and Tyrion’s No Good, Very Bad Road Trip. Not only does Tyrion accidentally tell Jorah that his father is dead, but Jorah also contracts greyscale while defending Tyrion from the Stone Men. He probably should have just left the Lannister in the brothel at Volantis.
Bran Stark’s Crew
Osha and Hodor are probably not the first pick of those who could defend the youngest Starks on their journey North, but these two proved themselves unfailingly loyal to the little lords. It doesn’t end well for any of them — R.I.P Osha, Hodor (sob), and Rickon — but if it’s true that the North remembers, this motley crew will not be lost to the winds.
Samwell Tarly and Gilly
Controversial opinion: I don’t really care about Sam and Gilly. I understand Sam’s importance to the plot and their story is very sweet, but this is usually when I go to the bathroom or refill my snacks. They are both pure of heart and I hope they get happy endings, but they kind of bore me. Side note: is Little Sam a perma-baby? Because I swear those Stark kids are aging at a rapid rate and that baby still looks the same, just with a little more hair.
Jon Snow and His Night’s Watch Brothers
While things end terribly for nearly everyone on the Night’s Watch (I’m rooting for you, Dolorous Ed!), the camaraderie that was built between Jon, Sam, Grenn, and Pyp warms the cockles of my heart. These young men were basically sent adrift into the world without any mooring, and their bonds with their new brothers give them a sense of purpose and loyalty. Their watches may now be long ended, but their brotherhood is not forgotten.
Tyrion Lannister and Bronn
Listen, I understand that ranking Tyrion and Bronn so low will be controversial. I know that Bronn is a fan favorite, but I just don’t get it. I really don’t. Sure, he’s got some quips and he’s helped various Lannisters out of scrapes when paid enough, but I do not understand the appeal of Bronn. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments. I shall remain firm.
Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne
For me, this is where the ranking gets difficult. Pod and Brienne are fan favorites and two of the few characters of Game of Thrones that could be considered wholly good, so when Jaime Lannister passes off Pod onto Brienne to be her squire, fans were given some Wholesome Content™. While Tyrion might have seen Pod’s potential at the Blackwater, it’s Brienne who truly sends him on his way to eventual knighthood. If he lives that long (I’M SORRY).
Arya Stark, Gendry, and Hot Pie
MY BABIES. It is a fool’s errand to hope for good things for anyone, but I really hope these three end up alright. Brought together because nobody wanted them, this trio made the best of some truly shit situations that they were way too young to deal with. It may have been a rough beginning in King’s Landing, but it ended with wolf bread and “you’d be my lady.” To quote Hot Pie, the true King of the Seven Kingdoms: “Don’t give up on the gravy.”
Tyrion Lannister and Oberyn Martell
I must admit that this one is so highly ranked because of the strength of what could have been and one scene. Oberyn Martell was not Tyrion’s first choice as champion, as the Red Viper was a notorious Lannister hater. However, Oberyn managed to show Tyrion more grace and humanity in one conversation in the dungeon than many have for the entire course of the show. The quieter moments on Game of Thrones can get lost in the fray, but Oberyn telling Tyrion that he will be his champion is the show at its best. If only he had gone for the head.
Davos Seaworth and Shireen Baratheon
Davos got a bit of a reputation as Everyone’s Dad, becoming a fatherly figure to every orphan he met along the way. However, his first and best bond was with Shireen Baratheon. Has there ever been a more heartwarming friendship on television ever? The girl hidden away in the tower, teaching a man hardened by life how to read? Here were two people that were rarely shown gentleness proving to each other and the world that they still had the capacity for kindness. Things ended tragically for Shireen, but I’m hopeful that Davos will get the chance to avenge her before the final credits roll.
Daenarys Targaryen and Jorah Mormont
These two. I die. Jorah may have started out a disgraced slaver who is feeding information back to King’s Landing about the last Targaryens, but he eventually was all in on serving the Dragon Queen. While his romantic love for her will always be one-sided, the strength of the bond between these two is not lessened because of it. I mean, he literally had his skin peeled from his body in order to be able to serve her. While they may have been forced to part a few times over the seasons, Dany has never had a closer advisor. Death most likely awaits Jorah, but I’m hoping that he gets the chance to serve his Khaleesi until the end.
Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister
All of the Stark kids have learned to play the game through various ways (mostly terrible situations), but Arya’s lessons truly began while serving as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer at Harrenhal. While he may not have known he was harboring his enemy’s child, Tywin recognized Arya’s sharp mind almost immediately. He may have been awful to his own children, but his words of wisdom were often what gave Arya the tools that she needed to survive. They were perhaps the most unexpected pair to grace our screens over the seasons, but every single scene they had together was absolutely riveting.
Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane
Bros before crows, all the way. If this were fan-fiction, Jon and Tormund’s relationship would be the classic enemies to lovers storyline. Sure, these two have kept it platonic (Tormund seems exclusively into bears and Brienne), but the plot points remain. Men of the Night’s Watch and wildlings are sworn enemies, so they obviously hate each other on sight. However, they soon recognize each other’s value to survival, so begrudging respect grows. Eventually, these two are absolutely ride-or-die for each other, keeping close counsel and being willing to throw themselves in front of an incoming arrow for the other if need be.
Arya Stark and The Hound
Honestly, Arya is one of those characters that can bring out the best in anyone. The Hound has a soft spot in his heart for both of the Stark girls, but his travels with Arya show a real change in a brutal man. While he started out on a mission to get paid, by the time they parted ways, Clegane had basically accepted the fact that he was her dad now and was more than willing to keep her safe even when the potential paydays disappeared. They may have parted on rough terms, but Arya did remove him from her list and he spoke with only fondness of her when he discussed her with Brienne in Season 7.
Brienne Of Tarth and Jaime Lannister
This was the only option for the top spot, right? Jaime and Brienne have bickered their way to loyalty since they first met, bringing out the best in each other whether they like it or not. It seems to be that Brienne is the only person who can shake Jaime from his Cersei-induced stupor, from his admission of what really happened the day he earned the title of Kingslayer to Brienne’s iconic “f*ck loyalty!” in Season 7. From many seasons of longing looks and breathless oaths, Jaime and Brienne’s bond, be it romantic or otherwise, is bound to inspire many songs in Westeros’s future. If anyone survives this last season (AGAIN, I AM SORRY).