Game of Thrones: 5 Best Rivalries (& 5 That Make No Sense)
From The Hound and The Mountain to Jon Snow and Robb Stark, some of Game of Thrones rivalries just work. And others…well…don’t.
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For nearly a decade, HBO’s Game of Thrones entertained audiences around the world with epic swordfights, political scheming, and of course, familial rivalries. As the various noble houses of Westeros plotted to usurp one another, and their members sought to claim the Iron Throne, the Seven Kingdoms became engulfed in war. Every week new alliances were forged and new feuds deepened based on old grudges, providing hours of entertainment.
Whether viewers preferred the cloak and dagger intrigue of Littlefinger versus Varys, or the more violent rivalry of The Hound versus Ser Gregor, there was a bombastic competition for everyone’s taste. On occasion, as the rivalries became more complicated, the politics created feuds that made little sense, but all were welcome in the name of high-fantasy drama.
10 Best Rivalry: The Hound & The Mountain
Gregor Clegane was a sociopathic monster with the title of a knight. His brother Sandor was his victim, with the qualities of a knight but none of the accolades. Their turbulent childhoods provided the foundation for a powerful and bitter rivalry until the very end of the series.
Ser Gregor Clegane pledged his sword to House Lannister, and become the hulking Captain of the King’s Guard under Cersei Lannister. Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound who had suffered years of traumatic abuse at his hand finally brought him down when King’s Landing was attacked.
9 Makes No Sense: House Tarly & House Tyrell
Like House Stark and House Bolton, House Tarly and House Tyrell enjoyed an alliance for some time, before an inexplicable rivalry. When the Tyrells became enemies of the Lannisters, suddenly the Tarlys felt their alliance could no longer endure.
The Tarlys betrayed the Tyrells, leaving them vulnerable for sinister Lannister machinations. Their House was ultimately defeated because of the cowardly action of the Tarlys, but the Tarlys got their comeuppance in the form of dragonfire while they tried to return to King’s Landing.
8 Best Rivalry: Littlefinger & Varys
Though often overshadowed by the more ostentatious characters in the series, Littlefinger and Varys nevertheless are experts at the game of thrones, with their well-laid schemes having been behind some of the most important events between the noble houses.
It was enjoyable to watch the successes of one who believed in casting a wide net with greater short-term reward, and one who focused on the long con, with high-risk but higher yield. Petyr Baelish managed to go from being one of the lowliest lords of the series to having control over two of the seven kingdoms, while The Spider’s more abstract goal of the restoration of House Targaryen ultimately brought about Westeros stability.
7 Makes No Sense: Sansa and Arya
For the better part of the series, things have been black and white for both Arya and Sansa, especially since in Winterfell their world was truncated and isolated. However, after what they had both been through from Season 1 to their reunion at Winterfell in Season 7, their life experiences should have forced them to think in more grey and abstract terms.
This is why a manufactured sibling rivalry, aided by Littlefinger’s whispering, is counterproductive to two sisters who should know better. Especially since it hinges on Arya holding resentment for Sansa wanting to wrestle power away from Jon, as well as Sansa withholding information from Arya, such as not trusting Jon with details about the Knights of the Vale.
6 Best Rivalry: House Lannister & House Stark
There’s no doubt that one of the most electrifying rivalries in the entire series occurred between the Lannisters and Starks, the two noble Houses that drove much of the drama of the entire series. The Lannisters tried to crush the Starks all the way back in Season 1 by killing Ned Stark, but it only made them grow stronger.
The Starks were able to come back even stronger after the tragedy of the Red Wedding, and join forces with unlikely allies such as House Targaryen. In the final season, it’s a Stark who sits on the Iron Throne, while most of the Lannisters are dead.
5 Makes No Sense: Euron and Jamie
While certainly Euron and Jamie appeared to battle for Cersei’s attention, the bloodlust between them in the series was mostly manufactured. In the final season, when Euron was flung from his burning ship in Blackwater Bay, he happened to wash up on the shore exactly in front of the secret entrance, exactly when Jamie used it to escape King’s Landing so they can have a duel.
For Euron to leave his ship, and turn on Jamie in the middle of a war, seemed completely out of character for him. He was the first person in ages to successfully take down a dragon, and yet a crippled Jamie Lannister was able to best him in combat, despite the fact that the “Drowned God” also could have used blood magic.
4 Best Rivalry: Ned Stark & Jamie Lannister
Though it didn’t last more than a season, one of the most compelling rivalries was between Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister. After Ned judged Jaime for being a Kingslayer, the name stuck to the dueling prodigy, and no matter where he went, he was despised, igniting a burning hatred for the King in the North.
Though the duel they shared in Season 1 never occurred in the books, it proved a palpable representation of the two men’s disdain for one another. No doubt had Ned been in Season 8, they would have shared a greater rematch, perhaps on par with The Clegane Bowl.
3 Makes No Sense: Ellaria and Prince Doran
Ellaria Martell desperately wanted revenge against Oberyn’s brother for failing to take vengeance against the Lannister’s for his death. Prince Doran disregarded her sentiment, so she directed the Sand Snakes to take vengeance against him and Myrcella Lannister instead, despite it being the furthest thing from what Oberyn would have wanted.
In the books, Prince Doran has his own method of bringing revenge upon the Lannisters, but it has to do with one of his children marrying Dany, and Myrcella Lannister marrying his eldest son. There wasn’t a subplot about killing Myrcella Lannister because it was against Oberyn’s wishes. The rivalry that was developed between Ellaria and Prince Doran had no reason to exist.
2 Best Rivalry: Cersei And Margaery
From the moment doe-eyed Margaery Tyrell waltzed into King’s Landing, she had an agenda; to marry the king, manipulate him, and use her wiles to rule from the Iron Throne. Her machinations would put House Tyrell back in a place of prominence.
Cersei, fearing for her children and her position within King’s Landing, eyed Margaery as a dangerous threat. All of the careful grooming she’d done with her son Joffrey was ruined as soon as he stopped taking his mother’s advice in Season 3, leaving him vulnerable for Margaery’s schemes.
1 Makes No Sense: The Hound and Arya
When The Hound was ordered by Joffrey to kill Arya’s friend Mycah in Season 1, he became one of her deep-seeded enemies. She vowed that because of Mycah’s slaying, she would take her revenge at the closest opportunity. However, her experiences with him later in the series, especially after they’re forced to survive on their own in Westeros, softened her opinion.
It was at this point that their rivalry ceased to be a rivalry at all, and Arya learned a great deal from The Hound about survival and killing, which prepared her demonstrably for her training in Braavos. She also learned about how he protected Sansa from being violated on the streets of King’s Landing, which ultimately forced her to leave him to die (rather than kill him herself) after his battle with Brienne.