When asked about the hero on Game of Thrones, many people might respond "Do you mean Jon Snow?" or "That Jaime Lannister is such a babe." In truth, however, the real hero of the story is Brienne of Tarth, beautifully played on the HBO series by Gwendoline Christie.
If you're thinking, "What? But she hasn't even won any huge battles, let alone ridden a dragon!" allow us to convince you. With an honourable nature that rivals Ned Stark's, a sense of loyalty that reveals her true Hufflepuff temperament, and a badass fighting style, here are five reasons Brienne is the best character on Game of Thrones.
- She turns sexism and attempted humiliation into victory: In both the books and TV show, Brienne uses others' shoddy treatment of women to her advantage on the battlefield. Oftentimes, male fighters underestimate Brienne because of her sex, allowing her to swiftly and skillfully gain the upper hand. Other men exert their energy all at once in an attempt to defeat her quickly — their pride encourages them to prove that men are better fighters than women — allowing Brienne to showcase endurance, strength, and discipline by outlasting them in battle.
- In a world filled with corruption, Brienne remains honourable: The series features many, many knights who let their vows fall to the wayside. Ser Jorah Mormont sells slaves, resulting in his banishment from Westeros. Jaime Lannister kills the king he's sworn to protect and pushes a small boy out a window . . . not to mention the whole relationship with Cersei. Meryn Trent slaughters innocent babies and beats Sansa senseless on the orders of King Joffrey.
But Brienne of Tarth holds her knightly vows to the highest esteem, reciting them with reverence when the situation calls for it. For example, in season two, she swears to Catelyn Stark: "I am yours, my lady. I will shield your back and give my life for yours if it comes to that. I swear it by the old gods and the new." And if she had not been abroad doing her lady's bidding during the Red Wedding, there's no doubt that Brienne would have fought the Freys and Boltons to her last breath. She also instills this quality in Podrick Payne, her squire.
- She's a vulnerable and realistic female character: Though Brienne is fiercely strong and a badass on the battlefield, she remains a realistic, relatable character. She struggles with self-esteem, blaming herself for the deaths of Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, and has always felt uncomfortable with her own physical appearance. These inner conflicts come up in her storyline, but Brienne never wavers in her dedication to the tasks she has sworn to complete.
- Her sense of loyalty is unmatched: As mentioned above, Brienne takes her knightly vows seriously — and that means diehard loyalty to her sworn lord (or lady). After battling to prove herself to Renly Baratheon, Brienne is his fiercest defender, even after his murder. Whenever Renly's honour is questioned, Brienne vehemently defends him, and only pledges allegiance to Lady Catelyn Stark on the condition that, when the time comes, she will not be held back from avenging her sworn king's death. (And, when the time comes, that's exactly what she does!)
During Catelyn Stark's life, Brienne travels day and night to find the Stark girls and ensure their safety. But after Lady Stark's murder, Brienne doesn't abandon her lady's quest — she continues to search for the Starks, eventually finding and pledging herself to Sansa. Despite Sansa's initial refusal, Brienne honours her promise to Catelyn and looks out for Sansa from afar to ensure, as best she can, that no harm comes to her.
- After years of darkness, Brienne brings light to Sansa's life: After years of physical and emotional torture at the hands of multiple "noble" houses, Brienne is the first glimmer of hope in Sansa Stark's life. Just as Stark resigns herself to death (yet again), Brienne and Podrick appear to aid in her flight from a Bolton-controlled Winterfell. Feeling a genuine sense of safety and relief for the first time in ages, Sansa accepts Brienne's pledge much like her late mother.
"Lady Sansa, I offer my services to you once again. I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours if need be. I swear it by the old gods and the new," vows Brienne, repeating the promise that she had once made to Lady Catelyn. "And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth, and meat and mead at my table," replies Sansa after Brienne saves her life. "And I pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonour. I swear it by the old gods and the new."
This season seems like only the beginning for Brienne, who finally has a living lady to fight for. We can't wait to see where her heroic story leads!