Game of Thrones (2011-) is back, and with it comes millions of people challenged to remember all the faces and names that comprise its massive ensemble cast. With so many locations, houses, groups, armies, allegiances and rivalries flowing through the veins of Westeros and its citizens, it's hard to remember just where everyone fits. Fortunately for you, we've done our best to create a little guide of all the major players, reminding you who they are, where they fit, and why they matter. Since nobody has time to read up on absolutely everyone in the immense Thrones world, we highlighted the characters that are still alive and capable of making an appearance on the series or who were big enough players to still receive mention or have lasting effect on those surviving.
Needless to say, this article contains spoilers about the characters listed. If you aren't caught up on the series, look no further.
"Ours is the fury." - Motto of House Baratheon
Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy)
Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert took the throne during the conquest known as Robert's Rebellion. A great warrior in his youth, he killed Rhaegar Targaryen at the Battle of the Trident and married Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) following the death of Lyanna Stark, his true love and betrothed. With Cersei, a loveless marriage produced three children that aren't actually his, but Cersei's twin brother Jaime's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau). His only trueborn son with Cersei died in infancy, and he has an unacknowledged bastard, Gendry (Joe Dempsie), living without a bastard's surname. Robert has a long-standing friendship with Ned Stark (Sean Bean), as the two, along with Jon Arryn, were raised together. Robert inherited the throne as the man who led the rebellion, killed Rhaegar, and had Targaryen blood from his paternal grandmother. Robert dies at the end of the first season, sparking the War of the Five Kings to fill his vacancy, during which both of his brothers, Joffrey, and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) all crown themselves king.
Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane)
The Lord of Dragonstone, Stannis spends his tenure on the series vying for control of the throne his brother left behind. A serious and severe man, he associates with a red priestess named Melisandre to stealthily murder his brother Renly using a smoke demon, the nature of which allows the crime to go unpunished for some time. Stannis believes he deserves the throne as Robert's oldest brother, and because he knows the true parentage of Robert's children. His wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), bore him only one daughter, for which he views her as sickly and weak. Instead he relates with Melisandre, and under her charge has converted his family to the Lord of Light, adopting the flaming red heart of the Lord of Light with the stag of Baratheon in the middle as his sigil. In his fight for power, he is defeated at the Battle of Blackwater when sieging King's Landing and retreats into depression and solitude at Dragonstone, growing increasingly paranoid and irrational. He eventually sacrifices his only daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram) and kidnaps Robert's bastard Gendry to perform blood magic, thinking the alternative will work where fighting for the throne has failed him. Melisandre's involvement does little more than cause the destruction of the Baratheon army and Stannis' family. He is ultimately executed by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) in an act of vengeance for the murder of Renly.
Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony)
The younger brother to Robert and Stannis, Renly holds the title Master of Laws during his brother Robert's tenure as king. Disputing claims by Stannis and Joffrey, Renly claims the Iron Throne following Robert's death. Renly forms an army with the help of House Tyrell, with whom he gains association by marrying Margaery (Natalie Dormer), the sister of his true lover, Loras (Finn Jones), a highly skilled knight and heir to Highgarden. Renly is assassinated by a shadow creature conjured by Melisandre in the name of Stannis, leaving Renly's amassed army to swear fealty to the older brother.
Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson)
The eldest "son" of King Robert, Joffrey is actually the offspring of Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime. He is originally betrothed to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in King Robert's plan to associate the Starks and Lannisters by blood. Following his father's death, he inherits the throne and exhibits terror over everyone, forming a terrible public opinion. His first matter of business as King is the execution of Eddard Stark. He masks his incompetence and cowardice with sadism and tyranny. He rules with cruelty and arrogance while his grandfather Tywin Lannister does all of the real work in governance. The Lannisters win the Battle of Blackwater thanks to Tywin calling on the assistance of House Tyrell, to whom Joffrey grants one request. They ask he marry Margaery in place of Sansa, unifying the houses, and he accepts. Joffrey is murdered at his wedding to Margaery by poison, in a plot hatched by Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and facilitated by Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). Joffrey dies in his mother's arms at the ceremony which becomes known as "The Purple Wedding."
Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson / Nell Tiger Free)
Thought to be the only daughter of Robert and Cersei, like her siblings, she is really the offspring of Cersei and Jaime. She spends much of the series having been sent away to live in Dorne under an arranged marriage to Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian), securing a relationship between the Martell and Lannister houses. After Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) is murdered by The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) in combat, Oberyn's paramour, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), is furious and threatens to torture and mutilate Myrcella to send Cersei a message. Cersei sends Jaime to Dorne to rescue Myrcella in a movement that appears to have worked -- until she is murdered by via a fatal poison administered by a kiss from Ellaria, and dies in her uncle/father Jaime's arms aboard a ship headed back to King's Landing.
Tommen Baratheon (Callum Wharry / Dean Charles Chapman)
Another of Cersei and Jaime's obfuscated offspring, Tommen becomes king during Season Five following the murder of his brother Joffrey. Until that point, his role on the series is rather minimal. He marries Margaery Tyrell in the fifth season, after being crowned King, and goes into solitude following Margaery's arrest by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). He eventually forms an alliance with the High Sparrow and gives the Faith tremendous power during his reign. His mother retaliates against this power by blowing up the Sept of Baelor, killing the Sparrow, Margaery, and countless innocents. Tommen reacts by jumping from a window of the Red Keep, killing himself.
These characters are not Baratheons by name, but have spent a great deal of their time either in the company of Baratheons, aiding The Baratheons, or loyal to the Baratheon efforts.
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham)
Davos is a landed knight and former smuggler in the service of Stannis, whom he serves as Hand of the King. He was born in Flea Bottom, the poorest slum in King's Landing, and rose to prominence by aiding Stannis during Robert's Rebellion by delivering smuggled onions and food to his soldiers, earning the nickname The Onion Night. Stannis reprimanded Davos by cutting the tips off of four of his fingers, as punishment for smuggling. He also knighted him and rewarded him with land as a thank you for helping his soldiers survive. Davos remains loyal to Stannis during all his motions toward becoming king but hates Melisandre, with whom he regularly fueds and contests. He is taught to read by Stannis' daughter while at Dragonstone, and sets Gendry free after being imprisoned by Stannis, nearly earning his own execution. He went to The Wall with Stannis and gave advice to Jon Snow, ultimately discovering Snow's body following his murder. He then becomes an advisor to Jon.
Melisandre, The Red Woman (Carice van Houten)
Born a slave in Essos, she is a priestess of the Lord of Light and advisor to Stannis. She aids his campaign to acquire the Iron Throne, feeling he is the true heir in the eyes of the Lord of Light. She wears a red ruby necklace and is frequently naked. Melisandre is responsible for the murder of Renly Baratheon, whom she killed by birthing a shadow demon with the face of Stannis capable of executing him. In the third season, she met Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a renowned priest of the Lord of Light. Thoros tells her of his power to resurrect the dead and gives her Gendry, whom he had in custody. She performs blood magic on Gendry, burns Stannis' daughter Shireen alive on a stake, and does the same to Mance Rayder. After helping Stannis do little more than destroy his own family and army, she abandons him and flees to Castle Black following the mutinous murder of Jon Snow (Kit Harington). There, she reveals she is actually an extremely old and grotesque figure kept beautiful by magic. She then performs a ritual that resurrects the recently-murdered Jon Snow. Melisandre is exiled to the south by Jon Snow after he learns what she did to Shireen, saying she will be put to death if she is seen in the north again.
Sandor Clegane, The Hound (Rory McCann)
Savage and unquestionably loyal, The Hound served as Joffrey's bodyguard for a number of years. Despite his penchant for murder, foul language, his horrid appearance and immense stature, he has a spirit and heart that occasionally shows through his hardened exterior. Deeply afraid of fire, his face was burned by his even more imposing brother, The Mountain, in a scuffle over a toy when they were youths. He deserted his post as Joffrey's bodyguard during the Battle of Blackwater and is eventually captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, earning his freedom by winning a trial by combat against Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). The Hound then captures Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), intending to ransom her to her rich family. Along the way, he and Arya bond, though neither will admit their mutual respect for one another. He engages in a fight with Brienne of Tarth and is critically wounded, his fate left unknown until Season Six, when he returns, having spent the interim time working with a missionary group. Once the group is slaughtered, Sandor picks up his weapon and returns to his old ways.
Gendry (Joe Dempsie)
The unacknowledged bastard son of King Robert Baratheon, Gendry was raised a blacksmith's apprentice in King's Landing. He became good friends with Arya, on the run from the capital after her father's execution, and was eventually captured by Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre in an attempt to perform blood rituals. He was spared death at Dragonstone thanks to Davos, who smuggled him from Stannis and Melisandre's captivity. Following the deaths of Stannis and his daughter Shireen, Gendry is technically the only living person who bears real Baratheon blood.
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