Spoilers for previous seasons ahead! Go watch them, then come back!
In Game of Thrones, you win or you die – with a few questionable moral choices in between. Ever since poor Ned Stark’s head rolled, we knew that being the good guy probably wasn’t ever going to pay off. It always seems like the most dishonorable characters were closest to the throne, and now we have some data to back it up.
Venngage.com has put together a web of betrayal, which brings a couple of interesting truths to light.
Firstly, let’s study this diagram for a sec. The thicker the line, the bigger the impact of the betrayal, and the larger the circle, the higher the number of betrayals were performed either against or by that character.
In true Game of Thrones fashion, many arrows go two ways. Take Robb Stark, for example, who has an arrow going both to and from Walder Frey. We all know who came out on top of that one.
The biggest portraits are the ones you might expect: Cersei betrays pretty much everyone, including, most recently, Margaery Tyrell by having her imprisoned with her brother Loras.
Cersei is so adept at being a turncoat that not only are nearly all of her arrows heading outwards, but many arrows show a double betrayal, like the cheating on (#1) and murdering (#2) of her husband Robert.
Tyrion’s portrait also takes up a fair bit of real estate, but most of his outgoing arrows are unsurprisingly pointed toward his beloved family. His only double arrow is pointing appropriately at Cersei, who deserves more than two betrayals. The most memorable betrayal focusing on Tyrion, however, has nothing to do with his hateful sister, and everything to do with Shae, the only person he thought he could trust.
Shae’s treachery was heartbreaking, but also led to one of the most satisfying moments of vindication in the whole series so far.
Tyrion’s web shows how right he is in trusting no one, especially Varys, whom he was stuck with nearly all of last season (but who also led him to Daenerys, resulting in the formation of the dream team).
Varys The Spider
Obviously, The Spider is at the center of the web. Varys’ betrayal lines are dotted, perhaps because he’s so good at manipulating others that there isn’t any solid evidence that he was at fault for his betrayals.
According to the chart, he may have had a hand in these moments of backstabbery:
- Ned’s beheading
- Daenerys’ marriage to Khal Drogo
- Jon Arryn’s death
- The conviction of Tyrion
Poor Robb! All he wants is to be a good dude, like his dad. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of marrying for love, which, sadly, is never a good idea in Westeros. When Robb and his mother Catelyn (as well as Robb’s new wife and unborn child) died at the famous Red Wedding, we all had a collective ugly cry over losing any hope of the good guy winning.
What would we change?
Stannis also takes up a huge part of the real estate on the chart, having murdered his own brother and daughter.
Disappointingly, Jon Snow’s and Theon Greyjoy’s portraits are actually quite small and not as connected to plot events as they should be.
Jon’s portrait shows his betrayal of Ytritte, and the Black Brotherhood’s betrayal of him. It’s not that there are betrayals missing, it’s more that this is perhaps one of the biggest betrayals of the whole story. At the very least, it sets the Night’s Watch (and subsequently all of Westeros) on a collision course with all of the supernatural forces Jon was fighting against. He had his finger in the dam, and now all hell’s gonna break loose.
At most, Jon will come back as Evil Zombie Jon, as most fans now hope. Evil Zombie Jon will be released from his Night’s Watch oath, and is free to wreak all kinds of vengeful wrath on anyone unlucky enough to cross his path – all because of the epic betrayal of the entire Watch.
What about Theon, the biggest jerk of all?
Theon’s tiny arrow of betrayal points to Robb, but let’s face it – Theon’s right up there with Cersei in terms of treachery against those who trust him. His takeover of Winterfell screwed over Robb and all the Starks in turn, including Bran, Rickon, and most recently, poor little Sansa. He also betrayed the Greyjoy family by failing to follow orders, and the Boltons by escaping with Sansa at the end of Season 5.
What a guy, right? So glad Sansa’s life is in his hands.
What did we learn?
The first lesson is that if you’re in Westeros, you’re much more likely to be a victim of betrayal than a perpetrator, even if you’re someone like Cersei or Joffrey. The ONLY exception to this rule is Petyr Baelish, who is 100% always the perpetrator, and is arguably playing the best game of anyone.
According to this diagram, the best person to align yourself to is Petyr. Remember, however, that he’ll probably betray you, even (especially) if you’re the daughter of the woman he love(d).
Much like real life, most betrayals were perpetrated by friends and family of the betrayed. Unsurprisingly, the biggest motivation for the betrayals was the lust for power, followed closely by revenge. A third reason to betray, especially against a family member, is the love of another character.
This chart shows the motivations for all of the betrayals:
How do Game of Thrones betrayals contribute to power shifts?
So, where did the biggest power shifts happen? These next graphs analyze the 11 most likely contenders for the iron throne throughout the series, and looked at times betrayals by or against them caused them to lose or gain power.
The biggest rise would be Daenerys’, as she went from a lost orphan to a queen commanding a massive army. Of course, she may have last all of that at the end of Season 5, but that too was the result of a betrayal.
Taking a look at these graphs, you can see where the only one to come out with a continued rise in power by the end of Season 5 is, suprise, suprise: Petyr. Clearly, if you can somehow manage to catch hold of someone so slippery, that’s where you should stay, even it would require developing the skill of sleeping with one eye open.