(Second season spoilers!) The success of Game of Thrones means George RR Martin has achieved what people are supposed to achieve. The book-turned-HBO epic will carve Martin's bearded effigy into the nerd pantheon alongside Lord of the Rings and 20-sided dice until the next time cycle comes around. Martin crafts his stories like a good joke, and the punchline is always a middle finger from God.
Here are five guys (from the TV series) that were the butt of Martin's joke.
5. Eddard Stark
Eddard Stark is (was) the good guy. He has honor, Winterfell, and a very powerful jawline. The gritty politics of Westeros turns the character into a parody of sorts. Littlefinger finally takes Eddard by his medieval linebacker shoulders and exasperatedly admits that he shouldn't trust him. Ignoring Littlefinger's "I am the bad guy, idiot" monologue, he gets his head lopped off. The ultimate conceit of Eddard is that Martin's story is the kind where the guys who wear cloaks and own brothels might come out on top.
4. Stannis Baratheon
Stannis is closer to what Ned Stark would've been in the real world: A big dumb power hungry idiot. His shining moment comes early, when he is seduced by Melisandre. The product of their steamy reminder that HBO likes sex scenes is the shadow baby that murders his brother. When Tyrion sends him packing, the unwitting Cain and Abel metaphor takes his scattered army and runs home. Stannis' inability to understand why no one likes the guy who lops off his best friend's fingertips make him both wonderful and rage-inducing.
3. Theon Greyjoy
A walking inferiority complex, Theon was quite busy this season. He hit on his sister, betrayed Rob, and murdered two nameless kids so no one would judge him for his inability to capture the Stark tykes. It's strange what some folks will do to make daddy's head nod approvingly. Theon is an insecure whirling dervish, and the townspeople of Winterfell are his impaled therapists.
2. Bran Stark
Bran is a good looking boy with a heart of gold. His hair is Bieber-esque, and he does the best he can in the face of a headless father and a brother with a Westeros-shaking revenge fantasy. Sadly, there's just not much for Bran to do this season except cede Winterfell to Theon when his daddy issues overwhelm.
1. Joffrey Baratheon
Joffrey is the best character in the entire series simply because of how easy he is to hate. Instead of listening to Tool, buying bondage pants, and getting high he's a bird-chested Hitler with a superiority complex. When his subjects voice their disdain by hitting him with a cow pie, he demands all onlookers slaughtered. When Tyrion sends him a working girl to quell his testosterone torment, one of the season's most repulsive scenes ensues. Joffrey is the glitch in the system, a monument to a broken system of men who rule by blood.