- If you are new to Network Science, be sure to read A Primer on Network Analysis before continuing.
- Spoiler Warning: the text below does make reference to events in various seasons. But looking at the diagrams will tell you a bit about who is “important” without revealing details.
The Season 5 network has 118 nodes (characters) and 394 weighted edges, corresponding to 5,139 interactions. The nodes are colored by community. The labels are sized by PageRank centrality. The node’s size corresponds to its betweenness centrality. An edge’s thickness indicates its weight.
The network has six communities. Clockwise from the top, they are
- Night’s Watch (Jon, Stannis, Sam)
- Essos (Tyrion, Daenerys)
- Dorne (Jaime)
- King’s Landing (Cersei)
- Braavos (Arya)
- Winterfell (Littlefinger, Sansa)
The Night’s Watch
The Night’s Watch is the most complex community. Jon, Stannis and Sam anchor overlapping factions. There is one dominant 4-clique consisting of Jon, Stannis, Davos and Melisandre. This foursome captures the seige planning for Winterfell, with the Red Woman insisting that Stannis fulfill his destiny at any cost. In addition there are many narrative triangles, including
- Jon, Sam, Olly
- Jon, Sam, Stannis
- Stannis, Davos, Shireen
The first two triangles explore Jon’s new role as Lord Commander of Night’s Watch, with Sam as a trusted advisor. The final triangle brings the father/mentor/daughter dynamic of this Dragonstone trio into sharp relief.
Tyrion and Daenerys form the main axis in the Essos community: these two powerful characters come face-to-face in Mereen by the end of the season. Jorah, Daario, Missandei and Grey Worm complete this inner circle and form a near-clique. Varys connects strongly to Tyrion, but the remainder of Essos organizes around Daenerys, as she deals with the Sons of the Harpy and enters a political marriage with Hizdahr zo Loraq.
Jaime connects the small, but dense, Dornish community back to King’s Landing, thanks to his mission to return Myrcella to Cersei. However, Jaime and Bronn remain on the outskirts of this community of Martells.
Cersei forms the hub of the King’s Landing community. The three-way power struggle between the High Sparrow, the Lannisters and the Tyrells forms the densest part of the community. The rest of King’s Landing is a constellation of advisors and fallen Lannesters, orbiting around Cersei.
Arya appears in a spare community in Braavos, as she nearly disappears (both in identity and in the network) into the Faceless Men. Finally, Petyr and Sansa form the primary axis of the Winterfell community. Sansa finds herself in her most dysfunctional quartet to date, with nasty Ramsay, cruel Myranda, and broken Theon. Suddenly, Joffrey looks like Prince Charming. Finally, we note that Bran appears in the Winterfell community, but has little consequence. Indeed, he does not appear in any Season 5 episodes; we return to his journey next season.
However, one of the most prominent features appears in between communities. The center of the network features a memorial graveyard that spans the Winterfell and King’s Landing. Resting there, we find Robb, Catelyn and Ned, Renly and Robert, and Joffrey, Tywin and Shae. Even though he met his fate long ago, Robert plays a remarkably important role in the network, as evidenced by his high centrality scores. His death reverberates throughout the seven kingdoms, and the instability in Westeros can still be traced back to his demise.
The same six characters rule degree centrality, eigenvector centrality and PageRank centrality (albeit in slightly different orderings). For the first time, the top rankings have been liberated from the iron grip of the Stark/Lannister/Baratheon Houses. Along with Jon, Sansa, Cersei and Stannis, we also find Littlefinger and Sam. Littlefinger’s machinations are paying off. He exerts his power as Lord Protector of the Eyrie on behalf of Cersei, and he convinces Sansa to marry Ramsey Bolton. However, Lord Baelish’s ultimate allegiance remains unclear. Meanwhile, Sam Tarly has continued his ascent as a key player. Comparing viewer expectations to network importance, Samwell is perhaps the most underestimated character.
The remaining two categories see a wider variety of strong performances. Tyrion (noticeably absent in the top performers above) and Daenerys finish 3rd and 4th in weighted degree (number of interactions), but they do not capitalize on these opportunities. We are well aware of the irrelevance penalty incurred by characters inhabiting Essos. As Tyrion travels in exile, his influence deflates. But the Imp still finishes ahead of the Targaryen princess in every category, most notably in betweenness. His estranged connections to Westeros are still worth something, and we expect those to come into play in future seasons.
Behind the khaleesi and her new councilor, Jaime and Arya round out the second tier. Jaime performs consistently, while Arya is severely penalized in eigenvector centrality, since she no longer has strong ties to either House Stark or House Lannister. In fact, this aligns with the wishes of the Faceless Men desire, as they train her to be a girl that has no name.
And the Winner is…
Cersei bests Jon in 4 categories, which is enough to secure the all-around title, in spite of losing PageRank. After five seasons, the Queen Regent’s determination finally pays off, though she must endure personal humiliation during her very personal struggle with the High Sparrow.
Jon edges out Littlefinger for second place, thanks to his PageRank score. Petyr’s uncharacteristically high PageRank score shows that he has come out of the shadows with his play for control of the Vale, and beyond. He now plays a very overt game, and we expect him to be a more prominent network player going forward. Littlefinger’s third place showing in PageRank far outpaces his ninth place showing in weighted degree. In other words, Lord Baelish does not have many interactions but he makes efficient use of them. Stannis comes in fourth, blinded by ambition and on course for a tragic fall.
Further behind, we find Sansa and Sam. Sansa continues to be trapped in the second tier. The particularly nefarious duo of Littlefinger and Ramsey manipulate her for their own gain and pleasure. The red-haired Stark just can’t catch a break. Remarkably, Sam gives her a close race: he has evolved from an ineffectual piggy in Season 1 to a trusted and seasoned advisor in Season 5. Looking back at Season 3, we realize that his high PageRank in Season 3 was no fluke. In that season, he received a huge boost from the (seemingly) happenstance encounter with Bran and Jon. Rather than being a one-off, that serendipitous moment was actually a sign of things to come.
Daenerys gives a performance quite similar to Season 1. Eigenvector centrality continues to penalize her exile, but her PageRank is a respectable 10th place. The Mother of Dragons is building her connections as well as her armies, and looks to continue her ascent in the seasons to come.
As for honorable mentions, the late King Robert deserves high praise. He’s been dead for four seasons, yet the late King makes the most of his handful of mentions. The Usurper plays a singular role in connecting the narratives of King’s Landing, Essos and Castle Black. Case and point: in spite of being 64th in weighted degree centrality, he finishes 10th in degree centrality and 9th in betweenness centrality. His 14th place PageRank and 15th place eigenvector centrality show that the old stag still has some punch!