- 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 6 network has 142 nodes (characters) and weighted 541 edges, corresponding to 5795 interactions. As always, 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 nine communities (two more than we have encountered in previous seasons). There are three large communities
- the North (Sansa, Jon, Davos, Ramsay)
- Essos (Daenerys, Tyrion)
- King’s Landing and the Riverlands (Cersei, Jaime)
and six smaller communities:
- Beyond the Wall and Winterfell Flashbacks (Bran, Ned)
- Braavos (Arya)
- the Reach and Oldtown (Sam)
- the Ironborn (Theon)
- Dorne (Ellaria)
- the Riverlands (Sandor)
The Starks in the North
The northern community is dominated by Castle Black, where interactions between Jon and Sansa form a prominent axis. Ramsay is the hub of the Winterfell satellite. We also find a wealth of triangles: Jon/Davos/Melisandre, Jon/Davos/Tormund, Jon/Sansa/Davos, Jon/Sansa/Ramsay. The complexity of the northern community reflects to confluence of plotlines, which fuses together these geographic places for the first time. Interestingly, Sansa plays a distinctive role with her strong connections to characters outside the North, while Jon’s connections are mostly inward-facing.
The Lannister community is also highly complex, with both Jaime and Cersei acting as internal hubs. Interestingly, Cersei’s strongest conections are to Jaime (of course), Tommen, Olenna and Qyburn, meaning that her connections to the High Sparrow and Margaery are mostly indirect in this critical period. Jaime is based in King’s Landing, helping Cersei in her power struggle with the Faith Militant. But the Kingslayer also spends a third of the season in the Riverlands, reckoning with House Tully, the final holdouts from Robb Stark’s failed campaign for the Iron Throne.
The Essos community also organizes around a strong axis: Daenerys in Khal Moro, and Tyrion in Mereen. The Essos community shows far less complexity than the main Stark and Lannister communities, though we can see the rivalry/detente between Jorah and Daario, as well as the strengthening bonds amongst her Scooby-gang ruling council of Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm.
Arya and Bran
There are two mid-sized Stark communities, with Arya and Bran both training under mysterious masters. Even though Bran is isolated north of the wall, his community expands as he finds himself unstuck in time. His visions of young Ned Stark (and young Hodor) provide revelations that bring the former Lord of Winterfell back into network prominence. Arya’s Braavos community swells, thanks to the players in the acting company of Lady Crane, who perform a warped retelling of the tragedies in the Lannister court.
and the Rest
This brings us to the four smallest communities. Sam’s community spans the Reach and Oldtown, as he stops at as his ancestral Tarly home before entering his apprenticeship to become a maester. Meanwhile, tensions in the small Dornish community take the Martells into upheaval. Another mutiny occurs in the Iron Islands, where Euron wins the kingsmoot, and we find out what the ironmen mean when they pledge “that which is dead can never die.” Finally, Sandor gives us a small window into the challenges faced by the simple people of Westeros while the highborn are preoccupied by their noble infighting.
Here it is also worth noting that Season Six is the first time that our network is disconnected: Sandor’s anonymity amongst the simple villagers of Westeros increases the sense of isolation of his arc amongst the commoners, a world apart from who sits on the Iron Throne.
Five characters dominate the centrality measures: Cersei, Jaime, Jon, Sansa and Tyrion. After Season Five’s broader focus (including prominence for Stannis, Littlefinger and Sam), we have returned to the two main houses in conflict: Stark and Lannister. Meanwhile, Davos remains a strong player, in spite of the fall of Stannis. His actions and convictions remain steady, and the network rewards this credibility.
The second tier includes a surprise appearance by Ned Stark, or perhaps more aptly, young Ned Stark. Bran’s flashback, curated by the Three-Eyed-Raven, provide revelations and connections that light up the network. Daenerys continues her typical performance, as she overcomes her Drogon-induced setback among the Dothraki, and emerges stronger, once again. Ramsay and Tormund have steady showings, rounding out the story of the North. Arya and Bran remain squarely in the second tier, with Arya seeing a rapid increase in eigenvector centrality, due to the presence of the acting company in Braavos, which creates multiple ties to the Lannisters. Meanwhile, Varys finds himself highly ranked for the first time, having overtly displayed his allegiance for House Targaryen.
On the other hand, we see a remarkable contraction for Littlefinger compared to Season Five. He has put his pieces into place, and takes on a more patient role while Jon and Ramsay resolve their battle for the North.
And the Winner is…
The network has no doubt that Sansa Stark is the most important player in Season Six. Interestingly, she is not rewarded for dominating her community (Jon has that honor). Instead, she is greatly rewarded for her connections (both strong and weak) to those beyond the North. With such a strong tie to Jon, she benefits from his power, while also providing enduring connections to the Lannisters (via Brienne), the Ironborn (via Theon) and she also benefits from Ned’s renewed ascendance. She even gets a boost from Braavos, thanks to her portrayal in the acting company’s morality play. This is the season where Sansa’s breadth of connection truly does make her the Key to the North.
Jon takes second place quite handily, backed up by the depth of transformation that he experiences. Tyrion edges out Cersei in a close battle for third place. The Imp hones his leadership skills and fosters some strong bonds, while Cersei wages an assault to recapture her power. Jaime takes fifth place, playing a supporting role in King’s Landing, and helping to resolve the secondary plot concerning the Blackfish of House Tully.