The Season 8 premiere is coming soon! In anticipation, let’s reflect on the saga as a whole. Once the final season ends, I’ll come back and revise this page to include all eight seasons.
For each of the first seven seasons, I have crowned a “most important character” for the interaction network. Here is a summary:
- Season 1: Ned
- Season 2: Tyrion
- Season 3: Robb
- Season 4: Tyrion
- Season 5: Cersei
- Season 6: Sansa
- Season 7: Jon
What happens when we look at all seven seasons at once?
If you are new to Network Science, be sure to read A Primer on Network Analysis before continuing. It contains the centrality measure definitions.
Spoiler Warning: the text below does make reference to events in various seasons. Looking at the figures will tell you a bit about who is “important” without revealing details.
The Seasons 1-7 network has 400 nodes (characters) and 3559 weighted edges, accounting for 41,578 interactions.
As always, the nodes are colored by community, their labels are sized by PageRank centrality, and their size corresponds to betweenness centrality. An edge’s thickness indicates its weight, which is the number of interactions between the characters.
In order to keep this vast network legible, I have only provided labels for about one quarter of the nodes. I am also sticking to a straight “Force Atlas” layout (which treats edges like springs). This network visualization might not be as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other network visualizations on this site. I’ll spend more time with the layout of the complete network for Seasons 1-8 when the series concludes.
There are six main communities in this network. Clockwise from the top right, the communities and main players are:
- Jon’s Alliance (Jon, Sam, Davos, Stannis)
- Essos (Daenerys)
- King’s Landing (Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, Joffrey, Tywin)
- Littlefinger’s Game (Sansa, Ned, Littlefinger)
- Arya’s Journery (Arya, the Hound)
- Houses Stark, Greyjoy and Tully (Theon, Bran, Rob, Catelyn)
Let’s start with the two largest communities. Jon’s sprawling community includes the Night’s Watch, the Free Folk and House Baratheon. This subnetwork orbits around Jon, with Davos and Sam acting as hubs at much smaller scales.
Meanwhile, the King’s Landing community is far more complex. This subnetwork features every Lannister, offering a reminder that a lion’s share of drama and conflict facing this family has been internal. Perhaps their unofficial motto should be changed from “A Lannister always pays his debts” to “A Lannister always holds a grudge.” Tyrion and Cersei are the main hubs, though Tyrion has far more external connections than his sister. Indeed, Cersei has only become more isolated as the series has progressed. Finally, we note that this community encompasses Houses Tyrell and Martell, each with their own micro-intricacies.
The Stark/Greyjoy/Tully community is nearly as large as the previous two, but has an altogether different structure. This subnetwork is an amalgam of three different storylines, all united by ties to Winterfell. From left-to-right, we have: Robb and Catelyn’s ill-fated efforts to redeem House Stark, Theon’s ill-fated efforts to redeem House Greyjoy, and Bran’s unearthly evolution into the Three-Eyed-Raven.
The next communities have a hub-and-spoke structure. The Essos community declares alliegance to Daenerys. This subnetwork includes important characters like Jorah, Missandei and Grey Worm. Meahwhile, Arya’s motley community consists of minor characters encountered in her wanderings, along with the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Finally, we have a most interesting community: Littlefinger’s Game. The Sansa/Ned/Littlefinger triad form the center of this community. It also features some key characters who have met unfortunate demises, including King Robert, Lysa Arryn and Jon Arryn. At first, one might be tempted to label this skinny subnetwork as “the Vale,” but this moniker doesn’t encompass Ned or Robert. Instead, this interstitial community reveals Littlefinger’s machinations to grab power, ascend from his station and redeem himself from the wound of Catelyn’s rejection. In other words, Littlefinger’s Game might have escaped the notice of the denizens of Westeros, but just like Sansa, this mature network sees Littlefinger for who he is.
The Most Central Characters
Breaking with my usual structure, I am going to talk about the “most important” characters first. There are seven surviving characters who have been with us from the beginning, and who truly stand out from the rest. Here they are:
Going by centrality measures alone, the Imp reigns supreme. He wins three categories (Degree, Weighted Degree, and the all-important PageRank). In Layman’s terms: Tyrion knows the most people, he has had the most interactions, and more than any other character, he has been involved in encounters that develop the storyline. He loses the remaining two categories by the slimmest of margins.
Jon takes second place in this all-around contest. His major weakness is eigenvector centrality. For Seasons 2-6, eigenvector centrality served as a proxy for a character’s closeness to the Iron Throne, which was firmly in the hands of the Lannisters. In Season 7, eigenvector centrality shifted to measure proximity to the (now powerful) alliance between the King in the North and the Queen of Dragons. But Jon cannot overcome the Lannister eigenvalue momentum in a single season. On the other hand, Jon reigns supreme in Betweenness Centrality, meaning that he is the character who ties the most threads together.
Third place goes to Cersei Lannister. She wins eigenvector centrality, and she is second in Degree Centrality. The Queen shows weakness only in Betweenness Centrality. Cersei earns the bronze in spite of losing PageRank to Daenerys, who comes in fourth. Cersei has higher degree while Daenerys has higher betweenness: let’s call that a push. In the final eigenvalue category, Daenerys performs extremely poorly. Even more than Jon, the Khaleesi’s extended exile puts her at an insurmountable disadvantage. Given how close the other categories are, Cersei deserves a place on the podium.
Sansa takes fifth place with a solid performance across all categories (she even bests Cersei in Betweenness). Jamie and Arya are in a close battle for sixth place. Tied in PageRank, the Kingslayer beats Arya in three of the remaining four categories. It’s a squeaker, but Jaime wins by a hand.
The Top Eighteen Characters
Here are the centrality scores for the top 18 characters. Having discussed the major characters, we will make some observations about the rest.
Ned, Theon and Sam are in a three-way tie for eighth place in PageRank. Ned shows remarkable staying power, in spite of his Season 1 demise. Perhaps some more of his secrets will be revealed in the final season. Theon, once arrogant and now broken, has suffered more than most. His high scores in PageRank and Betweenness remind us that his story arc is an important foil to the more heroic and powerful journeys of the Starks and the Lannisters. Likewise, the unassuming Sam achieves his PageRank score in unconventional ways: eighth place PageRank is much higher than his other centralities would have you expect. Sam is an unsung hero, making crucial discoveries about the dragon glass, greyscale and Jon’s ancestry, to name a few. Is the bumbling academic actually the greatest hero among them? Let’s hear it for scholarly research skills!
Tied for eleventh place in PageRank, we find Davos and Jorah. These two dependable right-hand-men with wisdom and conscience score similarly across the centralities. Thirteen place in PageRank offers Robb, Joffrey, Petyr and Bran. The first three are prominent characters with tragic arcs. Meanwhile, Bran’s scores show that he is not a top-tier character, in spite of his longevity. On the other hand, when we examine Bran’s storyline from this high vantage point, we realize that Bran’s evolution into the all-seeing Three-Eyed-Raven actually requires him to become less connected to the network. So his low scores actually endorse his unconventional transformation.
That’s the network recap of the first seven seasons. Looking forward to April 14th.