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The only force harsher than the winds of winter in Westeros are the wicked men and women wreaking havoc upon both the land and also one another.
From "noble" lords and ladies, to ambitious manipulators from unassuming origins, all the way through supernatural entities fueled by death and destruction, the following Game of Thrones villains all have one thing in common: Absolute ruthlessness when it comes to meeting their goals.
The Night's King
Technically, the commanding force behind the White Walker horde has not reached Westeros yet, but his arrival feels imminent.
First introduced at the end of season four's "Oathkeeper," turning an innocent infant into an ice-eyed monster with the tip of his finger, the Night's King (Richard Brake) made his mark even more well known in the heat of "Hardhome," the season five coming-out-party for his unstoppable force of cold-blooded killers.
His motivation remains enigmatic, but his goal to wipe out mankind seems crystal clear. For anyone unsure of the meaning, look no further than his wide-armed expression at the end of "Hardhome," all but spelling out four words: "Come at me, Snow."
The Red Priestess of Asshai (Carice Van Houten) remains one of the most morally ambiguous forces on Game of Thrones, seemingly dedicated to putting the right man on the Iron Throne, but working toward her goals through unfathomably cruelty.
Killing Renly Baratheon via shadow magic was once her greatest offense, right up until she burned her lord and lover Stannis' daughter Shireen at the stake, sure that Shireen's royal blood would pave the way for victory in an impending battle against the Boltons.
For now, Melisandre's fanatic devotion to saving the Seven Kingdoms from unforeseen darkness has done more harm than good — but if she winds up bringing Jon Snow back from the dead, all will be forgiven. Well, most will be forgiven.
South of the Wall but still in the North, House Bolton commands the land with ruthless efficiency — emphasis on "ruthless."
The Bastard of Bolton (Iwan Rheon) is a particular brand of basket case, flaying enemies with reckless abandon, and slowly mutilating and torturing prisoners until they become his unwaveringly loyal slaves. What Game of Thrones lost in Joffrey, it more than measured up with Ramsay's uniquely awful proclivities, making him one of the show's most vicious human villains through five seasons.
Ramsay's father Roose (Michael McElhatton) isn't as aimlessly evil as his son, but his calculated and cold-blooded nature sends shivers up the spine all the same.
He served as one of Robb Stark's most trusted advisors for months and months of war, only to stab the King in the North figuratively in the back and literally through the heart at what should have been a celebratory occasion.
Apparently, the total loss of honor and dignity is a small price to pay for winning the coveted title of Warden of the North — a testament to Roose's callous cunning, and his readiness to raze anyone blocking his path toward a higher station.
"I'll find another."
The way Walder Frey (David Bradley) casually dismisses the life of his new wife during the infamous Red Wedding speaks to the rot inside his heart. The ruler of The Twins, one of the most important regions in Westeros, doesn't care about the frailty of human existence; all he cares about are the primal pleasures and financial profits lining his pockets.
If old age doesn't catch up with him first, it won't be long before some Stark or another takes him down. After all, the North remembers.
He feeds the poor, walks the streets on his bare feet, and finds other similarly humble means of serving the people… until he disagrees with their moral values, at which point he rounds the people up and locks them away forever, if not worse.
Cersei Lannister learned the true horrors behind High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) the hard way, thinking she could use the pious holy man as a weapon in her war against the Tyrells. It turns out that the new High Septon of King's Landing bows for no man or woman, operating on his own agenda instead.
With his Faith Militant fully armed and seemingly positioned to control King's Landing, it's anyone's guess as how he'll dole out punishment in the season ahead.
The so-called Mountain That Rides is known throughout the Seven Kingdoms as one of the most brutal murderers in all the land, and the reputation is well-earned.
Back in season one, Clegane cleaved the head off of a horse for no other reason than pure rage. In season four, he squeezed the brains out of Oberyn Martell's skull, a "finishing move" he executed against Martell's own sister many years earlier.
The Mountain supposedly died from wounds inflicted by the Red Viper, but the recent debut of the hulking mute Robert Strong indicates that Clegane is still around, and more monstrous than ever.
Little is known about Qyburn (Anton Lesser), one of Cersei Lannister's newest and most trusted advisors — but what we do know is utterly horrifying.
It seems that Qyburn is the man responsible from bringing the Mountain back from the brink of death, if not completely reversing the warrior's fatal condition. If the act itself wasn't enough to send shivers down your spine, his unashamed glee at the prospect should do the trick… as should his unwavering loyalty to the mischievous Cersei Lannister.
Of all the puppeteers pulling the political strings in Westeros, no one is quite as unsettling as Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen).
The smirking schemer thrives on chaos, wielding it as a ladder to get from one platform to the next. What does he want? Everything. How's he going to get it? By any means necessary. Though his path toward total domination over Westeros remains rather murky, his successful climb thus far indicates that he won't stop until he reaches the highest of heights, or falls trying.
How do you choose just one? There's the late Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who escalated rivalries between houses into full-blown war by publicly executing House Stark's patriarch, and riddled prostitutes with crossbow bolts in his spare time. He was so vicious that he was outright assassinated at his own wedding; never has a poisoned cup of wine ever tasted so sweet.
There's Tywin (Charles Dance), the Hand of the King who ruled Westeros with an iron fist, slaying Starks at wedding feasts without ever losing an ounce of sleep, until he himself was slain. Then there's his children, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), siblings and lovers who have committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of their family; and before anyone starts crowing about Jaime's recent redemption arc, let's not forget about the time he pushed a kid out of a window.
Even Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) boats a bit of the family flaw. Yes, he saved King's Landing during the Battle of Blackwater, but he also murdered his ex-girlfriend in a fit of rage. It goes to show that even the most sympathetic heroes have a touch of darkness — which must mean even the darkest villains have some measure of gold in their hearts, right?
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