Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner
Would you pledge your allegiance to House Stark or House Lannister?
Not everyone can be born to a noble house, and therefore Game of Thrones bannermen (and we peon-like fans) must align with the bigger, more powerful players. And while the Tyrells, Greyjoys, Baratheons and Targaryens have made some bold moves, the Lannisters and the Starks are the two main houses that are currently dividing Westerosi loyalties on HBO's fantasy drama (airing Sundays at 9/8c).
A message to Game of Thrones haters
Would you throw your lot in with the direwolves or lions? Are you looking to protect or advance your people? Your preference for House Stark or House Lannister could reveal what you truly value in life. TVGuide.com breaks down the two houses:
House Stark: You can feel safe turning your back on the ethical Starks of Winterfell. Unfortunately, this decency prevents them from suspecting treachery in others. The late Ned Stark (Sean Bean) learned this the hard way when he was betrayed and killed in Season 1. "He believes in loyalty and honor and he's faithful to his realm and his family," Bean told TVGuide.com at the time. "He's a very principled fellow, and that ultimately leads to his downfall." Richard Madden, who plays Robb Stark, adds, "The thing about this world is that good men suffer for being good and honest." Seven hells!
House Lannister: The Lannisters don't have to worry about honesty blinding them because they're usually controlling the backstabbing. The worst of the lot is arguably Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), a Lannister in Baratheon's clothing, who betrayed Ned and killed a prostitute for fun. Patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance) is even scarier because emotions don't figure into his machinations. When two houses revolted against the Lannisters, he completely obliterated them to make a point, thus inspiring the haunting song, "The Rains of Castamere."
Game of Thrones: The trouble with Joffrey
House Stark: Although one might respect Robb, mom Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) for playing by the rules, they're just too good sometimes. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, sums them up, "The Starks are pretty boring." We'd look to two younger Starks to win over new followers to the northern cause. Revenge-mad Arya (Maisie Williams) and warg-in-training Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) are the most intriguing of the bunch and have ruthlessly adjusted to their unfortunate circumstances. Plus, they're cute! Sorry, Rickon (Art Parkinson), you don't rate.
House Lannister: The brutal Joffrey and intimidating Tywin aren't exactly warm and fuzzy ambassadors for the Lannisters. Tywin's children, however, reveal glimmers of humanity beneath their vicious veneer. "Although the Lannisters are kind of mean and have bad morals, there's something likable about them, particularly in that episode when you see Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) both being told off by their father," Williams says. "You see them as people." And let's be real; wealth and privilege have made partying a way of life. There's a reason why most of the cast picked Tyrion as their go-to drinking buddy. "I think we could have some rollicking good fun with him," Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne, says. "You know you'd have a good night out with him guaranteed. But I don't know how much fun I'd have at the whorehouses."
House Stark: The Northmen don't have a lot of wealth, probably because they're too busy dealing with harsh conditions. But they're a hardy lot, so their biggest assets are the people. They also have allies in the Night's Watch, ever since a Stark ancestor built the Wall long ago.
House Lannister: As the richest family in the Seven Kingdoms, the Lannisters enjoy luxuries in excess. "I'd pledge myself to the Lannisters because they've got really good frocks, got loads of money, and they've got a really nice house," Christie says. Money can also buy alliances, if not true loyalty.
Game of Thrones could last seven seasons
House Stark: A grey direwolf on a field of white. Several times larger than regular wolves, direwolves are not just figurative symbols to the Starks; they're real allies. In Season 1, the Stark children and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) found, adopted and subsequently created warg bonds with six direwolf cubs. Also, Summer once saved Bran from an intruder, and Ghost and Grey Wind have fought side by side with Jon and Robb, respectively. Having a pony-sized killing machine on your side isn't too shabby.
House Lannister: A golden lion on a crimson field. The Lannisters aren't as fortunate as their direwolf-whispering foes. The lion is only a symbol because they've all been slain in the western hills of Westeros. Money won't keep you warm or smite your enemies!
House Stark: "Winter is coming." Once again, the Starks' motto reveals that they're more interested in planning for the future and subsistence, not gamesmanship. More's the pity.
House Lannister: "Hear me roar!" This motto is as ego-driven and boastful as it gets, and even their unofficial motto -- "A Lannister always pays his debts" -- offers the threat of retribution that isn't strictly financial.
House Stark: Because the Starks are descendants of the First Men, they have a link with the children of the forest, the magical beings that inhabited Westeros before humans came. This explains why some Northerners have superhuman abilities such as Jojen Reed's (Thomas Sangster) green dreams or Bran's warging. This link to ancient Westeros could be the key to who eventually wins the Iron Throne.
House Lannister: The Lannisters are unpredictable and have a history of outwitting opponents. "Lann the Clever," from whom the Lannisters get their name, was a legendary trickster who duped one of the kings of the First Men to give him Casterly Rock. "It's never boring with the Lannisters," Natalie Dormer, who plays Margaery Tyrell, observes.
Check out a preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones episode, airing at 9/8c on HBO, and then vote on which House wins your loyalty below: