On Scriptnotes, we often talk about heroes and villains. In episode 252, we discussed allies, and the different types of relationships between two characters.

What is the point of an ally in narrative?

  1. Characters advance their interests through allies.
  2. Characters learn about themselves through allies.
  3. Characters suffer pain for the wrong rewards.
  4. Allies define the incorrectness of a character’s starting point, and the correctness of their arrival point.
  5. Allies are more subtle and universal than enemies.

In real life, few people have villains that must be vanquished to save the day. But everyone has friends — and friends can be tricky, tricky things.

Allies should theoretically be capable of being heroes — except in feature films, they can’t. Rather —

  1. They need to illuminate the hero without pulling focus.
  2. They need to challenge the hero without becoming the villain.
  3. They serve as a proxy for the audience, asking our questions, sharing our fears.

There’s not much to learn from “we have to stop the evil genius before he blows up the world.” But drama, both in the real world and in fiction, comes from interaction with characters who are theoretically on our side.

Craig had a bunch of examples from Game of Thrones, some of which we didn’t have time to explore on the show. So here’s his complete list.

Marriage of convenience
We don’t like each other, but we need each other

Jon Snow and Tormund

Unrequited love
Jorah Mormont and his Khaleesi

Misplaced faith
Cersei and the High Sparrow
Sansa and Joffrey

The Three-Eyed Raven and Bran
Tywin and Tyrion

Jamie and Cersei Lannister

Disciple and prophet
The Faceless Man and Arya Stark

Manipulator and Manipulated
Littlefinger and Lysa Aryn

Sparring Partner
Tyrion and Varys

Animal loyalty
Hodor and Bran

Bad for each other
Jon Snow and Ygritte

Alpha and Beta
Jon Snow and Sam
Yara and Theon

Robb and Catelyn Stark

Master and slave
Ramsay Bolton and Reek

Bound by honor
Brienne and Sansa

You could argue with any of these categorizations. The point is that characters can be related in many ways other than the simple hero/villain paradigm.