And then there's Ramsay Bolton, currently the show's chief sadist. He has done his best to fill the Joffrey void by abusing Theon Greyjoy, Sansa Stark, and others. But whereas Joffrey could piss off a band of warriors halfway across the continent, the Bastard of Bolton's evil moves rarely ripple into the outside world. Instead, his extreme behavior only serves to test the audience's will.
While he is certainly hateable, as are many other characters on the sprawling series, there's no one on Game of Thrones who is fun to hate anymore. And while the weekly machinations draw us in, the show relies on the audience's projection to grease the wheels. We can conjure a villain with theories and fan fiction, look to the books for clues, fan the fire of a hero's journey to separate Thrones from a week of Doonesbury cartoons.
That's why I loved Joffrey. He sped the machine up, and every character reacted like Lucille Ball gobbling chocolate off a conveyor belt. He wasn't the end goal, but a reliable wild card, drunk on his own ideology (like so many real-life political provocateurs) and capable of rippling the fabric in every other plotline. When Joffrey was in the mix, we sat on the edges of our seats wondering if blood would spill because of his unpredictable urges. Now the Thrones death count is a joke. Who will die this episode? With the anarchical Joffrey, we never knew. He was the Joker to everyone else's Batman.