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The Many Shades of Power


One of the most compelling and stunning aspects of Game of Thrones is its vast web of multifaceted characters. But even more fascinating to me are the various definitions of power wielded by this menagerie: might, charm, magic, intrigue, dragons, inspiration, wealth, gods, the list goes on. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses; each, its delusions of grandeur and its assumptions of frailty.

On what brand of "power" would you place your bet? On commanding a War Host, or on knowing a valuable secret? On the edicts of royal office, or on a knife in the dark? Would you want as your ally the experience of age, or the fearless spark of youth? Would you invest in unlimited wealth, or in loyalties that cannot be bought? Would you prefer to wage war with mysterious magics, proven gods, dragonfire... or does the messianic inspiration of a beloved leader trump them all? And what power does destiny confer? Do you think it enough for a crippled boy to defeat the most feared assassin in the world?

What prevails? Littlefinger claimed it was knowledge; Cersei famously retorted, "no, power is power." But how helpful was her power against the subterfuge that murdered her beloved son? And how helpful is subterfuge when all eyes are on you---Varys' excuse for not helping Shae at Tyrion's behest?

So let's play a game. Below, you'll find four match-ups: two characters suddenly pitted against each other, and a poll where you can vote on who you think would prevail. I chose these pairings specifically to contrast the kinds of power these characters wield, so place your bets (and I hope you'll discuss your reasons in the comments)!

The Rules Are Simple:

  • Each conflict spans a single episode, from start to finish.
  • At the beginning of the episode, both characters discover the other is out to get them, and that, by episode's end, one of them will be defeated---not necessarily dead, but certainly stripped of whatever power they currently possess.
  • Both characters begin on roughly equal footing, in positions of relative safety and freedom (suitable for who they are: after all---Arya Stark has a lower standard of safety than does Cersei).
  • The episode proceeds as any episode would: Characters can avail themselves of their allies, their resources, their status, and anything else available to them as the conflict escalates towards that final resolution with a clear victor.
  • Needless to say, the "winner" doesn't have to personally bring about their opponent's downfall. Manipulating events or other people to do so is perfectly fine---indeed, it's probably the preferred style for most of the characters listed below.
  • No meta-analysis: Things like "the fans love Arya too much to kill her off", while entirely true (I'll lead that particular riot), aren't quite in the spirit of the game.
  • No Spoilers: I've chosen these match-ups based on what I think are interesting contrasts, but there may be a few that overlap with conflicts that happen in future chapters of the series. Try to vote from the perspective of a viewer of the show: i.e., with the knowledge you currently have of these characters.

Without Further Ado...

Arya Stark vs. Melisandre of Asshai

A fierce, vengeful, resourceful survivor whom most believe to be dead... against a woman of magic who can see the future in her flames.
poll

Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish vs. Tywin Lannister

A shrewd master of coin with many secrets... against a master of gold who doesn't appear to need them.
poll

Cersei Lannister vs. Olenna Tyrell, "Queen of Thorns"

No doubt, the Queen of Thorns is a formidable---and certainly lethal---foe... but too many have fallen into the trap of underestimating dear Cersei, and I am sure there will be many more.
poll

Bran Stark vs. Jaqen H'ghar


A crippled boy with a destiny steeped in the oldest magics this world has ever known... against one of the deadliest assassins this world has ever known.
poll
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Arya/Melisandre is a tough one. If she would stop trying to make her visions be what she wants them to be, instead of what they actually are, then she'd have the edge. I'd give the very slight edge to Arya here, but I'm not confident in that call. Maybe if Arya learns more, it will be a more definite win.

Littlefinger without question. Against almost anyone else, I'd give Tywin the nod, but not against sneaky LIttlefinger. I suspect that if a few weeks, a lot of people will change their votes.

Olenna. Same as with Littlefinger. Olenna's not quite as sneaky as Littlefinger, but Cersei's not nearly as crafty and subtle as Tywin.

Jaqen right now. After Bran learns whatever he has to learn, I'm not so sure. After all, he could probably warg into Jaqen and make him kill himself!
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Melisandre is currently so much stronger than Arya. Unfortunately, Melisandre would come out on top.

As for Bran and Jaqen - Jaqen no longer exists. How can he come out on top?

For the rest of them - any comments would have their roots in the books, so I'll keep schtum.
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On a different note:

I don't truly think it's as clear-cut as "one type of power vs. another."

Especially since... well...

VERY SPECIFIC SPOILERS FOR A DANCE WITH DRAGONS AHEAD (highlight to view at your own risk):

You can't get much more "different" in terms of power, than Daenarys and Tyrion. Everything Tyrion lacks, Daenarys has, and vice versa. So one of the most anticipated things that happened in A Dance With Dragons is Tyrion meeting Daenarys, and putting his skills to good use. (Because, boy, does she ever need it). Neither one of them can succeed on their own... that much is made abundantly clear in ADWD. But together... oh boy. :)

Hopefully. Someday. (Damn you, GRRM!)

Non-spoilery version: One of the most interesting things that this series shows, is that, yes, there are many types of power, and it takes all kinds (plus, you know, some sense of ethics) to make a good ruler. You can have all the "power" or "cunning" or "secrets" in the world, but you really need all three to succeed... or better yet, you need to recognize where you are lacking and surround yourself with people who can make up for that lack, whom you trust.
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yes! totally agree!
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I haven't seen any of Season 4 yet (I watch the DVDs when they come out), so I'm basing this on the books, but... Tywin or Littlefinger? Kind of hard to say, actually. I voted Tywin because he's clearly both more powerful and more respected in addition to being unscrupulous and cunning, but Littlefinger is also pretty unscrupulous and cunning, and everybody underestimates what he's capable of. It was a tough choice.

Cersei or Olenna? Definitely Olenna. That one's easy. Without giving anything away... Olenna is truly smart. Whereas Cersei thinks she's much smarter than she really is. I'm not saying that out of spite... Cersei actually thinks she's much smarter than she really is.

Bran vs. Jaqen... Ah. Umm... Hmm... I skipped that one. Can't decide. :)

Regarding Arya and Melisandre... very vague book spoilers ahead (highlight to view)...
Arya would win against Melisandre... eventually. Not... right now... but eventually.
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Olenna would wipe the floor with Cersei, was it Tywin who said she wasn't as clever as she thought she was? She is ruhtless but lacks subtelty. Olenna has subtelties in spades.

Melisandre would win against Arya, I don't care what anybody says. Arya is a damaged kid with a sword. Melisandre drinks poison like its grape juice, gives birth to shadow demons who kill kings and sets people on fire. No contest.

Tywin vs Baelish is less clear cut. Both could win IMO. Though I think Tywin would see through Baelish's game pretty quick.

Bran vs Jaqen? Are you kidding? How is this a fair fight? Jaqen is a trained assasin. I bet a kid who can control a direwolf would not be a big deal to him. He just has a to climb a tree and blow a poison dart or something. Maybe Bran will get awesome powers later, but as things stand, no way the kid would win this one.
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Well as per given criteria that fight has to happen in one episode then
1. Melissandre - I am Arya fan but Melissandre is on whole different level. She should be pitted against Danerys's dragons or White walkers. No one is other wise even close to defeat her.
2. Tywin Lannister - If the conflict is over long run say a season then Little finger will win hands down but if it is just limited to one episode then Tywin will win hands down as he is powerful as well as he will be not afraid to play dirty.
3. Ollena - Cesei may be crazy and queen regent but in small time frame the power which Ollena had gathered in Kings landing with her own set of spies is remarkable. SO I have to give this one to Ollena.
4. Bran - Well with his warging capability enhancing with each passing moment Bran is far more powerful now. So I believe he will win this one.
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This was interesting:)
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Staff
This is cool!
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Littlefinger or Robert Baratheon's bastard son
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Here's how I voted; I've read the books, but I tried to keep my knowledge to the scope of the show. (I love that I'm in the minority in all but the closest vote, at the time I write this!):

Melisandre: Arya is my favorite character, and she's definitely proven her ability to get out of any situation intact. But knowing what we do of Melisandre's powers---foresight, death curses, immunity to poisons---I simply don't see Arya coming out on top if the two had an episode to prepare for a confrontation.

Littlefinger: Tywin is as powerful as it gets, but his strength is all above the table. He's only been in King's Landing for a little while, whereas Littlefinger has lived there long enough to have an army of "little birds" to rival Varys. Tywin would call for Littlefinger's death at the start of the episode... but Littlefinger would vanish just as quickly. Tywin would spend the rest of the hour fruitlessly searching, while Littlefinger orchestrated his end.

Cersei: I have no doubt the tables would turn if Cersei and Olenna were at odds in Highgarden. But there are precious few people who have lived in King's Landing as long as Cersei has, and Olenna is but a visitor. Even then, it would be a close one---but, with home-court advantage, I think this game goes to Cersei.

Bran: I think the power of prophecy and destiny is a driving force in Game of Thrones, and we have enough evidence to conclude that Bran will find the three-eyed crow, and that doing so will alter the course of history. However mighty Jaqen might be, he would be no match against a real agent of fate.
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Melisandre: Not only does she have magic powers, she is smart and she is cunning and as far as i can tell she never underestimated an opponent in her life, but most of all she has something that Arya lacks, patience.

Littlefinger: The series is called game of thrones and there is no one who plays the game better than Littlefinger, someone with straight forward power like Tywin could never win, the only person who stands a chance in the series is Varys.

Cersei: I love Olenna, she is propably the best and most badass female character in all the books, she is brilliant and she could probably outsmart 99% of the characters but Cersei is straight up crazy and in a fight the one willing to go the furthest wins.

Bran: First of all Bran's storyline is my favorite in the whole book his power is gonna be so awesome (meaning great) that Jaqen would sooner bend the knee than try to kill him.
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I choose the following victors (without knowing the books):

Arya: For a young girl she has stored up a lot of anger and is definitely focussed on getting her enemies. Melisandre wouldn't stand a chance because she relies too much on her magical/religious powers and her God would not save her in actual battle (especially not against an "innocent" girl).

Littlefinger: Well, there is no better skilled man in manipulation and deceit than him. Tywin has got his sources and followers, but Littlefinger would show up with much unexpected support and a nasty twist in the end.

Olenna: Wisdom and experience beat intimidation and arrogance.

Jaqen: Ok, Bran's powers are interesting, but he is not able to control them fully; his friends might be of some help but I just imagine them being dead before they even knew what was going on.
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