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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.

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.

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.

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.
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