As many cheered and sang praises for the end of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones, I sat in forlorn silence. Yes, I liked him. He wasn’t a hero, he wasn’t a strapping lord fighting for honor, but he was interesting. A character who always kept those around him, those watching him, on their toes. He was conniving, manipulative and ambitious. He kicked off nearly every major event on the show and triggered the War of the Five Kings around which most seasons were based. That’s someone who should have lived to win the Iron Throne, not bled out on the cold floor of the Great Hall in Winterfell.
Lord Baelish may have deserved to die, but not as he did. A man who had been scheming since before the story began deserved a far better end.
Where Was The Shock?
Everyone saw Baelish’s death coming except him, and that’s a problem. For a show that’s predicated itself on the idea that anyone’s fair game and characters can die at any time, having a death easily predicted episodes beforehand isn’t a good thing. It makes a once-shocking show more of a standard, plodding one. The audience no longer watches to be surprised, but merely see how foregone conclusions will play out on screen. When even the unravelling of events stops being surprising, the show grows dull and disappointing, especially when it comes to events surrounding key characters whose arcs have always contained remarkable twists, like the Starks and Lord Baelish. Sure, people will still watch, but as hackers release spoilers early and plots become more basic, the fervor of the fandom diminishes.
Lord Baelish Was Too Clever For That Death
Dragons and the undead aside, Game of Thrones had been a political drama for most of its run. As a politician, Littlefinger was practically unmatched. He easily saw countless moves ahead and had little qualms in switching allegiances when it suited him. It’s why so many hated him, but it’s also why he should have earned that throne. In a series that still bases itself in reality, a man willing to do anything to get what he wanted (a man said to be the cleverest in the country!) should be able to work himself up the ranks to the top.
Someone with the mind of Lord Baelish should not have fallen for Sansa and Arya’s trap — someone with his level of cunning would have left the moment Bran parroted “chaos is a ladder” to him. Killing him then in such way, is more about giving the audience what they want than giving realism to the story.
Great Characters Deserve Greater Ends
Once, there was a small boy from an unimportant family who was fostered and raised by others. He played with their children, he fell in love with one of their daughters, and would fight for her hand after hearing she was betrothed to another. He believed in the stories where brave men challenged those twice their size and won because they had true love on their side. Because of those stories, the young man believed he would win. Instead, he was nearly killed before the girl he loved stepped in, then went on to choose his rival. He was ultimately banished from the only home he’d really known and left to his own defenses. Sounds like the origins story of a hero, of someone you’d root for, but it’s the one so many cheered the pitiful death of: Littlefinger.
He wasn’t born a sadist or someone without conscience like Joffrey and Ramsay. This doesn’t diminish the terrible things he did, but it does bring up key questions.
If Sansa can reach her goal of being a land-ruling Lady in a castle (with his help no less), then why is it so abhorrent a thought that Petyr reach his? Why, if minor players in the game of thrones get remarkable and shocking deaths, doesn’t someone who kicked off the entire series of events get the same respect?
Petyr’s Death Should Have Cut Deeper
It’d be foolish to argue that anyone should live until the end of show itself; winter is here and all men must die. I’m expecting the majority of characters to be wiped out before the end of the show, so Baelish’s death itself isn’t the issue, it’s the circumstances. It’s the fact that it was no surprise to audience, that it’s based on the premise of Littlefinger being so foolish that, despite an amazing performance by Aidan Gillen, it didn’t pack the punch it deserved.
Littlefinger Ought To Have Died By His Creation
It was poetic that Sansa turned on him in the end, but it’d have been more so if she did it alone. Having an omniscient brother and assassin sister do much of the work, including the actual killing, diminishes her triumph. It also diminishes the complexities of the relationship between her and Petyr. It’d have been a fascinating twist for her to have lured, baited, and killed Lord Baelish all on her own.
What a lovely shock it’d have been to see Lord Baelish get everything he wanted — the throne, the girl, everything in that pretty picture in his head — only to be cut down at the hands of the young woman he’d groomed to think like he does. That’s a death worthy of the most dangerous man in Westeros and the fans who’ve followed him for so many years.
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