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The Best TV Character of the Century Bracket: Down Go the Lannisters

Two NBC alums, Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson, took down the ‘Game of Thrones’ siblings—but Arya Stark still stands among an Elite Eight of towering icons

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There wasn’t a wedding, but given what happened to a few notable Game of Thrones characters, there might as well have been. The North remembers, and Arya Stark—the only surviving citizen of Westeros remaining in our TV character bracket—is likely looking on with mischievous glee normally reserved for slicing her enemies’ throats and baking them into pies.

After hard-fought opening rounds, both Tyrion and Cersei Lannister fell to members of Mike Schur’s television empire on Wednesday: the former queen to Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson—a man who hates government almost as much as Cersei hated the people she ruled—and her brother to a fellow black sheep, The Office’s Dwight Schrute.

Thrones was the definitive story of the 2010s. HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s still-uncompleted series delighted us with dozens of memorable characters, the three featured in this bracket among the best of them. And yet it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see a Westerosi citizen meet an untimely end. We may say “not today” to the god of death, but everyone meets their end eventually.

Not even a confounding vote tally could save Cersei. After Tuesday’s botpocalypse saw Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth tally nearly 200,000 more on-site votes than Swanson, the Parks department head was entwined in controversy once more. From the time polling opened, Swanson and Cersei stayed knotted up, never separated by more than five votes on either side. That’s nothing too out of the ordinary; we’ve had narrow margins before. What was confusing, however, was the rate at which their totals continued to rise. When voting closed, most of the other contests had between 30,000 and 40,000 ballots cast. Cersei v. Ron clocked in well over 200,000. And despite all of those votes, the poll was decided by a mere two votes. That’s what we in the biz call an anomaly.

But in the end, it didn’t matter much. The razor-thin margin of what was probably a bot standoff meant the real battle would take place on social media, where Swanson thrived. But after two days of peculiar vote totals, I’m left wondering about the motives behind the stuffed ballot boxes. While he fell to Michael Scott, Better Call Saul’s eponymous lawyer saw relatively high vote totals this week. What if the Bluth bots and the Swanson-Lannister fiends were a decoy to distract us while a lighter bot movement was underway for Saul Goodman? Or maybe they’re secretly Swanson stans, knowing that we’d never allow such an obviously fake vote count to send Gob through on Tuesday, and that an even matchup on Wednesday would allow all the steak-eating, whiskey-guzzling Pawnee lovers out there to run away with the prize on social. Or maybe I’m just turning into Charlie Kelly, who was eliminated two rounds ago.

Either way, it turns out the rise of the machines is much more boring than Hollywood told me it would be. Instead of Skynet and the robot wars, we get fiercely contested internet votes. On to the regional finals.

You can vote on this page below, on Twitter, and on Instagram till 6 p.m. ET.

The Elite Eight

After edging out Leslie Knope in the Sweet 16 (I can only hope we remember her the way she remembered Li’l Sebastian), Tony Soprano faces the second-seeded Walter White. Walt’s no stranger to the world of organized crime, and Breaking Bad gives him a recency advantage—it finished in 2013, The Sopranos cut to black in 2007. Neither of these men are what one might describe as a “good” person. But they’re two of the antiheroes who built the 2000s era of Peak TV.

Tony dispatched Knope, Liz Lemon, and Rick Sanchez to get here, while White took down Coach Taylor (turns out you can lose despite having clear eyes and a full heart), Elizabeth Jennings, and Olivia Pope. One of these two bosses will earn a spot in the Final Four. Determining which is up to you:

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    (1) Tony Soprano, ‘The Sopranos’
    (12229 votes)
  • 64%
    (2) Walter White, ‘Breaking Bad’
    (22209 votes)
34438 votes total Vote Now


If Walt manages to come out of that matchup, he just might get one final showdown with his protégé. It seems Breaking Bad’s series finale wasn’t enough to quench our Walt v. Jesse thirst, because now, only one round (and a very dangerous enemy) stands between Pinkman and his worst nightmare.

Jesse ended Cartman’s reign of terror on Wednesday (JUSTICE FOR FLEABAG), but he still has his work cut out for him. Arya Stark didn’t just kill Meryn Trant, the Freys, the Night King, and a whole horde of wights; she also took down Nathan Fielder, Baby Yoda, and Seth freaking Cohen. Not even Captain Oats could have prepared us for such a dominant run. Walt v. Jesse would be an exciting duel, but are you really willing to bet against someone who’s seen all of Death’s faces?

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    (5) Arya Stark, ‘Game of Thrones’
    (18648 votes)
  • 45%
    (3) Jesse Pinkman, ‘Breaking Bad’
    (15807 votes)
34455 votes total Vote Now


In the Scene Stealers Region, Dwight Schrute vs. Ron Swanson hurts in a way; it’s not impossible to think the two might be friends. Both come from Big Ten country, love the outdoors, aren’t very trusting of those they disagree with, and have very strong opinions about [gestures wildly at surroundings] everything. And yet, here they are, dueling for sport.

The real difference here comes down to facial hair: Dwight has none, while Ron typically sports a regal patch of fur above his upper lip. As many (myself included) partake in growing quarantine beards, it’s possible a kinship could form with Swanson that could swing the outcome. Then again, Dwight has seen his fair share of fights.

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    (5) Dwight Schrute, ‘The Office’
    (17049 votes)
  • 50%
    (3) Ron Swanson, ‘Parks and Recreation’
    (17536 votes)
34585 votes total Vote Now


This being the internet, I’m sure everyone will respond kindly to my admission that I’ve never seen The Wire or Curb Your Enthusiasm. What I can tell you, from my limited understanding of the shows from assorted YouTube clips, is that the voters did not, in fact, respect wood. Despite a tie on Twitter, Omar emerged victorious thanks to a slim lead on the other voting platforms.

Omar might be a self-titled king, but he’s never seen an enemy quite like the pride of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Michael Scott, the regional manager himself, beat back the Saulbots, Charlie Kelly, and Wags. He’s arguably the favorite to win this entire tournament. But upsets happen all the time, and no one is immune. Michael v. Dwight would be a legendary semifinal showdown. Will we get a chance to see it?

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (1) Michael Scott, ‘The Office’
    (20769 votes)
  • 39%
    (2) Omar Little, ‘The Wire’
    (13819 votes)
34588 votes total Vote Now

For each round, you can vote here on the website (except for you, bots!), on Twitter, and on Instagram every day till 6 p.m. ET.

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