Almost always, the NCAA tournament is defined by a two-part process. The first part—usually taking place over the tournament’s first two rounds—is chaos. Florida Gulf Coast University dunks the shit out of Georgetown; Mercer beats Duke; Loyola Chicago and that adorable little old nun advance over Miami. The second part unfolds thereafter, as chaos gives way to order. The shocking upsets dwindle and dwindle and dwindle (except in the case of that adorable little old nun), until the only teams left standing are the ones you pretty much thought would make it all along; some combination of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and so on.
That’s more or less what happened in The Ringer’s Best TV Character of the Century bracket, which enters its final round on Friday afternoon. The first couple of rounds saw stunning upsets—13-seed NoHo Hank’s defeat of Al Swearengen in the opening round (Chris Ryan when that happened: “This is a crime against art.”); Nathan Fielder taking down 1-seed Villanelle; Eric Cartman demolishing Fleabag and holding off a late comeback by Tim Riggins to advance to the Sweet 16. But—despite the nefarious scheming of some robots—things have straightened out since then. The Elite Eight featured no one ranked lower than a 5-seed, and the semis were filled out by four truly iconic TV characters: Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark, Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson, and The Office’s Michael Scott. The chaos gave way to order.
That trend continued in the Final Four. Arya may have killed the Night King, but she couldn’t kill the king of a different kind of blue ice. While she is no doubt a perfect TV character, a worthy representative of the most popular show of the 2010s, it’s no overstatement to say that Walter White is the more renowned, more central character. And while Ron Swanson has made an incredible run in this tourney—overcoming bot-riddled polls in rounds 1, 2, and 3—he was no match for Michael Scott, the most universally loved character from a TV show that’s found a major second life on streaming. The man also known as Duke Silver put up a fight on Twitter but lost handily on the site poll and on Instagram.
In the end, the Final Four face-offs resembled another NCAA tournament trope: the much-hyped matchup that immediately turns into a rout. Just as Kansas trounced UNC in the ’08 Final Four, Heisenberg trounced Arya Stark 69 percent to 31 percent. Just as Duke crushed Michigan State in ’15, Michael Scott beat Ron Swanson, 56 percent to 44 percent.
If, at the beginning of the week, we had done odds on finals matchups, Walter White vs. Michael Scott would’ve been set extremely high (-450 maybe?). Lo and behold, that’s what we have in front of us now.
A teacher of chemistry versus a teacher of business (kinda). The one who knocks versus the one who burned his foot on a George Foreman grill. The Final Four might have been runaways for these two, but this final could be a bloodbath. Without further ado, let’s get to the voting.
Which character should advance?
This poll is closed
(2) Walter White, ‘Breaking Bad’
(1) Michael Scott, ‘The Office’