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And the Winner of the Best TV Character of the Century Bracket Is …

Two iconic characters, Walter White and Michael Scott, entered, but only one could prevail

Ringer illustration

“He can’t keep getting away with it!” Jesse Pinkman yelled through tears in the final season of Breaking Bad. “He can’t keep getting away with it!”

Well, finally, someone stopped him.

The man who put an end to Walter White’s reign of terror is perhaps an unlikely hero. Born in a quaint, midsized city in Pennsylvania, he grew up isolated from his peers—“I wanna be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends,” he memorably admitted as a youngster—before rising through the ranks of a small but persistent paper company. As a boss, he instilled important values like sensitivity, gender equality, equal measures of trust and distrust in technology, and the sort of courage one must have to stand up to rabies. He was a screenwriter, an ad man, a lover, a fighter, and a parkour enthusiast. He wore a ladies’ suit, committed corporate espionage by smuggling himself into a meeting via a cart of cheese, and knew all the words to Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway.” He made everyone who worked for him feel both utterly uncomfortable and utterly at home. And on Friday night, he slayed Heisenberg.

Michael Scott’s run through The Ringer’s Best TV Character of the Century bracket was something to behold, even if The Office’s current standing as the most popular show on streaming hinted at his success. He whipped Wags of Billions in Round 1, as a 1-seed should do to a 16-seed. He then dominated It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Kelly—a character who many believed was grossly underseeded—by a score of 75 percent to 25 percent. His one challenge came in the Sweet 16, when he was beaten handily in the website poll by Saul Goodman yet still won with an overall score of 56-44. Only afterward did it become clear that Saul’s votes had been inflated by a bot-fueled attack. That’s how good Michael Scott is—he defeated the machines. From there, he came at the king Omar Little and did not miss, and then walloped Ron Swanson in the Final Four.

But the win over Walter White was Michael’s most impressive feat. No one had dominated this bracket quite like Heisenberg. In matchups against Scandal’s Olivia Pope, The Americans’ Elizabeth Jennings, Friday Night Lights’ Coach Eric Taylor, Tony Freaking Soprano, and Arya Freaking Stark, Walter White won with an average 78 percent of the vote. As in Breaking Bad, he was the one who knocked in this bracket. Until the very end. Michael’s victory was slim: The on-site poll was separated by just 153 votes, in Walt’s favor, but with Michael winning 53 percent on Twitter and 58 percent on Instagram Stories, it was enough.

Congratulations to Michael Scott. He didn’t miss any of the shots he took this week. Not only is he the best boss—he’s the best TV character of the century.

Before we go, I want to wind down this wonderful tournament with a thank-you to everyone who voted, and with a quick ranking of my 10 favorite things that happened related to this bracket this week.

10. Eric Cartman turning into a Cinderella story, defeating Fleabag and Tim Riggins before falling to Jesse Pinkman. Those upsets were the exact, amusing kind of annoying that Cartman has traded in for the past two-plus decades. By the Sweet 16 I was actually rooting for him to go all the way.

9. Al Swearengen losing to NoHo Hank in the first round of the tournament, which created a bit of an existential crisis within The Ringer’s TV Slack channel.

8. On the precipice of facing each other in a momentous, fraught sibling-on-sibling battle, both Tyrion and Cersei Lannister going down (to Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson, respectively). Weirdly reminiscent of the TV show they were on!

7. Arya Stark absolutely slaying Baby Yoda in the Round of 32, which prompted me to ask The Ringer’s manager of social content, Logan Rhoades, if he could Photoshop B.Y.’s head onto Walder Frey’s body, which he then did:

6. Coach Eric Taylor making a late-game comeback to win an election against Selina Meyer. Just beautiful symmetry between the bracket, Friday Night Lights, and Veep. I loved it.

5. Nick Offerman saying to The Ringer’s John Gonzalez, “When you look in the mirror and see the hand of cards I’ve been dealt, you better have a sense of humor.”

4. Bots hacking the Round 2 poll between Gob Bluth and Ron Swanson in such a hilariously egregious manner. The guy racked up over 200,000 votes for himself while no other poll had more than 100,000 votes total. Within about two minutes of the poll being live, we were all like, “So how about those bots?!”

3. The decision to eliminate Gob Bluth for attempting to rig an election. It felt good to do, I won’t lie. The integrity of our elections is essential.

2. Will Arnett starting a mini-feud with The Ringer’s Twitter over this executive decision:

1. The realization that Ron Swanson continued to be dogged by bot activity even after the Gob fiasco, and the further realization that it was connected to some lighter bot activity we had noticed in relation to Saul Goodman. See, Ron beat Better Call Saul’s Kim Wexler in Round 1. Everything that followed—the Gob poll, the Saul polls, the weird de facto on-site tie between Ron and Cersei—was retribution. (A person who will remain anonymous did email us on Friday morning confessing to be the culprit of this bot malfeasance, and while that’s completely unverifiable—or if it is, we don’t care to verify it—I would like to report that this email included the phrase “the vile Ron Swanson.”) This sort of bonkers behavior is more than we could have hoped for when we dreamed up the idea to do a TV character bracket. Once again, we thank you, for all of it, and hope it brought you as much joy this week as it brought us.

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