Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones‘ seventh season finale.....For loyal bannermen of House Stark, it was never going to be possible to root for Littlefinger after he betrayed Ned Stark. Poisoning Joffrey at his own wedding, saving Sansa from the Lannisters, rescuing Jon from certain defeat during the Battle of the Bastards, none of it mattered. Nothing he ever did was going to be enough to undo his double cross of the greatest man who ever lived.But like two teams who shake hands in mutual admiration after a violent, bloody, and hate-filled game, Petyr Baelish deserves to be remembered for being the most skilled player in the game of thrones as much as he deserves to be remembered for being a ruthless amoral monster.The spokes in the wheel of Westerosi power that Daenerys wants to break is made of rich old families, their wealth and power inherited and passed down for generations. The highborn rule and play their games of palace intrigue, and the lowborn are there to serve them. Ideas like justice and fairness don’t matter when the powerful control the weak without fear of consequences.This was the world Petry Baelish was born into, one where the rare few who manage to overcome the class system of the Realm, to raise themselves from nothingness into respectability, require incredible skill and talents.Which is what Petry Baelish had more of than anyone on Game of Thrones. The minor House Baelish, of the poor, barren, stony Fingers in the Vale, did not offer the name or nobility that likely to produce a son who would grow up to serve on King Robert Baratheon’s small council as he did. Just like being only the second generation of landowners in his family made it seemingly impossible that he would also become Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Protector of the Vale. But he did all of that. His prodigious financial talents led Hand of the King Jon Arryn to bring him to serve as master of coin in King’s Landing, and from there Littlefinger’s skills in manipulating the lords and ladies in Westeros brought him wealth and power.But the smile and helpful attitude of the Realm’s magical money man hid a boy who knew firsthand how Westeros would never truly let him forget who he was, no matter how high he climbed, and that’s why he hated them. Because as a boy he was fostered at Riverrun, after his father a hedge knight befriended Lord Hoster Tully during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. He grew up there alongside Lord Tully’s children, Catelyn, Lysa, and Edmure. Edmure was the one who gave him the nickname Littlefinger, which stuck for the rest of his life.It was also where he fell in love with Cat, and where Lysa fell in love with him. But it wasn’t just that he was a nobody in Westeros, unworthy of marrying a great lord’s daughter, Catelyn Stark was betrothed to Brandon Stark, Ned’s older brother. That didn’t stop the undersized 15-year-old Baelish from challenging the 20-year-old hotheaded warrior Brandon to a duel for her hand. It was no match, and the young Baelish only lived because Catelyn begged Brandon not to kill him, though he nearly did. Stark men had a history of threatening him.Before Baelish was sent away after the one-sided fight, he got Lysa pregnant. Despite her pleadings he was too lowborn and Lord Tully wouldn’t let Lysa marry him. He even forced her to drink moon tea to end the pregnancy.This was the Westeros Petyr Baelish came to know, one where he could be friends with the powerful, but not one of them. He never forgot that.So when Lysa married Jon Arryn and convinced her husband to give Littlefinger control of the customs at Gulltown, he proved himself a financial wizard. That led him to King’s Landing, where he saw firsthand what being a warrior from a great house got you: the Iron Throne. But Robert Baratheon didn’t have the skills and cunning to rule and play the powerful game of lords. Not like Littlefinger.For a lowborn, brilliant, ambitious man who had lost out on the woman he loved because of his name and not because of love, there was only one thing to do. He would never be able to defeat his oppressors in battle, Brandon had proven that, so he would defeat them in the shadows. He wouldn’t even let them know he was a threat, the most dangerous kind. He got Lysa to poison Jon Arryn, he turned on Ned and sided with the Lannisters, then he turned on them, killed Lysa, married Sansa to the Boltons, then for good measure turned on them too.Baelish called chaos a ladder, and nobody created chaos and climbed its ladder higher and higher like him, becoming the game of thrones best participant, even though most had no idea he was in the game. If he hadn’t run into someone more skilled at lying than him in Arya Stark he might still be with us, still making his climb to the Iron Throne, one ruined house and body at a time.But his treachery, all the lies, betrayal, double-crosses, and murder, finally caught up to him. He understood the world is not a just and fair place, but rather than use his skills to make it a better place for himself and others, he used his talents to make it worse.With his abilities he could have been a great man, maybe not powerful, but good and decent. Instead he decided he wanted what the world told him he couldn’t have: power. That’s why no tears will be shed for him now that he is gone. His fate was well-earned, and the world is a better place for being rid of him.But he also deserves to be remembered for playing the game as well as anyone, like a pawn on the chess board who almost managed to become the king.House Stark’s long and bloody battle with Baelish has come to an end, with the right side finally victorious. But he was a worthy opponent, and he deserves to be remembered for how well he played the game, even if he was so bad.What do you think? Are you sad to see Baelish go? How will you remember him? Share your thoughts, both big and Littlefinger, in the comments below.
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