Game Of Thrones is aptly titled in the sense that the series is a veritable game of chess in a fight for the Seven Kingdoms. And, while there are obvious contenders for the Iron Throne — Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, etc. — there are a few people who have been quietly playing the game, pulling more strings, and wielding more power than those born in fancy houses. Littlefinger and Varys are actually the MVPs of the game. Without them, almost none of the events on the series would have unfolded. Seriously.
Love them or hate them, Littlefinger and Varys are the series' real game changers. They also take the reality TV show approach to competition, forming alliances, lying, and manipulating. Basically, they aren't here to make friends. They are here to win. But, winning means different things to the two characters.
Charlie Jane Anders wrote for Gizmodo, Varys and Petyr Baelish, AKA Littlefinger, have different motives for attaining power and pulling strings. The Gizmodo piece points out that Varys schemes and learns secrets to wield power through abstractions like "the realm" and "the throne." Littlefinger, however, uses chaos as a ladder for personal gain — it's every man or woman for themselves in his world. Anders went on to say, that the "crucial difference" between Varys and Littlefinger is that Varys has not been known to seek a position for himself. But, Littlefinger chips away at the system as a means to obtain more personal power.
Viewers have underestimated the power both men have wielded throughout the series, and fans shouldn't dismiss the fact that both characters are still standing as the show enters its final two seasons. Things are getting down to the wire in Westeros.
In order to fully understand Littlefinger and Varys' motivations in the final episodes of the series, I want to look back at the game-changing storylines they've set in motion. Here are nine times Littlefinger and Varys ran things in the Game Of Thrones:
1Their Iron Throne Discussions
It is no accident that many of the Varys and Littlefinger's most telling conversations happen around the Iron Throne. One of the early conversations goes something like this ...
Yep, that basically sums these two up. They are playing off each other at the foot of the Iron Throne, looking up at it. And one of them has ambitions of sitting there.
2That Telling HBO Poll
When Littlefinger tried to hitch his wagon to Sansa last season because she is the future of House Stark, audiences snickered at Littlefinger's obvious desire for the Iron Throne and the seemingly preposterous idea of a Sansa/Littlefinger alliance. (Hello, he sold her to Ramsay Bolton!) But, HBO sort of reinforced the potential for a Sansa/Littlefinger ticket for the Iron Throne with an online poll around the 2016 presidential election. HBO's four candidates for the Iron Throne were: Daenerys, Cersei, Jon Snow, and Petyr Freaking Baelish. OK, I added the "freaking" for emphasis, but you get the idea.
In order to cement ties to the Lannisters, Littlefinger betrayed Ned Stark. He went back on a plan he made with Ned to win over City Watch. Littlefinger ordered the killing Ned's men, held a dagger to Ned's throat and said, "I did warn you not to trust me." Ned's downfall leads to his execution at the hands of the Lannisters.
The Huffington Post piece, "Why You Should Root for Littlefinger to Win," explained that Littlefinger's manipulation in Season 1, including the betrayal of Ned Stark, started the civil war in Westeros. "[Littlefinger] is the one who orchestrated the whole civil war in Westeros, by pitting the Starks against the Lannisters with an elaborate series of lies and deceits," Gil Kidron wrote. So, there you have it. Littlefinger started this whole thing. Will he be the one to end it?
4The Murder Of Joffrey
The Gizmodo piece mentioned above notes that Baelish "brokered the the alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters, wedding Joffrey to Margaery."
But, according to Nerdist, once Littlefinger found the Tyrells to be a more beneficial ally than the Lannisters, he plotted Joffrey's death with Olenna Tyrell.
TL;DR: Littlefinger played the Starks to get to the Lannisters. Then he played the Lannisters when something better came along, the Tyrells. Hate the player not the game, I guess.
5The Whole Tully Situation
Let's not forget that to position himself in the North, Littlefinger married Catelyn's sister Lysa Arryn (surely, tied to his Catelyn obsession as well as his quest for world domination) and pushed her to her death out the Moon Door.
OK, so the whole Catelyn Stark/Sansa Stark/Petyr Baelish thing is creepy. Littlefinger loved Catelyn. He wanted Ned's power. Sansa looks like Catelyn. Sansa could get Littlefinger to the Iron Thone. Whatever. It's weird. The man sold Sansa to Ramsay Bolton and now he wants favors from her because the tables have turned. Now, Sansa is the person Littlefinger needs to impress. However, if there is an alliance between them, it is obvious Baelish cannot be trusted.
7Varys, Jorah & Dany
Varys worked with Illyrio Mopaitis, the person who gave Daenerys to Khal Drogo. He also sent Jorah Mormont to spy on Daenerys more for his own motives than for King Robert's.
8Varys & Tyrion
The witty banter between Varys & Tyrion and the kinship between the men that are both looked down upon in society makes them sort of a dynamic duo. While there are many twists and turns in the Varys and Tyrion storyline, the most notable is that Varys orchestrated Tyrion crossing paths with Jorah Mormont and Daenerys. That's right, Varys masterminded the Tyrion/Dany alliance.
9Littlefinger & Varys Are Ice & Fire
Last season, people were perplexed to see that Varys had travelled at a suspiciously fast pace from Dorne to Mereen. No, he's probably not a merman as a Slate article jokingly proposes. But, his appearance in Dorne to influence the Sand Snakes is significant because it continues to show Varys' alliances outside of King's Landing.
When looking at where Varys and Littlefinger's allegiances lie, there is an interesting thought that comes to mind. Could Littlefinger and Varys be the ice and fire? Not, Jon Snow and Dany. Think about it, Varys is aligned with fire and Littlefinger has entrenched himself in the North with House Tully and House Stark.
And, after all, Varys and Littlefinger have been the ones making the Game Of Thrones calls all along.