Slate is celebrating HBO’s marathon broadcast of the remastered The Wire by republishing some of our best coverage of the show. This article, originally published earlier this year, is reprinted below.
If, like me, you are a fan of Game of Thrones, The Wire, and silly parlor games, you may have spent some time trying to answer a version of this question: If that Game of Thrones character was on The Wire, who would he or she be?
A fair number of potential matches emerge—which should not be terribly surprising. Both shows, after all, are about power, politics, and survival. Sometimes they even seem to be speaking to each other across the years, as the blog A Song of Ice & The Wire has demonstrated. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” says Cersei Lannister. “It’s all in the game, though, right?” Omar Little might reply.
So, several colleagues and I tried to select the best matches for various major characters. Please critique these selections in the comments, and suggest some more. And if you want a less frivolous comparison and contrast of these two series, check out Jack Hamilton’s piece elsewhere in Slate. -- David Haglund
Tyrion Lannister is Jimmy McNulty. Roguish, shaggy-haired brunets with dodgy accents who are equally fond of drink and sex. (Quick, which of the two said, “It’s not easy being drunk all the time?”) They speak truth impulsively and inconveniently to power and find themselves in peril for doing so. And both are frustrated by the wars they’re fighting: “Every time we deal with an enemy, we create two more,” Tyrion says. Detective McNulty would sympathize.
The Hound is Omar Little. Their facial scars and their devotion to solitude set them apart from polite society—and their skill with deadly weapons means they don’t need any company. These gruff men put on a cold-hearted front, but in private they are sweet to people they love. And really, their kinship became obvious the moment that the Hound declared, “A man’s got to have a code.” Omar agrees.
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish is Tommy Carcetti. It’s obvious why we’re pairing these two: They’re both smooth talkers and behind-the-scenes operators who rise swiftly—Carcetti to Mayor and Governor, Littlefinger to Lord of the Vale (so far). Both cannily manipulate a system that appears, on the surface, to be stacked against them due to an accident of birth: For Baelish, it’s being born to a minor house in lord-filled King’s Landing; for Carcetti, it’s being white in majority-black Baltimore.* Plus, they look kind of alike.
Cersei Lannister is Brianna Barksdale. Strong, shrewd, strategically minded women who are a little too fond of their brothers—Cersei of her twin and lover Ser Jaime, Brianna of Avon, the king of the West Baltimore drug trade. Both lose their firstborn sons in complicated family plots. And both women are valued advisers who leave you wondering how much more they could achieve if their roles weren’t so tightly circumscribed.
Arya Stark is Michael Lee. Tormented by early childhood trauma, Michael and Arya become merciless killers and fall in with bad crowds at very young ages. Both characters are shrewd, decent, and impossible not to root for despite their homicidal tendencies. Michael becomes a mini-Omar, and Omar’s Westeros equivalent, the Hound, is currently schooling the young Stark.
Jon Snow is Roland Pryzbylewski. Banished from their early homes—one because of a vindictive in-law, the other because a vindictive step-parent—these two, at once bright and simple-minded, only find their heroic callings in exile, where they support the most vulnerable and transform into respected, gently seditious members of their chosen professions. Nice and naive guys at heart, they occasionally have bad judgment and great nicknames.
Theon Greyjoy is Ziggy Sobotka. Ne’er-do-well, penis-obsessed, black-sheep sons who can’t stay out of their own way. The penitentiary where Ziggy currently resides might as well be a pleasure house in King’s Landing next to Theon’s present digs. Also, Balon Greyjoy is Frank Sobotka and Yara Greyjoy is Nicky, obviously.
Robb Stark is Stringer Bell. Both were ambitious up-and-comers whose quests for power were derailed by self-righteous hubris. Both were dispatched in the penultimate episodes of the third seasons of their respective shows, at the (indirect) hands of those they tried to climb over. Both were way better looking than you.
Jaime Lannister is Ellis Carver. Westeros’ wayward royal scion and the Baltimore Police Department’s most tortured bro both begin as aimless brutes before gradually achieving some grudging nobility in their circumscribed roles. Despite disturbing moral failings (Lannister, lately, much more so), both find redemption by accepting and even embracing their fates. And like Robb Stark and Stringer Bell, they are both better looking than you.
Stannis Baratheon is Cedric Daniels. Baratheon and Daniels are quiet, indecisive men who have hot tempers and feel entitled to more power than they have. They take questionable advice from the women in their lives—women who show more interest in strategic thinking than they appear to have the patience for.
Tywin Lannister is Avon Barksdale. Both rule powerful dynasties of a sort, and they are equally committed to controlling their territories. They profess a deep devotion to family—only to ignore that bond when their power is threatened. Tywin may appear more politically cunning, but Avon’s abilities in that arena are underrated: While Stringer seems savvier, Avon knew how not to get played.
Sansa Stark is Beatrice “Beadie” Russell. Sympathetic redheads who stumble into nefarious plots, Sansa Stark and sweet Beatrice Russell are plucky and easy to root for. They even pair up with another matching set, Tyrion Lannister and Jimmy McNulty—though Beadie’s relationship with the latter is much happier than Sansa’s with the former, of course.
Hodor is Herc. Poor Hodor and Herc. Try as they might, they just can’t seem to contribute anything to the team aside from their big, hulking frames. Still, both men occasionally offer unexpectedly profound insights. Also, both names start with H!
Ygritte is Snoop. Tough, clever, and good with a weapon, Snoop and Ygritte are both Wildlings at heart, even if it’s just the latter who goes by that name.
Daenerys Targaryen is Marlo Stanfield. While the various players in the empire scheme and plot, a greater power builds in the distance—that’s Marlo on The Wire and Daenerys on Game of Thrones. Just when or if Daenerys will arrive and smite her enemies the way Marlo finally did remains a mystery. But there’s little doubt that she could.
* Correction, June 2: This post originally referred to Petyr Baelish as common-born. He is from a minor house.