Littlefinger has been scheming for power since before we met him, but could his plans actually get him what he wants? What in Seven Hells is Littlefinger’s Endgame?
Spoilers through Season 5 follow. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish is one of Game of Thrones most enigmatic characters. Varys once said of him, “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” He continually proves that he is willing to betray anyone to get what he wants and that he is a deft manipulator and a major player in the game of thrones.
So what is Littlefinger’s endgame? Will he ever sit the Iron Throne?
We know he wants power (and has a thing for Sansa in the wake of his beloved Catelyn’s death), but what if his goal is not to sit the Iron Throne, but to control it. What if Littlefinger wants to be Hand of the King? Suddenly, his goal seems a lot closer to being accomplished. Here’s how Littlefinger could get control of the Iron Throne.
Littlefinger’s Key Moves
Littlefinger’s been making moves for a LONG time now. And he has to, because he was born a commoner. If he’s got designs on the Iron Throne, it’s going to take a lot more for him to control it than, say, Cersei Lanniser or someone else with a noble name. If Littlefinger is ever going to climb the Iron Throne, or at least be Hand of the King, he needs connection to nobility and some chaos to uproot the establishment. Better believe he knows that, too. He’s been working on it since the start of the series.
He used Lysa Arryn’s (crazy breastfeeding woman he eventually tossed out the Moon Door) love to make himself Master of Coin and get a foot in the door. He shook up the balance of power in Westeros when he had Lysa poison her husband John Arryn, the Hand of the King who dies at the start of the entire series. Then he points the finger at the Lannisters for Bran’s maiming (his dagger was used in the attempt on Bran’s life, but he says Tyrion stole it) to elevate tensions between the Starks and Lannisters and start a long tumbling of the major houses into chaos from which he can rise.
Littlefinger moves quickly, and fluidly. He keeps the big picture in mind, but he’s not afraid to alter the means by which he achieves his goals. Remember he came to Ned first and told him he should move in and seize Cersei and her bastards before King Robert died. Being as noble as he is, Ned refused, so Petyr switched sides and sent Ned to his death on the steps of the Sept of Baelor. This put him in the Lannisters’ good graces and eventually won him Lordship over Harrenhal. So even in season 2, look what he’s building: his own nobility as a landed lord, and chaos in the capitol as the Lannisters contend with the War of the Five Kings.
But if the Lannisters, and a “legitimate” heir in Joffrey control the Iron Throne, Littlefinger never will. So check out his next political gambit: the murder of King Joffrey, conspired with Lady Olenna Tyrell. Joffrey’s death has several benefits for Littlefinger if he wants to rule as Hand of the King.
- He gets control of Sansa, a valuable negotiation chit and potential key to the north.
- Joffrey’s death causes a chain reaction the leads to Tyrion killing Tywin. The Lannisters lose their King and their two best political strategists (Tywin to death, and Tyrion to Essos/Daenyrs) in one blow.
- Tommen is far easier for everyone, including Littlefinger, to control.
- Cersei is allowed to destroy herself.
- Lady Olenna is in his debt.
So more chaos, more influence, but the next step is a true rise into nobility. Littlefinger married Lysa Arryn, and when she went crazy and tried to push Sansa from the Moon Door, Petyr got rid of a troublesome wife and took control of the Vale of Arryn, one of the Seven Kingdoms. Then Littlefinger set up Sansa’s marriage to Ramsay, giving him de facto control of the North via an alliance with the Boltons and as Sansa’s uncle-by-law.
So look back and see what Littlefinger now has.
Amidst lots of political chaos, where Tyrells, Martels, and Lannisters are preparing to face off, the north is an afterthought, and houses Baratheon and Greyjoy are basically in open rebellion, Littlefinger is lord one of the Seven Kingdoms, is tightly allied with a second, and in a position to side with the winner of the brewing Tyrell/Lannister conflict.
He seems to be sitting pretty, but he isn’t done yet. His goal is the Iron Throne and here are some moves he could make to get it.
What is Littlefinger’s Endgame? His Road to the Iron Throne
It seems likely we are reaching Littlefinger’s endgame. Baelish wants the Tyrells and the Lannisters to go at each other, and although he’s in a position to benefit from either side winning, it seems pretty clear he clearly wants the Tyrells to come out on top…for now. He has systematically weakened the Lannisters, and Olenna is a better strategist than Cersei. She knows the concept of subtlety, an idea Cersei should really read up on. Seriously, watch this scene again. Cersei thinks she’s being subtle there.
However, unless there is a major massacre in King’s Landing or an unexpected assassination, Tommen is still on the Iron Throne. Both the Lannisters and the Tyrells need Tommen on the throne (with Margaery as his wife, in the Tyrells’ case) to remain in power. Once the Tyrells take over the power behind the Iron Throne, either by Cersei’s death or her running back to Casterly Rock, Littlefinger will likely be given a reward from Olenna for supporting the Tyrells. Could it be the Hand of the King?
The obvious choice as Hand for the Tyrells is Mace Tyrell, Margery’s father, so Olenna could rule through him. (Are women allowed to be Hand of the King? They never said they weren’t but Olenna would probably prefer to use Mace anyway.) But what if Mace is out of the way? Technically Littlefinger might not even need to kill him. He’s a bumbling character on another continent, right by the Faceless Assassins. Anything could happen to him in Braavos.
If the Tyrells make Littlefinger Hand of the King it’s time to sever ties. If he arranges the death of Olenna and Margery, House Tyrell is effectively out of the game of thrones. Who’s going to be their major player? Ser Loras? Mace? Hah, yeah, good one.
If all that worked, Littlefinger would easily be able to control Tommen and therefore have the Lannister army at his back. He would have control of the Vale, Harrenhal, and the Iron Throne. He has probably lost the North since Sansa hightailed it out of there, but with the Lannister army behind him he could always go after the Boltons once his position is secure. Or just leave them alone. Let Jon and the wildlings or the White Walkers kill them. You know, whatever.
The Hand of the King in Danger
Remember though, the Hand of the King seems to be cursed like the Defense Against the Dark Arts position in Harry Potter. Jon Arryn was poisoned. Ned lost his head. Tyrion had his face slashed and ended up in prison. Tywin died by Tyrion’s hand. And… Do we technically have a Hand of the King right now? Guess not.
Anyway, if Littlefinger becomes Hand of the King, he is in the greatest seat of power aside from the Iron Throne (which in this scenario he would control, remember), but he might also be in the greatest danger. Hands and Kings drop like flies on Game of Thrones. So even if Littlefinger gets everything he wants he would be set up for the greatest fall.
Littlefinger has built a house of cards and at some point it will all come crashing down. But maybe, just maybe, Petyr Baelish will get everything he wants before being brutally murdered. There isn’t much justice in Westeros, but remember the final book in the series was originally titled A Time for Wolves in a pretty overt reference to the Stark sigil (the title has since been changed to A Dream of Spring) and Littlefinger is responsible for a trail of dead Starks.
But then again, Gil Kidron wrote an article arguing for why we should want Littlefinger to win. You can read the full article here. We as a society moved away from monarchies because it causes all of the problems we see on Game of Thrones. Littlefinger is a self-made man who is rising through the ranks of power the only way he can. But even taking that into account, Littlefinger started a war and murdered so many people to get what he wants. And by this point most of the Starks are killers. (Fingers crossed Sansa kills Ramsay next season.) Will any of them forgive Littlefinger when they find out the extent of his crimes? Probably not.
So will Littlefinger get the Iron Throne or die trying? We’ll find out come April.