**Spoilers Ahead (Through Season Two Finale)**
As millions watched the finale of season two last night, and wept afterwards at the thought of waiting an entire year before season three begins, I started to debate who on the show was making the smartest decisions provided to them. I think it’s obvious that intelligence doesn’t necessarily put you in the greatest of situations on Game of Thrones, though many of the characters who have made the smartest decisions have increased their standing. I think of all the character traits in Game of Thrones, it’s intelligence which has allowed the main characters to shine. Whether they’re the smartest, or not so smart.
After all, the Game of Thrones is eventually going to be won by wits. It’s like Survivor, but interesting; with dragons and shadow demon birth babies.
The Smartest (Top 5)
Tywin is the perfect example of someone who has status, power, money, and doesn’t allow any of it to get in the way of making sound decisions. Of all the well standing characters on the show, he’s the one of the few who acts like he actually deserves it and worked hard to get it.
Even the bringing on of Arya wasn’t questionable; he’s even called that she’s deceiving him about her status. He hasn’t underestimated Robb Stark, and shows great respect for the young gun. His adoption of Arya as his servant also shows he has a great talent for finding the value in people, which is quite possibly one of the greatest forms of intelligence.
The last two episodes of the season quite possibly showed he’s easily the most intelligent character on the show. He finally decided where his services were needed, easily succeeded in the battle and accepted the gifts provided after the battle. Can’t wait to see what his actions will be as Hand.
Let’s also not forget this is the man who saw the value in naming his son Tyrion Hand to the king. Again, finding value in someone who up until then was seen as a witty drunk.
Tywin is a shining example of how all you have to really do in the world of Game of Thrones is know how to check your ego, use the faults of others against them, and take advantage of value you find in others.
Intelligence Level: Grand Admiral Thrawn
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
I’ll be honest, it was tough deciding whether to put Tyrion or Baelish in the second spot on the list. However, I think Baelish has shown a greater sense of intelligence over a longer period of time. The man has a whore house, is on the council, helped Ned Stark nearly til the end, and still managed to come out ahead through it all.
If there’s one weakness he’s shown, it’s his affection for Catelyn Stark. But even then, he knew how to play the hand he was dealt in that situation. Only time will tell if he’ll go full tilt and somehow die for that love. With the intelligence he’s shown so far, I’m actually betting on him doing the smart thing.
Baelish is the guy at the poker table who knows how to make big bets, but also realizes when not to over-value a hand. Reading situations and acting accordingly will win you most hands in poker, the same for Baelish in GoT.
Intelligence Level: Daniel Negreanu
“I understand how this game is played”
Really, that’s the quote which signifies the level of Tyrion’s intelligence on the show. Understanding is one of the largest pieces of the intelligence puzzle. And Tyrion has shown he understands most of the situations he finds himself in. Whether it was the adventures he made it through in the first season, or the subterfuge and guile of season two.
If there’s one weakness we’ve seen in Tyrion, it’s that he let’s the foolish side of his nature prevail from time-to-time. Most notably, the company he keeps with women. Seen in the eighth episode of season two, he pronounced his undying love for a woman that his bitch of a sister is after. Not a smart play at all, and though I haven’t read the books, will most likely come back to bite him.
Though he didn’t reap any rewards for it, he also showed great tactical intelligence and King’s Landing probably would have fallen if it weren’t for him. Even with the arrival of his father.
Also, like his father, Tyrion shows a knack for seeing the value in people. Especially people who others don’t see the value in. Probably because he was always underestimated.
Intelligence Level: Captain Louis Renault
Of all the characters on the show who have been dealt bad hands, and let’s face it, that’s a long list, Arya has probably shown the greatest wits in making it through her situation(s). Honestly, most kids her age would have died somewhere in the beginning of season two.
Whether it was in the first season, taking on Joffrey and coming ahead in each confrontation, or knowing the value of learning fencing with Syrio, Arya showed you don’t have to be the biggest to survive in Game of Thrones (along with Tyrion).
The ending of season one showed who the smartest Stark truly is, because most in her situation wouldn’t have made it out of King’s Landing. The second season really highlighted the intelligence of her character, as she really played with fire in predicaments and came out unburned. She released a captive assassin who she utilized pretty well, became servant to one of the few characters smarter than her and made it through, and was able to fool everyone but a single character that she was a boy.
I thought the greatest moments in the second season were the discussions between Arya and Tywin, and I think it’s because they are probably the two most clever characters. But as Tywin warned her in one of those chats, she might be “too smart for her own good“.
Intelligence Level: Kevin McCallister
This was the toughest decision, as I think many characters could have taken the #5 spot. I was really debating on Ned Stark and Jaime, but Ned is dead and Jaime is still kicking. Also, I think Jaime is an example of a form of intelligence many people look over – emotional intelligence. There are few characters, or people in real life who have a strong sense of self. There’s never a moment in Game of Thrones when you see a scene featuring Jaime where he doesn’t know who or what he is. Sure, he’s devious, narcissistic, and is the kingslayer. While many with these traits would either fight them or be consumed by them, Jaime uses them to a distinct advantage.
There are probably few people who could have survived being captured by a family who’s patriarch was beheaded at the hands of your own family; and let’s face it, Jaime would have definitely swung the axe if given the option.
Jaime gets some points deducted for the whole incest thing, because it’s never smart to sleep with someone in your family. Especially your twin.
I really can’t wait to see the situations Jaime gets himself out of with witty dialogue in the third season.
Intelligence Level: Patrick Bateman
Middle of the Pack (Not worth writing about)
The Dumbest (Bottom 5)
Cersei Baratheon (Lannister)
Talk about a character who’s gotten to where she is by relying on a lot of luck. She was literally a couple of wrong moves by Ned Stark, and Robert’s fondness of hunting, away from being outed. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but being scorned doesn’t make you smart. She’s only #5 on the list, because she does have a smidge of cunning. Her greatest use of this cunning was when she thought she had the love interest of Tyrion locked away. Swing and a miss.
Also, she was literally seconds away from killing her child even though the battle for King’s Landing was still being fought. To make another poker comparison; luck can get you far in the game, but it only takes one bad turn to do you in.
Intelligence Level: Beverly R. Sutphin
It’s interesting that Cersei and Catelyn are next to one another in the dumbest list, as they’re really two sides to the same coin. They’re both strong matriarchs of their perspective families, extremely protective of their children, and have made questionable decisions due to scorn and malice.
Honestly, Catelyn probably would have been #5 or maybe in the middle of the pack if she hadn’t made one of the all time dumb decisions in season two by letting Jaime Lannister go. Because, you know, those Lannisters are a completely trustworthy bunch and will uphold a deal. The other mistake she made out of anger was in the first season, by accusing Tyrion of pushing Bran off the tower. Could have let her gotten away with that one, but the entire package will get you put on the dunce list.
Catelyn is probably the person who is most deserving of sympathy on the dumbest list, as she really made the awful decisions out of love or protecting her children. However, I don’t think anyone could blame Robb for calling his mom out for the release of Jaime. In the Game, letting emotions overtake you almost always leads to dire consequences.
Intelligence Level: Elaine Miller
Oh Joffrey, Joffrey, Joffrey, Joffrey, it’s really hard to just put into words how dumb the child king really is. Here’s someone who has everything, doesn’t deserve it, and instead of just living happily in this regard, makes just about every stupid decision he could possibly contemplate. He’s vindictive, narcissistic, reckless, and cruel. He doesn’t use any of these traits well in any situation he finds himself in, except for perhaps switching his wedding partner in the season two finale.
The first choice this ad wizard made as a king is what sets off war in the kingdoms, and he acts proud about it. Unlike his grandfather and uncle, Joffrey sees the value in no one, demonstrated perfectly when he was going to defile his soon-to-be queen. When the people hear whispers of him not being the proper king; instead of trying to win the people over and make amends, he acts like a brat.
Oh, and he got his ass handed to him in season one by Arya. Let’s all keep living that moment in our heads, until the day comes that Joffrey meets his end.
Intelligence Level: Veruca Salt
I will hand it to Theon, he was able to go from unassuming side character in the first season to an important element in the second season. Of course, this transition occurred for all the wrong reasons. Unlike Joffrey who’s just being himself, Theon is truly a lost soul who seems to have little in the way of any sort of wisdom or logical thought processes. The final episode proved Theon doesn’t even understand simple mathematics – 20 vs. 500. If you’re going to be disloyal and backstabbing, then at least be smart about it.
I could write a lot more about Theon, but his stupidity is so obvious it kind of feel likes I’d be beating a dead horse to go on about it all. Suffice to say, everything went downhill after he groped his sister on the horse ride to the Pyke.
Intelligence Level: Fredo Corleone
Ah, I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Take just a second to really think of Jon Snow’s journey so far, and it becomes obvious that Snow is hands down the dumbest character on the show. Now, don’t get me wrong, he is probably the purest hero we’ve seen so far in Game of Thrones, but morality ? intelligence. If this were a list of morality from good to evil, Snow would be up top, and that’s why he’s also #1 on the dumbest list. Just about every decision he’s made since the first season has led to him being further down the crap hole beyond ‘The Wall’.
If he’d just listened to Tyrion and accepted his bastard status, abasked in it, then he wouldn’t be on the dreaded walk to the wildlings’ camp. Who in their right mind would have the luxury of being a part of nobility, the love of the patriarch who would have helped him become anything; decide to join an organization who’s built mostly of thieves and murderers? Apparently, Jon Snow.
Not only did he join this organization (Night’s Watch), he volunteered for the the most dangerous duties, and then proceeds to completely muck up those duties. When they get to Craster’s camp in the north, Snow completely goes against the one rule he’s not supposed to break by talking to one of his wives. When he joins the rangers to scout the wildlings he’s tasked with one simple instruction, in beheading Ygritte. For those who watch the show, we all know how that turned out.
Snow is really a wrench thrown into the equation of the Game of Thrones roster. No one besides Snow is a pure hero, as they all have demons and greedy intentions. Even Ned Stark, who was probably the purest hero in the first season had a lot of personality issues to deal with and skeletons in the closet. Snow, however, has made just about every dumb decision he could make, all in the name of doing what’s right. Look where that’s gotten him.
One of the more likable characters? Sure. One of the smartest? Not even close.
Intelligence Level: Perseus (and every other tragic hero in storytelling history)