We here at Giddy Up America are giving both the competitors and judges a few days off in the hotly contested Greatest HBO Character of All Time Tournament. During this down time, we* thought it’d be good to look at a few of the HBO characters who just missed the cut.
*and by “we” I totally mean “I.”
We are going to talk about the character, kick around what makes them or almost makes them great, wonder who they would replace if they had made it and finally, see how they stack up against our Final Four (Tony Soprano, Larry David, Omar Little, Stringer Bell.)
Before I get started, I wanted to let you know that I’m currently eating soup. This is only noteworthy because as a rule, I really only eat soup when I’m sick. I don’t consider clam chowder (New England of course,) bisque or chili soup. When I think about soup I think chicken noodle, which is what I’m eating. I wanted to see what it tasted like when I wasn’t dying from some illness like influenza or a mean case of the sniffles. The final verdict: don’t question yourself Ryan. You’re 33 years old. You’ve made it this far sticking to your guns, guns like Only Eat Soup When You’re Sick and Avoid Food With More Than One Vowel. Don’t get cocky now.
The bread is delicious, though.
Those Who Just Missed the Cut…
Richard Harrow (Boardwalk Empire)
Richard Harrow was the character most frequently mentioned as the one who should have been in the tournament. Although those mentions mostly came from my cousin, Joe Nixon. But hey, that counts for something and yes I agree, Richard Harrow should have been in the tournament. He wasn’t there because of any kind of slight against the character. No, sir. He wasn’t there because he was essentially number 33 and the tournament was a field of 32. I felt it was more important to have someone like Barb Henrickson from Big Love or Nate Fischer from Six Feet Under because those shows deserved to have at least one representative in the tournament, even though neither made it past the first round. Once again, Richard gets the short end of the stick.
There is no denying how great of a character Richard has become on Boardwalk, especially when you consider that he was so closely associated with Jimmy Darmody and was able to survive Jimmy’s death and continue on to season 2, which he ended in a pretty bad ass fashion.
Unfortunately Richard’s future on the show is a little murky. Why can’t he just team up with Nucky, who could certainly use someone like him going forward. Maybe that will happen. Hard to say.
But it’s not hard to say how flat out captivating Richard has become and props to the actor, Jack Huston, for doing such a top notch job with him, especially seeing as how half of his face is covered in an expressionless mask. If there was a knock against Richard it’s that A) his best days were when he was teamed with Jimmy and B) we’re not sure where he goes now. He was largely directionless in season three, relegated to taking care of Tommy and dealing with that crazy she devil Gillian. I just don’t know what Richard does now. And that’s kind of sad.
Another reason why he’s great- it’s hard to imagine Boardwalk Empire without him. Next to Nucky and Margaret, I think you could argue he’s the next most interesting character and that’s with apologies to Eli, Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone and Van Alden. Boardwalk Empire is a lavish and grand series, full of big stories, big sets and big scenes. Yet one of the most memorable scenes of season two was Richard alone in the woods, with barely any dialogue, being saved from killing himself by a hobo’s dog.
If he had made the tournament, I think he would have made it to the second round and depending on who was matched up against, could have even made it to third. A match up between him and Omar would have been great.
Maybe next time.
Dick Winters (Band of Brothers)
My buddy Josh from college, who currently resides in lovely Martha’s Vineyard running the hotel, the Mansion House, brought up the omission of Winters early on. Like Harrow, Winters also just missed the cut. I love Band of Brothers and didn’t totally feel right leaving him out. Unfortunately there were others, with larger bodies of work, who needed to be in there.
Based on a real person, Dick Winters, played by future domestic terrorist Damian Lewis, was the absolute center of Band of Brothers, a phenomenal mini-series by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg about the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company’s adventures in World War II. Winters was the mini-series narrative bus driver- driving the story and action. It was the lack of someone in that role that separates Band of Brothers from HBO’s other World War II mini-series, The Pacific, and ultimately what makes The Pacific not nearly as good.
If he were in the tournament, and trust me, he almost was, Winters would have proven to be a tough out. He most likely would have made it to at least the second round, possibly even further. There’s just not a lot of negatives with the character and Lewis was amazing, playing Winters with a deft command, making him the calm center of the storm that surrounded him. Put Winters up against someone like Stringer Bell and folks, I think we would have had ourselves a ball game. Stringer would win, but Winters would have put up a hell of a fight.
Joffrey Baratheon (Game of Thrones)
Marly in Baltimore thought Joffrey should have been involved in the tournament, and like Winters and Harrow, he almost was. What kept him out was my self-imposed limit on characters in Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The Wire, the last of which I’ll get into next. This self-imposed limit ended up being a good thing, because as I think about it more, the more I feel I made the right choice. If anything, Joffrey might not even be able to crack a field of 64, a field that would have existed if I was A) feeling more ambitious and/or B) not gainfully employed.
Joffrey is a deceiving character. He feels like a main character because of who he is on the show. And while yes, he does play a significant role in a good chunk of the show’s plot (I mean, he did essentially start the war that ravaged through season two when he cut off Ned Stark’s head,), if you take a step back and look at Game of Thrones from a distance, he comes off as more of a bench player. I think someone like Robb Stark or Tywin Lannister would have been a better entry than Joffrey, mainly because each seems to have more depth to them.
I talked about depth when I had Stringer versus Daenerys Targaryen in the Elite Eight. When working my way through that match up, I asked Joe Nixon what he thought. He brought up a great point about Stringer I hadn’t even thought about.
“My favorite Stringer moment actually happens after he’s dead (I think) (authors note: yes). The cops are raiding his apartment and McNulty is completely bewildered by what he finds. There’s nothing in there that matched the person he thought he was fighting. After all this time all he could say was, “Who was this guy?” (you might need to fact-check for me, it’s getting late) (authors note: you were close). How often can a character surprise you or the other characters so much that when they get a peek behind the curtain they realize they never really knew this person at all?”
Does that kind of depth even exist with Joffrey? I don’t think so. All we’ve seen of him is that he’s a sadistic little son of a biscuit and I have serious doubts he’s anything more than that. I would bet that Season Three Joffrey will be a lot like Season Two Joffrey. But hey, I’m totally cool with that. Why? Because Joffrey is a compelling character. Compelling, but definitely not great. If he was in the tournament, he’d be out in the first round. But please, don’t tell him I said that.
Kima Greggs, Bunk Moreland, Lester Freeman, Marlo Stanfield (The Wire)
This couldn’t be a tournament of just characters from The Wire. That’s been done before. It also couldn’t be a tournament overloaded with some of Baltimore’s finest because it would then become damn near impossible to not end up with a final four of all Wire characters. So as a result I limited myself to only four, which became a rule: a show couldn’t have more than four characters. So McNulty, Omar, Stringer and Bubbles made it. Kima, Bunk, Lester, Marlo and possibly one or two other characters were left out- but any one of them could have been in this rodeo and any one of them could have done some damage. It’s a testament to the greatness of The Wire that it had such a deep bench. And shit man, I’m not even considering someone like Bunny Colvin or Wallace. I’m really taking one for the team here.
Of the four mentioned,
I think it’s hard to determine who would have had the best chance in the tournament. Kima might have been able to get through a round or two, especially when you factor in that she was essentially the female lead on a show dominated by dudes and more than held her own. You put her against Carmela Soprano- Kima wins. Kima evolved and grew over the course of the five seasons and also never took a season off, even after she was shot! That’s even better than our dear friend McNulty, who was bounced partially based on the fact that he was on the sideline for season 4. Shit, maybe I should have included Kima.
As for the others, Bunk was a hell of a character, but I think part of what made him great was his relationship with McNulty. That wouldn’t have been enough to get him past the first round. Lester would have been a sneaky good selection because he was a sneaky good character which was rooted in the fact that he got started in the series being a sneaky good cop- real police. He probably would have gotten past the first round if he was a five or six seed, but I can’t see him getting any further than that. As for Marlo- that dude was bad ass and helped carry what was The Wire’s best run, a couple episodes into season three through season four. Not many words spoken, very subtle with his actions- he was a darker version of Stringer- more street than Stringer.
In the end, no real apologies for leaving any of these characters out, except for Kima. But like I said, this is about all HBO shows, not just The Wire.
Sorry, Kima. I’ll get you next time.
Roman Grant (Big Love)
Roman Grant would have been Big Love’s second entry (Barb Henrickson was the first) if I felt the show deserved one. But whereas I only wanted to give the show one, which even that I felt was charitable, I felt it should be one of the wives. But man, if you’ve watched Big Love at all then you know what kind of complete force of nature old Roman was. He was essentially an older version of Joffrey- just an evil son of a bitch with nothing but absolutely terrible intentions. But also like Joffrey, Roman lacked the depth needed to really advance in the tournament. Homeboy was an effin’ monster of a bad guy, though and was involved in some of Big Love’s best plots and scenes. On a show about a modern day Mormon polygamist family hiding out in plain sight in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, Roman was easily the show’s most interesting and wildly compelling character.
I just don’t see him getting past the first round, though. Maybe the second if he got lucky. I mean, he was a prophet. That should count for something. Kenny Powers rocked corn rows and that got him the win. Weirder things have happened.
Big Love just hasn’t aged well for me, much like Entourage hasn’t. That would be a definite strike against Roman.
Although if we were doing a HBO Bad Guy Tournament, then that would be a different story.
Next up: The tournament continues on Monday with the Final Four: Tony Soprano vs Larry David and Omar Little vs Stringer Bell.