Aidan Gillen’s run as Petyr Baelish serves as an excellent reminder to us all that it takes a truly great actor to play a villain that evokes the kind of emotion that fans felt for Littlefinger.
This truth didn’t fully sink in until my elation over Baelish’s execution had settled a bit. I stopped cheering, I shook out my hands, which stung from clapping and then I realized, Wait … this means no more Aidan Gillen, doesn’t it?
For seven glorious seasons, Aidan Gillen delivered a performance as rich and varied as the psychology of Petyr Baelish himself. Simultaneously a cold and calculating puppet master and a pitiful little boy trapped in a man’s body pining for his childhood love, it’s difficult to imagine a character more layered than Petyr Baelish and Aidan Gillen conveyed each aspect of that dichotomous man brilliantly.
On a personal note, as much as I enjoyed watching Littlefinger wax mysterious about the nature of power and chaos (say it with me, everyone, “CHAOS IS A LADDAH”) my favorite Aidan Gillen acting moments will always be the ones in which Baelish felt the earth move under him, if only a little bit.
Though that final scene in which Baelish scrambled to play every last card in his hand to avoid execution-by-irony will always stand out, my most treasured moment remains Sansa’s confrontation in Molestown. Though the scene undoubtedly belonged to Sophie Turner, Gillen’s performance also stood out, as it was the first time we truly saw Baelish at a loss for words, reeling from a terrible miscalculation. I never tire of watching Gillen let the Littlefinger mask slip to show us the fallible Petyr beneath.
Though Game of Thrones may wind up being the show for which Gillen is best remembered in the long run, it wasn’t Gillen’s HBO debut. Before he was Petyr Baelish, Gillen was Mayor Tom Carcetti on The Wire. Though the frequent comparisons made between The Wire and Game of Thrones for both featuring complex social and political machinations might be a tad reductive (they’re both brilliantly written and executed shows in their own right), the contrast between the ambitious yet … eh, emotionally forthcoming Mayor of Baltimore and the evasive Lord Baelish is a stirring testament to Gillen’s range as an actor.
Gillen has appeared in a good number of blockbusters recently such as The Maze Runner franchise and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. However, his next project will an independent film called James and Lucia set for release next year. Gillen will play the famed Irish author James Joyce as he struggles to care for his mentally ill daughter, Lucia.
For all of Petyr Baelish’s deviousness, Gillen always spoke of him with insight and empathy, even going so far as to pine mildly for the moral ambiguity of earlier seasons in which Baelish thrived, to Vanity Fair. So, I was pleased to learn in an interview with Entertainment Weekly of the memento he received from the Game of Thrones set.
I got my mockingbird pin. I had already let them know I wanted it, and I cleverly worked it so I got two. There’s one from my cloak and one from my tunic. So I got the large and the small size — one for me and one for my son.
Gillen was one of the few actors from season 1 remaining on the show, and the evolution of his performance over the years has been fascinating to watch. So, while I must admit I’m happy Littlefinger’s finally dead, I really am going to miss Aidan Gillen.