“Kill me and you’re free, but if I live I’ll break both your hands.” – Game of Thrones S03E08
“You come at the king, you best not miss.” – The Wire S01E08
Feedback from my previous piece ranged from “interesting, and with limited typos!” to “I was relieved to find minimal references to Ridley Scott films.” With such praise warming every cockle of my person, we’re going to bang on with more [Citation Needed]. For the purposes of this piece I will be discussing The Wire and Game of Thrones in moderate detail, but I will keep things as spoiler free as possible.
“Omar Little is one of the most compelling characters in television.” You’ll read these exact words on almost every blog or message board concerning HBO’s celebrated crime drama The Wire. This is probably in part because many people read the 2009 Vice interview with the person whom Omar was based on and took a real shine to the word “compelling.” Normally I’d wag a finger at the lazy armchair scholarship of it all, but when it comes to Omar, I just can’t blame them. He is compelling.
I recently began a love affair with The Wire and, like so many before me, quickly grew attached to Omar’s character. Why? Why do regular people like you and me connect with and, at times, root for a murderer who rips off drug dealers? Why do we find ourselves checking our Twitter feed during another whiny Carcetti scene, but threaten our loved ones with violence if they dare talk during one with Omar?
These are the things that keep me up at night.
Look at me now, Dad.
It’s possibly for the same reasons that viewers are fond of Sandor Clegane (The Hound) from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Like Omar, The Hound is intimidating, violent, and objectively a pretty awful dude. However, like Omar, he is a big C-word (compelling). Omar and The Hound are fundamentally the same character.
Both are outsiders; they do not ascribe to the pre-established societal norms in their respective universes. As such, they are possibly the most relatable characters because, as viewers, we are always on the outside looking in. We are outsiders, too. Although social outsiders, Omar and The Hound are not outcasts; they frequently interact with other main characters in their own shows. The actions and choices of Omar and The Hound act as criticism and commentary of their societies in their societies, effectively helping the viewer deal with the frustration and heartache that come with watching any multi-story-arched drama on HBO.
So this is a lot of bold talk. I don’t expect you to take make this cognitive leap alone. Bear with me. It’s possible to argue that Omar and The Hound aren’t outsiders, effectively collapsing the argument in on itself like a soufflé. Both Omar and The Hound have family. We know Omar has a grandmother. The Hound and his brother Gregor are of an established family in Westeros. Family isn’t everything, though. Look at the Lannisters. It’s the social stigmas that The Hound and Omar carry with them that make them outsiders. In the same way that Tyrion is reviled for his physical shortcomings (PUNS), The Hound’s extensive burns make it difficult for people to see the person behind the scars. While Omar also carries character-defining scars, it’s his open homosexuality that sets him apart within the context of his own show.
By existing in between the status quo (Western Baltimore Police/ King of the Andals and the First Men) and its opposition (Crime bosses and politicians/The North, dragons, Lady Melisandre’s haunted uterus, etc.), Omar and The Hound do what the viewer cannot: call their societies out on their own shit. For example, The Wire is all about bureaucratic politics obstructing justice. Omar calls Maury Levi out on it in the second season. By being more reliable than half the police force, Omar speaks untold volumes about institutional effectiveness. Meanwhile, a major theme for Game Of Thrones is the idea that power and authority is an abstract construct. During the climax of the second season, The Hound outright says “Fuck the King” and walks away from the lifetime service of the Kings Guard. He also calls knights for what they are. Killers. No character in Game of Thrones can do these things and get away with it. The same can be said for Omar and ripping off drug dealers.
In shows about intrigue where the viewer is often left with a bad taste in his mouth while the credits roll, Omar and The Hound are constants: their motives are far clearer than anyone else they share a screen with. That’s why, in spite of their villainy, we connect with them. Their actions are straightforward. They deal with their problems head on and get results. In some cases this involves literally cutting down anything that stands between them and what they want. Omar and The Hound are very clear about their intentions, and viewers have a degree of trust in them. They know what to expect. It’s refreshing, even if we have to remind ourselves that murder is generally (read: always) not cool.
An exception that one may have with the Omar-Hound comparison is that Omar has a very strong code of conduct while The Hound is a bit more disorderly. Indeed, Omar doesn’t interfere with people who aren’t in “The Game”. While Omar is a player in the drug game, The Hound is very much a player in The Game Of Thrones for which the series gets its name. The Hound’s erstwhile guardianship over Sansa and Arya (two characters who refuse to play The Game) combined with his unrelenting ferocity towards his opponents suggests that he may very well live by a similar code himself.
I understand that there are a lot of angles that I may not have hit. At the risk of being exhaustive, I’m going to close here. I hope this was interesting for you and that you’re encouraged to look at these two awesome shows in a different way. Put a comment in the comment section and let me know what you think. There is potential for a follow up piece of there is enough feedback. I’m sure there are some who will disagree with what I have put forward out of principal and that’s perfectly fine! I’m really okay with that. A man’s got to have a code.
 Donnie Andrews ripped off drug dealers in the 70s and 80s. He was jailed in ’87 for murder. David Simon’s correspondence with Andrews was the inspiration behind Omar Little.
 Omar has a grandmother whom he takes to church every Sunday (S03E09). A SUPER cool video on the history of the Clegane family narrated by Rory McCann.
 For a really interesting interview and discussion about homophobia in the rap game check out the Nerdist Podcast Interview with Macklemore: http://www.nerdist.com/2013/03/nerdist-podcast-macklemore/
 Two very separate but equally interesting articles. O.o Here’s a bit of a spoilery clip that elaborates a bit on the idea of power. And another. It’s more clear-cut in the books.
 Prime examples of this are the first time Omar rips of a drug stash (S01E03) and The Hound rescuing Sansa during the riots at the Great Sept of Baelor (S02E06).
 “Look I ain’t never put my gun on no citizen.” (S02E06). We can see this in action in S03E11.