Tournament of Characters: Final 4

Characters Final Four

Patrick Star

Patrick will make you laugh. Every. Single. Time. Well, as long as the episode is from before the movie, and even after that he provided most of the show’s dwindling laughs. If you turn on any episode from the golden years, Patrick will give you a solid gold line. There are not many characters like that.

What else do you want me to say?

Walt Kowalski

You can’t really be the same after watching Gran Torino and meeting Walt Kowalski. It’s one of those movies that causes you to stay in your seat for a few minutes after it ends as you think about what you just watched. You realize that you’re sitting in your home, no longer in the mean streets of the Detroit suburbs. You realize the film, and the extent of Kowalski’s singular appearance in literature, has come to an end. You think about the man you just spent the last two-plus hours getting to know.

Later on, when you discuss the movie with your friends or you quote it with your family, you probably remember his numerous funny lines. You laugh about all the racial slurs and smile at his gruffness. Maybe you do an impression of one of his famous tense scenes, angrily rasping out, “Get off my lawn.” These things make him a fine character, but they don’t make him one of the few that really lasts with you.

Walt is an original. A one-film character. A non-franchisee. And, brought to life by Clint Eastwood’s powerful performance, his presence in the captivating story of Gran Torino is one you remember. It’s emotionally affecting. And it makes him as great as any character in this tournament.

Qui-Gon Jinn

Few icons have become as important in popular culture as the Jedi Knights of the Star Wars universe. And Qui-Gon Jinn is the Jedi. Before The Phantom Menace, a real, fully-fledged Jedi had never been on screen before. In that film, we saw a knight as they should be: brave, kind, intelligent, compassionate, determined, selfless, skilled, resourceful, and with a hint of maverick to boot. He remains cool under pressure, whether negotiating with angry leaders and businessmen, dodging giant aquatic creatures, or discussing Anakin’s future while Jar Jar exercises terrible table manners. He displays key Jedi skills, such as lightsaber prowess, lightning quick reactions, telekinesis, and mind control.

He’s a reassuring presence. Padme complains too much in that movie, as I feel like anyone in Qui-Gon’s company would have to feel like they were being led by a capable leader. Maybe it’s just Liam Neeson’s voice. Or maybe it’s just the fact that Qui-Gon is the man and that’s why he’s advanced so far in this tournament despite appearing in one film.

Walter White

Walter White is the ultimate anti-hero. In an age defined by this type of character, he rises above the rest. So compelling is Walt that his show became a cultural phenomenon, going where few other dramas have ever gone. His character development, occasional humor, troubling morality, and continuous line of difficult experiences and his resulting decisions make him engaging, nay, engrossing. After just a few episodes, you become addicted to him and his story, as you must know what happens to him and where his morality goes. Despite the fact that what he does is wrong, you want desperately for him to succeed and not be found out. You want him to win because we all see a part of ourselves in Walt, as he is a man who, as Dostoevsky phrased it, is not afraid to step over.

He is the one who knocks.


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