Continuing our exploration of characters and what really drives them and why we like them so much, and continuing our march towards Season Three of Game of Thrones, I wanted to explore Tyrion Lannister.
Though my timing is based on the show, I don’t know that I want to avoid spoilers from the books. So that means SPOILERS for a Song of Ice and Fire. However, I will split things up between the first two stories, so that will match up with what has aired so far, and then the later stories. However many Tyrion survives for.
The Hand of the King – A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings
Though there are many people vying for power in the game of thrones, one who knows he cannot actually win is playing it some of the best. Tyrion Lannister would actually be a phenomenal Hand of the King, and he makes it there in the first two books.
He has learned about the realm, and continues to do so – he is very well read, and is shown reading all the time. He also understands people – their underestimations of him have given him quite a bit of insight into what makes people tick. And he understands many of the needs of the realm – for instance, he is one of the few characters to actually go to the Wall and come back, understanding the need that the Night’s Watch has for men and supplies and more men.
Tyrion also does what Ned Stark did not, and finds a way to get the whole of the King’s Council on his side, or the ones who matter. I love the chapter endings as he goes through this process, each ending with Tyrion counting up how many of them he has gotten on his side. And though their loyalty might not be long-term, the fact alone that he had their loyalty for a while is telling. And some of them he may have for a long time – more on that later.
And though early on, a strong sense of Tyrion is that he is a survivor, this instinct is in tension with his love of family and feelings of duty. How else can one explain the battles that Tyrion rides into? Of course, he knows people – if they see him riding into battle, they should be ashamed if they aren’t going into battle.
The Half-Man is just an excellent leader of men. His plans for saving King’s Landing are incredible – they took away a bit of his genius in the show, saying Cersei had the idea of the Alchemist’s Fire. And moreso, removing the Boom – the chains he runs across the Blackwater to block in the ships – shows his tactical genius. He has a desire to do more than save the city, more than hold power for his family, more than save his own skin.
Thinking about D&D alignments, I really don’t know where to put Tyrion. He holds positions of power and upholds the law of the land. He fights hard to save his own skin. Fights hard for his family, at possible cost of himself (he gets horribly disfigured in the Battle of the Blackwater). In these first two books, Tyrion might be considered Lawful Neutral – at times selfish, at times selfless, and working for the good of the realm in a law-and order sort of sense.
However, we’ve reached the turn: now everything changes. Spoilers ahead for the coming seasons of Game of Thrones!
Better a *SPOILER* than a &$*@($^@!%&)$ – A Song of Ice and Fire
But let’s face it, the Lannister family is messed up. The incest of his siblings is something that Tyrion knows about, covers for, lords over them, judges them based upon… Tyrion’s own fateful love of his whores regularly give leverage over him… their father Tywin is one of the harshest men in the realm (though Lord Bolton…)…
And really, don’t get me started on Joffrey. Or, better put, don’t get anyone started on Joffrey.
So it should not surprise us that his family turns on him at the start of A Storm of Swords. Still, to such an extent!… Removed from being Hand of the King, well, with Tywin back in town, makes some sense. Betrothed to the traitor girl, Sansa Stark… well, traitor is inaccurate, but girl is worth underscoring. His friendships in the Small Council lost, save perhaps one, and his love taken from him.
And so I am sad that they are doing A Storm of Swords as two seasons – these are weak times for Tyrion, and the best stuff will be at the end of season 4. Because it’s there that Tyrion takes control back. There that he kills the woman he loved, there that he kills his father and becomes a kinkiller. With incest and kingkilling rife in his family, really, are his crimes so bad?
If only he actually committed the crime he and Sansa are accused of. If only he had killed Joffrey.
But really, we see a fundamental shift in Tyrion. No longer tied to his family – even his brother Jaime estranges himself – and his only friend in Westeros left maybe being Varys, who frees and releases him off to Pentos and beyond.
So the next concern about the show – they had better combine books four and five. I can understand why George R.R. Martin felt the need to focus the story a bit, but A Feast for Crows is missing some of our favorite characters, like Tyrion, and for the show could lose people if they don’t combine. But with the material there now, it would be easy to take the two and do them in order, and maybe still be two seasons for the two books.
And here Tyrion is a survivor, an explorer, and, into the parts unknown in later books, a dragon rider? We can wonder and hope. His skills as a leader of men might make their way back to Westeros on dragons’ wings, but that remains to be seen!
However, what alignment does Tyrion end up in these later days? He loses much of his concern for others and family as he gets spurned, betrayed, more spurned, more betrayed… I mean, his father, who always vocally abused Tyrion for his love of whores, going and taking Tyrion’s for his own… closet John, I guess. Anyway, Tyrion: Killed his hypocritical father, so kinda evil, but the man held the realm in fear, so kind of chaotic heroic. And Tyrion hopes to help the realm by returning with Dany, so he is not solely out for himself still. It might actually be best to say that Tyrion is, later, and perhaps the whole time, True Neutral. He acts as seems best to maintain the realm – the harmony of the land – sometimes warring, sometimes killing, sometimes using diplomacy, sometimes stern, sometimes selflessly leading into battle, sometimes selfishly seeking revenge. But I think, of the few people in the series, he might really care what happens to the realm.