Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Tyrion I

Tyrion Small Council

“Cersei could smell weakness the way a dog smells fear.”

SynopsisTyrion takes his first Small Council meeting, gets Cersei to agree to his appointment as Hand of the King, begins to consolidate power in a capitol gone from bad to worse, meets with Varys (again), and sleeps with Shae.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

The Tyrion plot-line in A Clash of Kings…how shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Seriously, when I was struggling through Bran chapters in AGOT I kept myself going by thinking of how much I loved this story and how badly I wanted to write about it. So badly in fact that I kind of pre-wrote a good deal of what I wanted to say in my Hands of the King essay about Tyrion – consider that my first-draft synthesizing argument and these recaps are the evidence and analysis to back that up.

In this section, I want to cover four main themes – first, the Small Council, its (dys)functioning, and Tyrion’s relationship to it; second, Tyrion’s meeting with Cersei; third, Tyrion’s first impressions of King’s Landing; and fourth, Tyrion’s meeting with Varys and Shae and what that holds for the future.

The Small Council’s Counsel

To the extent that anything actually happens this chapter, it’s that Tyrion joins the Small Council as the acting Hand of the King, although not without more than a fair bit of effort (more on this in a second) – and the Small Council itself is a major part of his mission as Hand (much more on that later). So how is Tyrion received?

  • Cersei reacts with open disbelief and scorn, stating that “This is absurd…my lord father has sent my brother to sit in his place in this council. He bids us accept Tyrion as the Hand of the King, until such time as he himself can join us.” She’s the one person there who actually reacts honestly and speaks her mind – which isn’t a good sign of her political chops, when she’s surrounded by schemers and liarsHer disbelief is rooted in a rather ironic (given her earlier statements to Ned Stark belief about the formal trappings of power – she’s been openly decreed as Queen Regent, so the power is supposed to flow to her, and people are going to do what they’re supposed to, so that when they don’t she gets thrown off-balance and takes a long time to recover.
  • Grand Maester Pycelle plays his one card – unctuous, “ponderous” kissing up. “It would seem that a welcome is in order” didn’t fool Ned Stark, and it’s certainly not going to fool Tyrion Lannister. More proof that Pycelle was always the weakest of reeds on the Small Council – although interestingly, we get almost no sense of what he’s actually been doing on the Small Council.
  • Janos Slynt is openly, laughably incompetent, a man raised above his ability (if not his station), also looking to suck up to the new guy. Indeed, so bad is he at basic politics that he both openly admits his own haplessness (“We have sore need of you, my lord. Rebellion everywhere, this grim omen in the sky, rioting in the city streets…”), and leaves himself open for Cersei to snipe at him about “ whose fault is that, Lord Janos?…Your gold cloaks are charged with keeping order.” (Note how quickly Cersei goes from zero to finger-pointing here) Indeed, while later Cersei will try to justify the Small Council’s decision later, Janos Slynt is the first she throws under the bus: “Janos should have sent more men. He is not as competent as might be wished.”
  • And for all that Littlefinger is held up as a master manipulator and arch-conspirator, his weaknesses have never been more evident than they are with his interactions with Tyrion here. Given that Tyrion is the new Hand of the King, and moreover a Hand whom Littlefinger openly fingered for execution as a child-murderer, and moreover a Hand with a mandate to execute him if Tyrion finds it necessary, this is not how you interact with him:

“Littlefinger laughed. “Well said, Lannister, a man after my own heart.”
“Tyrion smiled at him, remembering a certain dagger, with a dragonbone hilt and a Valyrian steel blade. We must have a talk about that, and soon. He wondered if Lord Petyr would find that subject amusing as well… 
Littlefinger laughed. “You’re a braver man than me, Lannister. You do know the fate of our last two Hands?”

  • Throughout this chapter, Petyr Baelish needlessly draws Tyrion’s attention to himself, and accomplishes nothing by doing so besides getting to throw a few veiled suggestions that Tyrion is going to be assassinated in his face. It’s not a particularly impressive performance.
  • Varys, as is his wont, sits back and snarks (“How kind of Lord Tywin. And his sealing sax is such a lovely shade of gold…it gives every appearance of being genuine” and while observing how the new arrival handles himself. When he’s gathered his impression – namely that Tyrion is easily able to match wits with anyone at the table – he makes his introductions elsewhere, where he can’t be as easily observed. His caution is notable in comparison to Littlefinger’s bravado, and as we’ll see will pay dividends.

It’s certainly a Small Council that better fits Tywin’s description of “your son’s short reign” as ” a long parade of follies and disasters. That suggests that someone is giving Joffrey some very bad counsel,” than Cersei’s defensive claim thatJoff has had no lack of good counsel. He’s always been strong willed. Now that he’s king, he believes he should do as he pleases, not as he’s bid.” While it’s true that Joffrey’s sadism has been responsible for the biggest fuckup of them all, it’s also true that this is a Small Council that doesn’t have a plan of what to do after Cersei’s counter-coup besides hunkering down to await a siege.

What’s interesting about Tyrion in comparison to his immediate predecessor, is that where Eddard Stark failed to understand the office of the King’s Hand and Tyrion will show an instinctual understanding of his ability to act independently of others, he doesn’t spend very much time actually meeting with the Small Council as a whole. Throughout ACOK, Tyrion attends two Small Council meetings other than this brief introduction, and does an enormous amount of political work in their absence, preferring to interact with the Small Councilors individually, which gives him much more control over information.

tyrioncersei

Paper and Power – Tyrion’s Meeting With Cersei

Tyrion’s meeting with Cersei is even more interesting, a delicate negotiation taking place between two people with not even a minimum of trust between them, in which we (and Tyrion) learn an enormous amount – and the overall theme is the nature and origin of power, a running theme of the entire book. It’s foregrounded at the very beginning of the chapter when Tyrion is confronted with the problem of Ser Mandon Moore: “Bronn and Timmett could likely kill the knight if it came to swords, but it would scarcely bode well if he began by slaying one of Joffrey’s protectors. Yet if he let the man turn him away, where was his authority?…A small victory, he thought, but sweet. He had passed his first test.”

Rather than a simple case of might making right, Tyrion is in a delicate position; he has around 150 men overall, but that’s far fewer than Cersei has, but the reasons why anyone obeys Cersei’s orders also apply to him (another echo of Varys’ riddle). As a Lannister and one who Tywin has invested with supreme authority, he can potentially undercut Cersei’s position entirely, but only if he can get others to recognize his claim.

 The central question in his meeting with Cersei is whether she will recognize that he has been named Hand of the King:

“…our lord father has named me.”

“He cannot do that. Not without Joff’s consent.”

“Lord Tywin is at Harrenhal with his host, if you’d care to take it up with him.”

“Has father lost his senses? Or did you forge the letter?…I wanted him to come himself…I am Joffrey’s regent, and I sent him a royal command.”

“And he ignored you,” Tyrion pointed out. “He has quite a large army, he can do that. Nor is he the first. Is he?”

“If I name this letter a forgery and tell them to throw you in a dungeon, no one will ignore that, I promise you.”

“No one…least of all our father. The one with the army.”

As I mentioned above, Cersei is weirdly clinging to legalisms here, believing that a boy king’s consent and royal decree has force sufficient to make other people recognize them, when clearly as Tyrion points out, that’s not the case.* The true power is held by Tywin as the leader of House Lannister, the only one of them with a real army, and the only real hope of saving King’s Landing if it comes under serious attack – and Tyrion is holding his commission from Tywin. At the same time, Tywin is far away, and Cersei has local superiority – if she’s willing to use it, at this moment she could absolutely throw him in jail and wreck his paper shield (something Tyrion will be very aware of going forward). At the same time, Tywin’s ultimate authority is quite real and Cersei knows that she can’t ultimately cross him and that he can outright ignore and countermand her.

* an interesting side-note: Tyrion claims that Tywin is “not the first” to ignore Cersei. This could be a reference to Cersei’s decrees at the end of AGOT to Robb, Renly, and Stannis, but it could also be a reference to the Crownlands. One interesting question is why King’s Landing’s defenses fell entirely to the Goldcloaks. Even adjusting for the fact that Stannis has already claimed the loyalty of some 3,000 of the Crownlanders, and that Tywin may well have forcibly recruited some men from the northern Crownlands around Duskendale to repair his losses from the Green Fork and later the Battle of the Fords (which would explain why his army is always described at 20,000), there should still be several thousand troops from the lesser Houses of the Crownlands. The fact that none of them appear behind the walls of King’s Landing during the siege may well suggest that their previous Targaryen loyalists led them to sit out the war.

Ultimately, Tyrion’s victory in this meeting comes, not through the crude use of force (“power is power” as show-Cersei put it), but rather from the power that comes from understanding people. Tyrion knows what levers will move Cersei (in his words,  “His sister fancied herself subtle, but he had grown up with her. He could read her face like one of his favorite books, and what he read now was rage, and fear, and despair.“) and knows that while “it was our father’s presence that I commanded,” thatit’s Jaime you want.” 

The two of them make a bargain based on deception and lies, on mistrust and the manipulation of human need:

“If I accept you, you shall be the King’s Hand in name, but my Hand in truth. You will share all your plans and intentions with me before you act, and you will do nothing without my consent. Do you understand?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Do you agree?”

“Certainly,” he lied.”

Once again, we get this interesting blind spot where the same woman who ripped up Robert Baratheon’s last will and testament thinks that once she’s given Tyrion the power he needed from her, that she can somehow hold him to that deal. It’s astonishing that Cersei proposed it in the first place, or thought for a second that it would limit Tyrion in any way. But by reminding her that Jaime is my brother no less than yours,” Tyrion is able to forge just enough of a common ground (along with an offer to scare Joffrey straight, which is what Cersei momentarily wants) in order to get her to agree to his proposal that if she “give[s] me your support and I promise you, we will have Jaime freed and returned to us unharmed.”

And once Tyrion makes this meaningless concession that he’ll run everything buy her first, he can peel open Cersei like a ripe fruit: instantly, he finds out that Sansa but not Arya are captive, and begins to unravel what happened in A Game of Thrones from her perspective (including her murder of Robert Baratheon). And what we get is a narrative that puts all of the blame on others: “Joffrey had Lord Eddard killed,” which in turn ensured that it was impossible for them to havemade peace with that son of his.” “Littlefinger gifted us with Lord Slynt,” which is presented as none of Cersei’s doing but at the same time absolutely necessary“Littlefinger made the arrangements. We needed Slynt’s gold cloaks. Eddard Stark was plotting with Renly and he’d written to Lord Stannis, offering him the throne.” “Varys dismised Ser Barristan” but Cersei wasn’t clearly paying attention to a minor detail that “allowed Joff to throw a bone to his dog,” and clearly “had not considered” the big-picture, long-term implications of dismissing Ser Barristan, or anything else really. (They also mention whether she had anything to do with Jon Arryn’s death – but I’m running long here, so I’m going to push that discussion back to Tyrion’s meeting with Littlefinger.)

Even the one thing that Cersei can point to as her own accomplishment isn’t that complementary when you get to it: “We might have lost all. Even so, it was a close thing. If Sansa hadn’t come to me and told me all her father’s plans…the girl was wet with love. She would have done anything for Joffrey.” Even if we granted that Sansa was primarily responsible for her father’s downfall, this still points to Cersei fluking a victory, rather than taking any pre-emptive action to prevent defeat. However, as I’ve pointed out previously, this is absolutely not the case – Ned had already told Cersei his plans before Sansa could have told Cersei about them leaving; PrivateMajor’s timeline pegs Sansa’s visit to Cersei as 15 days after Ned’s talk. Moreover, Sansa didn’t know anything about Eddard’s conversations with Renly or Stannis or the gold cloaks – only Littlefinger did.

Wrapping things up, the portrait of Cersei that emerges here is someone who’s not nearly as good at politics as she thinks she is, who barely out-plotted someone who didn’t understand political power, and now Tyrion is running rings around her.

Who Would Want This Job? The Situation in King’s Landing

Thanks to his political skills, Tyrion has now inherited the worst job in Westeros – he’s Hand of the King under a King and Queen Regent who both hate him and want him dead, the Small Council is completely untrustworthy, and he’s got almost no resources with which to fight an inevitable siege. And even before Stannis arrives, the situation is godawful:

“The Streets of King’s Landing had always been teeming and raucous and noisy, but now they reeked of danger in a way that he did not recall from past visits. A naked corpse sprawled in the gutter near the street of looms, being torn at by a pack of feral dogs, yet no one seemed to care. Watchmen were much in evidence, moving in pairs through the alleys in their gold cloaks and shirts of black ringmail, iron cudgels never far from their hands. The markets were crowded with ragged men selling their household goods for any price they could get..and conspicuously empty of farmers selling food. What little produce he did see was three times as costly as it had been a year ago. One peddler was hawking rats roasted on a skewer.”

To begin with, because of the Tyrells siding with Renly (and presumably also the resources of the Crownlands going to feed Tywin’s army to the North), the city is already facing staggering rates of inflation, a soaring cost of living throwing thousands of people into poverty, and incipient starvation. This in turn has increased crime rates and social disorder – the Street of Looms would be a neighborhood of relatively skilled workers, so the idea that murder/robbery has become routine and both corpses and feral dogs are not being cleared off the streets suggests that there’s been a breakdown in law and order (naked corpses being the Westerosi equivalent of broken windows).

All of this has been exacerbated by the  refugee crisis created as a side-effect of the Small Council’s policies. While it’s certainly a rare bright spot Cersei has thought to “triple the size of the City Watch,” although without any improvement in public order, and “put[ting] a thousand craftsmen to work…strengthening the walls…building scorpions and catapults by the hundred…making arrows…[and]forging blades,” all of this costs money and Littlefinger’s entry tax into the city is both ingenious in terms of allowing for the easy gathering of large amounts of coin but also exacerbates the city’s poverty and disorder problems by creating a whole new population of “troupes of mothers and children and anxious fathers” who are now destitute and desperate.

But, showing a completely different understanding of politics than Ned Stark, Tyrion’s first move here is to shore up his institutional position at Cersei’s experience, by reminding Captain Vylarr who commands the Lannister forces that “his oath is to Casterly Rock, not to Cersei or Joffrey,” and with a quick threat that “one of those empty spikes may have a different lodger,” he quickly establishes his authority. Cersei is down 150 soldiers, and Tyrion is up to around 300 under his command – upwards and onwards!

Tyrion’s Meeting With Varys

When Tyrion gets back to Shae’s lodgings, he finds Varys, who quietly demonstrates his skills in a scene that is misleadingly confrontational, setting up the nice reveal later on that of all the Small Councilors, Tyrion has picked him as his ally. What’s interesting is that, on the re-read, I actually didn’t like this scene as much as I had remembered – Tyrion’s oddly condescending mental dialogue here spelling out Varys’ subtext comes off as a bit clunky. However, I still love Varys’ riddle.

“In a room sit three great men, a  king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth, and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. “Do it,” says the king, “for I am your lawful ruler. “Do it” says the priest, “for I command you in the names of the gods.” “Do it,” says the rich man, “and all this gold shall be yours.” So tell me – who lives and who dies?”

It’s a fascinating glimpse into Varys’ theory of politics – a topic we’ll return to in a few chapters when we discuss his answer to his own riddle. Inside this koan is an argument for a subjective, cultural, and ideological understanding (indeed, I could definitely see Clifford Geertz signing off on Varys’ thesis here) of why, in a society where political power still rests on a foundation of a military caste, power is exercised through symbols rather than solely through strength.

As we will see, all three of these illusions matter: the illusion of legitimacy embodied in the monarchy is central to Stannis and Renly’s conflict and can move tens of thousands of men to one side or another; the power of faith doesn’t seem particularly influential right now (High Septons being torn limb from limb and all), but we see Aeron Damphair, the High Sparrow, and Melisandre have the power to move the hearts of thousands and thousands of men and women to overturn ancient structures of authority; and in the Iron Bank of Braavos (or alternatively the actions of Qarth, the Ghiscari, and Volantis in ADWD), we see how finance can prop up or overthrow governments.

Finally, a brief mention of Shae – their coupling is quite extensively written, and I remember being a little irritated the first time I read this of the way that Tyrion’s chapters kept returning to what were not particularly interesting or well-written sex scenes. In retrospect, however, I think this is a deliberate choice, to emphasize that for all Tyrion’s political strengths, he still has this driving obsession with women that will be his undoing later, one he cannot stop returning to despite his knowledge that “will you never learn, dwarf, she’s a whore, damn you,  it’s your coin she loves, not your cock. Remember Tysha?

Historical Analysis:

Ok, I had an essay here prepared for the topic of medieval cities under siege, but this essay is starting to run long already, so I’m going to postpone a discussion that can take place in any King’s Landing chapter this book for another chapter.

What If?

There are so many hypotheticals in this chapter that I’m pretty sure I’ll miss some (so please bring your favorites to the comment thread). But here are some of my favorites:

  • Cersei says no? So let’s say Cersei goes with her first instinct and has Tyrion thrown into the dungeons right away. Well, some really interesting things start to happen. First, Janos Slynt remains commander of the Gold Cloaks and isn’t shipped up to the Night’s Watch – a lot more on this in the next Tyrion chapter. Second, the boom chain never gets built and the structures near the Mud Gate remain unburnt, which means that much more of Stannis’ fleet survives to trans-ship his army across the Rush and the walls are likely breached, which means King’s Landing likely falls to Stannis. Third, no alliance with Dorne is made – which probably means the Red Viper doesn’t die, and is sent instead of Qyentyn to Daenerys, given his experience with Essos. Fourth, Cersei reacts to Robb’s peace offer – which likely means the escape attempt at Riverrun never happens. Fifth, the Tyrell match isn’t made – which means that Tywin’s counter-attack at the Blackwater doesn’t have the advantage of overwhelming odds (especially since the lack of the mountain clansmen means Stannis’ scouts fare much better) and quite possibly Stannis manages to hold him off and take the city at the same time.
  • Mandon Moore gets stabbed? This is an interesting one, and I have to admit that I’d forgotten that the same Kingsguard who blocks Tyrion’s path is the same one who tries to kill him later. If he dies here, it’s possible that Cersei/Joffrey/Littlefinger try again with another member of the Kingsguard, but it’s unlikely. Now, it’s quite possible that Tyrion was screwed either way, but an unwounded and conscious Tyrion could definitely get in on the kudos and rewards following the Battle of the Blackwater, and certainly get in with Tywin to explain his tenture in office before Cersei does. Not that this would mean he gets Casterly Rock, but he certainly would have a chance at a greater reward than what he got (certainly a lordship with some significant lands and income attached), and a chance at forging a better reputation as the Halfman who helped to save the city.
  • Tyrion investigates the dagger? This is a particular dangling plot thread of GRRM’s that really annoys me. Tyrion’s big stinger line in this chapter, that he’ll “do justice,” supposedly sets up this whole investigation plot. However, outside of arresting Pycelle, Tyrion never bothers to really put the screws to Littlefinger (after all, while he can’t perhaps kill him, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do what he did to Pycelle) and he’s the man who fingered Tyrion for death. Indeed, it’s highly odd that Tyrion never tells anyone else that Littlefinger played a major role in starting the Stark-Lannister war, which you’d think would shape how Tywin and Cersei deal with him in the future.

Book vs. Show:

Overall, I think Tyrion’s plotline in Season 2 is the major saving grace of the season, elevating the show far above the doldrums of the Jon and Daenerys trainwrecks. I think we see this right off the bat, as the Tyrion/Small Council, and Tyrion/Cersei scenes (which honestly I think is superior to the book version in terms of how pointed the family dynamics are) are absolute masterpieces of witty dialogue, emotional intensity, and quality political intrigue. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing there.

If there is one fly in the ointment, it’s Shae. Now, I’m not one of those people who hate Sibel Kekilli’s performance – I think she does a decent job with her material –  or the showrunners’ decision to make their relationship a more genuinely emotional one. However, I do think that the show went in a really, really weird direction by having Tyrion not even try to hide Shae, which makes the Ros mix-up scene or any scene with Shae pretending to be Sansa’s handmaiden make any sense (indeed, if they’d showed him smuggling Shae in as a servant, it would make her pretense make more sense, and I don’t get why they went with Shae being incompetent at pretending to be a handmaid, but more on that later).

And the scene with Tyrion and Varys is actually better than the book version, condensing and cleaning up what is a rather drawn-out and over-explained scene in the book into a brilliant matchup between Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill that I could watch forever.

 

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228 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Tyrion I

  1. More like Oberyn would be sent along with Quentyn. Oberyn is pretty old, not Doran’s own son and has never been capable of producing a son in 20+ years of non-stop trying. Still it would’ve gone better. I dunno how much better, in the end Oberyn didn’t do much in King’s Landing until Tyrion handed him an opportunity. I imagine they would have gotten there faster tho.

    • Sean C. says:

      I believe he meant that Oberyn would be sent as a messenger, not as the actual intended of Daenerys.

      • This. But also, Dany has a thing for older, dangerous-looking men.

        • WPA says:

          And Oberyn as a messenger for poor Quentyn might do a better job than Quentyn himself. Though one can imagine Oberyn’s sales pitch would be something along the lines of,

          “And you can marry and have my nephew. Or have ME and then my nephew. Or me AND my nephew. Or me, my nephew, AND my paramour, who after all has been looking for a blonde a third partner…or fourth I suppose.. We’re quite flexible in that regard in Dorne, or at least I am..”

        • Maddy says:

          This is why I think she would be into Victarion. Dany really doesn’t have good taste in dudes IMO

          • It’s certainly a possibility, but god I hope not. I hate Victarion.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah but the guys in question usually have to have at least SOME form of sex appeal…which is totally lacking in Vic’s case.

          • John says:

            Euron seems more like Dany’s type.

          • Maddy says:

            I think Victarion “my wife made me kill her” Greyjoy sucks and I hope he dies. I thought Theon was the most despicable POV until Victarion came along. I really hope we don’t get a Dany/ Victarion alliance but I could potentially see it … depends what happens in the battle in Meereen though obviously

          • Andrew says:

            I think it more likely Dany has Drogon kill him in the Dothraki Sea after hearing he killed her husband, Daario (who doesn’t make a secret of his relationship and Victarion would want to tie up loose ends) and likely Barristan and Jorah for standing in his way. Jorah grew up on bear Island where children are told to fear of krakens rising form the deep, and I think he wouldn’t want Dany to marry someone like Victarion, especially if he hears what happened to Victarion’s last wife.

    • @Roger
      You say Oberyn didn’t do much until Tyrion handed him an opportunity. I assume that means you don’t believe he poisoned Tywin? I happen to buy that theory.

      • Maddy says:

        I really like this theory too! Would be pretty ironic (if that’s the right word?) if Tyrion didn’t even need to kill Tywin

        • Winnie says:

          Hell, even if Oberyn hadn’t poisoned Tywin, I suspect the Spider would have seen to it that the Great Lion wasn’t long for the world. We already know that Varys has the means to get to *anyone* no matter how well protected, (like Kevan and Pycelle,) and his schemes required massively destabilizing the Lannister/Tyrell coalition and throwing the entire Lannister dynasty into chaos. One way or another Tywin had to go-getting Tyrion to do it, was just icing on the cake since it furthered Cersei’s descent into madness but even if Tyrion had disappointed Varys, I’m quite sure he would still have seen to Tywin’s murder-and found an way to incriminate the Tyrell’s in it.

        • The Dead Man Shitting theory. It’s pretty common.

  2. Petyr Patter says:

    From reading Cersei’s perspectives later, it seems obvious to me she would have lost in the “game of thrones” to Ned on her own, but Littlefinger found it in his interest to keep her in power and back Joffrey/Cersei/Tywin. Probably because Stannis would have his head for corruption.

    I think, ultimately, Tyrion’s removal from the Handship had to do with his father refusing to acknowledge his worth and instead continuing to put trust in Cersei, despite the fact that Cersei couldn’t politic herself past a toll booth. Towards the end he realizes just how badly Cersei has screwed up, but to little to late.

    • David Hunt says:

      Littlefinger definitely didn’t want to end up being executed by Stannis, but I don’t thinik that’s the main reason he backed Cercei. If he had been instrumental in putting Stannis on the Throne, he might have counted on that to protect him…that an the fact that he’s maybe the only man alive who actually understands the Crown finances.

      However, LF does have a long game that he’s playing and keeping the civil war going between the Starks and the Lannisters is a key part of it.

      • Winnie says:

        Bingo. LF thrives on chaos and Queen C furnishes that better than anyone. He was also out to destroy the fish and the
        Wolves and Stan could not be counted on to extinguish those houses for him.

      • I think LF is a better judge of character than that – Stannis was gunning for him as one of the chief sources of corruption in King’s Landing.

        • David Hunt says:

          Yeah, while I was typing I forgot that it was STANNIS. I was thinking that LF would just get booted from the Council along with any other employment with the Crown. However, it’s Stannis. And LF sat on the Council with him. Whatever Stannis would do, I’m sure LF would have a really good idea what it is. There are a lot of adjectives that could be applied to Stannis, but “mercurial” is absolutely not one of them…

          • Stannis would have him thrown in jail, his books audited, his property seized, and then have him executed for treason and corruption.

          • Erin says:

            It’s pretty telling that LF set his plans into motion once Stannis and Jon Arryn were getting pally and working on a case that, if they’d brought it to Robert, would see Stannis as the next in line to the throne.

        • Amestria says:

          Varys and Littlefinger both make sidelining/defeating Stannis their top priority because he’s not someone they can work with/around.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah without LF, C would have been screwed. Her ‘success’ has always been dependent on luck or other people not that she ever sees that. And daddy’s biggest failing was his failure to see his children clearly…he never admitted the incest to himself, that his youngest was the child with the most talent and frankly the most like him-and he ignored the fact that his daughter was utterly unfit to be queen until As is made it impossible to ignore the truth about her or J any longer and by then it was much MUCH too late.

    • Well, LF’s plan was always to destroy the Tullys and the Starks, but he would have gone along with Ned as Joffrey’s Hand until the right time to have him assassinated.

      To be fair, Cersei is good at assembling a damning case against Tyrion. The whores thing, threatening Tommen, etc. And Tyrion wasn’t there to argue his own side.

      • Winnie says:

        Yeah, but didn’t Tywin talk to anyone BESIDES Cersei about what had been happening in KL?!? Even if it didn’t change his opinion of Tyrion, it should have made him warier of Cersei and Joffrey from the get go.

        • Sean C. says:

          That’s certainly true. House Tyrell seemed perfectly aware of Tyrion’s importance in saving the city, and they certainly weren’t hanging around at the time.

        • The primacy effect is a hell of a drug…

        • Varys and Littlefinger actually want Cersei is more control then Tyrion. They want the want the war to go on and Jacelyn Bywater was dead.

        • Bail o' Lies says:

          If your talking about Garlan Tyrell praising Tyrion that didn’t happen until the purple wedding I think other than Varys he was the first (maybe only) person to praise him for what he accomplish.

          For the reason why two possibilities either everyone knew it was his doing the city was saved but no one wanted to give him any of the credit, or Cersei and others claim the success as their own and it wasn’t till later that people realized it was Tyrion’s doing but by then the rewards and accolades were already given out. Making it an embarrassment to the crown to have to take those back and give them to him.

  3. Winnie says:

    Seriously T’s first small council scene has to be one of my favorites on the show. We see Queen C and Lf’s callous indifference to the suffering of the peasants and then t walks in whistling hands her the proclamation from daddy and C just goes into complete tantrum mode while her brother presses every single button of hers regarding Jaime and how mad daddy is with her. I also loved the way T has to point out to her that right now the golden lions are *losing* the war setting up the theme of C being far more concerned with court squabbles while ignoring larger military threats. And as you not V and T together on screen are always pure gold.

    But yeah T’s failure to address LF makes no sense and forces me to conclude its just Martin tipping the scales again to make things turn out as badly as possible

    And if C had thrown T into the dungeon it would have been all hail King Stan before she could even face daddy in person to explain herself.

    Again interesting as you say that the woman who thwarted the rightful hand and regent still expected everyone to defer to her titles. She’s not good at understanding that things don’t always go according to plan.

    • Yeah, it’s a great scene. Sharp writing, great performances.

    • Bail o' Lies says:

      It seems to me the reason the reason why Tyrion didn’t just kill Baelish immediately is they were in a crisis (the war and maybe siege by Stannis) so Littlefinger ability to find gold made him to valuable to just get rid of.
      The members of the small council and why he did or didn’t get rid of them.:

      Janos Slynt corrupt venal, incompetent, and was in Baelish’s pocket was able to replace him with the more honorable competent Bywater.

      Grand Maester Pycelle in Cersei pocket after a bit no one seemed to care that he was gone until they were informed that the new grand Maester was born a Tyrell. He was surprisingly competent in Tommen’s small council but that because everyone else were inept at there jobs.

      Varys tyrion consider him his only ally on the council despite no trusting him completely still used him to help with Shae

      Queen regent Cersei, and king Joffery both insane and incompent can’t overthrow fighting for them.

      Lilltefinger was needed to help manage the finances of the war at least till after the battle of the blackwater bay Also notice how useful and scarce he make himself after Tyrion shows up sure he makes some japes(and ideas) at the start of the book but once he has an opportunity to leave the city and make himself useful by making the marriage between the lannisters and the tyrells, as well as marring Lysa to keep the vale loyal to the crown (and not on the side of the stark’s) he’s out of King’s Landing for the rest of the series. The only time he even close to the city again is when he ordering Dontos’s death and picking up Sansa So by the time it would be reasonable to get rid of littlefinger he’s now out of reach because he’s no longer in the city anymore and he’s made himself too valuable to the crown to get rid of while tyrion has lost his power and was stuck doing Baelish’s old job (counting coppers for the wedding).

      • Winnie says:

        Maybe, but I still think it wouldn’t have been too hard for Tyrion to just replace LF as Master of COin with someone who was good at math to look over the books for him.

      • Tom says:

        Honestly, I think Pycelle was a good peace time/non-politically influencing advisor. He’s extremely knowledgable and gives good advice for stable ruling, he’s just totally blinded and distracted by his desire for inter personal politics.

        • I could see that – that he’s fairly decent at normal governance, but that he thinks he’s a better conspirator than he is, and he’s also a Lannister spy.

          • Tom says:

            I liked the deleted scene from Season 3 where he begs Tywin to let him on the small counsel again (and admits his befuddled nature is a ruse). It’s kind of how I imagine him in my head cannon, in the sense that he treats himself as a Lannister crony even though the family doesn’t really view him as such. If the pretending to be more affected by his age actually was a ruse it’d make him a mildly better conspirator, but that’s just the show version in my eyes.

          • He views himself as a valued crony, whereas the reality is that he’s a disposable crony.

  4. JT says:

    What makes Littlefinger and Varys so dangerous is that they operate on two levels (a short term jockeying for power/position on the small council) and also a long term level.

    There’s the Littlefinger who lies about the dagger, openly taunts Ned and Tyrion, boasts about taking the Tully girls’ virginities and gets chided by Tywin Lannister on a small council meeting. He’s so obviously sleazy and untrustworthy that it’s easy to dismiss him as nothing more than a lowborn whoremonger who never learned manners – plus he has some value (he can come up with money) so he keeps his head.

    Then there’s the real Littlefinger – sure he’s crass, but he’s incredibly smart and dangerous. He embezzles millions of dragons from the crown, poisons one hand, kicks off a war between major two houses, assists in the poisoning of a king and ends up with three regions of Westeros at least partly under his thumb. Sure he’ll improvise, but the plotting with Lyn Corbray and Oleanna Tully (and how he maneuvered both them onto his side) – not to mention the debts he’s run up on behalf of the crown – suggest that he’s dangerously capable of long term planning as well.

    Varys is the same. He’s the mincing Eunuch who’s constantly “tittering”, and whom nobody trusts. Everyone knows that Varys isn’t telling them the whole story (even Cersei can pick up on it) and that holding some information back is what let him keeps his value. But he gets good information and he has no armies backing him up – i.e. he can always be killed tomorrow – so he gets to keep his head today.

    Meanwhile Varys smuggled a Targaryen heir out of King’s Landing, is assisting three Targaryens in their invasions of Westeros, and happily breaks up the Tyrell/Lannister alliance (even when it’s starting to stabilize the kingdom). He subtly goads Tyrion into killing Tywin, plants the gardener coin so Cersei distrusts the Tyrells and dispatches with Kevan Lannister when Kevan starts to do a good job.

    The mistake that Cersei, Tywin, Tyrion, and Ned all make is assuming that since Littlefinger and Varys don’t come from noble families they’re only capable of short term aims (which is mostly jockeying for position on the small council).

    • Sean C. says:

      Just because you mention the “mincing eunuch” bit, one of my favourite fan theories is that Varys isn’t actually a eunuch. Because really, we only have his word for that, right?

      • David Hunt says:

        I don’t buy that. He has the physical appearance of a man who was castrated before puberty. I realize that Varys is a master of disguise, so that could be a ruse, but it would be amazing to keep that up for 20 years. Plus if anyone got curious, they could always find some lady at court to get “forward” and cop a feel to confirm /deny. Along those lines, we KNOW that ShowVarys is a eunuch by Ros’s reaction at her recruitment meeting when she felt Down There and immediately figured out who he was from the absence she found.

    • Winnie says:

      Agreed. Both LF and Varys are consistently underestimated because of their origins. But I think between the two, Varys is the wiser and certainly better at playing the long game.

      Just wanted to say how much I LOVE Conleth in the role-the man IS Varys and his screen chemistry with AG, PD, well everyone really is phenomenal.

      • JT says:

        I actually think Littlefinger is on par with Varys in terms of his abilities. People underestimate Littlefinger’s abilities out of dislike for the character – he’s the definition of the word “sleazy”, he pseudo-molests of Sansa, he’s out only for his own gain (as opposed to Varys, who at least says he’s doing everything for the realm). But if you look at the results, Littlefinger is every bit as capable as Varys is of making things happen and covering his tracks.

        As late as the end of ADWD, both Jaime and Kevan Lannister are thinking about bringing Littlefinger back to the capital to serve as either hand or master of coin. This is a guy who pushed the Lannisters into a war, embezzled 3 million dragons from them and helped kill a Lannister king. The Lannisters are a “spent force” as much because of of Littlefinger as anybody else in the realm. Yet he hid his involvement so well that the Lannisters still consider him one of their primary allies.

        On an unrelated note,I suspect their both of their undoings will be their their co-conspirators (Sansa for Littlefinger, and Illyrio for Varys).

        And you’re right – Conleth Hill is great. I wish we’d get more of him this season. His ever changing accent aside, Aiden Gillan is quite good as well.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        “Both LF and Varys are consistently underestimated because of their origins.”

        I completely agree with this, and I think that it’s one more way that GRRM is taking a run at the idea of who holds real power in a monarchy. To my mind, one of Ned’s greatest errors is discounting the political agendas of two men bascially because they count for literally nothing in the Westerosi warrior culture. He is right to be deeply suspicious of them, but he sees them as lightweight flatterers with inscrutable motives, rather than as political actors in their own right. Being of no use to either of them, and having chosen poorly between them, he ends up dead.

        Tyrion comes into KL as Hand with more information than Ned and somewhat less reflected authority from the Iron Throne. He does much better at taking LF and V seriously, and frankly assesses their value as potential allies. And I think Tyrion’s self-aware outsider status vis-a-vis the warrior culture helps him with that assessment at the same time that it divides him from his father’s confidence

        • I think that’s a fair assessment.

          • WPA says:

            I wonder how much of Ned’s blind spot on that is his personality being unusually patrician due to his time in the Vale. (the dining with a different member of the household at Winterfell each night seems like something a Blue Tory (in the 19th century British sense) Aristocrat would do). So while recognizing the value of people beneath his station he sees scheming by people like Littlefinger and Varys as literally beneath him and doesn’t realize other people of high rank would take that seriously or allow themselves to be compromised by it. Where a Northern Lord whose political education was based solely up North would at least acknowledge/dabble in it, even if finding it distasteful- it seems the Glovers and above all, the Manderlys grasp it intuitively.

            Tyrion on the other hand, thrives on leveraging this because he HAD to in order to gain any influence at all at Casterly Rock. He’s not from the muscle end of the family obviously but he also easily manages exerting power and personality on a host of unsavory characters to mutual gain- the whole Bronn partnership is this exactly. I presume he must have learned to leverage his status as being the son of Tywin, but a son Tywin despised and this being well known, through connecting with non-power bloc figures all the time. It’s ironic that this ends up being Tywin’s best (and probably unintentional in its full benefit) HR decision of the whole war.

          • Patrician isn’t quite right – dining with a different member of the staff is quite different from what a Tory aristocrat would do; you’re supposed to condescend gracefully, not invite them to table. It’s more the honor thing – the Arryns pride themselves on their honor, and expect everyone else to as well. Remember Jon Arryn not believing that anyone would want to poison him?

            But yes, I agree. Tyrion understands both institutional power and power from below because he has to.

    • David Hunt says:

      LF is capable of long-term planning, but he’s got a major weakness. Everything that he doing revolves around a 20+ years old crush and grievance. He’s obsessed with (1) having Cat or his Cat-surrogate,Sansa.and (2) showing the great Houses that dismissed him as unworthy that he’s better and more powerful than all of them.(especially the Starks and the Tullys). I just of thought of the comparison, but he reminds me strongly of the character Syndrome from the Incredibles. Anyway, these obsessive drives could be used to destroy him, if only someone knew about him. Varys might have that info stashed away for when he wants LF off the board. I don’t think Sansa has realized what she’ll be moved into his bed to replace the imaginary Cat that LF fantasizes about the moment he has absolute power. it will be very interesting to see what she does when it dawns on her.

      Varys’ weakness if much more difficult to spot as he plays things much closer to the vest. Beyond him not having much in the way of personal resources, especially after ASOS, I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps his total commitment to a boy that he hasn’t seen since the kid was an infant. He’s obviously gotten reports from Illyio, but I wouldn’t trust Illyrio as far as I could throw him, even he had been my closest friend 20 years ago. Now that the kid is actually acting, I wonder what Varys is going to do if he doesn’t live up to his rep.

      • JT says:

        Sure, but part of the reason we know Littlefinger’s motivations is because a POV character (Sansa) has reached the level of “co-conspirator”. There are no POV characters who are close to Varys (and in fact Varys is off page for almost the entirety of AFFC/ADWD).

        So we don’t know if Varys actually plays things closer to the vest than Littlefinger or if he’s just more opaque to us as readers – remember, Varys is happy to monologue for Kevan Lannister, and he does give a bit of his backstory to Tyrion as well.

        • David Hunt says:

          He tells Kevan what’s going on because Kevan is dying and can’t spill the beans. The only person that I’d say qualifies as a co-conspirator with Varys would be Illyrio and they’re too far apart to be chatty. Varys’ monologue to Kevan is a bit of an obvious literary device to get some information to the readers from someone who doesn’t trust any of POV characters enough to speak in an unguarded manner in their presence. However, I think it also gives us a view into Varys’ character. He respects Kevan. Kevan working toward what Varys is always claiming he wants: The good of the Realm. I’d bet a good amount that he didn’t bother to try to justify himself to a dying Pycelle while he was waiting for Kevan.

      • It’s the boy. Varys has been hinging everything on having the Perfect Prince, and because he hasn’t been on the scene in Essos, it’s going to be very difficult for him to manage Aegon and/or Dany when they finally get to KL.

        • JT says:

          I think Connington may also be end up being an achillies heel for Varys/Illyrio. He’s singleminded to a fault (he thinks he let Rhaegar down is determined to do right by his son). I’m not sure he feels as indebted to Varys and Illyrio as they’d like him to be.

        • Winnie says:

          Agreed. Varys is in for a bit of a rude awakening on both counts if/when he does meet Dany and Aegon. Also if you’re right Steve, then unbeknownst to Varys Aegon isn’t even Aegon..

          • Andrew says:

            I think Varys already does know Aegon isn’t Aegon. If Illyrio switched them, that would require Varys not to have known Illyrio when they have worked together and known each other for decades. I doubt Varys doesn’t know Illyrio.

      • Winnie says:

        Sansa is absolutely going to be LF’s weak spot, (that and his penchant for risks-he’s gotten lucky so far, but sooner or later his luck’s bound to run out.)

        She will be the one who slays the Titan

    • Jim B. says:

      I think it’s tempting to go overboard, though, with the idea that Varys and Littlefinger escape everyone’s notice as threats. They benefit from the fact that they’re generally not the most immediate threat to any of their rivals. I don’t mean just that they’re perceived that way, they really aren’t the most immediate threat usually. To some extent they engineer this situation themselves, of course, ensuring that other large immediate threats exist, as part of the whole “ladder of chaos” idea.

      For example, in ACOK, Tyrion would like to get rid of Littlefinger right away because Tyrion knows right away that he isn’t trustworthy and has in fact specifically screwed over Tyrion in the past. But Tyrion’s got other priorities that even in hindsight I would still say were more pressing. If Stannis takes King’s Landing, then Tyrion won’t live long enough to worry about LF. Cersei is actively plotting against him, and Pycelle is in her pocket. Janos Slynt is just as untrustworthy as LF and a more immediate threat given his control of the City Watch. (In fact, taking out Slynt is actually a shot at LF, too, given their past collaboration, so Tyrion does in fact make some move to weaken LF.)

      And Tyrion has to do all this from a starting position where his resources are essentially a “paper shield,” a sellsword of questionable loyalty, and some hill clans who are good in a fight but not politically skilled to say the least. He simply can’t take on the entire Small Council and the Queen Regent, too, and still have a city that’s prepared to fight off Stannis. He has to make some alliances even with people he knows aren’t trustworthy (Varys), and put off dealing with other dangers (LF).

      I think you can tell a similar story for the other players you mention. Tywin knows damn well what he’s got in LF and Varys, just as he knows that the Tyrells are dangerous rivals, too — but right now the existential threat to House Lannister is Houses Stark and Baratheon, so he prioritizes.

  5. Sean C. says:

    I would agree that the Tyrion plot was the highlight of season 2. One the ironies in how the books developed was that the “Game of Thrones”, which was meant to be the sideshow from the real threat of the Others/White Walkers (I will say, the show’s name is a lot more distinctive), has ended up so utterly dominating the narrative that I would say a sizeable part of the fandom would be quite content if the White Walkers never showed up and just let the “game” play out. You can see that even in fanfic, where “what if?” future scenarios either ignore the White Walkers or vaguely note that they were beaten and then Westeros largely resumed its prewar shape (though this might also be because it’s impossible to know what Westeros will look like at the end of the series).

    I often get the sense that the showrunners share that opinion more than they might like, that they’d much rather this show were basically about the power struggle in King’s Landing. One of the things that most interests me about season 5 is seeing what the show looks like when virtually all the main characters in the KL subplot have fled elsewhere or died, because I’m absolutely certain that if this show was somehow an original creation of D&D, that would not happen (also, Sansa would not have left; from all indications they would much rather write a version of the story where Sansa and Tyrion become a real couple).

    • Winnie says:

      Good point, Sean C, but I also think the show is starting, ever so subtly shift direction a bit. I mean the White Walker reveal at the end of Oathkeeper was a pretty clear way of reminding everyone that the bigger threat lies beyond the Wall. It’s also worth noting that Jon’s character arc is a LOT better this season too, which also shows a shift in emphasis. And having Brienne set out initially for the Wall…to me it showcases that they are lining things up for more focus on the coming Long Winter.

      And yeah, watching the portrayal of Tyrion/Sansa on the show makes me wonder if its because Tyrion and Sansa are actually intended to remain married in the series and be a Power Couple who help rebuild Westeros together.

      • Agreed. As someone who hadn’t really been enjoying Kit Harrington in the early seasons that much, Season 4 has been a big improvement. Although, if his storyline hadn’t been botched in Season 2, I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more in Season 3.

        • Winnie says:

          I think we all would have enjoyed it more. And hey at least since three you’re getting Dany as conqueror and now Dany as Queen of the City State-just like the books, though, I think things will be moving more quickly out of sheer necessity. I suspect, we’ll get the Battle of Mereen by the end of Season 5.

          • I agree. If they can get the budget for it, the Battles of Fire and Ice happen in Season 5.

          • JT says:

            I would guess we get one of the battles and one of the cliffhangers at the end of next season.

            Since Dany’s plot has moved ahead of Jon’s (she’s already decided to rule Mereen, which doesn’t come until the end of ASOS) AND this season is going to have a big battle in the snow (supposedly episode 9 is the battle at the wall), I’d guess that we end season 5 with the battle of Mereen/Jon’s stabbing and pick up season 6 with the battle of ice.

          • Possibly, but the show has to service Stannis and Davos as well. So…

          • JT says:

            I’m the show won’t do it, but the idea of us going with Stannis on his journey to the hill clans would be spectacular. Imagine Stannis going from clan hall to clan hall and “complementing their food” and “praising the beauty of their daughters” like Jon tells him to. This would be the comedy highlight of the series…

          • MightyIsobel says:

            “the idea of us going with Stannis on his journey to the hill clans would be spectacular”

            I didn’t even know I wanted this until now!

        • Erin says:

          What ruined Jon’s season 3 stuff for me was how they handled Ygritte again. IIRC, one of her first serious sexual overtures to Jon included something along the lines of “you need a good word from me if you want to survive here.” It was a bit skeevier than in the books, having Ygritte issue that implicit threat, but then the show continued merrily along as if she hadn’t threatened Jon at all. Then she threatened to sexually mutilate him if he left her. Then she shot him when he did, and I can’t be sure whether it’s because Jon was an enemy combatant or because he left her. I just couldn’t buy the romance.

    • I’m not so sure it’s the showrunners, or the fact that simply put the WW have been virtually off-screen for all of the books so far. So there’s a limit to what you can do with the supernatural stuff.

      • Winnie says:

        And getting around that might be one reason we got *that* White Walker scene-maybe the showrunners figured that if there wasn’t enough made explicit on page to pump up the threat to the audience then they would just have to improvise a bit.

  6. gavinbyrnes says:

    Maybe it’s not much of one, but what about if Cersei takes something of a middle ground…she doesn’t throw Tyrion in the dungeon, but she does a better job of keeping him misinformed about what’s going on in King’s Landing. Could she prevent him from finding about the Starks for very long? Or mislead him about how much power and money she/they have?

    • Winnie says:

      Theoretically she could do that-realistically though, that would take someone a LOT more subtle and cannier than Cersei’s ever been.

    • Sean C. says:

      So long as Tyrion has Varys in his court, I don’t think Cersei could meaningfully affect the flow of information Tyrion received. So she’d have to bring Varys onto her team somehow, and seeing as how Varys’ interests are in prolonging the war, I doubt she’d succeed at that, since leaving Cersei in charge is a surefire way to either let Stannis take the city or else burn the whole thing to the ground.

      • Winnie says:

        Precisely Sean C. Varys didn’t get invested in propping up Cersei until *after* the immediate danger of Stannis, taking KL had been removed. He sure as hell wasn’t going to take a chance on letting Mel suddenly become a player in the Red Keep.

        • I think you mean invested in ripping down Cersei until after Stannis was over. But yeah.

          • Winnie says:

            Actually I meant propping up Cersei-so that she could be the one to rip down the Lannister’s. Before Blackwater, though, Varys was working with Tyrion behind Cersei’s back specifically to ensure that Cersei didn’t let Stannis and his Red Witch Priestess take the city. Now that Stannis is gone, he wants Cersei in charge because that way conquest of KL is practically gift-wrapped for Aegon…at least until the Dance 2.0.

          • Ah, I see what you mean. Yeah.

          • JT says:

            It’s a true testament to what an awful regent Cersei is that Varys and Littlefinger who view each other as adversaries and are working at cross purposes to overthrow the government both seem to agree on one thing: having Cersei in power makes their scheming easier.

          • Heh. Good point.

    • I don’t think she could have. Tyrion’s too good at figuring things out, and there’s too many sources he can turn to for information.

    • Bail o' Lies says:

      Didn’t he go to meet Joffery (where Sansa was) before going to the small council (where Cersei was surprised to see him)? Unless she put Sansa in a tower somewhere an lock the door. So only people she wants to know will know if she had both girls or not than he was going to find out eventually.

  7. I know essays have been done on Littlefinger in the past, but i’d love to hear a character profile of him, something in depth. He definitely seems like a high risk gambler as i’ve seen in the past, and it also seems like he’s out to get just about every noble or powerful person around him that he can. Or else to rise above them. Because I can’t think of an example of him truly getting along with someone as an ally or friend; anyone he’s kind with is purely for his own benefit, and probably down the line he’ll plan on burying them as well. Of course that doesn’t make him different from much of Westeros, but still. He’s due to lose one of these gambles, sometime soon i’d imagine.

    • gavinbyrnes says:

      He does seem to inspire a certain sort of loyalty from people like Oswald Kettleblack and Lothor Brune…but neither of them seem like genuine allies so much as subordinates.

      • David says:

        FYC: I’d suggest that Littlefinger, born to the lowest of petty nobility, has a very clear sense of what the common-born (and the Westerosi “middle class” of merchants, to the extent that it’s developed) want.

        He doesn’t really *care* what Team Smallfolk wants either in the long-term (see Varys) or short-term (see Brotherhood w/o Banners), particularly if their goals conflict with his own, but he does understand them, and that enables him to build working relationships with the Brunes, Kettleblacks, et al. that are founded on mutual profit and a sense of working-men, we-know-how-the-world-really-works camaraderie.

        I’d suggest that Littlefinger is a sociopath, but one with a working understanding of the benefits of long-term investments in other people. That raises what I think is an interesting, if unsettling, point RE: his interactions w/Sansa:

        It’s a given that his long-term goal for Sansa is to mold her into a replacement Catelyn (and not even Catelyn per se, but rather the compliant, always-loved-Petyr version of Catelyn that LF has in his head.)

        But he’s also a pimp, with a pimp’s intimate understanding of the harm sexual violence and coercion can do to people, and his short- and mid-term plans for Sansa demand a certain level of high-functionality and willingness on her part. He can’t afford a catatonic Sansa, or even a begrudgingly-accepting Sansa. He needs her to act as his agent and protege, esp. in the matter of Harry the Heir but arguably beyond that as well.

        To the extent that LF experiences mixed feelings or any kind of internal struggle, I’d suggest that this is it: his recognition that he can’t coerce Sansa too overtly without damaging her usefulness to his plans vs. his impatience with the long, slow Stockholm-Syndrome approach.

        • Common-born, I’m not sure. Petty nobility/middle class yes. But yes, he’s very much a high-functional sociopath engaged in grooming; a bit like Hannibal.

          • David says:

            I’d suggest that the comfortable rapport and level of familiarity he has with his household servants on the Fingers is indicative of an ability to ingratiate himself with the commons when it suits him.

          • He grew up with them, so I don’t think it’s a good test.

      • LF is good at recruiting men at the bottom rungs of the nobility/upper reaches of the smallfolk – the genteel poor, ambitious hedge knights and sellswords, merchants and the like.

        • David Hunt says:

          “I started much lower than I am now. I climbed the ladder to a higher position. Work for me and I will see that you climb with me. Those who called you nothing will be entreating you for your aid and patronage.”

    • Winnie says:

      IMO, LF’s penchant for risks, and difficulty gaining allies, (instead of just hired minions) are two weaknesses that really should have tripped him up beforehand-it’s just that Martin’s been giving him a certain plot armor to let him wreck maximum destruction without paying for it. It really doesn’t make sense that Tyrion didn’t put the screws to him, (or at the very least tell Cersei and Tywin on him) or that Tywin didn’t become more suspicious of LF as a potential problem once he decided to woo Lysa, etc. etc.

      But LF’s activities are now going to make it impossible to stay under the radar so much anymore, and more importantly, I think Martin’s coming to the end of his story arc.

      • Agreed. Logically, he should have been tripped up before, but GRRM wanted to save that for his big fall from grace.

        • JT says:

          Arguably they both (Varys and Littlefinger) should have been tripped up. Varys goes missing the entire length of ADWD. Cersei launches a massive cross continent manhunt for Tyrion; you’d think she notice is Varys is gone and try to have him found as well.

          • Varys has been tripped up – Tyrion got replaced, LF got a huge boost in power through acquiring Harrenhal and marrying Lysa and abducting Sansa, and Varys had to vacate his Small Council seat.

            But at the same time, LF didn’t see Tywin’s death coming, and the Lord Declarant were a major threat to him.

          • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

            I always understood they were looking for him but couldn’t find him, which suggests either that Varys has Qyburn on his side or that his mummer’s disguises have reached Series of Unfortunate Events levels of effectiveness.

      • Sean C. says:

        Yeah, Littlefinger is a pretty good example of where claims that GRRM is all about bringing “realism” and deconstruction into fantasy fiction are shown to be a bit off. GRRM includes elements of both of those things, but any fiction that was truly dedicated to deconstructing tropes and bringing realism would not include characters like Littlefinger, whose byzantine, risky schemes should realistically have blown up in his face countless times by this point. Even when people cite “realism” or whatever in his killing Ned off, the actual main characters of this story have just as much plot armour as any other fictional protagonist; Arya, in particular, should have been killed like a dozen times at this point.

        • Winnie says:

          Not to mention ‘realistically’ a family that was so infamously disloyal (and personally depraved) as the Bolton’s would have been toast centuries ago. And Ramsay should in all likelihood have been killed by own men by now.

          And yeah, much as we all LOVE Arya, she (and Dany too,) should have been long dead by now if not for Martin and “destiny.”

          • ajay says:

            Not to mention ‘realistically’ a family that was so infamously disloyal (and personally depraved) as the Bolton’s would have been toast centuries ago.

            We have no idea – none – about how personally depraved earlier Boltons were. They might have been sterling chaps.
            And large, powerful families rebel again and again in (eg) Scots history without being exterminated.

          • And go back to the Catelyn recap where I point out all the cases of English Houses that swapped sides again and again during the Wars of the Roses without being exterminated.

        • I wouldn’t bring realism into it, exactly – plenty of extremely Machiavellian plans went off without a hitch, back in the day.

        • blacky says:

          There’s negative plot armor as well for Ned and Drogo…GRRM deserves accolades but tall pedestals tip over.

    • Well, if you’re interested in my thoughts about Littlefinger, keep an eye out for Tower of the Hand: Hymn for Spring.

  8. CoffeeHound14 says:

    Regarding the mystery of why the defenders of King’s Landing lack the power of the Crownlands:

    I have been getting the impression on my current reread of the series that the reasons for this are manifold, and that they vary depending on which part of the Crownlands you are talking about. In some areas, there is a lack of any local magnate to organize a serious muster. House Hayford, probably the family closest to the city, is currently led by the infant Lady Ermesande. This doesn’t make it impossible to levy troops at Castle Hayford, but it does make it that much more of a legal and organizational headache. We might say the same thing to a lesser degree about House Stokeworth, which is currently ruled by a simpering courtier of a matriarch.

    Other houses, as you say, are Targaryen loyalists. House Rykker of Duskendale, for example, fought on the Targaryen’s side during Robert’s Rebellion, and seems to have suffered substantial losses in lands and income in the aftermath of that war. As a result, we can imagine that House Rykker would be inclined to provide the bare minimum of support required of a bannerman of Robert’s “son”. Think of them as Joffrey’s equivalent of LAdy Dustin (though I recognize that there are differences in motivation).

    If we further assume that the land of lords like Renfred Rykker was not just shuffled to other lords, but was parceled out to pettier lords, the feudal structure of the Crownlands begins to look extremely decentralized. Such a state of affairs would further increase the difficulty of instituting a substantial levy.

    The final two factors that I would take into account are the relative danger and lawlessness of the region during the War of the Five Kings, and the remote and desert nature of a great proportion of the Crownlands. In the aftermath of the Battle of the Green Fork, the northern Crownlands are subject to some of the same indiscriminate chevauche as the Riverlands. The area wherein Yoren is killed and Arya is captured is, after all, on the south side of the God’s Eye, which puts it right on the border between the lands of Harrenhal, and the Crownlands. Furthermore, when you read the account of Arya’s journey from King’s Landing to the God’s Eye, it is not far from the city that Yoren’s convoy begins to encounter groups of armed peasants patrolling their own land and landed knights holed up in their holdfasts. This indicates to me that much of the northern Crownlands has gone into turtle mode as a side effect of Tywin’s policy of scorched earth as implemented by uncaring goons like Amory Lorch and Vargo Hoat. Finally, if you reexamine Brienne’s chapters in AFFC, the portrait they paint of the coastal reaches of the Crownlands is not a populous one. They describe long stretches of rocky grassland, lots of sand dunes and wetland, and a huge swathe of pine barrens.

    • The weird thing though is that you see Crownlanders in court – Blounts, Byrches, Hartes, Rosbys, etc. You’d think Cersei would lean on them for levies.

      • Jim B says:

        Is it possible that Robert kept the Crownlands weak because of their Targaryen loyalties? Something analogous to post-WWII Japan. Maybe that’s not as easy to do in a setting that doesn’t depend on large standing armies, but I suppose you could accomplish the same thing through aggressive taxation?

        • There’s no evidence of that – outside of the Targaryen family itself, Robert liked to forgive his enemies.

          • CoffeeHound14 says:

            Well that’s not entirely true. In the Jaime chapter of AFFC where he arrives at Harrenhal, Jaime thinks while talking to Ronnet Connington about how the Conningtons were forgiven for siding with Aerys, but that their lands were nonetheless mostly confiscate, bringing them down to the level of landed knights. Now the Conningtons might have received special treatment, given that Jon was Rhaegar’s most avid supporter, but I don’t think so, Lords Fell, Grandison, and Cafferen managed to muster three small armies during the rebellion, but we see no evidence of their having substantial levies during the War of the Five Kings, which indicates to me that they probably suffered the same sort of forgiveness as the Conningtons.

            Robert liked to forgive his enemies, but he wasn’t above disciplinary confiscation of wealth.

          • Sure, but those lands go to other lords – so where are their levies?

          • CoffeeHound14 says:

            What I’m saying is that if their lands were redistributed to lords elsewhere, or if they were simply snatched up by the crown, that would not leave a good local nucleus around which to organize a muster.

            If only Westerosi kings used Sherriffs.

          • But the land and its people wouldn’t have moved – so the new lords or the crown should still be able to muster from there.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        It feels a bit like Cersei is so fixated on getting her father to come to KL that she can’t see the Throne’s other military resources outside her tunnel vision.

        • Maddy says:

          I think she’s just so paranoid about losing power that she pisses off potential allies instead of using them. Oh Cersei … she’s awful but she’s kind of tragic

    • Roger says:

      Good points. It must be noted the Masseys went to help Stannis.
      But perhaps the levies from Stokeworth or Rosby are simply recruited into the Goldencloaks.
      Gyles Rosby had so few men in his castle he surrendered his castle without any fight when Ironhand came for Tommen.

    • S. Duff says:

      Also we have the houses of Crackclaw Point, who we hear sent men off to war, which lends credence to Steven Attwell’s theory that Tywin was pulling men from the Crownlands to go to the front.

  9. Andrew says:

    Nice chapter analysis again, Steven.

    1) I think the irony of the riddle will be that Varys’s king, Aegon, will have those three things supporting him: the king (Aegon claims to be the direct heir to the IT by being Rhaegar’s son), a rich man (Illyrio), and a priest (the HS), but Aegon will still lose the second Dance of Dragons and his crown regardless.

    2) In terms of Cersie putting the blame all on others from her won son, Joffrey to Varys, that doesn’t surprise me. This is a woman who has never been known to accept fault or responsibility for anything, even if it’s entirely her fault.

  10. Maddy says:

    It is weird that Tyrion never follows up on the Littlefinger thing now that I think about it. I guess he feels he is not as disposable as Pycelle, since ostensibly Littlefinger actually does something useful as Master of Coin and brings in money? I feel like it’s more like one of those things where GRRM needs Littlefinger to do things in the plot so can’t have Tyrion do anything to him. And I guess Tyrion has lots of other distractions and things to take care of.

    I definitely agree that Tyrion’s storyline was the bright spot of season 2 (which I don’t think was as bad as lots of people make out – although they definitely bungled Jon and Dany). Conleth Hill as Varys is so perfect.

  11. Maddy says:

    I don’t really like Littlefinger in the show (please pick an accent and stick with it Aidan Gillen) but it’s interesting to note that in the books he also does have a big mouth. Maybe I’m remembering book Littlefinger as more of a mastermind/smarter than he actually is. I definitely don’t think he spends all his time monologuing in brothels though or making speeches about CHAOS IS A LADDER.

    I miss Chataya and Alayaya in the show – I get that they probably didn’t want to make two black characters prostitutes but Chataya’s brothel was interesting – sex workers were treated well and she worked with Varys and was an intelligent behind the scenes player. Definitely very different to the portrayal of sex workers in the show.

    • Roger says:

      I agree with you. The Series’ Littlefinger is so loudmouth he almost managed to get executed by Cersei. THe book’s one is much more sutile.
      Lacking Alayaya meant having a girl menaced by Cersei didn’t mean a thing to anyboy.
      It would have been nice seen Dacey and the rest.

    • I think Aidan Gillen is underrated on the show – I think the brothel monologue really damaged him in people’s eyes, but LF can be quite unsubtle with people. It’s Varys who is the subtle one; LF gets by on being irreplaceable.

      • Maddy says:

        Very true – I actually quite like his acting (especially in the last episode) just not some of the writing. People criticise him in the show for being this over the top moustache twirling villain but he kind of does that in the books too. I guess the tradeoff you make with casting a major actor is you have to show him more, whereas in the books GRRM can just let you forget about him, or have him do things ‘offscreeen’. Logically, it makes no sense for Littlefinger to approach Sansa directly in season 3 but I guess you have to give the actor something to do.

        I still can’t believe they just casually dropped that reveal about Jon Arryn and the letter last episode like it was no big deal. In the books that reveal was so perfect why would you mess with that? I get that the show is different from the books but some of their decisions boggle my mind.

        • Winnie says:

          Actually that particular reveal made HUGE waves among viewers only. The reason I think they changed it a bit was so that S wouldn’t yet be clued into the role L played in her family’s downfall… but they wanted the audience to know.

          • Yeah. All of the viewer-only/majority podcasts I’ve seen went nuts about this revelation.

          • Maddy says:

            I think I’m just very attached to that scene but I guess it could still happen. I really want the snowcastle scene too but I don’t know how the logistics of that would work. I know Lysa isn’t a political genius or anything, but I don’t think she would just blurt it out like that – she blurts it out in the book because she’s emotional/ upset. I’m not sure if new viewers caught the mention that they had ‘already had their wedding night’ (can’t remember the exact line). Since they cut out Catelyn at Hoster’s deathbed in the show (understandable but it makes me sad) I hope they work in the backstory around Hoster making Lysa have an abortion and her subsequent miscarriages. Lysa’s obviously horrible, but I think that explains a lot about her character (although I do sideeye Martin sometimes about how he characterises Lysa as this hysterical woman mad with jealousy).

            That actress is such perfect casting though even if she doesn’t fit the book’s physical description. I hope we get more Lysa scenes before she gets killed off (episode 7 aparently?)

          • I’m almost positive we’re going to see the snowcastle scene – previews showed Sansa in the Eyrie godswood, snowing, etc.

  12. kylelitke says:

    I’ve always hated that Cersei, in what appears to be a rare honest conversation between her and Tyrion, implies that without Sansa telling her that Ned was going to send the girls away, Ned might have succeeded. I think this drives a lot of the hatred toward Sansa from the readers, but it simply doesn’t make sense. As you pointed out, Ned already told Cersei what his plan was. The only thing Sansa really did was, perhaps, prevent her and Arya from getting away, by telling Cersei about the plan to send them away via ship, enabling her to have the Gold Cloaks (or Lannister men, I forget) seize the docks, and even that is arguable. If Sansa never approaches Cersei, what honestly changes? Even ignoring the fact that Littlefinger could have given her all the information she needed about Ned’s plans to use the Gold Cloaks (plans Sansa didn’t even know about), as well as tipping her off as to when Ned was about to move, the obvious thing for Cersei to do is to move immediately as soon as Robert dies. The smarter thing might have been to move earlier, as Cersei couldn’t have been certain that Ned wouldn’t move earlier himself, as Renly suggested he do, but with Ned having already told her his plan and Littlefinger informing her of the details, the very last opportunity for her to move, completely independent of Sansa, is as quickly as possible after Robert’s death.

    I don’t understand why Cersei makes the comment she does in this chapter. Claiming that she almost blew the whole thing if not for Sansa randomly deciding to go to her doesn’t make her look strong or smart, and for her to admit that to Tyrion of all people is bizarre. Does Cersei honestly believe, for reasons I can’t fathom, that Sansa coming to her was the thing that convinced her she had to move, and not Ned or Littlefinger coming to her? Is she lying? If so, what possible gain is there for her to tell Tyrion she’s a moron who very nearly failed to stop Ned and only succeeded on an unexpected fluke?

    • Winnie says:

      I think it was Cersei trying to demonstrate how her natural “charm” causes people to gravitate toward her and tell her their secrets. I think it’s what she prefers to believe too, rather than admit to herself that LF is pulling all the strings here

      It’s worth noting that Martin, (noting how much it garnered hatred towards Sansa among the fandom) later decided that having Sansa confide in Cersei had been a big mistake-and they made a conscious decision not to include that in the show.

      • Maddy says:

        Whenever people point to this as ‘proof’ that Sansa got her father killed I always think – are you really telling me that Cersei is a valuable narrator of events? I never believe anything Cersei says, especially to Tyrion. I vaguely remember a part in ASOS where Tyrion thinks to himself that he should just tell Sansa about Shae, but then stops himself because he remembers what Cersei tells him about Sansa selling out Ned, so it’s not the only time it gets brought up (unless I’m remembering wrong)

      • MightyIsobel says:

        “I think it was Cersei trying to demonstrate how her natural “charm” causes people to gravitate toward her and tell her their secrets.”

        I think it’s exactly this, yes. Sometimes I wonder if Cersei actually rolled a mystically high charisma stat, and her tragedy is that she knows how special she is and can’t understand why her life is such a catastrophe anyway.

    • Specifically, the only thing Sansa could have helped with in relation to Ned (besides getting herself captured) is timing, knowing that Ned was planning to move right then as opposed to waiting a week or two.

      • Amestria says:

        Given Cersei’s many instances of hesitation, overconfidence, and poor planning, she might have actually needed that bit of information to throw something together. Perhaps it cut short some crucial haggling with Slynt and company or made her realize that offing Robert wouldn’t actually be enough to beat Ned?

  13. Roger says:

    Maester Steven does merits to become archi-maester Steven! Soon the Citadel will give him the copper mask.
    Tyrion’s part in ACOK is one of the best parts of the book (but perhaps I prefer Theon’s).
    Here we see the Imp at his best. He is highly perceptive and even intuitive of human nature. He plays Cersei like a fiddle, and even can manage Littlefinger. And Slynt and Pycelle are only pawns.
    Varys is another different matter. The Whisper’s Councilor becomes important to Tyrion. The same way he became useful to Aerys, Robert, Tywin and everybody else above him. Giving information and not wanting anything (in appearance). Not even the readers now if Varys had real plans for the Imp at that moment.
    Worst problem with Tyrion, I think is that he doesn’t create an own base of power. He uses his father’s support, uses the wildmen and Bron, etc. But none of them are real important people. There isn’t ANY Lord in Westeros who would support Tyrion for himself. ANY important people liked him or prefered him. And that’s why he lost everything at Blackwater. And that’s his fault. He doesn’t make friends in the correct places.

    • Yeah. As I argue in my Hands article about Tyrion, his big mistake is that he doesn’t build up any kind of a power base, whether lords or commoners.

    • sambocyn says:

      Roger, that’s a good point, never thought of it like that. but how do you go about building a “power base”? he’s a dwarf and an outsider, a lot of people will dislike him or mistrust him for that. Bywater was loyal to him somewhat right, For the promotion?

  14. Roger says:

    About of the Lord of the Crownlands. The Stokeworth and the Rosbys brought many food to King’s Landing. Not enough to avoid hunger in the streets, but enough for the GOldenCloaks and the Red Keep. However, their garrisons, with few men, remained at home.
    The Crownlands lords didn’t have many soldiers, in my opinion. They relied in the king for protection. And as you pointed, many had already joined Stannis (the Masseys) or Renly.

  15. JT says:

    Speaking of the Lannisters, in the show this week, Tywin says that the last Lannister gold mine ran dry ~3 years ago (in the show timeline, this would be roughly when the war of five kings started).

    Some people have said that the Lannisters being out of money is implied in the books. Is this true? I thought that as late as the epilogue of ADWD, Kevan Lanninster observes that the Lannisters may have to use their gold to pay off the crown’s debts if Harys Swyft can’t go treat with the Iron Bank.

    • Yeah, that’s nonsense. The show says the entire Westerlands ran dry. And while the Lannister reserves must be immense – how did the Lannisters *and their bannermen* fund the war? Why didn’t Rob or the Northmen notice that they were raiding empty mines, or tell the world that the mighty Tywin was broke?

      The Lannisters have plenty of gold. What they’re down on is manpower – Robb Stark killed a lot of their men, and they only have around 20k spread across from the Westerlands to the Stormlands.

      • Winnie says:

        I think that the show is suggesting the lions are broke for a couple reasons

        A: their version of queen c isn’t nearly as idiotic and they probably feel having her make all the same mistakes would be overkill so they provide an alternate explanation for why the crown isn’t paying the iron bank-which allows Stan to get on there and make his move this season.

        B. They’re setting up that the great golden lion dynasty is actually a complete house of cards ready to fall at anytime-whichvis going to be very soon.

        C. Its also possible that Martin planned on having the mines start to tap out in the books too at a later point and D&D are just getting the jump on him.

        • A. Unless they’re going to completely rewrite Cersei’s plot from AFFC/ADWD, that’s a massive mistake.

          B. Which isn’t the right way to do it – the Lannister dynasty’s downfall should come through its internal dysfunctions, not through an inevitable lack of resources.

          • Winnie says:

            I certainly agree that there is nothing so satisfying as seeing the Lannister’s destroy themselves and I do hope they retain that theme-I get the feeling D&D thought Cersei was simply too over the top in her awfulness and two-dimensional for the screen so they’ve tried to humanize her a bit, (while retaining that she’s still a horrible human being but still recognizably human as opposed to Joffrey or Ramsay,) and make her smarter. Making her smarter may have been an attempt to make her seem more like a legitimate threat, because if her judgement was as poor as it was in the books it would be hard for people to understand how she could survive as long as she did.

          • I get that – in general, they like more gradual transitions. But they’ve got to make that turn eventually.

          • JT says:

            Remember, Tyrion is going to escape and kill Tywin. I imagine Cersei will find some piece of evidence that links Tyrion’s disappearance to the Tyrells and that will set her off the rails (we’ll later learn Varys is the one who planted it) into spite-town yet again…

          • I hope so. It’s just more of a sharp 90 degree turn than I would have preferred.

        • Cinderella says:

          i think that cersei is going to visit the faith on the show for asking for help to pay the debt to iron bank on the show. not for tommen to be baptized.

        • Maddy says:

          I think Lena Headey does an excellent job, but I really miss the passion of fiery book Cersei. I thought we were going to get it after Joffrey’s death but apparently not (and the Jaime-Cersei controversy has thrown a whole other unnecessary element in there). I guess Tywin’s death will be the breaking point? I’m getting worried that they’re going to change her storyline in AFFC …

          I agree the stuff with the iron Bank is setup for Stannis

          • Winnie says:

            We might be getting some more fiery Queen C this season. I remember the seasons promo had her telling her father concerning the new boy king…”you”‘ll fight over him until you tear him apart..I will burn our house to the ground before I let that happen!”

      • Logically it makes no sense but it works really well dramatically. In addition to all the obvious reasons re: the Lannister downfall, Stannis and the Iron Bank, and tensions with the Tyrells, I liked how they underlined the disastrous state of the crown’s finances in the same ep. as the Littlefinger reveal. Allows the some of the attentive newbies to connect the dots of how dangerous this guy is. And the magical neverending Lannister goldmines have always sort of annoyed me. So I am willing to suspend disbelief on this one.

        • The problem is that it’ll make Cersei’s actions later seem totally normal.

          • Cinderella says:

            i think that cersei is going to visit the faith on the show for asking for help to pay the debt to iron bank on the show. not for tommen to be baptized.

          • That works, but it doesn’t fix the “stiffing the Iron Bank so they back Stannis” thing.

          • Winnie says:

            Unless they find some other way for Cersei to do something insanely irrational out of spite…like failing to send Paxter Redwyne and his ships off to the Arbor to deal with the IB threat *immediately*. That fits the version of Cersei we get on the show too, (short sightedly putting immediate petty power struggles above larger military threats,) only on a more extreme level than we’ve seen before-and without Daddy or Tyrion to save her from herself. I think that could work very VERY well.

          • Sure – but the tricky thing is that it’s going to be harder to make that transition work now.

        • Roger says:

          Well, I liked Tywin comparing the Iron Bank to a temple, and remembering the Crown is bankrupt. But I don’t think it’s necessary to have the Lannister without resources. House Lannister and the Crown are different things, but perhaps the series have forgot it.

          • WPA says:

            I honestly think it might be partially a way to make viewers grasp/make sense of the rapid disillusion of Lannister power-base once Tywin makes his final privy visit. In the books its clear that the Westerlands suffer enormous casualties and disruption throughout the War- particularly with Robb Stark raiding their gold mines, storming strongholds, and generally raising hell in the gold-producing regions. All while inflicting enormous casualties. That and the added attrition of everything else in AFFC and so on- has the Lannisters clearly relying on Randall Tarly’s army (now marching south apparently), Riverlords forced to bend the knee (how many will gladly turn on them again considering mutual loathing of the Lannisters/Freys unites even Brackens and Blackwoods) , and the Freys (bleeding out their strength up North, to the BWB, and everywhere).

            I mean, right now, in Book canon- how many men do you think the Lannisters still have under arms? Enough to even field a significant army? 10-15,000? The show will have a harder time depicting them going from utter preponderance of power to dissolving quickly in later seasons – because they didn’t emphasize the losses or disruption caused by Robb’s army or everything else- so having the gold run out is a handy way to accelerate their decline for the show viewers- and its intuitive rather than adding up the military situation based on regions and bannermen.

          • Winnie says:

            I think WPA is right-now some might say the show SHOULD have conveyed more of the damage Robb’s army did to Tywin, (to the extent that Twyin was driven to the RW) but they didn’t have the budget for all the battle scenes and devastation Robb inflicted on the Westernlands.

  16. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, just popping in to congratulate you on another fine article!

    Concerning The Imp’s failure to tackle Littlefinger, I suspect that as Hand of the King he didn’t have the time to see to it personally (and may have lacked henchmen both smart enough to track Lord Petyr and loyal enough to be trusted), while as Master of Coin he was he lost the Institutional Power of The Hand to shield him while carrying out any investigations, whereas Baelish himself had just acquired the rank of Lord Paramount (making him a great feudal magnate and much harder to bring to account through law without support from The Hand that Tyrion could never secure from).

    Put simply I think that after the Blackwater Tyrion simply lacked the muscle to make any serious investigations without risking his own hide to an uncharacteristic degree.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      I’m not implying that The Imp is a coward, simply that at heart he’s no hero and definitely isn’t seeking to share that martyr’s crown bestowed upon Lord Eddard as a compensation for losing everything below the neck.

    • I think he could have done it before the Blackwater – and certainly, there’s no harm on asking Varys to dish.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        The problem is that Tyrion Lannister represents a potentially stabilising influence and if he does TOO well then Lord Varys risks creating a Westeros too stable for his carefully-groomed prince to be seen as a saviour, rather than a pretender; more to the point while I suspect The Master of Whispers has no love for Lord Petyr Baelish it is difficult to imagine where The Spider might find a replacement for him as the foremost agent of Chaos across the Seven Kingdoms.

        Put simply I’m not sure that even The Spider could replace Littlefinger, at least not easily or quickly.

        • Winnie says:

          I’m not sure about that. While Baelish to Varys’s mind he can be useful, he’s also a real wild card and who’s setting himself up as another potential major power player with his own base that could confuse the issue if/when Aegon arrives.

          Also I suspect if Tyrion post Blackwater had indeed been too stabilizing an influence, Varys would (regretfully) have dealt with him much the same way he later would with Kevan.

          BTW I LOVE AG and CH’s scenes together on the show-and how Varys considers LF a very amusing colleague but knows full well how dangerous he ultimately can be to the Realm.

        • Varys does not work for Littlefinger, and doesn’t want his chaos around; he doesn’t need Littlefinger for a controllable civil war, and he had the Dothraki as the threat to be saved from. Moreover, as Hand, Tyrion could only prop up King’s Landing, but Varys has proof of every allegation against Cersei in his back pocket to take out Joffrey/Tommen’s right to rule, so he can go over Tyrion’s head if he needs to.

  17. Amestria says:

    So on the issue of the knife are you a Watsonist or a Doyalist?

    I suppose one possible explanation is that the knife fades considerably in importance once Tyrion hears Cersei and starts putting the pieces together. It sounds like there would have been a war anyway regardless of what Littlefinger did and what he did could have been the direct or indirect result of Cersei’s scheming (it was in her possession after all and she had a very good reason to want Bran dead). That being the case, he tucks it away for a better time and kind of forgets about it.

    Another, not mutually exclusive explanation is that doesn’t bring it up with his father for the same reason no one brings up the fact that Cersei’s kids really are the products of an incestuous affair, Tyrion keeps mum about Cersei or Joffrey’s trying to kill him, and everyone being very careful about bringing up certain elements of Gregor’s history when Tywin’s in the room. It’s just one of those things that is very awkward to deal with and the right time never comes…

    “Hey dad, Littlefinger lied to Cat about the ownership of a knife that was used by an assassin trying kill Bran Stark. It was Robert’s blade but Littlefinger fingered me…”

    Immediately the question comes to mind, why was someone trying to kill Bran Stark? Then, who gave the assassin that knife? Who really had the knife? Why would the Queen Regent try and kill Bran Stark? Those questions lead to a place that the Lannisters would rather not go…

    Don’t pull on a thread if you don’t know what will unravel. We of course know the Littlefinger Conspiracy would unravel. But Tyrion doesn’t know what weaving that thread is attached too and so he probably does not want to pull on it until he’s sure the wrong thing won’t unravel.

    • Amestria says:

      This also applies to Jon Aryn’s death and the Mountain’s jousting accident.

      If Littlefinger did intertwine his conspiracy with the Lannister conspiracy then this would be one of the benefits. You can’t look into what he was doing without looking into what the Queen was doing. In fact the Queen emerges as the bigger target.

    • On this point a Doylist. GRRM sets it up in AGOT, has LF reclaim the knife so he can brandish it in ACOK, Tyrion figures it out in ASOS, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Sansa will use it against him in TWOW.

      • Andrew says:

        I think Sansa will be using that dagger on him. I think, drunk, he would try to take her maidenhead before her upcoming nuptials. I think he might drunkenly mention that Cersei refused to let LF marry Sansa, and that would lead to him telling her that he manipulated Joffrey into taking Ned’s head.

        • Maddy says:

          I see her using the poison in her hairnet as more probable. It seems weird to me that Sansa hears Lysa admit to Littlefinger’s involvement with the letter and Jon Arryn but hasn’t quite put the pieces together yet and/ or mentioned it in any of her POVS after that? Although I guess it makes sense that she maybe doesn’t have all the information to piece that together and/ or is burying that information as part of her trauma/ trying to play her part as Alayne. Although I guess we only have a few chapters in AFFC so it’s too early to pass judgement on that.

          Littlefinger is definitely inappropriate with her but I don’t think he would actually try and take her maidenhead. He’s too smart to move that quickly – although there is some definite sexual predatory grooming going on. I don’t think GRRM would go that far personally (but maybe that’s naiive of me). I find it so disturbing that there are actually Petyr/ Sansa shippers out there.

          • Andrew says:

            Too smart? Was mauling her in the godswood of the Eyrie smart? As Steven said, he can be rash and impulsive, and he has been drinking since he betrothed her to Harry the Heir, kissing her more often. I think a dagger would be more fitting given LF’s association with daggers: using one to frame Tyrion, when he announced his betrayal to Ned, and referring to agents as daggers. He also says to give an ugly woman in bed a steel kiss.

        • Certainly a possibility for the “controversial Sansa chapter” in TWOW.

  18. JT says:

    It is surprising that Pycelle is so completely incompetent at playing the game. With the exception of Aemon, he’s the most educated person (and he likely has the most breadth of knowledge) in Westeros – essentially a college grad where everyone else is at an 8th grade level (even Tyrion only knows some basic geometry). And as we see in Pate’s prologue chapter, there is “up or out” pressure at the Citadel – they don’t just hand links out – the links need to be earned.

    For that matter, you’d think the Citadel would be major players in the game. There’s a network of Maesters at pretty much every location in Westeros that matters, and they’re up to date on the events of the day and the thoughts of the key players. It shouldn’t be that hard for Pycelle (or the Citadel) to cultivate a spy network akin to what Varys has outside of King’s Landing and make themselves a player in the game (or even a medieval-NSA).

    • Sean C. says:

      From what’s been hinted at regarding the conspiracy of the archmaesters, I get the sense that the office of the Grand Maester has, in the course of the Targaryen monarchy, become far more in the way of a figurehead than the actual directing mind of the Citadel. Which, really, makes sense — the governance of the Maesters’ order is still run out of Oldtown, whereas the Grand Maester spends all his time in King’s Landing, politicking and advising the king. Back before the unification of the realms, I imagine the Grand Maester lived in Oldtown and actually ran the Citadel, but now the office is more of a general courtier/the representative of the Citadel to the king.

      Particularly given that at least some faction in the Citadel’s leadership appears to have been responsible for finishing off the remaining dragons, I can’t imagine that any of the grand maesters they’ve sent to live in the Targaryen court were aware of that. The risk of exposure would be enormous, given that the grand maester typically is, or else becomes, far more a creature of the monarch (or the Hand, in the case of Pycelle) than of the Citadel.

      • JT says:

        Sure, we’ve heard from a few sources that the Citadel wanted the dragons (and more specifically, magic) to be gone. But beyond that the Citadel doesn’t really make or unmake kings. Given that the Citadel controls the flow of information and learning throughout Westeros, it is surprising that they don’t shape the political events of Westeros on a more micro scale.

        Yes Pycelle did help finish off the Targaryens by urging Aerys to open the gates to Tywin Lannister’s army, but that’s because Pycelle is a Lannister stooge, not because the Citadel wanted the Targaryen’s reign to end.

      • Also, the Citadel definitely was willing to give a big “fuck you” to Tywin by appointing a Tyrell as grand maester.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      One would argue that the potential for intrigue against the interests of the King is PRECISELY the reason The King (or his Hand) would prefer to retain the services of Pycelle, just in case the Citadel sent someone who genuinely was as devious as he was well-educated!

      I sometimes wonder Lady Dustin’s distrust of the Maesters is not an indication that the aristocracy as a whole regard the Citadel and it’s graduates in the same was certain medieval lords distrusted the Catholic Clergy who were in some ways their preeminent rivals.

    • He may have been better once, but he’s an old man.

      And as for major players, well there’s the Grand Maester Conspiracy.

      • Winnie says:

        An old man who WORSHIPPED Tywin Lannister and the Golden Lions. One of the many grimly amusing things about AFFC and ADWD was that Pycelle, (as opposed to Kevan, Jaime, LF, Tyrion, and just about everybody else who’d ever met her,) was *surprised* by how badly Cersei botched things when she was in power-he’s known her since childhood for god’s sakes—what did he expect?!?

        I think another reason the show decided to depict the Lannister’s as broke is not just for the Iron Bank angle, but to showcase the idea that Lannister supremacy was always an illusion-albeit a potent one-and then demonstrate how dangerous that will be for everyone who bought into that illusion and staked their futures on the Lannister’s. Remember how smug and unbearable Walder Frey was in Mhysa?!? Sure he’s made himself hated by every house in the Riverlands AND the North, and the Blackfish is one the loose gunning for him, but he Walder feels safe because he’s got the great Tywin Lannister on his side! And Roose is looking forward to the age of the Boltons…then we have Roose find out there are Stark heirs still out there, (and while I don’t know about BookRoose, I doubt ShowRoose would have pulled the trigger if he’d known *that*) and the Frey’s are soon going to learn how hollow the Lannister assurances of protection really are.

        Making the Lannister’s broke basically really drives home the message that even if Tywin hadn’t died, their dynasty was in real trouble and things were starting to fall apart-Tyrion killing him simply accelerated the process.

        • Roger says:

          Both BookRoose and ShowRoose are aware that Sansa and Arya have more rights to Winterfell than them.
          BookRoose is perfectly aware Bran and Rickon are alive somewhere.

        • I understand the angle, but I think that cuts against itself thematically. The fall of Tywin, the division of the Lannisters against each other, Cersei’s misgovernment, these should matter. If it was inevitable, then it’s not the Lannisters’ fault they fell.

          • Maddy says:

            We’ll see what they do with it but it bothers me too – in the books it was so perfectly done that the Lannisters might have won the war in the short term, but they are the agents of their own destruction (specifically when it comes to Tywin) while I think the Stark legacy will ultimately ‘win’ in the long term with the Stark kids (to put it in simple terms). I almost feel like TV Tywin is weirdly too likeable? I think Charles Dance does an amazing job but I really hope they remind the audience what an awful parent he is (specifically the Tysha thing which hasn’t been brought up since season 1) and how he sowed the seeds of his own destruction in his treatment of all his kids but particularly Tyrion. We’ve still got the trial to come though so maybe I’m jumping to conclusions too quickly.

          • I think Dance will be less likable come the end of the season.

          • Winnie says:

            Well, while I agree the mines drying up, automatically puts the Lannister’s in a tricky position, I don’t think that *alone* would have doomed them-and I don’t think the show will portray it as such either. After all, it still would have been possible to move the Westernlands to a different economic model, even if they wouldn’t be so phenomenally rich. (The Starks didn’t have any gold mines or even a fraction of the Lannister’s wealth and yet the Starks have ruled the North for millenia and will do so again.) So the mines drying up may have meant an end to Lannister excesses-but it might not have ended the Lannister’s themselves-IF they didn’t have this incredibly expensive war to fight, and IF LF hadn’t put the Crown in so much debt, and even now the Tyrell alliance could still possibly save them-IF Cersei wasn’t inevitably going to fuck that up, and IF between her and Tywin they hadn’t burned their bridges with every Great House in Westeros AND made themselves as popular with the Smallfolk as a case of the ringworm so that If/When they *did* ever find themselves in trouble, there’d be no one willing to help them back up…in very Stark contrast to the Wolves who because they still command loyalty among the Northerners have a chance at returning to glory even with things as dire as they are now.

            Basically the problem for the Lannister’s isn’t that the gold is drying up-its that their gold was the only reason anyone was following them in the first place. They don’t command any intrinsic loyalty like the Starks, or even (some) Targaryens, or Robert Baratheon, or even have anyone like Stannis has Davos. Nor are they doing anything to earn newfound allegiance like Stannis does in the North or Jon does in the NW, or what Sansa might find a way to do in the Vale. It’s always just gross bribery, (like with the Bolton’s and the Frey’s) or threats (Like all the River Lords who were forced to bend the knee and are just WAITING now for a chance to stick the knife in,) and their ability to continue either approach will soon be severely compromised. What will they do *then*?

            That’s at least how I’m *hoping* it will play out…

          • Right, but the North’s economy isn’t based on mining – the Westerlands’ economy is based on mining and then working the products of that mining. That hits them all the way down, not just in terms of gold, but in terms of tax revenue from miners, smiths, merchants, etc. And you would have seen that – prices should be skyrocketing throughout the Westerlands, mass unemployment, large-scale outmigration, etc.

        • Crystal says:

          About the Lannisters and their wealth – even WITH gold, if that’s all they have, they’re screwed when winter hits and they’re politically isolated; if they’re politically isolated they’d be screwed even without winter, because you can’t eat gold nor can you wear it. If nobody wants to supply the Lannisters with food, they’re sitting on a pile of useless metal.

          I’m sure the Westerlands do grow crops but they’re not as naturally well-supplied as the Reach or the Vale. The Reach, in fact, is sitting pretty bar utter catastrophe, because they are the breadbasket of Westeros AND they have Oldtown AND they have the densest population. If push came to shove, the Reach wouldn’t really need anyone else – they’d need to not be fending off constant attack, but they are self-sufficient as far as food and trade are concerned. (And it’s one of the many things why Cersei trying her best to alienate them was mouth-breathingly stupid.)

          And the North wouldn’t be that bad off under normal, peacetime circumstances (except for winter) – they have wool, timber, and furs – they probably supply the majority of the luxury fur trade. And they have White Harbor, a port that is situated to sail directly to Essos and not go around the continent. I’ve always thought that the reports of the North’s poverty were greatly exaggerated. Compared to the Reach, yes, but they sent the kids to KL in silks and velvets, hell, even Theon the hostage had the money to buy jewelry.

          Back to the Lannisters – if the mines running dry on the show is a spoiler for the books, then they are well and truly up a creek. Everyone hates their guts by ADWD. Even now in ACOK, they are not well-loved – the contrast with how the Lannisters are regarded versus the Starks goes to show how true power resides in relationships, not money or fear.

          • Winnie says:

            I think the North was poor in short of gold-but rich in other resources and frankly the Starks and their bannerman preferred a more austere lifestyle anyway. Who needs a lot of gold and rubies when you’ve got ancient lineage and loyalty to your bloodline runs into the very heart of the land? Hence Robb’s copper crown. To the Stark’s and their bannerman, you don’t *need* ostentatious displays to be accorded real power and respect and in fact it’s a bit tacky to do so.

            Also as tough as the Long Winter will be for the North for obvious reasons, they are in some respects better equipped to deal with this situation than say KL. THe North is used to Winter and Starks understand it well-hence WF with its glasshouse gardens and the Dreadfort with its hot springs. They’re culturally equipped to handle the White Walker situation-while the South and KL will be in complete denial until the threat is at their door.

          • The North seems to be more focused on livestock (sheep, cattle, maybe now reindeer if they’re smart enough to route the herds around the Wall), timber, furs, and fishing for its economic basis, although it’s got a lot of land so it would also produce a fair bit of your hardier crops (barley, rye, oats).

          • Yes and no – the Reach also needs to sell its surplus outside its region, otherwise staple prices drop, imported goods become scarce, etc.

  19. somethinglikealawyer says:

    I’m impressed. I was wondering what more you were going to put in given your HotK series on Tyrion, but there was plenty of meat to be had in your first segment. It might be a meaty chapter to begin with, but you still had a lot of depth here, so kudos to you!

    I think your point about Cersei’s profound limitations as a schemer, and her reputation as a scattershot plotter without much planning, is emphasized in this chapter. Her first impulse is to finger-point and throw everyone under the bus in a way that seems almost reflexive by nature.

    Glad someone else realized the implications of the Lannister mines running dry and how nonsensical it is. The economic implications of it, and Tywin’s actions in light of it, make me think that the writers wrote it in without considering the full implications of exactly what that meant. I think they looked at it from a literary perspective (it makes the Iron Bank more ominous and legitimately threatening) but not from an economic perspective. Ah well, so it goes.

    I’ll be honest, I never thought of a Oberyn/Daenerys matchup. I don’t know how well it would work, there’s just so much that could go about that I can’t predict it very well. That’s a unique idea!

    We know that Cersei ultimately will ignore protocol if it suits her (tearing up Robert’s will), but as Sansa mentions: “A lady’s armor is courtesy.” For Cersei, I think she uses protocol as a shield as a result of her upbringing as a noble lady. Yes, she dismisses protocol when it suits her, but it’s a bit telling that she’s quick to wield it as a weapon herself despite her own admission that Robert’s will was a paper shield.

    As far as Varys’s riddle, I think that Varys’s riddle is well-written, and your point on symbolism can’t be overstated. Given that literacy wasn’t the norm in the Middle Ages, symbols are big news. I credit Jon Arryn’s exceptional use of symbolism as one of the key points of victory for Robert’s Rebellion, and the fact that there are symbols against the claimants (Stannis’s foreign religion, Renly’s upjumped succession, the saga of Joffrey’s bastardy) as a principal reason why there’s no unifying force against the Lannisters.

    • Winnie says:

      It’s quite simple-any protocol or custom that interferes with what Cersei wants is disposable and meaningless-any protects Cersei or can be used for her immediate purposes is sacred. I think this instinctive belief that the rules simply don’t apply to her was one of the factors behind her disastrous plot against Margaery. It simply didn’t occur to her while she was trying to make a (false) case against Margaery that anyone was already on the lookout to make a (true) case against *her* and so that was a thread she was better off not pulling.

      It is endlessly amusing though, the way she never realized the dangers she would face once she got the Regency; the inevitable battles with the Baratheon brothers, the fact that Daddy was never going to leave *her* in command, and of course the problem of Joffrey.

    • Thanks!

      I think they could have squared the Iron Bank circle just by saying that the Lannisters can’t afford to fund the war and the reconstruction of the Wesrterlands and the monarchy and pay back the Iron Bank at the same time.

      • somethinglikealawyer says:

        That idea would leave some good dialogue with Tywin-Cersei as well, with Tywin arguing for the necessity of rebuilding walls and roads, reseeding the fields, and so on, with Cersei playing the part of the “let them eat cake.”

        I know Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say that, but it’s an easy enough metaphor for our purposes.

  20. Amestria says:

    Have you considered that Littlefinger’s remarks might be an attempt at Refuge in Audacity?

    And as far as in-room dynamics go, there is Cersei and her two obvious creatures, Pycelle and Janos Slynt. They are the most immediately threatening to Tyrion, because they played a direct, physical role in the deaths of the previous Hands (Pycelle letting JA die after the Queen apparently poisoned him, Slynt betraying Ned and then being all too ready to cut his head off). Pycelle and Slynt are also the most welcoming and not all that competent of making that welcoming sincere or impressive. Littlefinger separates himself from them in this but his threatening remarks sound false in the larger context, so rather then sound false welcoming Tyrion and offering to be of service, he sounds false making what could be a threat. And he also gets to do a secret boast that he’s the real assassin, which he likes to do.

    Maybe I’m over thinking it.

    • A bit of that, but also a big part of it is his driving need to be the smartest man in the room and have people pay attention to him.

      • Winnie says:

        I think Steve’s right-and that vanity is another weakness for LF that could contribute to his downfall. Varys as Steve notes, is much more careful to be subtle. He’s clearly the most informed man in KL but he doesn’t go out of his way to draw attention to that or to himself and he’s willing to fade into the background a lot of the time.

      • Crystal says:

        I agree with you. And I think that LF’s smart-alecky “Look how clever I am!” ways will be his downfall.

        He’s already set himself up as of AFFC by letting Sansa in on all his plans as well as making it clear he lusts after her and wants her for Catelyn 2.0, The New Improved Version.

        And keep in mind that Sansa *does not like LF*. She’s dependent on him now, but I don’t think she will be forever. Recall their first meeting where Sansa’s reaction was to be creeped out by LF. Then he openly creeps on her at the Council meeting and gets everyone *but Sansa* laughing at Ser Barristan when Ser B. is dismissed from the KG. (Sansa just feels sorry for “the gallant old man.”)

        In ASOS, Sansa wonders why LF gets Harrenhal when she can’t remember him doing anything to earn it (she doesn’t know yet that he brokered the Tyrell alliance). And then when he rescues her after the Purple Wedding, her first instinct is to wonder why he did it when so far “Littlefinger hadn’t lifted so much as his little finger for her.”

        LF is a show-off, overestimates how clever he is, and is giving a lot of power to a protege who dislikes and is creeped out by him now, and will outright hate him once she gets wind of just who is responsible for her father’s death. I for one can’t wait to see the fallout.

  21. Azhure says:

    Hey Steven, not sure if you have covered this area before but what is Varys’ approach to the Tyrells/Reachmen in his overall Targaryen conspiracy? He doesn’t seem to be doing too much to hurt them (at the moment) whilst culling out the Lannisters’ power to ensure a weak government. Of all the great houses they’ve sure lucked out and survived given some bad or risky choices in the past (supporting the Mad King, offering marriage alliance first with Renly then with Joff/Tommen).

    • Winnie says:

      Its true the Roses have been remarkably lucky
      So far but I’m not sure how well they’ll do in Winter. We’ve heard there are Dragon loyalists in the Reach and I suspect one of theother Houses with GGardener ancestry may end up being the new L.P. in the end. I think the Roses may have really screwed themselves when they decided to ride the Lions.

    • He doesn’t seem to have one, but I think his attitude is that, as former Targaryen loyalists, they’d be easy enough to sway, especially if they were promised a Targaryen hand in marriage down the road.

    • Crystal says:

      I think it is worth it for whoever is on the throne to keep the Reach on their side, as they are the breadbasket of Westeros. Yes, the Tyrells have been very lucky so far, but they have the leverage of natural resources + Oldtown. (Yes, there are rulers who ARE that dumb, like Cersei, but trying to devastate the Reach would be the modern US equivalent of laying waste to all of California.)

      • Winnie says:

        Whoever’s on the throne should definitely try to keep the Reach secure-but that might not include the Tyrell’s. House Florent, House Tarly, House Hightower or some other might well end up replacing House Tyrell as Lords of the Reach.

        • Crystal says:

          I agree with you as far as the Tyrells are concerned – as long as the Reach itself is secure, it doesn’t matter if the Tyrells have to go. I don’t know if anyone is going to want the Florents in power (what with their exile and all that R’hllor fanaticism), but the Hightowers are a good bet; one, they are one of the oldest Houses in Westeros, two, they are rich and have the Citadel and Oldtown, and three, they have always preferred to adapt rather than put up a fight, so it would be easy for whoever is in power to install them as the Lords Paramount and know they would be loyal in return.

        • WPA says:

          Randall Tarly eventually getting tired of covering for Mace Tyrell’s mediocrity and giving House Tyrell some of its own medicine (considering how they came to power in The Reach) would be a fitting irony. And the Tarly’s do provide a disproportionate amount of the Reach’s military striking power… Though his heir-son is betrothed to a Riverlord’s daughter rather than another family in the Reach.

          Wouldn’t Florent stand to gain most if Stannis regains major traction as a viable contender? And of course Hightower- any of those seems pretty credible.

        • Azhure says:

          Not to mention when Westeros finally engages the Others they’ll need the Reach to feed all those soldiers heading north.

  22. […] desperately trying to save their belongings from the war (belongings they’re about to lose to Littlefinger’s tax), marching hopelessly from one war-zone into the next. And in this little cameo, we can see […]

  23. […] the Crownlands, which in turn helps to explain that nagging problem of King’s Landing’s numbers problems. Likewise, as we’ll see later in Tyrion’s chapters, Stannis’ accusations are […]

  24. […] Rather, in the book, Varys arrives playing his “little birds” as his trump card – once again showing Tyrion how superior Varys’ information network is, and Tyrion nicely leans into […]

  25. […] nameless woman and her starved child personifies the toll of hunger and privation that is war in winter – the human cost of the Tyrell’s embargo on grain, the net […]

  26. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    It always makes me sad that the Lannister siblings can’t work together, and I’m not sure why. Their goals are often reprehensible, but their strengths are so complimentary that it seems like a waste for them to fight, particularly when all you have to do to get Tyrion on your side is to have some affection for him.

  27. Souberbielle says:

    I’ve always felt like Littlefinger’s needling of Tyrion in this chapter was an attempt to provoke him into accusing LF about the dagger right there and then.

    It was an ideal situation for LF: Tyrion’s just arrived, so he hasn’t had a chance to start building power and making alliances, and his Hand-ship hasn’t been accepted as valid yet. He also hasn’t had time to assess the members of the Small Council and learn how to manipulate and predict them, whereas Petyr’s had years. It’s just the SC too, no outsiders to influence the situation. Janos Slynt is Littlefinger’s man, pretty much guaranteed to take his side. Varys already knows about the dagger lie and hasn’t used it against LF so far – plus, he can’t reveal his knowledge of the interaction without incurring Cersei’s wrath for only mentioning it now. Pycelle will go along with Cersei, and Cersei is hostile toward Tyrion and indebted to Petyr for betraying Ned.

    If Tyrion takes the bait and accuses Littlefinger, it can be easily spun to LF’s advantage: How credible is the word of Lady Stark, an enemy of the crown and sister to the famously unstable Lysa Arryn? Isn’t it suspicious how easily he escaped his captors? Did they let him go? Perhaps he made a deal with Lysa and Catelyn to destroy the Lannisters from within by turning the council members against one another…

  28. […] major shortcoming in commanding the defense is, ironically given how much he’s focused on supply issues, not starvation or lack of war materiel, but the quantity and quality of his […]

  29. […] begin with, it’s kind of bizarre that this long after Tyrion’s pledge to “do justice”, he’s finally getting around to trying to figure out who ordered the assassination attempt on […]

  30. […] (It also probably slows down Tyrion’s drive to monsterhood, as his mutilation )As only the acting Hand, he was never going to keep that post when Tywin comes back, and we know that Tywin was never going […]

  31. […] he first arrived in King’s Landing, Tyrion said that “I never understood what Jaime saw in you, apart from his own reflection,” but I think it’s more accurate to say it’s the other way around, that Cersei […]

  32. […] saved the city in its hour of need. This is the identity that Tyrion has been longing for from the beginning and which he has been denied repeatedly, and it’s given to him like a conqueror’s […]

  33. John says:

    Another excellent analysis. I have but one small disagreement regarding the referent of Tyrion’s pointed question (in response to Cersei’s rueful admission that her father ignored her command) ‘Nor is he the first, is he?’ I think the person (not a group) referred to here is Joffrey, who set the Lannister cause back when he ignored Cersei’s instructions and went ahead and executed Ned Stark. My reading makes best sense of what Tyrion says a couple sentences later, when he tells Cersei ‘but it’s Jaime you want’. You are brilliant on that moment and the way it explains Cersei’s capitulation, but it is the pointed question regarding Cersei’s inability to control her son that softens her for the devastating blow. She dare not defy her father, she failed to bring her son to heel, and now she crumbles before one brother due to her desire for the other one.

    One other tiny niggle. You (or your spell check) keep referring to King’s Landing as ‘the capitol’ when (as you very well know) the correct spelling is ‘capital’. The Roman Capitol (from Capitoline hill) was a proper name.

  34. […] see in him a synecdoche for Tyrion himself – his disability, their common desire to “do justice” – and his end in a noble effort to single-handedly stop a rout that almost succeeded […]

  35. […] as the penniless. Their vacant property goes not to their next of kin, who might well be dead or refugeed, but to whoever is on the spot to grab it: “the wife and I found them dead. The way we see […]

  36. […] portrait of Cersei Lannister as a politician than we’ve seen in recent seasons – jealous of her few successes, standing upon the formalities she disparaged in AGOT, and constitutionally incapable of […]

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