Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion IV, ACOK

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“I want you to make Father bring his army to King’s Landing.”

“When have I ever been able to make Father do anything?”

Synopsis: Tyrion takes three meetings. One, two, three meetings! Ah ah ah ah ah.

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:

Tyrion IV gives us our eponymous protagonist at the height of his abilities as a political actor (as opposed to as a military tactician, which will come later) and it’s a real pleasure to work with this material. A fair warning: on this re-read, I noted some political topics outside the main event that bear examination, so this is likely to be a long essay indeed.

The Martell Alliance

Speaking of those topics – in this chapter we see Tyrion forging the basis for the Lannister-Martell alliance. And after the fact, after the arrival and departure of the Red Viper, Myrcella and Aerys Oakheart’s unfortunate intersection with Princess Arianne, Quentyn’s poor doomed mission, and the mutual double-dealing between Cersei and Doran, it’s hard to remember how offhanded Tyrion is being here:

“Would you sooner not hear what I’ve proposed to Doran Martell?”

“The Dornishmen have thus far held aloof from these wars. Doran Martell has called his banners, but no more. His hatred for House Lannister is well known, and it is commonly thought he will join Lord Renly. You wish to dissuade him…the only puzzle is what you might have offered for his allegiance…”

“It happens we have an empty seat on the small council…I’ve offered to deliver his sister’s killers, alive or dead, as he prefers. After the war is done to be sure…my father would be the first to tell you that fifty thousand Dornishmen are worth one rabid dog.”

Note that Tyrion’s objective here is to prevent Renly from gaining another ally, give the Lannisters another Great House to ally with (because at the moment, they don’t have any while they’re facing four in the field, which are bad odds as Rhaenyra and Aegon II would tell you), and possibly to force Renly to detach some of his Reach forces to guard their southern flank and even the odds up a bit. For the most part, these motives are now completely obsolete – and yet, the nature of the incentives Tyrion’s offering created long-term links between the Martells and the Small Council and the House of Lannister itself, and once you’ve done that you now have to deal with the Martell’s interests.

Which brings us to the question of justice – given how disruptive and out of left field Oberyn’s arrival made it seem in ASOS, we have to acknowledge that Tyrion put justice for Elia’s murderers on the table, and thereby opened up a huge can of worms for his entire family that will continue to bedevil them throughout ASOS, AFFC, and ADWD. It certainly puts Oberyn and Doran’s actions in a different light, to say nothing of Tywin’s own refusal to hand over Gregor. Indeed, it’s odd that Tyrion, who’s normally a fairly good judge of character, completely misjudges Tywin’s future actions here – which might make us consider how rational Tywin was being there. More on this topic when we get to it, but just to preview my thoughts: I think Tyrion’s right, that it makes much more sense to bury the hatchet with the Martells (based on information available at the time) than to cling to Gregor, especially when the war was winding down.

Regardless, it’s interesting to note how consequential this decision by Tyrion is – without this offer, Oberyn doesn’t die in King’s Landing although it’s quite possible Tyrion might have instead (or been sent to the Wall); Myrcella stays in King’s Landing and doesn’t march closer to her golden shroud fate (which, when is that kicking off?); and Aerys Oakheart lives.

 A Question of Institutions

Another thing to mention before the main event is the interesting division between Tyrion and Pycelle over the question of where legitimate power is located:

“the king’s council…”

“The council exists to advise the king, Maester.”

“Just so…and the king-“

“-is a boy of thirteen. I speak with his voice.”

“So you do. Indeed. The King’s Own Hand. Yet…your most gracious sister, our Queen Regent…”

I find this little exchange fascinating because Pycelle, who we’ll learn later betrayed at least two kings and three Hands (and one Regent), seems to be making an argument for the supremacy of the King over the Small Council and the Queen Regent over the Hand. Trying to detect any consistent ideological position in a veteran flip-flopper is a bit of a fruitless task – but to the extent that Pycelle has a consistent view, I think it comes from an oddly Ned-like favoring of the person over the office. Think for example of his adoration of Tywin Lannister and his willingness to betray any oath to put the man who should be king in power. So it may well be that Pycelle is taking this position here because he just dislikes Tyrion personally, and is being genuine in his admiration of “a most uncommon woman.”

Tyrion, however, is making a rather succinct argument for monarchy over the monarch, as it were, by upholding the Small Council as an advisory and almost mentoring body to the king, and the Hand as an independent source of power and authority that can function when the king cannot. It’s something we don’t think about that much, but one of the important aspects of making a more powerful monarchy (if not an absolute monarchy) is the growth of the power of the royal bureaucracy as opposed to the king’s own person. After all, as Tyrion is pointing out, one of the downsides of dynastic succession is that you occasionally get a boy king, a lunatic, or someone who’s just not up for the job (or in Joffrey’s case all three), but as long as the institution is more important than the person, the system keeps functioning smoothly. No wonder Tyrion feels sympathy for Viserys II – he practically is Viserys II, trying to hold the kingdom together despite a bloodthirsty kingling (with Tommen standing in as the holy innocent).

One, Two, Three

But enough of the preliminaries – let’s talk about the pièce de résistance – Tyrion’s ferreting out of the spy in the Small Council through the classic tactic of floating different cover stories to different people to find out which is the mole. (Seriously, I’d lay money on GRRM being a bit of a John le Carré fan) It is one of the high points of ACOK, and one of the main reasons why I think ACOK is one of the more underrated of the ASOIAF series. One thing to note first – while this move by Tyrion will be at least part of the reason for his downfall (in that jailing Pycelle makes him an enemy during his trial, and is one of the things cited by Tywin as a reason for Tyrion’s removal from office), Tyrion is acting entirely within his orders from Tywin to assay the Small Council for treachery. If anything, given that he was cleared for “heads, spikes, wall,” Tyrion rather underplays his hand here.

I’m going to break this down step-by-step, because Tyrion is working on a number of different levels. Step One is his conversation with Pycelle, where he sends a letter to Doran Martell. Note that, unlike in Steps Two and Three, Tyrion doesn’t actually discuss this cover story with Pycelle:

“Be so good as to inform me at once should we receive a reply from Dorne?”

“As you say, my lord.”

“And only me?”

“Ah…to be sure.” Pycelle’s spotted hand was clutching at his beard the way a drowning man clutches for a rope. It made Tyrion’s heart glad. One, he thought.

Because Pycelle is the Grandmaester and thus the keeper of the royal ravens, Tyrion’s assaying of Pycelle not only needs to cover his political loyalties, but also to what extent informational security has been breached. If Pycelle is false, then every missive between the Lannister’s political and military headquarters is potentially compromised – even if it’s just Cersei who’s finding out the information. (Interestingly, we never see Tyrion sending a progress report to his father on his original mission, which might have bolstered him against Cersei’s spin after the Blackwater) It actually works better that Tyrion doesn’t say what the message is, because the eventual breach proves both that Pycelle has been betraying the Hand to the Queen and that he’s been breaking the confidence of ravenry. Not that Pycelle, worst conspirator ever, is particularly subtle subtle about it (“a matter like this…best done promptly, indeed, indeed…of great import you say?”…Pycelle’s curiosity was so ripe that Tyrion could almost taste it“).

As we’ve already talked about, this conversation doesn’t follow the “cover story” model exactly, in that Tyrion actually follows through on this proposal and makes the Martell alliance a reality. Ultimately, what’s important here is his read of the individual – that Pycelle is far too curious to resist looking at his message.

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Step Two – Tyrion’s conversation with Littlefinger – is even more interesting. On one level, we have the question of loyalties – will Littlefinger rat out Tyrion to the Queen with whom he made a previous bargain? (He doesn’t, but probably because Cersei turned him down for Sansa’s hand, so there’s no love lost to begin with) On another level, and I’ll get into this more in its own section, this is about Tyrion finally confronting the man responsible for his capture and imprisonment. On yet a third level, this is once again about his read on another person’s weaknesses – for all that Littlefinger is supposed to be a master conspirator, Tyrion zeroes in on his major weakness with laser precision (more on this in its own section). And on a fourth level, there is the actual substance of the “cover story:”

“It was Lady Lysa I hoped you might sway. For her I have a sweeter offer…I want Lady Lysa and her son to acclaim Joffrey as king, to swear fealty, and to…use her power to oppose Lord Renly, or Lord Stannis, should he stir from Dragonstone. In return, I will give her justice for Jon Arryn and peace for the vale. I will even name that appalling child of hers Warden of the East…and to seal the bargain, I will give her my niece.”

“This has been quite the pleasant morning, Lannister. And profitable…for the both of us, I trust.” He bowed, his cape a swirl of yellow as he strode out the door. Two, thought Tyrion.

In both the short-term and long-term, Tyrion needs to keep the Vale from backing any other claimant at the very least: if the Vale joins the Starks, as would be most likely, then Tywin is flanked from west and east and the Starks now go from outnumbering him 2-1 to almost 4-1; if they back Stannis, then all of the sudden he’s a real player who could completely ignore Renly and attack King’s Landing from the north just as Renly approaches from the south; if they back Renly, then he’s got King’s Landing flanked from north and south at the same time. Ironically, Tyrion attempts to keep them out of the war by making this offer, not knowing that he’s actually speaking to the secret master of the Vale, and that Littlefinger has no intention of committing the Vale to the fight.

Again breaking with the “cover story” trope, this is not an entirely false offer – Littlefinger will be sent to bring Lysa, Sweetrobin, and the Vale into the Lannister fold, and he will be given Harrenhal, even if the circumstances are quite different than Tyrion initially intended.

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Step Three, Tyrion’s conversation with Varys honestly wrong-footed me at the beginning. The HBO version of this scene, where Tyrion tries to flog Theon Greyjoy as an option only to be laughed off by Varys, was too strong in my mind. 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 Varys’ self-regard:

“If I were the prince, something more would I require before I should reach for this honeycomb. Some token of good faith, some sure safeguard against betrayal…which one will you give him I wonder?”

“You know, don’t you?”

“Since you put it that way – yes. Tommen. You could scarcely offer Myrcella to Doran Martell and Lysa Arryn both….Prince Doran will hardly be insensible of the great honor you do him. Very deftly done, I would say…but for one small flaw…perhaps, for the glory of her House and the safety of the realm, the queen might be persuaded to send away Tommen or Myrcella. But both of them? Surely not.”

“What Cersei does not know will never hurt me.”

“And if Her Grace were to discover your intentions before your plans are ripe?”

“Why…then I would know the man who told her to be my certain enemy.” And when Varys giggled, he thought, Three.

Unlike in the show, Tyrion here actually pulls one over on the Spider – which is pretty damn impressive, even among the elite conspirators of King’s Landing – again, by learning how to read his man eunuch. Varys likes reminding everyone what’s he’s learned from his little birds (which is useful, in terms of giving himself an aura of omniscience and omnipresence), which in turn allows Tyrion to know what Varys is thinking, or at least what Varys wants him to know Varys is thinking. All Tyrion has to do is to lean into Varys’ own conclusions and not reveal which “cover story” he’s chosen to go with, and he’s able to feed Varys a mixture of truth and lies, while receiving once again valuable intelligence about the other political players in King’s Landing. It’s classic spycraft; when feeding misinformation back to an opposing intelligence network, it’s always best to put a little “gold dust” in with the bullshit to establish bona fides and gain the network’s confidence.

And once again, we get the interesting variation, in which Tyrion’s cover story is “mostly” true – he is going to make a marriage pact with the Martells, even if it wasn’t going to be Tommen’s marriage to…I’m not sure who exactly. Arianne? (who would be 15 years older than her intended) A Sand Snake? (with no inheritance rights) Some cousin? This raises the question of why Varys lands on Tommen, given how unlikely this marriage would be. Possibly this is a bluff, but I don’t know why.

Checking In With Littlefinger

Tyrion’s conversation with Littlefinger bears more examination, not just for what we learn about our protagonist (see Step 2 for that), but what we learn about the mastermind of the Littlefinger Conspiracy. I’ve written before that I consider Petyr Baelish to be a psychopath, and this chapter provides ample evidence of this. Start with the fact that in his first private meeting with the new Hand of the King, he brings the dagger used to attempt the assassination of Bran Stark, and which Littlefinger used to frame Tyrion:

“That’s a handsome knife as well.” 

“Is it?” There was mischief in Littlefinger’s eyes. He drew the knife and glanced at it casually, as if he had never seen it before. “Valyrian steel, and a dragonbone hilt. A trifle plain, though. It’s yours, if you would like it.”

“Mine?” Tyrion gave him a long look. “No. I think not. Never mine.” He knows, the insolent wretch. He knows and knows that I know, and he thinks that I cannot touch him.

As I’ve talked about previously, fearlessness and stress immunity are two of eight factors on the Psychopathic Personality Index, and recklessness is one of the three legs of the triarchic model proposed by Christopher J. Patrick. For the second time in as many meetings, Littlefinger is unnecessarily drawing attention to himself as the one person who Tyrion should hate most, and he clearly gets pleasure from taunting the Hand of the King over it. Likewise, look at how Littlefinger reacts when Tyrion ripostes by bringing up the topic of Jon Arryn’s real killer:

“If I gave her Jon Arryn’s true killer, she might think more kindly of me.”

That made Littlefinger sit up. “True killer? I confess, you make me curious. Who do you propose?”

This ought to be a moment of ultimate stress for Littlefinger – he’s being interrogated about a crime he knows he committed, by the man he framed and nearly killed over it, who now has complete police power. As we’ll see very soon, Tyrion now can throw anyone he wants in jail without any due process and is perfectly comfortable with torture, and not only does Littlefinger react with perfect calm to the veiled accusation, but he retains enough presence of mind to actually jokingly confess (look at that sentence again; that phrasing is not an accident).

Another aspect of Littlefinger’s psychology is his motivationless animosity (which experts would probably term as his “carefree nonplanfulness” and/or “sadistic cruelty”) toward Tyrion. After all, up to this point, Tyrion has never been a threat to Littlefinger (that we hear of) and yet Littlefinger tried to kill him, will quite possibly try again during the Battle of the Blackwater (more on Ser Mandon Moore later), and comes very close to getting Tyrion executed for treason and kinslaying during ASOS. With all of his other targets (and Littlefinger has a long list of those from the Starks, Tullys, and Arryns), there’s a very definite personal motive for his actions, and yet here it’s completely random.

However, we get a different side when it comes to Littlefinger’s obsession with the Tully girls – he simply cannot stop himself from spreading the story in inappropriate circumstances, whether it be the royal court, the Small Council (as in ASOS), or in front of Eddard Stark:

“I’ve heard it said that you grew close to the Tullys.”

“You might say so. The girls especially…I had their maidenhoods. Is that close enough?”

The lie – Tyrion was fairly certain it was a lie – was delivered with such an air of nonchalance that one could almost believe it.

Here we get a new angle, in that Littlefinger genuinely believes he slept with Catelyn as well as with Lysa, or at least is unwilling to admit that he was deceived by Lysa. Which is rather odd, because you’d think that Lysa’s pregnancy would have been a rather obvious bit of evidence that he’d been sleeping with the wrong sister. So we have two possibilities: either Littlefinger’s obsession with Catelyn is so strong that he’s been able to repress the truth, and/or he’s sufficiently good at rewriting his own history (file under “blame avoidance” and “Machiavellian egocentricity”) that he doesn’t know the difference between his memories and his fantasies. In addition, this raises a possibility that was part of his motive for killing Lysa was revenge, however sublimated, for taking advantage of him while drunk and trying to trap him with a pregnancy.

All of this points to my larger argument – that Littlefinger is not a flawless conspirator, not quite the Magnificent Bastard he thinks he is. He’s got way too much ego to fly under the radar and needs to show off that he’s the smartest man in the room, and he’s got skeletons in his past. But most of all, Littlefinger has some massive levers, just waiting for someone to batten onto them and give them a pull:

“What is in your pot for me?”

“Harrenhal.”

It was interesting to watch his face. Lord Petyr’s father had been the smallest of small lords, his grandfather a landless hedge knight; by birth he held no more than a few stony acres on the windswept shore of the Fingers. Harrenhal was one of the richest plums in the Seven Kingdoms…and so large as to dwarf  Riverrun, where Petyr Baelish had been fostered by House Tully, only to be brusquely expelled when he dared raise his sights to Lord Hoster’s daughter.

Littlefinger took a moment to adjust the drape of his cape, but Tyrion had seen the flash of hunger in those sly cat’s eyes. I have him, he knew…Littlefinger looked like a boy who had just taken a furtive bite from a honeycomb. He was trying to watch for bees, but the honey was so sweet.

Look at how easily Tyrion is able to zero in on Littlefinger’s insatiable desire for upward mobility, to outshine the Great Houses who snubbed him in his childhood. No matter that Harrenhal is cursed, no matter that it’s a booby prize literally just handed out to a fall guy who just got sent up the river to the Night’s Watch, Littlefinger simply cannot help himself. Whatever may happen later, in this moment Tyrion straight-up outplays the Mockingbird at the Game of Thrones.

And yet…and yet, Littlefinger still manages to get out of this meeting (and indeed, this book) with his head still attached to his body. Why is this? In large part, it’s because, as one of the few men in all of Westeros who actually understands finance, Petyr Baelish has made himself irreplaceable:

]”If ever truly a man had armored himself in gold, it was Petyr Baelish…a man like Petyr Baelish, who had a gift for rubbing two golden dragons to breed a third was invaluable to his Hand. Littlefinger’s rise had been arrow swift. Within three years of his coming to court, he was master of coin and a member of the small council…and in the process, he moved his own men into place. The Keepers of the Keys were his, all four. The King’s Counter and the King’s scales were men he’d named. The officers in charge of all three mints. Harbormasters, tax farmers, customs sergeants, wool factors, toll collectors, purses, wine factors; nine of every ten belonged to Littlefinger.”

For the full version of my argument about what Littlefinger has been up to as Master of Coin, you’ll have to wait for Tower of the Hand: Hymn of Spring, where I have an essay laying out in detail my theory of the financial portion of the Littlefinger Conspiracy. (short version: massive corruption). However, for this chapter, the important thing to note is that, in a time of crisis, Petyr Baelish’s personal knowledge and his depth of support within the bureaucracy make him extremely difficult to remove from office without severely impairing the functioning of the royal government. Despite having every reason to want him gone, even Tyrion has to acknowledge that: “do I dare touch him…even if he is a traitor? He was not at all certain he could, least of all now, while the war raged. Given time, he could replace Littlefinger’s men with his own,” but the coming siege of King’s Landing will not give him time.

The Beginning of King Bread

Speaking of the siege…in Tyrion IV, the leitmotif of the problem of feeding a starving city comes up once again, shortly before it bursts into open crescendo during the riot. Here, food becomes a microcosm for the body politic itself, through which we can see all kinds of political relationships and ideals made and unmade:

To be sure, butter and honey were seldom seen in King’s Landing of late, though Lord Gyles kept them well supplied in the castle. Half the food they ate these days came from his lands or Lady Tanda’s. Rosby and Stokeworth lay near the city to the north, and were yet untouched by war…

“There’s also a great gaggle of bakers, butchers, and greengrocers clamoring to be heard.”

“I told them last time, I have nothing to give them.” Only a thin trickle of food was coming into King’s Landing, most of it earmarked for castle and garrison. Prices had risen sickeningly high on greens, roots, flour, and fruit, and Tyrion did not want to think about what sorts of flesh might be going into the kettles of the pot-shops down in Flea Bottom. Fish, he hoped. They still had the river and the sea…and least until Lord Stannis sailed.

“They want protection. Last night a baker was roasted in his own oven. The mob claimed he charged too much for bread.”

“…They’re demanding to speak to the king himself.”

“Fools.” Tyrion had sent them off with regrets; his nephew would send them off with whips and spears. He was half-tempted to allow it…but no, he dare not. Soon or late, some enemy would march on King’s Landing, and the last thing he wanted was willing traitors within the city walls.

“Tell them King Joffrey shares their fears and will do all he can for them.”

“They want bread, not promises.”

To begin with, food is shown here as a key measurement of status and importance – the castle and the garrison get the best, the rest shift as best they can, with the poor increasingly moving in the direction of cannibalism. It is a coinage of loyalty between elites, with Houses Rosby and Stokeworth as some of the few Crownlands Houses to actually back their liege lords in this conflict, but notably by sending food from afar rather than sending any of their own troops to the front lines. But most of all, it is a critical aspect of the social contract – the King is supposed to protect his people (a lesson that sadly only Stannis learns in time, but more on that later), and that includes from starvation, and the breakdown of respect for law and order property rights that comes with it. It’s an old saying that no city ever built is more than three meals away from total anarchy, but here we see said anarchy is as much about the crowd demanding some reciprocity for their allegiance as it is pure panic.

Roasting a baker in his own over for overcharging for bread is an extreme example of what E.P Thompson referred to as the “moral economy” of the crowd, a precapitalist notion that economic activity must be regulated by some conception of fairness and justice that prevents poor people from being starved to death simply because they don’t have enough money to pay for food. And as was quite common with crowd actions of the 17th-19th centuries, these seemingly revolutionary mass actions coincide with a rather conservative appeal to traditional sources of authority – in this case, the king – insisting on that baseline of reciprocal protection.

The problem here is that Joffrey has been brought up in such a way that he can’t possibly understand what is expected of him. Renly and Robert would have instinctively understood the necessity for good public relations, Stannis would have grudgingly gone along due to his bedrock commitment to good governance, and Robb Stark out of allegiance to his father’s belief in noblesse oblige, but Joffrey believes himself to rule absolutely without obligation to any element of society.

And as we’ll see very soon, that’s a terrible thing to have in a king.

The War of Five Kings Update: Renly’s Gamble and What Might Have Been

A final political event marks the end of the political analysis portion of this essay, the news that:

“Renly has marched from Highgarden. He is making his way up the roseroad, with all his strength behind him.”

“He could be here by the full moon.”

“Not at his present leisurely pace…he feasts every night in a different castle, and hold court at every crossroads he passes.”

“…Still, Renly has other concerns besides us. Our father at Harrenhal, Robb Stark at Riverrun…were I he, I would do much as he is doing. Make my progress, flaunt my power for the realm to see, watch, wait. Let my rivals contend while I bide my own sweet time. If Stark defeats us, the south will fall into Renly’s hands like a windfall from the gods and he’ll not have lost a man. And if it goes the other way, he can descend on us while we are weakened.

…in truth, Renly Baratheon did not frighten Tyrion half as much as his brother Stannis did. Renly was beloved of the commons, but he had never before led in war. Stannis was otherwise; hard, cold, inexorable…if Stannis attacks by sea while his brother Renly storms the gates, they’ll soon be mounting Joffrey’s head on a spike.

Renly’s decision to do a slow-burn has to be one of the great what-ifs in the entirety of the War of the Five Kings. On paper, Renly’s strategy makes sense – build momentum, conserve your resources, get your enemies to fight each other, and then win in a cakewalk. And certainly, one can see a situation in which Renly’s strategy might have worked – if Stannis hadn’t intervened, if Tywin had marched west, and then King’s Landing could be brought under siege at leisure. But what admirers of Renly often miss is how risky this strategy is – remember, Renly’s army is a feudal army, where military service is for a limited period, and where logistics are more of an art than a science. Even with the Tyrells backing his play, there’s a limit to how long Renly can slow-roll his campaign before people start leaving to get the harvest in, or start to think that Renly doesn’t have what it takes to be a proper warrior king, or start to strip the countryside bare. As it is, Renly takes four months to decide to march from Highgarden, and another 50 days to make the 400-mile trip from Highgarden to Bitterbridge (at which rate, it would have taken him another two months to get to King’s Landing).

In addition to the internal difficulties that kind of pace creates, there is also the risk that outside forces will change the overall environment. In two months, Tywin could have defeated the Starks or been crushed by the Starks. More consequentially, in two months, it’s possible Stannis nips into King’s Landing first and crowns and enthrones himself, which would greatly damage Renly’s political standing. Renly’s mistake here is assuming that an early lead in a civil war will continue in and of itself – which didn’t exactly work out well for the Kingmaker and Aegon II, who started out with King’s Landing, the Westerlands, Oldtown and much of the Reach, and the Stormlands. A detail Renly’s historically-inclined brother no doubt would have known about.

By contrast, had Renly gone hell-for-leather for King’s Landing, he would have practically walked over the walls, eliminated the Lannister claim to the Iron Throne even before he came to blows with Tywin, given himself the political means to force a favorable outcome with the Starks, and faced Stannis with the might and legitimacy of almost all of the Seven Kingdoms behind him.

On the other hand, what if Renly had taken it slowly at King’s Landing (thanks in part to his lack of on-hand naval forces), worn down the defenders just enough that Stannis’ 5,000 men slipped in and seized the prize right in the teeth of the Tyrells? That would be something to remember.

A Side-Note

Before I shift over to the historical stuff, I did want to note two incidences in which this chapter sets up things that seem minor initially, but will become more important later on:

  • The first implication that Bronn will wed Lollys Stokeworth. At one point, Tyrion is complaining that Lady Tanda has “been stalking him, armed with a never-ending arsenal of lamprey pies, wild boars, and savory cream stews. Somehow she had gotten the notion that a dwarf lordling would be the perfect consort for her daughter Lollys, a large, soft, dim-witted girl,” and jokes to Bronn that “Perhaps you should eat the goose and marry the maid.” Never noticed it before now, but man does GRRM like setting up his brick plots.
  • The first mention of the Braavosi financial problem: during Tyrion’s busy day, Bronn mentions that “there’s a moneylender from Braavos, holding fancy papers and the like, requests to see the king about payment on some loan,” who Tyrion palms off to Littlefinger. As the Lannister position weakens, the creditors are starting to get nervous.

Historical Analysis:

I’ve been teasing for a while the topic of the medieval city under siege and was waiting for a Tyrion chapter where it made sense to bring it up (I’m keeping the riot chapter open for a further discussion of bread riots, which has an amazing historiography all of it’s own). In the section above about food, I mention that the siege is something of an assault on the city’s social contract, creating class tensions that can’t be easily diffused. And so it is, in King’s Landing.

What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that this is actually the reverse of historical phenomena. As Michael Wolfe et al. discuss in The Medieval City Under Siege, sieges could actually be a force that drove internal cohesion and unity. As this excellent edited volume points out, the traditional medieval siege was a castle siege, which could often lead to tensions between rulers and ruled about who exactly is getting protected. (see my earlier discussion of the chevauchee) However, the rise of medieval cities as economic and political powers, and the resulting sieges, had a different political dynamic.

In order to defend a city from siege, the city had to engage in collective defenses that were quite extensive in character: city walls had to be constructed and maintained, which required large workforces, finances, and regulatory machinery to quarry the stone, construct the fortifications, and keep them maintained. The difficulty of acquiring the labor and money for such a task required the expansion of municipal authority to levy taxes, regulate the layout and location of buildings, and requisition workers. Likewise, the necessity of a city militia to man the defenses required new forms of governance and new demands on the city – the hundreds of not thousands of residents who served in the militia often demanded and won privileges if not an outright voice in the city’s political structure, as quid pro quo for their sacrifice and as a practical recognition that you don’t mess with large groups of armed men. At the same time, militias generally required arms, armor, and supplies to be provided by the city, which required a logistical system to warehouse and maintain the necessary materiel, and a system for managing large groups of people.

Especially towards the late medieval period, Wolfe et al. point out that cities often paved the way for adaptation to the new era of gunpowder weaponry.  The manufacture of cannons required the kind of network of suppliers of raw materials and fuel, concentration of skilled artisans (initially, bellmakers who shifted their expertise in making one kind of large conical brasswork to another), and capital that only cities could supply. Moreover, cities were often faster to switch to the new forms of sloped earthen fortifications that could withstand artillery barrage, whereas castles had sunk costs in the kind of fixed stone walls that were rapidly becoming obsolete. So on both sides of a siege, urban skills and capabilities came to the fore.

So the fact that King’s Landing is incapable of this kind of collective action points to a grave flaw in the city. Perhaps due to its history as a royal capital, the city lacks any structure of self-governance that could protect it in this hour of danger.

What If?

I’d like to highlight just the two main alternative offers, because this one is getting really long.

  • Tommen gets sent to Sunspear? Despite how unlikely this particular marriage alliance would be, the outcome of this hypothetical is quite interesting. For one thing, it’s quite possible that the Purple Wedding gets butterflied, or at least the Tyrells get taken out of the equation, because Joffrey’s death suddenly switches the Queen’s House from Tyrell to Martell. Likewise, it’s highly unlikely that Tywin would allow the Red Viper to duel the hand if the King of Westeros is being fostered down in Dorne. And gods only know what Doran does when his foster child/son-in-law conflicts with his plan for revenge against the Lannisters (or for that matter, what does Arianne do?) – probably something in the Greek tragic vein.
  • Myrcella gets sent to the Eyrie? Now this is an outcome that has some really weird implications. With Myrcella up in the Eyrie, Arianne’s Queenmaking conspiracy has nothing to batten itself onto, although on the other hand there’s much less holding the Martells in the realm. Most consequentially, however, the Purple Wedding would place Littlefinger in the impressive situation of holding both Sansa Stark and the perfect hostage against Cersei Lannister – although hiding Sansa’s identity from Myrcella would be all but impossible, likely requiring Myrcella to be imprisoned to prevent her from informing the world of Sansa’s location and his own treason.

Book vs. Show:

The question of adaptation comes up a lot in this section, and especially as the show begins to radically depart from the books in Season 5, the topic of faithfulness versus artistic license is bound to become a more frequent subject of conversation. However, I do want to highlight this scene as proof that there is something to be gained from televisual adaptation – Benioff and Weiss’s condensing three meetings into one scene, along with Alik Sakharov’s rather cunning bit of camerawork, gives this scene a sense of energy and cohesion that it somewhat lacks in the chapter (where the three meetings are broken up and scattered throughout the chapter, interrupted by other business), etc. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the show actually does this bit better than GRRM did*.

* with one exception – I don’t think the revised story Tyrion tells Varys works quite as well.

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181 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion IV, ACOK

  1. Winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve, but my interpretation of Tyrion’s offer to Varys was that he was offering Tommen to be *fostered* by the Martell’s but not necessarily married to any of them or their bannermen. It’s just that being able to mold and influence a prince who at the time is next in line for the throne it such a huge honor and potentially valuable at any rate.

    • Winnie says:

      Oh, also big fat WORD to everything you said about Littlefinger who is the classic example of a character with great plot armor. Realistically his penchant for risk, lack of subtlety, and sheer grandiosity of his schemes should have tripped him up LONG ago but it didn’t happen because Martin hasn’t been ready to let him fall just yet.

      I also agree that Tywin was (rather uncharacteristically,) being irrational about Gregor. Killing that monster was a small price to pay to ease tensions with Dorne. It’s like Tywin’s reluctance to have Gregor killed was because subconsciously he resented the fact that anyone dared question his murder of Elia and her babies to begin with.

      Lastly, I have to wonder a bit about Pycelle’s obvious favoritism at this point towards Cersei over Tyrion. He’s got no especial reason to like Tyrion, but why Cersei?!? I mean at least his man-crush on Tywin made sense but as someone who’s known Cersei since childhood why does he think she’s the one to back?!? (Or for that matter why was he so surprised by what a horrible job she did in AFFC?) Seems like it would have been smarter to stay out of the Hand vs. Queen Regent dispute and just keep dutifully reporting everything that happened to Tywin.

      • To be fair, LF was good at biding his time – years and years went by before he did anything more than act like a typical bureaucrat.

        And subconscious resentment is the only explanation I’ve seen yet for that.

        Yeah, I don’t know about Pycelle. It’s especially odd because Cersei doesn’t exactly cultivate him.

      • David Hunt says:

        Regarding Pycelle’s favoring Cercei over Tyrion, I can think of three reasons and most of them would say nothing good about Pycelle.

        First and most favorable to the Grand Maester, Cercei is the one in the Capital that has an established power structure. Plus, she’s been there for years and is an obvious representative of the status quo. Tyrion has never held a position of real power and has been upjumped from a nobody second son the Hand of the King. It could be argued that Cercei is new to having real power as well, but she was an active player in seizing that power, so she’s got some established chops as a power player. Plus backing Cercei and her more conventional plans for holding the city could appear a very appealing option compared to Tyrion’s plans, especially since he plays most everything so close to the vest. To the outsider, it appears that he moving vital resources to create a massive chain whose ultimate utility is known to very few.

        Second, although Tyrion is overly sensitive about the ablism that he sees everyone viewing him through, the prejudice against dwarves is a very real thing. I think it’s entirely possible that this could simply make Tyrion’s proposals less appealing to various actors because they’re coming from him.

        Thrid, it doesn’t do to forget what an old letch Pycelle is. As a mirror to the idea that he’d look down (ouch, no pun intended) on Tyrion because he’s a dwarf, he might view Cercei’s plans more favorably because she’s beautiful. Cercei has always had a masterful ability to manipulate how people see her, using her beauty and either a flirting seduction or a mask or innocence to move pieces on the board. Pycelle is a ripe target for such tactics.

        Finally, the fourth of my three ideas as this one occurred to me as I was writing and it should have been obvious from the start. As a tangent to option one above, Tyrion is well known to be poorly thought of by his father. Jamie’s the clear favorite, but Cercei is also a pride of his house. Plus Pycelle might know that Cercei is the dominant member of her relationship with Jamie. Keeping in mind that the Tywin is the true head of the House, Pycelle might simply gravitate toward the child more favored of Tywin.

        • These are excellent reasons, definitely ableism involved.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah those types of prejudices do seem in character to the old lecherous toady but you’re right they sure don’t speak well to his judgement. Kevan for instance clearly had more respect for the Imp than for the golden girl queen. But I suppose a lot of people made that mistake-on paper Queen C seemed like a good bet but if you knew anything about her character you’d keep your distance. Sadly not
            Just P ycelle but many others don’t see the obvious until Feast but by then it was much too late.

          • Mitch says:

            In fairness, even I didn’t really grasp how bumbling of a ruler Cercei was going to be until well into A Feast for Crows. Credit to Martin, because I remember feeling a general sense of unease with the arrogance with which she went about her reign but didn’t really think through the short sightedness of her decisions.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is that even I, a book reader informed by several different viewpoints, overestimated Cercei’s competence, so I can sympathize with other characters who were slow to catch on.

          • David Hunt says:

            Mitch,

            I can definitely see what you mean regarding overestimating Cercei before AFFC. I think part of it is that she’s so good at manipulating how people see her that the POV characters who deal with her interpret her as being more competent. Plus a few things change right before AFFC. One, it’s the first time that she has a free hand to run the government. She’s always had other actors to reign in her worst ideas before that and she deliberately removes anyone who could fill that role. Two, she’s suffered two major shocks in quick secession in the deaths of Joffrey and Tywin. It’s entirely possible that she never fully recovered from those blows and her performance suffered after that. Finally, AFFC is the first time that we get to see what’s actually going on in her head. I found reading her chapters fascinating, akin to watch a car accident happen in slow motion, unable to do anything but watch. When you see the thoughts behind all of her actions, any respect you have for her as a political actor evaporates.

          • Winnie says:

            Big fat WORD to ALL of that. Personally I think there were plenty of signs from as early as book one that Cersei wasnt a good political actor but was being propped by others around her like Daddy and the Imp. (And remember she only beat Ned thanks to Lord Baelish.)

            And yeah shes not someone who copes well under pressure which became very obvious during Blackwater so I’m sure losing one son and daddy in short order sent her off the deep end-that’s certainly how they’re playing it on the show.

          • Mitch says:

            David,

            I think you’re on to something in that the thoughts of the characters who surround Cercei color the reader’s perception, as well as obscure her true incompetence until much later. I found myself falling into this trap of not thinking critically through the point of view of a given character, instead accepting what they thought as fact.

            One of the biggest differences between ACOK and AFFC is the loss of Tyrion’s POV chapters, which means we don’t really get an articulate counter-point to Cercei’s plans. In ACOK, Martin uses Tyrion’s inner thoughts to both help define Cercei’s character as well as to point out the flaws in logic some of her plans. One book later, however, we no longer have someone available to skewer her logic and are left to our own devices as readers.

            If anything, it just makes me appreciate Martin more, as it wasn’t something I noticed at all in my first read through but am now picking up all the subtle asides and clues GRRM peppered throughout her POV chapters to set up her downfall. He’s truly a master of disguising his plot intentions but making them still feel earned and so damn satisfying when the dominoes fall down.

          • Crystal says:

            Yes to all of this regarding Cersei. Even without the Maggy the Frog prophecy (which I wonder if it was inserted after the fact) there was plenty going on to make her go off the deep end by AFFC. In addition to Joffrey’s and Tywin’s deaths, Jaime was distancing himself from her. And she believed that Tyrion had killed Joffrey and she knew that Tyrion had killed Tywin – so now she had a Kingslayer AND a kinslayer in the family, and with the taboo surrounding kinslaying in Westerosi society (even *Roose Bolton* balks at it) the Lannister reputation was becoming more tarnished by the day. And she probably was wondering how many people might know or suspect who her children’s real father was. (She almost let it slip to Marg during AFFC!)

            AFFC is when Tywin Lannister’s chickens come home to roost (posthumously) as the family legacy comes crashing down in large part because of the terrible job he did in preparing his children to wield power.

        • Sean C. says:

          On the third point, isn’t Pycelle as a lech basically a show construct? In the book he bangs a hooker one time, but otherwise he’s basically just a doddering old man (whereas the show indicates that he’s actually faking that and is quite sharp, the books never suggest this is anything but genuine).

          There’s also that bit about his examination of Sansa in her final AGOT chapter, but as far as I know nobody really assigned any particular meaning to that line until after the show aired, so I think that’s also just the show’s influence causing people to zoom in on it.

          • David Hunt says:

            Sansa has almost certainly gone through some medical examinations from Maester Luwin, but Pycelle triggered her creep sense. He’s betrayed his oaths just about every way he could. If he’s doesn’t regularly indulge his lusts, I’d guess it’s his age, not his scruples that get in the way, leaving him a dirty old man who would relish the prospect…I’m not going any further. I’m just going to reiterate that he his triggering Sansa’s creep sense made more of an impression on me.

          • Yeah, I trust Sansa.

          • erika says:

            In Tyrion VI, it’s a serving girl in bed with Pycelle when Tyrion confronts him about the letter (Shagga does calls her a whore.) But I believe Tyrion recognizes her from her serving the breakfast in this chapter.
            What creeps me out is she is described as his ‘girl’ and the ‘girl’ and Pycelle says, “Leave us, child”. Gross.

          • Yeah, it’s not good.

            I think the larger idea is that Pycelle has betrayed every aspect of his oath – he’s a healer who’s committed murder by neglect, he’s a maester who’s politically partial and betrays the house he’s assigned to, and he’s not celibate.

    • Yeah, that’s probably right, it’s just weird the way it’s phrased.

      Glad you liked it.

  2. scarlett45 says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis as always. I know that Tyrion has a lot on his plate right now, but I always wondered why he wasn’t more thoughtful regarding littlefinger- the man did set him up to be captured/killed for Bran’s murder, Tyrion must wonder WHY.

    • Winnie says:

      The only plausible explanation I can think of (besides of course because Martin still wants the mockingbird in the game) is that the Imp was too distracted by the upcoming siege to deal with the Master of Coin just then.

      Of course I still find it unlikely that Tywin didn’t get suspicious when after becoming Lord Paramount of the River lands little finger set his sights on the Vale too.

      • As for Tywin, I think he’d be exactly the kind of person to underestimate Littlefinger, given his disdain for the merchant class.

        • Winnie says:

          Good point. Ableism caused him to seriously underrate his own son all these years-good old fashioned class snobbery may have blinded him to how deeply LF’s ambitions went and how dangerous he truly was.

          • Yeah, Tywin is really snobbish. Compare him to say, Eddard’s habit of inviting his men to dine with him.

          • Winnie says:

            And note that Tywin’s children, (even compared to their peers,) have a remarkable level of arrogance and narcissism. They really do think they’re “golden lions” among a kingdom of sheep. Remarkable and terrifying.

          • Crystal says:

            Yes, ableism played a large part, and the fact that Joanna died in Tyrion’s birth was the rest of it. (Even if Tyrion wasn’t a dwarf, if Joanna still died in his birth, Tywin probably would find it hard to forgive his son for that.)

            Modern readers might find it hard to comprehend just how ableist Westerosi society (based on medieval Europe) really was. Disability was thought to be a punishment from God, and the disabled were thought cursed. (Hence Shakespeare exaggerating Richard III’s physical disabilities.) It’s like how some readers do not comprehend just how rigid and how divinely ordained class stratification was – we moderns think that Arya’s befriending Mycah was a good thing, but seen *from the viewpoint of Westerosi nobility* – particularly southern nobility – such a thing was just Not Done; Arya was eccentric, at best, for choosing the company of a butcher’s boy over that of her sister and Myrcella on the way down from Winterfell to KL. Ned was so naive in not pulling her aside and telling her how the real world operated.

            So we readers might think “why oh why does everyone hate Tyrion so?” but in Westerosi society it was the *normal* way dwarves were treated. As Tyrion himself reflects, his birth and riches were the only things that saved him from infanticide or a freak show.

            And yes, the Lannisters were arrogant over and above normal Westerosi class consciousness. We have not just Ned, but Stannis, as an example of how other nobles might be much more open to cross-class friendship (see: Davos). Jaime, as of AFFC, starts enjoying the company of common soldiers and thinks that he always was more at home in an army camp than at court, but that is part of his character development – he started out as arrogant as the rest of his family.

        • JT says:

          I actually wonder if being underestimated because he’s (basically) from the merchant class is how Littlefinger got away with so much right under Jon Arryn’s nose. The Arryns are the oldest and proudest of the Andal families, and Littlefinger mentions how a branch of the Gulltown Arryns married a merchant, and now nobody discusses that branch.

          Jon Arryn having that sort of a mindset would give Littlefinger a lot of room to operate, and embolden him to do whatever he wants (as long as the money comes in) since his “boss” isn’t really checking his work.

          • Crystal says:

            I think that it was – that, and the fact that LF was very, very good at bringing in the dragons. LF was very, very good at his job, and Lysa liked him (and Jon A. never stopped to wonder just WHY wifey liked LF so much). I don’t think Jon A. was anywhere as arrogant as the Lannisters, but he was a Lord Paramount, and he must have considered LF beneath notice except for his money-making abilities. If Lysa continued boffing LF after her marriage (as the AWOIAF app suggests) that would explain why they got away with it – Jon A. would not have thought that Lysa could *possibly* be screwing around behind his back with someone as low-born as LF.

          • That’s a big part of it. I think Jon Arryn regarded Littlefinger as a bit of noblesse oblige, and a favor for his wife, and when Littlefinger reported amazing results, Jon Arryn didn’t think twice about it (being both uneducated in finance and likely to trust his own man), and was happy to give patronage to his find, assuming that Littlefinger would be grateful for his elevation.

      • JT says:

        I suspect it may have also been because Littlefinger “passed” Tyrion’s test. Sure Littlefinger isn’t very loyal, but he’s also not in Cersei’s pocket (as far as Tyrion knows), and Tyrion views his main opposition in KL as Cersi. Better to stick with the devil he knows and not upset Cersei too much, than make wholesale changes and really make her mad.

        • Winnie says:

          Yeah, but LF”s own end game might not be any better than if he is working for Cersei-something Tyrion was very aware of in ASOS.

          • JT says:

            True, but at this point, Tyrion is taking care of a clear and present danger – smoking out Cersei’s mole from the small council. He’s not thinking about Littlefinger’s (or Varys’) long term plans.

          • John says:

            It’s interesting that of the three, it is only the “traitor” who is actually loyal to the Lannister family.

    • It is a major oversight – the one plate Tyrion doesn’t keep spinning, the one thing he leaves off his to do list to get buried under the fresh paperwork, is the one area where his own person was most concerned.

      • The one theory that I would toss out is the idea that Tyrion was just so utterly intrigued by the idea of unraveling Littlefinger’s scheme(s) that he allowed it to continue out of a morbid curiosity. There’s nothing specific to back this up, but it fits Tyrion’s inquisitive nature plus his internal narrative has already shown that he realizes just how far the LF tentacles have stretched. It would explain why he allowed LF to continue until he was no longer in a position to do anything about it.

  3. Sean C. says:

    Regarding the city’s defence, aside from putting it down to lack of authorial knowledge (sieges are one area in his understanding of medieval military strategy where he’s consistently weak; the speed at which King’s Landing is poised to fall later in this book, for instance, or at which the Riverlands fortresses fall at the end of AGOT, would leave any decent feudal general dumbstruck), I would say the in-universe explanation is that the Baratheon-Lannister regime is so unpopular in the city (as we’ll soon see) that it minimizes their ability to mobilize the city (indeed, the leadership apparatus spends much of its time fighting amongst itself).

    A few random comments on the adaptation:

    – Revisiting season 2 in light of season 4 and the information we have about season 5, I noted two historical oddities about these scenes. The first is the continuity hiccup created here by Myrcella being betrothed to Doran Martell’s “youngest son”, when, as we’ll be seeing, Doran subsequently has only one child in the show. Not a big deal, by any means.
    – The other is that the show has Littlefinger angrily confront Tyrion about the scheme he pulled, seemingly calling attention to Littlefinger’s desire for revenge on him, but when we get to season 4, any indication that Littlefinger’s plans involved revenge on Tyrion has been expunged. That aspect of the Purple Wedding scheme is dropped, and the only time he ever comes up in the Vale plot is when Lysa mentions him.

    Next chapter: Sansa’s storyline really gets going (or, in the show, Sansa’s storyline goes off the rails, where it will remain for the next two seasons or so).

    • Winnie says:

      Great points Sean. I agree with you about the regimes unpopularity hurting them during the siege-note the mass desertion that led to them losing the mud gate. And I agree our favorite redhead was short shifted quite a bit in Season 2 except of course for Blackwater but things are looking up for Season 5. Though who knows what’s going to happen in the Vale?

      • Sean C. says:

        I’ll save my main commentary for the next chapter, but Sansa Season 2 is a bit of an oddity in that I think the individual scenes are mostly fine, but because of the cuts and alterations they don’t add up to anything (whereas Season 1, while not without problems, preserved her main narrative arc and payoff). Season 3 would bottom out by managing to fail both scene-to-scene and as a narrative.

        • Yeah, I’m getting into it now.

          Season 4 was excellent Sansa, however.

          • Sean C. says:

            Season 4 began without promise (it’s fairly evident that D&D subscribe to the incorrect interpretation that Sansa didn’t really do anything meaningful in King’s Landing, hence the absolute divide they draw between KL and the Vale), but finished reasonably well, despite some underwhelming handling of major scenes. Aidan Gillen is still awful, but apparently he’s being sent away for at least part of season 5, so that’s something to look forward to.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah, one of the reasons I’m most excited for the Vale next season is because I have no idea what’s going to happen there it IS clear that the writers are now turning Sansa into a player of some kind and that by the old gods and the new is a welcome change.

    • Yeah, I would say those two continuity hiccups are caused by later decisions rather than at the time.

    • MightyIsobel says:

      Interesting point about GRRM’s understanding of medieval sieges. I would also argue that in general, city culture and governance is not where GRRM’s strengths as a writer lie (compare KL and Braavos, for example, to Dickens’s London, or Scott Lynch’s Camorr).

      What he writes magnificently, however, are the wide array of fantasy-inflected rural locations that appear throughout ASOIAF. Harrenhal, the Quiet Isle, the Water Gardens, the Vale, the Gift, Harlaw, the banks of the Trident, the Fingers, High Heart: these locations (and many more) are memorable and distinct. Heck, we haven’t even seen Bear Island or Hardhome, and we have a feel for what it would be like to be there.

      • Sean C. says:

        In fairness, since writing is a learning process, I think GRRM’s depictions of sieges get much more accurate in books four and five, e.g., a lot more standing around, and ordering a direct assault instead of mining or just starving them out is characterized as being foolish at Dragonstone, for instance.

        • MightyIsobel says:

          That makes sense.

        • JT says:

          I also think GRRMs description of siegecraft changes due to other events in Westeros.

          Stannis *needs* to do whatever he can to capture KL quickly, even if it’s high risk – Tywin Lannister and Robb Stark have armies in the field (and Doran Martell and Mace Tyrell have their banners called), and Stannis can’t be caught between the walls and an approaching army. So he’ll try to go over the walls because he can’t afford to wait and starve the defenders out.

          By the time ASOS/ADWD roll around that threat is gone – the only real army in the field (outside of Stannis in the North) belongs the Iron Throne. So Paxter Redwine can take his time and mine/starve out Stannis’ garrison at Dragonstone, and the Freys can threaten to execute Edmure every day rather than storming the walls of Riverrun.

          Jaime realizes how dangerous storming the walls of Riverrun is, which is why Jaime tells Edmure the Riverlands men will be sent first, then the Freys and *finally* the men of the West will attack last…

          • Mr Fixit says:

            Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain how Tywin managed to capture a bunch of Riverlands castles overnight… no sieges, nothing, and his forces never took any serious casualties that would bring them under 20,000 he’d had from the beginning. It’s implausible.

          • No, that one makes sense. Remember, Tywin swings around from the south while Jaime pins down the Riverlanders in the north. The Riverlords were mustering at Riverrun and had taken the bulk of their men with them, leaving skeleton crews at home.

            And a garrison of a hundred or fifty men looking at an army of 20,000 men is much more likely to surrender than fight.

  4. Jeff says:

    Love your work, this is marvelous and I could immediately tell how giddy you were to cover this chapter. I remember thinking “What is taking that guy so long?!” But when I saw how long this was I was very happy with my fix.

    A few things though, I recently only realized this myself while making my way through SoS (I had originally started with the show, couldn’t resist the spoilers so I read all of them and have now been making my way through the books) if Oberyn doesn’t help Tyrion or more if Varys doesn’t help him escape…then Tyrion does go to The Wall or dies. This has a side effect that everyone seems to ignore for some reason. That is that Sansa is still married. Oh sure it can be set aside and almost certainly will in some way but if she is a widow then whatever sick plans Littlefinger has for Sansa will become more complicated and at the very least be delayed.

    Also perhaps the reason that the people hate the Lannisters so might have something to do with the sack at the end of Robert’s Rebellion and Cersei’s (well House Lannister really) contempt for the common man. But you’re right a Mayor of Kings Landing would certainly mitigate the damage.

    I think you miswrote Set his rights on Lord Tully’s daughter. And who exactly is Tywin being crushed by? And respected of him?

    I wanted to also get your opinion on a theory I have run across recently. It was on a Westeros.org message board or something, it makes a fair case that Littlefinger has dangerously overplayed his hand. He, Sansa and Robert Arryn are now in complete control of Nestor Royce. His castle on his lands filled with his guards and his servants. And the potential plots to be hatched remind me a bit of the Lord Protectorate of Edward VI and the fall of the Seymour brothers.

    It’s here: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/116712-what-will-be-littlefingers-fate/
    Under SacredOrderOfGreenMen
    and here: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/81892-littlefingers-downfall/?p=4161694

    A part of me also thinks that Sansa will let something slip around The Mad Mouse, who will tell Varys, who will try to wed Sansa to fAegon unknowingly parallelling Lord Ashford’s tourney of the fair maid and her champions Baratheon, Tyrell, Lannister, Hardyng then Targaryan.

    • Sean C. says:

      I don’t know that the effect of this has ever been made explicit, but given that the Night’s Watch includes a vow never to marry or father children, it seems like Tyrion going to the Wall would be the equivalent of going to the cloister, i.e., voiding his marriage vows.

      The question wasn’t directed at me, but regarding that Royce theory, while I think Yohn clearly knows more than he lets on, the theory about Nestor is a lot like many iterations of the Grand Northern Conspiracy, in that it posits that an impending behind-the-scenes alliance of minor characters is going to intervene and resolve the plot without the POVs doing much of anything, which doesn’t strike me as good storytelling. Sansa’s story has been built up as likely to be Littlefinger’s downfall, or, at any event, the major characters will be the motivating force (there’s also a lot of people who read the books as if Littlefinger’s fall is going to happen like two chapters into book six, which really doesn’t make much sense if you look at the structure of the original story, where Book Six was the beginning of Book Two).

      • Winnie says:

        Well prophecy states that Sansa will be the one to take him down but she could certainly be doing so with the help of Royce. Personally I think we will get that storyline next season and be one area where the show sr arts to spoil the books.

      • Crystal says:

        I’ve always thought that Yohn Royce knows, or at least suspects, who “Alayne” really is. He’s been to Winterfell, he’s met Sansa, and he’s met both her parents. I think it’s significant that Sansa recalls Yohn talking to her *mother* at Winterfell. Sansa very strongly resembles her mother (and must resemble her aunt Lysa as well), and dying one’s hair doesn’t really do a lot to change one’s appearance. Unless LF can come up with colored contacts, Sansa still has her family’s striking blue eyes, and nothing can erase the facial resemblance to her mother. And Yohn’s words to LF after the Corbray incident – “not all of us are fooled” makes me wonder.

        I subscribe to the Ashford Tourney theory, (that is, that the surnames of the maiden’s defenders at the Ashford tourney reflect Sansa’s suitors). The strongest argument for it, I think, is the inclusion of a Hardying in among the prestigious families in that tourney. According to the Wiki (and LF’s exposition dump in AFFC) the Hardyings re landed knights sworn to the Waynwoods; what is this guy from a minor noble house in the Vale doing in the Reach with all those great lords?

        So, I think Sansa will wind up betrothed to Aegon (or fAegon, whoever he is!) at some point, *but*, whether it will pan out into anything remains to be seen. She did not marry Joffrey (Baratheon), she did not marry Willas (Tyrell), I believe her marriage with Tyrion (Lannister) will be annulled, I’m almost certain that Harry (Hardyng) is a Red Harryng, and Aegon is probably an imposter. Sansa might be destined to be a Virgin Queen (or lady regent for Rickon, or lady of Harrenhal, but in any event not married to anyone).

    • Well, Sansa is still already married…

    • I do think LF’s heading for a fall, but I think Sansa is more involved than that.

      Also, the Ashord tourney thing is a really bad bit of theory-crafting.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        “the Ashord tourney thing is a really bad bit of theory-crafting”

        You can say that again.

      • Jeff Meehan says:

        I agree but God he me I can get it out of my head. Also don’t forget, there was a conspiracy of minor characters to murder Ned Stark, Robb Stark and Jon Arryn and likely overthrow the Targaryen monarchy.

      • When I first noted of the Ashford tourney thing (my post predates the Reddit thread by about a year), I said it was an interesting coincidence but doubted it actually meant much of anything. Anyone taking it as an absolutely serious prediction is smoking things.

        • Yeah, people are way too quick to turn symbolic or thematic parallels into exact predictions – see the whole business with the Dance of the Dragons – without thinking about the writing first. If GRRM simply reused the Dance of the Dragons, that would be bad writing. Especially by releasing the Princess and the Queen and the Rogue Prince first, he’d be decreasing the impact/surprise factor of his own writing.

        • And in addition to this, even its main premise (“these are the last names of people Sansa has been or will be betrothed or married to!”) fails when you remember that she was just as much “betrothed” (i.e. it existed as a plan that she was informed of) to Robert Arryn as she was to Willas Tyrell (and that she’s to Harold Hardyng at this point).

  5. MightyIsobel says:

    A nitpick: “In two months, Tywin could have defeated the Lannisters or been crushed by the Starks” is not coherent, possibly a typo in there?

  6. David Hunt says:

    A great article again and I can see that you’re truly in your element.

    Some thoughts on why Tyrion is framed by Littlefinger despite his not being one of LF’s obsessive grudges that he’s been nursing for over a decade.

    First, I wouldn’t be so sure that Tryion isn’t written down in LF’s Book of Grudges but just further down in priority. I think Tyrion has been at court on numerous occasions and it’s well within his personality to trade jibes with LF. Given Tyrion’s eye for weakness and his habit of verbally attacking before he thinks through the consequences, he could easily have said something that LF would never show as truly hurtful but still get him on the List.

    However, I think the more likely explanation is simply that Tyrion was a useful patsy that picked in the moment. It’s true that LF nurse’s grudges the way a master gardener would nurse a rare orchid, but I’ll point out that thousands of people who never did him any harm are killed as a result of his schemes, included dozens, if not hundreds of nobles, great and small. I think that LF viewed Tyrion as simply a useful tool, a lever to move Catelyn and Tywin with. Someone who wasn’t worth having any personal feelings toward. Once he’s the Hand and then screws LF on Harrenhall, I think that’s the point that he makes the List.

    • It would be interesting if we found out it was some drunken offhand jape that put Tyrion down in his bad books, but I doubt we’re going to find out.

    • MightyIsobel says:

      Does LF actually recognize Tyrion’s skill in the Game and talent for military strategy? Or is he prone to some of the same Cersei vs. Tyrion errors that Pycelle makes, as you enumerated nicely above?

      • That’s hard to say – before ACOK, I’d say no. But certainly after this point, I think he shifts his thinking somewhat – hence the assassination attempt.

        • Sean C. says:

          Well, before ACOK Tyrion hadn’t demonstrated any skill in the game or at military strategy, as he’d never been involved in politics or held a military command, so it’s not really surprising if Littlefinger hadn’t noticed.

        • MightyIsobel says:

          And yet, Varys recognizes Tyrion’s talent (and weaknesses) right away. LF is an analytical bastard, but I’m not sure he reads people all that well.

          • Winnie says:

            Agreed. LF’s own psychopathy and lack of empathy makes it harder for him to understand others the way Varys can.

          • I think that’s a good point. I’d also add that LF’s own ego won’t let him acknowledge that other people can be as smart as him.

          • David Hunt says:

            Varys has probably spied on Tryion whenever he’s stayed in King’s Landing. If Tryion was “alone” with someone like Jamie who would listen to him give insightful comments on the politics of the capital, the Little Birds would have reported back on the substance of their conversations and let Varys know that there was a formidable mind being wasted making the Rock’s sewers run right.

            Sidenote: I’ve always wondered how Varys has such a uniquely vast knowledge of the secret ways through the Red Keep. My best guess is that it came from Aerys either directly or from whoever was the keeper of that knowledge prior to Varys’ recruitment by Aerys. I’m glad I can’t quite imagine being the guy in the position of schooling Varys in layout of all those secret ways, knowing that once you’re done, the best you can hope for is a quick death instead of being burned alive. Then again, Varys’ flock of Little Birds must number in the dozens at least. What happens to those kids once they’re too big to work the smaller passages?

          • I think it’s more that Varys has been around for 20+ years, and spent a lot of time mapping the tunnels.

            I think the LB’s rotate through different tasks depending on age – once you’re too big for the smaller passages, you’re probably old enough to pass for a servant out in public.

          • JT says:

            I actually suspect it may be more morbid – Varys had his “little birds” map the tunnels for him. They can read and write and if a few die while exploring, no big loss – Illyrio can always get him more.

          • That part’s probably true.

          • JT says:

            It would be really dangerous for Varys to let his little birds pose as servants though – their tongues are ripped out so they can’t talk. And as Varys points out to Tyrion when Shae is brought into the keep, servants get lots of questions thrown at them. Having no tongue would invite suspicion.

          • Depends on what category of servant.

          • Andrew says:

            I think the LBs serve at Illyrio’s manse when they grow too big. Both Dany and Tyrion note that none of Illyrio’s servants talk except the bedwarmer he got from Lys.

  7. Peter says:

    I’d say the reason that Tywin did not give up Gregor is that it wouldn’t have gained him anything. It wasn’t like Oberyn was going to be satisfied with just killing the Mountain anyway. Tywin handing over Gregor would just have made his position weaker without making the Martells much friendlier. Oberyn wanted the man who gave the order, not just the one who swung the sword.

    • Sean C. says:

      Knowing what we know about the Martells, that’s true, but in many cases parties will agree to take half a loaf rather than none at all (which is what the Martells currently have, and, as far as Tywin knows, stand to get, since he has no inkling about Doran’s half-baked Targaryen restoration schemes). Tywin promised them half a loaf, and then retracted it, which isn’t geared toward conciliation.

        • Winnie says:

          Exactly. And again it seems out of character for Tywin not to deliver that loaf half, (the Mountain after all isn’t all *that* important,) again unless he’s secretly resenting anyone holding him accountable for the Sack at all. Which is actually very possible-note his cold scorn to Tyrion’s, (quite wise as it turns out,) suggestion that it might have been better to let Robert Baratheon bloody his own hands regarding Elia and the children.

          I think subconsciously, he’s prickly about the whole topic because that particular act of brutality was partially based on emotion on his part, (i.e. resenting that Elia was chosen over Cersei,) and deep down he knows how horrible an action it was-and he wants to downplay its seriousness.

          • John says:

            The argument he makes for why he did it – to show Robert firmly that he’s on his side – is all very well and good, I guess. It makes his daughter queen, and perhaps saves his elder son from the Night’s Watch. On the other hand, he’s just taken King’s Landing for Robert, which is a pretty big service, and his son killed the Mad King. Mace Tyrell doesn’t actually get into any particular trouble for actually fighting against Robert for the entirety of the war – Tywin’s already in a position to be treated better than that. So it does feel as though the reason Tywin gives for his action seems strangely insufficient. And, of course, Tywin couldn’t know that Robert would want to marry Cersei, since Lyanna is still alive at this point, and if Lyanna does die, Cersei’s virtually the only age appropriate, unmarried girl from one of the great houses, isn’t she? Arianne, Asha, and Margaery are all too young for a King who surely wants to start producing heirs immediately, and Lysa and Catelyn have just been married off. I suppose he could marry an Estermont cousin, or something, but, once Lyanna’s dead, a marriage to Cersei starts to look pretty inevitable, whether Tywin’s committed a horrible crime or not.

      • JT says:

        I always found Doran’s revenge scheme to be fairly half-baked also. Viserys never mentioned the marriage contract to Dany, and he was definitely loose with his tongue when it came to imagined future glories, so I’m not even sure he knew about it.

        Even if the marriage had happened, Dorne by itself wouldn’t have been nearly powerful enough to unseat a Baratheon/Stark/Arryn/Tully/Lannister alliance with Robert on the throne, and I can’t picture Mace Tyrell and Balon Greyjoy allying with the Dornish to restore the Targaryens and put Doran’s daughter on the throne.

        • Sean C. says:

          Viserys definitely didn’t know about it. The pact wasn’t going to be revealed until the massive precondition that Viserys somehow acquired an army on his own.

          • No, what happened was that Willem Darry (one of the witnesses to the agreement) died suddenly and Viserys and Dany (around age 15 and 5) were sent off with no guardian and no awareness of the pact. Arianne was supposed to go to Tyrosh to meet with Viserys anyway, but Mellario said she’d harm herself if Doran “stole” another one of her children (since Quentyn had been sent away as a ward/hostage), so the plans were canceled.

          • A good point. A major hole in the Martell plot was created when Willem Darry unexpectedly died and the two Targs suddenly became homeless. Another interesting what if: would Viserys have been quite so paranoid and insecure had he grown up in a stable environment?

          • David Hunt says:

            @Steven,

            Well his father didn’t go Full Mad King until after Duskendale. Everyone’s an individual, but it says that he might have been not as bad if Darry had lived to raise him longer.

          • Crystal says:

            I think that a *large* part of Viserys’ instability was rooted in his upbringing. He went from being a royal prince leading a pampered life into something out of Dickens. I think the mental instability was always there to some extent, but it did not come into full flower until he and Daenerys became homeless. I wonder how Viserys would have turned out if he had a stable upbringing.

  8. gavinbyrnes says:

    “I’d like to highlight just the two main alternative offers, because this one is getting really long.”

    You owe us nothing, but you never need to worry about your writing being *too* long. I never get to the end of one of these without wishing it were even longer.

  9. Grant says:

    Two thoughts occur to me on Kingslanding and its lack of natural city defense.
    The first is that Tywin might have been so thorough that the city’s defense service never recovered from the sack (though that seems unlikely).
    The second is that the city permanently suffers from being under the direct control of the king. The king’s soldiers handle anything beyond basic control, so how much is available depends on the king and where else the king needs to fight. We do know that Tyrion led a force of Kingslanders to protect the walls, but I don’t think it gave the sense of being a significant force.

    Or maybe it’s just that nearly everyone in power recently besides Tyrion and Tywin simply wasn’t at all capable of ruling properly, so the city is too horribly divided on class and preferred monarch to actually function for its own defense.

    • The physical structures are fine – the city walls, etc.

      It’s more the level of organization within the city, the general disrepair of the goldcloaks as an organization, etc.

      So I think part of it is that the Kings didn’t want a local governing structure independent of them, and then Robert not giving a fuck about Janos Slynt.

      • David Hunt says:

        Very much that last comment about Slynt. I think the City Watch has suffered the same degeneration and corruption that the Kingsguard has and is another sign of the rot that’s been building in Robert’s reign since the compromises he had to make at the beginning to secure the throne. And since it wasn’t necessarily the shining example of what such an order should be it didn’t have near as far to all and the Kingsguard. Slynt and his lieutenants are the most obvious signs of the corruption there.

      • Grant says:

        I don’t believe I suggested that the walls weren’t, though how well they’re doing is a good question. Simply that it’s possible the human organizations were left unhelpful by some mixture of damage from the last war, disregard by the leaders after that, possible tradition of calling on formal soldiers to defend the city instead of locals and that the elites and poor might be too angry with everyone else too work together.

        • I just meant that the damage from the sack wasn’t physical in the sense of the city’s defenses.

          • Grant says:

            Ah, I meant it more in the sense that the organizations that would be responsible might have suffered too many casualties to properly rebuild, especially in face of royal apathy and corruption.

      • John says:

        Given what we know about how the Kingdom was actually governed under Robert, isn’t it more accurate to say that Jon Arryn didn’t give a fuck about Slynt? I mean, it’s not like Robert would have objected if Arryn had wanted to replace Slynt with Jacelyn Bywater, or whoever.

        I can kind of see that Robert would have made his own bad, half-assed decisions about replacements for the King’s Guard. I have a hard time thinking he’d have gotten in Arryn’s way about a comparatively lowly position like head of the Goldcloaks.

  10. Firstly, great job as usual Steve.

    On Pycelle’s clear favoritism of Cersei over Tyrion, I think it’s two things.The first one already mentioned is the fact that Tyrion is a dwarf and ableism is strong. The second might be because he might have thought (incorrectly at that) that Cersei’s word would have more leverage with Tywin and as we know, Tywin doesn’t give a damn about his children’s opinions if they don’t echo his own.

    On Little Finger: I think he deeply resents and hates Lysa, however it didn’t stop him from using her “love” for him as a ladder. Because I don’t think Lysa ever gave a damn about what he wanted (Catelyn/or whatever), but it was more about what *she* wanted: Him. She took advantage of him when he was blind drunk (I mean, the Blackfish had to carry him to bed) and later, when he dueled for Cat’s hand she offered her favor and again she went to him when he was badly wounded, causing Lysa to fall pregnant. This combined with the duel, got him tossed out of Riverrun. And I think he deeply resents that, his letter towards Catelyn after Brandon died showed he was at least very much interested in her (more like what she represented), but Lysa was someone who was available and useful for him.

    His talk to Sansa where she clearly states that Winterfell is warm, tells me that he thought that Catelyn had been living a life of duty but not love, when we know that she and Eddard grew to love one another. So he might be strongly rejecting the idea that Cat never went to his bed or blinding himself to the truth. Which will echo later with seeing Sansa as Cat 2.0, never mind that Sansa is her own person, someone he doesn’t know but *thinks* he does.

    Good call on Renly, the idea in theory is good but Renly failed to even think of the possibility that Stannis might beat him to it, after all the man has ships and already is a proven commander and was (unless my mind is going) Maester of Ships. Renly felt entitled and took for granted the Martell’s joining him out of hate for the Lannisters, but he never did anything to offer them anything in return.

    And on the mighty King Bread: I’m surprised that someone as well read as Tyrion doesn’t see the seeds of riots taking root. Much like Rhaenyra discovered to her woe, a mob in full blown riot mode can do serious damage. And Tyrion’s already getting the signs here, the baker and foolishly thinks of sending them to Joff (good thing he doesn’t). And later as we see, this will come and bite them hard in the Lannister’s collective behind.

    • Crystal says:

      That’s a good point about LF’s possible hatred of Lysa – after all, she did rape him! Certainly in neither instance was he capable of informed consent. She raped him and HE got tossed out on his ear. I do not like LF, but that is an unpleasant thing to have happen (just as one doesn’t have to like Cersei to say that Robert was wrong to abuse her).

      But she is useful to him, and Littlefinger loves Littlefinger, as Tyrion so aptly points out. I can see LF’s telling Lysa that he only loved Cat right before he tossed her to her death as vengeful; it certainly was a gratuitous twist of the knife, when he could have pitched her right out the Moon Door anyway after telling her he loved only one woman.

      I agree that Tyrion – and indeed all the nobles except for Sansa – were blinded by their own arrogance and disregard, and rendered complacent by the fact that THEY were not starving, to realize just how dangerous an angry, starving mob could be. And bite them in the butt it did.

      • Agreed on the LF part, he was raped by Lysa once, the second one I think was more consensual because LF was actually conscious and knows he did have sex with Lysa. But ultimately, she was useful to him; I think he realized that when Lysa insisted on Jon to bring him over the first time (to the Eyre), that was what gave him the ladder towards being made Maester of Coin and as long as he kept Lysa ‘happy’, he was safe.

        But she was a tool and I agree that he only loves himself. I’ve always disagreed with people who say he loved (and/or still does) Cat, because if he did he wouldn’t have gone so much out of his way to put her and her family in danger. He only cares about himself and that will be his downfall.

        Yep, they missed the big red flags on people wanting food and now they’re paying for it. I mean, the people did went out and protest Margaery’s arrest, but not Cersei’s. Pretty telling.

    • Very good points.

      I think the reason Tyrion doesn’t think of the riot happening is in part that he’s got no alternative. He doesn’t have the food to ward off a riot. All he can do is ride it out and hope for the best.

      • Thank you.

        I agree that Tyrion is limited on what he can do considering he has both Cersei and Joff against him, but I do think that he should’ve thought of some alternatives, after all, he was already seeing the signs of internal violence (the baker).

  11. juan manuel says:

    We don’t know for sure why Littlefinger framed Tyrion with the dagger. It maybe that Tyrion couldn’t immediately respond to any accusation and his dwarfism predisposed people against him. But I think Littlefinger gets vindictive precisely because of this chapter: If Myrcella is marrying Trystaine, she can’t marry Robert Arryn, which means Tyrion lied to him about giving him a lot of the things he was emotionally, as well as rationally, invested in.

    • John says:

      Tyrion’s also rather the most plausible candidate for Littlefinger to accuse. He wants to accuse a Lannister. Pretty much everyone immediately thinks that a hired assassin isn’t Jaime’s style. So that leaves Cersei and Tyrion. Cersei is perhaps more plausible in terms of character, but it’s also harder for Littlefinger to concoct a plausible story as to why he recognizes a knife supposedly belonging to Cersei. Plus, accusing the Queen directly is much more immediately dangerous – especially since he’s doing it in front of Varys.

  12. Amestria says:

    “After all, as Tyrion is pointing out, one of the downsides of dynastic succession is that you occasionally get a boy king, a lunatic, or someone who’s just not up for the job (or in Joffrey’s case all three),”

    This made me curious if there are any lunatic kings who you think were totally up for the job? ^^

    • ad says:

      I don’t know about Kings specifically, but IIRC Field Marshal Blucher, the Prussian commander at Waterloo, was periodically subject to the delusion that he was pregnant. With an elephant.

      I’d question his sanity, and yet he was a decent general.

    • Lunatic kings up for the job…hard to say. Henry VIII could be pretty manic/depressive. Henry V supposedly went so battle-crazy that he tore people’s throats out with his teeth.

  13. Amestria says:

    “For the full version of my argument about what Littlefinger has been up to as Master of Coin, you’ll have to wait for Tower of the Hand: Hymn of Spring, where I have an essay laying out in detail my theory of the financial portion of the Littlefinger Conspiracy. (short version: massive corruption).”

    An essay? ^^

  14. jpmarchives says:

    Another great essay Stephen.

    Firstly – Tywin’s refusal to give up Ser Gregor later on does seem a bit strange when compared with what he has to gain. It also smacks of hypocrisy – I doubt Tywin would have been satisfied with Lorch’s bones in a bag and a vague story about a bear if it had been Cersei who was raped and murdered. I would suppose that Tywin is reluctant because if Ser Gregor is found guilty, the blame will still partially stick to Tywin himself. It might also be the case that Gregor’s fearsome reputation has now become inextricably linked to the “Rains of Castamere” policy which keeps people terrified of the Lannisters. It’s a little ironic that the crime Gregor is accused of is also the reason why he’s so valuable to Tywin. There is also the placement of Dorne to consider; unlike the Tyrells, Tywin doesn’t need Martell support – he just needs them to not support Stannis, so he will pay the smallest price he possibly can for the Dornish to essentially not do anything. The Dornish are also one of the weaker great houses and are thousands of miles to the south, whereas by ASOS the Tyrells (who Tywin does court and forge a lasting, mutually beneficial alliance with) are 80,000 strong and inside the city, suggesting that Tywin still partially acknowledges the political theory of “might makes right” when deciding what to give to others.

    Secondly – The problem with re-reading a book is that any weakness in plot, however slight, becomes increasingly obvious. So it is with Balon’s invasion (which doesn’t really do anything for the Ironborn but conveniently screws over the Starks) and here with Littlefinger. Even if we assume that in the short term removing Littlefinger from office would devastate the crown’s finances at a time when the Lannister’s cannot afford to lose any legitimacy at all, Tyrion’s later passivity in regard to Littlefinger is just bizarre. When Littlefinger becomes Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, his only response is to peevishly mention that the Master of Coin position will be vacated, when he has proof that LF purposefully set Lannister and Stark at each others throats. He never reveals this information to Tywin, even when he is desperate for some measure of acknowledgement from his father and was sent to KL with a mandate to uncover such treachery in the first place.

    The simple fact is that GRRM needed Tyrion humbled for his eventual return to power and LF free to scheme another day, so Tyrion uncharacteristically drops the ball and the author hopes his readers don’t notice. Which I didn’t until my fourth re-read, so I guess GRRM’s only real mistake was writing such addictive books.

    • I think you make a good point regarding Tywin’s personal feelings.

      And yeah, it’s a bit of “plot armor” with Tyrion and LF, although to give credit to Tyrion he does get distracted by the siege, then his near-death.

      • Yeah, Tyrion in ASOS spends the first third focused on trying to prove Cersei set Mandon Moore on him, and then his marriage distracts him, and the Dornish party arrival, etc.

        The fact that Tyrion could have put the two pieces together — that LF set him up with the dagger, and Mandon Moore would have kept him from telling anyone about it — but didn’t, is, well, yeah, plot armor. Though at least Tyrion figures out where the dagger/assassin came from in the first place.

    • David Hunt says:

      Reading people’s guesses for why Tywin is unwilling to give up Gregor has made me think up one of my own. I think it all comes down to the Mountain being inconveniently alive. If Tywin gives up Gregor and sends him to Dorne, Doran is going to have him tortured until he gives up who gave the order to kill Aegon (and Elia depending on whether you disbelieve Tywin’s version of events). Once Tywin’s given him up, Gregor has no reason to protect Tywin. He’ll give him up in a heartbeat.

      On the other hand, if Tywin publicly lops off Gregor’s head and just sends his bones done south, denying the Dornish the opportunity to take revenge in whatever gruesome manage they’ve been dreaming up for 15 years, he’s as much as admitting that he’s afraid of them getting their hands on Gregor while he can talk.

      In many ways, Gregor dying in the duel with Oberyn was perfect for Tywin as the Dornish get their revenge and Gregor never spills who gave the order.

      • Grant says:

        Tywin did give orders to Pycelle that he needed Gregor to survive, at least long enough for Tywin to hold a mock trial and have him executed. So he was willing to let Gregor be sacrificed, at least after Oberyn’s death.

  15. “This ought to be a moment of ultimate stress for Littlefinger – he’s being interrogated about a crime he knows he committed, by the man he framed and nearly killed over it, who now has complete police power. As we’ll see very soon, Tyrion now can throw anyone he wants in jail without any due process and is perfectly comfortable with torture, and not only does Littlefinger react with perfect calm to the veiled accusation, but he retains enough presence of mind to actually jokingly confess (look at that sentence again; that phrasing is not an accident).”

    I think you are overstating this moment. Littlefinger wasn’t being interrogated, Tyrion was merely threatening him. With completely the wrong tools. Tyrion references to Lysa only tell Littlefinger that Lysa has utterly blinded Tyrion concerning her own guilt and if Tyrion came after Littlefinger, he’d do it in the wrong way.

    “By contrast, had Renly gone hell-for-leather for King’s Landing, he would have practically walked over the walls, eliminated the Lannister claim to the Iron Throne even before he came to blows with Tywin, given himself the political means to force a favorable outcome with the Starks, and faced Stannis with the might and legitimacy of almost all of the Seven Kingdoms behind him.”

    I gotta disagree with this as well. If Renly had done this, Tywin would have caught wind of it and hurried to position himself to attack Renly in the back during his siege. Tyrion would have probably put both the young heirs on a boat off to their marriage contracts rather letting them stay near the city. And Cersei would kill Sansa. And Arya would be presumed dead as well. Renly’s army would die in great numbers, he would still only have two kingdoms behind him (we know his confidence concerning Dorne was completely misplayed) and he wouldn’t have much to bargain with Robb at all. In Robb’s eyes, Renly may well have killed Sansa and Arya. And Stannis would despair even sooner and use Melisandre’s magic to kill Renly even quicker. King’s Landing doesn’t have the magical protection that Storm’s End does.

    • Fair enough, other opinions are available.

      However…

      1. It’s still the case that Tyrion is the Hand, has every reason to want LF dead, and is claiming he’d hand over the real killer. If he names LF, there’s little option for Lysa to pretend that’s not the case, given the reaction of the Lords of the Vale.

      2. If Tywin marches from Harrenhal, he risks being attacked by Robb Stark’s larger army. Even if he does, Renly has 100,000 men at this point and Tywin has 20,000 – really easy for him to detach 20,000 men to block Tywin and still crush the city.

      “Renly’s army would die in great numbers” – why? The chain’s not ready, the wildfire plan isn’t ready.

      • Grant says:

        Even if either were ready, the chain would be of little use against Renly’s land-based army and using wildfire against an enemy on land would probably result in exactly the kind of disaster that Bronn predicts in the show. Even if by some miracle none of it was dropped in Kingslanding, you’ve still got a vast fire that spreads quickly and is extremely hard to put out right on your doorstep.

        The Lannisters got off lucky with their enemies.

      • WPA says:

        Agreed, even if Tywin is somehow able to disengage and march South… without Robb Stark or even Edmure Tully harrying his rear all along the way… Renly would be in a position to simply send Randall Tarly and his vanguard to engage Tywin on something like equal terms while having plenty of Stormlords and Reachmen left over to storm the capital in his own name. Even with the losses entailed with a direct storming of the city without a protracted siege- that outcome with a fairly clean end to the matter of succession would be considered preferable to dragging it out.

        • The argument was what if Renly went hell-for-leather after KL, not just a faster but still measured march. When he wanted to engage Stannis, Renly left his infantry behind to get. It wouldn’t be the full 100,000 and Randyll Tarly might not be there.

          • David Hunt says:

            I don’t think that most people would consider leaving the overwhelming bulk of his army behind and taking his cavalry alone to be what they were talking about.
            Renly was purposefully taking his own sweet time. Holding court and feasting with local lords slowed him down a lot. Those activities take time that could be used moving his army. Plus I didn’t get the impression that he was marching his men that hard. He could have moved a lot faster and still kept his main force with him.

          • No, I meant hell-for-leather in the sense of not taking the scenic route from the beginning. Premodern infantry can make 30 miles in a day if they have to – Renly could have arrived at King’s Landing a month after leaving Highgarden. His infantry would be tired as all hell, but he could have been at King’s Landing with the whole of his army by this exact chapter.

        • Exactly. And I don’t even think the losses would be that major – the Goldcloaks are a rotten staff, ready to break at the first moment.

    • jpmarchives says:

      Renly does have a hundred thousand men. More than enough to provide a sufficient rearguard to ensure that Tywin can’t take him in the rear and seize the city as well. In the OTL, Tyrion does send off Tommen and Myrcella, but not Joffrey so as to bolster support – if the entire “Royal family” abandons the city as you’re suggesting, then they cease to be the royal family at all. So whatever happens, when Renly takes KL, he’s getting Tyrion, Cersei, and Joffrey for sure.

      I’m sure Robb would be furious that Sansa died, but the notion that Renly was responsible simply wouldn’t be enough to continue against Renly when the newly anointed King is battling against the faction who actually killed his father and sister.

      As for Tywin, what choice would he have left? Two of his children dead, the thid held by enemies (and almost certainly executed if Cersei kills Sansa) and only Tommen and Myrcella to fight for – if Renly doesn’t catch them. All of this, plus he’s trapped between two armies which are both larger than his own. If Renly gets his act together and marches quickly, a Lannister victory is almost impossible.

      As for Stannis, he doesn’t really figure into this; he’s important, but there’s no way he attacks Storms End before KL falls. Even if he does, there’s no way Renly (or anyone else) has any idea about the power he holds in Melisandre, so it wouldn’t alter Renly’s strategy. If Renly seizes KL as soon as he can, the Lannisters are doomed and Stannis can then kill him at his leisure and take over – the Tyrell/Lannister alliance can never come against him if the Reach has taken part in the siege of KL which killed a Lannister King.

  16. Carolyn says:

    I think this chapter highlights a fundamental problem of the Lannisters: they focus too much of their time, resources etc. on their internal rivals at the expense of their real adversaries (like Stannis, Robb Stark, Renly or even people like Littlefinger etc.).
    Instead of trying to find people who give information away to people like Stannis, Renly etc. who after years as courtiers should have accumulated their own power base in KL or getting rid of Littlefinger, who is responsible for Catelyn taking Tyrion prisoner, and also is of dubious loyalty thanks to his relationship with the Tullys, Tyrion incarcerates Pycelle for GIVING INFORMATION TO HIS SISTER, WHO IS ON THE SAME SIDE AS TYRION.
    Tyrion and Cersei see the confidantes of their respective sibling as their main threat (Pycelle, Lannister household guard, Bronn), which leads to them weakening the power base of House Lannister as a whole by trying to get rid of their perceived threats.

    • To be fair to Tyrion, he incarcerates Pycelle because Pycelle betrays his confidence and thus can’t be trusted, and that’s what Tywin sent him to do.

      But you have a point.

      • Carolyn says:

        Well, I think, it is quite telling, that his method got him the only person out of the three, who woult NOT work for interestes apart from the Lannisters (LF works for himself and Varys for fAegon) and who would NOT play a big part in murdering a member of House Lannister in the future (LF killed Joffrey (or at least planned it) and Varys killed Kevan).

        • Tanya says:

          Exactly what I was thinking! Tywin gave Tyrion the “heads, spikes, walls” powers so he can root out enemies to their house, such as the councillor who orchestrated Ned Stark’s execution and forced a war on multiple fronts. The point wasn’t for Tyrion to imprison his sister’s allies (although the fact that those two can’t get along is largely Tywin’s fault, but still).

          Oh, and I would add to Carolyn’s comment that Varys and Littlefinger are actually responsible for multiple Lannister deaths/removals: Kevan and Joffrey directly, but both also play a part in the events that lead to Tywin’s death. LF does his darnedest to kill Tyrion and then Varys actually one ups him by making a play to turn Tyrion against his own house. If/when Cersei falls completely LF’s machinations will have had a part and I suspect one or both of them will be involved in Tommen’s coming death (as Stefan notes, we need to get on to Myrcella’s golden shroud before too long). Those two are far, far more dangerous to House Lannister than Pycelle.

          I think in that sense this is a classic Martin set up – a character does something very clever and awesome and then it gets undermined because the situation is more complicated; think of Dany’s feel good ASOS arc taken apart in ADWD or Robb and winning battles while losing the war. And of course this section emphasizes one of the overall themes of the series: internal/personal divisions weakening against an external enemy. Tyrion fails to move against the greater threats while distracted by a struggle with his sister; the realm fails to defend against the Others while distracted by a civil war.

    • Grant says:

      To be fair, that’s because aside from Petyr, Cersei is the main threat to Tyrion. And Cersei’s managed to rule so poorly that the only time the situation improves is when Tyrion (with the Hand’s authority), Tywin or Kevan manages to intrude on the scene or push her aside. It might sound like that’s just saying that the men are the only characters who can do anything, but we simply don’t have much that we can praise Cersei on.

      • Carolin says:

        What about people like Stannis, Renly or Robb Stark. If either Stannis or Renly wins the Iron Throne Tyrion will likely be dead, yet he spends a great amount of tme battling against his sister.

        • Well, she’s sort of battling with him.

        • Grant says:

          And Cersei’s much closer and we get to see time and time again that she’s just not a good ruler. Cersei is pretty good at plotting, but governing? What we see of her doesn’t suggest that she promotes on basis of anything besides being a sycophant. The best move she made was to tax people to improve the city’s defenses, something I’m not going to call a brilliant move when everyone knows the city is about to be under siege.

          As for Renly, Stark and Stannis, the first two were never around for Tyrion to fight and the third was dealt with pretty well by Tyrion. At Blackwater and earlier when sending his forces to remove Stannis’ scouts, he manages to do a great deal to contribute to the Lannister cause.

          Tyrion made some blunders, such as how he handled removing Pycelle and Slynt, but he didn’t have much choice in whether he’d have to feud with Cersei or not. It was already decided by her, and if there’s going to be a feud then it’s better for the one more competent to win.

    • ad says:

      I can’t find the words that will let me agree strongly enough. I’ve thought that ever since Tyrions scene with Janos Slynt in season 2 (I hadn’t read the books at that point). I don’t think any scene in the show has astonished me more.

      Tyrion attacked the very man who had put his nephew on the throne, who had done Tyrion no wrong, and was about to leave King’s Landing anyway and couldn’t possibly be a threat to him in the future. What on earth was the point? Was he trying to demonstrate that Lannisters always pay their debt’s by knifing their supporters in the back?

      Then he attacked Pycelle for leaking information to Cersei.

      And yet he put faith in Varys, despite knowing him to have betrayed Robert (Varys told him he had known of her adultery, without telling King Robert), and to have been loyal to the Targeryen dynasty. Varys provably lacked the quality most important in a spymaster: loyalty to the people he serves; yet Tyrion did nothing to put his own people in Varys’s organisation. (And neither did Tywin later, but at least he didn’t rely on Varys).

      And of course, Tyrion managed to avoid doing anything about the man who framed him for premeditated (attempted) murder of the son of one of the most powerful nobleman in the realm.

      I suppose you could say that Tyrion was really fighting Cersei, but if she really was that dangerous, he should have tried to get rid of her. Send her to Casterly Rock, for example.

      I can’t help but notice that Tyrion ignored the most dangerous men in King’s Landing, and concentrated his fire on those who had done most to aid the rise of Tywin Lannister. Pycelle, who let Tywins army into the city during Roberts Rebellion, and Slynt, who put Tywins grandson on the throne.

      It looks very much as though Tyrions real enemy, even if he doesn’t realise it, is his own father.

      • Tyrion went after Slynt because he wanted personal control over the City Guard, and knew that Slynt belonged to Cersei, which would prevent him from actually ruling the city.

        And Varys actually gives Tyrion good service, so that bet actually works out.

        • Winnie says:

          True that, but I do agree that Tyrion’s real enemy probably is dear old dad.

          And while Tyrion’s battling with Cersei was arguably self-defense, there’s no question that the Lannister’s are a terribly divided House, and that’s playing a HUGE role in their downfall.

        • Grant says:

          Also Slynt was incompetent and unreliable to actually handle a crisis. Tyrion probably actually improved the security of the city just by getting rid of Slynt alone. Loyalty’s not worth much if the people loyal are a hindrance to your efforts.

        • ad says:

          IIRC, Slynt was leaving anyway, and was advising Tyrion on who to replace him with. And Tyrion could have got rid of all Slynt’s supporters, if he wanted to, just by letting Slynt take his most trusted people with him. Which he would naturally want to do.

          So what was the point of sending them to the Wall?

          It was a really cool way to do something that would make the readers like Tyrion, but which did nothing to advance Tyrions own position.

          And the fact that Vary’s did not betray Tyrion during ACOK does not show that it was wise to trust him. After all, if Tyrion had still been Hand during ADWD, Varys would have killed him for the same reasons he killed Kevan. Because Varys is no more loyal to the Lannisters than he was to the Baratheons. And what reason did anyone ever have to think he would be?

      • jpmarchives says:

        I’m willing to give Tyrion the benefit of the doubt; removing Slynt gives him control of the Goldcloaks, but morality does play it’s part when he banishes a serial betrayer and his baby-killing lieutenant. It later frustrates him that he can punish the hand that did the deed, but not the one who ordered it.

        Tyrion is also somewhat biased into perceiving his sister as his enemy (just as the prophesy biases her against him) and his nephew as a little psycho. This is the hand that he’s been dealt and he doesn’t trust anybody – what’s the harm in removing a corrupt lawman or a treacherous Councillor? His results speak for themselves – he ensures the city holds out long enough to survive Stannis’ attack and the Lannisters live to fight another day.

        You may not like his methods, but don’t question his results.

      • Grant says:

        It would be pretty hard to force Cersei out of Kingslanding at this point. She’s still the queen regent with whatever powers that has, she hasn’t completely lost the respect of the entirety of Westeros and she is a prominent figure of the Lannister family. Trying to get rid of her might lead to open fighting in Kingslanding that Tyrion might win, but he’ll have a hell of a time explaining it to Tywin and who knows how well the city will handle Stannis with this example.

        On Pycelle, it’s true that he served Tywin and Cersei, but from the fact that he ran to give Cersei the information I don’t think Tyrion could ever consider Pycelle reliable to him. Janos Slynt was Cersei’s creature, plain and simple and not even a useful one for anything beyond a coup. He was a coward, incompetent and corrupt, all horrible traits for the man supposed to be active in leading the defense. Varys could at least claim a focus on serving the realm over any specific figure, though trusting him was ultimately wrong for the Lannisters and Petyr… yeah that’s plot armor. Even if Tyrion didn’t dare actively try to get rid of him, I don’t think there’s anything in all this time about weakening Petyr.

        • ad says:

          Tyrion was able to send Cersei’s daughter away against her adamant opposition, so he should have been able to come up with some way of getting her out of the city. He could, for example, say she ought to accompany her daughter on her trip to Dorne, to comfort her, and make sure she settles in happily in Dorne. Point out how important it is to attach the Dornishmen to Myrcella, and so on. She does, after all, love her children. He ought to be able to come up with something, if he is as smart as all that.

          After all, what are widowed noblewomen for, if not to conduct diplomacy on behalf of their sons? Certainly, Tywin didn’t expect her to exercise much power, and he was the dominant member of the family as long as he lived. So it looks like all Tyrion had to do was come up with an excuse.

          • That’s probably not possible as long as Cersei is the Queen Regent.

          • Grant says:

            Myrcellla was a princess, only one of three royal children and even there Tyrion had to fight to use her. Cersei is queen regent, with an apparent real position and not someone you can say can just be sent around. Catelyn Stark was a different case because she was one of the few major northern figures with any ties to the southern leaders, and she wasn’t operating under quite the same need for her faction to hold the capital.

            So Catelyn going is a requirement of negotiations with Walder Frey and then Renly Baratheon and is a sign of Robb’s trust in her. Cersei going would be another open effort to take from her any power, especially if it was to Casterly Rock. It won’t be until much later that a Lannister goes so far as to do that, when the only way to salvage the Lannister position with their ‘allies’ is to remove her because she’s gained everyone’s distrust and scorn.

          • David Hunt says:

            Tyrion was not going to send Cercei to Dorne even if he could have because he wanted the alliance with Doran Martell to actually work. I don’t think Cercei could have lasted a week without destroying the Martell alliance. Probably less because she didn’t want an alliance. Cercei doesn’t even understand the basic concept of an alliance. With her, you’re either giving absolute obedience or you’re the enemy. She would not be able to hide that view outside of her support structure for long.

    • I think that can be seen as the main reason that Tyrion makes an uncharacteristic blunder and fails to deal with Littlefinger: he is too focused on Cersei as his main enemy in King’s Landing. In other words, he is making the same mistake as Cersei – they focus on each other as the main enemy/threat, and fail to see the enemy right in front of them, who is scheming against them both. This struck me in particular during my re-read of ACOK, particularly in the upcoming chapter in which Littlefinger manipulates Tyrion and Cersei into making him the envoy to the Tyrells (as well as promising him Harrenhal) while they’re busy trying to outmaneuver each other.

      This makes the scene in another upcoming chapter, where Tyrion and Cersei have a rare bonding moment by laughing at the idiocy of the Baratheon brothers who are fighting each other instead of crushing the Lannisters, deliciously ironic.

  17. Abbey Battle says:

    Please accept my congratulations once again on a most excellent article Maester Steven (and salutations to the clever fellow who managed to beat me to the punch regarding the most probable motivation underpinning Grand Maester Pycelle’s curious attachment to Queen Dowager Cersei … and by ‘motivation’ I mean ‘brain drain’).

    Something that has repeatedly struck me in recent days when contemplating Lord Tywin is that his very real strengths and all that he has achieved through employment of those strengths quite frequently blind us to the weaknesses which undermine both achievements and inner strengths – quite frankly beneath that poker face Lord Tywin is FANTASTICALLY thin-skinned (consider his hatred of laughter, his fear of ridicule, his obsession with appearances, his defence of the indefensible, most of all the phenomenal pride amounting to hubris he displays in declaring WAR rather than bargain for Tyrion’s release …), something that I’m not sure even Tyrion, the cleverest of his children ever realised.

    • Winnie says:

      Agreed. It’s something, I think Genna was aware of though. Remember how her telling Tywin, that Tyrion took after him more than Jaime did, got her the silent treatment for half a year.

    • jpmarchives says:

      But why would Tyrion notice faults in his father which he also has? The disproportionate anger, the pride, the disregard of the small folk, and of course, his susceptibility to insults. Tyrion is truly his father’s son, and they both have deep, personal weaknesses which they don’t want to confront.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      And yeah, especially reading some of the excerpts Joanna Lannister has posted from the WOIAF, he really had his share of mockery and then some. Not just a thin-skin, but one repeatedly poked over and over again.

  18. Abbey Battle says:

    Both of you make very excellent points!

  19. David Hunt says:

    Steven, looking over the chapter summary at AWOIAF, I noted that this chapter also marks the arrival of Alliser Thorne. A possible What If? would be to speculate on what would have happened if Tyrion had met him when the wight’s hand was still intact and moving. There’s no way that Tyrion can spare any men to send North and Tywin would never believe such a story of Tyrion’s sayso, but if he had Thorne show the thing to the entire Small Concil and convinced them, maybe Warden of the North Roose Bolton goes North with orders to make sure the Wall doesn’t fall…

    • Yeah, I was running out of space then. I’ll cover it when he actually appears.

      • David Hunt says:

        Cool. I was speculating over lunch as to what Tyrion or anyone in power in King’s Landing could have done. Not much, but a few things occurred. I’ll bring them up when Ser Alliser shows his scowling face.

        • Carolyn says:

          I think he could have done quite a lot. I he had managed to convince Stannis, Renly, Robb Stark and his father, that there were undead people trying to kill the LC of the Night’s Watch, the war had stopped immediately to focus on the common threat.

          The NW would have more resources to gain information about the Others and the Northmen, who are the only people accustomed to fighting in a cold climate, would have about 20 000 soldiers more than they currently have now.

  20. Regarding Littlefinger’s delusions about Catelyn: Lysa may have gotten pregnant the second time they had sex, when she came to “comfort” him after his duel with Brandon. Or, at least, LF believed that’s when she got pregnant. That way, he could cling to the belief that Catelyn came to him and had sex with him on the night when he was too drunk to tell her apart from Lysa, and the second time he had sex with Lysa, after the duel, was the first time he had sex with her. This would fit with his story that he took both of their maidenheads.

    I do think there’s a lot of self-delusion involved, and that deep down he may have an inkling it was really Lysa all along.

    • I think you’re right. Although I’m having trouble finding both incidents. Any help with cites?

      • Laural H says:

        Chapter 80 of aSoS, Lysa described the first time to Sansa, after the KISS. Cat danced with Petyr 6 times, but pushed him away when he tried to kiss her. So he got wasted, Blackfish took him to bed, then Lysa snuck up to “daterape” him, but he said “Cat, oh, I love you” more or less before passing out, and Lysa remained in the room till dawn.

        She doesn’t say it outright but implied there was another coupling that resulted in a pregnancy, and Cat remembers Lysa helping the maester nurse him (GoT chapter 30) after the duel.

        So it’s never outright said if Lysa slept with LF after the duel, except in the iTunes/Android app, but seeing as how Cat and Lysa married on the same day, and both missed their period after that, but then Lysa had hers (implied to be a miscarriage), the timing seems to fit.

  21. […] the last Tyrion chapter, I mentioned the way in which the siege of King’s Landing is putting the social contract […]

  22. Roger says:

    We don’t know if Litlefinger knew about Lysa’s pregnancy. I suppose she told him sometime, but he still could have supposed it was a result of their “only” night together.

    If you want Littlefinger to keep giving money, put him into the black jail and not let him out until he pays. He is pretty responsable of the Iron Throne heavy debts. Also if you win the war you can sack the loser.

    Tyrion shows his polytical smart cheating Littlefinger and Pycelle, but makes enemies in the process. He also loses the chance to put another Great Maester in charge.

  23. […] fits the pattern of gradual escalation. First, it was street preachers in the streets; then it was mobs begging for bread being shot by the king; now we have a group of militant preachers who are going to be hardened by […]

  24. […] Tyrion IV (one, two three), Tyrion V (arguing with Cersei), Tyrion VI (Pycelle the traitor) […]

  25. […] was around. But even before he begins torturing his fiancee before the whole court, we see him violating the social contract again: “I killed a man last night who was bigger than your father. They came to the gate shouting […]

  26. […] as with Myrcella, Tyrion has a good eye for the long-term, especially the advantages of dynastic alliances. […]

  27. […] public perception element that political actors must practice, much the way Tyrion Lannister does during his tenure as Hand of the King throughout A Clash of Kings. If Tyrion was monstrous, and only […]

  28. […] To me, this is as close as we get to GRRM speaking directly about the political conflict he’s set up – that ultimately, what defines kingship is not the strength of one’s army (looking at you, Renly), but your capacity to provide security to your kingdom. In other words, it is the positive side of a hegemony on violence that matters, and the distinction between a true king and a false king is whether they use that hegemony against their people or in defense of their people. And it’s the Night’s Watch, these men who have seemed so divorced from the political plot, who get to the heart of it, because they’re the ones directly facing the exterior threat to the community that the political powers that be are ignoring . […]

  29. […] that GRRM allows his mysteries to go unsolved or partly solved – why doesn’t Tyrion look deeper into Littlefinger after the man set him up for death? Why do Jaime and Cersei only realize that Joffrey ordered […]

  30. […] him for fingering him as Bran’s would-be killer and resents Tyrion outplaying him with the three messages. Between the three of them, I would rank Cersei first as she has the most pressing reason to want […]

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