Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VI, ACOK

“Lannister…all I’ve done has been for Lannister…”

Synopsis: Tyrion shares some good news with Cersei, sends a peace offer to Robb, sends men to the Wall, chats with Varys and Littlefinger, and deals with a traitor. Busy day.

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 VI is an incredibly rich source of material to work with, and some of the most consistently interesting political material in the series to date. (Hardly surprising; look at how frequently Tyrion appears as a POV and you can see that ACOK is his book in the same way that AGOT was Ned’s book)  In this chapter alone, we get to see Tyrion as a political actor in a myriad of contexts – fencing with his sister the Queen Regent, organizing a peace offer and a jailbreak, dealing with Ser Alliser Thorne and the problems of the Night’s Watch, chatting with Varys and Littlefinger, and then putting the kibosh on the mole inside the Small Council and it’s an impressive performance.

Manipulating Cersei

Tyrion’s encounter with Cersei is a multifaceted little gem, as the Hand of the King operates on many levels. First, we can see him (and GRRM) sizing up Lancel before his fall next chapter:

It seemed to Tyrion that the lad had grown three inches since being knighted….At sixteen he was cursed with all the certainty of youth, unleavened by any trace of humor or self-doubt, and wed to the arrogance that came so naturally to those born blond and strong and handsome. His recent elevation had only made him worse.”

It’s a nice portrait in miniature of the character flaws of a born patsy, but also drawn in such a way that, especially if you know what’s going to happen to him, you feel slightly bad for this teenager who’s too high on newfound social importance and his first sexual partner to think. Lancel may have murdered a king and slept with his cousin, but at the same time there’s something pitiable about the way in which he doesn’t realize how everyone around him is using him, that neither Cersei nor really anyone other than his father care about him, and the potentially horrific consequences of his actions.

On a second level, we get a second glimpse of the development of religious radicalism among the smallfolk. In this case, we learn that:

“If you are here about those begging brothers, Tyrion, spare me your reproaches. I won’t have them spreading their filthy treasons in the streets. They can preach to each other in the dungeons…one even dared to say that the gods were punishing us because Jaime murdered the rightful king…I commanded Vylarr to attend to the matter.

…Tyrion had been annoyed when the red cloaks had dragged a half dozen of the scabrous prophets down the dungeons without consulting him…

I have to admit that I had completely forgotten this little incident, but it definitely 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 their stay in prison and a following who now have a grievance against the Lannister tyrants who jail the Faithful. Soon, it will be riots in the streets. All of this is to show that the Sparrows hardly emerge out of nowhere in AFFC; rather, they’re the logical conclusion of social pressures running underneath the day-to-day events of the War of Five Kings. Thus it makes perfect sense that they showed such disdain for Cersei in AFFC when it was Lannister red cloaks jailing their own in ACOK. And by the way, if I’m right that the High Septon is going to back Aegon VI “Targaryen,” note the foreshadowing here that the preachers consider the Targaryens to be the rightful king.

On a third level, we see Tyrion providing some exposition on the current state of play in the War of Five Kings:

“Lord Stannis has sailed from Dragonstone.”

Cersei bolted to her feet. “And yet you sit there grinning like a harvest-day pumpkin? Has Bywater called out the City Watch? We must send a bird to Harrenhal at once…”

It was all he could do to get out the words. “I can’t…it’s too…gods, too funny…Stannis…he hasn’t sailed against us,” Tyrion managed. “He’s laid siege to Storm’s End. Renly is riding to meet him.”

His sister’s nails dug painfully into his arms. For a moment she stared incredulous…”Stannis and Renly are fighting each other?” When he nodded, Cersei began to chuckle. “Gods be good,” she gasped, “I’m beginning to believe that Robert was the clever one.”

I love how Tyrion does this. On the one hand, Tyrion is playing this completely straight: this really is good news for the Lannisters, a lucky break which they’ll use to their advantage with the Starks as we’ll see later. On the other, Tyrion is using this news and his knowledge of Cersei’s psychology to get under her guard and temporarily incapacitate her:

 …I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair. He almost felt sorry for poisoning her…the queen was indisposed and would not be able to leave her chambers….Tyrion made the proper sympathetic noises and sent word to Cersei to rest easy, he would treat with Ser Cleos as they’d planned.

What is interesting (and revealing) about Tyrion here is that he’s using this opportunity to simultaneously undermine Cersei and try to free Jaime – fighting for House Lannister’s interests but fighting against its worst tendencies – and yet his move against Cersei is so childishly harmless. If Tyrion really was the valonqar Cersei believes him to be, she’d be dead then and there; instead, he approaches the situation as a mischievous younger brother. And this really is so much of Tyrion’s arc in ACOK and ASOS – a man caught between his love of his family and his individual sense of right and wrong (especially once Sansa enters the picture), who longs for acceptance but who fate forces to confront his family’s hatred for him until it breaks him.


The War of Five Kings: The Lannister’s Peace Offer

The big political event of Tyrion VI is the peace offer the Hand of the King makes, the counterpart to Robb Stark’s offer from Catelyn I. And like that offer, this is a decidedly lopsided proposal, a maximalist bargaining position that should remind everyone that negotiations do not begin, but rather end, with reasonable compromises:

“The Queen Regent, the King’s Hand, and the small council have considered the terms offered by this self-styled King in the North. Sad to say, they will not do…”

“Here are our terms…Robb Stark must lay down his sword, swear fealty, and return to Winterfell. He must free my brother unharmed, and place his host under Jaime’s command, to march against the rebels Renly and Stannis Baratheon. Each of Stark’s bannermen must send us a son as hostage…”

“Lord Stark will never consent to these terms.”

We never expected he would, Cleos. “Tell him that we have raised another great host at Casterly Rock, that soon it will march on him from the west while my lord father advances from the east. Tell him that he stands alone, without hope of allies. Stannis and Renly Baratheon war against each other, and the Prince of Dorne has consented to wed his son Trystane to the Princess Myrcella…we offer Harrion Karstark and Ser Wylis Manderly for Willem Lannister, and Lord Cerwun and Ser Donnel Locke for your brother Tion…his father’s bones, he will have, as a gesture of Joffrey’s good faith.”

“Lord Stark asked for his sister and his father’s sword as well.”

“Ice…he’ll have that when he makes his peace with us, not before…until such time as he frees my brother Jaime, unharmed, they shall remain here as hostages. How well they are treated depends on him.”

However, there are a few things to note here. Tyrion’s offer reveals a tension within his character – Tyrion feels bad about how his family has treated the Starks, hence offering a prisoner exchange on good terms, the proffer of Ned Stark’s bones (more on this later), the “offer” of Robb’s sister and his father’s sword. At the same time, despite how he feels, he’s still a Lannister who will fight for his House first and foremost. We know from last chapter that Tyrion’s offer is being made entirely in bad faith, in the hope that Robb Stark will be distracted by negotiations while the Lannisters ready themselves to crush him. And we learn in this chapter that Tyrion intends to abuse the very peace process to achieve his House’s goals at the Starks’ expense, putting “a thief, a poisoner, a mummer, and a murdererin crimson cloaks and lion helms,” where they can hide beneath a banner of peace to murder Tully men and free Jaime Lannister. Note here the interesting parallel between Tyrion and Tywin; both men willing to breach inviolate customs (guest right and the sacrosanctity of ambassadors) in order to achieve their goals.

And this is where I start to disagree with some Catelyn supporters in the fandom who argue that Catelyn was a Cassandraic figure whose desire for peace was justified. I can see where this idea has some grounding in the text, but it can be taken too far. But while Catelyn couldn’t have known Tyrion’s plans from last chapter, she absolutely should have analyzed his “offer” to release Sansa (note he doesn’t actually say he’ll free them, only that he’ll hold them while Jaime is held) in the light of the fact that Tyrion’s embassy turns out to be a cover story for a covert escape attempt. The tragedy of the War of Five Kings is not that the North chose war over peace, but that there was never anyone to make peace with; even the best of the Lannisters chose victory over compromise.

By the way, keep your eye on this prisoner transfer as a through-line that echoes throughout ACOK and ASOS. Harrion Karstark, Wylis Manderly, Lord Cerwyn and Donnel Locke won’t be freed by Tyrion’s good offices, but through Roose Bolton and Robett Glover’s cunning, Vargo Hoat’s treachery, and Arya’s soup. Tion Frey and William Lannister will die at the hands of Rickard Karstark specifically because of the consequences of Tyrion’s offer. Doomed are the peace-makers.

Also at the same time, Tyrion removes Cersei’s bodyguards – “Vylarr…Ser Cleos is the queen’s cousin, and mine. We shall sleep more easily if you would see him safely back to Riverrun” – and makes himself the undisputed military hegemon of King’s Landing. From a Machiavellian perspective, he’s is firing on all cylinders and will be able to conduct the defense of King’s Landing his own way.

Ser Alliser Thorne and the Big Picture

At the same time, we have to acknowledge Tyrion’s limitations as a political leader. Somewhat understandably given the situation, he has a tendency to focus on his short-term objectives to the exclusion of all else, including long-term, big picture problems:

“I am sent to tell you that we found two rangers…they were dead, yet when we brought the corpses back to the Wall they rose again in the night. One slew Ser Jaremy Rykker, while the second tried to murder the lord commander.” 

Distantly, Tyrion heard someone snigger…a dwarf enjoyed at best a tenuous hold on dignity. Once the court and kingdom started to laugh at him, he was doomed. And yet…Tyrion remembered a cold night under the stars…atop the Wall at the end of the world…he had felt -what?- something, to be sure, a dread…Don’t be a fool…a wolf, a wind, a dark forest, it meant nothing.

If there is evidence that George R.R Martin is making an argument that the political story is a distraction from the real, supernatural threat, this is some of your best evidence (along with the Tyrion chapter in ASOS when the letter from Bowen Marsh arrives). Once again, as with the peace offer, the best of the political leadership that King’s Landing has to offer might sympathize with the Night’s Watch but isn’t willing to break with orthodoxy. Although to be fair, he does “give that black brother the men he seeks, rid the city of some hungry mouths, yet make it all seem mockery.” (Which, by the way, keep your eye on Night’s Watch reinforcements and what they mean for the overall strength of the Watch post-Great Ranging.)

Littlefinger and Varys

I don’t want to spend too much time on this little interaction, because I want to get to the meat of the chapter, but I did find Tyrion’s repartee with the two grand conspirators of ASOIAF interesting. In the first place, for those who argue that Littlefinger is a criminal mastermind cruelly under-served by Aiden Gillin’s performance and/or Benioff and Weiss’ writing, let’s take a gander at how Petyr Baelish reacts after being duped by the Hand of the King:

“Lord Petyr, I sense that you are unhappy with me.”

“I love you as much as I ever have, my lord. Though I do not relish being played for a fool. If Myrcella weds Trystane Martell, she can scarcely wed Robert Arryn…I do not like being lied to, my lord. Leave me out of your next deception.”

Only if you’ll do the same for me, Tyrion thought, glancing at the dagger sheathed at Littlefinger’s hip. “If I have given offense, I am deeply sorry. All men know how much we love you, my lord. And how much we need you.”

“Try and remember that.” With that Littlefinger left them.

Subtle, always-in-control schemer this isn’t – this is a petulant whiner whose best response to being played for a fool is to say that he doesn’t like being played for a fool. This is sub-Bond villain level villainy, lacking the wit and verbal acuity of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. And once again, Littlefinger is swanning around the royal court of King’s Landing carrying an attempted-murder weapon at his waist because it makes him feel smarter than everyone else, a totally unnecessary risk.

At the same time, while Varys statement that “I grow ever more admiring of you my lord…you appease the Stark boy with his father’s bones and strip your sister of her protectors in one swift stroke…oh, deftly done,” could be taken as insincere flattery, when placed in the context of their collaboration in the Janos Slynt matter and their future collaboration during the siege, I think it’s actually genuine. Game recognize game, after all, and I think Varys actually enjoys working for a Hand who understands power.

And it may go further than that. I think we can view their collaboration – especially given the way it ends up with Tyrion working in loose affiliation with the Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy – as part of a gradual, cautious recruitment effort by Varys to bring a skilled, intelligent asset into his fold. If we think of the political meta-plot of ASOIAF as consisting in a contest between two master conspiracies, as people often do, this is part of the reason why I think giving the victory to Littlefinger over Varys is mistaken (in fact the whole thing is probably a waste of time, given that both Littlefinger and Varys are likely to be due for a comeuppance because the best laid plans, etc.). If in AGOT, Littlefinger scored a point by kicking off the Stark/Lannister conflict in such a way that put the Vale in his pocket and got him an in with the Lannisters (although one that hasn’t paid off yet), furthering his own conspiracy, here in ACOK I would argue Varys scores several goals by replacing Littlefinger’s man as Commander of the City Watch with one of his own and by building a political alliance with the new Hand of the King to keep Stannis off the Iron Throne. Yes, Littlefinger will answer by building the Lannister/Tyrell alliance, getting Harrenhal, and bringing down Tyrion, but Varys will answer by destabilizing that alliance, bringing down Tywin and Kevan, and landing the Golden Company in Westeros. Between the two of them, Varys is much closer to the Iron Throne.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Maester

But if we’re talking conspiracies, the real meat of Tyrion VI is the uncovering of Pycelle as the traitor on the Small Council, set up by the “one, two, three” plan, and the great window this gives us into the inner workings of the Lannister Conspiracy:

Tyrion dragged the soft blanket off the bed, uncovering Grand Maester Pycelle beneath. “Tell me, does the Citadel approve of you bedding the serving wenches, Maester?”

…”W-what is the meaning of this? I am an old man, your loyal servant…”

Tyrion hoisted himself onto the bed. “So loyal that you sent only one of my letters to Doran Martell. The other you gave to my sister.”

“N-no,” squealed Pycelle. “No, a falsehood, I swear it, it was not me. Varys, it was Varys, the Spider, I warned you-“

“Do all maesters lie so poorly? I told Varys that I was giving Prince Doran my nephew Tommen to foster. I told Littlefinger that I planned to send Myrcella to Lord Robert of the Eyrie. I told no one that I had offered Myrcella to the Dornish…the truth was only in the letter I entrusted to you…”

Pycelle’s breathing was rapid and shallow. “All I did, I did for House Lannister…always…for years…your lord father, ask him, I was ever his true servant…’twas I who bid Aerys open his gates…”

“So the Sack of King’s Landing was your work as well?”

“For the realm! Once Rhaegar died, the war was done. Aerys was mad, Viserys too young, Prince Aegon a babe at the breast, but the realm needed a king…I prayed it should be your good father, but Robert was too strong, and Lord Stark moved too swiftly….He was a wretched king…vain, drunken, lecherous…he would have set your sister aside, his own queen…please…Renly was plotting to bring the Highgarden maid to court, to entice his brother…”

“And what was Lord Arryn plotting?”

“He knew…he was sending his wife back to the Eyrie, and his son to be fostered on Dragonstone…he meant to act…Colemon was purging, so I sent him away. The queen needed Lord Arryn dead, she did not say so, could not, Varys was listening, always listening, but when I looked at her I knew.”

There’s a lot to unpack here:

  • first, there is Pycelle’s own human wretchedness. He has systematically violated every aspect of his vow as a maester – he has been disloyal to every single King and all but one Hand he has ever served, he routinely violates his oath of celibacy, and he’s violated the principle of primum no nocere. He’s also just personally unpleasant, a liar, a letch, a sniveling coward, a suckup, and a massive hypocrite (regarding Varys).
  • second, there is a lot of insight into the Lannister Conspiracy and especially the way in which the decentralized nature of its organization makes it highly unstable and unpredictable. Pycelle is a Lannister mole on the Small Council, it’s overwhelmingly likely that Cersei was told this by her father, but there’s no communication between Pycelle and Cersei to allow for coordination. We also see the remarkable passivity of the conspiracy – they knew that Renly and Loras were planning to replace Cersei with Margaery, knew about Jon Arryn’s plans, and yet did nothing to prevent either outcome from coming to place outside of a few half-assed assassination attempts. And how damn stupid is Pycelle when he allows Jon Arryn to die of poison and knows that Arryn was investigating Cersei’s infidelity and still tells Eddard Stark about his final words and the book?
  • third, there is something interesting with the way that Pycelle interprets loyalty to the Lannisters. On the one hand, his devotion to Tywin is genuine and all-encompassing; we learn here that he hoped that Tywin would be able to make himself King (dream on, there was no way that the Lannisters could have ever claimed the Iron Throne with literally every other Great House either part of the Northern Alliance or viewing Tywin as a murderous traitor). On the other hand, Pycelle seems to have also become personally loyal to Cersei – note his public objection to Tyrion sending away Cersei’s guard, on top of informing against Tyrion for her – over the Lannisters as a whole, despite the fact that Tyrion was appointed by Tywin himself.

More on this in the next Tyrion chapter.

Historical Analysis:

There’s not a good historical parallel in this chapter, so check back next time.

What If?

There’s a huge scope for hypothetical scenarios in this chapter, so let’s get into it:

  • What if there was a different traitor? I’ve already talked about the impact of the different offers, but here I want to focus on the impact of the arrest, because there’s some real changes here. If Littlefinger is in prison, then he’s got no opportunity to make the Lannister/Tyrell alliance (although someone will be sent), which may well butterfly away the Purple Wedding, or at least the part of the Purple Wedding that involves fingering Tyrion and kidnapping/liberating Sansa. If Varys is in prison – if in fact you can successfully imprison Varys – then things also change again. Tyrek Lannister probably never disappears; the Antler Men possibly open the gates to Stannis’ army; Tyrion doesn’t manage to escape King’s Landing and doesn’t have the opportunity to kill Tywin.
  • What if a different peace offer? I highly doubt that the Lannisters would ever have accepted the Stark’s terms (or if a peace was possible sans Arya), but had the Baratheon brothers not been distracted at this moment, they might have accepted a temporary peace with the full intention of betraying the Starks later. So it’s possible that Sansa might have been traded as part of a larger peace, which dramatically changes Sansa’s plot (although it possibly places her in the way of the Red Wedding), and possibly spares Jaime’s hand and keeps Brienne at Catelyn’s side. Likewise, Tion Frey and Willem Lannister might well survive. Also, while it’s hard to quantify these things, Robb Stark with Ice in his hands and his sister by his side would have been a more potent symbol of a successful Northern war effort, especially if Robb is able to trade Sansa to the Tyrells for their support – more of which in the future.
  • No clandestine rescue? Now here’s an interesting question. If the Lannisters don’t try to screw over the Starks and Tullys with this underhanded play, it’s possible that Ser Jaime doesn’t lose his form due to being chained to a wall for six months, and might win his duel with Brienne, which possibly means he escapes both her and the Bloody Mummers. Likewise, if Tion Frey and Willem Lannister are freed before Rickard Karstark kills them. Moreover, one has to wonder if the prisoners from Harrenhal had been sent to Riverrun rather than freed by Roose Bolton, whether Rickard Karstark would have been mollified by his son’s presence, which keeps Robb Stark’s army at peak non-Frey strength. Likewise, if Ser Wylis Manderly isn’t with Roose Bolton’s men at the Ruby Ford, it’s possible he either dies at the Twins or escapes, which definitely means that Wyman Manderly has a much freer hand in ADWD.

Book vs. Show:

In terms of the show’s adaptation of this chapter, I think we can point to some good things – Tyrion’s interrogation of Pycelle is one of my favorite season 2 scenes, a lovely bit of dark comedy, and any scene with Conleth Hill is amazing. I do think it’s strange that they drop the whole poisoning Cersei scene after setting it up with his earlier scene with Pycelle, and arguably they do the same thing with Ser Alliser. Now on one level, I understand that if you’re not going to do Tyrion’s clandestine mission, you don’t need Cersei being given laxatives, and that it’s a waste of money to hire Owen Teale for one scene in Season 2. On the other hand, if you’re not going to do either of those things, why set them up in the first place?

161 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VI, ACOK

  1. starkaddict says:

    I love the dynamic between Cersie and Tyrion. At this point they still don’t like each other but are aware that they need each other. And any hatred from Tyrion’s side is passive. It is interesting to see his relationship with his family spiralling down.

    Also interesting is the part that he became lax once he discovered pyrelle to be traitor. He got cocky. Didn’t play as safe as he could.

    As for Varys vs. littlefinger, Varys has a definite end game. while littlefinger is gambling his way through Westeros. Acquiring wealth and power. Destabilizing those whom he considers enemy. So its hard to say who is ahead in that particular game. But i do agree with you, Varys is playing the long con, i just hope he does not forget that even the lowest of pawn can have their will and can topple the entire game.

    • Will Rogers says:

      It’s interesting to see early Tyrion here. He knows his family is deeply in the wrong, but sticks with them because, well, they’re his family.

      And then Storm of Swords happens and he gradually slides from “my family sucks but they’re my family” to just ” my family sucks” to finally “FUCK my family”.

      • Winnie says:

        Well said! Of course you can argue that Jaime ends up making that same journey just a little bit later in the series.

      • artihcus022 says:

        What pushes him finally is knowing that even Jaime had betrayed him for years. It’s a series of betrayals, one after the other as he faces up how powerless he is and then at that moment he takes power and control of his life. It’s what the books are there for.

      • starkaddict says:

        He actually took quite a few hits before coming to the whole ‘FUCK my family’ shtick. And isn’t it interesting that it took Jamie’s betrayal to finally let go of whatever twisted form of loyalty the Lannister family had on him, while it took Tyrion’s betrayal for Jamie to shake the self-destructive cycle he was stuck in. With Cersie fanning the flames the whole time.

    • I’ll get to whether Tyrion screwed up with Pycelle in the next Tyrion chapter, but it’s a good point.

    • Sean C. says:

      I agree that they’re playing different sorts of games. I think a lot of the comparisons between Varys and Littlefinger’s levels of organization kind of miss that each is running the sort of operation suited to their operating style. Varys has painstakingly constructed an apparatus for a specific task; we really have no idea what he would do if, after all this, fAegon’s horse comes unshod and he falls off and breaks his neck.

      • Tom says:

        I think he’d make a fairly painless (in terms of being able to prove his allegiance, rather than it being a painless mess to fix) transition to Dany’s cause, which is why the conflict between two of his own pawns is about to happen and is the more interesting option.

        • Sean C. says:

          If this whole project has been about installing a Blackfyre and/or “perfect king” on the throne, then painlessly transitioning the Dany’s cause is effectively an admission of total failure at his decades-long grand design.

          • Wat Barleycorn says:

            I don’t buy that “blow up the Iron throne and then swoop in a perfect prince/blackfyre” was Varys’ plan. I believe that it’s his goal now, but there’s no way it was his goal from the outset.

            To me, Varys is a political radical who justifies it because his final aims are benevolent towards the people–he’d have fit right in during the late years of the French Revolution. He clearly thought Aerys needed to go, but tactically he decided that escalation of the man’s insanity was the way to get him gone. Which, wow. How’s about a nice poisoning, instead?

            I don’t think he had a plan for replacing Aerys beyond Rhaegar. As far as the “perfect prince” plan goes, I concede that he may have seen Rhaegar as an acceptable caretaker king while Varys influenced how Aegon was raised and made him a better king.

            (That said, Varys’s remarkable passivity in the face of the wildfire plot is very troubling. Why we should believe Varys’s endgame is good things for Team Smallfolk if he’d let that happen? Even if you accept a “we had to burn the village to save it” approach to political reform, where’s the tactical upside in letting Aerys burn King’s Landing?)

            The Targaryens collapsed because Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna. Which is just batshit crazy and no way anybody saw that coming (though, ironically, it shows Rhaegar was probably the only guy in power on Planetos paying any attention to the real issues and as such, he was the best to rule).

            Likewise, Varys tried to set up a Dothraki invasion of Westeros and ended up with a dragon-riding rival to the throne who he knows nothing about and has no influence over. Not to mention, the WOT5K spun way out of his control. The dude is currently hiding in the walls of King’s Landing. Shit is NOT going according to plan, and he’s been improvising since Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna, all the while justifying the spectacular bloodshed and cruelty he’s deliberately inflicted as acceptable collateral damage because he’s a master strategist.

          • Sean C. says:

            If you believe his goal was to destroy House Targaryen and put a Blackfyre on the throne in its place, then his actions toward Aerys and Rhaegar are much more consistent.

      • That’s a very good point. In their own way, both men have crippling flaws in their conspiracy – Varys is totally exposed to fAegon (and Dany to an extent) going off-script, LF has a huge blindspot where Sansa is concerned.

  2. Winnie says:

    Our long national nightmare is over-a new chapter analysis from Steve has arrived!

    I agree with your assessment that peace with the Lannister’s was never really an option, and WORD to everything you said about Pycelle and his Tywin worship.

    As you noted, Pycelle’s devotion to Tywin was at least somewhat comprehensible but his choosing Cersei less so. The only possibility was that he was favoring Tywin’s golden daughter and favored child over the family black sheep (even though the family Black Sheep also happened to be Hand.) This sniveling Lannister obeisance ultimately implodes I would argue in AFFC, when Pycelle delivers the testimony that Cersei wants regarding Margaery and moon tea. It was clearly an unbelievably bad idea, (hell even if it were true-which I doubt it was-Pycelle shouldn’t have been offering up Margaery) because the Tyrell alliance is the only thing that’s holding things together. Yet Pycelle’s reflexive flunky instincts make him obey Cersei even on something that’s clearly *not* in the Lannister’s best interests (and which for that matter was terrible for Cersei’s interests too as it turned out.) By ADWD when he had time to see the fall-out, with the Tyrell-Lannister coalition on the brink of collapse, he came to regret it but by then it was much too late and the alliance had been irreparably damaged.

    Back on point, I definitely agree that Varys is the more clear sighted of the two and playing a much longer game than Littlefinger who seriously overestimates his own cleverness. Love CH in the part and his interactions with Tyrion are always pure gold.

    But of course both Varys’s and Baelish’s schemes are going to become pretty damn irrelevant in the face of the White Walker issue. Because this series is about tunnel vision and how people can be blind to the tsunami like forces headed their way. In fact, these days, I see it as a stunning allegory to the crisis of global warming and our likely jobless future in the face of increasing automation. (Don’t get me started!) But yeah, the White Walkers ARE coming and as much as we all love seeing the Game played out, if/when they cross the Wall and make their way South that’s going overthrow the whole board.

    Which gets to another “What if”. What if Tyrion had paid a little more attention to Alliser? Not committed himself to giving up men he can’t spare, but say sent someone up North to check on the claims by the NW and see if there was any truth to those ‘wild rumors’?!? That could have had some major butterfly effect if anyone in KL began to realize that something pretty big really *was* happening at the Wall.

    • Good points all. About your What If?, I’m not sure. The problem with sending anyone up there is who’s going to be taken seriously when they get back? It’s not like the NW is sending information, it’s just that no one in KL believes the reports. So I’m skeptical that the fact-finding mission will be believed, especially with a skeptic like Tywin at the helm.

      • witlesschum says:

        Yeah, this makes sense. I’m having a hard time thinking of a character Tyrion could spare and who he and others would definitely believe if they came back and said “Others comin’.” I think you’d have to send Tywin Lannister himself on that fact-finding mission to get that claim to be taken seriously by everyone in court.

        • Winnie says:

          Good point and of course Tywin would never go…but what I wouldn’t have given to see his reaction to what’s been happening at the Wall! I get tingly just thinking about it…

          • Aegon the Pot Head says:

            On the other hand(lol), maybe if the king’s hand had given ser Alliser an audience sooner, the court would had seen a severed hand moving and shit. Maybe that would be evidence enough?

          • David Hunt says:

            Pycelle: “Trickery! They managed to infest the hand with some worm that writhes under the skin to give it the semblance of animation. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as wights and Others.”

            The power people in KL are all “skeptics” regarding virtually anything supernatural and, perversely, smart people are even harder to break out of preconceived notions than dumb ones. They’re better at coming up with rationalizations.

            A true skeptic like Tyrion, who knew that Mormont wouldn’t have resorted to a mummer’s trick to con support from the Iron Throne, might have been convinced, but I don’t know how much more he could have done. He already gave Thorne all the men he could spare take with him. A public statement from the Iron Throne that the Others were rising wouldn’t have been believed in the middle of the Wot5K. All it would have done was destroy Tyrion.

          • Aegon – it’s a good point. But I think Tyrion makes a good point about real resource constraints. The KL siege is going to happen right now, so he can’t afford to do nothing.

            The main difference I could see is shipping the 4,000 demobilized GCs to the Wall rather than kneecapping them. Which would make an enormous difference to the Watch.

      • This raises a question that I had never thought about before: How is it that Varys and/or Littlefinger seem to have no strong sense of the ARMY OF THE UNDEAD SHAMBLING SOUTHWARD!?!?!?!

        Do both have such poorly placed moles on the Wall that they don’t get enough information, or are they both so willing to ignore the fantastical nature of the threat?

        • David Hunt says:

          As to Littlefinger, I don’t think he cares about the Watch in the least. I don’t think that he’d bother with agents there.

          I was going to say that I’m not sure that how much of a priority that Varys would have to get information on the Watch, then I remembered that Rhaegar was corresponding with Aemon, so he might have wanted an agent there.

          I suspect that any spies that Varys might have in the Watch don’t have access to the ravens. Not that I’m convinced that would help. However Varys gets his information from outside King’s Landing, it isn’t ravens. The risk of their being intercepted is too great to send messages in the clear and I’d think not much extra information can be coded into real raven letters. Plus all ravens arriving at the Red Keep go through Pycelle, so I don’t think Varys could count on always getting access to the actual messages. Varys very likely gets his reports on the outside world via ships and merchant trains, and the war in the North has thoroughly disrupted those routes.

          The wight attack on Mormont that yielded that animated hand happened after Eddard was arrested and Robb was calling the banners. If there’s anyone working for Varys on the Wall, they’d have a hard time getting him information about the goings on in the North. I can think of two channels for intelligence from the Wall. The easiest is if Varys has a man at Eastwatch who can pass information to fellow agents on ships that occasionally visit. I don’t know how frequently traders visit Eastwatch, but information would EVENTUALLY get back to him…as long as the ships weren’t taken by pirates or sunk in bad weather. This also likely only gets him news out of Eastwatch and only third hand reports about what’s going on at Castle Black where the real decisions get made in the Watch. That’s also where Aemon lives.

          The most likely route for intelligence from Castle Black is via Molestown. If Varys has got an agent in the Watch there, he could make regular trips to dig for “buried treasure” and pass on new to his favorite whore who also just happens to be part of Varys’ network. That woman would also encourage her other clients to gossip to gather more news.

          However, even if any of these people exist, and survived the Northern bloodbath that was ASOS, most of their lines of communication are disrupted. I can see Varys knowing nothing more about the imminent zombie apocalypse than anyone else down South. No one knew just how bad matters were until the survivors to the Great Ranging got back and a lot of people died in that debacle and the wildling invasion that followed right after it. All of these hypothetical agents in the Watch and at Molestown could be dead, now.

        • Well, neither of them have good info that far North, neither consider it that important, and LF doesn’t believe in magic.

    • Andrew says:

      To be fair, Cersei threatened Pycelle with the black cells if he didn’t reveal about the moon tea, and he knew she would be inclined to do that she he not confess. Also, to his credit, as soon as she is imprisoned by the HS, he offers the Regency and Office of Hand to Kevan, the only person in that family left capable of cleaning up the mess.

      Pycelle’s devotion to Tyrion over Cersei is questionable. It is likely a result of him having served her for years, although that does beg the question of how he couldn’t have noticed that she was terrible at statecraft? Tyrion is more able than Cersei is, and Pycelle should have realized that he was better off working with Tyrion.

      If Tyrion had actually seen Alliser at once, and seen the hand moving around before it rotted, I think there is a chance Tyrion would have gotten a better idea of the seriousness of the situation at the Wall, and Alliser would have been given more aid.

    • blacky says:

      Really liked your tunnel vision comment here Winnie (don’t start).

      But making peace with the Lannisters is easy. Surrender and give them everything they want. Reminds me of half our political playas now. No compromise…

  3. artihcus022 says:

    I have to ask one question, ACOK is Tyrion’s book the way AGOT is Ned’s book. I think A Feast for Crows is Cersei’s book and A Dance With Dragons is Daenerys’ book (since even most of the other POV characters concern her actions and movements). Would that make A Storm of Swords the one real ensemble book, where there’s no single center?

    • Yeah, probably. Tyrion has 11 chapters in ASOS, but Jon has 12, Arya has 13, and Jaime has 9, so it’s a lot more even than any of the other books.

    • Tom says:

      Which also begs the question: who’s book is next? I’m inclined towards Jon or Arya. Although it could be argued that ASOS was Aryas book.

      • artihcus022 says:

        A Dance of Dragons was also Jon’s book as much as Daenerys, it’s just that the North is a fairly isolated section of the book (until the part where the Hardhome Wildlings make it to Braavos) and concerns a smaller number of POVs, whereas the Dany section is a global conflict, affecting almost every POV outside of Jon Snow (though even he’s told by Tycho Nestoris about dragons in the end).

        In ASOS, it’s not really Arya’s book because she’s an observer to the Brotherhood and a witness to the Riverlands pre-during-post Red Wedding, continuing from Clash of Kings. You can make a case that its actually Jaime’s book, since the structure of the plot and climax is about him atoning for his past and in the end that project goes to disaster when he tells Tyrion about the “kindness I have never done”. It’s a Brothers Karamazov moment, with Tyrion (Dimitri-Smerdyakov) being triggered by Jaime (Ivan-Alyosha) into committing the climactic patricide. And then it’s also The Tragedy of Catelyn Stark. It’s also about Sam and Jon Snow’s defense of the Wall and Daenerys becoming Dany the Conqueror. It’s a total ensemble.

        In any case, I don’t think commanding a book is really down to character importance. I am a big believer in “there are no small parts, only small actors” and I think GRRM realized that. Ned Stark was never intended to be a main character but he continues to haunt the stage even after he’s gone. Brienne’s journey in AFFC is one of the best in the series but it’s unlikely she’s a major character.

        • The deeper you go into this series the more amazing it is how many characters become “bigger” after death: Jon Arryn, Ned, Robb, Oberyn, Tywin, even characters who were dead before the story opens: Rhaegar, Lyanna. So many events and character choices are driven by the vacuum left by others.

  4. As per request, this is ACOK, Chapter 25.

  5. Sean C. says:

    When I was thinking about Tyrion’s time as Hand a while ago, something struck me: Why exactly is Tyrion negotiating peace terms with the Starks, or planning covert missions to rescue Jaime, etc.?

    By which I mean, Tyrion was sent to King’s Landing by Tywin to take charge there and ready the city’s defences whilst Tywin remained in the Riverlands heading up operations in that region. Effectively this is Tywin, the clear leader of the Lannister war effort, appointing a proconsul in King’s Landing to handle the Baratheons while he wages war on the Starks. And yet…Tyrion is effectively acting like his father appointed him as his own boss too, meddling in his father’s theater of operations without any particular coordination. And for that matter, since Tywin is encamped at Harrenhal, why are the Starks sending their envoys all the way to King’s Landing, when they could travel a much shorter distance and negotiate directly with Tywin, who would have to approve any such arrangement anyway.

    The meta reason for this is obviously that GRRM wants to tell this stuff through a Tyrion POV, but still.

    • I think this is a bit off. Here’s why:

      1. Tywin’s not just putting him in charge of the city’s defenses. Remember, when Tyrion is sent the city isn’t yet under threat. Rather, Tywin sends him there to put the King’s Landing government in better standing. So Tyrion’s doing his job here.

      2. Like it or not, the government is in King’s Landing, that’s where the King is, that’s where the Queen Regent is, that’s where the Small Council is – that’s where embassies are going to be sent.

      3. Avoid presentism. We know that Tywin calls the shots despite being technically below the King and Queen Regent, but the Starks have no way of knowing that to be the case.

      • Sean C. says:

        2. In period where travel times were much greater, it was nothing unusual to negotiate with viceroys and other such empowered representatives (ambassadors, senior military commanders, etc.). Tywin is the Hand of the King (even though Tyrion is also “acting” Hand).

        3. I don’t buy that. Nobody would be operating on the notion that a man of Tywin’s stature was taking orders from his own children (except, er, Cersei herself), let alone his minor grandchild, especially when he has all the actual military power of the alliance with him.

        • 2. While that’s true, the capitol is still the capitol.

          3. It’s not a question of taking orders, it’s a question of where authority comes form in a monarchical society. And not to put too fine a point on it, Sansa is in KL. Ice is in KL. Ned’s bones are in KL.

          • Sean C. says:

            And all those things can be retrieved from KL once a deal is struck. It’s not like they’re expecting the Lannisters to just hand all those things over to Cleos (unless they are, but in that case they’re very dumb).

        • Winnie says:

          I can see Steve’s reasoning here about negotiating with the capitol but Sean does raise a good point.

          When Cat made the deal she shouldn’t just have been wondering whether the Imp would keep his word but whether Tywin’s younger son would even have the ultimate authority on thedecision. And one look at TTywin’s history would suggest he wouldnt give up Sansa and her claim.

  6. David Hunt says:

    Steven, it’s great to see another chapter up. The Tyrion chapters are some of the best.

    Regarding Pycelle’s stupidity in givivg Ned the book and Jon Arryn’s last words. Although I tend to agree that Pycelle is not a talented conspirator even at the best of times and an obvious Lannister minion most of the time, I can’t really fault him for telling Ned about Jon’s last words. It’s my recollection that he was saying it over and over as he died and Pycelle isn’t the only one that knew about it. Lysa quotes it to Cat so she knew and Pycelle has to anticipate that she’s Ned’s ally. Robert talks about how quickly Jon succumbed and I get the impression that he visited his almost-father before the end. There were probably other witnesses including members of Jon’s household (in the Vale now but Lysa is likely presumed to be sympathetic to her goodbrother), a septon who likely gave was there to give Jon last rites, etc. I think that Pycelle was telling Ned something that he figured Ned already knew or could easily discover with minimal work. He appears helpful while giving him nothing that he won’t get anyway.

    As to the book…yeah that’s horrible move. I’m confident that Littlefinger would have found a way to steer Ned to the correct conclusion either by finding a way to get him to acquire the book or (more likely) through some other method he was planning to lead Ned to a revelation about the incest, but that doesn’t excuse putting the very object that seems to have clued in Jon Arryn regarding the bastardy. I can only come up with two reasons why Pycelle would give that book. One is that Pycelle himself didn’t know its importance. Of course, this speaks poorly about the man. The more likely theory, in my opinion, is that Pycelle didn’t think that Ned had the wits to discover the vital clue that was hidden in all those pages. If that had been true, Ned would have wasted time on the book instead of other leads that might have led back to Pycelle as one of Jon’s murderers. Given how Ned didn’t reveal his inner thoughts to much of anyone, I can see the temptation to underestimate him, but it was still a monumental risk. And of course, it was a poor one as he seems to have mistaken being a quiet wolf for a dumb one.

    One final thought about Pycelle. He’s a terrible conspirator, but I’m no longer sure that he’s that bad a counselor when he’s actually trying to help. All throughout AFFC, Cercei is practically going down a list of Ways to Destabilize the Seven Kingdoms and the only voice in the Small Council that’s trying tell her about the negative consequences of her ideas is Pycelle. He’s conservative, but he’s got decades of experience in helping to run the government. I’ll also note that Varys assassinates Pycelle at the same time that he kills Kevan. I’d say that Varys saw how Pycelle could help hold the Lannister government together.

    I still loathe the man, But I see that he had some strengths that I’d discounted because of how Tyrion ran rings around him.

    • Sean C. says:

      Being the voice of reason on Cersei’s small council is admittedly a very low bar.

    • Trying to help is the problem – he’s spent most of his career working for House Lannister rather than the actual government he’s a part of.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Yep. Yes, he’s a decent enough counselor when he wants to help–but his duties as Grand Maester means he should be trying to help the King and the Kingdom, not Tywin Lannister and his brood.

        And the fact that he’s a bad touch Maester is only the… disgusting icing on the crap cake.

      • JT says:

        I wonder if Pycelle’s Lannister allegiance started because Tywin (when Hand) was the voice of reason and competence compared to Aerys’ craziness, and Pycelle admired that. At some point personal admiration of Tywin slipped into outright loyalty to the Lannister cause…

        • Sure, that’s definitely part of it.

        • artihcus022 says:

          I think there is a bit more to it than that. Pycelle is a complete toady, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tywin sponsored his rise to maester so he could serve as his mole in the Citadel and the Court. If you read The World of Ice and Fire where his notes provide information for Aerys’ rule, you can tell from his writing that he’s hiding something and the Aerys-Tywin combo was perhaps not as one-sided as he’s making out. As for what the real story is, i can’t say, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Tywin was say, Laurenti Beria, to Aerys’ Stalin, and was perhaps not as “voice-of-reason” as he’s been making out. I mean Aerys’ downfall happened when he tried to act like Tywin, trying to suppress Duskendale himself and then giving the Darklyns the Castamere special but failing to keep his fingers clean. Almost many of the things we come to know about Tywin are lies anyway.

          • Crystal says:

            If Tywin sponsored Pycelle, and eased his climb up the Citadel hierarchy with a lot of his *ahem* golden shit, that would explain a lot – both Pycelle’s loyalty to the Lannisters, and the fact that someone as mediocre as he got to be a Grandmaester and sit on the Council.

            My theory is that Pycelle is either from a minor branch of the Lannisters or is related to them. Even if not, I think he does owe his position in life to Tywin, and is repaying it with blind loyalty to the Lannister family.

          • Bail o' Lies says:

            Pycelle wasn’t sponsored by Tywin the Maesters at the Citadel sent to King’s Landing because all the older maesters that where being sent kept dying. So they decided to sent a young Pycelle. (i think this was in the chapter that Ned got the book from him)Pycelle became Grand Maester under King Aegon the fifth near the start of his reign then served every King that sat on the Iron throne till his death under Tommen. Tywin didn’t gain notoriety till till Jaehaerys the second became king and didn’t rise to prominence till Aerys made him hand.

          • I don’t think that’s the case – Pycelle was already Grandmaester in Aegon V’s time.

        • Lann says:

          There may be a simpler reason. He may a Westerner whose family owe the Lannisters. Or a Lannister himself.

      • Winnie says:

        Precisely. Pycelle confused the interests of the Lannister’s with those of the Realm. (Hence his bizarre notion that Tywin should or even could be King.) And as Sean notes it was easy to appear smart in comparison to the rest of Cersei’s Small Council.

        • Space Oddity says:

          That’s a bit of an exaggeration–it’s easy to appear a wise and dedicated counselor in comparison with the rest of the Smaller Council. But Qyburn, Aurane, and yes, Lord Merryweather are all clearly smarter men than Pycelle. The problems is each of them is following rather destructive agendas…

          Qyburn: “Give Cersei info to get me some victims for my evil experiments!”
          Aurane: “Suck up the Queen to get me some ships!”
          Merryweather: “Flatter the Queen to get her favor, while following Littlefinger’s agenda.”

          (Because, yes, Orton Merryweather is probably working for Littlefinger, the man who goes out of his way to note how harmless and stupid Lord Merryweather is.)

          • Crystal says:

            If Orton is working for LF, that would explain Taena as well – she testified against Tyrion at his trial, and Tyrion wondered why she, a near stranger, would testify against him. (This was before Taena started ingratiating herself with Cersei, so wanting to be on Cersei’s side wasn’t a factor yet.) Alternatively, I’ve seen speculation that Taena was working for *Varys*.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Yep, that’s my thinking as well. The Merryweathers clearly work as a team–notice how Orton immediately takes over the “ply Cersei with drink” that his wife has been doing the moment the Small Council first meets. And turning to the meeting, what’s the most significant thing Lord Merryweather does? Convinces Cersei to just let things in the Vale sort themselves out.

            To continue, if my guess is right, the Merryweathers may wind up highlighting one of Littlefinger’s weaknesses as a plotter–even as he gloats about putting the knife in his simple-minded saps, his more intelligent associates are smart enough to back away when the game turns. Which means that when talented amateur high-stakes player Littlefinger’s luck goes sour, he’s going to be looking to help from people like professional low-stakes players the Merryweathers and not getting it.

          • Crystal says:

            I think that’s a very good point about Petyr and the intelligence or lack thereof, of his “teammates.” The people who have NOT seen through him (as far as we know) are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Both Jaime and his aunt Genna think Orton Merryweather is a fool and a nonentity. Taena is a backstabber, ready to throw just about anyone under the bus for her own gain. (I found out that “Taenia” is a species of tapeworm! I like to think that GRRM chose the name deliberately.) And I don’t think she’s that smart either. Lyn Corbray is “hot tempered and reckless” from Catelyn’s POV, and he’s a kiddie diddler to boot. Sansa mistrusts him from the first. As for the Kettleblacks…! (Has the one who was tortured and implicated in Cersei’s adultery – I can’t keep their names straight! – said anything about LF yet? I don’t know how much news about Cersei has got back to the Vale at the end of Feastdance.)

          • Andrew says:

            I think it is Doran Taena is working for. How else did he find out about Cersei’s plan to kill Trystane?

            You do have a point in that the men that serve Cersei on the small council are either smart with destructive agendas as you put it or dumb and incompetent, like Swyft. That is because she cares little for honest input, but just a council of servants to hand off her every word.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Orton and Taena seem to operate by one of the classic set ups in espionage (and also con games)–the clever intriguer who is still not as clever as the target, and thus gets caught (or at least found out), and the dull associate who is connected to the intriguer in some way, and is in no way a threat being so dull after all. With the truth being that the clever intriguer meant to get caught, and the dull associate is in fact very much a threat indeed. Thus, the target spends their time “flipping” the intriguer, and unknowingly getting chickenfeed in return for gold, while the dull associate, who is tagging along because suspicions can’t be raised, quietly gets to work confirming that they’re getting gold, making sure that the target thinks the chickenfeed it’s getting is gold, and possibly extracting a little more gold on the side.

            I think it says something that rather than try to use his authority as Hand, Orton flees the city–and has apparently been prepared to do that for sometime, given how quickly it happens–and that rather than send her son to be the King’s companion, Taena makes sure the boy’s safe in Longtable.

          • An interesting suggestion. You should talk to BryndenBFish about it.

  7. JT says:

    While it’s true that Varys/Ilyrio are closer to the Iron Throne than Littlefinger, they also started *much* closer.

    Varys has a pre-built spy network and reputation dating back to when Aerys was in power. Illyrio has 3 Targaryens claimants (whether or not “Aegon” is actually Aegon doesn’t really matter here), a contract with the Golden Company, Jon Connington, relationships with all sorts of powerful people in Essos (i.e. Khal Drogo), and he’s one of the wealthiest men in the world. In the AGOT conversation overheard by Arya, Varys asks for *50* little birds, which Illyrio agrees to. That’s a pretty good starting position.

    Meanwhile, Littlefinger starts with a relationship with Lysa Arryn and that’s about it. He’s able to build up a network loyal to him, curry favor with the Lannisters and at least one of the Tyrells (Oleanna), and he has some degree of claim and control over the Vale, the North, and the Riverlands.

    • I’m not saying LF is bad. I’m saying he’s overhyped.

      • JT says:

        Oh he definitely is. At most (and this is ignoring Dany’s grand return, the Others, and a possible betrayal by Sansa) he has the potential to carve off an independent Northern Kingdom (consisting of the the North, the Riverlands, and the Vale) that he rules through Sansa.

        But even if he had the absolute loyalty of all the men in those three regions, there’s no way he ever gets the Iron Throne and true control of Westeros.

        Meanwhile, Varys and Illyrio may end up with Aegon on the Iron Throne (although I’m not sure how’d they get “real” control over the North and Vale).

        • Jim B. says:

          And you’re being very generous to LF here. Aside from the dangers you mention, there’s also the facts that:

          (1) his claim to the Riverlands is, essentially, a piece of paper, which can be revoked by the Lannisters/Tyrells/Aegon/whoever controls the Iron Throne. There’s no indication that any of the Riverlords has an ounce of loyalty to him, let alone enough to defy the IT for him, and he has no historical or geneological claim to rule there.

          (2) his claim to the North is speculative at best. He’s got to either persuade whoever’s on the IT to revoke Bolton’s status as Warden of the North, or else persuade the North to rise up in rebellion against both House Bolton and the IT. Admittedly, the North may be halfway there already, but if LF is seen as having any role in it, he can kiss his status of Lord Paramount goodbye. There’s also the small matter of Rickon Stark’s claim (or of a fake Rickon) and even the possibility that Robb’s will legitimized Jon Snow (though he is a bit… indisposed at the moment). Oh, and speaking of small matters, Sansa isn’t a very viable candidate to rule the North unless she can produce a legitimate heir — and how does she do that while still married to Tyrion?

          (3) his claim to the Vale depends on, at first, the continued survival of a bratty little boy who has to be drugged into compliance; when the kid dies, then LF is depending on Harry the Heir. We don’t know much about LF’s relationship with Harry, but it’s not clear to me why Harry would dance to LF’s tune particularly.

          LF has been ok at building at network of commoners and low-level nobility who were loyal to LF because LF was actually more powerful than them. He works on the weak-minded and delusional (Lysa) and the desperate (Dontos). But he doesn’t really have a great track record for advancing his co-conspirators, does he? Lysa and Dontos end up dead, Janos Slynt ends up at the Wall.

          He’s been fairly weak at influencing anyone who had a true independent power base: Robert and his small council saw him as, at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, a vile and corrupt influence. Tyrion figured him out right away. Even Cersei has him pegged more or less correctly. It’s not at all clear to me how LF imagines himself pulling the strings on Harry. (I know why he thinks he’ll be able to manipulate Sansa — he thinks she will adore him the way he adored Cat.)

          • Crystal says:

            As far as LF and Harry go: I think LF is banking on Harry being so bowled over by Sansa’s beauty that he’ll do whatever she says, and then Sansa will do whatever LF says. Harry will be Sansa’s puppet and in turn Sansa will be LF’s puppet.

            Right now LF is grooming Sansa to be his puppet queen. Somehow I don’t think that will work out the way LF wants it to.

            With the Riverlands, I think LF *could* get the Riverlords on his side by promising to do something about the Freys, or at least pretending to. The Riverlords would rally around just about anyone who could give them their vengeance on the Freys. I think that as long as LF didn’t move against the Lannisters themselves, they would look the other way if the Freys met a bad end. (The exception being Genna wouldn’t want any harm done to her own children. I doubt she’d shed a tear for hubby Emmon.)

            With the Vale and the North, it’s true, I don’t think he’d have many actual allies there. He’d have no way to control Rickon (the Manderlys are NOT going to give him up) and if Robin Arryn dies, LF’s regency and therefore his influence would disappear. The Vale lords are just putting up with LF right now and I think Bronze Yohn Royce would jump at the chance to boot him out of the Vale.

          • Winnie says:

            Well I think LF is betting on the death of Edmure and Roslin, thereby making *Sansa* the rightful heir to Riverrun and the Riverlands since there’s no way the smallfolk or Riverlords will accept a Frey in command of the area. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already plotted how to kill poor Edmure and set it up to look like the Lannisters/Frey’s did it.

            But yeah, the North is pretty sketchy-and I think it’s a matter of LF

            a. Not anticipating Rickon was alive.
            b. Not knowing jack about Northerners generally.

            Littlefinger after all has no real army of his own, (while he may hope he can get the Vale’s) nor support from the nobility, or mass support from the smallfolk either. Sure he’s got a bunch of people on his payroll but he can hardly rally mass support and in fact is apt to be rather disliked as being a known whore-mongerer, money lender, and Lannister toady.

            Plus as Crystal points out he’s betting it all on Sansa being his loyal puppet Queen which I am quite confident is not going to go as planned.

          • Mitch says:

            A lot of people’s responses here seem to assume that Littlefinger would want to be the public face of whatever power coalition he’s pulling together—comments wondering why the Riverlands or the North would ever support him.

            While the egotism necessary of such a move is definitely in his character, I don’t think that’s really his style.

            So far, all of his operations have come through catspaws or third parties whose interests align with his (temporarily, that at least). I definitely believe he’s out to acquire as much power as possible, I just think his ultimate goal is to be the behind the scenes powerbroker.

          • David Hunt says:


            I’m reasonably certain Littlefinger knows that he can’t be king. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t end up as Hand to a weak king and have it be publicly thought that he’s the one who’s really ruling, following the Aerys/Tywin model. I don’t really think that being the secret power behind the scenes is enough for LF. He’s got to be out in open, lording his success over all the great lords that have looked down on him his whole life.

          • David Hunt says:

            An addendum to my above theory. I expect the king that LF plans to be Hand for is Harry the Heir with Sansa as his queen. I also expect that LF plans for “Harry’s” children and the next king to look a lot like Littlefinger. (ick)

          • 1. Agreed. He’s got no ability to project authority there.
            2. Some good points, but as we see from ADWD, Ned’s daughter is a powerful draw.
            3. I think he plans to rule Harry through Sansa.

          • Lann says:

            He did have some control over his fellow psychopath Joffrey. Before he had him killed of course.

      • Winnie says:

        Exactly. He’s a talented weasel but he isn’t quite as talented as he thinks he is. He lacks subtlety for one thing and his arrogance makes him reckless.

        Thing is LF’S been lucky a lot of the time (serious plot armor from Martin) which he and readers confuse with him being an evil genius. But I think its all setting him up for the inevitable fall at the hands of a certain redhead.

  8. KrimzonStriker says:

    I appreciate your balanced take on all the character’s and their perspectives. Too many times it feels like people ether go to one extreme of the other like in the cases of Cat, Robb, Dany, etc etc. Though fair warning, I’m probably going to dig in with you regarding Jon’s chapters and his command of the Night’s Watch in ADWD. Other then letting his personal feelings with Arya go through I really don’t think Jon made many egregious errors in terms of exercising his command and the Watch’s mandate, certainly he makes mistakes, but for the most part it seems as though the circumstances Jon found himself in were probably always going to crush him in the end regardless.

    • Thanks! Regarding Jon, you should read my essay in Hymn for Spring on Machiavellian theory. I think Jon was an incredibly far-sighted Lord Commander who did a lot right, but as I discuss in that essay and will discuss in ADWD, his main mistakes were about building a constituency for his reforms and selling his proposals to his men.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        All very good points if I thought it was possible for him to sell his reforms to his men. Jon used reasonable arguments, invited in northern lords from the mountain clans to counsel with on the matter, and used Stannis’ own decrees to point out they really don’t have a choice anyway and yet many of his brother’s still resisted/resented him anyway without providing plausible or reasonable alternatives, all they ever did was complain or suggest horrifyingly self-destructive short-term solutions. But 8,000 or so years of prejudice is a hard thing to expect one man to overcome. Even then it doesn’t really blow up in his face until the letter arrives, which is a seperate issue we can get into when your chapter analysis of that comes.

        • I think he could have sold it. The problem is that he doesn’t. But check out Hymn for Spring.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I’ll look forward to reading it when it comes out in two months then. Still don’t see how, it’s not like Jon had years to demonstrate tangible results for his policy for people to trust his experience now, or the opportunity to develop close relationships through shared trials like with his friends to where their personal trust might overcome the men’s misgivings. As it is his reliance on his legal authority to push his policy through seemed like his only recourse in my perspective, but I’ll wait until you get to those chapters and to read your essay before making any final judgements.

      • Agreed, and also it was stupid for him to send his friends away, because their support could have gone a long way towards stopping the assassination (attempt??).

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          That seems easier to say in hindsight. When I got to the chapter I was among the first crying out that Jon should have purged the Watch or set up additional safety measures against dissent as he continued to meet more and more resistance with his assimilation policy. But now looking back, I think Jon had the right measure of people like Bowen if you accept this was a spontaneous act as a result of the letter and not premeditated. They don’t have the air of blood thirsty assassins about them because they’re not, and ultimately however much they disagreed with Jon they probably would have carried out his wildling policy out of deference to his command. It’s when things got murky with the letter that set things off once again.

          • There’s no way that this wasn’t previously planned.

            I think it had been in the works for some time due to their displeasure, particularly because of the wildling policy; but some of them (maybe Bowen himself) could have been hesitant because they did not have a good excuse/justification, as Jon had not technically broken his vows (as he pointed out to them when he gave them a lesson about NW’s purpose and the words of the vow: “guarding the realm of men” – “wildlings are men”). So, I think the agreement may have been: “if he finally does something that breaks the vows, we move and go through with it”. But I simply don’t see them coming up with the entire conspiracy right there on the spot.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            That’s only a matter of opinion then, we don’t have evidence otherwise and given the unusual circumstances of the letter would have prevented any pre-planning because of a lack of excuse. Even if you’re right then Jon himself would still have once again been correct in the assessment that his authority would win through and be enough even if those in his command disagreed. Certainly there were BETTER places for them to carry out this assassination then in a hall full of wildlings that just declared for Jon I would think if it was premeditated.

          • I agree that they must have been planning it for some time.

      • Will Rogers says:

        To be fair to Jon, it’s hard not to be far-sighted when you know that ice demons and their endless hordes of the undead are slowly (sloooowly) making their way to your wall and if your wall falls everyone on the planet is probably going to die.

  9. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please accept this historical tidbit (which I KNEW would be just the sort of thing you’d love to read about as soon as I read it) along with my compliments upon producing another impeccable article!

    If this doesn’t work as a link, look up ‘Ivaylo of Bulgaria’ on Wikipedia – he’s a swineherd (or at least a poor farmer) who somehow fought his way onto the Throne of Bulgaria, earning support for this spectacular feat of self-promotion by beating the Byzantine Empire AND The Mongols.

    Sometimes I wonder how Authors must feel to see Fact so consistently stagger Fiction!

  10. Winnie says:

    Also let me just add how much I like your observations about the rise of the Sparrows. Historically, times of chaos and extreme hardship have always fermented religious fundamentalism, and the Street Preacher in this book was the first leaf in Autumn.

    And I can’t tell you how anxious I am to see Johnathon Pryce in the role-the early photos and stills look amazing. I think he and Lena’s scenes together will be electric.

  11. David Hunt says:

    So with Pycelle, I wondering why it was that he so loyal to Cercei, personally. I’m pretty sure that if he was ever put in a position where he was explicitly choosing between Tywin and Cercei, that he’d drop her like a lead balloon, but Tyrion came to King’s Landing acting with Tywin’s explicit authority. I’d be interested in people’s opinions I see a few possible reasons.

    One. Tyrion’s a dwarf. Everyone knows they’re only good for mummers’ shows and court entertainments. Pycelle might not have been able to believe that Tyrion was a better person to support than Cercei due to rank prejudice.

    Two. Cercei has been in KL for fifteen years. She’s been the main representative of Lannister interests in the capital for pretty much that whole time. Pycelle has got to have some emotional and political buy in from working toward her interests throughout that time.

    Three. Cercei’s good looking. As has been mentioned above, Pycelle is a letch. I don’t think he’d have ever dared take any type of liberties with her while acting as her physician, but his attraction to her probably shades his actions.

    Finally, he’s obviously known about the incest for years and has been covering for her. He’s got a huge emotional and political sunk cost in keeping her from falling, and I don’t think he’s going to stop. He’s already murdered one Hand of the King to keep her from being exposed.

    I think all of these come into play in various amounts to keep Pycelle on Cercei’s side. Can anyone think of any others?

    • Jim B. says:

      Your reasons are basically the ones I thought of.

      I would add that, as someone else pointed out upthread, Pycelle knows that Tyrion is not well-liked by Tywin, and so when in doubt Pycelle is going to side with Cersei over Tyrion.

      The other factor is that, aside from her beauty, Cersei has probably won Pycelle’s loyalty over the last fifteen years with her charm and the occasional complement. Yes, Cersei has charm, when she chooses to use it. And she’s smart enough to realize that the occasional “ooh, Grand Maester, you are so wise, what would we do without your shrewd counsel?” is a cheap way to cultivate an ally on the small council.

      Also, how active has Tywin been in King’s Landing politics in the years since Robert’s Rebellion? Was he actively pulling the strings to increase Lannister influence in the capital, or was that mostly Cersei’s doing with the help of Lannister gold? It’s entirely possible that Pycelle has become slightly disillusioned with Tywin and transferred some of that personal loyalty to the person who seemed to be the future of House Lannister.

      • David Hunt says:

        Good points. I’d forgotten that I think Tywin’s disgust with Tryion is fairly openly known. He put Tyrion in charge because (if Tyrion’s assessment was write) he’d mentally written Jaime off as lost so was starting to make use of the only son he had left.

        Also, I think Cercei was a much more capable political actor before we get into her head in AFFC. I think the deaths of Joffrey and Tywin in such short order broke her to a degree. Like Aerys after Dusknedale, she starts seeing virtually everyone as enemies. Of course she hasn’t gotten as bad as Aerys did…yet.

    • Winnie says:

      I agree that all your reasons are sound, but they also show a certain blind spot on Pycelle’s part-namely that in all these years unlike say, just about everybody else Cersei has close contact with, (her brothers, Uncle Kevan, Littlefinger, Varys, Sansa, Stannis, eventually her own father, etc.) it hasn’t dawned on him, what a lousy political actor Cersei really is and that she’s unfit to wield power. He was genuinely *shocked* at her performance in AFFC.

      I’m not saying that means he should have picked Tyrion over her, but it’s a damn good argument for not following her blindly, but rather just staying out of the sibling rivalry and just concentrate on reporting back to Tywin. But as you note her beauty, charisma, and status as Queen really clouded his judgment there.

      • Crystal says:

        I don’t think Pycelle is over-burdened with brains. I surmise that he rose to be a Grandmaester through nepotism – I’m picturing a powerful Westerlands family using their gold to see that their worthless younger son/nephew rose up the ranks of the Citadel. For all we know, he’s a Lannisport Lannister, and that would explain his fanatic loyalty to that family.

        Apparently, Pycelle first became Grandmaester during the reign of Aegon V. So he’s served Targs as well as Baratheons and Lannisters – making me think that he has to have some kind of talent somewhere (because Aegon V has no particular reason to favor Lannisters). But if Pycelle was a Lannisport or other lesser Lannister, and/or his rise in the ranks was facilitated by Lannister gold bribes, that would explain much of his blind loyalty.

        I agree that Pycelle was thinking with his little maester when it came to Cersei. Ugh. The guy is scum. And not even superficially charming/likeable scum. Just smarmy Maester Bad Touch.

        • Space Oddity says:

          Pycelle seems to be a decent academic–good at book-learning, if nothing else–and the post of Grand Maester seems to be more a political sinecure for the Citadel than a place to send their best and brightest. So, when Aegon V said–“Send me a younger guy who won’t die,” he probably leaped to the Conclave’s mind.

          Though I’ve often speculated he might be a Lannister–or a Westerman–myself…

    • Very good points, all.

  12. Iñigo says:

    About Pycelle and the Sack:
    Had Aerys taken Jaime as a prisioner ( he was the son of the enemy commander, it could have happened) all the armies of the west go out in a big boom together with Pycelle and probably Tywin.
    Given that Chelsted is not presented as the smartest man around and yet he noticed, Pycelle, who wants to be a Lannister agent, turns out as totally stupid.

    • Interesting. Yeah, a burning KL would change a lot.

      • Iñigo says:

        After thinking about it, i noticed I have no idea about what Varys was going to do about the explosion. There is no way he didn’t know, but he didn’t seem to do anything about it and he was in the city for Robert to pardon him.

        • It’s quite possible he didn’t know. Aerys seems to have told only one other person about his plans, and Jaime killed both of them. Hence no one knowing where the caches are after 15 years.

          • Iñigo says:

            The problem with Varys not finding out is that Chelsted did. How could Chelsted notice, and not Varys? Did Varys not know why Chelsted got cooked? There are many weird things there. Or maybe I’m overstimating Varys.

  13. Excellent analysis, but I have to admit I was hoping for a historical section. Why not a piece on wartime negotiations or a bit of backstory regarding uncovering moles, or at least explaining the real story behind the Tinker Tailor reference? 😦 Lost opportunity there.

    There’s also another “What If” scenario — if Robb had been given Ice, that butterflies away the swords Tywin turned them into in ASOS, which means no “Oathkeeper” for Brienne (and possibly less wrath when she’s captured by Lady Stoneheart) and no “Widow’s Wail” for Joffrey, which means he doesn’t destroy Tyrion’s wedding gift and get Tyrion’s wheels turning before the wedding. If Tyrion hadn’t been thinking along those lines, he likely wouldn’t have dumped the wine from the poisoned cup, and therefore removed one key piece of evidence from his accusers at the trial. If he walks, Oberyn lives and so does the Mountain. Lots of ripples from one small deed.

    Finally, I think you’re missing some images — it just says “IMAGE” and “HAND” in a couple sections . . .

    • Whoops. Meant to put in images there.

      Good point about the What If?

      There just wasn’t anything new that grabbed me in this chapter. I’ve got some good stuff for the next Tyrion chapter on the paramours of historical queens.

    • Winnie says:

      Good points, but I subscribe to the theory that “Oathkeeper” will actually turn out to be “Lightbringer” and be wielded by Jon.

      Or maybe that’s just my way of consoling myself to the fact that “Ice” was melted down.

      • Uh yeah . . . sorry mate, but I gotta go with the latter. That former thing is about as tinfoil as it gets . . .

      • Milk Steak (@_MilkSteak) says:

        We saw with Beric that he could light his sword up using his blood with the problem being the weakening of the blade. That’s why the hound was able to go through sword then shoulder. If cat passes that ability on to Jon then any valyrian steel sword would hold up better.

  14. Amestria says:

    Not sure Pycelle is stupid for telling Ned about the last words and the book. Jon Arryn had lots of people around him during his investigation and during his death (his wife knows his last words too for example), Ned could have gotten this information from multiple sources. Pycelle no doubt figured it was best not to be caught in an obvious lie, which would make the last words and book REALLY suspicious.

    • Jim B says:

      And, assuming that Ned was going to end up on the trail anyway, perhaps Pycelle was hoping to fool Ned into thinking of him as a trustworthy counselor, so that Ned would take his suspicions back to Pycelle.

      At which point, Pycelle could try to talk Ned out of it: “oh, well, as it turns out, that book was quite wrong on that point — further research by the Citadel turned up quite a few blonde-haired Baratheon offspring. They just don’t like to mention it because they take pride in the whole dark-as-a-storm thing, just like the Lannisters would have you believe that every Lannister is a golden-haired beauty.”

      Or, at least he’d be able to tip Cersei off to Ned’s suspicions.

      • Amestria says:

        And there’s always the hope that Ned is your typical Westerosi noble who thinks reading is for dorks.

        • Crystal says:

          Agreed, Pycelle might have been counting on Ned being in the Randyll Tarly mold. I can definitely see Pycelle underestimating Ned, especially since he’s overestimated Cersei. “Ha, he’s a northerner, therefore, a rube who moves his lips to read!”

    • But those people had left town, and Pycelle knew that.

      • David Hunt says:

        Robert was still around and, although he doesn’t say it explicitly, I get the impression that he visited Jon Arryn on his death bed. Robert said something like “The strength just drained out of him,” Ned and Robert were best friends. Pycelle had to assume they’d talk about it, eventually.

        • Robert had no idea what Jon’s investigation was about. The only ones who would are Jon’s immediate retinue, who all left King’s Landing, and Stannis, who left King’s Landing.

  15. John W says:

    Interesting, if AGoT was Ned’s book and ACoK was Tyrion’s book, does that make ASoS Jon Snow’s book? Is AFFC Cersei’s book? ADWD Dany’s book?

  16. Andrew says:

    1. Littlefinger learning of Tyrion’s gambit may have helped him to realize just how dangerous Tyrion was to him. He knew Tyrion was on to him, and Tyrion had just demonstrated that he could outfox Littlefinger. That could have been what spurred Littlefinger to have Tyrion removed permanently.

    2. I already know the HS will back Aegon, it was just the issue of who comes to KL we disagreed on. He already pissed off the Lannisters, Stannis joined the Red Faith and Euron follows the Drowned God. Aegon worships the Seven, is supposedly of the ancien regime, and has no baggage. I doubt he would back Dany when she arrives for three reasons
    a)She’s backed by the Red Faith
    b)She’s a woman, and the HS has shown in Cersei’s chapters to suffer from a severe case of misogyny
    c) Admitting that he anointed and crowned the wrong king, an imposter, would damage his credibility as the avatar of/speaker for the gods.

    3. Lancel’s story is a bit tragic, I think it reference the titular character in “Gawain and the Green Knight” if you want me to elaborate.

    • Crystal says:

      On Lancel: it seems that Kevan’s marriage to Dorna Swyft was for love, and was happy. In ADWD, Kevan thinks fondly of Dorna as a gentle, pious, family-oriented woman who would be unhappy at court. I think Lancel’s childhood was spent in a domestic oasis, and he was doted on as the firstborn son. In a way this reflects Sansa’s upbringing. I think Lancel might have been almost as naive and starry-eyed when he first came to court as Robert’s squire. And, unlike Sansa, Lancel is not the brightest bulb, nor does he seem to learn from his mistakes.

      Add to that all the hormones that a teenage boy has and one can see how easy it would be for Cersei to play him like a fiddle. She probably started out as Good Cop to Robert’s Bad Cop and it went from there.

      • Andrew says:

        I think that’s not a bad judgement. Kevan and Dorna are decent people, and Kevan deep inside as he told Cersei just wants to be home with his family.

        I think the comparison to Sansa might have some weight. Lancel went along with Cersei’s plan to kill Robert and seduction. I think Sansa will thwart Littlefinger’s attempts to seduce her and kill the Lord of the Eyrie who just so happens to be named Robert.

      • Winnie says:

        Great observations all. I agree that Kevan’s marriage, (despite the fact that he oddly enough married his hostage-foreshadowing perhaps?!?) was clearly a stable, happy one, and Lancel got a nice domestic family situation that left him more naïve than some of his cousins.

        And Kevan’s anger, at Cersei not only for exploiting his child sexually but making her a party to regicide, then hitting him when he was already wounded at Blackwater clearly colored his judgment with her. It made him rightly not want her as Queen Regent but it also is one reason I think (if only subconsciously) that he allowed the Walk of Shame because deep down he was *pissed*.

        But yeah, unlike Lancel, Sansa’s not going to be so easily made a pawn of by Littlefinger.

        • Andrew says:

          Could you give more details regarding the potential foreshadowing?

          It is a bit ironic; Lancel likely had the childhood Tyrion would have wanted but Tyrion’s rough, abusive past helped to make him the competent player he is and outmaneuver Lancel (which wasn’t very hard).

          Now that I think on it, had it not been for the Sack of King’s Landing, had Ned and Kevan met or worked together, I think they would have gotten along quite well.

          • Winnie says:

            I meant that Kevan being happily married to the woman who was his hostage might just MIGHT be foreshadowing a Tyrion/Sansa reconciliation though that’s highly speculative.

            Or it might have bearing on Asha’s future as well…

          • I’m not sure what kind of reconciliation you’re referring to – but Theon and Sansa have been completely unimportant to each other’s storylines (I don’t think she ever even thinks about him), so I don’t see this being an important plot point. Not that he was ever *her* hostage in the first place. Theon getting a reconciliation with Bran and Rickon would be much more important (though you may say he kind of did with Bran, through the weirwood).

            You can’t be talking about the marriage, since that’s, well, obviously out of question. Theon’s now unlikely to be marrying anyone.

    • 1. Good point. Certainly LF’s hostility seems to intensify after this.

      2. Good points.

      3. I dunno if Lancel’s quite that important.

  17. Roger says:

    I am not sure that Tywin is aware of all of Cersei’s machinations. So we may distinguish the Queen faction as a sub-part of the Lannister’s party.

    • djinn says:

      Pretty sure that if Tywin was aware of half of Cersei’s schemes, he would’ve taken upon himself to give her a ”sharp lesson”, particularly about the whole ”Jaime in the KG” thing.

      Very good analysis, as usual Archmaester Attwell.

      • Crystal says:

        I think that Tywin was unpleasantly surprised when he came to KL after spending (most of) Robert’s reign at Casterly Rock; he seems bound and determined to marry Cersei off and send her away. Kevan seems to have known about the twincest, and about Cersei’s affair with Lancel, and if he found out before Tywin died, I’m sure he would have told Tywin. It’s clear that Kevan knew about the Cersei/Jaime goings-on and possibly about the true paternity of her children during AFFC; he also knew all about the Lancel affair then as well. I’m not clear on when he found out – before or after Tywin’s death.

        But in any event, I’m sure Tywin was sharp enough to know *something* was rotten in King’s Landing. No wonder he was pushing hard for Cersei to marry Willas Tyrell or even Balon Greyjoy. (I think Willas was the first choice, but I also think that Tywin would have packed Cersei straight off to Pyke without a second thought if that meant he could get her out of King’s Landing and away from Joffrey.)

        • David Hunt says:

          I’d assume that Kevan found about Jamie and Cercei’s affair from Lancel. At some point after the battle of the Blackwater, Lancel’s new piety forced him to confess to his father about sleeping with Cercei and he either also told Kevan about the twincest at that point or Kevan got it out of him during that awkward conversation.

          • Grant says:

            Lancel does seem to be the most likely. Kevan might have started looking at Cersei, Jaime and the children with more suspicion after Stannis’ declaration, but he couldn’t have known without being able to more closely observe Cersei, Jaime or someone with firsthand knowledge (Lancel).

            Alternatively Lancel might have just confessed his own actions and Kevan put the rest together on his own once he knew that first part.

          • Yeah. Kevan spent a lot time at Lancel’s bedside.

    • I’ll get to that in the next Tyrion chapter, because there’s some interesting stuff that comes in when we get to Lancel.

  18. Grant says:

    Something strikes me about the speculation about Aegon. It might call into question free will in the series. How much did Tyrion choose to plant the idea of invading in Aegon’s head and how much did fate compel him to?

    • It’s a good question. Have you listened to the BLAH podcast I did on prophecies?

      • Grant says:

        Sorry, generally I don’t simply because I prefer the written word to listening to conversations. Basically I’m not very social or patient.

        • Ah, ok. So basically my thinking is that prophecy in ASOIAF seems to be like a recording of the future broadcasting back in time – hence the way in which Dany, the Ghost of High Heart, Patchface, and even Theon were receiving signals about the Red Wedding before it happened.

          At the same time, prophecy tends to interact in two different ways with human behavior: in some cases, it doesn’t. The Red Wedding happened without the Starks or the Boltons or the Freys or the Lannisters aware of the prophesying going on around them. On the other hand, the prophecies of the valonqar and Dany’s betrayals and the Prince Who Was Promised, etc. seem to be of the self-fulfilling variety – that knowledge of the prophecy prompts change in behavior that make people bring them about, a la Oedipus.

          So free will is very much up in the air.

          • Grant says:

            There’s also Jojen, who dreamed of the Red Wedding and Theon’s attack. However it’s interesting that people like Theon would have any foresight about it, considering that he doesn’t have any supernatural traits, while Robb (a confirmed warg I believe) never had any warning beyond his wolf’s hostility.

            I know, a lot of it is probably for narrative reasons and Martin might be writing dreams as best suits his needs, not to keep a perfectly consistent magical system.

            As for the Ghost, she raises interesting questions. She claims that the old gods are the source of her visions and dreams, Thoros says that the weirwoods give her the knowledge (which is basically the same thing I think) but she lives in the Riverlands. Are there weirwoods in her section of the forest that survived the destruction or are the old gods still more potent without them than was believed?

          • Space Oddity says:

            Theon’s either the descendent of a man who lived a thousand years…

            Or a Deep One descendent…

            Or both.

            Which is my way of saying the Ironborn have their own crazy mystical heritage going on.

          • Grant says:

            Neither of those proven to the best of my knowledge. And what group doesn’t have some kind of alleged mystical heritage in ASOIAF?

  19. Lann says:

    With such poor coordination in the Lannister Conspiracy I wonder how Pycelle found out about J+C=J,M,T. I doubt Cersei would risk telling even him. Tywin did not know. Did he work it out? Did Stannis or Arryn ask for advice? Did Arryn say something while delirious from the poison.

    • David Hunt says:

      Based on Pycelle’s statements in this chapter, I’d conclude that he’d known for a good long time. I suspect that he’s at least had a really good idea since Joffrey was born. Based on the fact that Maester Luwin delivered all the Stark children, I think it likely that Pycelle was present if not performing the actual delivery for all of Cercei’s children. IIRC, while Robert went out hunting whenever Cercei’s water broke, Jaime forced his was into the delivery room. I think that’s where he figured it out.

    • I think from the birth, especially the way that Jaime insisted on being there.

  20. djinn says:

    Concerning ”Pycelle is Lannister relation” theory, if Pycelle was made Grandmaester during Egg’s rule, it would make sense for Egg to approved(like he took Tywin as a cup bearer) since Gerrold the Golden heavily lobbied for Egg at the Great Council(under Rohanne influence, no doubt), so it would be the reward for the Lannister support.

  21. […] enslaving them to work on the rehabilitation of Harrenhal, Tywin has violated one of the oldest customs of Westeros – again, in order to achieve an immediate aim (and because he doesn’t see smallfolk as […]

  22. […] so far has been Tyrion’s POV), and this chapter looks a little bit light compared to the previous. Part of that has to do with the fact that the chapter revolves around Lancel Lannister, who really […]

  23. […] previous peace offers, here the actual terms aren’t that far apart. Arguably, what we’re seeing here is not […]

  24. […] Council doesn’t, just as we know better than the folks in King’s Landing what’s actually going on north of the Wall, further emphasizing the way in which the political center is getting distracted from what’s […]

  25. […] of evil councilors to play up Janos Slynt’s brutality and corruption, Pycelle’s oath-breaking, lechery, and treason, and established himself as the Halfman in the public’s imagination. Reformer, war hero, […]

  26. […] final kind of shaping operation is Tyrion making use of the upswelling of religious fervor as a weapon against Stannis, whose conversion to R’hllorism proves to be something of a […]

  27. beto2702 says:

    Was it ever possible that Tyrion decided to do a bit more with Pycelle? Not sure if he could’ve gone as far as “arranging an accident” for him in jail, but maybe something with more consequences. Send Pycelle with Thorne to wall seems like a stretch, right?

  28. […] At the same time, Jaime’s oath is quite interesting. He’s making promises that he doesn’t necessarily have the power to carry out, namely that he “will compel your brother to honor his pledge to return my daughters safe and unharmed.” Even if Tyrion hadn’t fallen from power and was thus no longer able to free the Stark daughters, Jaime has no authority to compel the Hand of the King to do anything, let alone fulfill a pledge that was made in bad faith to begin with. […]

  29. […] grab for power through the Conclave of the Citadel, banking off of resentment of Tyrion’s high-handed actions, leading Tywin to do a bit of a backstep to contain Tyrell influence on the Small Council. […]

  30. […] puzzled me, because A. Tyrion’s ambivalence about the Starks has never stopped him from dealing with them in bad faith when it could help his family, so it’s hard to say what impact it has on the story exactly, […]

  31. […] relatively limited. And Rickard damn well knows that, because his surviving son Harrion was in the process of being exchanged before Harrenhal was […]

  32. […] indeed she has done since she let Jaime go) all of her hopes and fears have been bound up in the proposed prisoner exchange of Sansa and Arya for Jaime, hopes that have sadly required a good deal of wilful blindness to the extent that the Lannisters […]

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