Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VII

“This was what I was made for, and gods forgive me, but I do love it…and her.”

Synopsis: Tyrion breaks Lancel like a blond teenage toothpick.

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:

We’re seeing a lot of Tyrion so far (almost 30% of A Clash of Kings 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 isn’t as good a competitor for Tyrion as Cersei or Pycelle.

However, it’s a nice little amuse-bouche which provides the variation of tension in drama that one should strive for to avoid spectacle fatigue. Ever wonder why sometimes non-stop action sequences that keep raising the stakes again and again stop being exciting and become boring, and why other films in the same genre are white-knuckle intensity from start to finish, despite having less actual action? Variation of tension.

Lancel, Nature’s Patsy

After directing our attention to Lancel in the previous chapter, we now get an up-close and personal portrait of the young knight, and what we get isn’t pretty: “Does Lancel think to find me drowsy and slow of wit at this hour?…No, Lancel scarce thinks at all, this is Cersei’s doing,” Tyrion thinks. “Ser Lancel was sixteen, and not known for his patience. Let him wait, and grow more anxious in the waiting.” And when Lancel is finally is ushered in, this is his behavior:

“Her Grace the Queen Regent has sent me to command you to release Grand Maester Pycelle.” Ser Lancel showed Tyrion a crimson ribbon, bearing Cersei’s lion seal impressed in golden wax. “Here is her warrant.”

“So it is.” Tyrion waved it away. “I hope my sister is not overtaxing her strength, so soon after her illness. It would be a great pity if she were to suffer a relapse.”

Knighthood had made the boy bolder, Tyrion reflected – that, and the sorry part he had played in murdering King Robert.

“Make of it what you will, so long as you release your prison. The Grand Maester is a staunch friend to the Queen Regent, and under her personal protection.” A hint of a sneer played about the lad’s lips; he was enjoying this. He takes his lessons from Cersei. “Her Grace will never consent to this outrage. She reminds you that she is Joffrey’s regent…the Hand serves,” the young knight informed him airily. “The regent rules until the king is of age…Her Grace bids me inform you that Ser Jacelyn Bywater defied a command issued in the king’s name.” Which means that Cersei has already ordered Bywater to release Pycelle, and been rebuffed.

Lancel’s problem, the thing that makes him a flunky rather than a major protagonist or antagonist, is that he’s not that bright. He’s not stupid – as we’ll see during the Battle of Blackwater, he can grasp the ramifications of things happening around him – he’s just a more normal, ordinary teenager who’s been sent up against someone who’s much, much smarter than he is. He doesn’t grasp Tyrion’s threat-by-innuendo, he doesn’t see that Cersei doesn’t care about him (any more than Tyrion does), and he relies on conventional wisdom (and his own arrogant appraisal of his self-worth) rather than his own observation and deduction to guide him. Conventional wisdom says the Queen Regent outranks the Hand and the handsome young knight outranks the ugly dwarf – but in the real world, Tyrion’s the one with all the power.

And what’s interesting about this scheme is that both Lancel and Cersei are falling into the same trap, thinking that paper warrants and de jure status are what matters; it’s especially ironic that Cersei of all people does this, given her previous statements about paper shields. As the comment about Ser Jacelyn Bywater points out, it’s real politik rather than rules that prevails – Tyrion controls the City Watch, therefore he has the power to decide who gets thrown in jail and who gets released. And when Tyrion reminds Lancel of the realities of power, Lancel breaks:

“…one cry from me and Shagga will burst in and kill you with an axe, not a wineskin…Tell me, did Cersei have you knighted before or after she took you into her bed?…Have you given any thought to what Joffrey will do when I tell him you murdered his father to bed his mother?”

“It was not like that!” Lancel protested, horrified.

“No? What was it like, pray?”

“The queen gave me the strongwine! Your own father Lord Tywin, when I was named the king’s squire, he told me to obey her in everything.”

…look at him. Not quite so tall, his features not so fine, and his hair is sand instead of spun gold, yet still…even a poor copy of Jaime is sweeter than an empty bed, I suppose.

“…hated every instant of it, is that what you would have me believe? A high place at court, knighthood, my sister’s legs opening for you at night, oh, yes, it must have been terrible for you.” Tyrion pushed himself to his feet. “Wait here. His Grace will want to hear this.”

The defiance went from Lancel all at once. The young knight fell to his knees a frightened boy. “Mercy, my lord, I beg you…”

This is kind of unfair – Lancel is such a mis-match for Tyrion, with so many levers that Tyrion can pull, and no cards to play whereas Tyrion has everything from threatened violence to threatened exposure, that this is a bit like watching a toddler going toe-to-toe in a boxing ring with the World Heavyweight Champion. Even Tyrion  feels a bit bad about what he’s doing here.

However, Lancel’s confession is also a fascinating little peak into the Lannister Conspiracy. I’m fascinated by how decentralized the Lannister Conspiracy was; Tywin was clearly providing Cersei with assets to be used in the interests of House Lannister, which suggests that he trusted and respected her enough to push the party line in his absence. That’s not the usual picture we get of the Tywin/Cersei relationship, which mean that Tywin’s opinion of her must have really changed when he actually got to know Joffrey and realized how much Cersei had been lying to him about her success in molding the perfect Lannister King. At the same time, Lancel’s an interesting cog in the machine – he’s Cersei’s spy and patsy, a living sex toy who she can dress up like Jaime so she can pretend, but he’s also someone who’s been privy to the most damaging secrets Cersei has. He’s a witness to regicide and treason, and complicit in the same, and you can already see the writing on the wall with his penitent turn to religion.

And of course, what makes it all the more inevitable is that, the moment Lancel gets his wakeup call – that he’s in over his head and doing really immoral things he probably doesn’t want to be involved with – Tyrion decides to use him as a mole:

“Obey her. Stay close to her side, keep her trust, pleasure her as often as she requires it. No one need ever know…so long as you keep faith with me. I want to know what Cersei is doing. Where she goes, who she sees, what they talk of, what plans she is hatching. All. And you will be the one to tell me.”

In my essay on Tyrion as Hand, one of the things that I praise him for as a political leader is his understanding of the crucial role of intelligence. Compared to Jon Arryn and Ned Stark, Tyrion is much more pro-active in seeking out sources of information, he’s more likely to cross-check his sources against each-other rather than taking Varys or Littlefinger on face value, he makes damn sure to engage in counter-intelligence to keep his information secure, and here he develops sources within his enemy’s camp.

The Pycelle Decision

On the other hand, Tyrion is not perfect, and he makes some real mistakes on the way, often mistakes where he assumes that he will retain the power he currently has through the long-term (which is kind of a big leap for a merely “acting” Hand). Perhaps the best example of this is his decision to release Pycelle:

“We want Cersei to have every faith in you. Go back and tell her I beg her forgiveness. Tell her that you frightened me, that I want no conflict between us, that henceforth I shall do nothing without her consent.”

“But…her demands…”

“Oh, I’ll give her Pycelle…I’ll release him on the morrow. I could swear that I hadn’t harmed a hair on his head, but it wouldn’t be strictly true…Cersei can keep him as a pet or send him to the Wall, I don’t care which, but I won’t have him on the council.”

On the surface, Tyrion seems to be focusing on the substance of power rather than the semblance of it – what matters is keeping Pycelle off the Small Council, not where he is when he’s not on the Small Council, right? Wrong, because Tyrion is forgetting Machiavelli’s maxim that “Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate.” Once freed, Pycelle is able to gain his revenge against Tyrion, both by poisoning his father’s mind against him and by testifying against him at his trial in ASOS.

This seems to be a case where Tyrion’s desire to do justice – in this case, by sparing the life of an old man – works against him. On the other hand, we have to be careful not to assume too great an importance to events whose outcomes we know better than Tyrion does; Tyrion is condemned at trial because the trial was rigged from the outset, not because of any one man’s testimony.

Tyrion’s Self-Assessment

Balancing these two things against each other, how should we analyze Tyrion’s internal assessment of his own success as Hand?

Tyrion reflected on the men who had been Hand before him, who had proved no match for his sister’s wiles. How could they be? Men like that…too honest to live, too noble to shit, Cersei devours such fools every morning when she breaks her fast. The only way to defeat my sister is to play her own game, and that was something the Lords Stark and Arryn would never do. Small wonder that the both of them were dead, while Tyrion Lannister had never felt more alive…

It is real, all of it…the wars, the intrigues, the great bloody game, and me in the center of it…me, the dwarf, the monster, the one they scorned and laughed at, but now I hold it all, the power, the city, the girl. This was what I was made for, and gods forgive me, but I do love it…and her.

Tyrion’s comments about his predecessors is a bit harsh; as I’ve stated elsewhere, I don’t think it was honor that ultimately brought down either of them – especially as Cersei seems to have had no plans for dealing with Jon Arryn, who was struck down by a third party, and as Ned Stark’s major shortcoming was a failure to understand institutional power. At the same time,  given that Tyrion doesn’t know Littlefinger’s role in Jon Arryn’s death, his conclusion is warranted by the information he has at the time. Moreover, if we think about intelligence and counter-intelligence as key aspects of institutional power, I think he has more of a point: had Jon Arryn been more careful about who was spying on him and/or more paranoid about the people around him, or had Ned not allowed Littlefinger to play such a crucial intermediary role, both of them would have fared better.

And to give Tyrion credit, he is an excellent politician – at least when it comes to the inside game. He’s seized hegemonic military power in King’s Landing, and now he’s taken out Cersei’s main informant and put a spy in her own bed. However, as we’ve just seen, he’s not without his faults – Tyrion is a little too convinced of his own security in power to take precautions in case he’s removed from power, in the same way that both Varys and Illyrio do, he doesn’t permanently eliminate Pycelle, and he leaves himself personally and physically vulnerable.

At the same time, it’s clear that political power is hugely important to Tyrion’s self-esteem, as a outwards validation of his intelligence, as a finger in the eye of those who “scorned and laughed” at him, and as a way for him to gain control over his environment in ways that he could never do physically. Which we should keep in mind when Tyrion is hurled headlong from power in ASOS, and starts his gradual breakdown.

credit to Miguel Montino

What Shae Means

At the same time, power is not the whole of Tyrion’s psychological needs. As much as his desire for political power stems ultimately from his desire to impress his father or prove to his father that he is a true Lannister, Tyrion also has a deep-seated desire to be loved and desired that is crippled by an equally deep-seated belief that no one will ever love or desire him:

Remembered notes filled his head, and for a moment he could almost hear Tysha as she’d sung to him half a lifetime ago…his sweet innocent Tysha had been a lie start to finish, only a whore his brother Jaime had hired to make him a man.

I’m free of Tysha now, he thought. She’s haunted me half my life, but I don’t need her any more, no more than I need Alayaya or Dancy or Marei, or the hundreds like them I’ve bedded with over the years. I have Shae now. Shae.

Now, it’s hardly a revelation that Tyrion’s deal with Shae and his embrace of the girlfriend experience, is all about trying to purchase love and trying to purchase being desired, as a kind of second-best, self-deluding solution to his problems. But what I hadn’t really remembered is how consciously Tyrion is using Shae to deal with Tysha – I knew that he was trying to reconstruct the same kind of relationship, but in a more controllable and more discrete fashion, but I didn’t really remember the sense of Shae as a talisman that Tyrion can use to ward off negative memories, lack of self-worth, and mixed guilt and trauma. All of which puts a much sharper point on the eventual end of the relationship, that Tyrion doesn’t merely snap because Shae betrays their most intimate personal moments in testifying against him or because she sleeps with his father, but because the sight of her in his father’s bed is a kind of re-living of that moment in his life when he was forced to see and participate in Tysha’s gang-rape.

More on this in the book vs. show.

Historical Analysis:

We’re more accustomed to hearing of the various mistresses of kings than the paramours of queens, but the nature of medieval patriarchy nevertheless was never enough to stop powerful women from exercising that power in the political and personal realms by choosing lovers. Now, this could well be a very dangerous vocation for the objects of their desire; in a very Freudian way, boy kings once grown are rarely kind to the men who slept with their mothers. Perhaps the clearest example of this comes with the case of Queen Isabella of France, also known as the “she-wolf,” who toppled her husband King Edward II from power, and ruled as Regent of England for four years alongside her lover, Roger Mortimer the Earl of March.

When her son Edward III came to power at the early age of 17, he viewed Mortimer as a threat to him, especially when his mother became pregnant, and Mortimer began to speak openly that he outranked the king. Edward III raised an army against his mother and her lover, stormed Nottingham castle, and arrested Mortimer, despite Isabella falling to her son’s feet and pleading “fair son, have pity on gentle Mortimer!” Edward III was not entirely swayed by this plea, and had Roger Mortimer hanged (a great insult for a nobleman) and left his body on display for two days and nights so that everyone got the message. His mother was kept out of the court proceedings and, after spending a few years in opulent house arrest, was allowed to return to court.

The Wars of the Roses were repeatedly shaped by powerful women supposedly or actually taking lovers. As we’ve already discussed, Margaret d’Anjou’s supposed relationships with William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (and James Butler, the Earl of Ormond) both provided her with political and military muscle in her conflict with Richard, Duke of York, but also provided her enemies with sufficient rumor about the paternity of her son Edward of Lancaster to repeatedly disinherit her son and sway Parliament to name various Yorkists as either heir or King. Keeping with the theme of the danger of being a queen’s lover, de la Pole was murdered by a mob and decapitated, Somerset was killed at the First Battle of St. Albans, and Butler was decapitated by the Yorkists after the Battle of Towton.

Catherine of Valois, although not a contemporary of the Wars of the Roses, nonetheless greatly influenced those events. The wife and widow of King Henry V and mother of King Henry VI, Catherine caused quite a stir when (soon after the death of her royal husband) she started a sexual relationship with a Welsh archer named Owen Tudor before marrying him in 1428. Despite this scandal, Catherine retained enough influence over her royal son to induce him to name his half-brothers Edmund Tudor Earl of Richmond, and Jasper Tudor Earl of Pembroke. The former would marry and impregnate the then-12 year old Margaret Beaufort, who would in turn give birth to Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII. Thus, but for Catherine of Valois’ affair, the Tudor dynasty would never have happened.

This image is absolutely relevant; trust me.

Equally famously, Cecily Neville, the mother of Edward IV, Richard III, and George of Clarence, was accused of having cheated on her husband, Richard, Duke of York, with an archer named Blaybourne (seriously, what is up with these sexy archers?) – this was the basis for George of Clarence’s attempted usurpation of his brother’s throne (although how George thought people would believe that Cecily Neville was only ever unfaithful once is beyond me). This has always been a heated topic of debate among historians of the Wars of the Roses…up until Richard III’s skeleton was found under a parking lot in Leicester.

DNA testing done on the skeleton proved that it was definitely Richard III, given that his mitochondrial DNA, which passes on the female line, matched living Beauforts. But the Y chromosome didn’t match, so whoever Richard III’s father, he wasn’t Richard, Duke of York, grandson of Edward III’s fourth son, and since there are documents suggesting that Richard was off fighting in France when Edward IV was conceived, this DNA evidence would seem to corroborate those documents. All of this raises a rather sticky question – since Henry VII claimed his right to rule through the Beauforts and backed it up by marrying Edward IV’s daughter, did the English line of succession actually break down in the 15th century? And given that the current House of Windsor was picked by Parliament because the Hanoverians had married into the House of Stuart, which claimed its right to the throne of England from King Henry VII the arch-Tudor, is Queen Elizabeth the lawful descendant of English royalty?

Just goes to show – never underestimate the power of a queen looking for some side-action.

What If?

So, here’s the thing about the major hypothetical in Tyrion VII – what if Tyrion didn’t send Pycelle back? – I’m not sure how much it changes…for Tyrion. Without Pycelle’s evidence, there’s a little bit less evidence that Tyrion poisoned Joffrey, but Taena Merryweather and Varys and Shae are still going to testify, and as I said, at the end of the day the trial is rigged to begin with. Tyrion was never going to get a verdict of not guilty as long as Tywin and Mace were 2/3 of his judges.

The major difference actually comes in AFFC. Now, Margaery’s arrest is probably going to happen regardless of Pycelle’s testimony about the moon tea – Osney Kettleback and the poor Blue Bard are probably enough to land Margaery in the dock, at the end of the day. However, without Pycelle, the government of King’s Landing changes dramatically – Cersei’s men are in charge of the Gold Cloaks and the City Council, no one’s there to send for Kevan Lannister to take charge (however briefly), and it’s quite possible that a three-way war between the Faith, Cersei’s loyalists, and the Tyrells breaks out on the streets of King’s Landing.

Book vs. Show:

As I’ve said, the show’s handling of Tyrion’s Season II plotline is generally excellent, and the scene with Lancel is no exception. To me, the main problem comes in their decision to change Shae’s character. Now, on the one hand, this decision makes short-term sense: the gold-digging prostitute is not exactly a fresh idea, and especially in Season 2, Episode 10, I can see the interest in a Shae who’s deeply committed to Tyrion despite his inability to quit politics.

However, the change causes problems down the line in Season 4 when Shae has to betray Tyrion and then get murdered. The books provide a rather clear rationale for this – Shae never loved Tyrion, it’s arguable that he stiffed her for her services when he takes her jewels, and she’s just trying to survive when Cersei and Tywin hit her with carrots and tempt her with sticks. The show doesn’t have as good a reason – a woman scorned isn’t any better a trope than a gold digger – and the turn happens out of sight and thus land as well (there’s also the whole issue with Sansa, but I’ll address that elsewhere). At the very least, I think the show should have kept this scene in to provide some explanation:


153 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VII

  1. zonaria says:

    Excellent stuff, as ever!

    The artist’s impression of the blond Richard III (via the link) makes him an even better Tyrion-analogy.

    • There is very little similarity between Tyrion and the real Richard III, especially looks-wise. Tyrion is a Richard III analogy only in terms of being actually as deformed and considered grotesquely ugly as Shakespeare’s Richard is supposed to be (unlike the real Richard, who was quite handsome and although relatively short and slender a formidable warrior, and was not considered deformed – his uneven shoulders were most likely not even noticeable while clothed, which is why there’s no contemporary account of any deformity – until the Tudor era when his “crooked shoulders” were constantly invoked and then grew into a hunchback, limp and withered arm – my guess is that his scoliosis only became common knowledge after his dead body was stripped and displayed in Leicester and the propaganda machine took that and ran away with it, since every physical deformity was considered a sign of evil), and in terms of being a grey character who gets blackwashed and blamed for all sorts of crimes and has a play written about him that portrays him as a demonic monster (“The Bloody Hand” being an obvious analogue to “Richard III” complete with the villainous monologue), but in RIII’s case that happened after his death.

      • Both of them were skilled administrators, talented soldiers, and overlooked within their own families. Both of them had much worse press than they deserved, both in life (dead nephews) and in Richard’s case, in death.

  2. Sean C. says:

    Worth noting, the DNA testing didn’t prove that Richard was illegitimate. It proved that there was a paternal-line inconsistency between Richard and the 5th Duke of Beaufort, which could have been on either side.

    Rereading this particular chapter brought to mind Kevan’s later anger at Cersei for her messing his son up, and in truth, Tyrion doesn’t really act with any more in the way of family feeling here, though granted Lancel doesn’t really give him much reason to (and unlike Cersei, he has more important things to keep his eye on).

    • True, it doesn’t. But combined with the info about Richard, Duke of York’s location during Edward IV’s conception, it’s highly suggestive that the “paternal line inconsistency” happened with Cecily Neville.

      • Sean C. says:

        People could count during the Middle Ages as well. If Richard really was in a place where it was impossible for him to have conceived his son (which isn’t even Richard, at that), he would surely have noticed. It’s really not more than innuendo, presently.

      • One child being potentially a bastard does not prove that another child, born 10 years later, was also a bastard. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that Cecily was constantly cheating and giving birth to children who were not her husband’s, or he’d have noticed and had a problem with it (unless he was Robert Baratheon).

        It especially seems less likely that the break in the male line really happened between Richard II and his father, rather than somewhere else, considering Richard III’s physical resemblance to Richard, Duke of York, both in height and buid and facial features, which was noted by contemporaries – and if this representation of Richard, Duke of York is even remotely faithful , this certainly seems to be true, they had very similar and very distinctive features.
        There’s far less resemblance in the portraits of Edward and George – who, incidentally, seems to resemble Cecily Neville (again, providing the portraits are at least somewhat faithful); Edward doesn’t seem to have a great resemblance to either of his parents, although his mouth on the portraits look just like Cecily’s and George’s.

  3. John says:

    The fact that Richard III’s Y chromosome doesn’t match the Duke of Beaufort’s does not actually mean he was not his father’s biological son. Given the number of generations involved, it’s much more likely that there was a cuckolding somewhere in the Beaufort line over the law 600 years.

  4. witlesschum says:

    That is a great scene for both Bronn and Shae, can’t believe the show choose to cut it.

  5. winnie says:

    Great as always Steve!

    Yeah it would have been better if the show kept the Bronn/Shae scene.

    I do like the actor who plays Lancel-he’s exactly the way I pictured him.

    I really like your observation that Tywin originally appeared to have far more faith in Cersei to advance the family’s interests and that it was only in ASOS that he got his wakeup call about how unfit she was as both a mother and a Queen which must have been especially bitter since he sacked KL and murdered so many to give her a crown.

    Also VERY good point how without Pycelle there’s no one to fetch Kevan and KL probably dissolves into civil war right then and there. Though I also wonder how key Pycelle was to poisoning Tywin against Tyrion since other witnesses to Blackwater or dear Cersei’s rule might have told daddy a very different story.

    • David Hunt says:

      Re-reading AFFC, I kept realizing that Pycelle was moving up in my estimation. He was the only person on her Small Council that was willing to point out how bad her ideas were. Pycelle seems to be shit as a conspirator, but actually serving as Grand Maester, he seems to normally be adequate, if highly conservative.

      Of course, he’s still a horrible person corrupted by his power and seduced into the personality cult of Tywin Lannister. Of course Kevan is the one he’d turn to for help.

      • winnie says:

        I think Pycelle was so devoted to Tywin (he wanted him for his King) that he tended to assume that Tywins chosen heirs would inherit at least some of their father’s competence. Of course this entailed ignoring everything in Cersei’s record hence his shock at how bad things got in AFFC.

        • David Hunt says:

          Cercei maintained a conspiracy to put a pure Lannister on the Iron Throne for twelve years.She can’t have been totally incompetent. The reason she’s fails so spectacularly after coming out on top over Robert and Tyrion is, I think, for two reasons.

          1. The Cercei we see in AFFC is the broken version that has suffered the loss of her son and her father in short order. She’s gone crazy and her inability to see anyone as other than servants or enemies is ramped up to eleven. I think that she was a more capable player before we get to look into her head.

          2.Cercei has experience as a conspirator but absolutely no background or training in actually ruling. She watched Tywin as a girl but what she saw and heard about was the image that Tywin projects to the world. She isn’t privy to the reasoning that drives his decisions and he’d never have bothered to explain it to her. Even Tyrion is able to talk to Tywin about these things more than her. Like Pycelle, she’s become enchanted by his myth, and worse, she thinks that she just step into his place and continue it. Cargo Cult rulership.

          Finally, the third of my two reasons (maybe I should plan these things out better before I start) is that these two reason cause synergies. Cercei’s paranoia and need for absolute authority and compliance means that no one dares to say “no” to her. The closest we get is Pycelle telling her that maybe defaulting to the Iron Bank or allowing the Faith Militant to re-arm might not be good ideas.

          • Sean C. says:

            Is that really a “conspiracy”? She just boffed Jaime in private — and even that was discovered by several people; Stannis and Jon Arryn would have had her by the balls (er, figuratively speaking) if Littlefinger (and also Varys, I guess) hadn’t considered Cersei’s continued success as important to their own agendas, which can’t be considered some great success on her part.

          • Crystal says:

            I am one of those who believe that Cersei was not always as great a player as some would have her (reading Steven’s essays brought me around to this view) – but I agree that she severely deteriorated by AFFC, and the deaths of her son and father were what caused it. The death of a child is going to affect any mother deeply, even if that child wasn’t murdered in front of her. Add to that Tywin’s murder by Tyrion (who Cersei is convinced murdered her son) and of course Cersei is going to go ’round the bend. Her method of coping – alcohol – is not helping.

            And agreed that Tywin did not train her for leadership. Cersei was, like Sansa Stark, trained to be a decorative consort to a king or Lord Paramount. Unlike Sansa, she doesn’t seem to have a gift for embroidery, music, or any of the other decorative-noblewoman pursuits – do we ever see her reading or playing the harp or sewing? I don’t think so. Nor did Cersei have the loving family that Sansa had. She was certainly less naive than Sansa, and I think absorbed more realpolitik type lessons, but that might be more despite Tywin than because of him – I don’t think he sat his daughter down and taught her how to rule like Hoster Tully did with Catelyn. And Cersei was more spoiled than Sansa ever was – good lord, if Ned ever caught Sansa speaking to a servant the way Cersei did, winter would come! But, on the whole, I see parallels between Cersei’s upbringing and Sansa’s, and I think that Cersei entered marriage and queenship with at least some of the ideals that Sansa had.

            No, no-one dared to say no to Cersei – her paranoia and ego led her to demand yes-men and yes-women and nothing else, *and* she was in enough of a position of power to threaten Severe Consequences for anyone who crossed her – which led to people not being able to tell her “no” because bad things really could happen.

          • David Hunt says:

            Sean, Yes she was found out by people and she was extremely lucky in who figured it out, but she still kept it going for a long time.I don’t think that she was in danger of actual exposure for, at least, the first ten years of Joffrey’s life.

            Granted, I’m pretty sure that Varys knew about her affair since, at least, early into Robert’s reign and kept it quiet because he was waiting until fAegon was ready to reveal himself before he would expose her. Pycelle would never let anything like that info ruin the reputation of Tywin’s daughter. On the other hand, after some consideration, I don’t think that anyone else was wise to the situation before Stannis and Jon Arryn started their investigation. I’m guessing that Littlefinger found out via his agent in Jon Arryn’s camp, Ser Hugh, and realized that if he didn’t act immediately, his plans to use the Lannisters to destroy the Starks and the Tullys would need a new heavy.

            After some consideration, I also have serious doubts as to whether Renly knew about it all before Robert died. If he had, I expect that he would have dearly loved to expose her so that he and Loras could replace her with Margaery.

          • Sean C. says:

            Renly didn’t know. He says as much in Catelyn’s upcoming chapters. He was amused by Stannis’ allegations.

          • David Hunt says:

            He says he didn’t know, For a time, I thought that he was lying to promote the story that Stannis was just as much of a usurper as he was. Later I decided that he didn’t know before then. I can’t even say if he believed it or not since I don’t think it would have made any difference then. He had already had himself crowned, married his lover’s sister, and assembled the largest army in Westeros. There was no way he was going to stop those wheels turning even if he could.

          • I’m not sure maintained is quite accurate. Literally all of the Small Council other than Ser Barristan knew.

          • @Crystal: good analysis. Cersei’s way of addressing the servant is, however, very much consistent with her father’s attitude to servants and lower born people in general, even though he mayshow it so openly to their face. He barely considers smallfolk human. It’s one of the many things Cersei learned by observing her father – together with his belief that a ruler must make people fear him, which she reiterates in ACOK. Like Tywin, she also has disdain for the lower born people, sees Lannisters as unmatched and above everyone else except perhaps for the Targaryens, is ruthless, and has others to her dirty work. She just tends to apply those “lessons” a bit too literally and not too skillfully.

        • David Hunt says:


          If Renly knew, why didn’t he expose Cercei? It would have definitely facilitated getting Robert to marry Margaerey Tyrell. Is it your position that he didn’t have proof yet, or that he was holding off exposing her for some reason?

          • Because he wanted Robert committed to Margaery first. Doesn’t do Renly any good if Robert rebounds to some rando.

          • David Hunt says:

            Okay, that’s a good reason. I guess I have to reassess my opinion on how whether Renly knew again…after tax season. My current memories of the books is that Renly’s actions work whether he knows or not.

      • John says:

        Being the most competent/least toadying person on Cersei’s Small Council hardly seems like a great distinction. Who else even is there? Aurane Waters and Owen Merryweather are total sycophants, Rosby is dying, Harys Swyft is an incompetent old fool, and Qyburn is only concerned with his very specific projects. Pycelle also has the advantage of being the only one Cersei can’t dismiss at will.

      • Eh, that’s kind of a low bar.

    • Space Oddity says:

      I wouldn’t be so sure about KL’s dissolving into civil war–the problem is most of Cersei’s “supporters” aren’t really that dedicated–Aurane Waters is going to flee the city with his ships the moment she’s in a cell–similarly the Merryweathers are going to pull a runner while declaring “our work here is done”–essentially, the Small Council will be left with Qyburn, who is no position to help–and Swyft..

      Who is probably going to call his goodson, Kevan, post-haste. (And in fact, I believe played a part in that OTL.)

      • MightyIsobel says:

        I agree, KL could get chaotic, but the Faith and the Tyrells seem to be the only coherent armed powers in town. And they both want Cersei’s treasons exposed so the HS and the Queen of Thorns have to be at least backchanneling to explore a possible deal. Right?

        • Grant says:

          They’d have to be careful there. Letting too much about Cersei be revealed and suddenly Tommen isn’t king, Margaery isn’t a queen of any sort and legally speaking they’d have to call for Stannis, who does fit all the legal requirements of kinghood.

          • MightyIsobel says:

            True enough. They would have to make do with Kettleblacks and Moon Boy for all we know? Makes you wonder if they bring up Lancel at all. He’s a pretty good lever for the Faith to have over the Tyrells in ascendancy because of the problem you mention.

      • I dunno, self-interest is involved at this point, and Cersei’s loyalists command the Goldcloaks.

    • John says:

      It seems like it’s the execution of Ned Stark that first opens Tywin’s eyes about Cersei’s incompetence, but that then he’s convinced by testimony from Pycelle and Cersei when he first arrives in King’s Landing that Tyrion was an even bigger problem.

      • Crystal says:

        That’s a good point – it would be a moment when Tywin sees 1) what an incompetent psychopath Joffrey is and 2) that Cersei couldn’t control him. We don’t get to see inside Tywin’s head then, but I’m sure he had an “Oh Crap!” moment there – “THIS is the future of the Lannisters? We’re f**ked if I can’t fix this.” I can’t wait to see Steven’s analysis of the ASOS chapter where Tywin sends Joffrey to bed without supper; Tyrion notices how upset he is about Joffrey’s behavior. At this point, though, I think Tywin probably thought that he could still fix Joffrey, make sure the Incest Kid revelations are firmly quashed, and salvage the Lannister dynasty. But his trust in Cersei as a competent grownup was gone.

        • winnie says:

          Yeah I am really looking forward to that chapter too…and to Steve’s take on Tywin’s reaction to having the Tyrell’s refusal of Cersei. I think Tywin would have had a significantly hard time finding ANY suitable groom there since he would want someone very high born indeed…and Cersei was by then second hand goods with an utterly trashed reputation.

          Would have been rather amusing really.

          • I don’t know about that, Mace Tyrell was quite happy to accept the proposal, until Olenna put a stop to it. Smart people like Olenna or Oberyn could easily see that you shouldn’t let someone like Cersei in your family and your (relative’s) bed, but others, less smart, like the lord oaf, may still be dazzled by the prestige of marrying the queen widow/queen mother/daughter of Tywin Lannister.

      • Or…and it’s entirely possible, that Tywin’s hatred of Tyrion was only momentarily banked by his need for Tyrion to hold King’s Landing and that he would have deposed his son ignominiously no matter what he did.

        • winnie says:

          Sadly that seems very VERY possible.

        • alkonost says:

          I think that’s pretty likely. It’s suggested in ASOS that Tywin actually realizes that Tyrion is a fairly skilled player. He gives him a position on the small council, he discusses the family’s political strategy with him, and, long-term, he trusts Tyrion to hold the North. But even though Tywin is willing to make use of Tyrion, he refuses to give him any kind of emotional validation or public acknowledgment.

    • Mitch says:

      Eh, I think it’s a stretch to say that Tywin sacking King’s Landing was specifically to get his daughter appointed as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

      IMO, it was more of out of pure survival instinct. Tywin saw the Targaryen ship was sinking and hitched his wagon to the ascending Baratheon faction in a bold move. He played his hand extraordinarily well to get Cercei engaged to Robert, but I doubt he could’ve forseen that as the expected outcome at the time he switched sides.

  6. MightyIsobel says:

    “Lancel and Cersei are falling into the same trap, thinking that paper warrants and de jure status are what matters; it’s especially ironic that Cersei of all people does this, given her previous statements about paper shields.”

    That is a really interesting point because of how it speaks to governance functions in KL. This already came up as theme in AGOT, but I think that Cersei consistently over-estimates the power of political spectacle, which totally makes sense given her upbringing as an object of display in the Targaryen tradition. She thinks it is her ability to dazzle the court with her beauty and majesty that backs up Lancel’s paper, not any understanding of institutional power. As you say, however, Tyrion knows that power can be wielded effectively merely by casting a long shadow, if it’s done strategically. The paper thing is such a nice pivot to turn that thematic conflict on.

    Also, agh! uncovered *Accursed Kings* spoilers. JK, that all happened 600 years ago. Isabella is from a couple of generations before the Wars of the Roses, right?

    And the eye- and hair- color info on RIII in the DNA article you linked is like something straight out of Grandmaester Malleon’s Book of Lineages.

    • Sean C. says:

      Isabella was the wife of Edward II. The Wars of the Roses were fought between the grandsons of her son Edward III, and their descendants.

      • John says:

        The Lancastrian seizure of power (the fight between Edward III’s grandsons) was more of a prelude to the Wars of the Roses than part of them. It was really Edward III’s great great grandsons and great great great grandsons who were doing the Wars of the Roses.

    • winnie says:

      Well I think that Cersei being Cersei assumes that paper shields will work for her but not those shields others use to protect themselves from her because she really believes on some level that the rules apply to everyone but her…and I think that is partly Tywin’s example too.

      Tywin was willing to break every rule himself while at the same time relying on the larger society adhering to a certain code because that helped protect him. Of course what Tywin never realized was that his actions were in the end undermining those rules and making the entire Realm much less stable.

      But yeah I think youre right that Cersei also tends to overestimate her own charisma-and the Lannister’s percieved invulnerability.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        That’s a good point about the rules. Flagrant rule-breaking is a great way to flaunt power and intimidate nascent enemies. Tyrion’s pretty good at it, actually. Cersei, not so much.

      • Carolyn says:

        I completely agree with your assessment of Cersei here: Cersei seems to think, that the rules that apply to other people do not apply to her. Part of this reasoning probably comes from her likening the Lannisters to the Targaryens, but Cersei fails to see, that once the Targaryens lost their dragons their choices also were severely limited.

        • winnie says:

          Precisely. And again I think that comparison was at least partially encouraged by Tywin whose dearest wish was to be a Targaryen-or at least mingle his family’s blood with theirs.

    • Spoilers don’t exist with historical people.

  7. CB says:

    “Which we should keep in mind when Tyrion is hurled headlong from power in ASOS, and starts his gradual breakdown.”

    This is honestly something we should keep in mind for many of the people who have met their downfall. I’d argue most of the prominent individuals in ASoIAF have stumbled over issues intrinsic to their personality more than failures of competence. Tyrion, Tywin, Ned, Robb, and Jon all stand out as people who could’ve avoided their fates if only they were someone else (I realize that might seem a bit tautological, but taking Tywin as an example: his undoing was not ineptitude as a leader but his inability to perceive his children as anything other than pieces).

    It’s a bit of a tangent, but it strikes me that true incompetence is something generally reserved for supporting characters in this series.

    • winnie says:

      And for that matter we should remember that Tyrion still has a chance to come out on top…literally on top of a dragon. So for that matter will Jon and his “death” was arguably necessary to his ultimate destiny.

      But yeah its usually not stupidity (with a few notable exceptions like say Greyjoys) but rather the Fatal Flaw theory of classic tragedy.

    • derzquist says:

      And contrast that with someone like Davos, who is very conscious of his preceived shortcomings, who has managed to talk his way out of a lot of shitty situations and usually come out in a better spot than before.

  8. Iñigo says:

    I think Pycelle dying here means that, at the end of AFFC, the small council is dominated by Qyburn. Whatever that means for the realm. Probably a poisoned Boros Blount to get his monster quickly in the kingsguard, among other things.

    • Grant says:

      There wasn’t much question of Pycelle dying, only whether Pycelle would be freed or not. Personally I’m of the opinion that with Tyrion unconscious for a while, Pycelle would have been freed by Cersei without much trouble given Tywin’s contempt for Tyrion and the lack of a clear reason for the Lannisters to keep Pycelle in prison.

      • John says:

        What if Tyrion sends Pycelle North and forces him to take the black?

        • Grant says:

          Besides probably facing a rebellion of sorts by the maesters, even if Tyrion did have an official crime he could convict Pycelle of, Tywin would probably just countermand it and have Pycelle sent right back where he was before he’d been sent more than two days from Kingslanding.

          Really, the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to think that Tyrion’s actions against Pycelle in general were actually counterproductive. It’s true that leaving him be let him continue on as a spy for Cersei and a problem for Tyrion, but locking Pycelle up made Tyrion look bad (almost definitely helped on by Baelish’s rumors), it embittered Pycelle to him (though admittedly that probably was going to be true no matter what) and Tyrion didn’t have a figure he could put in Pycelle’s place who could be a counter to whatever Pycelle said or did. So it probably was better to keep feeding the mole misleading information with a few tidbits of the truth rather than temporarily get rid of him.

          • I don’t think so. At the end of the day, the rebellion was to name a Tyrell.

            All he’d have to do is send him to the Wall and say he confessed to betraying his vows as a maester.

          • WPA says:

            That’s a very interesting point. Say he simply takes the info of Pycelle as the mole and just pockets it. He knows anything he tells Pycelle ends up back in Cersei’s ear, so he can either keep feeding him false info, ignore him in favor of more one on one meetings, or be judicious in what he says in open meetings. Do repeated mistakes make Cerseim”take care of” Pycelle for him?

          • Grant says:

            I’m not sure what you mean. By rebellion I meant that the institution would become increasingly difficult for Tyrion to deal with.

            And Tyrion can’t just say something for it to actually get Pycelle out, he needs an actual crime and the only one that would mean anything would be Jon Arryn’s death, which he needs to cover up at all costs. Unless Tyrion wants to completely abandon any pretense of real governance versus apparently arbitrary decision making (a pretty bad thing to do in the middle of a civil war) he has to stick to the rules to some degree. With Janos Slynt he was dealing with a guy with no real backing from anyone, look at how easily he was replaced. With Pycelle he’s dealing with a Lannister loyalist who has decades of experience in Kingslanding and presumably still a good amount of support among the maesters and other political figures.

            I think you may have suggested in an earlier chapter that Tyrion could have gotten Pycelle to resign on account of old age, if he was going to go after Pycelle that would be the best move.

  9. Chinoiserie says:

    You said, “Cersei and Tywin hit her with carrots and tempt her with sticks.” A mistake?

    I have always wondered how much trust Tywin put on Cersei. He seems to have intended her to become a Queen since she was a young child and let her alone for years to hold Lannister influence in King’s Landing yet she seems so incompetent that I can not see him instructing her much. As others said she was probably more competent before AFfC but she still raised Joffrey so poorly (or at least managed if he could not be changed) and was really unable to match Tyrion and dealt with Ned (and Jon Arryn) seemingly by luck.

    • No, that was a joke.

    • Carolyn says:

      Tywin’s education of Cersei is one of the greater inconsistencies in GRRMs writing for me:
      IIRC his wife Joanna was an important advisor for him. Since having basic knowledge about Westerosi history and politics would greatly help Cersei further the Lannister-influence, especially if she had married into the royal family, it does not make sense that he completely neglected that part of her education. I mean, the extent of Cersei’s lack of knowledge about basic Westerosi history is truly staggering:
      -she does not know about the history of the Golden Company
      -she does not know about the reputation of the Iron Bank
      -she does not know about the wars the Targaryens had with the Faith Militant
      Even if Cersei did not make a royal match, Tywin would have been well-advised to groom her as a future ruler of a house, in case something happened to her husband, while her children were still young (which DID happen).

      • WPA says:

        It’s possible that that was to be Joanna’s role (which would make sense considering they complemented each other so well). Her untimely death wrecked him for a couple years and by then he didn’t know how to properly educate Cersei.

      • How Tywin felt about Cersei is not necessarily how he felt about Joanna.

        Also, it’s quite possible Cersei was just a bad student.

      • Bail o' Lies says:

        I think it just Cersei wasn’t a good students and didn’t bother to remember her history lessons. Jon Snow a bastard knew how dumb it was to cross the Iron Bank. While Genna Frey’s Cersei aunt knew about the Faith Militia. Cersei probably always thought that when she was queen she could do what every she wanted so she didn’t bother to pay attention to her lessons.

        • Space Oddity says:

          She does know odd bits and pieces–she remembers who Ossifer Plumm is when Jaime doesn’t…

          But then, only one of the Lannister children ever seems to have paid real attention to lessons.

          No wonder Genna calls him Tywin’s real son.

          • Carolyn says:

            Jaime took his sword-fighting-lessons very seriously. According to GRRM he is one of the best fighters in the history of Westeros and since being a good fighter is more important in Westeros than being a great scholar/mathematician/historian he did excel in the most important part of his lessons.
            Additionally, he would not have been that careless of a lord: Throughout AFFC Jaime is one of the only people in Westeros concerned with the food stores at the advancement of winter (the other being Kevan Lannister), the other nobles do not seem to care about the approaching famine.

            Cersei, on the other hand does not have ANY notable talent: We see, that Sansa is great at needlework,child-rearing (Sweetrobin) and being in charge of a household, which are important things for a woman in her position. Cersei on the other hand has NO discernable talent: she neither draws nor sings nor is fluent in other languages nor can she do anything else that would be considered part of the education of a well-rounded noblewoman.

          • Petyr Patter says:

            Cersei remembers a titillating story about a big penis and possible infidelity? Of course she paid attention to that lesson… though I doubt it was a maestar who gave it.

  10. Treemaster says:

    As soon as Tryion said the following, I was sadly sure he was heading for a fall. The line could come straight out of Greek Tragedy. Pride cometh before the fall. I love Tyrion, so I hope the fall has finally been arrested at the end of aDwD.

    “It is real, all of it…the wars, the intrigues, the great bloody game, and me in the center of it…me, the dwarf, the monster, the one they scorned and laughed at, but now I hold it all, the power, the city, the girl. This was what I was made for, and gods forgive me, but I do love it…and her.”

  11. Abbey Battle says:

    Excellent work Maester Steven – although I suspect your Inner Leveller is showing with that allusion to recent findings concerning the bones of the late, unlamented King Richard the Third; as I understand it The House of York as Richard Gloucester knew it left no heirs male (in great part due to the man himself, having failed to sire a son that lived and having quietly smothered his nephews chances of fathering an heir – although partial credit goes to Henry the Seventh, who struck down the last Heir Male to the Plantagenet Blood with the judicial assassination of poor Warwick, Clarences son), so it is hardly surprising that the Plantagenet ‘Y’ chromosome failed to pass down through the generations.

  12. winnie says:

    OT but the full Season Five trailer has me *drooling*.

    • Likewise, with an undertone of concern.

      • winnie says:

        Both good points.

        Tywin may have understood Joanna was a worthy politician in her own right but he might not have recognized the need for that on other women.

        And yeah its very possible Cersei was just a lousy student.

      • winnie says:

        Well they are clearly making some BIG changes from the books but considering what AFFC and ADWd were like that’s a good thing. I mean in the last 2 volumes we got 3 Sansa chapters without much action so really they have no choice but to move forward on that plot line if she is ultimately set to go up North which I think she is

        • Son of Fire says:

          Or she could get hung by her clearly insane un-mother!
          Remember sansa is not part of the “original five”.
          Littlefinger needs a good helping of un-cat to round off his story,i’d like to see the look on his face.

          • Why would LS hang her own daughter? She’s not completely insane, from her info she had reasons to think Brienne betrayed her and that Jamie had something to do with the RW (“Jamie Lannister sends his regards”) and she’s looking for her daughters: the BwB were looking for Sandor and Arya. And the people around her are not insane or undead.

            I don’t think that being or not being a part of the “original 5” means much, considering how much the characters and their storylines have changed from that draft. Sansa’s arc and character is completely different, so is Arya’s, Tyrion’s and Jaime’s.

          • Son of Fire says:

            Well on the insanity part….”Don’t cut my hair,ned likes it long” or something along those lines are cat’s last thoughts,that & raking her face is all i can remember(only read the novels once through)but i think she’s locked into a single focus that no one can break her out of,hanging traitors.
            As for hanging sansa…well i’m just shooting the breeze,no foreshadowing for it anywhere i can remember but sansa did kinda ratt on her daddy to the then queen about him sending her back to winterfell…Traitor
            Also being LF new BBF is also cause for a neckhole covered “hang them”.
            I totally agree about “original 5” being all changed up or maybe the concept being dropped altogether but if the story can change for a non original 5 member then their can be more to the others than just omnicide.
            I’d say the house of B&W won’t be too happy with undead people wandering about the place,might be a job for a new recruit.
            oh & i like sansa and don’t want her dead,watching ygritte die was bad enough.

          • She’s hardly Littlefinger’s “BFF”, more like virtual prisoner and abused teenage girl he’s trying to groom.

            The idea that 11-year old Sansa disobeying Ned and going to Cersei to overturn his decision so she could stay in KL and marry Ned, is some grand betrayal/crime/sin she must pay for is something that exists in parts of fandom, but is unlikely to be shared by any of the characters, particularly not her mother.

          • My post was, of course, supposed to read “and marry Joffrey”. LOL Typing fast and the lack of edit function can have strange results. But unlike Craster and Littlefinger, I’m not promoting the concept of girls marrying their fathers (or “fathers”). 😉

      • Sean C. says:

        I guess we can all look forward to Sansa being assaulted by Ramsey.

        • Winnie says:

          It looks like Ramsay is kissing another girl. (perhaps Jayne without fArya but as simply a victim for Theon to rescue) and while Sansa gets to WF its in disguise.

          • Sean C. says:

            That’s Myranda, his henchwoman.

          • Winnie says:

            I don’t think so. Different features and darker hair. Also that woman did NOT look happy to be there which fits my theory its Jayne or some other potential Ramsay victim who Theon helps out.

            I do think Rheon/Santa could be quite interesting… and perhaps she is the one he helps. We will see.

          • Sean C. says:

            Charlotte Hope (the actress) on Twitter certainly seems to think it’s her.

          • Making Sansa a damsel for Theon to rescue would be a massive regression, especially after they’ve tried so hard to make her look like a “badass” and “player”.

            Sansa going to Winterfell while Boltons are in power there is a massive risk and makes her and LF look incredibly reckless, but that’s nothing new for this show (LF challenging Cersei openly, Sandor and Arya announcing who they are in the Vale…). But at least they should have some reason for such a risk – i.e. she needs a reason to be there in the first place.

            The only way that the “Sansa in Winterfell” storyline could even remotely make sense would be if she’s there to reveal her identity to some of the northern lords (I guess we could have the traditional annual “Sansa reveals her identity to some people” moment ;D) and try to rally them to take action against the Boltons. Even though that would mean that she and LF are willing to put everything on the line on the chance that 1) there’s no one at Winterfell who will recognize her and would be willing to reveal her identity to the Boltons or wouldn’t be so good at keeping the secret, and 2) that the northerners she reveals herself to believe her, but are really loyal to the Starks. It’s foolish, but having her go there for any other reason would be even more foolish and nonsensical. There’s nothing else she could do to “avenge” her family that someone else in LF’s service couldn’t do, and is probably more experienced in doing, as well as far more expendable (sabotage, assassinations, info-collecting) – it’s not like she’s a Faceless Man in training, or a super-ninja assassin of any kind.

        • MightyIsobel says:

          In that case, I predict a Ramsey redemption arc. Bc noooooooooooooo

        • I hope not. Really pulling for “Winterfell worker” to be fArya.

          • Sean C. says:

            In the set photos and the brief image of the Arryn party arriving, you can see Ramsey is standing between Roose and Walda. That would normally be Roose’s place, so the obvious inference is that there’s a special reason why Ramsey will be greeting these new arrivals.

          • Meaning what exactly?

          • Sean C. says:

            To my mind, the two possible explanations are that it’s because Ramsey is Lord of Winterfell (which he was in the books, though this hasn’t yet been brought up in the show) and it’s his castle, or that he’s supposed to be greeting his prospective bride.

          • By prospective bride, do you mean Sansa Stark, or Alayne Baelish? The former makes no sense for anyone for all the reasons you already know; the latter is possible, but only if it’s nothing but a ruse (heh) on Sansa’s and Baelish’s part and they never intend to go through with it – I’m sure it doesn’t need to be explained, especially not to you, that it makes zero sense for Sansa to want to marry Ramsay, or for Baelish to want Sansa to marry Ramsay (or, for that matter, for the Vale lords to support Baelish and be protective of Sansa and swallow Baelish’s “which side you’re on/let’s go against the Lannisters” speech in season 4, and then to support the idea of Sansa marrying into the Boltons – none of it makes any sense).

          • Sean C. says:

            She’s still in her “Alayne” disguise through all the images we’ve seen, so not as Sansa. From Littlefinger’s “avenge them” stuff I gather this is meant to be some scheme of theirs to somehow destroy the Boltons. How far they mean to take this, I have no idea. The idea of Sansa being brutalized like Jeyne really makes no sense for a bunch of reasons (including that, frankly, the stuff GRRM writes into the books would never make it onto a TV show, whoever the character was), so it’s possible the wedding itself will never happen, if that is the plan.

          • Ah, but what about the fan theory that Sansa will, for some reason, decide to marry Ramsay and have sex with him “lying back and thinking of Winterfell”, as a part of this cunning plan to avenge her family, and that this will show her “evolution” and “maturation”? (That reminds me of the otherwise excellent mini-series “Hatfields and McCoys”, whose only flaw was a bizarre storyline where one character married a guy from the enemy family, lived with him for years and had several children, but finally revealed that it was all to ruin them inside and get revenge for her father?! Which didn’t seem to me like the lengths any real life human being would go to with that motivation, but then this character was a supporting character who was portrayed as weird and unlikable, so being relatable as a human being probably wasn’t high on the writers’ priorities. But hey, “weird and unlikable supporting character” may be how many fans see Sansa….) And show!Ramsay is capable of having consensual sex! And he’s hot! Maybe we’ll have a Sansa/Ramsay/Myranda “love triangle”! Maybe show fans will start a ship war between supproters of Sansa/Ramsay and Sansa/Littlefinger – it will be the new Edward vs Jacob! *insert rolleye emoticon*

            Apologies for the heavy sarcasm and grossness. But it seems that these days it’s unpopular to think that the level of absurdity and terrible writing on the show has limits, and that it does not reach the levels of absuridity and terrible writing the fandom expects from it, so what do I know.

          • Sean C. says:

            I really don’t know where they’re goin with this. I’m just steeling myself for the worst.

          • @Sean C: New EW article of season 5 confirms that Theon “gets some relief – not much, a little – when Ramsay finds a new plaything to torture.”
            Since it’s extremely unlikely that Sansa is going to Winterfell in order to be Ramsay’s tortured plaything, or that LF’s Cunning Plan involves Sansa becoming Ramsay’s tortured plaything, this seems to be a confirmation of fArya, or some variant thereof at least. If she’s fArya, then the idea of a Ramsay/Alayne betrothal is out. I guess she could also be a random girl who is not fArya, but then it wouldn’t be clear why he’s leaving her alive. It can’t be Myranda, his old plaything who does the torturing with him.

          • That would make me happy.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          More right than you knew.

  13. Jeff says:

    The story behind the controversy in the british royal family is pretty well covered here:

    The real reason contemporary people say that Richard III was legitimate was because he was the very spitting image of his father. He was even of similar height. Edward IV however was blonde, 6’6″ and brawny. He was the original inspiration for Robert Baratheon especially in his later years.

    • Except the weird thing is that the DNA suggested Richard was also blond.

      • Crystal says:

        My guess is that Richard was one of those who was a towhead as a child and then his hair darkened to a light/medium brown in his teens. One of my good friends has exactly that coloring – childhood pics show her with platinum hair, then as an adult it turned brown. It’s quite common in people of northern European descent.

        • zonaria says:

          I am one of them. Now it is going pale again…

          The article from the British press linked to indicates that this was indeed thought to be the case with Richard (not that I would necessarily trust a British media article to get its facts right – even I could find at least one factual error in that particular article)

        • I was one of them too. Bright blond as a kid, brown now.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            Ditto … perhaps we should start a ‘Blond to Brunette’ Pride Parade together?

          • Son of Fire says:

            Does’nt jaime’s hair darken some what after his return to KL & the re emergence of his honour?
            He’s no longer cersei’s mirror,i could be wrong but i remember laughing at it.

        • I’m not *northern* European, but when I was in primary school, over half of the children were blonde around age 7, and then their hair darkened over the years. I was supposedly born with dark hair which fell off as it does with babies, and then I had blondish/darker blonde hair until around age 4 (there are lots of photos from that time that show that), which turned into brown by the time I was in school, which turned into dark brown in puberty.

  14. Andrew says:

    Good analysis as always Steven. However I do have to point out a couple mistakes (or clarify a couple of points) in relation to your comments on the House of Stuart. The Stuarts were the royal house in Scotland long before the Tudors came to power in England, so to say that the House of Stuart was descended from the Tudors is inaccurate. It is more accurate to state that their most direct claim to the English crown came from the Tudors.

    Also you have identified the wrong Tudor monarch in this relationship: it was Henry VII’s daughter (whose name escapes me at the moment) who married the King of Scots James IV. So the Stuart’s claim to the English crown comes through Henry VII rather than his son Henry VIII, although if memory serves it was Henry VIII that arranged the marriage for his sister.

    • Their claim to the throne of England is where it mattered. And your right, sister, not daughter.

      • Andrew says:

        Absolutely, relative to the point you are making, it is the claim to the English throne that matters. I do think however that “…the Hanoverians had married into the House of Stuart, which was itself descended from King Henry VIII the arch-Tudor” should be more accurately replaced by “…the Hanoverians had married into the House of Stuart, which was itself claimed the throne of England through marriage to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII”. I think that the word “descended” is a little demeaning to the family that had ruled as Kings (and Queen) of Scots for the best part of 2 centuries before James VI became King of England as well.

    • Brian says:

      Margaret. (Same as my mother’s). And Henry VII negotiated it as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. Henry VIII arranged the marriage of his other sister Mary with Louis of France (Louis XII, I think?)

      As for determining RP3’s paternity, why not do a DNA test with Richard of York? The Royals won’t allow it?

      I can see them being hesitant to test Edward’s remains, but even if they do, I highly doubt Parliament would move to unseat the Royals now.

  15. Paul says:

    Um, sexy archers? Was that photo from your personal collection?

    • Just a google search. I was just amused by the parallel between Catherine of France and Cecily Neville.

      • Maybe Warwick and George Clarence were alluding to Catherine de Valois and Owen Tudor when they came up with that charge. I can see them being highly cynical in citing an established precedent when they came up with that charge. I wonder how it must be for Cecily when her own son accused her of adultery. That might have been an awkward dinner at the York family get together.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          Doubtless Duchess Cecily would have kicked Clarence out of Barnard Castle with her own dainty foot were that false, fleeting, perjuring fellow to be so full of folly as to foul up her foyer.

          Goodness me but that particular wisecrack took a turn for the alliterative even faster than the cinematic V FOR VENDETTA.

  16. Son of Fire says:

    A very good read,many thanks

  17. Well, with Edward III, there may not have been a problem with mommy having a lover, if that lover hadn’t become a bit too powerful and started to overstep his position. This was probably more likely to happen with noblemen who became lovers of a queen, or a king (Piers Gaveston). Because of the gender bias, they and others would be more likely to see them as more powerful compared to a mistress of a king – unless she becomes a wife, like Anne Boleyn.

  18. Regarding Lancel’s age (although at 16, he’s technically considered an adult in Westeros) as the reason for him not being incredibly bright and for being easily manipulated and cowed, if he is indeed an average 16-year old (which I’m not sure about, I’d rather put him somewhat below average) – it puts into sharp perspective the characterization and arcs of main characters like Jon Snow and Dany, who are about 16 in ADWD, or Robb, who was around the same age when he died, and fans’ criticism of some of their mistakes or simply “teenage” behavior (for instance, the sharp criticism of Dany’s crush on Daario, which didn’t even have any political ramifications). It also puts into perspective fandom’s criticism of even younger characters, like Sansa and her mistakes at age 11, or her relative lack of political astuteness in certain situations at age 12.

    • Crystal says:

      I know – a lot of readers keep forgetting how young these kids are! There’s a reason children are not tried as adults for crimes, nor are they allowed to vote or hold office.

      Not to mention the fact that *Ned* doomed himself by telling Cersei that he knew all about her and Jaime and that her life was forfeit. At that point there was nothing that Sansa could have done or not done that would have done much to influence the outcome. Plus, yeah, eleven years old – how many people believe that an eleven-year-old should be tried as an adult?

      I’ve mentioned before how I think Lancel’s childhood was, in its way, as sheltered as Sansa’s, though maybe not as remote (because Casterly Rock wasn’t as out of the way as Winterfell). Kevan Lannister and Dorna Swyft married for love, and seem to have been a happy couple like Ned and Cat (maybe even happier, in a way, as Kevan had no known bastards). Lancel was the eldest son. He and his siblings were brought up by loving parents in a circle of quiet domesticity at Casterly Rock. Since Kevan was a second son, and Tywin already had his heirs, I doubt it was expected that Lancel would be a ruling lord: instead, tourney knight + pretty face + *maybe* husband to heiress of minor lord, would be what Lancel was brought up to be.

      When Lancel got to court, he was probably even more out of his depth than Sansa – who was, at least, the daughter of an actual ruling lord, and bred from the cradle to be a Queen or lord paramount’s wife. I doubt Lancel was trained for any high destiny. And he doesn’t seem to have much native intelligence or ability, nor did he have anyone interested in grooming him for greater things. He arrives at court to be Robert’s squire, and probably has a head full of starry eyed dreams about being a King’s squire, but he winds up being shouted at by a drunken asshole who hates his family and resents having to take him on. For Cersei to manipulate him by playing seductress/Good Cop must have been somewhat easier than taking candy from a baby.

  19. Shadow says:

    Regarding Tyrion’s relationship with Shae and his desire for the “girlfriend experience”: I’m not sure that what Tyrion has been doing in that aspect of his life is necessarily self-deluding. He’s a healthy man in his late 20’s with a normal desire for sexual companionship/intimacy. He lives in a world which only offers that two ways – commercial arrangements or marriage. He is well past the age for marriage in Westeros, but the combination of his high-born status and his dwarfism has severely limited his options for a wife. His father forbids him from marrying beneath his class (and has made sure Tyrion understands that limitation in a truly horrific way) and the families of high-born women his father might accept have other options for their daughters, and they fear dwarfism in the offspring. A commercial arrangement is realistically his only option. I guess in the case of BookShae, his character judgment is weak. An older, less “hot” prostitute would be a better bet. (The books introduce several prostitute characters who seem to be less calculating than BookShae.) And considering his father’s murderous attitude toward Tyrion’s women, maybe he should remain celibate during those times he is hanging out in Tywin’s vicinity. Of course, if Tyrion were that careful we wouldn’t have much of a story.

    • He wouldn’t even need to look for older and less hot – Alayaya is about Shae’s age and beautiful, but she would have been a much better choice. She’s shown herself to be incredibly loyal and unwilling to get other people into trouble to save her own skin, so it’s hard to see her betraying Tyrion. And while she probably would have had no more romantic interest in Tyrion than Shae did, it’s likely she would have shown more general human affection to him, if her views on prostitution and motives to engage in it are similar to her mother’s.

      However, Tyrion wanted the illusion of passion, not just human kindness, and since he was drawn to Shae as a replacement for Tysha, the fact she was a lowborn Westerosi girl who looked somewhat similar to Tysha in broad terms, he probably wouldn’t have developed th same feelings for Alayaya.

  20. Jared says:

    I just wanted to start out by saying I really enjoy reading your stuff man. I don’t always agree with you (whether about asoiaf, politically, or ideologically). But I appreciate the fact you always have sound logic and reasons for what you assert.

    More specifically even when you lean assert a more “leftist” ideology, it never goes into the “bleeding heart” or “ignoring of basic human nature/behavior” level that usually turns me off to those kind of arguments.
    (I’m a moderate conservative, but I believe that the “effective truth” or “seeing things as they are” is the most important thing. I’ve been heavily influenced by Robert Greene lol.)

    TLDR: I enjoy your stuff even when I don’t always agree with you

    Alright pertaining to the post: I personally think Lancel still has a significant role to play in the political situation in Kings Landing, beyond being the person who told the High Septon bout the incest. Thoughts?

    • Mitch says:

      I can’t recall of a single instance of Steven inserting his views into the recaps, or for that matter even acknowledging where he stands on the spectrum. Whatever subtext you’re reading, I’m just not picking up on it.

      • Jared says:

        It wasn’t critique lol. And you missed my overall point. Even if I am saying I see bias that isn’t there because I’m dumb. I’m saying that I still enjoy his work GREATLY and love how he has well thought out logic behind it….how is that a bad thing?

    • Well, I don’t particularly hide my ideology. I’m a social democrat. But that’s not relevant at the moment.

      Lancel might be the champion of the faith, he might be important in other ways to the High Sparrow (possibly as a more pro-Faith head of House Lannister?), etc.

    • blacky says:

      I just saw a moderate conservative…right next to that unicorn.

  21. Roger says:

    I gree with all your assessment, maester Steven. Good work!
    All fools are knights and all knights are fool about love. That applies to Imps, too.
    Considering Shae existence was a secret, I wonder who told Cersei about her. It was Varys manipulations? Or perhaps Shae herself offered herself to testify against Tyrion?

  22. Balmiki says:

    Excellent as always. And you are right. The way they handled the character of Shae is confusing. I really liked the way they started diverging the character from the book as I really liked Sibel Kekli as Shae. She was doing a fantastic job. The character was showing compassion and maturity along with fierce loyalty. All of a sudden she becomes a drama queen and does a U-turn. The testimonial of Shae was designed as an important tool to put the final nail on Tyrion’s coffin….but the show messed it up. They could not have discarded the final outcome. But after digressing, the could not untangle the threads anymore. Result is a meaningless end to a memorable character (the show version more than the book version). Consequently I never understood why they omitted Jaimie’s confession from the show. That is what pushed Tyrion over the edge and then made him kill both Shae and Tywin. Sometimes it is better to follow the book than come up with ideas which ultimately bears little fruition!

    • I think they could have made it work if they’d hit certain things harder – they tried for jealousy, but they didn’t really sell it. With that scene in, I think her betrayal of Tyrion works. The bigger problem is her betrayal of Sansa.

  23. […] and regicide. And here’s where we see a major shortcoming of Tyrion’s political skills: as with Pycelle, he acts as if he will always have political power. On the face of it, Tyrion’s not saying […]

  24. […] in this chapter and the next Catelyn chapter, Robb’s strategy also works to simultaneously demoralize the Lannisters – hence “not natural, coming on them so fast, in the night at all. He’s more […]

  25. […] monopoly on violence. Second, we can see that Tyrion really does excel at this kind of tradecraft, planting agents inside Cersei’s camp, and then turning her agents. Third, on the second read-through, knowing that Littlefinger is […]

  26. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    An affair with William de la Pole? I might not believe that name of I saw it in a Mel Brooks movie. 🙂

  27. […] deposed monarchs hanging around, who need to be dealt with somehow. Edward II, overthrown by his wife and her paramour, was murdered in Berkeley Castle on their orders (although the story that he was […]

  28. […] a weapon doesn’t work out any better than it did for Jenna Maroney – Lancel’s a broken reed even before she breaks him, the Kettleblacks both betray her to Tyrion and Littlefinger and […]

  29. […] life taking orders, whether as a Lannister stooge at court, Cersei’s choice for kingslayer, Cersei’s substitute lover, or Tyrion’s double agent. He never really had a chance to think for himself and grow up a […]

  30. […] (Cersei’s affairs do tend to spike with some sort of threat on the horizon, as we see with Lancel and the coming siege of King’s Landing). It’s the lack of immediate catalyst or […]

  31. Pudding says:

    Ouch! Shae’s back looks like it would be painfully disfigured were she to stand up. She really doesn’t suit the easy relaxed expression she’s rocking there!

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