Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XI, ACOK

“Them as own all this won’t like that much.”

“I never imagined they would. So be it; they’ll have something else to curse the evil monkey demon for.”

Synopsis: as Stannis‘ army nears King’s Landing, Tyrion organizes the defenses of the city.

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:

With Tyrion XI, we have arrived at the beginning of the main event of A Clash of Kings, the Battle of the Blackwater. It is a hugely ambitious effort on GRRM’s part: rather than confining a battle to one chapter or having it happen off-screen, the battle stretches across nine chapters; rather than having one POV character observe the battle, we have three POV characters, with Tyrion giving us the defenders’ side, Davos the attacker’s side, and Sansa showing us the impact of the battle on the civilian population. And as I’ll be discussing both on the podcast and in the Historical Analysis section, GRRM draws on some of the most famous sieges in history to give the battle structure, military logic, and sheer scope of drama.

Shaping Operations

However, it’s also a battle that begins quite gradually, so the first couple chapters will mostly be table-setting. To begin with, we start with a couple opening moves where we see Tyrion trying to shape the battle to his advantage:

Timett had taken his Burned Men into the kingswood two days before. Yesterday the Black Ears and Moon Brothers followed, today the Stone Crows.

“Whatever you do, don’t try and fight a battle,” Tyrion said. “Strike at their camps and baggage train. Ambush their scouts and hang the bodies from trees ahead of their line of march, loop around and cut down stragglers. I want night attacks, so many and so sudden that they’ll be afraid to sleep—”

Shagga laid a hand atop Tyrion’s head. “All this I learned from Dolf son of Holger before my beard had grown. This is the way of war in the Mountains of the Moon.”

“The kingswood is not the Mountains of the Moon, and you won’t be fighting Milk Snakes and Painted Dogs. And listen to the guides I’m sending, they know this wood as well as you know your mountains. Heed their counsel and they’ll serve you well.”

As I learned from BryndenBFish, a shaping operation is defined as “an operation at any echelon that creates and preserves conditions for the success of the decisive operation. Shaping operations establish conditions for the decisive operation through effects on the enemy, population, and terrain.” Here we see Tyrion trying to use the terrain to his best advantage – the dense forest of the kingswood as a force multiplier for his mobile guerrilla-style mountain men – to try to slow down Stannis and buy more time, while demoralizing Stannis’ forces. And while it’s not intentional, this operation is also successful in ensuring that Stannis is denied military intelligence that might have revealed the Tyrell center and vanguard south of the river.

The downside is that this means that Tyrion has 150 fewer men to man the walls. And Tyrion’s major shortcoming in commanding the defense is, ironically given how much he’s focused on supply issues, not starvation or lack of war materiel, but the quantity and quality of his troops:

He still had Bronn’s hirelings, near eight hundred of them now, but sellswords were notoriously fickle. Tyrion had done what he could to buy their continued loyalty, promising Bronn and a dozen of his best men lands and knighthoods when the battle was won. They’d drunk his wine, laughed at his jests, and called each other ser until they were all staggering…all but Bronn himself, who’d only smiled that insolent dark smile of his and afterward said, “They’ll kill for that knighthood, but don’t ever think they’ll die for it.”

Tyrion had no such delusion.

The gold cloaks were almost as uncertain a weapon. Six thousand men in the City Watch, thanks to Cersei, but only a quarter of them could be relied upon. “There’s few out-and-out traitors, though there’s some, even your spider hasn’t found them all,” Bywater had warned him. “But there’s hundreds greener than spring grass, men who joined for bread and ale and safety. No man likes to look craven in the sight of his fellows, so they’ll fight brave enough at the start, when it’s all warhorns and blowing banners. But if the battle looks to be going sour they’ll break, and they’ll break bad. The first man to throw down his spear and run will have a thousand more trodding on his heels.”

To be sure, there were seasoned men in the City Watch, the core of two thousand who’d gotten their gold cloaks from Robert, not Cersei. Yet even those . . . a watchman was not truly a soldier, Lord Tywin Lannister had been fond of saying. Of knights and squires and men-at-arms, Tyrion had no more than three hundred. Soon enough, he must test the truth of anotheer of his father’s sayings: One man on a wall was worth ten beneath it.

Tyrion Lannister walked his horse slowly toward the Mud Gate. Winterfell is nothing to you, he reminded himself. Be glad the place has fallen, and look to your own walls. The gate was open. Inside, three great trebuchets stood side by side in the market square, peering over the battlements like three huge birds. Their throwing arms were made from the trunks of old oaks, and banded with iron to keep them from splitting. The gold cloaks had named them the Three Whores, because they’d be giving Lord Stannis such a lusty welcome. Or so we hope.

Taking Tyrion’s estimates at his word, Tyrion has 1,500 reliable men among the goldcloaks, plus the 800 mercenaries, plus 300 Lannistermen, for a total of 2,600 reliable soldiers. Given that Stannis has ~21-25,000 men, Tyrion is well below the number he needs, even given the normal 1:3 advantage for defenders; even if all of Tyrion’s men were reliable, he would still be just barely above the line. Hence, Tyrion knows that he cannot win a standup fight against Stannis, even with the advantage of the walls. And so he’ll have to cheat – hence Tyrion’s strategy will turn on the two things that GRRM has Tyrion not think about in this chapter, in order to build the tension.

In another form of shaping operations, Tyrion also engages in scorched earth tactics to deny Stannis a protected landing:

He was a deal less pleased by the clutter of ramshackle structures that had been allowed to grow up behind the quays, attaching themselves to the city walls like barnacles on the hull of a ship; bait shacks and pot-shops, warehouses, merchants’ stalls, alehouses, the cribs where the cheaper sort of whores spread their legs. It has to go, every bit of it. As it was, Stannis would hardly need scaling ladders to storm the walls.

He called Bronn to his side. “Assemble a hundred men and burn everything you see here between the water’s edge and the city walls.” He waved his stubby fingers, taking in all the waterfront squalor. “I want nothing left standing, do you understand?”

The black-haired sellsword turned his head, considering the task. “Them as own all this won’t like that much.”

“I never imagined they would. So be it; they’ll have something else to curse the evil monkey demon for.”

Tyrion’s attention to detail is critical, one of the many factors that could have meant the difference between victory and defeat for either side. In addition to the quays that could have allowed Ser Imry Florent’s surviving landing parties to disembark much more quickly, these “ramshackle structures” would have denied the defenders up on the wall a clear field of fire, and allowed Stannis’ men to assemble into disciplined formations that could have withstood sorties from the city.

However, this is also, in microcosm, this is also a sign of a major shortcoming in Tyrion’s character. For a good cause, he’ll engage in brutal action directed against some of the poorest of the people in the city. And this willingness to act like the “evil monkey demon” who fights for the city that hates and fears him, without thinking about whether he could be seen any other way, badly handicaps his political future.

God(s) On Our Side

A 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 double-edged sword:

“I want the gods on our side,” Tyrion told him bluntly. “Tell them that Stannis has vowed to burn the Great Sept of Baelor.”

“Is it true, my lord?” asked the High Septon, a small, shrewd man with a wispy white beard and wizened face.

Tyrion shrugged. “It may be. Stannis burned the godswood at Storm’s End as an offering to the Lord of Light. If he’d offend the old gods, why should he spare the new? Tell them that. Tell them that any man who thinks to give aid to the usurper betrays the gods as well as his rightful king.”

This is such a good political move – mobilizing the hegemonic faith of the common people in the Seven at a time when they have absolutely none in the king – that my main question is why Tyrion didn’t do it sooner and more often. After all, while Tyrion can’t change the way he looks or change the way Joffrey behaves, there’s no reason why he can’t start acting more publicly pious, going to sept frequently, distributing alms to the poor, etc. And as Hand of the King, Tyrion’s taken a further step in this process by naming a new High Septon. This reminds me, why didn’t Tyrion make use of the High Septon when his political situation got rockier in ASOS?

Wildfire

Wildfire Industrial Production Up 3000%!

And with that out of the way, let’s get back to the war effort, and specifically Tyrion’s attempt to use wildfire as his silver bullet. Outnumbered and outclassed by Stannis’ army, Tyrion plans to do the only thing a responsible defender would do: cheat. While Tyrion is still not thinking about his chain in a rather dubious use of limited third-person narration, here he’s making use of wildfire much as the Byzantines used “greek fire”, to use firepower to trump manpower.

And at this moment, we get some new information that radically changes how wildfire will operate in the Battle of Blackwater:

Only then did he admit Hallyne with the latest tallies from the alchemists. “This cannot be true,” said Tyrion as he pored over the ledgers. “Almost thirteen thousand jars? Do you take me for a fool? I’m not about to pay the king’s gold for empty jars and pots of sewage sealed with wax, I warn you.”

“No, no,” Hallyne squeaked, “the sums are accurate, I swear. We have been, hmmm, most fortunate, my lord Hand. Another cache of Lord Rossart’s was found, more than three hundred jars. Under the Dragonpit! Some whores have been using the ruins to entertain their patrons, and one of them fell through a patch of rotted floor into a cellar. When he felt the jars, he mistook them for wine. He was so drunk he broke the seal and drank some.”

…”Yes, yes, that’s so.” Hallyne mopped at his pale brow with the sleeve of his black-and-scarlet robe. “We have been working very hard, my lord Hand, hmmm.”

“That would doubtless explain why you are making so much more of the substance than before.” Smiling, Tyrion fixed the pyromancer with his mismatched stare. “Though it does raise the question of why you did not begin working hard until now.”

Hallyne had the complexion of a mushroom, so it was hard to see how he could turn any paler, yet somehow he managed. “We were, my lord Hand, my brothers and I have been laboring day and night from the first, I assure you. It is only, hmmm, we have made so much of the substance that we have become, hmmm, more practiced as it were, and also”—the alchemist shifted uncomfortably—”certain spells, hmmm, ancient secrets of our order, very delicate, very troublesome, but necessary if the substance is to be, hmmm, all it should be…”

Tyrion was growing impatient. Ser Jacelyn Bywater was likely here by now, and Ironhand misliked waiting. “Yes, you have secret spells; how splendid. What of them?”

“They, hmmm, seem to be working better than they were.” Hallyne smiled weakly. “You don’t suppose there are any dragons about, do you?”

There’s a lot to unpack here. To begin with, let’s talk about how this news changes Tyrion’s strategy. Remember, previously Tyrion had largely been planning to use the wildfire from siege engines, albeit in a more disciplined fashion. Now that he has almost twice as many jars as he had approximately five months ago, Tyrion can now use the wildfire on a totally different scale, while still having an ample supply to use from the walls. By creating a fleet of fireboats with which he will attempt to destroy Stannis’ naval superiority, Tyrion can as far as possible avoid having to fight Stannis’ full army. Thus, much in the same way that Robb used geography to establish local superiority at the Battle of the Camps, Tyrion hopes to render the vast bulk of Stannis’ army strategically irrelevant.

At the same time, I think we can also see here GRRM laying the groundwork for how to have his lopsided, hopeless struggle against overwhelming odds and eat it too, much as he does in ASOS with the Battle of Castle Black. Just as the Wall focuses the conflict to the gate and the climbers, here the river allows Tyrion to credibly mount his heroic sortie without having to confront Stannis’ entire army. And in both cases, he quietly sets up the groundwork for a deus ex machina that feels natural, as opposed to, well…mechanical.

On an entirely different note, this is also a moment where we the reader get to luxuriate in knowing more than Tyrion, as GRRM carefully drip-feeds information about Dany, the dragons, and the return of magic to his characters in Westeros. One of the things I disliked about Season 3 of Game of Thrones is the way that they had the news about Dany and her dragons leak way too quickly – less than three episodes pass between the sack of Astapor and the news that Dany has successfully hatched dragons reaching King’s Landing completely accurately. Not only does this mean that we don’t get to see Varys mis-informing the Small Council (a key clue to his true loyalties), but we also get an inaccurate sense of how long it takes information to get from one part of the world to another. And it’s done for a really peculiar reason – having Tywin send a letter to Jorah granting his pardon, so that Dany would have a reason to exile him, which always struck me as a particularly ineffective strategy for ensuring that she stays in Slaver’s Bay. Moreover, since Jorah already had that letter in his possession, it wouldn’t have been that difficult for someone to have found it and brought it to Ser Barristan without any such scene with Tywin.

Politics Break

And now, a break for politics! First things first, following the old analogy in public policy that “personnel is policy,” as appointees naturally carry their ideas into their work rather than acting as entirely neutral instruments of the elected official’s will. Thus, in the aftermath of the King’s Landing riot, we get new kingsguard:

He approved of his sister’s choice of Ser Balon Swann to take the place of the slain Preston Greenfield. The Swanns were Marcher lords, proud, powerful, and cautious. Pleading illness, Lord Gulian Swann had remained in his castle, taking no part in the war, but his eldest son had ridden with Renly and now Stannis, while Balon, the younger, served at King’s Landing. If he’d had a third son, Tyrion suspected he’d be off with Robb Stark. It was not perhaps the most honorable course, but it showed good sense; whoever won the Iron Throne, the Swanns intended to survive. In addition to being well born, young Ser Balon was valiant, courtly, and skilled at arms; good with a lance, better with a morningstar, superb with the bow. He would serve with honor and courage.

Alas, Tyrion could not say the same for Cersei’s second choice. Ser Osmund Kettleblack looked formidable enough. He stood six feet and six inches, most of it sinew and muscle, and his hook nose, bushy eyebrows, and spade-shaped brown beard gave his face a fierce aspect, so long as he did not smile. Lowborn, no more than a hedge knight, Kettleblack was utterly dependent on Cersei for his advancement, which was doubtless why she’d picked him. “Ser Osmund is as loyal as he is brave,” she’d told Joffrey when she put forward his name. It was true, unfortunately. The good Ser Osmund had been selling her secrets to Bronn since the day she’d hired him, but Tyrion could scarcely tell her that.

With the case of Balon Swann, we get an interesting glimpse into feudal politics. House Swann’s absence from the battlefield is a partial solution to the question of what was going on with the Stormlands’ military numbers. In retrospect, House Swann’s absence from the battlefield to date and their status as marcher lords might well suggest that they are secret Blackfyre loyalists waiting for the Golden Company to land in the Stormlands. On the other hand, the fact that a noted Targaryen loyalist like Barristan Selmy squired for a Swann in his youth sort of counts against that. At the same time, it’s good to see the Lannisters actually playing the feudal politics game for once rather than trying to rule absolutely without the ability to do so.

With the case of Osmund Kettleblack, however, we see a number of different threads coming together: Cersei’s plot to bring down Margaery gets its catspaw and its Achilles’ heel, at the same time that Littlefinger’s infiltration of the royal court with his own secret partisans begins to bear fruit. At the same time, I remain convinced that the Kettleblacks in general and Ser Osmund in particular are useless instruments that will fail everyone and anyone who relies on them, including their master in the Vale.

Finally, we turn to the news that, in addition to the south learning that the Starks have lost Winterfell, Balon Greyjoy has reached out to the Lannisters for an alliance, only the second time that a faction of the War of Five Kings has reached out to another (the first being Robb Stark reaching out to Renly):

[The gods] had given the Starks Harrenhal and taken Winterfell, a dismal exchange. 

No doubt he should be rejoicing. Robb Stark would have to turn north now. If he could not defend his own home and hearth, he was no sort of king at all. It meant reprieve for the west, for House Lannister, and yet…

…a more intriguing [letter] from Balon Greyjoy on Pyke, who styled himself King of the Isles and the North. He invited King Joffrey to send an envoy to the Iron Islands to fix the borders between their realms and discuss a possible alliance.

Tyrion read the letter three times and set it aside. Lord Balon’s longships would have been a great help against the fleet sailing up from Storm’s End, but they were thousands of leagues away on the wrong side of Westeros, and Tyrion was far from certain that he wanted to give away half the realm. Perhaps I should spill this one in Cersei’s lap, or take it to the council.

As comes as no surprise to people who’ve read my Theon chapters, I don’t really think much of Balon Greyjoy as a political or military leader and this move is no exception. On an ideological level, I find hilarious that the same man who disdained Theon for trying to make an alliance with the Starks is going hat in hand to the Lannisters in a stunning show of hypocrisy regarding the Iron Price. On a realpolitik level, I’m in agreement with Tywin Lannister (which rarely happens) that Balon massively screwed up by attacking the North and then asking for an alliance in that order.

A couple other things to note: first, it’s interesting that Tyrion has this running thread of being a Stark sympathizer. Given the direction of his plot in ADWD, this doesn’t seem to have much of a payoff, so I wonder whether this is a leftover from the Ur-Text where Tyrion’s storyline was supposed to revolve around the Starks and Winterfell?

Second, despite Tyrion’s accurate perspective that the loss of Winterfell is a massive political setback for Robb Stark, I don’t necessarily agree that Robb is now obligated to quit the war in the Riverlands. At the moment, Winterfell is so lightly held that it’s overwhelmingly likely that Ser Rodrick Cassel can retake the castle and begin the process of rallying the North to expel the Ironborn. And indeed, if not for the sudden intervention of Ramsay Snow, Robb would have retaken Winterfell and taken Theon prisoner, which would be enough to keep his northern lords on-side for at least one more campaign.

The Antler Men

So finally, we move to the Antler Men, partisans of Stannis Baratheon who sought to open the gates to the man they considered to be the rightful king. As I’ve suggested before, the ASOIAF fandom has a tendency to underestimate Stannis’ potential to inspire loyalty, simply because he’s unpopular among the nobility. But among the contenders in the War of Five Kings, you could only say that Robb Stark has been able to call forth the same devotion from people who never knew him (and even then, the North rises in ADWD as much or more for Ned than for his son). Moreover, the existence of the Antler Men throws into question Tyrion’s argument that his actions, however brutal they might be, are ultimately for the salvation of the civilian population of King’s Landing. Especially in the wake of the King’s Landing riot, it might well be argued that at least part of the city welcomed the overthrow of their Lannister overlords:

“I know some of these names. These are rich men. Traders, merchants, craftsmen. Why should they conspire against us?”

“It seems they believe that Lord Stannis must win, and wish to share his victory. They call themselves the Antler Men, after the crowned stag.”

“Someone should tell them that Stannis changed his sigil. Then they can be the Hot Hearts.” It was no matter for jests, though; it appeared that these Antler Men had armed several hundred followers, to seize the Old Gate once battle was joined, and admit the enemy to the city. Among the names on the list was the master armorer Salloreon. “I suppose this means I won’t be getting that terrifying helm with the demon horns,” Tyrion complained as he scrawled the order for the man’s arrest.

While we might conclude that the craftsmen of King’s Landing might be reacting to their economic privations, the destruction of their property, and being forcibly drafted into the war effort on threat of mutilation or imprisonment, Tyrion’s tenure as Master of Coins in A Storm of Swords raises a new question. How did Littlefinger get the various traders and merchants who owed money to the crown or who had bribed him for royal office onto the list? Unless Littlefinger managed to pull one over on Varys by somehow infiltrating his spy network (which seems unlikely, given the lack of corroborating evidence), my guess is that Varys simply didn’t care. After all, if Littlefinger destabilizes the Lannister monarchy by eliminating its debtors and allowing his embezzlement to continue, this serves Varys’ long-term purposes of destabilizing the Lannister regime while being too long-term to prevent the Lannisters from stopping Stannis at the gates of King’s Landing.

There’s also one element of this story where I think GRRM made a world-building error, but I’ll discuss that in the What If? section.

Historical Analysis:

In the Battle of Blackwater week, both in the essays and in the podcast, I’ll be discussing in depth the singular historical parallel for this conflict: the great city of Constantinople and two of the most famous sieges in a city with a history of sieges, the Second Arab Siege of 717-718 CE and the Fourth Crusade of 1202-4. Incidentally, I cannot recommend highly enough the History of Byzantium podcast. If my historical analysis awakens an appetite for more on the history of the Eastern Roman Empire, 86 podcasts await you online.

Before I get into the details of those sieges in  future chapters, I want to set out why I think the parallel is apt, and that’s ultimately a question of geography and politics. Let us begin with the geography:

byzantine_constantinople_eng

In 324 CE, when Constantine the Great came out of the west and arrived at the Greek city of Byzantium, he found a city seemingly designed by nature to be impossible to take in a siege. Indeed, the later inhabitants of the city would claim, with some justification, that God himself had made their city invincible, and had divinely inspired the first Christian Emperor of Rome to choose this place as his future capital, his new Rome. Divine inspiration or no, Constantine was too experienced a commander to ignore the defensive advantages that geography afforded him. Situated on a peninsula where the Bosphorus met the Golden Horn, the future Constantinople had water on three sides, meaning that it could only be attacked by land from one direction. Moreover, as so many would-be conquerors found to their dismay, the waters of the Propontis and the Bosphorus flow into one another in such a way to create a treacherous current that reaches 7-8 knots, requiring frequent course alterations to cross the crucial straits that connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and making landing and anchoring extremely difficult. Any enemy seeking to take Constantinople by sea would have to brave those currents, while the city’s own navy could sally forth with the current at their backs and retreat to protected harbors.

klasconstantinople

When Aegon the Conqueror – another conqueror who had been hailed as a destined leader early in his life, who brought a new order of things to an entire world – came to Blackwater Bay, he beheld a similar sight:

“it was Aegon who saw a great royal city to rival and surpass Lannisport and Oldtown spring up around his crude Aegonfort. …where once only fishing boats were seen, now cogs and galleys from Oldtown, Lannisport, the Free Cities, and even the Summer Isles began to appear as the flow of trade shifted from Duskendale and Maidenpool to King’s Landing. The Aegonfort itself grew larger, bursting past its initial palisade to encompass more of Aegon’s High Hill, and a new wooden keep was raised, its walls fifty feet high. It stood until 35 AC, when Aegon tore it down so that the Red Keep could be raised as a castle fit for the Targaryens and their heirs.” (WOIAF, loc. 1245)

On the southeastern hill, he could raise his Aegonfort and would have water on three sides, a formidable natural defense. The bay and the river, and the natural harbor they formed, would give him simultaneously access to the Valyrian-held islands of Blackwater Bay and the Free Cities beyond and access to the interior of the continent via the Blackwater Rush. Any enemy that would come against would have to come from the north or west and hit the great walls he ordered built.

And in both cases, the city itself became the synecdoche of the empire.

Especially with the waning and waxing of the Byzantine Empire’s eastern and western borders which lacked strong natural barriers (especially once the Danube fell), the city of Constantinople became the Empire to its citizens. Time and again, the Empire would see its provinces lost, driven back to the walls of the city; time and time again, the Empire would rally and conquer vast swathes of territory. No matter how much territory a rebel seized, without the imperial capitol itself they were a mere pretender to the purple; vice versa, many emperors began their reigns with only the city acknowledging them as the heir of Constantine the Great.

As for Westeros, the inextricable link between the shock and awe of Aegon’s dragon-led Conquest and the forging of the Iron Throne from the swords of his enemies made the Iron Throne’s location the immovable capitol of the Targaryens and the most dramatic symbol of the monarchy itself. As far as the population of Westeros is concerned, he who sits the Iron Throne of Westeros must be the King – even if it’s actually the Hand of the King – and if the Iron Throne rejects the person sitting on it, they are no true King at all.

And so, to seize either empires, you must take the capitol, overcome every natural and man-made obstacle. And in future installments, I’ll show how armies have failed and succeeded in their mission.

What If?

So for the most part, there’s not a huge scope for hypotheticals in this chapter, but there are a couple of interesting scenarios:

  • Mountain clans not sent out? If Tyrion had decided that he needed all hands on deck to man the walls and hadn’t sent out the mountain clans to invade the forest, a couple things change. First, Stannis’ advance is moved up somewhat and the morale of his forces improved – although given that the key variable for when the battle starts is Stannis’ navy and not his land forces, the battle itself happens at the same time.
  • Second, it’s possible that Stannis’ outriders might have detected the Tyrell forces as they got in place for their flank attack. Had Stannis been aware of this threat, his battle strategy might have changed dramatically. Given the ample time and raw materials he has to prepare his defenses, Stannis would certainly have had earthworks and stakes in place to blunt the Tyrell cavalry charge – indeed, he may have had time to build a wooden wall protecting his flank, forcing the Tyrells to make their own assault rather than slam into his exposed side unawares. Certainly, Stannis’ men would have performed better – as any number of historical and present-day examples show, even green troops will generally hold even against unfavorable odds and heavy losses, as long as they’re attacked from the front and their flanks are secure. By contrast, even a small force attacking from the flank and rear stands a good chance of routing a numerically superior foe.
  • Antler Men not found out? Here’s where I think GRRM might have made a worldbuilding error. The Old Gate of King’s Landing is on the north side of the city, on the complete opposite side of the battle. Given that Stannis’ forces are all on the southern side of the city, opening that gate is militarily useless – leaving aside whether they could have marched all the way around the city before Tyrion could have made use of interior lines to move his forces to block them, there’s no way for Stannis’ army to see that the Old Gate has been opened. Now, if the Antler Men had opened the Lion Gate or the King’s Gate on the southwestern side, or the Iron Gate or the Dragon Gate on the eastern side, these would have posed a genuine danger to Tyrion’s defenses.
  • If those gates had been opened at the beginning of the battle, Stannis’ army could have made use of them. In the case of the Lion Gate or the King’s Gate, the landing parties that were repulsed in OTL could have taken the gates there, likely causing Tyrion’s army to break ahead of schedule, and allowing parts of Stannis’ army to take the city and besiege the Red Keep. Likewise, in the case of the Iron Gate or the Dragon Gate, Stannis could have used his Lyseni ships that remained in the bay to trans-ship his land forces on the far side of the boom chain, negating Tyrion’s entire stratagem.

Book vs. Show:

The show, unfortunately, can’t go into all of these subtleties, hemmed in as it was by severe budgetary constraints. Most fans were focused largely on the omission of Tyrion’s boom chain, which was a real loss, but as we can see in this chapter, there were a lot of subtleties and nuances that had to be omitted from the show.

More on this in future installments.

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68 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XI, ACOK

  1. Jeff Lutz says:

    About your comment about season 3 where episodes later from the sack of Astapor they hear about Dany and Tywin sends a letter to Jorah. He sends that letter in season 4.

    The sack of Astapor is season 3 episode 4. In fact Varys tells Tyrion in season 2 episode 8 about the rumors from Quarth. It’s in season 4 when Tywin has that letter sent to Jorah to unveil him as a spy. Oberyn is sitting on that council when they talk about it and he first appears in season 4.

    • Thanks for the correction. Still, I think it’s bad writing.

      • Jeff Lutz says:

        Oh no disagreements there. I was just saying in terms of the quickness they received word, it wasn’t too immediate.

        While I appreciate the show overall, I am well aware of its glaring flaws. For example, I agree with a lot of your assessments where they failed to accurately explain Robb’s campaign so that when they open season 3 and he is “winning the battles but losing the war” and showing up in Harrenhal, it is hard to swallow that because they do not do an accurate job showing his forces and plans throughout the show.

        I do have to admit that a lot of the new and edited stuff they include I do not understand where it comes from and why they chose to change what they do. It is very frustrating. A lot of times, I like following the show more for, we get some type of new information, whether you like it or not, agree or not, you get some propulsion forward. And then you can accept or not at your leisure. Just another way to create probably and tin foil theories while we wait for the new book I suppose. lol.

  2. slybrarian says:

    That wildfire cache under the dragonpit seems like a narrowly-avoided disaster. It’s hard to see how the entire thing didn’t go up when the drunk guy opened up a jar and poured some out (and then presumably dropped it all while dying horribly). Foreshadowing for an eventual kaboom that takes out the entire city?

    • medrawt says:

      Along with not doing sufficiently forceful followup on trying to unravel Littlefinger’s conspiracies (though, to be fair, he had some other things on his mind), not following up on “the pyromancers seem aware that there are caches of wildfire hidden around the city” seems like a convenient oversight for Martin to have Tyrion’s steel trap mind commit.

      And yes, I think there’s a good possibility that Dany/Aegon conflict is going to lead to dragons accidentally igniting wildfire caches around King’s Landing … though it’s possible my pervasive disdain for Jaime has something to do with that (as in, by petulantly keeping his mouth shut about it he ultimately doomed the city he thought he saved). I’m pretty sure Martin, while upfront about his flaws, likes Jaime considerably more than I do.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        I don’t think Dany is going to have anything to do with it. I think Cersei will burn the place before Dany gets to Westeros.

        • medrawt says:

          Could be, though the precipitating event is a little harder for me to sort out, except in the general “Cersei has kind of turned into the Mad King, so she might be liable to start fires for a variety of reasons, including pique” sense.

          • Andrew says:

            I think the reason would be the enemy is at the gates, and she knows the war is lost. If she was willing to have Ilyn behead her rather than be taken alive, then igniting is not too far off since it would come with the benefit of leaving her foes with a burned capital, making the capture of the city more hollow.

        • winnief says:

          I think Cersei is the one to burn KL as well….but I think she’ll use some of the hidden wildfire caches.

          • Personally, I think Cersei will set it up the wildfyre caches and then Dany will unwittingly set them off, destroying King’s Landing(Cersei will have already fled) ACCIDENTALLY but of course getting all the blame for it. This will be an event that turns most of Westeros against Dany but will in fact be Cersei’s doing.

    • At this point, pretty much every KL chapter could have a “Boom Goes The Wildfire” What If.

    • Yeah. As for who kabooms the city, I’m not placing any bets. Way too many possibilities and not enough ways to narrow them down.

  3. winnief says:

    Now I’m going to have Istanbul not Constantinople in my head all day…

    Great analysis as always Steve. I agree that it looks like Martin was trying to lay the groundwork for Tyrion as a Stark sympathizer which may or may not come into play later. Alternatively perhaps Tyrion subconsciously sensed the metaphysical significance of Winterfell.

    Agree on the sickening hypocrisy of Balon wanting a deal with the Lannisters only his plan is completely batshit. Also Asha later decides an alliance with the North would be a good idea only a. It’s a little late for that post IB invasion and b. She hopes to secure the alliance by taking hostages. This demonstrates that either the whole Norther invasion was just a ridiculous plot device to make things turn out as badly as possible for the Starks or that nobody from House Greyjoy (except ironically Theon) understands how alliances actually work. Or both.

    Also love your thoughts on the use of the Faith as a political weapon.

    Finally I will have to disagree a bit on the subject of the show mishandling the dragons becoming widely known. I think it would have been too hard to get viewers to accept KL’s total ignorance of both the rebirth of dragons in Essos AND the return of the White Walkers beyond the Wall. So here we have the Small Council aware of rumored dragons but not sure if the stories are true much less whether the dragons are getting big enough to be of any real relevance.

    Ot but everyone else who regrets that we’ll never see Tywin’s reaction to dragons or the White Walkers raise your hands? I thought so…

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      ME!

      God I would have so loved watching the mighty Tywin Lannister shit his pants when he realized Dany was coming at him with, what, 200000 swords and three dragons.

    • Keith B says:

      I regret the loss of Tywin for many reasons. He was by far the most formidable villain in the series. As appalling as Cersei is, it’s just too easy and predictable for her to screw up everything. How would Tywin have dealt with the numerous challenges that faced the kingdom? And how would Stannis, Euron, Littlefinger, Varys, the High Sparrow, Doran, the Tyrells, Jon Connington and Aegon, Tyrion, and finally Daenerys have dealt with him? Was there anyone or anything that could bring him down? We’ll never know.

      • winnief says:

        Exactly. Now there’s no credible *human* threat for instance to oppose Dany and Dany Vs. Tywin would have been a helluva show.

        Dany vs Faegon….not so much.

        And again Tywin’s reaction to the Big Reveal, the White Walkers, and the likely mystical need for the Starks to combat the Nights King would have been PRICELESS.

        • Captain Splendid says:

          No credible human threat? Not even Varys& Illyrio? Not even Littlefinger, who has a lot more damage to do before he snuffs it? What about Euron? And while fAegon might seem unprepossessing with what we know about him so far, I guarantee him and his court are going to be looking pretty formidable for at least a book or so.

          • Keith B says:

            Littlefinger is a particular danger to Tywin because he operates in one of Tywin’s blind spots. Tywin just can’t see how a petty lordling, with no soldiers pledged to him and almost no social position, can possibly be a threat. And he despises commerce, and so pays no attention to Littlefinger’s business interests in KL and the Vale. Tyrion tries to warn him, with no result.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            Varys & Ilyrio have one ultra, master plan: fAegon. They have no agents in Dany’s camp, and their attempts to bring her back under their influence haven’t worked.

            Littlefinger has yet to even recognize her existence, so far as I know. And Sansa will probably have dealt with him by the time Dany lands.

            Euron= target practice for Sarella and Sam in Oldtown.

            fAegon will have the Golden Company, most or all of Dorne, and possibly some Reachmen. Let’s call it fifty or sixty thousand. Daenerys is going to be landing with somewhere in the vicinity of two hundred thousand to two hundred fifty thousand armed men and three dragons, especially after she sacks Volantis and all its slaves join her. And the Iron Fleet. And the wealth of Volantis to buy sellswords and sway lords. And a bunch of Dothraki.

            There is simply no force in Westeros at the time she hits that will be able to muster so much as a speed bump to her.

            And honestly, given what it looks like she’s going to muster when she finally lands, I’d venture to say that not even the united Seven Kingdoms under Robert would be able to beat her.

      • Jim B says:

        I think you’re overrating Tywin.

        As our host has shown, Tywin is one of the main beneficiaries of GRRM’s “thumb on the scale.” He takes a lot of risks that seem reckless, including attacking Dondarrion’s army under the King’s banner — something that would have gotten him attainted as a traitor if Robert had lived a little longer, and Tywin can’t be credited with foresight here because he isn’t aware of the Cersei-Lancel conspiracy to kill Robert. Tywin also benefits from Balon Greyjoy’s idiotic strategy of attacking the North instead of the more lucrative and logical targets in the Westerlands. Etc.

        Of course, full credit to Tywin for taking advantage of the opportunities that GRRM throws in his lap, but I’m not sure that strategically he’s any more formidable than several other characters. And he’s done a very poor job of managing his own family, blind to the incest that started right under his nose, unwilling to accept Tyrion as a real son, blind to what a trainwreck of a grandson his daughter has raised until it’s staring him in the face.

        Also, it seems to me that we did learn how one person on your list (Tyrion) would have dealt with Tywin: crossbow! I’d say the same for Varys, because even if you don’t believe that he manipulated Tyrion to kill Tywin (and I don’t), it’s fairly likely that Tywin would have gotten the same treatment that Kevan ends up getting, and for the same reason. (My guess is that the Tyrells would have dealt with Tywin by playing the long game: there’s only so much Tywin can do politically when the regime is largely propped up by Tyrell swords and fed by Tyrell crops, and in the meantime Margaery is winning over Tommen’s loyalty — and as I said, family relations isn’t exactly Tywin’s strength.)

        • Alex C. says:

          I’m quite certain that Tywin did have foreknowledge that Robert was going to die.

          In AGOT chapter 45 (Eddard XII) we learn that Tywin and Cersei were exchanging letters discussing Dondarrion right before Cersei initiates the plot to have Robert whacked in the woods.

          It’s better than even odds that Tywin gave her a heads-up that he was about to invade the Riverlands, and ordered her to “do whatever needs to be done” to make sure that Robert wouldn’t be a problem by the time news got back to King’s Landing.

          • John says:

            If Tywin is relying on “giving Robert stronger wine while he’s hunting and him dying as a result” to formulate his plans, I’d say that makes him a bigger fool than thinking he can get Robert’s pardon for attacking the Riverlands.

          • John says:

            Although, to be fair, the pitiful weakness of Cersei’s “murder” plot against Robert is mostly Martin’s fault. It’s clear that within the shape of the narrative, it’s supposed to be a genuinely well planned out murder that will inevitably happen. But Martin also needs to come up with a way for it to happen without anyone knowing he’s been murdered, and this was the best he could come up with. But it’s a pitiful plan.

        • Keith B says:

          I’m aware of what our host says about how stupid Tywin was for attacking the Riverlands, and how stupid Balon was for attacking the North, and about how you can’t judge a character’s actions by the results, because “presentism.” And my reaction to such arguments is “results matter.” Tywin has a forty year record of using extreme ruthlessness and getting rewarded for it. Was he stupid for all those years and just happened to be lucky all the time? Or was he smart all the other times, but somehow suddenly became stupid just this once, and by some coincidence this was the one time luck was on his side? Let me suggest that if you’re playing cards against someone and he keeps winning, and you think he’s just very lucky, you shouldn’t play cards.

          In fact I can easily make an argument that Tywin’s attack on the Riverlands was a Xanatos gambit that was almost certain to succeed no matter how events played out. If you think that the only reason it worked is because Robert fortuitously died at just the right time, then maybe you don’t know Robert as well as Tywin knew Robert.

          Tywin was a genuinely terrible parent, but as long as he lived he kept his children well under his thumb. Jaime managed to rebel a bit, but only to a limited extent. That didn’t mitigate Tywin’s villainy, it only meant he was a villain even to his own family.

          Tywin did an amazing job of managing the Tyrells, considering how lopsided the alliance was. He kept them happy by giving them rewards that cost him almost nothing: Brightwater Keep, remission of tariffs for the Redwynes, and so on. He kept the decision making in his own hands, even though the Tyrells had the bulk of the power and the regime would have collapsed without them.

          So no, I don’t think I’m overrating Tywin. Martin’s decision to kill him off was unfortunate, and I believe it made the story in the last two books less interesting than it otherwise might have been.

          • Jim B says:

            How was Tywin “rewarded” for his forty years of ruthlessness? Who was he beating at this proverbial poker table for all these years?

            Basically, he staved off a threat of rebellion by the lesser Houses in the Westerlands. But if keeping your position as a Greater House is a great success, then virtually all of the heads of all of the Great Houses of Westeros were great tacticians.

            Yes, pre-Robert’s Rebellion, he got to be Hand of the King. But we don’t see a lot of indications that he got much for himself or his House out of that: his plan to marry Cersei off to Rhaegar is rejected, and his golden boy heir is taken away from him. Perhaps it’s unfair to say that he lost control of Aerys because, well, it’s hard to control madness — but Tywin also seems to have missed an opportunity to work with Rhaegar on whatever changes the Prince had in mind: changes that could very well have meant more influence for the non-Targaryen Houses like his.

            Instead, he ends up on the sidelines of Robert’s Rebellion. He’s able to broker a deal to make Cersei queen, though it’s not clear how many other good candidates there were with Lyanna out of the picture. But it’s Jon Arryn and Ned Stark who are the great leaders of that rebellion (aside from Robert, of course), and they’re the ones who get called upon to be Robert’s Hand. Only the ham-fisted Pycelle is a Lannister ally on the Great Council. And Tywin seems curiously uninterested in his grandson, which I think undermines any argument that Tywin was playing some convoluted long game.

            You have an interesting point in suggesting that maybe Tywin did plot with Cersei. But that’s still mostly speculation. And your suggestion that Tywin would have found success regardless is pure speculation, and it’s circular: you’re arguing that Tywin is brilliant because his plans would have succeeded no matter what, because Tywin is brilliant. Note that Tywin needs a lot more luck for things to go his way: how on earth could he have anticipated that Stannis would magically assassinate Renly? With Renly alive, there’s not much incentive for a Tyrell-Lannister deal, and House Lannister most likely finds itself caught between the Baratheon-Tyrell forces and the Stark-Tullys.

            Again, I’m not trying to suggest that Tywin was anything less than a solid and capable leader. I just think of Tywin’s strategic vision as comparable to what we hear of him as a military leader: he’s capable and doesn’t make many mistakes, but isn’t exceptional. And for that reason, I don’t miss his presence. The interesting party of his storyline has to do with his children, and his part in that drama has been played.

          • John says:

            I’ll agree with you on the narrow issue of Tywin’s gamble in the Riverlands. We’ve already seen what Robert does when Lannisters disturb the peace – he forces a reconciliation and doesn’t punish anyone. There’s no way he follows through on Ned’s outlawing of the Lannisters. He’ll say it was all a misunderstanding, and everyone has to make nice, and leave it at that. Tywin will be fine, and quite possibly will have not only gotten Tyrion’s freedom, but forced Ned Stark out as Hand.

            Of course, this goes to shit if Ned is killed rather than captured by Tywin’s forces, but otherwise he should be fine.

        • David Hunt says:

          Heh. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but it’s almost certain that Varys assassinated Kevan with a crossbow because that is how Tryion kill Tywin. Hell, it’s possible, even likely that he used the same one that Tyrion found in Tywin’s quaters and then left at the scene along with some other token to link the Tyrell’s to the murder. If he was trying to drive Cercei utterly bonkers, that would do it.

        • John says:

          Isn’t even the “Cersei-Lancel conspiracy to kill Robert” a bit strong? Giving him stronger wine while he’s on the hunt is grasping at straws, not a carefully planned plot.

      • Steven Xue says:

        I would of loved to have read a POV chapter where Tywin learns of Dany heading towards Westeros with an army and three dragons and with Tyrion in tow would be the icing on the cake. I bet the look on his face would have been something between flabbergasted and utter horror.

    • Glad you liked it!

      I wasn’t asking for total ignorance, more OTL Varys’ strategy of deliberately weirding up the rumors.

  4. Anon says:

    I don’t see Tyrion’s thoughts about the Starks and Winterfell as remnants of the Ur-Text or particularly sympathetic; I think it’s simply that he can objectively see how their struggles benefit the Lannisters while retaining a measure of ‘wow, that’s a terrible position to be in, glad it’s not my family.’

    Nice catch about the Old Gate.

    Where and when did the various crownlands houses (e.g. House Massey) that support Stannis join the battle? Logistically it’s odd because you’d think they would be to the north of the city and would besiege it from that direction instead of somehow getting across the river without commentary weeks ago. Am I missing something or this another worldbuilding error?

    • I think Tyrion’s thoughts on Winterfell are basically “If that nut can be cracked, what hope do we have?”

      • winnief says:

        Perhaps foreshadowing the fall of such seats as the Eyrie and Casterly Rock? Not places that could be easily defeated under normal circumstances but dragons and white walkers are anything but normal…

    • That’s an excellent question. House Massey is south of King’s Landing, so my guess is that the various Crownlands houses who join Stannis are from the region of Massey’s Peak to the Kingswood.

  5. Rootboy says:

    Great work as always, Steve.

    I second the History of Byzantium Podcast recommendation, Robin Pearson has really come into his own in his continuation of Mike Duncan’s History of Rome. Every 100 years of history he does a bunch of excellent “end of the century” recap episodes that do a great job of synthesizing a lot of information. His end-of-the-7th-century episodes on the Arab conquests were particularly good.

  6. John Galvano says:

    “A couple other things to note: first, it’s interesting that Tyrion has this running thread of being a Stark sympathizer. Given the direction of his plot in ADWD, this doesn’t seem to have much of a payoff”

    Who knows, maybe it will

    • winnief says:

      It certainly might come into play if/when Tyrion is reunited with Sansa or Jon…especially if he’s recruited in the battle against the White Walkers and they try to sell him on the importance of Winterfell.

    • medrawt says:

      I’ve interpreted Tyrion’s Stark Sympathies as a double recognition:

      (1) It’s been said many times here that part of the way in which Tyrion is truly Tywin’s son is that of his siblings he’s the only one who really thinks about putting the wellbeing of the Lannisters as a collective ahead of his own desires. But the only Lannisters he really likes are the ones outside his nuclear family – various uncles and aunts who were actually nice to him. His relationship with Jaime is very complicated and troubled, his relationship with Cersei and Tywin toxic even before the events of the series make things worse. Tyrion seizes on a diagnosis of bad feelings from Catelyn to Jon Snow, but otherwise, he probably recognizes that the Starks are a much healthier family, a better model from which you could build a collective purpose of the kind Tywin envisions.

      (2) I suspect – couldn’t point to textual evidence off the top of my head, could be wrong – that while Tyrion thinks there’s something naive about the Starks, and endeavors to be pseudo-Machiavellian in a Tywinesque manner, he’s actually rather ambivalent about the family project. In particular since he sees Cersei and Jaime much more clearly than his father does. The way the books turned out this never bubbled into a surface conflict: there’s no moment when Tyrion could decide “The Starks” are better for the realm than “The Lannisters,” and now his antipathy for his family exists in viscerally personal terms. But you could imagine an alternate sequence of events where Tyrion turns against his family without as much personal grievance. The same qualities that allow him to try and hold his family as a higher cause than himself could also allow him to hold a higher cause than his family.

      • John Galvano says:

        I think those are all good points.

      • winnief says:

        I think that journey of holding another cause even higher than his own kin while originally planned for Tyrion may have been transferred to Jaime.

      • Sean C. says:

        But you could imagine an alternate sequence of events where Tyrion turns against his family without as much personal grievance.

        Honestly, I can’t, really. I think what the main series shows is that turning Tyrion against his family is really damn difficult, considering how long it took for his family’s awful treatment to do that.

        • medrawt says:

          Well, but you’re drawing on the hindsight of the series as we’ve read it. From the original outline it seems like that was what GRRM had in mind more than the conversion-via-hatred against Tywin and Cersei (and Jaime). I think if Tyrion got a taste of what Brienne gets in ASOS and AFFC, or were shown to be slightly more horrified at what he knows about Cersei and Tywin’s public/political maneuvers, that could be enough. The Tyrion we meet isn’t a person who seems especially concerned with “The Realm” or the smallfolk, but he’s the most curious and open-minded person in the series, and thus ripe for transformation.

          (Coming off long arguments re: the TV show, I’ve become very beholden to the notion that it’s really quite difficult for an author to make his characters do something “out of character” – if Martin wanted to write Tyrion having that sort of conversion, then he could have, and it likely would’ve seemed natural. But I understand why, and agree, our host here tends to avoid character-based What Ifs, like “What if Joffrey was a nice kid?”)

    • Keith B says:

      Calling Tyrion a Stark sympathizer is putting it too strongly. He’s aware that they’ve been treated with incredible injustice. They were in the North minding their own business, when numerous catastrophes struck through no fault of theirs, unless you consider unbelievable stupidity a moral failing. But that doesn’t mean he’s on their side.

  7. AJD says:

    Do you have any thoughts about why there wasn’t a city at the mouth of the Blackwater before Aegon built his fort there? As the best natural harbor on the side of Westeros facing the Free Cities, it seems like a city should have grown up there long ago.

    • David Hunt says:

      I’m not anything like an expert on the growth of towns, but I’d going to guess that the existence of Gulltown, Duskendale and Maidenpool, got all the trade by virtue of being there first and already having an existing infrastructure (docks, warehouses, established land trade-routes, etc). Plus the local lords in the KL area might not have been powerful enough to protect a growing town against Duskendale and Maidenpool, who wouldn’t want a rival.

      Once Aegon set up there, the spot was the capital of all Westeros, plus he and his successors actively encouraged the city’s growth.

      Just my two cents.

      • AJD says:

        (Reasonable, but I kind of feel like noting that Gulltown, Duskendale, and Maidenpool “got there first” doesn’t answer the question; it just begs the question.)

        • Hedrigal says:

          Its entirely possible Duskendale played a deliberate role in destroying any town that developed there, or even that early destruction of villages at the mouth of the blackwater led the populace to flee further away, eventually founding Duskendale.

    • Well Gulltown had the protection and support of the entire Vale. It’s needed for Vale trade. Kingslanding before the unification is at the crossroads of a lot of conflict between kingdoms. Maidenpool is at least a little farther north taking it somewhat out of the line of fire. Also it doesn’t really help you get anywhere without the kingsroads. I think there’s talk of falls upriver where the Tyrells hook up with Tywin so you’d have to go overland to get to the Riverlands, the Reach, or the Stormlands. All you have is the local yokels and what does that get you?

    • I wrote some stuff on it over on my Twitter page.

  8. Grant says:

    Considering how dangerous it would be to have word of a Blackfyre return spread too far among the lords, it’s just as possible that the Swanns don’t really like any of the candidates and since they can’t be sure of the victor, for the time being they’re just hedging.

    On Tyrion and Winterfell, the last remnants of the ur-text seem likely, but if one wanted they could say that the Starks are just easy to like in-universe as well as out of it. When you compare that to the family that Tyrion has had with an abusive father and a sister who openly despises him, I could believe that at some level Tyrion might unconsciously wish he were on a different side of this war.

  9. Sean C. says:

    hence Tyrion’s strategy will turn on the two things that GRRM has Tyrion not think about in this chapter, in order to build the tension.

    I can think of a few times where he does a bit of a narrative cheat like that; Sansa’s pre-Purple Wedding chapter would be another, where I don’t think there’s a single mention of her impending escape attempt, which you would think would be the main thing she was thinking about.

    This reminds me, why didn’t Tyrion make use of the High Septon when his political situation got rockier in ASOS?

    I imagine because said High Septon knows that Tywin is the boss, and isn’t interested in backing up somebody who has already given him the main service he could provide. Though one could also say, the Faith is a rather underdeveloped institution in the first three books; I don’t think GRRM really started putting a lot of thought into church-and-state matters until the bridging books.

    • medrawt says:

      Uhm, the entirety of Ned’s POV is this. “Promise me, Ned, promise me that [static, connection lost].”

      • Sean C. says:

        I wouldn’t quite call that a character not thinking about it so much as their thoughts being edited quite judiciously.

        • medrawt says:

          Yeah, and it’s by far the most “necessary” example of that sort of thing. I just harp on it as often as possible because there are several things that annoy me about how Martin handles the narrative structure he chose, and playing coy with in-POV information is one of them.

          • blacky says:

            What are the other things that annoy? I bet we’d have a long list if we searched on GRRM and annoy. For me, it’s the preposterous plot devices and shortcuts he takes that undermines my suspension of disbelief.

          • I never had a problem with that. It’s necessary, or else all tension would be lost too many times, or he’d have to give POVs of crucial events to an Areo Hotah type character all the time.

            What annoys me about his style is the habit of making too many “cliffhanger” endings, particularly those where he’s making you think that someone may have died (even though it really should be obvious they didn’t). The ending of Arya’s RW chapter in particular made me roll my eyes, but it seems that there were quite a few people who actually were fooled.

    • The most obvious example is GRRM hiding Dany’s thoughts about what she’s about to do with the slavers of Astapor (apart from her thinking that this is “her Trident”) throughout her 3rd ASOS chapter until the last few paragraphs. He also did something similar in her last chapter in AGOT, where it’s not revealed that she’s hoping to hatch the dragons, so we would be surprised when she does.

  10. Ryan Bradley says:

    As far as using the faith as a political tool, I’m sure it is a minor thing to Tyrion because he was an agnostic. Sometimes people believe themselves “above” such things. In fact winning hearts and minds at home is often missed in war.
    An example. When the 2003 Iraq War was engaged one of the reasons was to free the people from an secular despot. The Bush administration should have engaged the american people after the invasion by connecting every city in Iraq to a city in the United States. “Children of New York your brothers and sisters in Baghdad need your help!” Engage the populace in your effort not just in supporting troops but helping the victims of the war.
    Tyrion, just like Bush, missed the chance to engage the faithful, and control their reactions. In both cases we have the Faith Militant.

    • Wat Barleycorn says:

      A nice idea, but there’s no saving that war.

      The biggest problem with lying their way into that war isn’t that the Bush Administration lost the American people. That only happened after years of failure. The hearts and minds of the American people actually weren’t hard to secure at all.

      Bit the same short-term thinking and leadership failure that concluded it would be a grest idea to sell a war on a lie also started that war without bothering to nail down which pro-war faction was gonna run the occupation. The evangelicals who wanted to “save” the place? The oil guys who wanted to colonize it? The neocons who wanted to impose a parlimentary democracy? And they all seemed shocked that the Iranians and Saudis has their own competing agendas and plans and nobody knew how to manage those. Not to mention, nobody had a clue who in Iraq would be sympathetic to their plan (and who would oppose it), much less who had the actual capacity to help implement it.

      Lack of popular support from the American people isn’t what doomed the venture.

  11. Andrew says:

    1. “My father is not dead yet.”

    Tyrion is someone who would know.

    2. “His brother, however, he does not seem to miss at all.”

    That’s telling. Just before that, Jacelyn mentions that Joffrey once skinned Tommen’s pet fawn for a jerkin. Lysa also mentions that Joffrey once slapped Robert Arryn with a wooden sword. It could be that before Sansa, Tommen was the prime target of much of Joffrey’s sadistic bullying.

    3. Balon’s also an idiot for thinking that Tywin Lannister would give up half the realm to him. Tywin won’t settle for half a loaf, especially since he thinks his family is entitled to the whole loaf.

  12. Steven Xue says:

    I’ve got to say that out of all the military commanders in the ASOIAF universe, Tyrion is by far the best when it comes to siege warfare (in terms of being a defender). His ability to make improvised defenses like the huge boon chain and the wildfire is just one of the hallmarks of his strategic brilliance.

    Not to mention his ability to employ simply yet effective stalling tactics like his scorched earth campaign is something even the best commanders like Barristan often miss. Tyrion even mentions how the wells outside of Meereen should have been poisoned and such. If only he was the one commanding the siege of Meereen.

    • He is pretty impressive. Looking forward to the Battle of Fire for more than 1 reason.

    • Andrew says:

      Stan the Man is up there too I think. Holding Storm’s End at what 15? That takes an iron spine and grip over the garrison among other things.

      But yes I think Robb/Blackfish, Stannis, Tyrion, and Tarly are among the best strategic minds.

  13. Space Oddity says:

    Nineteen.

    And let’s not forget becoming a reasonably skilled admiral over the course of a year–and then a very good one by the time Greyjoy Revolt.

  14. […] once Davos pulls into sight of the riverfront, he sees that Tyrion’s preparations have paid off in further slowing down Stannis’ […]

  15. […] to this landing is the critical importance of leadership in this stage of the battle. Given his limited manpower and that he has to spread it out across a wide swathe of the city, Tyrion has to carefully gauge […]

  16. […] and mistrust, Tyrion next gets an update on the Kettleblack brothers, finally learning that these utterly useless catspaws were not only betraying Cersei but also […]

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