Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XIV, ACOK

 

“Jaime?” he croaked, almost choking on the blood that filled his mouth. Who else would save him, if not his brother?

“Be still, my lord, you’re hurt bad.” A boy’s voice, that makes no sense, thought Tyrion. It sounded almost like Pod.

Synopsis: Tyrion leads the sortie along with Ser Mandon Moore and Podrick Payne, and meets his fate on the bridge of ships.

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

Political Analysis:

Tyrion XIV is a wild, chaotic ride of a chapter that rattles along at dizzying impressionist speed, as if George R.R Martin had caught battle fever from his own protagonist. And like so many wild charges throughout military history, it ends in a sickening crash and Tyrion Lannister literally goes one bridge too far.

credit to Chaircat-Meow at Westeros.org

Tyrion’s Ride at the King’s Gate

And it all starts so well, as Tyrion’s crazy gamble from last chapter pays off. With a full sortie party behind him, Tyrion acts decisely to stop the landing landing party on the tourney grounds from breaking through the King’s Gate:

The slot in his helm limited Tyrion’s vision to what was before him, but when he turned his head he saw three galleys beached on the tourney grounds, and a fourth, larger than the others, standing well out into the river, firing barrels of burning pitch from a catapult.

“Wedge,” Tyrion commanded as his men streamed out of the sally port. They formed up in spearhead, with him at the point…They rode knee to knee, following the line of the looming walls. Joffrey’s standard streamed crimson and gold from Ser Mandon’s staff, stag and lion dancing hoof to paw. They went from a walk to a trot, wheeling wide around the base of the tower. Arrows darted from the city walls while stones spun and tumbled overhead, crashing down blindly onto earth and water, steel and flesh. Ahead loomed the King’s Gate and a surging mob of soldiers wrestling with a huge ram, a shaft of black oak with an iron head. Archers off the ships surrounded them, loosing their shafts at whatever defenders showed themselves on the gatehouse walls. “Lances,” Tyrion commanded. He sped to a canter.

The ground was sodden and slippery, equal parts mud and blood. His stallion stumbled over a corpse, his hooves sliding and churning the earth, and for an instant Tyrion feared his charge would end with him tumbling from the saddle before he even reached the foe, but somehow he and his horse both managed to keep their balance. Beneath the gate men were turning, hurriedly trying to brace for the shock. Tyrion lifted his axe and shouted, “King’s Landing!” Other voices took up the cry, and now the arrowhead flew, a long scream of steel and silk, pounding hooves and sharp blades kissed by fire.

Of all of the landings we’ve seen to date, this is the most well-organized, with three ships having successfully landed their forces in one location without getting attacked, and a larger warship providing covering fire from the river. Moreover, the infantry are working together effectively to suppress the defense at the King’s Gate while the men on the ram break down the doors. Indeed, if they had broken through at this point, the River Row would have given them a straight shot to attack the defenders at the Mud Gate from the flank, at which point the Goldcloaks would have broken and Stannis’ main body of troops would have a straight shot into the city. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Joffrey would have fallen or been taken prisoner in the process. Instead, Tyrion’s flying wedge completely wrecks the forces at the King’s Gate, who drop the battering ram and flee the field. The victory is complete and total, but just as importantly, Tyrion’s argument to the men that they should fight for the city they live in succeeds, creating the foundation for the Halfman mythos that I’ll discuss later.

Ser Mandon Moore took the place to his right, flames shimmering against the white enamel of his armor, his dead eyes shining passionlessly through his helm. He rode a coal-black horse barded all in white, with the pure white shield of the Kingsguard strapped to his arm. On the left, Tyrion was surprised to see Podrick Payne, a sword in his hand. “You’re too young,” he said at once. “Go back.”

But even as Tyrion experiences the euphoria of his first successful command, it’s worth noting that he’s literally riding with his death (in the person of Mandon Moore) on his right side and his salvation (in the person of Podrick Payne) on his left side, waiting for the final moment where they both will be called upon. And on a re-read, you really notice how Mandon Moore is described as akin to an avatar of death, an enigmatic cipher who kills and dies without any sign of interiority or humanity, and by contrast how Podrick’s loyalty extends beyond Moore’s robotic following of orders to a deeper devotion which is lucky for Tyrion, who would otherwise be a corpse at the bottom of the Blackwater Rush.

Tyrion’s Ride to the Mud Gate

Despite Tyrion’s victory at the King’s Gate, there’s no time to rest on his laurels. A stationary knight, after all, is just a bigger target for an archer; it’s the speed of a knightly charge that makes them such a terror on the battlefields. Hence, Tyrion has to keep the charge going or lose momentum:

He spurred his horse back into motion, trotting over and around a scatter of corpses. Downriver, the Blackwater was jammed with the hulks of burning galleys. Patches of wildfire still floated atop the water, sending fiery green plumes swirling twenty feet into the air. They had dispersed the men on the battering ram, but he could see fighting all along the riverfront. Ser Balon Swann’s men, most like, or Lancel’s, trying to throw the enemy back into the water as they swarmed ashore off the burning ships. “We’ll ride for the Mud Gate,” he commanded.

Ser Mandon shouted, “The Mud Gate!” And they were off again…Through the steel and padding of his helm, he heard anguished screams, the hungry crackle of flame, the shuddering of warhorns, and the brazen blast of trumpets. Fire was everywhere. Gods be good, no wonder the Hound was frightened. It’s the flames he fears…

Because of his loss of vantage point, Tyrion’s description of the battle becomes more impressionistic and less precise, so it’s hard to see who’s winning or losing. There’s also an interesting dichotomy between this chapter and Davos III, as the landings seem far more successful and numerous than they did in that chapter. Now it’s possible this is driven by their different perspectives – Davos’ anxiety about the battle not going well makes it seem like more of the landings are defeated than was the case, and vice versa for Tyrion. It’s also possible that more rafts were able to cross the burning river than I had thought, but that seems a bit less likely because otherwise Tyrion would be facing thousands and not hundreds of men.

The Legend of the Halfman

Regardless of which is the case, it’s clear that this is the opportune moment, where the battle could go either way depending on how morale and tempo shake out. If the men on the beach can consolidate and make a strong push, they could force the Mud Gate and quickly be in the heart of the city – but luckily, Tyrion’s men are there to deliver a devastating flank attack. And it is at this moment, critically once Tyrion has triumphed and not before, that Tyrion finally gets the love and admiration that, according to Cersei, he’s always wanted:

King’s Landing!” his men cried raggedly, and “Halfman! Halfman!” He wondered who had taught them that.

Men were crawling from the river, men burned and bleeding, coughing up water, staggering, most dying. He led his troop among them, delivering quicker cleaner deaths to those strong enough to stand. The war shrank to the size of his eye slit. Knights twice his size fled from him, or stood and died. They seemed little things, and fearful. “Lannister!” he shouted, slaying. His arm was red to the elbow, glistening in the light off the river. When his horse reared again, he shook his axe at the stars and heard them call out “Halfman! Halfman!” Tyrion felt drunk.

The battle fever. He had never thought to experience it himself, though Jaime had told him of it often enough. How time seemed to blur and slow and even stop, how the past and the future vanished until there was nothing but the instant, how fear fled, and thought fled, and even your body. “You don’t feel your wounds then, or the ache in your back from the weight of the armor, or the sweat running down into your eyes. You stop feeling, you stop thinking, you stop being you, there is only the fight, the foe, this man and then the next and the next and the next, and you know they are afraid and tired but you’re not, you’re alive, and death is all around you but their swords move so slowly, you can dance through them laughing.” Battle fever. I am half a man and drunk with slaughter, let them kill me if they can!

In this moment where his men are cheering for both the Halfman and the city he’s been trying to save for an entire book, Tyrion is seen as a hero, the unlikely underdog who’s saved the city in its hour of need. This is the identity that Tyrion has been longing for from the beginning and which he has been denied repeatedly, and it’s given to him like a conqueror’s laurels. It’s a crucial moment, because without this, we don’t have a sense of loss when Tyrion wakes up to see that his glory has been stolen from him and his political career has been nipped in the bud. If he hadn’t ridden on to the bridge of boats, Tyrion could have used this legend as the foundation for a new way to live, and reckon with his father on different terms.

However, there’s more to the legend of the Halfman than just a re-appropriation of the term – in this moment where Tyrion is most loved, he is also most like Jaime. Unlike his desperate combat on the High Road, and distinct from his attempt to survive in the confusion of the Green Fork, Tyrion feels completely in control, a giant “drunk with slaughter.” Both internally and externally, Tyrion is plugging into Westeros’ warrior culture in a way he really hasn’t been able to do in his life – and one of the things that distinguishes a warrior culture from a soldierly culture is that individual combat is seen as a place where meaning and worth are found, and therefore a joyous occasion. (I’m especially reminded of the quasi-erotic way that violence is described in the Iliad, both in terms of the description of beautiful bodies smashing against each other and the dialogue which understands surviving such a clash as a euphoric, ecstatic experience. Nietzsche’s first essay in the Genealogy of Morals is also a good précis on warrior culture, as long as you don’t fall into the teenager’s trap of taking him seriously.)

As the commander at the head of the charge, Tyrion feels released from the limitations of his body (and thus completely accepted) – and that’s why I think it’s important that Tyrion’s wallowing in misery in ADWD ends when he gains command of an army for the first time since ACOK. Whether it’s a healthy thing to think of your best self as a berserker warlord is a topic for another time, but it’s something to keep an eye on in TWOW.

A Bridge Too Far

And therefore it’s fitting that, rather than having his doom fall on him from out of nowhere, Tyrion rushes joyfully towards it:

Steel-clad men-at-arms were clambering off a broken galley that had smashed into a pier. So many, where are they coming from? Squinting into the smoke and glare, Tyrion followed them back out into the river. Twenty galleys were jammed together out there, maybe more, it was hard to count. Their oars were crossed, their hulls locked together with grappling lines, they were impaled on each other’s rams, tangled in webs of fallen rigging. One great hulk floated hull up between two smaller ships. Wrecks, but packed so closely that it was possible to leap from one deck to the other and so cross the Blackwater.

Hundreds of Stannis Baratheon’s boldest were doing just that. Tyrion saw one great fool of a knight trying to ride across, urging a terrified horse over gunwales and oars, across tilting decks slick with blood and crackling with green fire. We made them a bloody bridge, he thought in dismay. Parts of the bridge were sinking and other parts were afire and the whole thing was creaking and shifting and like to burst asunder at any moment, but that did not seem to stop them. “Those are brave men,” he told Ser Balon in admiration. “Let’s go kill them.”

This last charge by Stannis’ men and Tyrion’s counter-charge cannot be understood apart from the ideals of military culture. Stannis’ men are literally charging across a bridge over hell in a stunt that is so reckless and outlandishly courageous that their enemies must emulate them or admit that they fall short of the mark. At the same time, there is no tactical logic here. Compared to the rafts and landing ships that we’ve seen used before, the bridge of ships is totally unreliable as a crossing point and relying on it to transport men is foolhardy. Likewise, there’s no reason for Tyrion and his men to cross onto the bridge themselves; the tactically sound plan in this moment would be to attack the structure of the bridge itself at its anchorage on the north bank and allow the river to do their work with them. Leading 100-200 men on to that structure, especially since they’re mounted on horses, risks overloading the makeshift support and sending both sides crashing into the water.

But by this point, Tyrion’s intelligence (the side of him we could call the Imp) has been subsumed by his battle fever (the side of him we could call the Halfman); the sheer momentum of the charge that has carried him the entire length of the city won’t let him stop until it’s too late. And almost instantly when Tyrion gets onto the bridge, he knows it’s a mistake (indeed, had he just waited the situation would have resolved itself):

Stones began to plummet down, crashing through the decks and turning men to pulp, until the whole bridge gave a shudder and twisted violently underfoot, knocking him sideways.

Suddenly the river was pouring into his helm. He ripped it off and crawled along the listing deck until the water was only neck deep. A groaning filled the air, like the death cries of some enormous beast. The ship, he had time to think, the ship’s about to tear loose. The broken galleys were ripping apart, the bridge breaking apart. No sooner had he come to that realization than he heard a sudden crack, loud as thunder, the deck lurched beneath him, and he slid back down into the water.

The list was so steep he had to climb back up, hauling himself along a snapped line inch by bloody inch. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the hulk they’d been tangled with drifting downstream with the current, spinning slowly as men leapt over her side. Some wore Stannis’s flaming heart, some Joffrey’s stag-and-lion, some other badges, but it seemed to make no matter. Fires were burning upstream and down. On one side of him was a raging battle, a great confusion of bright banners waving above a sea of struggling men, shield walls forming and breaking, mounted knights cutting through the press, dust and mud and blood and smoke. On the other side, the Red Keep loomed high on its hill, spitting fire. They were on the wrong sides, though. For a moment Tyrion thought he was going mad, that Stannis and the castle had traded places. How could Stannis cross to the north bank? Belatedly he realized that the deck was turning, and somehow he had gotten spun about, so castle and battle had changed sides. Battle, what battle, if Stannis hasn’t crossed who is he fighting? Tyrion was too tired to make sense of it. His shoulder ached horribly, and when he reached up to rub it he saw the arrow, and remembered. I have to get off this ship. Downstream was nothing but a wall of fire, and if the wreck broke loose the current would take him right into it.

Stones falling from the sky, water bubbling up underneath his feet, fire on the water – this is a moment of complete elemental chaos and Tyrion’s reason, which has been his staff throughout the series to date, abandons him. Geography itself begins to transmute in front of his eyes as the city and Stannis’ camp changes sides, armies war against themselves, banners lose the meaning they are intended for, and fire and smoke obscure everything. And thus Tyrion Lannister is the first person in the book to see the Tyrell charge that will win the Battle of the Blackwater, but he can’t understand what he’s seeing, lost as he is in a literal fog of war.

A Stab to Remember, Starring Ser Mandy Moore

And all of this brings us to one of the great unsolved mysteries in the fandom – who ordered Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard to attempt to assassinate Tyrion Lannister, the Hand of the King. Part of what makes this so mysterious is that it seems like a completely unnecessary assassination attempt: just as Tyrion only needed to wait for the bridge to collapse to end the threat from Stannis’ men, all Mandon Moore had to do was leave Tyrion there to die, or simply let his hand slip as Tyrion is halfway across the gap:

“MY LORD! TAKE MY HAND! MY LORD TYRION!”

There on the deck of the next ship, across a widening gulf of black water, stood Ser Mandon Moore, a hand extended. Yellow and green fire shone against the white of his armor, and his lobstered gauntlet was sticky with blood, but Tyrion reached for it all the same, wishing his arms were longer. It was only at the very last, as their fingers brushed across the gap, that something niggled at him…Ser Mandon was holding out his left hand, why…

Was that why he reeled backward, or did he see the sword after all? He would never know. The point slashed just beneath his eyes, and he felt its cold hard touch and then a blaze of pain. His head spun around as if he’d been slapped. The shock of the cold water was a second slap more jolting than the first. He flailed for something to grab on to, knowing that once he went down he was not like to come back up. Somehow his hand found the splintered end of a broken oar. Clutching it tight as a desperate lover, he shinnied up foot by foot. His eyes were full of water, his mouth was full of blood, and his head throbbed horribly. Gods give me strength to reach the deck…There was nothing else, only the oar, the water, the deck.

And suddenly he lurched to the left, staggering into the rail. Wood split, and Ser Mandon Moore vanished with a shout and a splash. An instant later, the hulls came slamming together again, so hard the deck seemed to jump.

In attempting to sort out who ordered this murder – and for the sake of brevity and clarity I’ll restrict myself to the three main candidates discussed, Cersei, Joffrey, and Littlefinger – I think the best place to start is the old policeman’s rubric of Motive, Means, and Opportunity:

  • Motive: This factor is actually a commonality among the three main candidates, so can’t be used to exclude any of them. Cersei believes that Tyrion is both her prophesied nemesis and an immediate threat; Joffrey hates Tyrion for challenging his psychopathic tendencies and physically striking him; Littlefinger has every reason to believe that Tyrion would seek revenge against him for fingering him as Bran’s would-be killer and resents Tyrion outplaying him with the three messages. Between the three of them, I would rank Cersei first as she has the most pressing reason to want him dead, Joffrey second because the riot was very recent, and Littlefinger third because the most that Tyrion has done to him is mildly embarrass him.
  • Means: in other words, who had influence over Ser Mandon Moore? Well, Cersei is the Queen Regent and Ser Mandon was keen to enforce her orders against Tyrion. Joffrey is the King and Mandon Moore is notoriously obsessed with obeying the King’s orders and protecting the King’s person (against Tyrion as well) during the riot. As for Littlefinger…this is where it gets thin. Yes, he’s from the Vale as are many of Littlefinger’s pawns (the Kettleblacks, Ser Hugh, etc.), but he was brought to King’s Landing before Littlefinger was, and critically, Moore lacks the ambition and need for money that the rest of Littlefinger’s pawns all share, and Littlefinger doesn’t have any direct authority over him. In turn, that means that he doesn’t have any of the normal levers that Littlefinger uses to gain control over people. So to me, I would put Cersei and Joffrey as tied for first and Littlefinger a very distant third.
  • Opportunity: here’s where we see real differences. Given the extreme happenstance nature of Tyrion’s sortie, this couldn’t have been meticulously planned out in advance, because had the Hound not broken, Tyrion would not be in a position to die on the battlefield away from witnesses. And Littlefinger has been out of King’s Landing since Tyrion VIII. Some people have suggested that he’s still in communication with people inside the city, but I find the evidence for that a bit sketchy – Ser Dontos telling Sansa to wait for his friend to come back and then changing his tune after Littlefinger returns to the city suggests otherwise – and even if that was the case, he wouldn’t be able to information back and forth fast enough to be aware of fast-moving military communications. Cersei I would place second – she’s in the Red Keep, where Mandon Moore and Joffrey were prior to leaving for the walls, but she’s also walled up in Maegor’s Holdfast when Tyrion joins the sortie and not able to get a secret message out to Mandon Moore. But Joffrey…Mandon Moore has been by his side right up until Tyrion leaves for the King’s Gate, and could have easily whispered a royal command into his ear when they left the Mud Gate.

So in general, I lean towards Joffrey or Cersei and away from Littlefinger. So to narrow things down, let’s talk Style. First, Mandon Moore is a lackey of the Lannisters, which fits Cersei’s style (the assassination of King Robert, for example), and somewhat fits Joffrey’s style (using the Kingsguard to beat Sansa). By contrast, Littlefinger’s kills tend not to be stooges – he uses Lysa to kill Jon Arryn, he uses Olenna Tyrell to kill Joffrey, and he kills Lysa with his own hands; the only case that would seem to fit is the murder of Ser Hugh via Gregor Clegane. Second, as I’ve said above, it’s a sloppy attempt, which fits Cersei’s style (the attempted assassination during the melee). It doesn’t fit Joffrey quite as well – while his daggerman was inexperienced and ultimately failed, he did manage to conceal himself and create a diversion before making the attempt, which speaks to some skill. (On the other hand, the fact that it’s a hired blade rather than an attempted “accident” is more in keeping with Joffrey.)

Moreover there’s a number of elements of Littlefinger’s style that we don’t see in this killing: Baelish murders (Jon Arryn, Lysa, etc.) incredibly cleanly and leaves few details up to chance. Moreover, Littlefinger never uses a blade – he uses poison to kill Jon Arryn and Joffrey and possibly Robert Arryn, and pushes Lysa out the Moon Door despite having the Valyrian dagger. Finally, Littlefinger almost always uses the aftermath to significant advantage – he uses Jon Arryn’s death to provoke a conflict between the Starks and Lannisters, he uses Joffrey’s death as cover for Sansa’s escape among other things, he pins Lysa’s death on Marillion and to set up Robert Arryn’s assassination, and so on. But nothing really would come out of Tyrion’s death that wouldn’t have happened regardless when Tywin assumed the Handship.

So overall, I find myself torn between Joffrey and Cersei as candidates.

Historical Analysis:

When I last left off in the story of the Fourth Crusade, the boom chain guarding the Golden Horn had been lowered by the victorious Crusaders who occupied Galata. The Venetian navy sailed into the Golden Horn and quickly established dominance on the water, driving the neglected Byzantine fleet into its harbors; the Crusader camp shifted from the Anatolian coast to the city’s east to the northern bank of the Golden Horn, pivoting the axis of the entire battle:

byzantine_constantinople_eng

After a week of exchanging artillery fire between the Crusaders’ camp and the northern walls of the city, the first amphibious assault began on July 17, 1203. The Crusaders proper attacked the Blachernae Palace at the northwestern corner of the city, while the Venetian marines focused on the sea wall proper. The knights, charging off the horse-transports, took heavy casualties from arrow fire poured down the defenders and were defeated. But the wily Venetians, led by their Doge Enrico Dandelo, looked once again to their ships:

“He [Doge Dandolo] had them take the spars which support the sails of the ships, which were full thirty fathoms in length, or more, and these he caused to be firmly bound and made fast to the masts with good cords, and good bridges to be laid on these and good guards alongside them, likewise of cords; and the bridge was so wide that three armed knights could pass over it abreast. And the Doge caused the bridge to be so well furnished and covered on the sides with sailcloth and other thick stuff, that those who should go up the bridge to make an assault need have no care for crossbow bolts nor for arrows.” (Robert de Clari, quoted in Nicolle and Hook, The Fourth Crusade)

Just as Stannis’ men turned the wreckage of their fleet into a path to cross the Blackwater, the Venetian marines turned their own ships into protected bridges that allowed them to attack the Golden Horn walls from a superior height. Venetian archers fired down on the Byzantine defenders and “easily routed them, since they were fighting from a higher vantage point and discharging their missiles from above.” 25-30 of the 110 towers on the Golden Horn were taken that day, and the city might have fallen to the Crusaders then and there, had not the Emperor Alexios III led a sortie party from the city.

Like Tyrion, Alexios III used his presence to put some heart into the shaken and demoralized defenders, leading out 17 battalions to threaten the Crusader flank. Baldwin of Flanders wheeled the flank around to face the Byzantine cavalry head-on, while Boniface of Monferrat drew up a reserve to defend the Crusader’s camp. A reckless charge by Baldwin’s subordinates allowed the Byzantines to begin surrounding the better part of the Crusader army. This sudden existential threat forced the Venetians to abandon their conquered towers and reinforce the Crusader lines. Having succeeded in his tactical aims, Alexios III withdrew behind the city walls.

But as in the Battle of the Blackwater, chaos and uncertainty reigned on both sides. Outside of Constantinople, the Crusaders believed themselves outmaneuvered and beaten, the Venetians’ prize relinquished to pull their allies’ fat out of the fire. But inside the city, Alexios’ retreat without having come to blows dealt a devastating blow to Byzantine morale and the army and aristocracy began to revolt against him. The same night, fires that the Venetians had lit upon abandoning the Golden Horn towers spread throughout the city, burning 20,000 people out of their homes. The rage of commons and nobility alike snapped Alexios III’s nerve like a twig, and the Emperor, who had for a brief shining moment looked like the victor of the day, grabbed a thousand pounds of gold and fled the city.

In the morning, the defeated Crusaders woke up to find the usurper emperor had fled, and Isaac II restored to the imperial throne. Yay?

Next time, the story of Andrew of Urboise and Peter of Amiens, and how the Crusaders lost their victory, gained it again, and threw it all away.

What If?

Much like the chapter itself, the hypotheticals in this chapter shifts scale from the grand to the personal:

  • Tyrion dies? It is hardly to be thought of, but had Tyrion died either by accident or injury at any point in his ride, many things change. First, Tyrion isn’t there to get married to Sansa, so either Sansa gets married to Willas after all or Lancel gets drafted in, and now we’re down a Lannister for Gatehouse Ami and Castle Darry. Second, the Purple Wedding conspiracy is thrown on its ear, with no patsy to blame for the murder of a king. It’s possible that Ser Dontos might be used as a patsy, but that’s rather dangerous because Ser Dontos can point the finger to Littlefinger. (Oberyn’s a compelling possibility, but he’s got diplomatic immunity and breaching that means war with Dorne, which Tywin does not need) Third, the Golden Company doesn’t invade the Stormlands and instead marches to Meereen – which probably means the Yunkish get routed, Dany doesn’t have to marry Hizdahr, and quite likely marries Aegon instead.
  • Tyrion is unharmed? As I suggested above, had Tyrion not been put out of commission for well over a month by his injuries, he gets the chance to deal with his father as one of the heroes of the battle and be able to present his account of events – and now it’s Cersei who looks bad for ordering Joffrey’s retreat. Now, this doesn’t mean that Tyrion’s going to get Casterly Rock or going to keep his Handship, because Tywin’s gonna Tywin, but there are other prizes. For example, command of the Lannister army in defeating the Starks and retaking the Riverlands for the crown, since Tyrion seems to enjoy the military life. This in turn might butterfly away or greatly transform the Purple Wedding and the death of Tywin, setting up an interesting possibility that you might see Tyrion and Cersei duke it out for who gets to lead House Lannister after his death.
  • Mandon Moore lives? One of the many reasons why I consider the assassination attempt so sloppy and foolhardy is that, if Mandon Moore hadn’t died following his attempt, it’s quite likely that he would have been interrogated, revealing the true culprit. Now, if it’s Joffrey, this poses a political difficulty for Tyrion and Tywin – a kinslayer King is really over-the-top even by Targaryen standards, but they need a King to marry Margaery and provide a face for the regime. How far would Tywin go in that scenario? If it’s Cersei, then things get interesting – Tywin would be very unhappy indeed, but my guess is that Cersei’s punishment would be to be stripped of her regency in favor of Tywin himself. If it’s Littlefinger, he’d better run and hope the Gulltown navy can keep the Lannisters out of the Vale.

Book vs. Show:

This section of the Battle of Blackwater is something of a mixed bag. Tyrion’s sortie from the tunnels is somewhat clumsy – the bit where he severs the leg of a Baratheon soldier especially looks quite fake. However, the shot where Tyrion turns around from the triumphant burning of the boat-battering ram and sees what looks like Stannis’ entire army charging at him is incredibly impressive when you realize how few nmen Neil Marshall is using to look like hundreds if not thousands of men. Likewise, the shock and disorientation of Mandon Moore’s assassination attempt and Tyrion’s wounding is quite powerful, and I really like the use of the repeated eyeball shot to show Tyrion looking at but not seeing Tywin’s charge.

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98 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XIV, ACOK

  1. Grant says:

    On Moore’s orders, it’s possible that he received something along the lines of ‘when you see an opportunity, put a sword in Tyrion’ before the battle started. As for Baelish, there’s another reason it probably wouldn’t be him. While Joffrey and Cersei both might do something stupid like order the murder of the Lannisters leading commander for this battle, I can’t see Baelish doing something that dumb. He’s impulsive and likes to wave around how smart he is sure, but he’d know that this could easily lead to his own death if Stannis broke through.

    I think that either they’d use Oberyn as the fall guy, safe in the knowledge that at least Joffrey’s dead and the Lannisters are convinced it was someone else, or let it be a mystery. Maybe riskier, but the Tyrells and Baelish aren’t going to top the list of suspects.

    • winnie says:

      I agree with your theory that it was just a general order to Moore to see to it that Tyrion didn’t leave the battlefield alive and Ser Mandon was waiting for just the right moment…so I’m not as convinced as Steve that Tyrion would have been ‘saved’ had he not rode out on that bridge since Moore could have found another moment in all the chaos of the Blackwater. Heck at another time and place Moore might have actually succeeded in his objective.

    • Sean C. says:

      Even aside from Sansa being intended as the fall-guy, using Oberyn as the fall-guy would probably start a full-scale war with Dorne — Baelish probably would welcome that, but the Tyrells wouldn’t; they want a neat, contained operation that allows for a smooth succession, not something that leads to a lengthy border war that bleeds their own lands.

    • That’s a good point – LF makes his move after Tyrion is no longer necessary.

  2. winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve. One thing I’d like to add to the What if section….if Tyrion dies even supposing Tywin was doomed anyway, (thanks to Oberyn or more likely Varys) then Cersei’s mental journey in AFFC is going to be different since she’d believe the Prophecy has been disproven and the Valonqar slain. (Though of course she was always worried about the wrong Valonqar.) That might butterfly away Margaery’s imprisonment and Cersei’s own Walk of Shame.

    I still think Olenna would have found a way to kill Joffrey even without a convenient patsy but they may have tried to make it look more like a mystery illness as they did with Jon Arryn.

    • Andrew says:

      Yes, because Olenna’s sole reason for killing Joffrey was to protect her granddaughter, and by extension, her grandson who is defensive of his sister. She would still have had him poisoned.

    • Grant says:

      I think it’s pretty likely that, even with Tyrion dead, once Joffrey died she’d still have that paranoia. She might think it was some plan he’d put in place with conspirators perhaps.

      • winnie says:

        Its also possible that if Tyrion dies and things still begin to fall apart that Cersei might wise up to who the Valonqar really is…

    • Thanks!

      I don’t know if Cersei would be less likely to go after Margaery – she might decide that she’s invincible now and go full HAM instead.

  3. Andrew says:

    Another good chanpter analysis for the end of the year.

    1. Pod is definitely Egg. Egg pulled Dunk out of the Chequy Water who was preventing the Red Widow from crossing, and watched over him as he recuperated. Pod pulled Tyrion out as he was trying to keep the forces on Melisandre’s side (or the “Red Widower” we can call her) from crossing the Blackwater. I got to hand it to Pod, he is the best squire in Westeros so far.

    2. I wonder what details Cersei gives about herself during the battle to Tywin. Something tells she left out the drinking.

  4. Sean C. says:

    In the “What If?” section, is there a need for a new patsy? As far as the Tyrells are concerned, Sansa was the patsy. The Tyrion stuff was Baelish’s addition, seemingly to settle his own score against Tyrion (and, after the marriage, free up Sansa to marry again), but if Tyrion’s already dead or otherwise unavailable then the former isn’t necessary, but Sansa still serves the function of somebody to blame. She’d just be a solo culprit, as opposed to a duo with Tyrion. If Sansa’s still married to somebody else then Baelish may have a need to get rid of them for the latter reason, but unless that person also has a long history of conflict with Joff it’s probably easier and less risky to just have them discretely murdered later.

    I agree with your analysis that the whole attempt on Tyrion’s life in this chapter feels like a poor fit for Littlefinger’s style of operating. He’s not generally so slapdash in ordering his enemies disposed of.

    The whole bridge of flaming ships is such a vivid, fantastical set-piece.

    • Andrew says:

      Olenna and Margaery wanted Sansa to marry Willas since coming (and likely before) to King’s Landing, and I doubt having her executed for treason fits into that plan. I also doubt Margaery would be ok with Sansa being killed for a crime she didn’t commit.

      I think Tyrion was the patsy from the start.

      • Sean C. says:

        In the books — and I make no promises, because I have two more books to write, and I may have more surprises to reveal — the conclusion that the careful reader draws is that Joffrey was killed by the Queen of Thorns, using poison from Sansa’s hair net, so that if anyone actually did think it was poison, then Sansa would be blamed for it. Sansa had certainly good reason for it.

        http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/george-r-r-martin-on-who-killed-joffrey-20140414#ixzz3vuZmhxT6

        Per a separate interview he gave around the same time (this was all in response to the Purple Wedding episode of the show), it looks slightly more complicated than that: Plan A was that Joffrey’s death would be seen as accidental choking; Plan B was Sansa taking the fall.

        http://www.ew.com/article/2014/04/13/george-r-r-martin-why-joffrey-killed

        Indeed, this reading solves many lingering issues about the plot. For instance, if the Tyrells aren’t using Sansa as the presumptive fall-guy, why bother waiting until after the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery to ask? They have the Lannisters by the balls prior to the Blackwater and could easily have put it into the laundry list of stuff they want, and even afterward, as Tywin himself admits, if the Tyrells ask for Sansa he can’t turn them down. The only reason to wait is that they’re waiting to see whether Sansa ends up having to take the fall for the regicide; if she does, the Tyrells don’t have the image problem of Joff’s assassin being betrothed to their heir; if she doesn’t, fortuitous, and Sansa’s off to Highgarden.

        Where do you get the idea that Margaery would object to Sansa being executed for a crime she didn’t commit? She was fine with Tyrion being executed, clearly; she may like Sansa, but that doesn’t stop her from manipulating her, or dumping her once she no longer serves a purpose.

        • Andrew says:

          Conceded on the first. However, Olenna still waited until Tyrion was to fill Joffrey’s chalice before she put in the poison, and Littlefinger wanted him framed. I think it was originally Sansa (she was given the hairnet in ACoK when the plan was already made by Olenna and Littlefinger), but that changed to Tyrion as the patsy after he married her. Tyrion became Plan B for Olenna.

          As to the last, I got the idea from what we’ve seen of Margaery and her character. She may be shrewd, but she is also kind and caring. Sansa is an innocent girl, and Margaery befriended her. I doubt Margaery was involved in that case. The fewer people that know about the plot the better. Besides what are the chances she would drink from Joffrey’s chalice? There is a fine line between dumping someone and framing them for murder.

          • Sean C. says:

            After the marriage, Sansa would have shared Tyrion’s fate. She’d have been arrested alongside him, and if that happened they would almost certainly have discovered that she was wearing the poison on her hairnet, what with the missing gemstone, and that all the other gems look like Strangler crystals, which Pycelle is able to identify as the poison.

            Margaery has to have been in on the murder, because it wasn’t “Joffrey’s chalice”, it was Joffrey and Margaery’s chalice, from which they were both drinking (as is repeatedly noted in the text). Margaery had to have been in on it, because she has to know to stop drinking after the poison is deployed.

          • Andrew says:

            Not exactly, the Tyrells could have Sansa acquitted in that scenario using the argument that she is an innocent girl and likely was kept ignorant about the plot, which is believable. They would both avoid being caught and get Sansa as a bride to Willas.

            The chalice was a gift to Joffrey not Margaery. Joffrey was clearly drinking more from it than she was given how drunk he became. All Olenna had to do was wait for the opportunity to present itself.

          • Sean C. says:

            When she was wearing the murder weapon and had every motive to kill Joffrey? Highly improbable. When the murder is discussed at the end of ASOS, even the people who think Tyrion may not have done it are absolutely certain Sansa did.

            Whether Joffrey was drinking more isn’t relevant. They were both drinking toasts out of it. For Olenna to put poison in it without signalling that Margaery should stop drinking would be unnecessarily risky when the whole purpose of the plot is to protect Margaery, and there’s no reason for her not to be involved. Lady Alerie probably was, based on her rushing to assert that Joff choked.

          • Andrew says:

            Tyrion would no doubt say she had nothing to do with Joffrey’s death. Also, Olenna made it clear she wanted to take Sansa back to Highgarden, and wanted to marry her off to Willas. Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to marry Willas and have them gain Winterfell then execute her when she had never wronged them? Wasn’t one patsy, Tyrion, enough?

            On top of that, during Tyrion’s trial the hairnet and strangler were never named as the instruments. No one suspected the strangler except Tyrion. Littlefinger chose that poison, because very few could recognize it and no one would ever suspect it in a hairnet. The Tyrells wouldn’t want to point to the hairnet and strangler either, but stay as far away from them as possible. It was never confirmed what poison did it or the hairnet’s involvement, so the hairnet wouldn’t play a factor in Sansa’s trial given what we saw in Tyrion’s. No hairnet and no strangler means no way to connect Sansa to the poisoning. Sansa would be easy to acquit, IMO, in that situation with no connection to the poisoning except her very brief marriage to the suspected poisoner, and it is known throughout the Red Keep the marriage is very cold. She is also believed to be an innocent and dim (at least according to Cersei) girl.

            Olenna put it in when it was refilled, and Joffrey was about to take a swig. As to whether or not Margaery knew we will have to wait for the next books to come out or the author to confirm.

          • Sean C. says:

            Also, Olenna made it clear she wanted to take Sansa back to Highgarden, and wanted to marry her off to Willas.

            No, Olenna said that in chitchat at a wedding mere moments before framing them for murder. And GRRM himself said the purpose of the hairnet was to incriminate Sansa; there’s nothing to indicate that they switched to Tyrion. So far as we know, they knew nothing about Littlefinger’s special preparations to frame him.

            The way all the Tyrells drop Sansa like a hot potato after the Tyrion wedding is another sign that they didn’t see any likely further use for her.

          • Andrew says:

            Except the Tyrells would clearly benefit more form marrying Sansa to Willas rather than killing her off. They would gain Winterfell while killing her would gain them nothing. Also, Tyrion executed would mean she is widowed and available.

        • Keith B says:

          Martin is telling us both too much and too little. He should not be making pronouncements about the mental states of characters that can’t be reasonably inferred from the books themselves. If he wants the readers to know, he should put it in the books. Otherwise, it is unknown and unknowable.

          On the other side, his statement that blaming Sansa was a backup plan really doesn’t explain much. The Tyrells are sophisticated people and they should have known that the maesters would figure out the Joffrey was poisoned. They cut his throat open and found no obstruction. Since the poison was in Sansa’s hairnet, they had to consider it highly likely that she would be blamed.

          We don’t have to automatically assume that Martin’s external explanations are correct. In the same interview, he says that the books are exploring how decisions have consequences, and gives Robb’s breaking his word as an example. But the commentariat has concluded that Walder Frey would have found a way to betray Robb anyway, as soon as it became apparent that he was on the losing side. Robb offered restitution for the broken promise and Walder agreed to accept it. If he thought Robb would win the war, that would have been the end of the matter.

          ASOIAF has many unreliable narrators, but it may be that the most unreliable of all is the author himself.

          • Andrew says:

            Good point

          • Sean C. says:

            I had never considered the choking thing before he raised it in that interview, but it actually explains a lot. It makes the Tyrells’ delaying of asking for Sansa’s hand from Tywin make a lot of sense, and it gives new meaning to Lady Alerie immediately declaring that he must have choked.

          • Keith B says:

            Waiting until after the wedding to ask for Sansa to visit Highgarden doesn’t need any special explanation. There’s no reason to ask beforehand, it just gives Tywin and Cersei more time to wonder what they’re up to and figure out a way to say no. If the Tyrells invite Sansa without revealing the wedding plan, it still does not preclude the Lannisters from marrying her to someone else and sending both to HIghgarden. So they want to keep the time between the invitation and the visit to a minimum.

            As for Lady Alerie, she probably wouldn’t be part of the conspiracy because she doesn’t need to be. It’s essential to keep the number of insiders to a minimum. Maybe Margaery needed to know, but not her mother.

          • Sean C. says:

            There’s no reason to ask beforehand, it just gives Tywin and Cersei more time to wonder what they’re up to and figure out a way to say no.

            Tywin made it quite clear that they couldn’t say no. On the contrary, waiting just means that there’s more time for Sansa to become engaged to somebody else (indeed, Tywin’s not taking any action on that front without being prompted is a bit mystifying).

            Maybe Margaery needed to know, but not her mother.

            If the senior Tyrell women are used to acting in concert (and you would expect they are), then she’d know.

          • Keith B says:

            I have to disagree about Alerie knowing. It’s important to understand that the conspiracy to murder Joffrey was EXTREMELY dangerous. Varys has spies all over the Red Keep and almost certainly in Highgarden too. One chance word at the wrong time could be fatal. Olenna couldn’t be certain Alerie would not tell her husband or someone else close to her. The plot was between Olenna and Littlefinger. The commentariat has convinced me that Margaery had to be informed because of the danger she would drink from the poisoned goblet, but even that was risky. I doubt that any of Littlefinger’s people, even Dontos, knew what was going to happen. The operation was strictly need-to-know and Alerie did NOT need to know.

            I don’t know how you or the Tyrells could be absolutely certain that Tywin wouldn’t find a way to defeat their plans for Sansa if he had advance notice, but after re-reading the chapter just now I see that there’s an even better reason why the invitation had to wait until after the wedding. Mace Tyrell was the one who had to invite Sansa, and he wouldn’t even consider such a step until after the wedding.

            There’s a way to make sense of the events. At the time Olenna interviewed Sansa, she hadn’t made up her mind to kill Joffrey. She needed Sansa’s input to be sure. Quite possibly Margaery had the idea of having Sansa marry Willas, and Margaery probably knew only what she needed to know. She didn’t know that the poison was in the hairnet or that Sansa was supposed to be the fall guy. If for some reason suspicion didn’t fall on Sansa after all, Olenna was willing to have her marry Willas. After all, he’s single and isn’t getting any younger, and he needs to marry and have an heir. Sansa is quite attractive and a connection to the North is worth having. But Olenna didn’t really expect to make good on the offer.

            It seems likely that Olenna didn’t know that Sansa’s escape was also part of Littlefinger’s plot. If she had, she would have known that the hairnet wasn’t the piece of evidence that would frame Sansa. Conversely, Littlefinger didn’t know about the plot to invite Sansa to Highgarden until Dontos informed him. Littlefinger and Olenna had interests in common, but they were plotting against each other as well as against the Lannisters.

            Also, Dontos didn’t know that the hairnet contained poison. He only knew that he had to give it to Sansa and make sure she wore it to the wedding. And probably Olenna didn’t know that Dontos was Littlefinger’s agent. Both Littlefinger and Olenna kept tight operational security. They needed to.

    • I think the issue is that the patsy needs to be caught and punished to end the investigation. If Sansa’s the sole suspect and the entire investigation is focused on finding her, keeping her in the Vale becomes much much more dangerous.

      So I don’t see LF being ok with that. If Ser Dontos “confesses” and then “kills himself in his cell,” that’s a good tied-up loose end.

      • Sean C. says:

        I don’t think that really follows. Tyrion as a secondary target might pull focus until he’s executed, but after that the Crown’s attention is undivided, and given that Sansa would appear to the Lannisters to be far more capable and devious than she is at present (not to mention, once Tyrion is executed, widowed and thus free to marry again), there’d be no lack of urgency in finding her.

        • I disagree. The Crown’s attention is hardly undivided post Purple Wedding anyway, but the amount of energy it’s putting into finding Sansa is nothing compared to say, dealing with Dragonstone, the Ironborn, or Aegon.

          As new things keep happening, old business gets pushed down the to-do list.

          • Sean C. says:

            I mean, as far as searching for fugitives goes. Obviously there’ll always be other things on the agenda. In the context of how big Westeros is, it’s not like the couple of weeks Tyrion’s trial takes were that big a distraction. Crown investigators couldn’t even have reached the Eyrie in that amount of time.

  5. BeaNajera says:

    First, Tyrion isn’t there to get married to Sansa, so either Sansa gets married to Willas after all or Loras gets drafted in, and now we’re down a Lannister for Gatehouse Ami and Castle Darry.

    Hi, I think you mean Lancel here, not Loras.

  6. Huw S says:

    There is also the argument that Mandon Moore tried to kill Tyrion for reasons of his own – specifically, that as a native of the Vale, Tyrion’s arming of the hill clans poses a very real danger to the rest of House Moore.

  7. David Hunt says:

    Great work, Steven.

    A thought. If Tyrion gets out of the Battle unharmed, one of the rewards that he might get is a knighthood. There were a zillion guys knighted for their exploits and he surely qualifies. Although I’m not sure how Tywin’s feelings for Tyrion fall in that scenario. Does having him knighted for genuine exploits make him less generally embarrassing to Tywin or does he the thought of Tyrion being called to attention at the ceremonies feel him with such loathing that he can’t stand it? We’ll never know, of course as Tyrion was wounded and that’s that.

  8. Steven Xue says:

    In the “What If”? section about Tyrion surviving and getting the adulation he craved from his father and that changing the course of the Purple Wedding. I don’t get how you would assume Tywin would still end up a casualty of that event? As far as we know Littlefinger never intended for Tywin to die. It was all just dumb luck from framing Tyrion for Joffrey’s murder. But if he isn’t framed then that increases the chances of Tywin living because I doubt Littlefinger would push his luck that far by trying to kill Tywin off, and there’s no way Olenna would be willing to poison Tywin along with his grandson at the wedding.

    • David Hunt says:

      Tyrion MIGHT get some official honors lauded on him, but he is NEVER going to get the approval of his father. Tywin will always despise him and, short of bring Johanna back from the dead, he can never remove the main cause of Tywin’s hate. I might be wrong and Tyrion’s deformity might be the bigger problem. Certainly, both are huge issues with Tywin. But either way, Tyrion is totally incapable of removing the causes of Tywin’s hatred. The best that he can hope for is (very) grudging respect.

      • Steven Xue says:

        True but that still doesn’t mean he’s going to kill him. And in the event of the Purple Wedding if he doesn’t become Littlefinger’s patsy then there’s no reason he’d be driven over the edge, as there would be no kangaroo court and no need for him to flee for his life hence Jaime won’t be reveling his part in getting rid of Tysa and Tyrion would have no motive to kill his father which means Tywin lives.

    • Varys intended Tywin to die, so he’s going to die.

  9. Interesting that you say Cersei and Tyrion would duke it out for control of House Lannister after Tywin’s death. That seems to mean that you think Tywin would have died soon even without Tyrion’s interference. Does that mean you believe fan theory that the Red Viper poisoned him? If so, I hope you’ll elaborate on that in your ASOS analysis . . . or here and now. 🙂

    • winnie says:

      I don’t know whether the Red Viper poisoned Tywin or not but I *do* know that Varys was very VERY dedicated to not letting anyone competent serve as King Tommen’s hand lest that make things more difficult for fAegon. So even if you don’t believe as Steve does that Varys deliberately engineered it for Tyrion to find Shae in Tywin’s bed and kill him, (and I think that really was just random luck for the Spider) then Varys almost certainly was always planning on having Tywin killed and as later events with Kevan proved he always had the means to do it.

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, I personally suspect that Varys used the same crossbow that Tyrion took from the Hands chambers to kill Kevan. He then leaves the crossbow at the scene. Et voila! Tyrion did it! He’s still lurking in the Walls! Or at least that’s what Cercei will think and she’ll act on that once Frankengregor destroys whoever champions the Church at her trial and she’s back in power.

  10. John says:

    In terms of who gave the order, the problems I have with Cersei and Joffrey are Dpylian rather than Watsonian. If it’s Cersei, shouldn’t it have come up in her POVs? Why does she seem surprised by the accusation? If it’s Joffrey, there’s no way to actually reveal it, since both principals are dead. Additionally, why make Mandon Moore come from the Vale of not to eventually establish him as a cats paw of Littlefinger?

    The most logical explanation of Jon Arryn’s death is that Cersei used Hugh to do it. And yet that turns out not to be true, leaving weird gaps in explaining what the hell was going on with Cersei in AGOT. I don’t really true GRRM to solve mysteries in ways that make sense

    • Sean C. says:

      At this point, I’m not sure this attempt will necessarily warrant further explanation. I agree that Cersei’s never thinking about it in AFFC weighs against it being her.

      While Moore is from the Vale, otherwise there’s nothing suggesting any connection between him and Baelish, and Steven is right to note there’s no evidence that Moore has any wants or needs for Baelish to leverage over him.

    • Keith B says:

      It could be that the only reason GRRM had Mandon Moore come from the Vale is for the sake of the one scene where Tyrion asks him about Ser Vardis Egen, and Ser Mandon says he knows the man, and Bronn corrects him: “Knew.” It makes it more likely for Moore to know him if he’s from the Vale himself. So the entire point about him being from the Vale could be a red herring as far as the attempt against Tyrion was concerned.

    • David Hunt says:

      Eddard is constantly thinking about the promise that he made to Lyanna but we are never privy to what that promise is, even in his thoughts. If GRRM doesn’t want Cercei to think about that, she won’t.

      As to her apparent surprise at the accusation, Cercei is ridiculously capable of self-deception and self-denial to make herself the blameless victim of Secret Enemies and Dark Forces that conspire to prevent her schemes from ending as she wishes. NOTHING is ever her fault.

      • Andrew says:

        That’s a result of her narcissism. She fails to see she causes many of her own problems. She worries about Tyrion bringing her down yet fails to see that her mistreatment of him is the reason for that. She thinks the Tyrells, especially, Margaery, are working against her, yet she tried to have Margaery killed and works to undermine them throughout her reign. She says the Dornish can’t be trusted (for once she’s right on this on), and yet conspires to have Prince Trystane who is betrothed to her daughter murdered.

        Cersei is the master of the self-fulfilling prophecy both figuratively and literally.

        • Sean C. says:

          Well, the Tyrells probably are angling to ease her out long-term. But she’s a moron. so that would only be sensible on their part, and certainly her tactics against them are so recklessly self-destructive that it’s vastly disproportionate to the problem.

          • Andrew says:

            Like sending Loras to take Dragonstone with close to 1000 of her own Westermen killed, “the best and the bravest” according to Waters, or letting the Ironborn weaken the Reach, forgetting that the Tyrells provide the bulk of Tommen’s support, and if they are weakened so is Tommen’s claim. That also is coming back to bite her given, dragging her feet in dealing with the Ironborn will likely be an impetus for many Reach lords to defect to Aegon, especially if he takes a page from Stannis, and fights Ironborn to win the support of Reach lords.

      • kylelitke says:

        True about GRRM showing Cersei’s inner thoughts, although if it was her, why not reveal it? It seems unlikely at this point that it would matter, and unlike Joff’s attempt at Bran requiring a PoV character to puzzle it out on their own, there are clear openings for Cersei to think about it in Feast (she’s constantly obsessing over Tyrion, easy to think about Moore failing).

        That’s not necessarily evidence for or against her, mind you, GRRM could have chosen not to reveal it because it does somehow matter in the future, or because he felt like not revealing it because he’s the writer and he can do whatever he wants, but it would have been easy to insert it, and unlike Ned’s promise to Lyanna (we assume), it likely doesn’t matter for the future. Joffrey is dead and Cersei and Tyrion have plenty of bad blood without the assassination attempt. I guess if Littlefinger was behind it and Tyrion and Littlefinger ever interact again, it could matter, but those things all seem unlikely at this point.

        • Sean C. says:

          Whichever reveal GRRM chooses, at this point it’s anticlimactic. Joff is dead, and has already had one long-after-the-fact “yeah, it was him” reveal (though this one would make a lot more sense); with both Cersei and Littlefinger they’ve already made subsequent plays to kill Tyrion, so in neither case would it really add much new.

    • Mandon Moore being from the Vale is because Jon Arryn was Hand. Also, if he’s a Lannister appointee, that pushes things to the other side.

    • Here’s a wild thought:

      What if more than one of the main suspects put the bug in Moore’s ear?

      Similar to how Cersei was suspect #1 in Jon Arryn’s death till the end of ASOS, BUT AFFC reveals that while she had yet to act she was definitely trying to decide how to move against him.

      What if Moore’s choice of acting on the battlefield (potentially in front of many witnesses) is due to getting two conflicting versions of the same order. Before leaving KL, Littlefinger suggests to Moore that if an opportunity presents itself, there are many reasons why it would be good for Tyrion to be eliminated. Then as the Battle of Blackwater is heating up* Joffrey makes some sort of off hand remark (won’t someone rid me of this meddlesome Imp?). Moore, getting similar remarks from two different authorities attempts to please both simultaneously.

      *Sorry :/

      • Grant says:

        There might be some possibility for Cersei and Joffrey, but probably not Baelish. He needs Tyrion alive until the wedding so he can take the fall and he doesn’t have the paranoia or stupidity to give the order to kill the best commander in King’s Landing before Stannis is beaten.

    • John Galvano says:

      I would love it if not every person in the Vale was Littlefinger’s pawn. I’m getting tired of these grand conspiracies.

  11. Ethan says:

    Watching Tyrion and Cersei duke it out for control of House Lannister would be fascinating. Though, legally, Tyrion has an indisputable right as oldest male heir.

    • Grant says:

      Legality can be flexible in situations like these. If enough of the family was behind Cersei, who might still be able to use the position of queen, then Tyrion’s legal strength might be pushed aside by force of arms (though I think he might have an edge with Kevan).

      • Sean C. says:

        If Tyrion was still around and not in any sense disinherited at a time when Tywin died (though how that would come about is unclear), I would expect Kevan to back Tyrion (both because he’s rightfully entitled to it and because Kevan by that point is opposed to Cersei), which would probably decide the matter, as he’s the senior figure in the Lannister hierarchy at that point.

        • winnie says:

          By the old gods and the new the thought of an intra family war with Kevan and Tyrion on one side and Cersei on the other gives me chills!

          But yeah between Cersei and Tyrion there’s no question who Kevan would back since by that point he (rightly) fears Cersei will be the ruin of their whole House.

    • Agreed, but Cersei as Queen Regent would have abilities to push her case than she would as just the daughter of Tywin.

  12. John W says:

    My money has always been on Cersei. The assassination attempt requires some subtlety and when has Joffrey ever been subtle. He’s more of a “I’m the King and I can do whatever I want to whoever I want!”

    I know she’s far from the battlefield but I can see her telling Ser Moore something along the lines of “If the opportunity presents itself, see to it that my dear brother sees an untimely end.”

    Plus the fact that another attempt isn’t made once Tywin arrives in KL again strikes me as Cersei being behind it because she’s more apt to exercise caution once Tywin is around where Joffrey might not care about Tywin’s presence, remember he doesn’t defer to him like the other Lannisters do, and see Tyrion being more vulnerable like Bran in Winterfell.

  13. kylelitke says:

    If you want to get really crazy, you could say Littlefinger convinced Joffrey ti do it before leaving Kings Landing.

    My guess is either Cersei or Joffrey, and I lean toward Joffrey, if only because I struggle to recall a time when a PoV character thinks about a mystery that is also a mystery to the reader (i.e., Jaime throwing Bran out a window doesn’t count, because we the reader saw it and its not a mystery to us) and immediately pegs the correct suspect in this series. Tyrion is so sure it’s Cersei that it actually makes me think it isn’t her, in the same way Catelyn is so sure Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion (at different times) tried to kill Bran when it was actually Joffrey, or everyone is so sure the Lannisters killed Jon when it was actually Lysa and Littlefinger. The closest is the attempts on Robert, but Cersei owns up to that at the first possible opportunity. Going by that writing style, Tyrion being sure it’s Cersei makes me think it’s not. I agree though that the only reasonable (to me, anyway) culprits are Cersei, Joffrey, and Littlefinger.

  14. It was Cersei. I’m guessing the order was to “kill Tyrion when you have a chance, without being caught, and bring me back the body”. Cercei needs to see Tyrion’s corpse to know for certain that he’s dead, and it’s the only reason I can think of that Ser Mandon would risk his own life trying to drag Tyrion back aboard.

    The fact that Cersei doesn’t think about it doesn’t mean much, she doesn’t think about her abortive attempt to kill Robert in the melee. It might even be brought back later, especially if she spends enough time with Robert Strong, she might reflect on her relationships with the other Kingsguard.

    Also, if you use Joffery’s previous attempted assassination on Bran as an example, you see it differentiates from here significantly: He uses wealth (or at least the promise of it), and probably station, as leverage without worrying about the loyalty of the agent. Joffery believes he owns and has power over everyone, and has almost no understanding of factional politics. Besides, you’d think he’d use the Hound to kill him instead of Ser Mandon, right?

    • Good point about the body, and about the melee.

      The main difference between Bran and this wrt to Joffrey is now that he’s king he can just order people to kill and they do it, he doesn’t need to bribe.

  15. Ethan says:

    Littlefinger kills Dontos via an armed lackey, fyi.

    • True, but in his own presence as opposed to trusting someone else to carry it out.

      • Grant says:

        There’s also a potential psychological reason there, to make it clear to Sansa that Dontos is gone and can’t help her even if he wanted to.

        But I would say that the odds of Baelish giving the order, while not impossible, are still extremely low. Besides the danger of Stannis winning with Tyrion dead, Tyrion was his best choice for a scapegoat for Joffrey’s murder. There were other people who could have been framed, or even just letting it remain a mystery, but those would all be riskier than Tyrion.

  16. KrimzonStriker says:

    I really can’t take the Aegon/Danerys possibility very seriously by this point Steven, Quentyn might not have had an army right there but his rejection to me served as a prelude to the fate Aegon himself avoided, and Danys inclination to stay in Meeren hadn’t been broken yet and would have been off-putting to the restless Golden Company, plus I fear the prophecy would have put Dany on guard similarly to how Cersei is becoming as well.

    • John Galvano says:

      She still marries Hizdahr despite the prophecy so I don’t think it would necessarily be a factor. I think if Aegon triumphantly marches in with the Golden Company and helps defeat the slavers he has a good shot, if he just comes begging like Quentyn then not so much.

  17. John Galvano says:

    Why does Tywin believe Cersei’s account? He knows she is stupid and unreliable.

    • Grant says:

      How? From what we can see his interaction with her on the highest levels of politics looks like it would have been relatively limited and mostly around appointing Lannister loyalists to court positions. Going by what’s mentioned (and more importantly what isn’t) in Cersei’s chapters and in Tyrion’s chapter when he’s sent to be Hand, it doesn’t look like Tywin was regularly consulting with her on major issues.

      • John Galvano says:

        He sends Tyrion to clean up Cersei’s mess but then believes Cersei’s account over Tyrion…seems odd

        • David Hunt says:

          I think part of it is that Cercei is benefiting from the soft tyranny of low expectations brought about by Tywin’s misogyny. He’s never expected Cercei to rule in her own right and she manages to exploit that to make any mistakes the fault of another man. Tyrion would the main character in whatever story she wove, both because she hates and fears him, and because there is no one defending him. I think she’d also have an advantage in getting past Tywin’s BS detectors in this, because I’m sure that Cercei would have believed every slander she came up with by the time she told it to Tywin.

          Plus she’s got more advantages. Tywin hates Tyrion so he’s predisposed to believe the worst about him. Plus, she’s got weeks to keep reinforcing her story before Tyrion can say anything that contradicts it.The fix is in at that point.

          Also, Tywin sent Tyrion to KL to rule. Even if problems weren’t his fault, They were his responsibility. Organizing my thoughts, I wonder if he thought the KL situation was salvageable at all when he sent Tryion instead of Kevan. Tyrion was expendable and if he dies with Cercei, then Kevan is next in line after Jaime.

          I look forward to reading Steven’s take on this in the near future.

    • David Hunt says:

      Cercei looks a lot more competent until we get her POV chapters in AFFC. From Tywin’s point of view, over the years she’s managed to get a large portion of government positions filled by Lannister loyalists. She’s produced an heir and a spare to keep the dynasty secure, and they’ve both socialized with a Lannister identity instead of a Baratheon one. Finally, I suspect he’s giving her credit for Robert dying just in time for him to avoid a treason charge for attacking men under the King’s banner. Cercei’s done everything that he’s expected of her before Robert dies and he probably is getting his main information from her through ravens or messengers. There’s no way she’ll admit to an error.

      To be perfectly honest, Cercei looks so much more competent in the earlier books, that I usually think that she actually was. I attribute her dramatic implosion to three factors. 1). Most importantly, she was much better at maneuvering to acquire power than she was at actually using that power once she got it. 2). After Robert dies but before AFFC, there were always people around her that could curb her more destructive ideas (Tywin when he arrived, Tyrion and the others on the council before that). 3). I think that Cercei broke to some degree when Joffrey and Tywin died in the space of a few weeks. The POV we get is thus, a little more extreme.

  18. hw@gmail.com says:

    Great analysis as always, but I think you’re too quick to dismiss Littlefinger as being behind Mandon Moore’s assassination attempt. I apologize in advance if someone has already posted about this. The idea came to me after watching Preston Jacobs’s excellent video on the Littlefinger Debt Scheme (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vcDETkZ4jY)

    But in regards to means, motive, and opportunity:

    Means:
    Mandon Moore, was a knight from the Vale, yet curiously, Jon Arryn was said to have no love for him. So, who recommended him to the white cloaks? Lysa did. And who controls Lysa? Littlefinger. When one takes into account Moore’s behavior during the riot (leaving Sansa to be kidnapped, which is the kind of thing Littlefinger would want), he seems a possible candidate to be one of Littlefinger’s cronies.

    Motive:
    Mildly embarrassing? Tyrion is a major political threat due to his knowledge about Littlefinger’s dagger, and as someone smart enough to decipher Littlefinger’s creative accounting.

    Opportunity:
    Perhaps he gave Moore standing orders to kill Tyrion if the opportunity arose? The weakest of the three, I admit.

  19. […] in Tyrion XIV, we have a case when the Battle of Blackwater is being won and lost at the same time. Even as the […]

  20. Metacod says:

    Excellent point about how Littlefinger kills to achieve specific goals. While it’s possible he saw Tyrion as a threat, Tyrion had gone a while without doing anything threatening and Littlefinger was out of KL. As for Joffrey, part of me thinks he’d just order Tyrion’s execution, but he didn’t do anything after Tyrion slapped and insulted him, and he did use deception in his attempt to kill Bran, so it is possible for him. That said, I’m inclined to think it was Cersei.

  21. […] However little evidence there might be for Cersei’s immediate murderous intent, Tyrion is more convinced than ever that Cersei is behind Ser Mandon Moore’s attempt on his life: […]

  22. […] the Kingsguard, another royal institution that Tyrion’s obsessions rotate around, thanks to a certain incident during the Battle of Blackwater. It begins with something of a red […]

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