Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion II, ASOS


“And my father? Who does he have spying on me?”

This time the eunuch laughed aloud. “Why, me, my lord.”

Synopsis: Tyrion meets with Varys (yay!) and then with Shae (boooo!).

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:

After the sheer emotional fireworks of last chapter, Tyrion II feels like a bit of a step down, although part of that does have to do with my lack of patience for the Shae plotline that takes up a lot of space here. At the same time, there is a lot of setup in this chapter on both a plot and thematic level that requires our attention, so we can’t just skip over this chapter.

The first theme of the chapter – Tyrion’s ongoing and arguably intensifying paranoia – revolves around his first post-Blackwater encounter with Varys, the arch-spymaster who dropped him like a hot rock when Tyrion fell from power. The opening words of the chapter establishes the dynamics of their relationship nicely:

When he saw Tyrion seated by the hearth, he stopped and grew very still. “My lord Tyrion,” came out in a squeak, punctuated by a nervous giggle.

“So you do remember me? I had begun to wonder.”

“It is so very good to see you looking so strong and well.” Varys smiled his slimiest smile. “Though I confess, I had not thought to find you in mine own humble chambers.”

“…I’d hoped to discover bushel baskets of juicy secrets to while away the waiting, but there’s not a paper to be found.” He’d searched for hidden passages too, knowing the Spider must have ways of coming and going unseen, but those had proved equally elusive…

“I am full of surprises. Are you cross with me for abandoning you after the battle?”

“It made me think of you as one of my family.”

Given the fact that their reunion is staged as Tyrion letting himself get caught rifling through Varys’ possessions leading into an awkward discussion of previous betrayal, there’s an oddly intimitate tone to this meeting, like an ex unexpectedly showing up at the apartment to pick up some things. No wonder then, that Tyrion analogizes that strange mix of familiarity and mistrust with family, given everything he’s gone through. (And no, it’s not an indication that Varys is kin to the Lannisters by some weird connexion to Tommen II – let’s keep some decorum here…)

At the same time, there’s always more going on that meets the eye – Tyrion looking for secret tunnels under the cover of looking for hidden papers (what a wonderfully Tyrionesque idea!) is a nice bit of threefold revelation story-building.  First here, and later in this same chapter with Shae, we get reminded that the secret passages are important, well before Tyrion takes his fateful trip to his old quarters in the Tower of the Hand.

At the moment, Tyrion’s motives for trying to map the tunnels are probably related first and foremost to trying to hook up with Shae – more on that in a bit – but he’s far too clever for that to be the only reason. So was Tyrion quietly already thinking about assassinating his father (unlikely), or was he just thinking that in any political situation, it’s always useful to know how to move around unseen and unheard (and, let’s not forget, spy on everyone) in the Red Keep?

Dispatches from Our Man in the Red Keep

After this awkward and yet intimate exchange, the two get to the real business of sharing secrets, which sees Tyrion caught in a vortex of information that brings little enlightenment. No small part of the problem is that Tyrion continues to filter everything he hears through a narrow lens to fit his previous assumptions about who is and who isn’t his enemies, never a good practice in intelligence-gathering:

“Tell me, is it true that he’s restoring Grand Maester Pycelle to the small council?”

“It is, my lord.”

“Do I have my sweet sister to thank for that?” Pycelle had been his sister’s creature; Tyrion had stripped the man of office, beard, and dignity, and flung him down into a black cell.

“Not at all, my lord. Thank the archmaesters of Oldtown, those who wished to insist on Pycelle’s restoration on the grounds that only the Conclave may make or unmake a Grand Maester…Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed, and the Conclave accepted the fact of Pycelle’s dismissal and set about choosing his successor. After giving due consideration to Maester Turquin the cordwainer’s son and Maester Erreck the hedge knight’s bastard, and thereby demonstrating to their own satisfaction that ability counts for more than birth in their order, the Conclave was on the verge of sending us Maester Gormon, a Tyrell of Highgarden. When I told your lord father, he acted at once.”

…So Varys has little birds in the Citadel too.

This exchange about Pycelle is a good example of how Tyrion’s mindset is counter-productive; while he’s not wrong that Pycelle was a sycophant for Cersei (although in light of Pycelle’s actions in AFFC, it’s more accurate to say that he was a Tywin sycophant, albeit a rather useless one), or that Cersei is unremittingly hostile to Tyrion and his interests, his tunnel-vision leads him to fundamentally misread the political situation. One of the thematic undercurrents both here and in the previous Tyrion chapter is that, with the arrival of the Lannister/Tyrell alliance, King’s Landing politics is fundamentally different: here we see the Tyrells making a nicely understated grab for power through the Conclave of the Citadel, banking off of resentment of Tyrion’s high-handed actions, leading Tywin to do a bit of a backstep to contain Tyrell influence on the Small Council. It’s a noticeable sign of how Tyrion has stagnated in his isolation that all of this has to be explained to him. On the other hand, note the way that he casually assimilates not only what Varys is telling him about the Conclave, but also what that information tells him about Varys’ intelligence network. Tyrion’s skills are still there, almost operating on their own, underneath the surface…

On a side note: I do find the information about the unspoken, de facto class bias within the Citadel quite interesting. Varys describes it in such matter-of-fact terms that one gets the sense that this is hardly the first or last time that the maesters have overlooked Barth-esque talented men of lower birth in favor of the gentlemen-c’s whose last names haven’t been forgotten as much as they should have been by the Citadel’s own ideology. It’s hardly surprising; one would expect the values of the feudal social order to pervade and distort all institutions within it (much in the same way that, in OTL, the medieval Catholic Church became “feudalized,” with the younger sons of the nobility monopolizing so many of the top offices and treating church lands and offices as fiefdoms that could be inherited). But it is interesting that long, long before we clap eyes on the Citadel, we’re already getting a sense that the order of Maesters have feet of clay.

Varys’ intelligence-sharing moves from the Small Council to 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 herring:

“Perhaps it will console you to learn that Ser Boros Blount is also being restored.”

Cersei had stripped Ser Boros of his white cloak for failing to die in the defense of Prince Tommen when Bronn had seized the boy on the Rosby road. The man was no friend of Tyrion’s, but after that he likely hated Cersei almost as much. I suppose that’s something. “Blount is a blustering coward,” he said amiably.

Both in the Kingsguard and in the larger story, Boros Blount is a total non-entity, a seat-filler. As a character, he’s a seat-filler, unlikely to have any impact in the narrative beyond possibly wrong-footing the reader (and maybe Cersei) expecting Tommen to be poisoned. He’s not a pawn of Cersei, he’s not a pawn of Tyrion’s – indeed, it’s oddly sweet that he’s one of the few things these estranged siblings can agree on (shades of Crispin Horsefrey there) – but it’s highly unlikely that he’s one of Littlefinger’s or Varys’ either. Boros Blount isn’t even a pawn in game of life.

But Mandon Moore, now there’s there’s a different story:

“…While we are on the subject of the Kingsguard…I wonder, could this delightfully unexpected visit of yours happen to concern Ser Boros’s fallen brother, the gallant Ser Mandon Moore?” The eunuch stroked a powdered cheek. “Your man Bronn seems most interested in him of late.”

Bronn had turned up all he could on Ser Mandon, but no doubt Varys knew a deal more….should he choose to share it. “The man seems to have been quite friendless,” Tyrion said carefully.

“Sadly,” said Varys, “oh, sadly. You might find some kin if you turned over enough stones back in the Vale, but here…Lord Arryn brought him to King’s Landing and Robert gave him his white cloak, but neither loved him much, I fear. Nor was he the sort the smallfolk cheer in tourneys, despite his undoubted prowess. Why, even his brothers of the Kingsguard never warmed to him. Ser Barristan was once heard to say that the man had no friend but his sword and no life but duty…but you know, I do not think Selmy meant it altogether as praise. Which is queer when you consider it, is it not? Those are the very qualities we seek in our Kingsguard, it could be said—men who live not for themselves, but for their king. By those lights, our brave Ser Mandon was the perfect white knight. And he died as a knight of the Kingsguard ought, with sword in hand, defending one of the king’s own blood.” The eunuch gave him a slimy smile and watched him sharply.

Trying to murder one of the king’s own blood, you mean. Tyrion wondered if Varys knew rather more than he was saying. Nothing he’d just heard was new to him; Bronn had brought back much the same reports. He needed a link to Cersei, some sign that Ser Mandon had been his sister’s catspaw. What we want is not always what we get, he reflected bitterly, which reminded him…

By comparison to the lone tumbleweed that is Boros Blount, Mandon Moore has been a constant topic of debate across the ASOIAF fandom – and while I don’t want to dredge up the controversy over whether he was a catspaw of Cersei or Joffrey or Littlefinger, I do think this passage explains why this mystery has so stubbornly resisted solution for almost twenty years, when so many other literary conundrums have been carefully solved by the broader community. Everything we learn here points to Ser Mandon Moore as acting on behalf of someone else. We learn that he’s one of those “who live not for themselves” and no less than Ser Barristan argues that he basically lacks any kind of personal drive that might furnish a motive; a soulless automaton like Mandon Moore isn’t about to swing a sword in the name of the barely-remembered Ser Vardis Egan.

At the same time, GRRM very carefully avoids giving us anything that could point to who might have given the order – Moore came from the Vale, so that’s a strike against him being a Cersei plant, but he was no partisan of Jon Arryn or Robert’s either. Some have suggested the Vale connection means Littlefinger, but Moore lacks entirely any of the burning human desires that mark all of Littlefinger’s catspaws from Ser Hugh to Ser Dontos to the Kettleblacks. An arch-tempter like Littlefinger would struggle mightly to find something to lure someone who has “no life but duty” to suborn his duty.

Perhaps this is one last piece of evidence on behalf of Joffrey, but I feel like this whole plotline is like Raymond Chandler’s infamous The Big Sleep, where even Raymond Chandler couldn’t figure out who killed the chauffer. We know Ser Mandon Moore tried to kill Tyrion – so “who dunnit” is already partway solved – and the answer to the question of “whydunnit” seems to have been deliberately obscured by GRRM. So maybe it doesn’t matter; maybe the point is to make Tyrion feel that he’s surrounded by nebulous conspiracies, that threats to his life are coming from all angles, and that for all of his intelligence, he can’t actually solve the mysterious around him. In other words, the point is to establish Tyrion as a noir protagonist.

Speaking of paranoia 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 himself:

“The Kettleblacks report frequently to your sweet sister.”

“When I think of how much coin I paid those wretched…do you think there’s any chance that more gold might win them away from Cersei?”

“There is always a chance, but I should not care to wager on the likelihood. They are knights now, all three, and your sister has promised them further advancement.”

While we won’t know the full extent of the Kettleblacks’ penchant for the double-cross until Sansa VI (some fifty-six chapters away), already we get the sense that, for all of Tyrion’s cleverness in conducting counter-intelligence operations in ACOK, that he’s made a major tradecraft mistake. Once again tunnel-visioning on Cersei, he’s ignored the possibility that a third party (who re-readers know to be Littlefinger) could have infiltrated his network through these cutouts due to inadequate vetting. And in that situation, trying to buy back the Kettleblacks’ services, in addition to being the very definition of throwing good money after bad, but quite dangerous in terms of opening oneself up to a disinformation campaign.

At the same time, the main import of the Kettleblacks in this chapter does have to do with Cersei herself, and specifically the revelation that Cersei’s relationship with the three brothers is something of a dangerous liason:

A wicked little titter burst from the eunuch’s lips. “And the eldest, Ser Osmund of the Kingsguard, dreams of certain other…favors…as well. You can match the queen coin for coin, I have no doubt, but she has a second purse that is quite inexhaustible.”

Seven hells, thought Tyrion. “Are you suggesting that Cersei’s fucking Osmund Kettleblack?”

“Oh, dear me, no, that would be dreadfully dangerous, don’t you think? No, the queen only hints…perhaps on the morrow, or when the wedding’s done…and then a smile, a whisper, a ribald jest…a breast brushing lightly against his sleeve as they pass…and yet it seems to serve. But what would a eunuch know of such things?”

Cersei’s decision to use her sexuality in this moment, while in keeping with the noir tradition of the femme fatale, is something that needs to be deconstructed a little. The revelation has a catty undertone, a kind of sniggering mockery of “woman’s weapons” as the only card someone like Cersei could play. At the same time, we know from ACOK that this is exactly how Cersei thinks and operates, although it’s worth asking whether this is because Cersei was never given the kind of education that would have given her alternatives to this kind of tactic.

It’s also worth asking why Cersei chooses this moment to begin this rather complicated affair (complicated not least because she’s simultaneously seducing all three brothers). After all, Tywin’s firmly in charge and Tyrion’s been pretty comprehensively dis-empowered; there’s no immediate threat to her children, Jaime, or her life (Cersei’s affairs do tend to spike with some sort of threat on the horizon, as we see with Lancel and the coming siege of King’s Landing). It’s the lack of immediate catalyst or contextual explanation I find curious.

And that lack of explanation is all the more glaring because of how consequential this particular hookup is: Tyrion will use the information here to make his emotional break with Jaime in his final chapter in this book, which will in turn help to inspire Jaime to break with Cersei altogether. Likewise, Cersei will rely heavily on her relationships with the Kettleblack trio in her efforts to bring down Margaery, and they’ll be one of the main levers that the High Sparrow will use to bring her down in turn.

By the end of Varys’ report, we’re all mired in that noir atmosphere of moral corruption, existential isolation, and pervasive suspicion of all human institutions and values:

“Are the Kettleblacks the only ones?”

“Would that were true, my lord. I fear there are many eyes upon you. You are…how shall we say? Conspicuous? And not well loved, it grieves me to tell you. Janos Slynt’s sons would gladly inform on you to avenge their father, and our sweet Lord Petyr has friends in half the brothels of King’s Landing. Should you be so unwise as to visit any of them, he will know at once, and your lord father soon thereafter.”

It’s even worse than I feared. “And my father? Who does he have spying on me?”

This time the eunuch laughed aloud. “Why, me, my lord.”

To Have Lost and Loved

After Tyrion’s interview ends, we finally get to put aside the oppressive atmosphere of fear and dread and take up the second theme of Tyrion II – his self-image and his relationship to his own disability, which is essential setup for the third theme of the chapter, his relationship to Shae. Without the Handship to give him an alternative basis for self-worth and self-image, Tyrion finds himself unable to think of himself as anything less than the despised Imp:

…he put the book aside and called for a bath. He scrubbed himself until the water grew cool, and then had Pod even out his whiskers. His beard was a trial to him; a tangle of yellow, white, and black hairs, patchy and coarse, it was seldom less than unsightly, but it did serve to conceal some of his face, and that was all to the good. When he was as clean and pink and trimmed as he was like to get, Tyrion looked over his wardrobe, and chose a pair of tight satin breeches in Lannister crimson and his best doublet, the heavy black velvet with the lion’s head studs. He would have donned his chain of golden hands as well, if his father hadn’t stolen it while he lay dying.

It was not until he was dressed that he realized the depths of his folly. Seven hells, dwarf, did you lose all your sense along with your nose? Anyone who sees you is going to wonder why you’ve put on your court clothes to visit the eunuch. Cursing, Tyrion stripped and dressed again, in simpler garb; black woolen breeches, an old white tunic, and a faded brown leather jerkin. It doesn’t matter, he told himself as he waited for moonrise. Whatever you wear, you’re still a dwarf. You’ll never be as tall as that knight on the steps, him with his long straight legs and hard stomach and wide manly shoulders.

They say that clothes make the man, and never is that more clear than here – in shifting from his Lannister finery, which he mentally associates with the Handship he sees as having been stolen by his father (a clear warning side there), Tyrion is forced to acknowledge his fall from grace. And he immediately associates that loss of status with his disability (the one thing he cannot change about himself no matter how much he wants to), which in turn he associates with elements of masculine sexual desirability. At the same time, consider the contrast to Tyrion’s beard – whereas Tyrion at least subconsciously believes that changing his clothes can change his status, he clearly believes that the best he can do with this display of masculinity can only serve as a minor distraction from the overall disfigurement.

In just a few paragraphs, we have a portrait in miniature of depression and self-hatred that’s really quite sad. And then, all of the sudden we get a scene of such astonishing grace and beauty that I found myself quite taken aback. While Loras’ quote which gives the scene its centerpiece is impossible to forget, I had completely forgotten that this moment was an exchange between Loras and Tyrion:

Seventeen, and beautiful, and already a legend. Half the girls in the Seven Kingdoms want to bed him, and all the boys want to be him. “If you will pardon my asking, ser—why would anyone choose to join the Kingsguard at seventeen?”

“Prince Aemon the Dragonknight took his vows at seventeen,” Ser Loras said, “and your brother Jaime was younger still.”

“I know their reasons. What are yours? The honor of serving beside such paragons as Meryn Trant and Boros Blount?” He gave the boy a mocking grin. “To guard the king’s life, you surrender your own. You give up your lands and titles, give up hope of marriage, children…”

“House Tyrell continues through my brothers,” Ser Loras said. “It is not necessary for a third son to wed, or breed.”

“Not necessary, but some find it pleasant. What of love?”

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”

“Is that from a song?….if I’ve given offense, forgive me. I had my own love once, and we had a song as well.”

If anyone doubts that George R.R Martin is a capital-R Romantic writer, I would point you to “when the sun has set, no candle can replace it” as the proof, an achingly sincere cri de coeur. (It’s also, and this is something I’m going to tee off of in the Book vs. Show section, absolutely foundational to Loras Tyrell’s character and the fact that Benioff and Weiss have never understood this speaks volumes, about their reading comprehension if nothing else…)

But the fact that it’s spoken to Tyrion completely changes the significance of the line. On the one hand, Tyrion (still very much in his head about his disability and what it means in relation to Shae) is deeply envious of Loras’ ability to perform masculinity and masculine desirability and can’t understand why anyone would willingly give up that status. On the other, Loras isn’t particularly interested in explaining his motivations – which would involve outing himself both as someone who’s not particularly interested in a lot of the perks that come with being a single young knight (that line about “It is not necessary for a third son to wed, or breed” is particularly telling) and as Renly’s lover – to a stranger. Further compounding the mutual incomprehension, Tyrion is far too cynical about chivalry to buy into the mythology of Aemon the Dragonknight when he’s spent all day thinking about corrupt and murderous knights, and so can’t really engage with Loras on this level, unlike Jaime, who’ll have his own tête-à-tête with the new Kingsguard. Somewhat reminiscent of his exchange with Jon way back in AGOT, Tyrion tries to “get real” with the younger man – but unlike the 14-year-old Jon Snow, Loras has been through some real loss and the same approach just doesn’t work.

And thus, we get a faintly tragic misunderstanding, where Tyrion reacts to what must have been a rather wrenching admission from Loras in a cynical fashion, assuming it to be nothing more than mere sentiment from a “seventeen” year-old, which causes Loras to react in his usual “prickly” fashion one small step short of violence. And there’s this moment, where Tyrion almost realizes what Loras was getting at and almost has a genuine meeting of the minds when thoughts – not of Shae but of Tysha – flood into his head. However, the moment passes because both of these men, each sons of privilege who nonetheless have suffered because of the ways in which they don’t fit neatly within the lines proscribed for men of their rank, can’t actually communicated about how they lost the people they loved.


And finally, we get to my least favorite theme of the chapter (and indeed, of Tyrion’s ASOS arc): Shae. Throughout the chapter, Tyrion is profoundly, and irrationally, obsessed with Shae: he needs to “see her one last time,” just so that he can “send her away” because he “cannot abide having her so close” without being able to touch her. He is constantly jealous of every single man she encounters (already a big red flag there):

“Tyrion had seen her only yesterday, climbing the serpentine steps with a pail of water. He had watched as a young knight had offered to carry the heavy pail. The way she had touched his arm and smiled for him had tied Tyrion’s guts into knots. They passed within inches of each other, him descending and her climbing, so close that he could smell the clean fresh scent of her hair. “M’lord,” she’d said to him, with a little curtsy, and he wanted to reach out and grab her and kiss her right there, but all he could do was nod stiffly and waddle on past.”

But at the same time, it’s hard to totally dismiss Tyrion’s feelings here for two reasons. The first is that Tyrion is at least aware that he’s being irrational – as he says, “it’s not wise, it’s bloody madness.” He knows that he’s courting death for Shae and a “sharp lesson” for himself by continuing to see her, and yet as with so many compulsive behaviors that even the most intelligent among us fall prey to, he cannot stop himself. And the second reason, which is clearly associated, is that Tyrion clings to Shae out of a normal desire for human contact: “It feels so good to hold her, and to be held…how can something this sweet be a crime worth hanging her for?” The problem is, as I’ve indicated before, that Tyrion’s conception of a normal human relationship has been fatally corrupted by his traumatic experience with Tysha, so that he constantly seeks a Gatsby-esque return to the past. And that’s something that he simply can’t get from Shae, who doesn’t know how to navigate this emotional minefield.

Not that she’s particularly interested in doing that, as much as she is in getting her hands on material possessions and upward social mobility:

“Will m’lord give me back my jewels and silks now? I asked Varys if I could have them when you were hurt in the battle, but he wouldn’t give them to me. What would have become of them if you’d died?”

“I don’t want to leave. You promised you’d move me into a manse again after the battle…a Lannister always pays his debts, you said.”

“…Can I come to the king’s wedding feast?”

“…How is it you spoke to Symon?”

“I told Lady Tanda about him, and she hired him to play for Lollys.”

“…Couldn’t I dress in my silks and velvets and go as a lady instead of a maidservant? No would know I wasn’t…there’s to be a thousand guests, Symon says. She’d never even see me. I’d find a place in some dark corner below the salt…”

Now, I think there’s a very surface reading of this exchange that paints Shae as a grasping, manipulative, and not particularly bright woman, given the very real danger she’s in, which she seems determined to further entrench herself in with her insistance on . At the same time, as other people have noted, to an extent (certainly when it comes to the “jewels and silks“) this is Shae doing her job. She’s not actually Tyrion’s lover, she’s his sex worker, and she wants to get her pay-day that she was promised. Which is a fair point…up until we get to the business about the wedding feast and wanting to go as a lady. To the extent that we can say Shae makes an ultimately fatal mistake, it’s that she really does seem convinced (and I wonder to what extent we can blame Symon Silver Tongue here for playing up to her worst instincts on this) that Tyrion can be not merely a pay-day but a ticket into the nobility, despite all indications to the contrary.

And so Tyrion, whose attachment to his imagined ideal of a relationship is so much stronger than anything of substance in this actual relationship goes along with it, even when he knows better:

“Just keep me, my lion, and keep me safe.”

“I shall,” he promised. Fool, fool, the voice inside him screamed. Why did you say that? You came here to send her away!

And this is where the issue of the tunnels comes back up – as the magic trick, the thing that allows Tyrion to reconcile his desires with his new situation:

“You will bring Shae to me through the walls, hidden from all these eyes. As you have done before.”

Varys wrung his hands. “Oh, my lord, nothing would please me more, but…King Maegor wanted no rats in his own walls, if you take my meaning. He did require a means of secret egress, should he ever be trapped by his enemies, but that door does not connect with any other passages. I can steal your Shae away from Lady Lollys for a time, to be sure, but I have no way to bring her to your bedchamber without us being seen…”

“They’re under the bed. The secret steps.”

He looked at her, incredulous. “The bed? The bed is solid stone. It was half a ton.”

“There is a place where Varys pushes, and it floats right up. I asked him how, and he said it was magic.”

“Yes.” Tyrion had to grin. “A counterweight spell.”

While this particular route is not the one that Tyrion will use to assassinate his father, or indeed to escape the black cells (or perhaps one day to conquer the Red Keep in service of Daenaerys), we are being ever more clearly shown the object of the threefold revelation…

Historical Analysis:

Last time, I began the story of the House of Atreus with the tragedy of Tantalus and his gods-blessed son Pelops, and the curse that was placed on Pelops and all his descendants by the charioteer Myrtilus (himself a son of Hermes). This time, I’ll discuss how that curse played out among the sons of Pelops.

credit to Eric Shanower

credit to Eric Shanower

Pelops and his wife Hippodamia had two sons, Atreus (for whom the House of Atreus is named) and Thyestes. The two brothers clashed over which of them should be the rightful King of Mycenae: Atreus was both the older of the two, and had seemingly been blessed by the gods with the Golden Fleece. (Atreus had sworn to sacrifice his best lamb to Artemis, but Hermes made the golden lamb appear, and Atreus tried to back out on his promise by sacrificing the meat of the lamb and keeping the fleece for himself.) Unbeknownst to Atreus, his wife Aerope had been having an affair with Thyestes, so when Atreus gave his wife the Fleece to hide, she promptly told his brother everything.

Thyestes then publicly challenged Atreus to agree that whosoever possessed the Golden Fleece should be King; Atreus, confident that his wife had kept the Fleece safe, agreed. Thyestes then produced the Fleece and claimed the throne – and would have kept it, had not the gods intervened. Atreus, who no doubt by this point had realized he’d been betrayed, publicly challenged Thyestes to give back the throne of Mycenae if the sun reversed in its course, and when Thyestes agreed, Zeus commanded Helios to alter his normal course and “for the first and last time, the sun set in the east.” Atreus was thus restored to his rightful throne, and promptly banished Thyestes and murdered his wife Aerope.

And it might have ended there, had not Atreus desired revenge for being cuckolded by his brother. So Atreus sent word to Thyestes that he had forgiven him and wanted to invite him to a feast in his honor to show his good intent. Thyestes arrived and ate “heartily” of the stew that Atreus set before him. Only after Thyestes had eaten his fill did Atreus bring out the heads and hands of Thyestes’ sons, for following in the example of their ancestor Tantalus, Atreus had tricked his guest into committing cannibalism.


credit to Eric Shanower

Such was the revenge of Atreus, and the beginning of a new cycle of the curse…and if by this point, you don’t see certain similarities to ASOIAF, I don’t know what to tell you.

What If?

There’s not a huge room for hypotheticals in this chapter, as Tyrion only makes one decision:

  • Tyrion does send Shae away? Now, this one is actually rather tricky, because it’s not like Tyrion isn’t going to get arrested for Joffrey’s murder and put on trial. I’m of the opinion that, even without the emotional provocation of Shae’s testimony, Tyrion is still going to demand trial by combat, because he knows the judges will decide two-to-one against him.
  • The major question is – does Tyrion need to see Shae in Tywin’s bed in order to be fully motivated to kill Tywin? (The major change in the hypothetical being that Shae doesn’t die at Tyrion’s hands, naturally.) Even here, I’m not so sure that Shae skipping her appointment with Death changes much – Jaime’s bombshell about Tysha I think would be enough.

Book vs. Show:

As I have said before, I don’t think it was a terrible decision to have Shae show genuine love for Tyrion at the end of Season 2. The problem is that the writers clearly didn’t know what to do with Shae in Season 3 – and the plotline where she wants to protect Sansa from Petyr Baelish and asks Tyrion to protect her, but then accuses Tyrion of being attracted to Sansa is a watse of everyone’s time that only gets worse as the season goes on. More on this in future essays.

By contrast, however, the scene where Tyrion and Varys reconcile over the sorceror-in-a-box is a great extrapolation from the source material (although it still involves the awkward splicing of Varys’ story from Season 2, Episode 9) that shows off Varys as a terrifyingly patient man and sets up the idea that Varys will aid Tyrion in getting his revenge at the end of the season.


I was reminded that I had mentioned talking about Book Loras vs. Show Loras and forgot to, so I might as well do here. As I said back in the day, one of the show’s worst adaptational decisions in Season 3 and thereafter was to reduce Loras’ character to his sexuality, and even then to a particularly sexualized and shallow version of same, with Loras’ grief over Renly’s death for the most part dropped like a hot rock.

But I do want to talk about some of the reasons why the show went off the rails: first, to avoid casting Willas and Garlan (which I think is a false choice, there’s no reason they couldn’t have mentioned them existing without showing them on-screen), Loras was made the heir to Highgarden, which means his ASOIAF plotline, which is all about Loras as an impetuous, arrogant young Kingsguard who goes off and gets a lot of people killed while trying to do the right thing, but is also about how people grapple with loss and guilt in the wake of a tragedy, couldn’t happen.

So Loras-as-knight was out – the problem is that they also decided that the heir to Highgarden should be utterly uninterested in politics, so as to provide more of a contrast with Margaery and Olenna, I suppose. It’s a choice, but it’s still a choice that cuts off opportunities. And at the same time, they knew that Loras’ engagement to Cersei wasn’t going to go anywhere, because it doesn’t happen in the books and because they were planning to have the Tyrells go up in flames anyway.

And that’s why prior planning is so important – because if they’d sat down and thought this through ahead of time, they could have caught this before it happened.


83 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion II, ASOS

  1. milli says:

    I think Shae’s purpose is less to with plot point since you can guess it on your own that “what-if” section that Shae herself in the plot is not that consequential. Rather she seems more of a thematic presence. I mean there is a reason Shae and Bronn share back to back page space with Tyrion as a common factor. Shae and Bronn both belong to the lowest denominator of the Westeros society. Both use the ability and skill the society tells them is of any value from them . Both have ambitions for survival and getting to a good place they could find. But the problem is the one who dispenses power is a patriarch and the country is patriarchal to the core. Shae will be never respected as long as she does her trade and is completely at the mercy even of she becomes ‘Alayaya” whereas Bronn would gain his own agency, some modicum of respect as he rises. This no Braavos after all..
    Shae is also a mirror to Tyrion’s rabid whorephobia and sexism since Shae’s own emotions are constantly filtered and altered to suit what Tyrion wants rather than what Shae is. Shae is a warning to what will Tyrion become in the coming ADWD narrative whereas it seems, Penny will be the hope if what Tyrion could be…
    My own theory is that Shae is not looking at the ‘going-to-party” as a way to enter the nobility class rather it is merely to look at all the spectacle of Joffrey’s 77 course largess and maybe even to test whether she could blend well nobility to find a better client or a respectable partner( 1000 guests and their retinue…) . The fact that she is willing to enter as a servant even bolsters my idea since Shae is still an 18 year old girl..

    • Murc says:

      Shae and Bronn both belong to the lowest denominator of the Westeros society.

      This really isn’t true. Bronn, even when we meet him for the first time, is a trained, experienced warrior who commands a non-trivial amount of personal wealth. (His arms, armor, and horse are worth more than the average peasant sees in a year.) Despite being a sellsword, the lowest rung on the warrior caste ladder, he is still part of the warrior caste. This automatically elevates him among many other men in Westerosi society.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Bronn honestly lives better than most Hedge Knights we see in the Dunk and egg stories, and is likely a much more skilled, experienced fighter than any of them. I’m amazed he wasn’t already a knight by the time we meet him in the books.

        • Murc says:

          Bronn has a big mouth and is bad at the courtesies and radiates “I’m a son of bitch” in wavelengths that are probably visible from orbit. He needs another knight to make him a knight, and that’s hard to come by if you’re a cantankerous, lowborn asshole. You can lie about it, plenty of people have done that, but Bronn might be “known” in the sellsword/hedge knight community and the odds of being found out might be very high.

          I’m also legitimately unsure how skilled Bronn is at mounted combat. Bronn is a deadly, skilled, surprisingly intellectual swordsman; witness him examining potential recruits and being able to visibly pick apart their flaws. But how good a lance is he? A lot of knighthood, in the opinion of knights, is being a fine lance and fine horseman.

    • I’m not sayiing she thinks going to the party will make her noble, it’s more that her desire to participate is part of her overall desire to become a lady, which includes the silks and jewels, the manse, the eventual marriage to a knight, etc…

  2. olisimpson88 says:

    One of my biggest issues with the show when they made decisions to divert from the source with stuff like Shae is that they basically went nowhere with it and wasted a load of time and effort with it as you say.

    Since they just went with her book’s fate anyway. Which meant to get there they had to take incoherent turns to get her back on her book’s character track. Leaving the characterization to be a mess for everyone involved.

    Overall I feel they should have diverted from the book’s version of fates for characters like Shae if they were going to change her characterization to suit their portrayal of Tyrion.

    That and their continued whitewashing of Tyrion and changing scenes to make him more heroic like when he killed Shae basically undermined his whole character arc.

    Especially when they changed his scene with Jaime to not have the whole Tysha reveal, which undercuts Tyrion’s character completely in all ways possible.

    Their Excuses for it in the production bit are just head shaking considering they expected people to remember benjen in season 6, when they did flashbacks to the Cersei prophecy and the whole Tower stuff in season six.

    This is another one of those times where D&D basically created issues for themselves that they could have easily averted if they had paid more attention to detail and put more logic into what they were writing.

    The pair are a constant source of frustration in how much they exposed themselves to sloppy writing in the later seasons that was of their own doing for the most part.

    • Ioseff says:

      Damn right. So damn right.

      The big problem? Sorry, who’s Oberyn fighting for? SOMEONE WHOSE OUTRAGEOUS DEATH WAS ONLY HINTED THE EARLIER SEASON. No Ned thinking back sadly on “the red ruin of his skull” neither on Tywin slowly having Tyrion in his circle of trust by sharing information… then being angry at him for certain things summarized in “You deserve that motley then”

      These showrunners… They are so frustrating and back out to many excuses I barely contain myself. Why to put Oberyn’s crusade in the same damn season if their excuse was “No remember” “never shown” I didn’t even understand the not going back to Tywin’s chambers, since Tyrion was heading that exact way and there wasn’t any other to go in order to escape, so he would have to go and see her corpse, or at least be right there before going down to the tunnels again. Finale 4 was to me the best episode only because it confronted those storylines to a head, but the execution of them? Horrible. Oberyn (well, showberyn, as gotgifsandmusings very accurately put it) had nonetheless an excellent perfomance because his story was excellent, because the past matters and the future too.

      Let’s not even speak the Hound and Arya being there and the guard never telling her superior which would go to LF sooner or later whether it was in his pay or not.

    • It’s the zig-zag that is the problem in the long-term, yeah.

  3. SerBiffyClegane says:

    We never get a Shae viewpoint chapter, but she’s a teenager in Westerosi, so I imagine she’s just as much a victim of the combination of romantic ideals, her own self-interest, and a conflict with reality as young Bran, Jaime, Loras, Sansa, Brienne and on and on.

    I think the readers (including me) tend to see Shae as grasping and cynical because she’s so sexually direct, but I suspect that inside, the way she makes her living coexists with the fairy tale fantasy that if the right Prince comes along and recognizes her true worth, he can make her a princess. Given her experience Shae sees her worth as sexual plus her emotional sensitivity, but I bet she still is able to convince herself that somehow, it’s all going to work out.

    My guess is that part of her believes it when she tells Tryion she loves her Giant of Lannister.

    • Ioseff says:

      In fact… there is a psychological reason for her gold-digging (how fit for a darker matter of flesh of the Golden Lannisters, that is to say, Tyrion)

      People who are gold diggers are people who only ever have paternal affection from one of their parents in the form of gifts as a compensation for the time loss/not-spent with said child. Given the quote Shae has about her father… it is rather disturbing (Yeah, THAT disturbing, you become accustomed to the lack of light in ASOIAF) so… your point is rather accurate, given the parental neglect either of company, time or affection

    • I don’t think it’s the sexuality that people see as grasping and cynical, it’s her materialism. So, no I don’t think she’s got any romantic ideals.

  4. Tywin of the Hill says:

    Always a pleasure 🙂
    Why did Tywin want Pycelle replaced? I get why Tyrion would, but Pycelle’s always been nothing but loyal to him.

    • Murc says:

      Pycelle is a weak, near-useless tool occupying one of the most important positions in court. Tywin would take his loyalty into consideration, but also his incompetence; Tywin obviously prefers Pycelle over a Tyrell, but otherwise…

      I would argue that a major part of Tywin’s self-conception is as a man who rules wisely an well and always has the right tools for the job. (Not necessarily ruling justly, mind you, but competently.) Now that he’s finally getting to fulfill his dream of ruling Westeros, he probably doesn’t want such a week reed that near the levers of power unless he doesn’t have any good options. He likely wouldn’t have removed Pycelle on his own, but once the deed was done I can see him going “yeah, let’s see what other options the Citadel gives me.”

      • Tywin of the Hill says:

        When has Pycelle been incompetent?

        • Grant says:

          Attewell’s link to a much earlier chapter points out that Pycelle gave Ned information he really didn’t need to, even if he lacked all of the facts.

          Personally I think Pycelle’s a mixed bag. He did make sure Arryn died and his warnings to Cersei in AFFC are pretty good (the Iron Bank, the Faith Militant, the Rosby issue), but he’s also really not good at tricks and deception under pressure.

        • Hedrigal says:

          He’s much older than even Tywin, there might just be some ageism going on in that everyone expects someone like him to be a fool if he’s not extremely wise, and he isn’t that good at appearing wise.

        • Jim B says:

          Well, that depends on what Pycelle’s job really is.

          I don’t recall reading much about what, if any, powers the Grand Maester has by virtue of his position on the Council, or whether he oversees any personnel. We’ve heard a lot about how much Littlefinger was able to use his position as Master of Coin, and some of the other positions on the Council seem fairly self-explanatory (e.g. Master of Ships, Master of Whispers), but does Pycelle have any specific portfolio? So it’s hard to say whether he’s been a good administrator or not if we don’t know what he’s even supposed to be doing. (Although I vaguely recall that he is responsible for the King’s education, as to which Joffrey is hardly a shining testament to his skills.)

          I also don’t recall the Council ever taking votes on anything, so I’m not sure that having a loyal Lannister toady is worth it in some parliamentary sense.

          To the extent that Pycelle’s role is to provide ostensibly sage advice and exert influence over the King and the court generally, Pycelle’s transparent toadyism is probably a detriment. If Pycelle speaks up on an issue, nobody at court thinks, “hmm, Pycelle is a wise man, I’d better give his views some thought.” Instead, they just nod “yep, that’s Tywin’s position all right, already knew that, thanks” and ignore him. A Grand Maester who was sympathetic to Tywin’s views but a little less obvious about it might be much more effective.

    • Grant says:

      Tywin might have decided that Pycelle was getting too old for the work, even if he’d been the tool to make sure Aerys was destroyed.

    • I think it’s a mix of Tywin backing up Tyrion’s actions as Hand as far as it’s necessary, since Tyrion was acting as Tywin’s deputy – same reason he doesn’t reverse Tyrion’s actions wrt to Janos Slynt – and his recognition that, having been thrown in the Black Cells, Pycelle is somewhat damaged goods.

  5. Winnief says:

    Thank the Old Gods and the New! Another chapter analysis. Though I’d have preferred a more action filled chapter.

    Still LOVE your House of Atreus parallel.

    It is sad that D&D never give Loras his full due.

    I think Cersei plays the femme fatale so often for 2 reasons. 1. Martin’s plots demand it. 2. She can’t help herself. She’s spent her whole life thinking her main power comes from her beauty/sexuality so that’s the weapon she instinctively turn to even when it’s unwise. Though, perhaps she is reacting to a threat here-she maybe already senses that House Tyrell is on the upswing and we know she’s worried about the YMBQ.

    Also good to set up that Tywin, while needing to placate the Tyrell’s was also keenly aware they posed a threat and DID know how to curb their power and maintain balance…which Cersei clearly didn’t.

    Do like all the foreshadowing for Tyrion’s final confrontation with Tywin.

    Have to say that the Varys/Tyrion dynamic is one of the things I think the show improved on from the books. I think part of the reason they went that direction is because Conleth and Dinklage are so great on screen together. And Tyrion/Varys made Tyrion’s road trip to Volantis a helluva lot more enjoyable on screen than on the page.

    • Andrew says:

      Yeah, Loras burying Renly himself and choosing a life of celibacy (as opposed to the gay prostitute Loras uses on the show) shows how devoted he was. His line: “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it” manages to be both sad and beautiful.

      Well, Cersei used sex to manipulate Jaime for years, so I guess it was only a matter of time until she started employing it on other men. .

      • Crystal says:

        I can’t help but feel that Loras was wasted on Renly. Partly it’s because I *do not like Renly*, but was he capable of returning Loras’ devotion? Renly doesn’t seem capable of love for anyone but himself, while Loras truly loved Renly, and loved his sister very much, and indeed loves all his family.

        Renly’s the type to get tired of Loras after a while and go off after some new cute young knight. That would have broken Loras’ heart, I’m sure.

        • Hedrigal says:

          Personally, I think Renly having atleast one person besides himself that he actually genuinely cared about and loved vastly deepens his character. It gives a human touch to him that even in spite of his obvious flaws, him and Loras actually had a healthy relationship.

    • Keith B says:

      Loras really deserves more respect than he gets. He’s not the sharpest tool in the Tyrell wheelhouse, and both book and show make him somewhat absurd. But he’s as brave as anyone in the series and is pure of heart. He’s not in the least bit devious or corrupt, which you can’t really say of any other Tyrell we’ve met (I don’t think we know enough about Willas to say). He can even stand comparison to Brienne. And by the way, however much the fandom correctly identifies Renly as a scoundrel, the fact that he was able to capture the loyalty of people like Brienne and Loras is at least one point in his favor.

      • Lucerys says:

        You sure about the not devious part? I doubt Renly came up with the marrying Marge plot (first to Robert and then to himself) without help.

        • Keith B says:

          One can’t be sure of anything, but yes I think Renly came up with the idea by himself. He shows Ned a picture of Margaery and asks if she looks like Lyanna. That indicates that he knows about his brother’s obsession and is preparing to push Margaery as a replacement in order to take advantage of it. I really doubt that Loras would have thought of that.

          You could say that Loras’ use of a mare in heat to distract Gregor’s stallion during the tournament was devious. However, it was a ruse intended to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness, and within the rules of the game. That’s not the kind of deviousness I was thinking of.

    • Glad you liked it!

      I like the idea of Cersei reacting to the Tyrells, that seems plausible to me.

  6. You basically answered your own question vis-à-vis the Kettleblacks, and why Cersei chose that time to start screwing (around with) them: GRRM needed her to, in order to further his narrative aims.

    • Hedrigal says:

      The Doylist reason doesn’t really resolve the watsonian conundrum.

      • The Watsonian reason could be explained by Cersei’s own answer to the question when the High Sparrow interrogated her. She was lonely, Jaime was gone, Lancel was injured, she wanted a male protector and didn’t know how to get one without using her cunt. On a psychological level, I think Cersei’s just not content without some man in her pocket that she’s certain she has complete control over.

        • Hedrigal says:

          Except we also know thats mostly just telling him the thing she thinks he’d most want to hear, and it doesn’t really explain the question of why she thought it would be a good political move.

          • My point is I don’t think she DID think it was a good political move. Cersei isn’t known for making good political moves. In this entire series, anytime she does make one seems to have been by accident or because she was following someone’s orders. I think that in a moment of stress and panic, people don’t usually have time to think up a good lie and wind up blurting out the truth, so that’s what Cersei did when questioned. Not ALL of the truth of course. She had time enough sitting in her cell to come up with a way of making her version of the truth sound plausible. But she also had to tell the High Sparrow something true enough that he’d look into her eyes and believe her, and so I don’t think we can throw out what she said as a mere lie of convenience.

      • I think the Tyrells are a better Watsonian explanation, as suggested above.

        • That is definitely a good explanation. Winnief’s response wasn’t there when I started typing my initial comment, so I never read it before now, but it’s funny that we had virtually the same thoughts about Cersei’s psychological motivations.

    • Jim B says:

      I think there’s a fairly natural answer.

      During her marriage to Robert, Cersei wasn’t happy, but she was firmly on Team Lannister. Her interests generally aligned with her family’s, and so she saw no need to develop a power base of her own.

      At the end of AGOT, she’s riding high — Robert is gone, she is Regent, and has just delivered the realm into her father’s hands. Then, suddenly, Jaime is gone, and her father sends Tyrion, of all people, to rule in his stead, who proceeds to try to turn the court against her.

      By the beginning of ASOS, the scales have fallen from her eyes. She knows how fragile her position is: her father screwed her over once and could do so again, and her regency is every bit the “piece of paper” that she scorned Tyrion’s Handship as, especially since Joffrey is almost of age and hard for even her to control.

      So I think it’s entirely unsurprising that Cersei has taken the events of ACOK as a lesson that she needs to look out for herself and develop personal allies.

  7. Keith B says:

    What’s striking about Tyrion’s interactions about Varys is how accomodating Varys is to Tyrion’s wishes. He has no need to satisfy his requests. Show Varys may help Tyrion out of friendship, but not book Varys. So it seems that Varys is already cultivating Tyrion as a potential future asset. He can’t anticipate at this point exactly what use he will make of Tyrion, but if the Varys/Illyrio plot succeeds, Aegon will want the eventual support of the Westerlands.

    It’s interesting that Tyrion’s first thought about the Kettleblacks is how to hold on to them. By contrast, Littlefinger knew exactly how far he could trust them, and when he could no longer count on their loyalty, he let them go with no hesitation or regret.

    Tyrion must have known about Renly and Loras. He had spent a lot of time at King’s Landing and it was an open secret. So he probably was aware that when Loras made his statement about “when the sun has set”, he was referring to Renly. He was just too cynical to realize how strongly Loras felt.

  8. scarlett45 says:

    Another great analysis. I often wonder how emotionally lonely Tyrion must be. 21st century men aren’t always allowed to express their emotional needs, much less a man in feudal society. Where other men have the comroderie of their peer group (Jamie has the Kingsguard), Tyrion’s disability makes him an “other” in the world of men of his class. Women may be more accepting of his differences but after the Tasha situation he’s completely distrustful of any emotional connection. It did suprise me when I first read the book that Tyrion didn’t keep a long term mistress (since his father had prohibited him from marrying) for companionship but it’s self explanatory when you examine his own self hatred. Between the stress of the war, the loss of his only true friend in the world (Jamie), I cannot blame Tyrion for his missteps regarding who to trust. Never mind PTSD from the battle.

  9. Andrew says:

    Another good post.

    1. Regarding Moore, I think Littlefinger could have manipulated Joffrey into having Tyrion killed. After Tyrion’s gambit with Tommen and Myrcella, and knowing Tyrion knew about the dagger, he knew Tyrion posed a danger to him.

    2.” Tyrion climbed to the castle library and tried to distract himself with Beldecar’s History of the Rhoynish Wars, but he could hardly see the elephants for imagining Shae’s smile.”

    A likely hint to the Second Dance with Tyrion fighting the Dornish and the Golden Company (associated with elephants often).

    3. “’Prince Aemon the Dragonknight took his vows at seventeen,’ Ser Loras said, ‘and your brother Jaime was younger still.’”

    That line itself is a hint to Loras and Renly’s relationship. Aemon supposedly took the white cloak after the woman he loved married his brother. Jaime did for similar reasons.

  10. David Hunt says:

    As always, a fine entry in your series.

    I don’t know if it’s meaningful, but I was struck/amused by how Tyrion appears to have caught Varys flat-footed by showing up in his quarters. It’s such a rare thing to see him surprised and I don’t recall another time when we see him break composure. I’m not the least bit surprised that Varys does not have his own quarters under surveillance, but it seems that he’s not worried about keeping very close track of Tyrion’s movements. Or…I’m probably jsut projecting my 21st century view of information being available at a moment’s notice. It’s probable that Varys is getting his reports from his little birds nightly in the form of written reports.

    On the subject of the little birds, I’d be interested in the actual use of cutting out their tongues. They all have to be literate or they’re no use to Varys, so they can still spill secrets if they get a mind to or if they’re “persuaded.” It also begs the question of what happens to them after they grow up. Does he simply have them monitor passages that don’t require a small size? Does he kill them off? I simply don’t believe he lets them get back into the world without being able to keep them under his thumb. They’re too dangerous as possible leaks.

    • Keith B says:

      Cutting out their tongues doesn’t provide total security, but you would have to know what they are in order to get information out of them. Most people in Westeros aren’t literate, and those who are won’t expect some random child to be. So it’s doubtful that anyone but Varys will be able to make use of the “little birds.”

      I suspect that few if any of them grow up. If any do, they might become supervisors of the others, or Varys might ship them back to Pentos; Illyrio might be able to use them as scribes.

      What I wonder is where Varys keeps them and how he takes care of them. He doesn’t seem to be running a very large organization. We never hear about any assistants. In fact, he’s his own assistant as under-gaoler of the black cells.

      I also have trouble buying the notion that Varys is able to use them as assassins as well as spies. It seems to me that if I were a “little bird” and Varys ever gave me a knife, the first person I’d use it on would be Varys himself.

      • Grant says:

        Trained as a child to do whatever this man says, with no one to help you and you can’t even speak? I suspect few of his birds would make the attempt.

      • David Hunt says:

        As to where the little birds keeps the birds, I’d always assumed that Varys has some sort of dormitory that he’s running in the depths under the Red Keep that he keeps supplied off the books. Given that he managed to stay undetected since Tyrion escaped, I’m moderately confident he could hide a few dozen kids who are trained spies. No one’s going to hear them talking, afterall…

        • Keith B says:

          My guess would have been that he hires some townspeople to give them room and board. The townspeople wouldn’t know who’s paying them or why, just as Tobho Mott didn’t know who paid for Gendry’s apprenticeship. If it’s somewhere in the Red Keep, he needs someone to bring in food and the occasional change of clothing and bed linen, plus fuel for heat in the winter and other necessities. Varys has at least 50 of these little birds at any given time, that’s a lot of children to take care of by himself. But we don’t actually know and probably won’t

          • David Hunt says:

            I think Varys would delegate whatever care the birds need to the older members. If they’re living in city, then they’ve got to get in and out of the Red Keep on a daily basis. That is not a good way to keep a secret entrance/exit a secret. Plus they wouldn’t be available for nighttime spying. I’m moderately sure that the birds are living somewhere in the Keep and Varys is either bringing supplies in occasionally through whatever method he got Illyrio in through or he’s pulling some sort of accounting trick to hide the fact the the birds just open secret passages in storerooms and take what they need.

            p.s. It was Ned’s impression that Mott knew who paid for Gendry’s apprenticeship and simply wasn’t going to talk. IIRC, it upped Ned’s estimation of his character even if it was inconvenient. It’s a certainty that Varys paid for it, but I don’t know if he did it as himself or if he used a disguise to adopt an alternate identity. It seemed that whatever the ID, Mott respected/feared it, so I would go with Varys as himself.

          • Keith B says:

            I can’t really argue this point because there’s no evidence. Quite possibly GRRM himself hasn’t given the matter any thought. It just seems to me that for a man running a continent-wide (I figure Illyrio is handling the Essos half) spy network, Varys is awfully thin on staff. It’s not just the little birds. He has agents all over King’s Landing, Oldtown, the Reach (including Renly’s war camp), and surely many other places. He has to have some assistants somewhere, and mute children can’t do much on their own.

            I don’t see a problem with children running in and out of the Red Keep. There are probably a number of secret entrances, and nobody pays much attention to what the thousands of children in KL are doing. When the Lannister guards mistook Arya for an urchin boy, one of them remarked “You can’t keep this sort out. Like trying to keep out rats.” And if some of the kids are out in the night time, their caretakers won’t mind as long as they’re paid.

            As for Tobho Mott, he knew who Gendry was, and undoubtedly deduced that he was being paid on Robert’s behalf, but he didn’t know who he dealt with directly. From the description he gave, it was probably Varys in disguise, but Mott didn’t know it.

  11. Murc says:

    This exchange about Pycelle is a good example of how Tyrion’s mindset is counter-productive; while he’s not wrong that Pycelle was a sycophant for Cersei (although in light of Pycelle’s actions in AFFC, it’s more accurate to say that he was a Tywin sycophant, albeit a rather useless one),

    You really gotta wonder sometimes; how the hell did Pycelle get his job to begin with, and why did he hitch his wagon so firmly to Tywin’s star?

    You would assume that in order to be made Grand Maester, one of four things needs to be true: you’re very good at maestering, you’re very good at political maneuvering, you have the direct patronage of the king you’ll be serving, or the Conclave decides your serving in the office is directly advantageous to them in some way.

    So which one(s) was Pycelle? He’s clearly dogshit at politics. Is he just really very good at the technical aspects of being a maester? Was he better at the politics within the Conclave and those skills just don’t transfer well to court? Did Jaehaerys have some reason to prefer him specifically? How’d he get in?

    And then there’s his strong political preference for Tywin. Why? Is it because after so many years under Aerys Pycelle just wanted order and competence and doesn’t care where it comes from? Pycelle’s formative years, the forging of his chain, and most of his substantive career would have taken place under Aegon V; is Pycelle from a noble house that thought Aegon’s reforms were insane and turned into radical authoritarians because of it?

    We don’t know. We just know Pycelle is very bad at the Game of Thrones and that he has strong personal loyalty to Tywin Lannister. The source of this loyalty isn’t well-explained.

    “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”

    Man, sometimes Loras Tyrell really, suddenly reminds you that he’s all of seventeen, doesn’t he?

    (His relationship with Renly creeps me out the more I think about it. Renly had five years on Loras. That wouldn’t have mattered so much when Renly was thirty and Loras was twenty-five, but it matters a great deal when Loras is sixteen and Renly is twenty-one. In the real world we’d call Renly a sexual predator.)

    • Tywin of the Hill says:

      Apparently, Pycelle was elected because Aegon V had lost 3 Grand Maesters in 2 years, and he was the only candidate less than a 100 years old.

      As for his preference for the Lannisters, my headcanon is that he came from the Westerlands and was glad when Tywin finally put some order in home. Then, he was astonished when he proved to be a competent administrator, and now he just hopes (wishful thinking at this point) that one of his children can match his greatness.

      • Crystal says:

        I always thought that Pycelle is either from a minor branch of the Lannisters or a Lannisport Lannister, or else from one of the Houses allied to the Lannisters by marriage (like the Marbrands). It wouldn’t surprise me if Tywin facilitated Pycelle’s entrance into the Citadel, maybe even helped him climb the Maesterly ladder – and thus Pycelle owes him, and Pycelle is willing to grovel and hero-worship.

        • Tywin of the Hill says:

          I think that, if Pycelle was related to the Lannisters, someone would have mentioned that by now (we have 4 Lannister POVs).
          Pycelle’s 26 years older than Tywin, and was already the Grand Maester by the time Tywin was 17, so it doesn’t seem likely.

    • Grant says:

      Pycelle successfully kept secrets for Cersei and Jaime for years, made sure Jon Arryn died with no one thinking he was responsible and was dead-on with his warnings to Cersei in AFFC.

      As for why he revered Tywin so much, I’d guess it might have been a mixture of dislike for Aegon V’s reforms, Tywin’s force of personality and Tywin’s competence which could be directly contrasted with the disaster that was Aerys II. And besides his like of Tywin, to get non-flashy things accomplished, you probably needed to work with Tywin instead of Aerys.

    • Ioseff says:

      Tell that to Tywin himself

    • Sean C. says:

      I just assume Pycelle was abler when he was younger. He’s positively ancient at this point. It’s not really surprising that he’s not up to performing a demanding political and administrative job at full capacity.

    • You have to remember Pycelle was GM during Aerys descent into madness where Tywin despite being a shit bucket was the main bulwark keeping Westeros running

    • Pycelle’s preference for Tywin comes from his experience of seeing Tywin as Aerys’ Hand, and Tywin was really good at his job.

    • Ioseff says:

      I meant “Tell that to Tywin himself” with the “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it” I mean… you imply that Tywin is a perpetual teenager? Perhaps is true. He was moody since childhood. If @joannalannister is right, and she most surely has to be, Tywin is based on Nazis with purity and all and that always sounds like a childish whim rather than mature ideology. But even so, he kept that from 29 all through until 57 (spiritually, at least)

  12. Ioseff says:

    I don’t know where you read the myth (perhaps that comic/manga you just showed) but… it’s not exactly like that, unless it is a variation I did not read. Even so, the essence of the story is exactly that. The shape may change, but the essence doesn’t (a thing the showrunners seem to confuse)

    The Golden Fleece had nothing to do in the story, it was sacrificed far away in Kolkhis/Colchis after Phrixus landed safely. It was true that the splitting started over a special lamb, one with golden hooves I think? That there was cheating and all thanks to Aerope, but then, the sun eclipsed and set in the east, and Thyestes was obliged to give up the skeptros/scepter, that is to say, the kingship.

    Well, Thyestes, in his need to revenge from his brother, does breed a son to avenge him… whose details I rather left in the dark, but with ASOIAF, you rather accustom your eyes to the lack of light. I am fascinated by these things and would like to have a deep conversation with you over them Maester Steven, what with the gravely underrated/unknown “Seven Against Thebes”? Many people know of the Trojan War even if only by name, but nothing of the epic twin clash… and they fought in a duel, making the rest of the war rather nonsensical, just leaving thousands more dead. It is one thing to bring the army in order to force the single battle, but since they already had sons, they expected, even with their deaths, that the war would go on. Indeed, their sons resolved it… Thersander won.

    Phrixus story, by the way, is another tearful one, since, for starters, the Golden Ram also flied with his sister, Helle, who fell and died in the Hellespont, whence it received her name. The Golden Fleece ties back to the Argonauts’ story, which is originated by Poseidon’s lust and Hera not liking butchering right when clinging to her statue. The Trojan War similarly has Hera as one of the main reasons… though Eris and Zeus were the real ones to have.

    • According to Robert Graves’ Greek Myths, which was my main source, “Atreus had once vowed to sacrifice the finest of his flocks to Artemis; and Hermes, anxious to avenge the death of Myrtilus on the Pelopids, consulted his old friend Goat-Pan, who made a horned lamb with a golden fleece appear among the Acarnanian flock which Pelops had left to his sons Atreus and Thyestes. He foresaw that Atreus would claim it as his own and, from his reluctance to give Artemis the honour due to her, would become involved in fratricidal war with Thyestes. Some, however, say that it was Artemis herself who sent the lamb, to try him. Atreus kept his vow, in part at least, by sacrificing the lamb’s flesh; but he stuffed and mounted the fleece and locked it in a chest. He grew so proud of his life-like treasure that he could not refrain from boasting about it in the market place, and the jealous Thyestes, for whom Atreus’s newly-married wife Aerope had conceived a passion agreed to be her lover if she gave him the lamb, which, he said, has been stolen by Atreus’s shepherds from his own half of the flock. For Artemis had laid a curse upon it, and this was her doing.”

      • Ioseff says:

        I have heard (mayhaps even read) about him, but… It depends. This part I surely did not read. I think when I first started researching mythology, I may be started getting results like Robert Graves in google search, because I think it was him who described “Mutiny on Mount Olympus” if not, forgive me for my mistake. But then, I came into three, very extended databases for mythology: (Carlos Parada is the author, should I have gotten the website tite wrong)

        And I essentially have overused them ever since. Theoi, even though not updated since 2008, it’s the most complete one, having even many minor myths in it.

        I read the myth of Atreos (and well, the whole house, down to Tisamenos and up to Tantalos) in maicar and timelessmyths. Anyway, mythology is just so damn dysfunctional that I wonder why grimdark fans don’t know more of it. I already knew that myth was quite… an unhappy world for those protagonists, but never knew of Atreos in school, even though I knew of Uranus’ castration.

        Well, those are my recommendations, in there are the wars of Thebes, fascinating since this city had quite his own history just in dynastic wars. Mykenai too, long before Perseos even came to exist (well, the dynasty in Argos, since Mykenai is supposed to have been founded by him) and after that the Herakleidai, they are really interesting because they are very fragmented conflicts, so it is amazing to see how they all collude together. How they use these conflicts to found customs and traditions through myths on very minor events.

      • Ioseff says:

        Even so, excellent analysis and I love that you relate to Greek Myths, and finally the cannibalism being brought out, since I expected it a long time ago the myth of Tantalos here. Do you have any idea of what may be the next time you’ll bring up Greek Mythology again?

  13. Sean C. says:

    Ah, Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze. In terms of timeliness, he’s the GRRM of the comics world; actually, that comparison is probably unfair to GRRM, if anything.

    It’s notable that the Citadel remaining in Oldtown gives it a degree of institutional independence from the Crown that the Faith no longer really has (even if Tywin is able to head off the conclave in this case; actually, given the distances involved, that seems slightly dubious from a logistical standpoint).

    • To be fair, when you attempt to retell the Trojan War in such a way as to reconcile all written sources and archaeology, and you decide to do it solo, no wonder it takes forever.

      • Ioseff says:

        I am precisely trying to write a story in which reconciling all myths is but a part of the story. I started on 2011. Yeah I know how that feels.

  14. artihcus022 says:

    I always had the sense that GRRM hated the Order of the Maesters, so the class angle described by Pycelle (which I admit I had forgotten) didn’t surprise me. The good maesters are Aemon and Luwin, on the periphery and away from power, but Pycelle represents the Citadel and its philosophy, and he’s a Tywin-apparatchik.

    The Maesters represent intellectually supported tyranny and serve as propagandists for the ruling class [] much like most intellectuals did until fairly recently…

    • Grant says:

      Being fair, it’s not like the maesters have a lot of choice. As we see with WOIAF, they’re as honest as they can be when they’re given the freedom, but this is a society without rules guaranteeing widespread freedom of speech and if they want to rise up in the world they need to please the powerful. So writing that Aegon IV from way back was an incredible (as in hard to credit the details) disaster? No problem. Writing that Tywin in a war easily within living memory ordered the Targaryen children and probably Elia Martell murdered? That’s not a good idea.

      And even if they’re being honest, the political alternatives out there often don’t sound so good. Much weaker city-states often at war, disorganized and decentralized clans and villages, nomads and empires that have very little power. So monarchies that can just get a good monarch in power sound like they’re a better idea. The maesters are intellectually a long way from thinking the lower classes should hold any power.

    • Jim B says:

      I never got the sense that GRRM hates the Maesters. I think he gives them many admirable qualities — a love for learning, a sense of duty — but doesn’t hesitate to show that there’s no such thing as a group, especially a powerful one, that doesn’t exert and receive political influence.

    • Hedrigal says:

      I don’t really think Martin is trying to smear the Maesters, he’s just trying to create a realistic picture of an organization that has a seemingly noble purpose but a deeply flawed culture which is reinforced by the society that it exists in.

  15. I really underestimated how many interesting characters the Tyrell family has. Garlan was a really cool guy, perhaps the only one to publicly acknowledge Tyrions contributions. Wonder if the two will ever meet again in the future.

  16. Landon Brown says:

    To my mind, GRRM DOES (implicitly) tell us who ordered Mandon Moore to kill Tyrion, even if there is no smoking gun.

    Firstly, it cannot be Cersei because it is just implausible to think that all throughout AFFC and ADWD (with her paranoid obsessions over the dwarf increasingly dominating her POV) she would never once reflect on having already tried to kill Tyrion in the past. It’s too glaring an omission to not constitute proof of innocence. Yes, that revelation could still come, but I see nothing suggesting it will because….

    Secondly, Tyrion’s absolute certainty that is was Cersei who ordered the assassination is another clear strike against her being the real culprit because – as you point out – Tyrion is so clearly proceeding from assumption rather than evidence that we know him to be wrong (much as Cersei is later wrong despite being certain in her paranoid conviction that Tyrion killed Joffrey). There is a strong parallel here between the two siblings single-mindedly accusing one another without giving due consideration to other potential (and more probable) threats.

    Lastly, there is the resonance with Tyrion’s realization that Joffrey sent the catspaw to kill Bran. Both assassination attempts have all the same hallmarks (using a Kingsguard/Valyrian dagger instead of more subtle, less traceable means; a hasty and public execution designed for effect rather than stealth; personal motive fueled by indignation towards past slights) but, more importantly, Tyrion makes the same mistake in both cases of critically underestimating the threat Joffrey poses to others. Although Tyrion never consciously makes the connection between the attempt on Bran’s life with the attempt on his own, it is only as Joffrey is clumsily hacking Lives of Four Kings (not coincidentally Tyrion’s wedding gift) to pieces that the Bran mystery is solved, and I think we readers are most certainly meant in this moment to draw the connection between Joff’s uncontrollable malice towards Tyrion with his past history of attempted murder.

    • Hedrigal says:

      Admittedly, Cersei would have to be a saint to maintain the benefit of the doubt for Tyrion in regards to Joffreys murder. From the outside, all evidence points to Tyrion, he had every reason to want Joff dead, and while we know he didn’t do it, Cersei sees no reason for doubt in large part because there was an effective conspiracy to frame Tyrion.

      • Ioseff says:

        She didn’t as you say. the only reason she did not is because certain Lannister was there too, even though she outranks him, so she resorted to the other Lannister once said Lannister returned to the city.

        Or why do you think she asked Jaime to kill Tyrion in his cell? She wanted him dead IMMEDIATELY, only stopped cause of Tywin, even though she outranks him (not as Queen Consort, but as Queen Regent)

      • Keith B says:

        A rational person, if any had existed in King’s Landing, would have immediately been suspicious about Tyrion’s guilt, just because the evidence was so obvious. He had plenty of motive to kill Joffrey, but if he had he wouldn’t have planned it so that he would be caught standing over the corpse with the poisoned goblet in his hand.

    • Ioseff says:

      No one seems to think that it could be exactly the same way Ned died and exactly the same way Lysa tried.

      Ie: Littlefinger’s Modus Operandi is to convince people more powerful than him to do things so outrageous without being easily traceable. He was going to leave the city, he knew siege was almost assuredly going to happen, therefore dropped (heh, he wished to have him dropped in the Vale, remember?) an advice to Joffrey, that if he wanted him dead without drawing attention, send him to kill him just when everything is chaos.

      Also, the fact that GRRM didn’t directly dismiss the chance that Littlefinger was behind the dagger thing may suggest that he somehow, somewhere, told Joffrey that he should please his father whenever he says something about being manly, and since Littlefinger already knew of the incest, perhaps in the hopes of catching them… well i am overextending, Littlefinger-er is just that, littlefinger-er, he never sees so much the long way, just sees the next step without thinking where it might lead him.

      Even so, Cersei never thinks about the prisoners she sends to the Wall, all the same Jon Snow is daggered by far too many men, since the commoners of the Watch should be happy that people like Satin (who were even winning them) could ascend so high just with merit. Even so (i’m redundant using such expression), I admit that one thing is a bastard she scarcely glanced upon, and the other is the bastard she has had to glance upon at her back for fear that said bastard may do something quite choking (har!) and thinking on how her mother is dead for said bastard, so… IDK just leaving my opinion

  17. Adam W. says:

    I should have guessed you’d be an AGE OF BRONZE fan… It’s just that good!

  18. […] because this is already a record-beater in terms of length. But while we’re on the subject of Greek tragedy, there were certain resonances in this chapter with several Greek tragedies that are worth noting. […]

  19. […] As powerful a metaphor as the game of musical chairs is for the broader scramble for influence in the new regime, in some ways this is actually something of a false revelation: many of these dispositions in land (Littlefinger’s grant of Harrenhal, for example) were either explicitly or implicitly revealed in Sansa VIII of ACOK; and Tyrion learned about Pycelle’s return and saw the newfound prominence of the Tyrells in his most recent chapter. […]

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