Until recently, Tyrion Lannister was the smartest and sharpest character in Game of Thrones. He was cunning, determined and effective, but then something happened to him, and in seasons 6 and 7 he has been on a horrible losing streak.
Fail after fail after fail.
And this was supposed to be his time. He finally found a queen worthy of his considerable talents. It was supposed to be easy, instead of constant in-fighting in the court in King’s Landing, he now has the ear of the ruler, as well as her respect.
So what happened? In seasons past he wiggled himself out of being thrown through the Moon Door, talked himself out of having his man parts thrown to the goats by the Vale’s Hill Tribes whom he actually managed to recruit to protect him, he persuaded his dad to appoint him Hand of the King, then went on to discard traitors and double agents in King’s Landing, was instrumental in winning the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and later fled a death sentence, killed his dad-nemesis and in Esso turned himself from a slave in chains to the Dragon Queen’s go-to man, with a huge army at his disposal.
That’s a pretty impressive CV. But it’s been all downhill from there. Last season he cut a deal with the slavers in Mereen, and they played him for a fool until Daenerys came over with her dragons to save the day. This season he persuaded Daenerys to lay siege on King’s Landing, which resulted in the Dornish and Ironborn fleets destroyed, and later he fumbled his western campaign when he sent the Unsullied to Casterly Rock while his brother and sister took Highgarden from right under his scarred nose.
So should we attribute the sudden change in fortunes to bad writing in the HBO show? Or maybe Tyrion’s true strength is not his mind but rather something else – his tongue.
For more on Tyrion’s losing streak and what awaits him watch this Game of Thrones Academy’s video.
Let’s pay attention to the signs. Jon told Daenerys that Tyrion likes to talk, to which Daenerys replied “everyone likes to do what they’re good at.” She’s basically saying that what Tyrion is good at is talking. That’s different from ruling and advising. Add to that what Olenna told Daenerys about him in the season’s premiere – he’s a clever man. Not a wise man, or a smart man – a clever man.
What do they say about clever men? They’ll solve problems that wise men will avoid.
Maybe he’s mostly good at getting himself out of trouble, with his back against the wall, as an underdog, and all thanks to his sharp tongue. You need an entirely different set of skills when you are the overwhelming favorite and when you need to advise a queen on what she needs to do with her huge army and her three dragons, when you need to take into account her own ambitions and goals, and her own temperament.
One of the most apparent themes of this story is that each and every character and institution has paid or will pay their own ultimate price. Ned lost his honor by confessing to treason, Sansa had her dream of a beautiful and kind prince turn into a nightmare about a psychotic sadist, and Cersei lost her children and will pay some more by losing the throne by the end of the season.
Tyrion has certainly paid, and then some, since the show started. But if his greatest strength is not his mind but his tongue – then he has not had to pay the ultimate price yet.
If indeed his greatest skill is talking, because this is what has not only allowed him to survive but also thrive, then it is fitting that he will lose this very skill before the end. Remember Ilyn Payne, the tongue-less crown executioner? Maybe Tyrion will have to lose his tongue, literally, as a fitting conclusion to his tale.
This fate could be a real bitter-sweet dramatic treat. Tyrion will be forced out of power, out of Westeros, and without his tongue he will sit down and write all that he has learned and put it in a book, Machiavelli-style, the 15th-16th century Italian who wrote one of the all-time most famous political essays. Instead of naming it The Prince, Tyrion’s book will be titled The Monarch.
The sweet part of his ending will be that in the long run, like Machiavelli, his work and insight will stand the test of time. Tyrion’s sharp words written in a book? Well, I at least would love to read that.
Check out Gil Kidron’s YouTube channel Game of Thrones Academy for a look at Game of Thrones through the lens of history.
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