He’s survived being framed for the murder of his nephew King Joffrey, a slash to the face while winning the Battle of Blackwater, and being sold into slavery after killing his father and fleeing the country. Are you going to bet against Tyrion Lannister now?
Portrayed by maybe the show’s finest actor in Peter Dinklage, Tyrion’s wit, intellect and thirst for decadence offers a grounding note of realism to counter the honor, myth-making and fairy tales of the show’s early seasons. And as the series has progressed, there’s no arguing that he has risen along Littlefinger’s ladder of chaos, going against his family to wind up as the second in command to the rightful heir to the throne in Daenerys Targaryen. Through it all, Tyrion has seen enough to know that the Iron Throne is a foolish pursuit.
And yet: In two stints as “the hand” to royalty — first for his cruel nephew Joffrey and now Daenerys the Dragon Queen — he’s shown a thirst for power that comes with being underestimated his whole life (if not always an aptitude for tactics). Plus, as last season went on, some cracks were showing in his loyalty as she grew to ignore his advice. And what’s to be made of his long, despairing look at the door of the chamber where Jon Snow and Dany were coupled? Was it because he knows the truth about their shared bloodline? Or, like so many of Daenerys’ former male advisors, have his feelings for her grown not entirely professional?
Given the unlikelihood of those feelings being reciprocated, it’s worth remembering that the last time Tyrion was heartbroken he shot his father with a crossbow. What might he be capable of if these feelings are doomed to go unrequited, especially if his survival is at stake? Factor in the simmering question of where his loyalties might lie if forced to choose between his queen and his northbound brother Jaime, and it’s easy to imagine Tyrion siding with family, especially if it means he could defy his late father’s wishes by ultimately leading it.
Tyrion, of course, has long been an audience favorite, and even if you can’t imagine him being capable of such treachery, consider the battle that lies ahead this season and whether he’ll be among those fighting. As difficult as it is to choose against a zombie army led by a frozen demon and his ice dragon — especially for a show as cold-blooded as “Game of Thrones” — and despite Daenerys being the natural choice if good (and her superior air power) finally triumphs over evil in George R.R. Martin’s caustic world, it’s Tyrion, maybe better than all the players, who has learned that the only victory in the game of thrones is survival. Even if Tyrion never sits on the Iron Throne — who’s to say anyone will in the end — he will be among the last ones standing.
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