Tower of the Hand

Tyrion, First and Last of His Name

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Mar 25, 2020, 8:00 AM ET
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Of the characters who lent their perspectives to the chapters of the very first book, six survived to the final episode of Game of Thrones' final season: three Starks, one Lannister, one Targaryen, and one Snow. Throughout the week we'll be devoting a thread to each of these original protagonists, recalling their humble introductions from the book and asking if the show gave them a proper sendoff.

Here's to Tyrion Lannister: youngest son of Tywin; brother of Cersei and Jaime; acting Hand to Joffrey, before being wrongly accused of killing the king; Hand to Daenerys, before eventually turning on her; Hand to Bran the Broken.

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Somewhere in the great stone maze of Winterfell, a wolf howled. The sound hung over the castle like a flag of mourning.

Tyrion Lannister looked up from his books and shivered, though the library was snug and warm. Something about the howling of a wolf took a man right out of his here and now and left him in a dark forest of the mind, running naked before the pack.

When the direwolf howled again, Tyrion shut the heavy leather-bound cover on the book he was reading, a hundred-year-old discourse on the changing of the seasons by a long-dead maester. He covered a yawn with the back of his hand. His reading lamp was flickering, its oil all but gone, as dawn light leaked through the high windows. He had been at it all night, but that was nothing new. Tyrion Lannister was not much a one for sleeping.

AGOT 10: Tyrion I
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It's very appropriate that the final line of dialogue in Game of Thrones belongs to Tyrion, as he presides over Bran's first small council meeting. Peter Dinklage was the show's breakout star and its most awarded actor, and his performance was consistently witty and empathetic.

It's, for better or worse, also appropriate that the show's final dialogue was a joke about a brothel. While a cute callback to an unfinished joke from Season 1 (Tyrion: "I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel"), it also brings to mind how Game of Thrones introduced this stellar character -- as a lascivious client of Winterfell's only whore -- and how that contrasted with Tyrion's first chapter in the books -- as a curious man who had been up all night reading. After the show's bad first impression, the writing improved with regards to Tyrion's more compelling qualities: he quickly became the smart, funny outsider that we expected.

Eventually the show paired Tyrion with another whore, Shae, but it also took the time to explore Tyrion's tortured obsession with prostitutes as a manifestation of his own self-loathing. He had been led to believe that he could never earn another person's love unless he paid for it in gold. (The books, you'll recall, aren't done with this particular obsession: where do whores go?)

But Tyrion was clearly capable of love, and in the end, it was Tyrion's love for his siblings that put him on the wrong end of Daenerys' wrath. He freed Jaime from captivity and tried to save Cersei. After Daenerys sacked King's Landing, Tyrion found the twins buried beneath the rubble and, disgusted, he tossed his Handship at Dany's feet. The massacre was awful, yes, but would Tyrion have been less resentful toward Daenerys had he not just found his brother and sister dead?

Nevertheless, Tyrion ended up imprisoned for his insolence. But so long as he still had his head, he still had his wits. Jon Snow repeated wise words to him, "Love is the death of duty," which Tyrion turned around on him: "Sometimes duty is the death of love."

Tyrion managed to convince Jon to kill Daenerys, and he managed to convince a great council to elect Bran as king, and he managed to become Hand of the King, in what would be his third attempt at the position. Tyrion rightly recognized that absurdity, but Bran's second decision as king would not be denied. Tyrion had "made many terrible mistakes," Bran argued. "He's going to spend the rest of his life fixing them."

Looking back at Tyrion's journey from beginning to end, does it make sense that he wound up Hand of the King, in truth this time? Were there hints throughout that pointed to this destination, or did it seem that he was destined for something else? Are you satisfied with Tyrion's arc on Game of Thrones? Lastly, would you want to see Tyrion meet the same fate in the books?

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