“Khaleesi” may be the face of female empowerment on Game of Thrones, but Tyrion Lannister is the fan-favorite to end all fan-favorites. Why wouldn’t he be, when showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) have gone out of their way to make him the most flawless character to grace our screens as possible?
In this section, we (Kylie and Julia) will tackle Saint Tyrion Lannister’s Season 6 arc, to discuss its meaning and influence on the story. If you haven’t already, please read our recap of the events in Part 1 of this retrospective, as well as Part 2 on Queen Deadpan Card-born.
Who Needs Character Growth?
It was last year’s plotline that made us first realize just how well Tyrion fits the TVTropes definition of a Mary Sue, particularly this bit:
“…the canon characters are quickly reduced to awestruck cheerleaders, watching from the sidelines as Mary Sue outstrips them in their areas of expertise and solves problems that have stymied them for the entire series.”
Not to rehash too much, but we do think it’s important to remind everyone what Tyrion’s arc was last year. He began the season sad over his murderous break-up, he drank a lot (and in a manner where it was clearly a depiction of alcoholism), and he refused sex from a merry sex-slave, all while being showered with praise from Varys Marx. Then Jorah captured him, and after seeing Drogon fly overhead, Tyrion was magically cured of his alcoholism and depression. He smartly tricked slavers to take him to Meereen, he beat-up a slaver to be purchased, and then a discount-Strong Belwas freed him so that he could tell Deadpan he was the gift. She made him her advisor, and after she took off from the pit, all of her posse insisted that he get put in charge of the city, with Missandei and Grey Worm as his mouthpieces.
We discussed last year how despite physically journeying places, he didn’t actually develop in any way during this trip, and the closest thing he had to an arc was learning to listen to everyone else tell him how awesome he was. As we put it:
“Tyrion doesn’t have a real internal journey as a protagonist should, because he’s already a paragon of humanity.”
We feel it’s necessary to restate this, because yet again this year, the entire narrative was established so that he could be showered with praise.
Part 2 of this series already thoroughly ripped into the idea that Deadpan’s arc was in any way feminist, though we perhaps glossed over the biggest issue: Tyrion booted her out of her own plotline. Yes, the set-up for this happened last season, but then, D&D retconned much of Daenerys’s A Dance with Dragons plotline back into existence—even plot-points they had “resolved” in their “adaptation” last year.
Hizdahr’s magically negotiated peace with Yunkapor? Gone. This strikes us as passing strange, since last year these were the people who agreed to stop their practice of slavery, cede all power to a council of elders that included freed men, and bring “all matters of consequence” before Deadpan for review in exchange for her merely opening the fighting pits. Which she did. Was it a ruse so that they could set up the Strawman attack in the pit? Is this even worth dissecting? The point is, while Deadpan was in Meereen, D&D did not give her any external threats to deal with, despite it being one of the larger driving forces is Daenerys’s book plot.
We suppose the fleet-burning retcon was to
sloppily cleverly establish a need for the Greyjoy alliance, so we can mostly ignore it, though it helped paint the picture of how put-upon Tyrion was. However, we also had the Strawmen of the Harpy operating in exactly the same way (clandestine killers) at the start of this season as they were at the start of last. Did their flooding the pit accomplish anything, because they massacred a hell of a lot of people? The result is that we’re thrown back into a “who is the harpy” plotline, but this time it’s Tyrion and Varys doing the super-sleuthing, rather than Grey Worm and Faabio.
And the thing is, we might have even been a little forgiving of it if it weren’t exactly the same thing that happened in Winterhell. Stannis was almost hilariously jettisoned from the narrative, so that Jon Snow could step up and reenact the same exact plotline. There was even a shiny new Stark hostage being used!
We understand that there are characters writers will relate to or enjoy writing for more than othrs, but there’s a difference between having a favorite character, and contorting the entire narrative for that single character’s benefit. It’s that contortion that leads to the label of “Mary Sue,” just like how Ramsay being illogically (and repeatedly) rewarded and puffed up led to our assertions that he was a Villain Sue. Maybe “Mary Sue” as a descriptor is overused, particularly to punish women for basic displays of competency, but in the case of Tyrion, we find it to be quite on-the-nose.
D&D handed him a storyline that should have gone to their female protagonist, and what’s even worse is that they did it in such a way that left no room for him to grow. For the second time. How can he, when he was still practically perfect in every way?
Then there’s the actual arc that he had this year. We’re certainly going to pick this apart more, and in detail, but the mile-high summary is: Tyrion, who had been put in charge of Meereen at the end of last season by Faabio, does what he can to right Deadpan’s mistakes and fix all the issues plaguing the city, like the Strawmen of the Harpy still attacking people. He learns that the Strawmen are funded by the Masters of Yunkapor, so he makes a deal with with them, which ushers in peace. Then he brings commerce back by asking a Red Priestess to support Deadpan. Sadly, the slavers attack anyway, but Tyrion comes up with the perfect military strategy to defeat them once and for all, and Deadpan makes him her Hand of the Queen.
We suppose it’s something that there was a slight hitch on his path to being recognized as the most perfect advisor that ever was, but even the Masters attacking was explained to us as being a result of Meereen’s success (credited to Tyrion), and like last year with the Strawmen, these strawmen seemed just as cartoonish and implacable (despite having been oddly cooperative in Season 5 to make Hizdahr’s off-screen deal occur); we were given the impression that no one could have prevented this attack and Tyrion did better than any of us could have in delaying/mitigating it.
Really, what we saw was Tyrion solving the problems in Simplified Bay that Deadpan failed to address for three years. Or at least, we were supposed to assume he did, because we’re personally unable to ignore the fact that one impressive display of dragon-based strength does not a stabilized region make, especially when said dragons are leaving to sail west and the dude stuck in charge of this whole thing is now Faabio, of all people.
But even if we wanted to be kinder and ignore the way this guy perfectly navigates a story built entirely to prove to the audience how wonderful he is, we can’t. Every single person involved in this plotline, both within and without, are determined to remind us of that fact. If we may be so bold as to keep quoting from the Mary Sue tropes entry:
The canon protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for [the Mary Sue’s] beauty, wit, courage and other virtues, and are quick to adopt her as one of their True Companions, even characters who are usually antisocial and untrusting; if any character doesn’t love her, that character gets an extremely unsympathetic portrayal.
“Overwhelmed with admiration” doesn’t begin to describe the reaction to Tyrion this year.
The Cult of Saint Tyrion
We feel it’s very important to first point out the most important members of his fanclub: David Benioff and Dan Weiss.
“In a way, you feel for Tyrion, because [Daenerys] left him with a terrible situation. The city was under siege from within and without, and he really did, for so long, such an excellent job of making things better there. And unfortunately, what she comes back to find is exactly what she would have expected to find when she left, and the fact that she has a city at all, still, is due to him.” —D.B. Weiss, Inside the Episode #9
“You know, Tyrion has become a very capable advisor in a relatively short time, she clearly respects his intelligence, and she now respects his loyalty.” —David Benioff, Inside the Episode #10
If you haven’t recently eaten, we urge you to listen to the “Inside the Episode” for the last episode. D&D lovingly wax lyrical about Tyrion’s unparalleled political capabilities for at least a solid two minutes, clearly presenting that revelation as the most important take-away from the episode where Daenerys Targaryen finally sets sail towards Westeros.
But what’s perhaps more interesting than their gushing about his success this season is how they framed his plotline in the first place.
“The enemies of Daenerys see a city ripe to be overthrown, and it’s going to test Tyrion’s skills, his diplomatic skills…all of his experience.”—David Benioff, Inside the Episode #1
As we pointed out, everything this season was designed for his benefit. Deadpan has enemies…and it’s for Saint Tyrion to figure it out for her!
From the opening scene where he struts around giving alms to the poor and musing about the “mysterious” harpy, to the closing scene in the pyramid, where he pats Deadpan on the head and tells her in the most patronizing tone possible that she was right to listen to him and dump her boyfriend, it’s beyond obvious that he is the one person who truly matters in Meereen.
The narrative bent to set this up, but it also bent to keep rewarding him as he traversed everything.
Why the hell did the dragons love him? No really, he goes in and tells them “I’m friends with your mother” and they’re instantly docile? We hate to bring in book knowledge, but when you compare this to the reception Quentyn Martell got—Quentyn, who actually used dragon-taming techniques he saw Dany herself employ—it’s laughable. It’s especially laughable when it solved nothing. The issue was that the dragons weren’t eating, apparently. So Tyrion figured removing their collars would…what? Make them less sad? Tyrion felt strongly that “Dragons do not do well in captivity”, but he still left them stuffed in a room below the pyramids.
We guess we would have felt it was something of a cop out if the dragons just magically tunneled out during the battle without any set-up, but this scene just felt like three minutes to remind us that once again, Tyrion is so likable. He even told Varys to punch him in the face for his silliness!
Then there were even weirder ways that D&D decided to champion Tyrion. The Slavers deal is perhaps the most ambiguous part of this, because it was a deal that completely blew up in his face from what we can tell. But then in interviews, we hear D&D make explicit comparisons to Abraham Lincoln:
“One of the historical examples that we looked to when writing these scenes was, oddly enough, was Abe Lincoln; because Abe Lincoln was trying desperately to stave off a civil war between the north and the south and he wasn’t ready to get rid of slavery quite as quickly as people think…he was trying to talk to the southerners and work out some kind of compromise at first. And, you know with Tyrion, as he says to Missandei and Grey Worm, ‘slavery is an evil and war is an evil, and I can’t end both at once.’” —David Benioff, Inside the Episode #4
Unless they have an incredibly unusual understanding of American history (though we would both argue that they’re very much simplifying Lincoln’s actions and ignoring the fact that he was, indeed, a thoroughly committed abolitionist, albeit a politically pragmatic one), we have to assume they mean for the comparison to be positive. In our view, it seems like the temporary peace that this “achieved” was really just the Masters biding their time, and also telling the Strawmen to hold off on killings, until they were ready to mount a formal attack. Yet it still seems like our takeaway was supposed to be, “Tyrion did the best he could do…just like Abe Lincoln.” After all, the Civil War still breaking out was not Abe’s fault.
But if we may put aside Tyrion’s observed failure for a little (we’ll get back to it, we promise), there’s also the whole Kuvira thing, which was framed as a big win for him. Like, he struts around the next episode remarking on how commerce has returned, but…how? No really, even if the red priests weren’t already advocating for Deadpan, why would their presence on the streets somehow bring back trade within weeks? Those stupid Meereense are just that impressionable?
We also can’t ignore the fact that the first episode of the season showed us a red priest talking about how great Deadpan was anyway, and everyone needs to do their part until she returns—almost verbatim to what we see being said in the episode following Kuvira!
In fact, in the Kuvira meeting itself, Kuvira assures Tyrion and Varys that Deadpan is the bees knees at both the beginning and the end of their conversation.The only thing suggested in terms of a different approach comes from her: she wants to burn infidels. Tyrion puts that strawman to bed really quickly, but then absolutely nothing else is discussed, besides Varys Marx going on an atheist rant. What, exactly, are we supposed to be giving Tyrion credit for? That unlike his buddy, he managed to get through a conversation without insulting a high priestess?
But obviously this was a great success, because he’s stupidly strutting around in his cape, while Varys calls him the “most famous dwarf in the city.”
Obviously he did something well enough to learn how to love himself. Again.
So for us, when Deadpan hands him the pin, we have to wonder: what did he actually do to earn this? We suppose it was ultimately his idea how to deal with the Yunkapori, because Deadpan is too psychotic to realize that burning cities to the ground is not the path to “leaving the world a better place than she found it.” Nor is she smart enough to realize “if I don’t burn all these ships, I can keep some.” We’re really happy she has Tyrion to tell her what to do.
But why wasn’t Grey Wrom the one making these decisions, when he has military experience, and he was the one who outright told Tyrion “you cannot negotiate with these slavers”? He saw the attack coming since the second episode, but somehow, it’s only Tyrion who gets to be rewarded for his read on the situation and ability to navigate it.
We want to get to the full implications of Grey Worm/Missandei vs. Tyrion, but we also need to call out D&D’s scripting of them joining the Cult of the Mary Sue. Because the thing is, there seems to be this bizarre subplot where Tyrion desperately tries to get positive social feedback from MissWorm, to the point where they’ll be his friend. There is more follow-up on whether he can get them to be cool and drink with him, than there is for that “why is this Kuvira lady talking about Varys’s balls in such detail?” thing.
In the end, Missandei totally joins the Tyrion fan club once she’s drunk, and Grey Worm even seems to be a part-time member after Tyrion lets him kill two Masters.
You could say the MissWorm scenes are just for comedic value (um), but the implications are really disturbing. For one, Missandei and Grey Worm are judged by the narrative based on how much they like Tyrion. They won’t drink with him in the first scene, and that’s framed as them being sticks-in-the-mud. However, it’s a great victory when Missandei finally gets sloshed and Tyrion teaches them both how to be merry.
Where to even start with the implications? That black people need to be educated by the white man on how to have a good time? Or that they only really serve as an accessory to his plotline in the first place? The racism here is kind of a sledgehammer, to be honest.
Another thing that really upsets us is the portrayal of drinking. Tyrion is clearly an alcoholic, right? That was certainly the implication in the Season 5 opener, when he drank, vomited, and immediately drank again. It was actually tragic, and the kind of behavior you see in someone whose alcoholism is literally killing him.
He even defines himself to Jorah mid-Season 5 as “a man who drinks,” most likely because he’s going through withdrawal.
Yet then, he sees Drogon and…he doesn’t stop drinking or anything; it’s just that all of the implications of his alcoholism disappear. Like, he’s just a casual wine drinker, yo!
This year, however, they seemed to really call attention to his drinking, but again, not portraying it as a dependency. It’s a fun thing he does. He drinks and knows things. He wants to own a vineyard (seriously, what?). He can teach people the wonders of “Never Have I Ever?”. What’s even worse though, is that Grey Worm and Missandei not drinking is framed as completely unreasonable. Missandei explicitly says that she doesn’t like how alcohol makes her feel, and yet Tyrion bullies her into it anyway. Which, okay, depiction is not endorsement, but we’re obviously meant to think that it’s a good thing she’s relaxing a little, aren’t we?
She is adorable, and we’ll never deny that, but this is criminally irresponsible of D&D. And it just makes Tyrion’s drinking seem like a fun quirk, like how all our favorite YA novel heroines are clumsy. D&D know Tyrion is *supposed* to have a flaw, but they never develop it or think about its implications…it’s just thrown in there, probably some odd leftover of their piss-poor efforts to bring A Song of Ice and Fire’s Tyrion to screen.
We don’t want to get into the books too much, because GoT certainly doesn’t. But the thing is, the Tyrion George R.R. Martin wrote is a deeply flawed man. He’s absolutely fascinating, because he a the victim of horrible mistreatment, particularly given the intense ableism of the setting, while at the same time he’s also undeniably privileged. He is one of the richest men in the world, and he’s relatively safe, in a very Maslow’s Hierarchy kind of sense. He has the benefit of a great education, and as he says to Jon Snow:
“My legs are short and twisted, and I walk with difficulty. I require a special saddle to keep from falling off my horse. A saddle of my own design, you may be interested to know. It was either that or ride a pony. My arms are strong enough, but again, too short. I will never make a swordsman. Had I been born a peasant, they might have left me out to die, or sold me to some slaver’s grotesquerie. Alas, I was born a Lannister of Casterly Rock, and the grotesqueries are all the poorer. Things are expected of me.” —Tyrion, A Game of Thrones
In many ways, his A Dance with Dragons plotline was about him coming face-to-face with his privilege, though this is a simplification.
We spent a long time talking about how this was most definitely not the arc Tyrion had last year, but given how much of this season was a rehash, and how D&D retconned A Dance with Dragon material back into existence so that their unproblematic fave could deal with it, it’s frustrating that when presented with another opportunity to actually try and adapt something resembling the themes of the book for Tyrion, they went for the opposite. What’s even more frustrating to us, though, is that they nearly told the right story anyway.
The Story They Almost Told
Yes, the books are the books and the show is the show, but this whole season for Tyrion sort of confuses us. You see, there are points in the story that the narrative is at least aware of his privilege, and the uncomfortable way he wields it over Missandei and Grey Worm. Very clear points, in fact.
For instance, when Varys finally solves the mystery that Yunkapor is funding the Strawmen of the Harpy, Grey Worm immediately tells Tyrion that they cannot be reasoned with:
Grey Worm: The Masters speak only one language. They spoke it to me for many years. I know it better than my mother tongue. If we want them to hear us, we must speak it back to them. May it be the last thing they ever hear.
Tyrion: You may be right.
Grey Worm: So we will fight them?
Tyrion: Possibly…It’s a conversation.
Tyrion, however, tells Varys to send little birds to the Yunkapori to arrange a meeting. Then he springs this on Missandei and Grey Worm in the next episode, and we get an exchange that just could not have been written by accident:
Missandei: Our queen tried to make peace with the Masters and they tried to murder her.
Tyrion: We enter these negotiations with open eyes. Trust me. My own recent experience with slavery has taught me the horrors of that institution.
Missandei: How many days were you a slave?
Tyrion: Long enough to know.
Missandei: Not long enough to understand.
He is being such an asshole in this moment, thinking that the four seconds he was in chains before Knock-Off Belwas randomly freed him grants him any sort of insight. It was uncomfortable, but for once, it seemed like it was supposed to be uncomfortable. This is especially true with the scenes that follow; Tyrion throws Grey Worm under the bus and makes him lie in front of other former slaves about how great Tyrion’s Master-negotiations were, and Grey Worm yells at him for it.
“Do not use me for your lies.”
He then goes on to insist, as Missandei did, that the Masters will never be reasonable, and will never get rid of slavery, even with a nifty seven year window.
Yes, this is undercut a little bit by Missandei sticking up for Tyrion to the other freedmen, but even there, you could argue that while Missandei and Grey Worm might have seen Tyrion’s point, they were exceedingly uncomfortable with how he’s proceeding.
Then they’re proved right, when the Masters attack! Grey Worm full on yells at Tyrion for it, and even drunk-ass Missandei isn’t so forgiving:
Tyrion: I was wrong. I admit it.
Missandei: That changes nothing.
Tyrion: The Unsullied could mount a defense off the beachhead. If the slavers’ forces…
Grey Worm: No more talking from you. Your talking gave us this.
Tyrion: And I have acknowledged that. I’m trying.
Grey Worm: You’re trying to tell me what the army should do. You do not know what the army should do.
Tyrion’s refusal to listen to their voices—the marginalized voices of two black characters—came with shitty consequences, and for a second we were ready to praise this show for actually challenging one of its protagonists while also calling out privilege.
However, like everything else remotely passable on GoT, it’s undercut both inside and outside the narrative.
First of all, Tyrion being wrong was framed as this giant fucking surprise to us. Like, it wasn’t even that he did anything wrong, it was that he was deceived by those Masters of Yunkapor. His reasoned, pragmatic approach to diplomacy was meant to be viewed as a good thing, and even though Missandei and Grey Worm were technically right about the Masters, it was clear that they were not being open-minded during negotiations.
Secondly, Tyrion immediately blames the attack on Meereen’s new-found prosperity, and it kind of seems like Deadpan buys this.
Tyrion: No ruler that ever lived had the support of all the people. But the rebirth of Meereen is the cause of this violence. The Masters cannot let Meereen succeed. Because if Meereen succeeds, a city without slavery, – a city without Masters – (explosions) it proves that no one needs a Master.
Honestly, we have no idea if we’re supposed to take this at face-value, or think it’s funny because things are blowing up, but it never goes challenged by anyone. Deadpan says “good” and then begins talking about how she wants to burn everyone. So if this wasn’t supposed to be serious, the audience was never given an indication.
This is especially the case when the entire scene with Deadpan talking to him serves to prove how much he’s needed in this situation. He talks her out of her Aerys 2.0 strategy (while also awkwardly seeding the finale), and then comes up with his “alternate approach”—the winning approach.
From there, Grey Worm and Missandei are unquestionably on his side, and we guess his plan works, or at least…it’s strongly suggested that it does. Heck, Deadpan feels comfortable enough saying this to Faabio in the final episode:
“There’s finally peace in Meereen. You will keep the peace while the people choose their own leaders.”
Tyrion did so well that some random sellsword can take care of it!
So how exactly are we supposed to take Tyrion’s supposed failure—a failure as the result of his overwhelming privilege, mind you— when the story falls over itself yet again to prove how infallible he is, and how he truly does have the right ideas in navigating this situation, unlike everyone else around him. We’re glad Grey Worm got to kill two of the Masters in this situation, but we would have been more glad if he was involved in formulating Tyrion’s “alternate approach”. Or if Missandei didn’t just turn into window-dressing. Though we do like her ship hairdo.
Then even if we wanted to hyper-focus on the moment of Tyrion’s comeuppance (short-lived as it was), there’s the fact that every single time D&D talk about Tryion in their “Inside the Episode” interviews, it’s all about how perfectly he’s navigating the situation. They mention Missandei and Grey Worm to explain to us that they’re “uncomfortable, but will go along with the Masters meeting”, as if we couldn’t have picked up on that from watching the episode. Not a single mention was made about Missandei and Grey Worm being right. Instead, it’s all about Tyrion being Abe Lincoln, and Tyrion being the only reason Meereen is even standing.
We have no clue how the situation would have been worse if Tyrion wasn’t there; the red priests would have still been preaching for Deadpan, and the slavers likely would have still attacked (unless they only attacked after losing their most valuable player: Evil Sex Worker), though we suppose those two weeks of peace were nice. Still, the intent of D&D was clearly to make us feel that Tyrion was instrumental in turning that place around. So again, it was just the story of how wonderful Tyrion is in the things that he does. The privilege-check was more akin to the last minute snag that rom-coms shove in at the 70 minute mark to drag the movie out for another 20.
The Accidental Story They Told
Though even with the dumbed-down references to American history, we still can’t find ourselves convinced by D&D that Tyrion actually mattered this year. See, we mentioned how Kuvira did nothing, and the Yunkapor negotiations did nothing, and even figuring out who the harpy was didn’t need to happen at all. In fact, okay, even knowing Yunkapor funded the Strawmen, we’re still mystified as to why these rich men within Meereen were so dependant on foreign money in the first place, just so they could randomly stab people and write mean graffiti. Were the bronze masks that expensive?
So aside from removing Rhaegal and Viseron’s collars (which in the books, they managed to do themselves), we’re realizing that Tyrion didn’t do anything. In fact, both the scenes where he’s trying to get Missandei and Grey Worm to be kool like him lend themselves to what we think is the best “reverse honeypot” we’ve found to date.
To quickly define, as we do in the Book Snob Glossary, sometimes we have to twist ourselves into contortions to make up a story that makes D&D’s plots logical—this is a honeypot. But sometimes D&D tell a story they don’t realize exists at all, thus reversing it. Observe:
Tyrion: What would you be talking about if I weren’t here?
Grey Worm: Patrol. When I am going on patrol with the Unsullied. What we see on patrol. Who we captured on patrol.
Here, Grey Worm is making it clear to Tyrion that without him in the room, he and Missandei would be discussing their jobs. You know…running the city. Then Tyrion goes off trying to get them to drink, while they exchanged uncomfortable looks. When Varys finally comes into the room, even he seems to throw the fact that he’s doing his duties in Tyrion’s face:
Tyrion: Oh, you took your time.
Varys: Sorry. I was busy learning who funds the Sons of the Harpy.
And like, even the next drinking scene, it’s framed as Tyrion just being sad about Varys leaving, so once again he bothers Missandei and Grey Worm.
Therefore, we would like to humbly submit the off-screen story where Missandei and Grey Worm are making very important governance decisions and are actually the ones who bring commerce back, while some annoying drunk interrupts and makes fun of them, and mostly fucks everything up by ineptly trying to negotiate behind their backs.
At the least, this amuses us, almost as much as the reverse honeypot that Evil Sex Worker is the brains behind the Strawmen of the Harpy, and the two weeks of peace only happen because she no longer is setting up traps to lure in the Unsullied. They were lost without her, guys! We also have a crack-pot that she’s secretly Dornish, because of her views on conquerors, but we’re happy to leave this here.
The Story They Already Told
We don’t want to be too repetitive, but the show is. We spent a good amount here explaining how the emotional beats of Tyrion’s story this year were the same as his emotional beats last year. The biggest difference is that instead of him learning to love himself, like he finally did in Season 5, he was externally rewarded for his awesomeness by Deadpan. In many ways, this is the culmination of an arc that extends back to Season 2. This is the validation Tyrion’s “needed” after he was robbed of the credit for saving King’s Landing in Season 2. This is furthered by the fact that Varys explicitly references it, to Kuvira, of all people.
“A man named Stannis Baratheon was anointed as the chosen one by one of your priestesses. He, too, had a glorious destiny. He attacked King’s Landing and was soundly defeated by the man standing beside me.”
Was he, Varys? Really?
So forgive us for not really caring when Deadpan whips the pin out of her boobs to reward Tyrion, because this is the same character who has spent the past two seasons getting his ass kissed by everyone, and getting random rewards from the narrative.
There’s also the fact that this entire situation is something we watched last year, it’s just that Deadpan was inept and couldn’t figure it out. Implacable strawmen are implacable. D&D even had to retcon conflict back into existence just so Tyrion could face these challenges.
Another complete rehash was Varys the NPC. Last season, he gave Tyrion a quest, and then wandered in at the end with a yellow question mark hovering over his head, so Tyrion could complete it. This year, we suppose he was actually involved to a mild degree, but the only thing we really saw him do was pump Evil Sex Worker for obvious information, pick a fight with Kuvira, and then use his teleportation skills to secure an alliance with Princess Faullaria and the Dowager Sasstress.
We guess these things are kind of important, especially the Pornish alliance, though this stuff just also seem so random. The man teleported to Porne and back again in the span of two episodes. How are we supposed to take that seriously?
Varys himself is clearly never a focus here, and these bizarre machinations are certainly never more important to the plot than the moments where he sets up the challenge for Tyrion to solve, only to then nod with approval and call him “the most famous dwarf in the city” when the guy rises to the occasion.
Is it worth getting into the umpteen hundred eunuch jokes that were made this season? We really can’t figure it out. Even though we’ve had countless reminders about Varys’s eunuch-status throughout the years, we’ve never had them in quite so concentrated a fashion before. Is the intent to laugh with Tyrion at his suggestion that Varys isn’t really a man? We just don’t get it at all. It’s not like D&D are above very problematically gendered humor, but even we can’t imagine that we’re actually supposed to be laughing at the fact that he was mutilated. Especially with that Kuvira scene where she makes him uncomfortably recall his trauma.
We just…don’t know. We don’t know.
As we were watching this season and podcasting about it, the most overwhelming feeling on our end was that the scenes in Meereen were so damn slow, and accomplished so little. Yet, we like slow plotlines. Our favorite book is A Feast for Crows. What we think is the biggest issue is that there are no discernible character arcs. There can’t be for anyone but Tyrion, since every other character exists for Tyrion. But then he himself can’t have one, because D&D have left no space for growth. We suppose it would have been possible if they had continued with the story they almost told, but we can’t take two isolated scenes and derive meaning from it, especially when it’s a meaning that actively contradicted by everything that follows.
Then, as we said with Deadpan, it still might at least have some entertainment value if it wasn’t the same thing we’ve seen before. This was even a bigger problem for Tyrion, because the issues plaguing Meereen have been established since Season 4. Many of them were solved before Season 6’s backtracking.
Really, all of this was born out of D&D’s determination to construct a narrative that was all about how wonderful their favorite character is. And at this point, we have trouble seeing it as anything other than one of the show’s major flaws, especially given how Tyrion has cannibalized and uprooted every other character to bring this about. D&D’s focus seems to be less on telling a coherent story and more on constructing scenarios to demonstrate how wonderful they are at writing Tyrion’s quippy dialogue. In fact, this might be getting into tinfoil hat territory, but we couldn’t help but notice how the only two episodes in which Tyrion was absent were the two episodes they assigned Bryan Cogman to write; could Benioff and Weiss be just a little enamored and controlling with their take on the character?
Writer dynamics aside (we’ll eventually get to Cogman’s Cry for Help in the Arya retrospective), there’s no excusing this level of self-indulgence. We get it, Tyrion is a really, really good guy. We don’t need every single character to fall over themselves to remind us of this. And at this point, it’s so insufferable that we’d rather dream about Missandei and Grey Worm taking charge, while this asshole bumbles around and distracts everyone. Frankly, that might be the only redeemable part of this plotline.
Also Evil Sex Worker of False Tears. We wish her the best in Pentos.
If you enjoyed Julie’s thoughts on this plotline, then be sure to check out the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast starring Julia and Kylie, Unabashed Book Snobbery! You can subscribe/listen on iTunes, subscribe to our RSS feed, search for “Unabashed Book Snobbery” in any podcast app, or find a complete list of UBS episodes on Kylie’s personal blog. Simplified Bay of Dragons was sooo meaty that there are two podcast episodes! One for the recap, and one for the analysis.
Images courtesy of HBO