What's Going on With Tyrion Lannister?

From hard-drinking outcast to hand of a rival queen, Tyrion’s fractious relationship with his family has pushed him in some interesting directions

By AT&T Digital Media Productions editorial team 

Wine, women, and wit have been the raison d’être for Tyrion Lannister, but despite his surface-level love for life’s pleasures, he’s had a tormented history that adds unique depth to his character. Throughout much of Westeros, he’s the butt of jokes. In his own mind, he’s the unheralded savior who kept the realm together during the War of the Five Kings. But Tyrion’s family soap opera is where the real action is. A kingslayer and a kinslayer in the eyes of most surviving Lannisters, Tyrion has never been the pride of the family. What happens to their dynamic now that he’s back on Westerosi soil?


The Old Lion

As Tyrion said to Jon Snow long ago, “All dwarfs are bastards in their fathers’ eyes.” Tywin has never stopped punishing Tyrion for being born. He holds Tyrion responsible for the death of his wife, Joanna, during childbirth, and further blames him for dishonoring the family name with his disability. As Tywin is quick to remind him, had Tyrion not been born with the Lannister name, he’d have been left to die.

Yet for all Tywin’s enmity, Tyrion has earned a measure of his begrudging respect. This dichotomy plays itself out in the alternating rewards and humiliation Tywin dishes out . One minute, Tyrion is made the Hand to his nephew, King Joffrey. The next, he’s demoted to Master of Coin. Shortly after a sham marriage to Sansa Stark, Tyrion is indicted in a sham trial for the murder of the king.

These mixed messages, along with fear and respect for his father, compel Tyrion to alternately rebel against and fight for his family name. But Tywin never lets Tyrion forget where he stands; while Tyrion’s older brother, Jaime, forswore his inheritance to join the Kingsguard, Tywin refuses to name Tyrion the heir to Casterly Rock.

In the end, Tywin gets his comeuppance. After years of abuse, Tyrion finally realizes that his true crime has been the inability to live up to his father’s expectations. Tyrion kills his father on the privy with a crossbow after finding his ex-lover, Shae, in Tywin’s bed. His lack of remorse is a testament to his place in the Lannister clan. Despite Tywin’s dying words, Tyrion is his truest son.


The Evil Queen

Tyrion’s older sister Cersei fancies herself a female Tywin. After all, she does have her father’s ruthless cruelty down pat. As a child, she mocked Tyrion as a literal monster to other nobles, and her attitude hasn’t changed much since. Most of their sibling rivalry involves blackmailing, backstabbing, and scheming against one another. Cersei is keenly aware that Tyrion is one of the few people who know of her incestuous relationship with their brother Jaime. She’s smart enough not to kill Tyrion by her own hand, though she did try to have the Kingsguard do the deed in the chaos of the Battle of Blackwater Bay. For his part, Tyrion is smart enough to tread lightly in her presence, only occasionally fanning the flames with witty epithets.

Cersei’s shortsightedness, paranoia, and desire to prove her strength to Twyin prevent her from appreciating her younger brother’s good qualities. She immediately names Tyrion as Joffrey’s murderer because that’s how she would get back at a longtime antagonist. Whether she truly believes Tyrion’s guilt is beside the point. If Joffrey hadn’t died, she’d cook up another reason to have Tyrion killed. It’s no wonder Tyrion so eagerly supports Daenerys’ coup against his sister.


The Golden Knight

Throughout the series, Tyrion’s closest family member and only true ally is his brother Jaime. Though he and Tyrion share a fondness for one another, Jaime’s loyalties are divided between his sister-lover, his family name, and the Seven Kingdoms. Once the most talented swordsman in all of Westeros, and the youngest ever named to the Kingsguard, Jaime is the prodigal son Tyrion could never be. He’s even incredibly handsome. While Tyrion doesn’t hold any of this against Jaime, and indeed takes pride in his brother’s abilities, Tyrion is unable to escape Jaime’s shadow.

After Tyrion is wrongfully imprisoned for the death of King Joffrey, he demands a trial by combat in an effort to even the playing field. Jaime, however, refuses to fight as Tyrion’s champion. The decision is partly self-preservation—with only one hand, he’s no longer the swordsman he once was—but the message is clear: Jaime won’t stand up to his father.

Though not given to public displays of brotherly affection, Jaime comes through in the end by springing Tyrion from his prison cell to escape execution. Jaime may not be convinced of Tyrion’s innocence, but as an actual Kingslayer, he doesn’t exactly hold the moral high ground. Ultimately, Jaime loves Tyrion enough to protect him from Tywin and Cersei’s injustices.


The Queen’s Hand

Tyrion was in a dark place after his trial. Persecuted by his sister, betrayed by his lover, and sentenced to die by his father, Tyrion’s hopes of a future in Westeros were crushed along with Oberyn Martell’s head. Though lucky to escape with help from Jamie and Lord Varys, he had little reason to go on living it. Where would he find something to fill the void? For a while, it seemed he was content to look in the bottom of a goblet.

Risking life, limb, and liver, he found his way across the Narrow Sea to Daenerys Targaryen. On the way to Slaver’s Bay, Tyrion is mesmerized to see Drogon fly overhead. Tywin made fun of him for believing in them, but dragons are real, and Tyrion is ready to put his faith in their Mother. His newfound confidence leads him to free the remaining dragons from their Meereenese prison, signifying his belief in the Khaleesi, and in himself.

He is no longer living in the shadow of his brother, tip-toeing around his father, or looking over his shoulder for his sister. His boozing and womanizing were ways to mask the literal and figurative scars of that intrafamily warfare. Amidst a group of women, foreigners, and eunuchs, Tyrion has found his place and his people, along with a much healthier habit of “drinking and knowing things.” As the Hand of a worthy monarch, Tyrion has finally found someone who appreciates his intuition and knowledge of Westerosi politics. His ability to read people, diffuse tension, and build consensus is finally paying off. With his newfound purpose, Tyrion seems poised to break his string of bad luck. As Varys prophesied, this small man may end up casting a very big shadow over Westeros.

But first, there’s a family reunion to attend. When Tyrion left King’s Landing, it was under the suspicion that he had poisoned Joffrey. That case was never really closed, but for Cersei it’s a moot point. Whether or not he killed Joffrey, Tyrion’s to blame for shipping off her daughter Myrcella to Dorne, where she met a similar end to her brother. We’ve just seen Cersei get revenge on Ellaria Sand for that murder. No doubt she’s got Qyburn cooking up something especially diabolical for her brother. We’ll soon find out on Game of Thrones, exclusively on HBO.


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