Monday, May 12, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion VI: A Nice Father-Son Moment


It's Monday again! Isn't it strange how fast those weeks go when there's a new season of Game of Thrones running? You guys in the US have of course already witnessed the events of 4.6: The Laws of Gods and Men, and I am sure places like Winter is Coming are already full of comments, but I am blissfully unaware. Will there be shockers like we had in 4.4. or will it feel more comfortable like 4.5? I am curious, but I admit I have lost a little of the zeal I had during the first few weeks of season four's run. Not because it isn't interesting anymore, but there's been other things on my mind as I mentioned before. Still, seeing the episode titles of the remaining four I can't help but feel a certain excitement building. There's still a good deal of great stuff left from A Storm of Swords, as the titles suggest - Mockingbird, The Mountain and the Viper, The Watchers on the Wall, and The Children. Of these, I am most skeptical about episode eight actually, because I feel we've had too little screen time for Ser Gregor and Prince Oberyn both, but the stakes are high for Tyrion's sake, not them, so maybe it'll work anyway. Oh well, we've always got the book. And that's precisely the item before me now, flipped open to chapter 54, Tyrion VI (okay, that's a bit of a lie. I am looking at a screen featuring an ebook version). 

It's becoming harder and harder to remember that Tyrion is supposed to be a tad uglier than the one we get in the show, by the way. 

One of them looks more like the Tyrion as described in the books.


Not that I'm complaining, Peter Dinklage did and still does a fantastic job portraying everyone's favorite Lannister, it's just fun to remind oneself of the bleak truth of the maimed, disfigured guy with different colored eyes, hair growing in patches (in that regard the picture to the left above is still being too kind) yadayada. Wonder what show viewers getting into the books think when they read about him. They shall be surprised by the ugliness factor! Anyway. The sixth Tyrion chapter (that's not many yet, but he's featuring more heavily in the latter half of the book - Catelyn, and Robb for that matter, left a black hole that must be filled with, well, a black hole of a cell - but more on that as we get there).

Because, right now, everything's all roses and rainbows, what with Tyrion just having married to a beautiful young (very young) northern lady, and enjoying a fine dinner (by candlelight I imagine). They are supping alone, and Sansa, perhaps being her usual self, is complaining that the pease are overcooked. Now what the heck is a "the pease" anyway? It's another archaic word Martin has dug up for the medieval feeling. Peas, Martin. It's not like the characters wouldn't pronounce it peas anyway. Still, I have to say, I like learning archaic words so I don't really mind, but this one seems a bit superfluous. I learned a lot of new archaic words reading Sovereign by the way. And, oh, my initial glowing first impression of The Emperor's Blades (see previous post) has been replaced by a somewhat more meh-ish feeling after reading six more chapters. Unfortunately. More when I have finished that one. 

Anyway, I have digressed already and I'm only on the second fricking sentence of the chapter. Tyrion tries to jest her complaint away but she takes it for criticism. It is truly an awkward situation and I love how Martin writes it, giving us the sense that these two people just don't understand each other, cannot see each other's point of view (a privilege we obviously have as they are both POV characters, and oh, isn't it refreshing to have more than one POV in the same chapter?) Tyrion tries to tell her that he isn't displeased with her at all; rather, he is displeased by King Joffrey, Queen Regent Cersei, Lord Tywin Lannister - nephew, mother, father - and Prince Oberyn and his entourage of three hundred Dornishmen. What he is trying to tell her, I suppose, is that he's got a lot of more important political problems on his mind than caring what Sansa thinks of overcooked mutton. We get some vital information on how Tyrion has placed the Tyrells and the Martells far from each other in the city, showing us once again his accute political sense, the man continues to make intelligent political maneuvers without any recognition for it whatsoever. Say one thing about Martin, say he knows how to portray the theme 'the world is unfair'. There's been some confrontations anyway, though, including the Queen of Thorns calling Ellaria Sand for "the serpent's whore", that's a pretty stinging remark I suppose. Oberyn continues to ask Tyrion "when justice will be served". 

"The pease suffice," Tyrion tells her, "They are green and round, what more can one expect of pease?" It's such an unremarkable little line in the grander scheme of things but I love it. It's funny because it's true. It becomes even more funnier when Podrick spoons way too many pease on Tyrion's plate and Tyrion feels obliged to eat them all. I'd love to see this little sequence on the show, but you can't have it all obviously. They finish the dinner in "strained silence", which is the perfect way to describe it all, and Sansa asks if she can go to the godswood. 
Tyrion has become accustomed to Sansa's nightly devotions. He finds all her piety "excessive", but he understands that she feels the need for comfort after all she's been through - another point in favor of Tyrion being a decent human (mostly). He suggest to accompany her, out of kindness, but she is quick to say "no", suggesting he would be bored, and he thinks she knows him well. It's funny because again they are kind of talking past each other, not realizing the other's motives. Maybe she thinks he suspects she's up to something, he thinks she's just a very pious, grieving girl. Lovely.

So off she goes, and he gets back to work - "trying to track some golden dragons through the labyrinth of Littlefinger's ledgers". I love that this plot point, established back in A Game of Thrones, is not forgotten. It means a great deal to the structure of the story and the background of many characters and situations how Littlefinger manipulated the king's coffers when he was the Master of Coin, and it makes sense that now Tyrion is trying to get a grasp of it all, as the new master. And it makes me wonder about that scene in last week's episode, where Tywin told Cersei that the Lannisters are, basically, broke. Canon, or TV show invention? Was it a spoiler? Oh, oh, to know! Said Patchface.  The more Tyrion tries to make sense of the accounts, however, the more his head hurts.

He is relieved that Ser Boros Blount comes to pick him up so he doesn't have to work on this anymore; instead, he has been summoned by his father. Of course, there's a smell of rain in the air (almost worried there) as he crossed the yard. In the Hand's solar he finds Cersei, his uncle Ser Kevan, King Joffrey, his lord father Tywin, and Grand Maester Pycelle (in my mind, now looking more and more like TV show Pycelle). His father is looking grim. Tyrion wonders if the man could smile if he wanted to, which has me chuckling and nodding. Which is kind of embarassing. If someone had seen me, I mean. Nodding in agreement to a thought written in a novel. So why is Tywin looking grim? It sounds like good news for House Lannister when Tyrion gets to read the parchment: "Roslin caught a fine fat trout. Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding." Tyrion doesn't grasp the meaning, wondering if Lord Walder Frey fancies himself a poet. Joffrey interrupts, "He's dead!", proud and happy as if he's the one who did the gruesome deed (which is how they portray Joff in the TV show as well, taking credit for deeds he hasn't done, well spotted, writers). Tyrion's thoughts go immediately to Sansa out in the godswood. 

Tywin reminds them that even though Robb and Catelyn are dead, the war has not been won yet. Many of his bannermen will likely choose submission rather than destruction, but Riverrun remains, and we learn that the Blackfish is holding that particular fort - and Edmure is held hostage by Walder, so the Blackfish will not dare do anything radical just yet. Another nod to the awesomeness and loyalty to House Mallister (my new favorite house now that I have discarded my appreciation for the Slynts); Tywin reveals that he has commanded Ser Gregor Clegane to put Harrenhal to the sword, so as to get rid of the Brave Companions. Even Tywin thinks they are a bit too much. Tyrion reflects that it seems his lord father will want to use the Mountain for all he's worth before handing him over to 'Dornish justice'...and he wonders if Littlefinger has reached the Vale yet, a thought forming naturally out of this discussion as Littlefinger is the rightful owner of Harrenhal at the moment. Nice way to remind us of Littlefinger in this chapter even as Sansa is in the godswood. Well crafted. I'm a fan.



Joffrey wants them all put to the sword - meaning not just the Companions but also the riverlanders. He sounds like such a spoiled child here, "I want them killed, Grandfather." Illustrates the character so effectively with so few words. And he wants to have Robb's head served to Sansa at his wedding feast. Geez had my kids been this demanding...It is good to see that Kevan is shocked. At least someone showing how he feels about Joffrey the moron king. Cersei tries to smile and tell her uncle Joff was only making a joke, but Joffrey says that he means it. "I want his stupid head. I'm going to make Sansa kiss it." Great. You're such a nice little boy.
Tyrion clearly can't take it anymore, either. No, he says to Joffrey with a hoarse voice, telling him that Sansa is no longer his to torment. And then, and then, Tyrion calls his nephew a monster. Which he is, of course, but Tyrion is telling the fricking King of Westeros that he's a monster, to his face. That takes guts. Foolishly, he doesn't stop there, but gives his nephew a badly veiled threat. Of course, what I didn't realize the first time I read this was that Martin was carefully setting up Tyrion as a scapegoat here. Now, Cersei has heard Tyrion threatening Joffrey, and this of course will be used against him later. First time I was just so happy to see someone finally telling the violent murderous brat the truth to his face. In that regard, I was a bit surprised when we had Tyrion bitch-slap Joffrey as early as 1.2 in the TV show. But of course Joffrey wasn't the king back then. Cersei plunges straight into a tirade, trying to make her father see how vicious Tyrion is for berating her son. Fortunately Tywin won't listen, and we end up with Joffrey looking sullen and sulky, but then he draws himself up and says, "You talk about Aerys, Grandfather, but you were scared of him." Things are getting interesting, Tyrion observes. Lannisters in the same room is almost always interesting, I say. They are just sitting around a table talking, but it comes oh so alive, sparks flying. They are the most interesting characters in many ways and putting them together like this, it's solid entertainment even as Martin advances the plot little by little. Cersei tells Joffrey to apologize to Tywin (she obviously has more respect for her father then), but Joffrey rants on, boasting about how "his father" (that would be Robert Baratheon he's talking about) killed Rhaegar while Tywin was hiding under Casterly Rock. Tywin thanks him for the wisdom, with "a courtesy so cold it was like to freeze their ears off". That's funny. Tywin tells his brother Kevan to get Joffrey to bed, and Pycelle to give Joffrey some dreamwine. Also funny, and was even funnier in the TV show. The king of Westeros is sent to bed. Still, it must feel strange to these people to hear this young boy demanding death and destruction as if he is begging for new expensive  toys for Christmas.

When Joffrey is escorted out of the solar, the discussion continues. Tywin wonders who taught Joffrey to talk like that, and Cersei suggests it might have been Robert, but reading between the lines I have a feeling it's Cersei herself who's been trying to raise her son but has obviously failed in that department (and most likely she was thinking of Ser Jaime when she spoke about honor and fighting and all that yadayada). Tyrion actually helps her, saying the part about hiding under the Rock sounds a lot like something Robert would say, she eagerly grabs onto it, further suggesting she was the one telling Joffrey stuff like that. Brilliant. Tywin dismisses his daughter as well, and she leaves, seething. Yeah, they are both pretty useless, Lord Tywin. Your best card is actually Tyrion, if you can only get over the fact he's a dwarf. Come on!

When she has left, Tyrion congratulates his father and he wonders how long Tywin and Walder have been plotting the Red Wedding. Tywin tells him he mislikes the word ("plotting", that is), to which Tyrion replies that he dislikes being left in the dark (which is a lovely, subtle foreshadowing if you will - he's ending up in a dark cell, after all, and not only that, but being left in a pretty dark rough spot in his life as well); Tywin tells him there was no reason to tell him, simple as that. He learns that Cersei wasn't told, either, which I suppose could be some kind of consolation. Tywin then admits that Tyrion does have a certain cunning, but that his problem is he talks too much. Which might well be true. The talk turns to Prince Oberyn, and Tywin tells Tyrion he's been thinking on how to best appease the Dornish. We are given more info on the more important Dornish character, Doran Martell, who Tywin describes as "cautious, reasoned, subtle, deliberate and indolent". Which perfectly summarizes the Doran we meet in A Feast for Crows, no? More exposition on the Dornish, but it's in short bursts and so interest is sustained: Oberyn is half-mad and has tried to raise Dorne for Viserys Targaryen (oh the foreshadowing of the Martell-Targaryen connection!).Tyrion says Oberyn is growing more and more impatient, before coming with another droll remark that has me chuckling: "Never let it be said that House Lannister blew its trumpets and I did not respond." Tyrion suggests taking Oberyn on a tour of King's Landing's brothels, and that he is the perfect tool for such a task, in other words, he's stabbing at his father for having such a hate for whores and, in particular, Tyrion's indulgences with whores. 

Tywin reveals that he's not going to give Ser Gregor to Prince Oberyn, which surprises Tyrion. Tywin explains that Gregor is much to useful for him, being the terror that he is, so he means to keep Gregor well away from King's Landing while Oberyn's around. He also says that Oberyn doesn't really know that Gregor was the one who murdered his sister and her children. Tywin will tell Oberyn that it was Ser Amory Lorch who did the foul deed instead. Tyrion reminds his father that Lorch is dead, which of course, is part of the plan. That way, Tywin doesn't have to lose anyway to Oberyn. We learn that it was Lorch who brought Tywin the "girl's body", she had hidden under her father's bed, as if Rhaegar could still protect her. Princess Elia, however, along with the son - that would be Aegon - were on the floor below. So here we get our first closer look at this gruesome event, and it seems then indeed, that there is some leeway for the babe Aegon to still be alive. The first hint is here, in the fact he was separate from his sister. More clues to follow. Tyrion is skeptical, which leads into Tywin telling us a lot more about the events surrounding Robert's usurpation of the Iron Throne and the murder of Princess Elia and her children. It's kind of lovely how it comes to us through a character's memories, which may be distorted. It becomes almost mythic, in a sense. What really happened? The way he describes Lorch's actions during this event leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I wonder if Martin is taking his violence too far again. I mean, come on. Sickening. It happened back in the day, yes, but... raping and stabbing a two-three year old girl fifty times, I don't think the story's stronger for spelling it out. Sometimes, a suggestion is more than enough. We also learn that Walder had meant to keep Catelyn captive, which is kind of sad to know. Still, vengeance can be served icy cold. We see a lot of what makes Tywin tick when he says that the blood is on Walder's hands and not his. While Tyrion clearly sees that Tywin bears the blame, Tywin shrugs it off, places it on the lord of the Crossing instead. 

Tywin reveals the price he had to pay for the Red Wedding, and he's pleased it wasn't too much, showing us how he values human life in gold and agreements: Riverrun shall be given to Ser Emmon Frey once the Blackfish yields; Lancel and Daven Lannister must marry Frey girls; Joy Lannister is to wed a Frey heir; and Roose Bolton becomes Warden of the North "and takes home Arya Stark." This last bit of course surprises Tyrion. Tywin does not spell it out, but from the text we can assume they will be using someone who perhaps looks like Arya. This way, Bolton is appeased as he has a Stark heir in his family, but Tywin, cold and calculating as he is, already has his own son - Tyrion - married to Lady Sansa, so the North will become part of the House Lannister holdings, not Bolton's. 

So ruthless and efficient at the game of thrones, it's a shame, a real bloody shame, for the unfolding story, that House Lannister will soon lay in shambles almost as much as House Stark, but that's the way the story goes, and Martin ultimately decided that eventually removing this player from the story was the right decision. Myself, I still feel Tywin would have been a welcome presence in books four and five, not that I like him as a human being, but he's a strong character. But, no matter how well crafted his plots have been so far, there is someone in the shadows crafting even stronger plots, and that is Littlefinger, as we'll soon realize. And have realized, in the TV show. I guess many viewers were shocked to hear he is behind basically everything. Tyrion remains human, though, when he acidly asks his father when he should take Sansa's maidenhead, before or after telling her they have murdered her brother and mother. 

And so ends the chapter! It's basically great characters discussing politics, but it is interesting throughout, with some subtext, some barbed dialogue, some exposition, and some explanations as to how the Red Wedding came about - it's all good. We have a vested interest in these characters - and the characters they discuss, such as the Starks - and though this chapter ties up some threads for us, there's still much to look ahead for. Betrayal and murder, medieval realpolitik, and Tyrion in the midst of it all, the most human of the Lannisters, and the most reviled. House Stark seems crushed, and House Lannister might seem to be at the top of the game, but the chapter is giving us more than enough hints that all is not well; in fact, most things are not well; the king is an idiot, his mother isn't much better, Ser Jaime has lost his hand, Tywin has no empathy, the Tyrells and the Dornish are at each others' throats...if I'm not mistaken, this is at a point in the story where the tangled webs of Westeros politics and warfare are at their most complex, and to navigate it all requires a mastermind (like Littlefinger or Tywin); hence I love how the chapter shows us Tyrion struggling with Littlefinger's manipulation of money, telling us that Tyrion isn't able to see the whole picture, which later Tywin reminds us when he has to explain his son the Red Wedding plot. Nice through-line. 

Next up: Review of 4.6: The Laws of God and Men, and then Davos V!

2 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite chapters in the entire series. Seeing the Lannister clan interact like this was fun to read. Watching Tywin see Joffrey's douchebaggery first hand is awesome.

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  2. TOTH says Joy isn't Lannister but Hill. Also the chapter said she was a bastard, and as a result she's to marry a Frey bastard.

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