There are spoilers in this post regarding the season eight premiere of Game of Thrones.
“I used to think you were the cleverest man alive,” Sansa Stark tells Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones’ season eight premiere, “Winterfell.” The line is easily the episode’s harshest burn, as Sansa senses that Tyrion has seemingly put his fate in the hands of Cersei Lannister — someone Sansa has had firsthand evil experiences with.
And Sansa’s right.
The scene follows Tyrion’s announcement to the lords and ladies of the North that his sister Cersei will bolster their forces with an army sent from King’s Landing. But everyone except Tyrion can plainly see that Cersei has no real intention of helping the Stark/Daenerys alliance fight the Night King and his Army of the Dead. Instead, Cersei will let the two forces bleed each other dry.
Vouching for his sister is just the latest blunder Tyrion has made, despite years of being touted as one of Game of Thrones’ smarter, savvier characters.
Tyrion has spent his whole life challenging the prejudices that others hold against him because he’s a dwarf. He’s had to be smarter and more charming than his swordsman brother, more cunning than his viper sister and awful father. And he’s used the skills he’s developed as a result to not only survive but become a trusted adviser to Daenerys Targaryen.
Tyrion is a character who has always known how to play the game.
But as we begin this final chapter of Game of Thrones, it seems like Tyrion has gone from player to pawn. His cunning has dulled. He’s made a few dire mistakes. And now he’s found himself stuck in a terrible situation.
Daenerys has never trusted Tyrion when it comes to his family
The problem with Tyrion’s insistence that Cersei is coming is that it’s put him in a lose-lose situation.
The nagging issue is that pretty much everyone except Daenerys, Jon, and their advisers seems to understand that Cersei isn’t coming (see: Sansa’s reaction of “and you believed her?”). And that’s even though the only person Cersei has told onscreen that she’s not coming is her brother Jaime.
Tyrion did have that one-on-one meeting with Cersei in the season seven finale, but it’s unclear what the resolution was. So all we know for certain is that Tyrion has insisted that Cersei’s army is marching North. We don’t know whether he truly believes it — though, as Sansa points out, anyone who has ever met Cersei should know not to.
However, whether Tyrion believes Cersei’s lie about sending troops is secondary to his lack of awareness that vouching for her will damage his relationship with Dany.
They’re already on shaky ground because of Tyrion’s strategic mistake in season seven to advise Dany to use the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock from his own family, a move that left Dany’s allies in other locations unguarded. The result was that Olenna Tyrell and her army were defeated by the Lannister army at Highgarden, while Yara Greyjoy’s fleet was attacked by her uncle (and Cersei lackey) Euron Greyjoy, leading to the Sand Snakes and their mother being killed.
Dany was irate:
“Your strategy has lost us Dorne, the Iron Islands, and the Reach,” she hissed at Tyrion at the time, cutting him off when he started to say something about underestimating their enemies.
“Our enemies?” Dany balked. “Your family, you mean. Perhaps you don’t want to hurt them after all.”
It was in that flash of anger that Game of Thrones revealed the core problem of Dany’s relationship with Tyrion: Deep down, she is concerned that he values his family more than her queendom. Instances like these suggest she isn’t confident that he will ever be loyal to her, that she believes he will never be able to choose her over his family — the same family that includes Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister who killed Aerys Targaryen, but also the same family that looked down on, betrayed, and sentenced him to death.
Tyrion’s loyalty to Dany, and the entire reason she made him her Hand, hinges on the resentment he feels toward his family outweighing his love for his family. And because she’s unsure of the resentment winning out, particularly when he does things like use caution against the Lannister army or advise her into military blunders, she never seems to fully trust him.
Now imagine the hellfire that Dany will spit when she finds out Cersei isn’t coming, and how much more caustic it will be if it’s ultimately revealed to Dany that Tyrion knew the whole time that his sister was playing them for fools. All it would take is Sansa muttering something about how Tyrion should know better than anyone that his sister is a liar to cast doubt on Tyrion’s loyalties.
And things will be even worse if Dany finds out that Cersei is pregnant — a possibility, since the trailer for the second episode of the season shows Dany interrogating Jaime, and Jaime knows his sister is pregnant. If that happens, it will seem like Tyrion is protecting an unborn Lannister heir instead of pledging his loyalty to his queen, no matter his true intent.
Tyrion may be vouching for Cersei to protect her baby
There might be an explanation for Tyrion’s behavior that was revealed last season.
In the season seven finale, “A Dragon and a Wolf,” Tyrion had a one-on-one meeting with Cersei that possibly explains his actions. After they argue with each other about being terrible siblings and about Daenerys, Cersei homes in on her children — Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella — and how Tyrion’s actions in killing their father indirectly led to Tommen and Myrcella’s demise.
“I’m more sorry about the children than you could ever know,” he tells her. “I loved them. You know I did. You know it in your heart if there’s anything left of it.”
He then figures out, thanks to Cersei not drinking and clutching her belly, that she’s pregnant. If what he said about Cersei’s children is a true and honest moment of regret and emotion, Tyrion continuing to believe and insist that Cersei will send help to Winterfell may mean he’s trying to protect the unborn Lannister heir in ways he didn’t with Joffrey, Myrcella, or Tommen. He doesn’t want this fourth Lannister child to meet the same fate as Cersei’s other children.
If Tyrion were to tell Sansa and Jon and Dany that Cersei’s forces aren’t coming, that would be a death sentence for Cersei and her unborn child, as Dany would deem her traitorous and probably send a dragon to King’s Landing. By vouching for her, risking treason, he at least gives Cersei a little bit of a buffer.
The crucial problem is that if he really is trying to protect his sister and her baby, he’s risking his life for someone who doesn’t feel the same way about him. Cersei, as we learned in the season eight premiere, has now promised to pay Bronn a hefty sum to kill both of her brothers in the event they survive the Night King’s impending siege on Winterfell. Whether Bronn can actually go through with killing his friends remains to be seen, but Cersei wants Tyrion dead — assuming Dany doesn’t kill him first.