One of the best television shows of all time went out with a fizzle this week, and not least for its main characters who almost all failed to achieve the dreams they wanted.
But one particular individual miraculously sailed through the Game of Thrones finale, after appearing doomed to a certain death, to take the power back.
No, we’re not talking about Bran the Broken, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and the Protector of the Realm. We’re talking about the man who gave him that slightly offensive mouthful of a title.
Tyrion Lannister has had a disastrous season.
Despite his reputation for intelligence and wit, he wrongly trusted Daenerys Targaryen would be a decent ruler, with catastrophic results. “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive,” ex-wife Sansa Stark told him. Didn’t we all?
He betrayed Varys, the person who saw Dany’s genocidal personality transplant coming and was trying to poison her and save the innocents of King’s Landing — as well as us innocent viewers — a traumatic end.
He betrayed the Mother of Dragons and freed his brother Jaime to save their sister Cersei, a plan that killed them both and landed Tyrion in prison.
But even from there, he wasn’t done spoiling things for people, insisting Jon Snow kill his aunt/love interest, which banished the former hero back to the Night’s Watch. “Sometimes duty is the death of love,” he tells poor Jon.
Essentially, Tyrion ruined everything for everyone. But incredibly, standing before a group of the highest nobility in the land in shackles, he persuaded them to listen to him again.
He insists Three-Eyed Raven Bran is the logical ruler, as the all-knowing keeper of everyone’s stories — although it sounds like former boozehound Tyrion’s the one who’s good at spinning a yarn here.
No one is happy, so everyone quickly accepts.
“How does this affect Dorne, the Iron Isles, the Reach, the Vale, the Westlands?” asked online opinion website Vox. “Who cares! Tyrion is good at speechifying …the scene is all about Tyrion — who, as he admitted earlier in the episode, has been spectacularly wrong about everything for seasons now — persuading everyone to do what he says just because he said so.”
Jon, the rightful heir as the last remaining Targaryen, is exiled. Newly kick-ass Sansa gets the consolation prize of an independent north. Samwell Tarly is laughed out of town for suggesting the possibility of democracy.
Tyrion succeeds, according to Slate, in selling an “aristocratic coup as a glorious revolution” in his “greatest rhetorical gambit” yet.
Even better, since the chief meddler is terribly down about his mistakes, Bran decides to cheer him up by reinstating him as Hand of the King, to sort everything out.
When he previously held the position under King Joffrey, Tyrion was “hand of an absentee king and the de facto ruler of Westeros, checked only by his relatives”. Now he’s in the same position, and checked only by a group of friends.
Bran makes this clear when he pops into a meeting about the future of the six kingdoms and encourages Tyrion to get on with it while he searches for missing Drogon.
“Everything of major consequence that happened in ‘The Iron Throne’ occurred because of Tyrion’s actions,” observed Vulture. “Was it a little weird that a prisoner was suddenly given the floor and allowed to dictate who would rule most of Westeros? Yeah. But it also made a sad sort of sense.”
The Lannister most despised by his father has won the day. In a late scene with Sam, he pouts as he realises he’s not featured in A Song of Ice and Fire, and Varys was right when he warned: “The history books will not write about you.”
But Tyrion has something even better: the best position possible and the freedom to revel in how he “once brought a honeycomb into a brothel”.
This is someone who’s always been directing from the sidelines — and making plenty of errors along the way — and he’s still respected.
Maybe he was the cleverest man, after all.