Read: ‘Game of Thrones’ makes time for love before war
It’s the latest in a line of blunders. My colleague Chris Orr listed them in his Season 8 preview: “Tyrion hasn’t had a good idea in seasons now (truce with the slaver cities? sneak attack on Casterly Rock? let’s go snatch a zombie?).” Each of these wasn’t a mere dicey gamble whose upsides were mixed with downsides. They each backfired terribly, with consequences for his new queen, Daenerys, and the cause of liberation and world-saving she’s thought to represent. She’s lost soldiers, cities, and a dragon on his account.
He, in turn, has lost not only his cunning, but also his place within the show’s hierarchy of characters. In the first few seasons, Tyrion could nearly be thought of as the protagonist. He defended his life and his principles in the face of his family’s villainous plotting and the prejudices he faced for being born a dwarf. That arc saw him bonding with other underestimated sorts—Bran, Jon, Sansa—while trying to curb the excesses of the entitled Joffrey, Cersei, and Tywin. His family marked him for death; he took his horrible father’s life; he escaped by getting smuggled across the sea in a crate. But since bursting out of that box—seemingly a moment of final liberation from the Lannister yoke—he’s held an oddly diminished place on the show.
Part of the problem must be that he’s a mere adviser now, so he’s helping rather than driving action. That doesn’t explain why his advice is bad, though. Thrones has repeatedly showed that Tyrion’s instincts have been faltering, but it hasn’t offered up a theory for why. Maybe it’s been hinting at one, though: love.
In the Season 7 finale, Tyrion skulked outside the door while Daenerys and Jon consummated their love. It looked like he was jealous—and indeed, information in the official Game of Thrones scripts as well as an interview with the actor Peter Dinklage basically confirm that Tyrion has a crush on her. This crush might result in plot complications as Jon and Daenerys’s relationship and loyalties are tested in episodes to come. But perhaps it explains Tyrion’s general glumness so far in Season 8. On the ramparts of Winterfell, he, Davos, and Varys look down on Jon and Dany. Davos proposes that the two leaders should get married for the good of the realm. Tyrion has only this to offer: “They do make a handsome couple.”
If Tyrion is resentful of Jon and Dany, a comment like that one—about appearance—might indicate that it’s resentment tied to his status as physically different from others. Jon and Dany originally appealed to him as friends because they, too, were underdogs—a bastard and an exiled sex slave—who’d worked to transcend their lot. By now, the two of them are royalty, lovebirds, and dragon riders. Tyrion is on the sidelines, kvetching with two other advisory figures who, in their way, are phenotypically marginalized, too. Davos is an old man—much older than Tyrion, as Tyrion goes out of his way to point out. Varys is a eunuch (unlike Tyrion, as Tyrion, again, goes out of his way to point out).