Game of Thrones, Season 3

Tywin Lannister’s Epic Rant Shows What a Small Man He Is
Talking television.
April 3 2013 7:30 AM

Game of Thrones, Season 3

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

A Lannister always pays his debts. Unless he owes Tyrion Lannister.

In Season 2 of Game of Thrones, Varys told Tyrion Lannister, upon his return to King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King in his father’s stead, that “Even a small man can cast a very large shadow.” We learned in the Season 3 premiere that the opposite can also be true. In an episode full of subtext about honor and power—which are often mutually exclusive in Westeros—the great and powerful Tywin Lannister revealed just how small and petty a man he really is.

Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

In case you didn’t undertake a marathon refresher of Season 2: Tyrion organized the defense of King’s Landing, sinking most of Stannis Baratheon’s fleet into Blackwater Bay with the help of the alchemists’ wildfire, and then went out beyond the safety of the castle walls for a little hand-to-hand combat. (Joffrey, meanwhile, chickened out.) Of course, Tywin teamed up with the Tyrells and Renly Baratheon’s former army at the last minute to win the battle, but there would have been no King’s Landing left for him to save if not for Tyrion. Tyrion’s reward? An assassination attempt and a dingy room.

Probably figuring he has nothing to lose, Tyrion visits his father seeking a little gratitude and, oh, while he’s at it, Casterly Rock, the family’s castle. Tywin is, shall we say, less than amused. So little so that he launches a rant so epic that he doesn’t even notice that he’s contradicting himself. First, he dismisses Tyrion’s plea for recognition by telling him, “Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister.” But it turns out Tyrion isn’t really a Lannister once he demands the old family homestead. “Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine. … Neither gods nor men will ever compel me to let you turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse.”

Ah yes, Tyrion’s greatest flaw—well, besides the fact he “killed his mother” in childbirth (digression: This is a world where people remarry within days or weeks to forge new alliances. Must we really be that hung up on poor Mrs. Lannister?)—is that he pays for sex and hangs out with sellswords. Never mind that just down the hall, on the Iron Throne, sits Tywin’s grandson Joffrey, an actual “spiteful little creature” who is the product of incest, who started a war with the rash decision to behead Ned Stark, and whose ex-fiancee lives in fear of him raping her. It’s Tyrion who dishonors the family name.

Advertisement

What’s odd about all this is that Tywin is most often levelheaded, and even pragmatic. Last season, he put a stop to his men killing prisoners at Harrenhal in order to put them to work. And he quickly deduced that the young girl who’d he’d chosen as his cupbearer was tough and clever and worthy of his respect (though fortunately he never quite figured out she was Arya Stark). So his inability to see past Tyrion’s physical deformities and minor weaknesses says more about him than it does Tyrion.

“A Lannister always pays his debts.” Unless, that is, the debt is owed to another Lannister. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 21 2014 11:27 AM There Is Now a Real-life Hoverboard You Can Preorder for $10,000
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 21 2014 12:40 PM Asamkirche: The Rococo Church Where Death Hides in Plain Sight
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.