Character Analysis, Game of Thrones, The Mind of a Character

Tyrion Lannister: Why He Worked and How the Show Ruined Him

A lot of people point the finger at season eight for ruining Game of Thrones. Rightfully so; that season was legitimately one of the worst pieces of television ever released. It managed to bury practically every plotline and every character. All of the hate it gets is very well deserved.

One of the largest complaints is in regard to a fan-favorite character: Tyrion Lannister. Ever since the first season, people have loved Tyrion. Fuck, even George R.R. Martin often says that the dwarf is his favorite character! Of all the characters butchered in season eight, Tyrion was often sighted as the worst.

Which I found strange. Because he was ruined well before season eight happened.

First, let’s take a look at why people loved Tyrion to begin with. Essentially, Tyrion is the perfect example of what it takes to survive in the world of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. He isn’t tall or brave or strong. Rather, he’s clever and cunning. He gets by through knowing how people think and knowing how to manipulate them or out maneuver them for his own benefit.

Not that he’s perfect. While he is the perfect example of how to survive in this world, he still has a host of issues in his life. He’s a tiny, hideous dwarf that everyone in his family (except for Jaime) hates with a loathing simply because he is who he is. Which is a problem, because Tyrion desperately wants love. And the one time he got it, after he married Tysha, his father revealed his wife was a whore and had her raped by all of his guards… and then forced Tyrion to do the same.

So, Tyrion is a kind character with a dark edge to him. He has a soft spot for dwarves, bastards, and broken things. But he still acts a Lannister; he enacts his vengeance, petty or otherwise, on those who have wronged him or those he doesn’t like, at least in the books. In the show, his kinder and more noble side is given more focus. But in the books, there is a stronger balance between his light and dark sides.

Over time, Tyrion’s life gradually gets worse. His political machinations backfire on him, his family members betray him, and all of Westeros turns on him. Ultimately, he is forced to either escape his homeland or be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Luckily, his brother Jaime comes to his aide.

Unfortunately, the goodwill between Tyrion and Jaime is short-lived. Which is where we get to the point where the show ruined the character of Tyrion Lannister.

See, in the show, Tyrion and Jaime part in goodwill. But in the books, without major spoilers, Jaime reveals a secret he’s been keeping from Tyrion. One that deeply hurts Tyrion and changes him deeply for the worse. It is here, in this moment, that book Tyrion and show Tyrion become very, very different characters.

Show Tyrion is more or less the same character in the following seasons. He’s still charming and clever and kind. There’s a bit of tragedy to him now, but it’s in a noble way. The show very much wanted Tyrion to be the good guy.

But book Tyrion very much is not the good guy.

Book Tyrion becomes a very spiteful, even sinister, figure after that revelation. He dedicates himself almost entirely to his revenge upon Westeros and his family. He’ll fuck with people and manipulate them into making terrible decisions for no reason other than the fact that he can. Yet at the same time, it’s clear he isn’t entirely lost. Some semblance of his inner kindness still remains, even if it’s small and often buried beneath his rage and betrayal.

So, why is it so bad that the show dropped this aspect of Tyrion? Why can’t the show do its own thing? Well, simply because the show does nothing with its version of the character. Show Tyrion has no substantial arc; he just goes back to being who he was, only in a different place with different people surrounding him.

Meanwhile, book Tyrion’s arc is still loaded with potential. Will he conquer his inner turmoil and become a good man? Or will he embrace it entirely and bring chaos and destruction? Will he do one or the other, or maybe one and then the other? How will his new, darker attitude and actions effect those he interacts with? His attitude change makes for so many interesting plot developments!

That, and book Tyrion is still allowed to be smart. After season four, Tyrion gradually stops being a genius and slowly becomes a slow-witted moron who just makes cock jokes. But book Tyrion takes his signature wits and political genius and uses them for more sinister purposes. Which, again, make for some incredible twists and turns to the story.

Most of the cast were ruined by the end of the show. Everyone can agree on that. But I find it interesting that Tyrion, the fan-favorite character, was actually ruined well before the show completely fell apart. His degradation was slow, but inevitable. Like watching a banana slowly turn black.

Only you can’t make banana bread out of it. Or… the writers just didn’t want to make banana bread out of it?

This metaphor has gotten out of hand.

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