Tyrion Lannister doesn’t get enough respect. That’s a common theme on Game of Thrones, but it’s also true among Game of Thrones viewers — even among his biggest fans.
Sure, we remember the Imp’s greatest hits, partly because the sprawling show itself keeps reminding us. He saved King’s Landing at the battle of the Blackwater; he killed his father with a crossbow; he escaped all the way to Essos to become Daenerys Targaryen’s chief advisor.
But do you remember half of the impact he actually had along the way? Do you recall, for example, that time he saved Jon Snow’s life? Probably not — I had forgotten the low-key incident until I rewatched it and I’m paid to remember these things.
Furthermore, do you realize that if we ever saw a parallel universe Westeros where he’d never existed, It’s a Wonderful Life-style, Bran wouldn’t be the Three-Eyed Raven and a Baratheon would almost certainly sit on the Iron Throne? When you rewatch the series with the benefit of hindsight, you start to notice a lot more that the Imp is responsible for, directly or indirectly.
More than any other character on the show, the world revolves around Tyrion — so much so that a study of Game of Thrones published last year named him the sole protagonist of the series, using data analysis. We’d never really rated the Imp in our power rankings before. But now that he has broached the subject of elected succession with Daenerys, it’s entirely possible she will turn around and bequeath the throne to him.
Some kind of Tyrion-centric ending makes sense. Not only is he George R.R. Martin’s favorite character, he has been at the center of everything all along. Here’s what you might have missed:
He saved Jon Snow — and Castle Black
In Season 1 Episode 3, “Lord Snow”, Jon Snow is assaulted by fellow Night’s Watch recruits who don’t like his high-falutin’ Winterfell ways. This scene happens so fast, you barely notice — indeed, it doesn’t rate a mention on HBO’s official synopsis of the episode in question.
But when you watch it again, there’s no doubt of the threat: Instantly, there is a knife to Jon’s throat, and it means business. These thieves and murderers are not yet his friends; Sam hasn’t even been introduced yet, and there’s certainly no Red Woman to bring him back from the dead.
There’s only Tyrion, who traveled with Jon because he wanted to piss from the top of the Wall. He walks in and defuses the situation instantly by recounting exactly why every one of those hoodlums was at the wall.
Not only does this scene literally save Jon’s life, it gives him friends at the Wall for the first time. Here is the true beginning of his rapid ascent to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and then King in the North — and it’s all Tyrion’s doing.
He made Bran mobile, which saved (and changed) his life
In the next episode, “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” Tyrion travels from the Wall back to Winterfell — where Bran has become a cripple for life after his fall from the tower — to pay his respects.
Depsite being the prime suspect in the attack, Tyrion casually hands over plans for a saddle Bran can use to ride. Because that’s just the kind of thing the coolest protagonist in Westeros does.
A few episodes later, using that saddle, Bran has an encounter with some wildlings. That’s how he meets Osha, who a season later is crucial in getting Bran out of Winterfell after Theon invades. (Oh, and Tyrion may have precipitated that too, by mocking the Iron Islanders’ history of failed invasions to Theon’s face.)
Without Osha — and hence without Tyrion — Bran never would have started his journey beyond the Wall, which led to him becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, which in turn lead to the death of Littlefinger, the man who had tried to frame Tyrion for the attempted murder of Bran with his knife.
You see the thing about this story? It all flows from Tyrion, and it all comes back to his enemies in time. One by one they drop, and he’s still going strong.
He started a war by walking into a tavern
Let’s face it, Tyrion could have been a bit more careful when he blundered into the same Northern tavern in which Catelyn Stark was sitting. He knew the Starks were out for his blood — but at this point he was still the old entitled Tyrion, entirely sure his gold could get him out of anything.
And he wasn’t wrong; the promise of Lannister gold did get him out of his imprisonment and trial at the Eyrie. But his capture also happened to kickstart a little thing called the War of the Five Kings, after Jaime killed a bunch of Stark men as a way to demand his brother back.
He pretty much killed Ros
Some of you kids may not remember Ros; she was the cheeky, cheery Winterfell sex worker who never appears in the books and was invented by the show. After seeing Tyrion on his way back to King’s Landing, Ros suddenly gets the urge to up and follow him, seeking her fortune down south and moving to Littlefinger’s brothel. Tyrion meets her there again, and procures her for Joffrey as a peace offering.
Big mistake; the sadistic young king has her killed via a crossbow. Thus foreshadowing Tyrion’s own killing of his father Tywin (and of his beloved Shae, a sex worker who ended up in Tywin’s bed) a few seasons later.
He saved Sansa
On the positive side of the ledger, Tyrion almost certainly saved Sansa’s life by preventing Joffrey from having her beaten. His later marriage to Sansa was a sham imposed by Tywin, but this too was keeping Sansa safe from that murderous sadist of a king.
He saved Joffrey and Tommen
Of the many times Tyrion saved the neck of his ungrateful nephew Joffrey, this is probably the most important: after seeing Myrcella off to Dorne at the docks of King’s Landing, the Lannister — er, Baratheon kids run into a revolt of hungry King’s Landing citizens who start to go a little 1789 on their aristocratic asses.
It would have been easy for Tyrion to let his tormentor die at the hands of the mob; instead, he was the quick-thinking one who spirited his family to safety. Just as he told Cersei in the Season 7 finale, Tyrion really loved those kids.
He actually saved King’s Landing twice
We remember the battle of the Blackwater as a fiery attack on Stannis Baratheon’s fleet, masterminded by Tyrion. Less well remembered are the siege engines Stannis was planning to use on King’s Landing from the other side. But yes, Tyrion led a raid to smash those up too. Is there anything he can’t do?
He screwed up Dany’s entire invasion of Westeros
Apparently he can’t successfully plan a war. Sorry, Tyrion, but now the dust has settled on Season 7 it has to be said that the long-awaited attack on Westeros from Dany’s combined Dothraki, Unsullied, Dornish and Tyrell land, sea and air forces left a little to be desired. D-Day this wasn’t.
Sure, a lot of Lannister soldiers burned. But Tyrion’s grand strategy of taking Casterly Rock by sea got his Dornish and Tyrell allies killed almost instantly. There’s some kind of twisted irony in the fact that Olenna Tyrell messed up Tyrion’s life by killing Joffrey, for whose death Tyrion was framed, and now she gets her karmaic payback once she’s his ally.
It’s Thrones, after all; it’s a twisty show. And we may yet experience the greatest Tyrion twist of all: Dany instituting elected successors as her Hand requested, and nominating him as the candidate.