By Josiah Wampfler
SPOILERS AHEAD. BEWARE
Season Seven of Game of Thrones came to an end this Sunday with the season finale of the penultimate season: “The Dragon and the Wolf.” It ended a season that has been divisive, worrying, but nevertheless thrilling. So much has happened this season as the show moved from plot point to plot point at a break-neck speed uncharacteristic of the show up until this point. It is this that has caused many to question the writers’ decisions and to worry about their ability to give fans a fitting and satisfying ending next season. And though I was in that camp, worried about the future of the series, this season finale restored my hope for the final season. “The Dragon and the Wolf” managed to not only be one of the best season finales of the entire series, but it actually ended up fixing some of the problems I had with the last couple episodes by burrowing down into what Game of Thrones is all about: Characters.
If you paid any attention to the online chatter surrounding the show, the biggest problem fans had with episodes five and six was Tyrion’s plan. In short, Tyrion suggested that Jon Snow and his merry band of misfits should travel north beyond The Wall to capture a wight. They would then request a meeting with Cersei to show her that the threat of the White Walkers is real and the hope was that Cersei would then agree that they needed to call a truce and join together to defeat the Army of the Dead.
The issue with the plan I will not debate and thought from the beginning was a major issue for the show was the execution of the plan. The show went for fan service and drama over believable character motivation and logic. A plot point they obviously needed to hit was the death of Viserion and his resurrection as a Wight Dragon. But they went about it in the most convoluted and silly way. The show broke credulity with the timeline (there is no way Deaenerys could recieve a raven and fly hundreds of miles north in the amount of time she did), it put characters in needless danger yet almost all got out far too easily, and they made several characters (*cough* Jon *cough*) make horribly stupid decisions just to increase the drama of the episode. It was manufactured and it was Game of Thrones at its worst, this I will not debate.
What I will debate is those contending that Tyrion’s plan was poor writing on the part of the show runners and the way it played out was unbelievable.
The criticism is that the plan is far too dumb to come from Tyrion. Over these last seven seasons, we have come to know Tyrion as a very smart man and a skilled tactician. We’ve seen him brilliantly defend King’s Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater and become Hand of the King to Daenerys due to his wits. Some are saying that it is ludicrous that Tyrion would believe that his sister would agree to a truce and help them fight the White Walkers. He knows that she is a backstabbing, duplicitous woman who will do anything to advance her and her family’s status and power at the expense of any others. He should then know that any kind of truce with her is not to be trusted and she likely wouldn’t even agree to one because she is far too stubborn.
Tyrion does know all of this. He even tells Daenerys in episode six that she is likely thinking of a trap she can lay for them. Yet, he proposes the plan anyway. Why?
The finale confirmed that our instincts about Cersei were correct. Though she initially seems to agree to a truce and pledges her forces to help fight the White Walkers, we later learn she was never planning on following through. She is planning to betray her word, just as we had thought she would do. So that means that the plan was doomed to begin with and, on face value, it seems like poor writing. Isn’t Tyrion far too smart to completely overlook this obvious possibility?
I don’t believe it is poor writing at all. I think that we as an audience have simply been reading it wrong this entire time.
Over the last two episodes, Tyrion has done a pretty good job in explaining the reasoning behind the plan. He knew that, if the war went on, Daenerys was more likely to succumb to her worst impulses and thousands of people would likely die in the process, including his brother and sister. Tyrion, at his core, really does want to make the world a better place. He truly wants peace and has always been striving toward that goal, even while waging war. And despite what his family has done to him, we see that he has a soft spot for them. Even Cersei. It is not a flaw in the show that Tyrion came up with a doomed plan. It is a flaw in Tyrion. This is one of those instances where we as an audience can only watch as a character makes a bad decision. The plan was always foolish to some degree, but it reveals a huge deal about Tyrion’s character, and that is the point.
Tyrion doesn’t fully account for the possibility that Cersei will betray him because he doesn’t truly believe she will. He refuses to believe that even she is truly evil. He refuses to believe that there is no good left in her. And he refuses to let her be killed because of her ego and stupidity. For all of his negativity throughout the show, Tyrion, at his core, is an optimist. And that can be a major flaw for him at times and it can make him vulnerable.
So, even though I was initially one of the haters saying that Tyrion’s plan was another example of the poor writing this season, I have since changed my tune. I reject the notion that the plan does not make sense with Tyrion’s character because I think, like Tyrion, we are not accounting for something. We have at times overestimated Tyrion. We have put him on a pedestal I don’t know if any character can truly live up to. He is smart, but he has flaws. His complex emotions surrounding his family are one of those flaws making him vulnerable. Rather than this being a stumbling block for the show this season, I think this has actually brought us back to what Game of Thrones does best: narrative flowing from character and revealing character in the process. If the show continues to follow that recipe into next season, we will have one hell of a final chapter.