[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Tyrion II


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Tyrion shares wine with Lord Janos, whom he has gotten quite drunk. Lord Janos had given Tyrion a list of six men to replace him as head of the City Watch and now tells Tyrion that Allar Deem would be the best man for the job. Tyrion says he was considering Ser Jacelyn Bywater, the commander of the Mud Gate for the last three years who was knighted for valor by King Robert during Greyjoy’s Rebellion. He is not on the list because Janos thinks him too rigid and honorable and because he is a cripple who lost a hand at Pyke, the reason for his knighthood. Tyrion points out that Allar is not well liked and asks about an incident in a brothel. Apparently, Allar was sent to kill a baby at a brothel and ended up killing the mother too when she resisted. Tyrion asks who gave the order, but Janos will not tell. Tyrion next turns to the subject of Eddard and how he ended up being executed, and Janos says he had to obey the king. Tyrion insults him and tells him that his eldest son will be Lord Slynt now and will be given lands some place on which to build a keep, with Harrenhal going to someone else. His other two sons will be fostered out as squires. Tyrion then informs Janos that he will be sailing on the Summer’s Dream in the morning, bound for Eastwatch and the Night’s Watch. Janos walks out defiantly, only to be confronted by Ser Jacelyn, the new Commander of the City Watch. Ser Jacelyn has Lord Janos escorted away, and Tyrion gives him the list containing the names of the six people Janos recommended to replace him as Commander and tells Jacelyn to ship them north too. He says that Allar should be lost at sea.

Varys enters; he and Tyrion had planned this together, and Ser Jacelyn was Varys’ recommendation for the new City Watch Commander. Tyrion rounds on Varys angrily for not telling him that Cersei ordered the baby killed, as she is the only logical person that would have done so. She did it because the baby was Robert’s. He is also annoyed that Varys did not prevent it, and Varys says that he got another boy out of the city. Varys mentions that the girl’s mother still dearly loved Robert, but Tyrion thinks of Tysha and Shae and wonders if a whore can truly love anyone. He has set Shae up in a manse, but she is restive. She says she wants to see him more, but she seems more interested in being at court.

Varys and Tyrion go over other tidbits that Varys has learned. The captain of the White Hart plans to defect to Stannis, and Ser Horas and Ser Hobber have bribed a guard to get them out of the castle and then set sail on a Pentoshi ship called Moonrunner. The City Watch will deal with them both. Timett killed the son of a wineseller just that evening for cheating as well. There are also many prophets in the streets preaching about the comet. Finally, Ser Balon made a joke about the proliferation of kings at a dinner party held by Lady Tanda, but Tyrion is not interested in punishing treasonable table talk. After Varys leaves, Tyrion ponders how Cersei will respond to his actions, but he is confident that he is well protected now that he controls the City Watch along with his clansmen and a growing force of sellswords Bronn is recruiting. Bronn himself arrives and reports on his recruiting. He questions each candidate to learn where they fought and how well they lie and then has a sparring match with them. Still feeling disgusted by the murder of Robert’s bastard, Tyrion asks Bronn if he would kill a baby without question. Bronn replies that he would not; he would ask how much first.

Source

Commentary:

I don’t really have the words to describe just how much I love this chapter. Beyond the obvious entertainment value of watching Tyrion verbally bitch-slap Janos Slynt around, I also really enjoy watching Tyrion in his element and showing us just how well he fits in with the King’s Landing political environment, unfortunate though that might be. The chapter is divided into two parts though – the first half focusing on Tyrion taking Janos Slynt out while the second half centres on Varys own observations about the kind of Hand Tyrion is.

“I’m pleased you think so . . . but I’m not a lord, as you are.”

I would have thought that Tyrion, as Hand of the King, would have been granted at least an honorary lordship. In fact, I feel like most people treat him like a lord anyway though that probably has a lot more to do with his father than with any respect they may have for Tyrion himself. I didn’t quote it but Slynt tries very hard to act like a lord, whether it’s commenting on the quality of the wine, using ‘fancy’ words and so on. It’s amusing but I think there’s also a point to be made about the lack of real upward mobility in the Westeros class structure. It’s not totally absent, but it is rare though I think what backfires against Janos is how high he rose and how fast. I think it’s a sign of just how unlikeable Janos Slynt is that I find myself actually celebrating an instance of a former member of a suppressed class (Slynt is a commoner, if you recall) being dragged back down to his station. I don’t really have a point to make but consider the odd contrast between Janos and Davos – both Flea Bottom boys, yet their rise to/fall from their stations reflects more on those who raised them than themselves. We cheer Tyrion tearing Slynt apart and Stannis’ decision to raise Davos to Hand is one of the few things that Stannis has going for him in the likability department. Again, I don’t have a real point about this, but I think it’s a cool parallel (if that’s the right word).

“He warned her to stand aside and let him do his duty.”

Ah, I had forgotten this happened. Now, I’m angry all over again. At least this particular asshole gets his by the chapter’s end, but I don’t think it’s enough.

“I mislike the tone of your voice, my lo—Imp.”

I’ve left most of Tyrion’s verbal skewering out since most of my reactions just consist of going ‘Burn!’ or ‘#rekt’ but the above is especially funny to me. Slynt hasn’t been lord long enough that insulting someone as highborn as Tyrion comes easily. The sentence is especially amusing if you consider that he’s snarling it in an angry voice.

“I am Tyrion of House Lannister, and someday, if you have the sense the gods gave a sea slug, you will drop to your knees in thanks that it was me you had to deal with, and not my lord father.”

This is actually a fair point. I’m not sure that Tywin wouldn’t have had the whole family summarily tossed into the ocean (not that that would be a terrible idea) and considered the whole thing an exercise in efficient human resource management.

“The storms come and go, the waves crash overhead, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling.”

I think this is another one of those lines that really capture the spirit of a character. Varys is just ubiquitously present throughout the reigns of so many Kings, Queens and Hands. Somehow, he is able to convince each of them that he is doing his job without any of them really questioning his allegiance and I just don’t get how he does it. I mean, sure he does because Martin lets him do it in that sense, but within the story I think the combination of his status as a foreigner (and thus unaffiliated with any house) and his being an eunuch (and thus, a harmless lesser being, according to the Westerosi) lets him get away with so much. It’s a lot like the way Littlefinger gets away with his numerous antics just because no one can imagine Littlefinger being a powermonger. It’d be like the secretary secretly running the business using the CEO as a puppet.

“I never dreamed the babe would be at risk.”

Yeah, in Varys defence, there is really no reason beyond spite to kill a newborn baby. Actually, even spite doesn’t quite cut it – it takes a special brand of sociopath to go after a defenceless baby yet we see it so often in this series. Robert went after Dany, ostensibly because of her unborn child but Cersei’s bloodlust is just annoying. It’s like she’s trying so hard to appear like she’s a badass and terrifying ruler but she just ends up appearing insane. The thing that really gets to me is that people like Allar Deem get tossed into the ocean like rubbish but the ones who give the orders continue without any real consequence, or rather the consequences get muted the further up the chain you go – Deem gets death, Slynt gets the wall and Cersei gets…nothing.

“Who truly killed Eddard Stark do you think? Joffrey, who gave the command? Ser Ilyn Payne, who swung the sword? Or…another?”

This is interesting. Who is Varys referring to here? My first instinct is to think Littlefinger. He was on the platform and he had every reason to want to see Ned dead but I don’t think it was ever confirmed. I wonder if we’ll get an answer sooner or later though it doesn’t really matter now.

“And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

Funnily enough, this is another line that could just as easily apply to Littlefinger. He is a small man in the sense that he was born with no power, no real house but has already begun to cast a very large shadow. In contrast, Tyrion has fought an uphill battle all his life, but his social station as a Lannister made that fight considerably easier than it would have been had he been in Littlefinger’s position.

“I am not interested in treasonous table talk, Lord Varys.”

Joffrey, on the other hand, is fascinated by treasonous table talk. I feel sorry for anyone that has to endure Joffrey’s justice on a good day. On a bad day, I’d rather face down a direwolf with my bare hands – actually, that might be exactly what Joffrey would order in any case.

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