George R.R. Martin

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: “Game of Thrones” spoilers below. 

The incendiary fourth season of “Game of Thrones” is on the horizon. What better way to celebrate its return than to take a step back from the clash of the Seven Kingdoms and look at one of its most diabolically deadly denizens, Tywin Lannister.

In a mere three seasons, Tywin has mocked his dwarf son for existing, forced that same son to wed the 14-year-old Sansa Stark and instigated the brutal murders of Robb and Catelyn Stark, two of the show’s most admired characters. The Lord of Casterly Rock, with his thinning blonde locks and fiery temper, has done little to earn sympathy.

So why is it that one of George R.R. Martin’s most hateable characters is also one of his most likable? Of all the characters in “Game of Thrones,” Tywin is the only one who knows exactly what he wants and knows exactly how to get it. His deft manipulation of every character he comes across, family members and rivals alike, is uncanny. His cunning shows not only why the Lannisters seem to win at everything, but why they deserve to win at everything. 

Another oddity to consider is Tywin’s rocky relationship with Tyrion Lannister. Despite their often inflammatory differences, these two lions are more alike than the rest of their pride. Both are leaders who share a genuine pride for their family. They each have a sense of mercy and a capacity for kindness. Consider the chillingly genial dialogues between Tywin and a clandestine Arya in season two, in which he displayed genuine charm and mercy. 

Tyrion and Tywin’s personal war of attrition is motivated by their similitude. Both see their flaws and weaknesses in the other. And for a man like Tywin, weakness is the ultimate
embarrassment. Tywin is willing to go to any length to continue House Lannister’s dominion even if that means destroying an entire family in the process. His motivations are not personal, but generational, displaying a twisted but iron-cast sense of familial preservation that is so uncharacteristic of the traditional fantasy villain. Consider his justification for the atrocities committed at the Red Wedding when he says, “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men at battle than a dozen at dinner.” 

Charles Dance brings Martin’s diabolically proud papa to life. His presence is always colossal, largely because of his commanding baritone and brooding enunciation of nearly every line of dialogue he is given. His adversarial wars of words with Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion are among the best the show has to offer. 

Regardless of the bloodbaths to come, expect Tywin to raise the sigul of Lannister proudly. Raise your flagon of mead to the old gods, the new and Stannis’ freaky fire god, and get ready for what is going to be Tywin’s best season yet. 

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen is one of the many competitors in the Game of Thrones. Photo courtesy of Keith Bernstein.

The first two seasons of HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels included incestuous twins, pushing children out of windows, beheadings and terrifying ornithology. A recap of where we left off in each of the Seven Kingdoms is essential. Spoilers ahead for all who do not live and die under “Game of Thrones.”

King’s Landing
Stannis Baratheon’s army stormed King’s Landing. Tyrion Lannister’s clever use of “wildfire” kept much of the forces at bay, but a large portion of the fleet made it to shore, where cowardly King Joffrey fled to the safety of the throne room. When all hope seemed lost, Tywin Lannister and the remaining Tyrell forces galloped into King’s Landing and fought off Stannis Baratheon’s army, and the Battle of the Blackwater was won.

After sustaining major injuries, Tyrion woke to discover that he had been replaced by Tywin as the Hand of the King. As a repayment to House Tyrell for saving King’s Landing, King Joffrey agreed to marry Margaery Tyrell, therefore freeing Sansa Stark from their abusive engagement. Sansa was thrilled, but Littlefinger warned her that she would likely still be bound under Joffrey’s terror. 

Winterfell
Theon Greyjoy took control of Winterfell, and the little lords Bran and Rickon Stark are still on the run. Osha and Hodor snuck the boys to the Wall for safety. Five hundred of Stark’s bannermen surrounded the castle, prepared to take back Winterfell. Theon attempted to rally his troops but ended up embarrassing himself. His first mate knocked him unconscious just to end the madness of Theon’s rule, and Winterfell was burned to the ground.

Stark Camp
Robb Stark, the king of the North, has led his army to several victories against the Lannisters. Robb pledged to marry the daughter of the House Frey. In defiance of his mother, Catelyn, Robb married Talisa instead, and ruined the alliance between House Stark and House Frey.

In the East
Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, and her Dothraki followers found refuge in Qarth after being stranded in the Red Waste. She soon learned, however, that no one can be trusted in this city that saved her. Her people are attacked and her three beloved dragons are stolen and taken to the House of the Undying. 

Daenerys ventures into the House of the Undying and was haunted by strange visions. She was soon captured by the warlock Pyat Pree, who intended to keep her captive with her dragons in order to make them stronger and more powerful. Daenerys cleverly used her dragon’s newly developed breath of fire to kill Pyat Pree and escape from the House of the Undying. 

After escaping, Daenerys locked the king of Qarth, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, into his empty vault to slowly die. Her soldiers gathered as much precious material as they could in order to buy a ship that would take her across the sea, and to her destiny as queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

On the Wall
Ygritte, a Wildling, took Jon Snow captive north of the Wall. Jon found that his fellow night watchman, Qhorin Halfhand, had also become a prisoner. Halfhand determined that the best course of action was to get the Wildlings to trust one of them.  The only way to do this is for one to kill the other. Halfhand sprang loose and attacked Jon, and forced Jon to slay him. In turn Jon gained the Wildlings’ trust. Jon is now off to meet the King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, at the Wildling camp. At the Wall, an army of White Walkers attacks.