The Case For Tyrion and Varys

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: forget kings and queens – bring on the Imp and the Spider!)

It’s time to do away with the very concept of the autocratic monarch, and embrace a co-leadership arrangement. An arrangement more about the good of the many than the power of the few. We needn’t shift to full democracy – to suggest as much would be both political suicide and actual suicide – but for once, it’d be nice to have leaders who serve the Realm, rather than their egos. That’s why the dynamic duo of Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys is what we need in the Red Keep.

Imp and Impressive

Admittedly, getting the public behind yet another Lannister in a prominent position will be a struggle. Like his sister and father, Tyrion Lannister is highly intelligent, but unlike them (and unlike his nephew), he’s possessed of little tyrannical impulse – and, crucially, knows his foibles and weaknesses. Tyrion is a human being, not a steely-cold monster, and if the people can get past their backward-thinking revulsion at his physical appearance, they’ll see he’s a fine leader worth considering.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Westeros with more experience in actually running a government than Tyrion Lannister. He’s not only managed King’s Landing and the wider Kingdom(s) as Hand, but performed similar duties for Danaerys Targaryen over in Essos. He’s managed budgets, consulted on policy, and made a number of cunning military decisions in his various roles. This is a guy who’s known for his intelligence just as much as he is for his appearance – and given his status as a self-described “imp” with a massive facial scar, that’s some intelligence.

Tyrion is among the most smartest people in Westeros, but his life story has made him surprisingly humble, too. Though he’s often enjoyed the spoils of his position – wine, wealth, women – he’s also suffered some horrifying setbacks. Ostracised from birth, he was long the least-loved Lannister sibling, which eventually led to his fleeing the entire continent for fear of assassination. He didn’t take that lying down, though, and managed to help the Dragon Queen upwards to enormous power. He’s an expert at taking the worst circumstances and making the best of them – and Westeros is facing bad circumstances.

In a leader, you want someone who can think on their feet. Someone who can balance the budget. Someone who can deliver a witty and inspiring speech. Someone willing to shoot tyrants with a crossbow, even if they’re family. Tyrion Lannister is all these things.

Tyrion’s got issues. Nobody’s going to deny that. He’s a human being, after all, and like all human beings he has needs, cravings, and vices. His alcohol consumption is legendary, and he’s well-known at countless King’s Landing brothels (paying his debts at each). There’s many a day where the man is not in a fit state to lead. But there’s a way to make the most of the situation.

The Amazing Spider Man

Enter Lord Varys. A eunuch, he isn’t prone to precisely the same set of vices as Tyrion, and could serve as a counterbalance in times when Tyrion succumbs to them. But that’s not all he has going for him: he’s a thorough planner and one of the most empathetic people ever to serve in the Red Keep.

Always on his toes when it comes to the balance of power, Varys has served under multiple kings and queens, weathering their personal nastiness and softening their worst impulses. He’s been a tempering force upon leaders considerably worse than Tyrion would be. This is a guy you want in close proximity to power, asking the questions nobody else dares ask. Why not cut out the middleman and give him executive decision-making powers directly?

Varys understands the needs of the people better than any highborn. It’s true, he lives a comfortable or even cushy life himself. It’s true also that he only knows what the people are thinking through a vast network of spies, handily earning his nickname of The Spider. But he’s the only person in the last several royal courts who’s been both satisfied with his place on the ladder, and genuinely interested in the good of the Realm.

Every time Varys sent spies across the sea, it was for the good of the Realm. Every time he had someone killed, it was for the good of the Realm. All the back-corridor conniving, the sneaking about, the covert use of children as informants – it was all to ensure that Westeros’ leadership stood a chance of improving. Which it should, by giving Varys the chance to enact the policies he’s been whispering in other rulers’ ears all this time.

Nobody else in a position of power in Westeros is this committed to stability above all else – ensuring that the people are fed, that either wars don’t occur or that they play out with minimal casualties, and that rulers don’t rule with unchecked autonomy. Given the tumult that has befallen the Realm over the past years – wars, massacres, an army of the dead – isn’t stability what we need right now?

Aces, Not Kings

Separately, Tyrion and Varys are good at doing what they do. Together, they’re even better, working with a resolve and purpose, guiding each other and filling in the other’s missing elements. Working together in Westeros and Essos alike, they’ve learned how each other’s mind operates, and can get ahead of any poor decision-making that might take place. When you’ve fled overseas with someone – when you’ve gone through the things these two men have – a bond naturally forms, and that close Platonic bond between leaders is certainly better than the bickering, infighting, and inbreeding we’ve seen out of other recent Iron Throne occupants.

Neither of these men have expressed any craving for the throne. Neither has Jon Snow, of course, but Jon’s never been as close to the Iron Throne as Tyrion and Varys have. Who knows what might happen were he, half-Targaryen himself, to control the Seven Kingdoms? Or worse, the Dragon Queen, who both men advised valiantly to prevent from slaughtering hundreds? No, a single autocrat is a bad idea. Tyrion and Varys are the kind of people who would keep each other in check, even as they respect each other’s ideas.

Tyrion and Varys are both, in their own ways, broken people. They lack the on-paper strength of your Targaryens and your Starks and your Baratheons. But in kingdoms mostly populated by the poor and downtrodden, perhaps broken people are who we need in power. We need leaders with the education afforded to the highborn, who’ve suffered the indignities of the lowborn, and who can put the two together to form a smart, compassionate reign. We need to trash the throne, change our system of government, and install leaders who can actually lead for the people. In short: we need Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys.

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