A year ago this week, Tyrion Lannister gave his now-famous speech, Bran became Bran the Broken and the king of Westeros, Jon Snow ventured north, and Game of Thrones came to an end. In honor of the conclusion of the last piece of monoculture, The Ringer will spend all week looking back on Thrones—focusing not just on its final season, but celebrating its entire eight-season run, reminiscing about its host of memorable characters, and pondering where some of them may be one year later.
Tyrion Lannister is never happier than when he’s serving as hand to the king. Even when attempting to guide Joffrey—a ruler who preferred torturing animals to leading his people—Tyrion managed to make great use of his power, saving the people of King’s Landing from sure death at Stannis Baratheon’s hands, and ridding the upper echelon of the monarchy of spies and leeches. As Daenerys Targaryen’s chief advisor, he temporarily kept Slaver’s Bay at heel while his queen was missing, and brought eventual allies like Varys and Jon Snow into the fold, lending Dany the support she needed to begin her conquest of Westeros.
Though neither of the two aforementioned leaders he served lived to the end of Game of Thrones, at the series’ conclusion, Tyrion once again found himself counseling a monarch. Like his father before him, the diminutive lion assumed the role of hand to a king unfit for the throne. Bran the Broken, as Tyrion dubbed him in his legally confounding sermon at the Dragonpit, knows more than every leader who preceded him combined—he can access everything that happened to everyone in the entire history of the world, and might’ve maybe, sort of, engineered this whole thing—but naming Bran the protector of the realm was like making your high school history teacher the secretary of education; they’ll get you a 5 on that AP test, but there are some interpersonal/managerial tasks they’re probably not equipped to handle.
Luckily, Bran has Tyrion to help him. As the last Lannister told Daenerys in Mereen, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the great houses of Westeros (or at least the ones that are left). Politics are his forte, and with a kingdom fresh off years of debilitating wars, its largest region now fully independent, and a lack of leadership across most, if not all of the remaining capitulated fiefdoms, Bran must turn to his hand for help.
It’s hard to imagine a version of Westeros not in open rebellion. The Stormlands are ruled by Robert’s last living bastard—a former smith, never before given command of anything more imposing than a hammer and a storefront. The Reach is commanded by, in Bronn’s own words, an upjump sellsword, who, in the time we know him, rarely thinks about the good of others, and in his position as Master of Coin, would be at high risk of skimming some off the top to line his pockets. The Vale is still commanded by a bumbling child, the Riverlands are run by Edmure—the least reliable Tully—and Dorne is ruled by a nameless New Prince. Meanwhile, the North is now its own kingdom led by Sansa Stark, and certainly no one—not even the stubborn, liberated ruler of the Iron Islands, Yara Greyjoy—is bothered by the new king bestowing his older sister an added level of independence. (This is sarcasm.)
This isn’t the first time the domain has included just six kingdoms. When Aegon and his sisters landed on the shores of Westeros, they burnt and bloodied all who crossed their paths, bending the continent to their will, with one exception. Dorne refused to bend the knee, and for years, rebelled against the Targaryen crown, even killing Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes in the process. It wasn’t until the conquest of Dorne, more than 100 years before Robert’s Rebellion, that the southern empire finally joined the fray.
Only now, the realm is more broken than ever. There is no strong central military force to keep the splintering kingdoms in check. The armies of every region have been depleted by multiple wars, but none more so than those loyal to Bran the Broken. What’s stopping Bronn from deciding he’s done paying fealty to King’s Landing, and breaking the Reach—the realm’s largest supplier of food—off on its own, other than his friendship with Tyrion? Robin Arryn has a closer connection with Sansa and the North, and the Tullies and the Riverlands, than he does with the crown. What’s keeping those two regions in place beyond blood ties with Bran—a king with no line of succession, and thus no historical impetus to keep in charge?
Gendry is the ruler of the Stormlands, but seeing as his claim boils down to “the old king who used to live here was my dad, only we never actually met,” it’s hard not to think he could have problems garnering loyalty from those under his rule. Gendry is a straight arrow, and it’s not likely he’d break the Stormlands off. But that doesn’t mean he won’t face instability that challenges his own power over the region.
Seeing as his king spends the only moments we see him in charge zoning out before tracking Drogon through the skies, it seems fair to assume that the responsibility of keeping the country intact rests solely on Tyrion’s shoulders. And that’s before considering the problems brewing back at Casterly Rock.
Tyrion ostensibly reigns as the Lord Paramount of the Westerlands, finally taking his family’s ancestral home, long kept from him by his father. But it’s hard to imagine things have gone smoothly there. From Lannisport and the Rock to Crakehall and The Crag, there are likely legions of longtime Lannister subjects suspicious of their new lord. The Lannister name is synonymous with wealth and power in the region, but with the mines below Casterly Rock dried, with Tywin, Cersei, and Jaime Lannister—three of the most imposing leaders in modern Westerosi history—dead, and with all notable relatives or allied houses erased (RIP Kevan, we hardly knew ye), the Westerlands are a shell of what they once were.
The Lannisters may have ruled from the Rock for centuries, dating back to the days of Lann the Clever, but before Tywin took over, the house was briefly seen as a joke. Tywin’s father, Tytos, was an embarrassment to the Lannister name. His bannermen took advantage of him, and mocked him openly, enraging Tywin. When two houses, the Reynes and Tarbecks, renounced their fealty to the Lannisters, Tywin marched to their halls without his father’s blessing, and ended their lineages swifty. It’s that brutal efficiency that was immortalized in the infamous tune, “The Rains of Castamere.”
And while there may not be many notable houses in the Westerlands (or any of Westeros, for that matter) left to rise up against Tyrion, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t face his share of opposition. It was Tyrion who killed Tywin—the man who brought the Westerlands to heel. It was Tyrion who was charged with, and convicted of killing King Joffrey, a man of Lannister blood. It was Tyrion who betrayed his sister, Queen Cersei Lannister, and aided a foreign usurper in wrestling the crown from her. And it was Tyrion who, after watching the destruction his chosen ruler caused, anointed another, and with it, drew more power for himself.
Tyrion not only is ruling the Westerlands from afar, but unlike his father, he lacks the military reputation Tywin held that kept the hounds at bay. Tyrion is respected by those who know him, and mocked by those who don’t. The last lion would never break his kingdom from the crown, but without the fear that kept the Lannister’s subjugates in line, and with dwindling cash reserves, it’s unlikely the region would ever prosper the way it did before.
Beyond the demise of his homeland and the general disintegration of the union, Tyrion is tasked with another impossible challenge: helping determine who rules after Bran. The previous Raven lived more than a thousand years, but his longevity had more to do with the weirwood tree that grew through his body. Nothing indicates that Bran is planning on fusing with a giant tree, meaning he’ll die at a regular age (what’s the life expectancy in Westeros, like 45?), and since he abdicated his name and title as a Stark, he has no kin or line of succession to take over when he’s gone.
Samwell Tarly was laughed off the dais when he suggested the now-Six Kingdoms try their hand at democracy. A ruler is only as good as the way they leave the world when they pass on. Bran’s legacy, and by extension, Tyrion’s, rests entirely on what happens after their reigns have ended. Much of the latter half of Tyrion’s story was built on his belief that someone good can lead the people to peace and prosperity. Dany wasn’t that, and Bran doesn’t seem like he will be either. Tyrion was excluded from Archmaester Ebrose’s history of the wars following the death of King Robert. Securing peace in spite of a king, and ensuring the future prosperity of an entire realm, would be the thing to cement his legacy.