'Game of Thrones' Final Path: The Journey of Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion Lannister

Wandering Westeros for much of the first season, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) returns to King's Landing to find things very much different from how he left them.

Welcome to Final Path, a new regular feature leading up to the final season of HBO's Game of Thrones. In every Final Path, The Hollywood Reporter's resident Westeros expert Josh Wigler will offer a character-by-character deep dive of their journey through seven seasons as well as what can be expected in the upcoming eighth and final season. Up next: Tyrion Lannister.

"Imp." "Halfman." Tyrion Lannister, played to Emmy-winning heights by Peter Dinklage, has earned these insulting nicknames and more for no reason beyond "the crime of being a dwarf," as he so eloquently explains in "The Gods of Laws and Men."

"I wish I was the monster you think I am," he tells a booing crowd of nobles and commoners alike in the riveting season four episode, which focuses on Tyrion's trial, as he stands falsely accused of murdering King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). "I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it."

First entering the vast ensemble of Game of Thrones with the prestigious billing of "and Peter Dinklage," the erstwhile Tyrion has since graduated to top of the call sheet. It's easy to understand why: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) both stand at the center of the more fantastical elements of Thrones, but Tyrion is the heart and mind of the series, brilliant and empathetic in equal measure, with plenty of self-loathing to boot.

As one of the single most popular characters in all of Thrones lore, Tyrion's fate is as pulse-pounding to consider as anyone's. Here are my considerations, as we look back on his journey through the past seven seasons, and ponder what lies ahead in the remaining six episodes — including one wild swing of a final prediction.

Names and Titles: Tyrion of House Lannister, former acting Hand of the King during Joffrey Baratheon's brief (but brutal) reign, later anointed Master of Coin, currently serving as Hand of the Queen in the Daenerys Targaryen regime.

First Appearance: "Winter is Coming," the series premiere. In retrospect, it should come as little surprise that our first glimpse of Tyrion sees him getting drunk in a brothel. After all, this is a man who "drinks and know things," as per his self-described skillset. If we're looking at his first scene as a reference point for where he may end up, don't count on a return to the brothel. The location of the brothel — right in the heart of the North — may be more instructive. 

Last Appearance: "The Dragon and the Wolf," the season seven finale, in which Tyrion was seen lurking outside of Jon and Daenerys' master suite. It was an odd look at the time; why was Tyrion so visibly upset about the escalating relationship between the King in the North and the Mother of Dragons? According to an interview with Dinklage, "It's complicated," with reasons including Tyrion's belief that "the two of them getting together could be very dangerous" politically and personally, as well as Tyrion's own feelings for Dany: "He loves her — or thinks he does." Will the final season feature a love story between Tyrion and Daenerys, even if it's an unrequited one? It didn't feel especially likely until these quotes from Dinklage, but now it's worth keeping at least one eye on.

Best Friends: Top of the list: Varys the Spider (Conleth Hill), the person Tyrion trusts more than anyone else in the world. While they're not currently on the same team, Tyrion's friendship with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is the stuff of fan-fic legends. On that same note, Tyrion and his brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) have seen better days, but during those days, one would be hard-pressed to find a pair of Game of Thrones siblings with more fondness for one another — other than, well, Jaime and Cersei (Lena Headey).

Worst Enemies: Speaking of Cersei, she's at the height of it when it comes to Tyrion's adversaries. She has spent several seasons now fantasizing about beheading her impish brother, among other gratuitous ways to torture and kill the man. With only six episodes remaining and so little time to accomplish so much in the story, it's possible that Tyrion and Cersei's scene in the season seven finale was their last one together. It accomplished much of what needs accomplishing: an airing of the grievances —Festivus style — in which they made as much progress with one another as they are ever likely to make. Any future exchange between Tyrion and Cersei is icing on the cake.

Best Kill: Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and it's not close. The arrow to the bowels is absolutely iconic, one of the single greatest moments in recent television history, let alone Game of Thrones. It's the culmination of a lifetime of ruthless emotional abuse, simultaneously satisfying and deeply troubling, leaving Tyrion fully untethered for the next several episodes. Given the strategic stumbles along the way since then (see: trying to settle peacefully with the Masters of Slavers Bay, as well as his botched plan to strike a blow against his sister by conquering Casterly Rock), one could argue that Tyrion never fully recovered from murdering his own father — not to mention murdering Shae (Sibel Kekilli).

Worst Wound: Physically, it's hard to top getting slashed across the face with a sword during the Battle of the Blackwater. With that said, even without seeing a maester's report, one can only imagine the damage Tyrion's liver has sustained over the years. Both of those wounds pale in comparison to what he's endured thanks to committing "the crime of being a dwarf," which has led to lifelong ridicule from family and strangers alike, despite repeated attempts at heroism, such as during the aforementioned action at Blackwater. In the context of his lifetime of weathering emotional abuse, the significant amount of time Tyrion has spent drinking in brothels makes a bit more sense.

Critical Moments: Tyrion's stint in King's Landing is his standout arc, from his brief but brilliant turn as acting Hand through his imprisonment following Joffrey's death. In a grander sense, Tyrion's travels across Westeros and beyond may come to define him and his future. Among the places we have seen him visit: Winterfell, Castle Black, the Eyrie, King's Landing, Pentos, Volantis, Old Valyria, Meereen, Dragonstone and the Reach. No one has earned more stamps on their passport, seen more of the world's wonders, more of its horrors. As the universe of Game of Thrones heads into a war unlike any previously seen in the series, Tyrion's global perspective may become one of the most important factors in the show's fictional future.

Unresolved Mystery: Aside from finding out the punchline to Tyrion's recurring joke about walking into a brothel with a honeycomb and a jackass? There's a quasi-crackpot theory out in the ether about Tyrion being a secret Targaryen, not unlike Jon Snow. In essence, the theory posits the Mad King Aerys as Tyrion's actual father, helping to explain some of Tywin's angry outbursts: "You're no son of mine!" There are reasons to suspect the Tyrion Targaryen theory may be true in George R.R. Martin's book series on which Thrones is based, but David Benioff and Dan Weiss' HBO adaptation has done little to lay the groundwork for such an explosive reveal, especially with only six episodes left. (Among the possible clues: Tyrion's boyhood fixation with dragons, and the ease with which he dealt with Viserion and Rhaegal in season six.) But if the final season trots out Tyrion as the third head of the modern day Targaryen dragon, now you know about the theory, so it won't be a complete blindside.

Final Prediction: Tyrion hails from Casterly Rock, but his time on Game of Thrones began in the North. I expect it's where the story will end for him, as well.

It's a gloomy forecast, on the surface. White Walkers are in Westeros, after all, slowly marching upon Winterfell, bound to kill at least a few characters you know and love. Will Tyrion be one of them? There aren't many people on the board whose death would cause viewers to throw away their remotes quite like the loss of "the Imp," which doesn't bode well for his case if Benioff and Weiss are going for some good old fashioned Thrones-ian shock value for their conclusion. Indeed, George R.R. Martin himself has long said Tyrion is his favorite character in the series. What better way to show you mean business than to kill your most darling darling?

HBO dramas have a habit of killing crucial characters early and unexpectedly in their final runs; look no further than The Wire, Six Feet Under and Oz as just a few of the examples. Not naming names, because the deceased characters are such seismic forces as to invite comparisons with Dinklage's own presence on Thrones. Losing someone as iconic as Tyrion early on in the final season would be an ultimate declaration of endgame stakes. If we're going to lose the man, I expect it's going to be in that same jarring fashion. With some room for waffling, I do think someone we love dearly will die early in the final season of Thrones, and it's entirely possible it could be Tyrion

All that said, I am choosing to pin my hopes on the future outcome in which Tyrion survives — but an outcome that leaves him in the North all the same. In the final slimming of the series, as major characters die and great houses start to fall, there's a sense of small but sturdy pillars remaining of the old war: a few Starks still standing, some Lannisters here and there, even as much of the old guard falls away. There are so many reasons to expect the Lannister line to extinguish by the end of the series, given the high-stakes players involved: Tyrion, Cersei and Jaime, all of whom are bound to brush up against brutal circumstances in the final six episodes. But the Lannister name is too powerful to die forever, and of those three characters. There are other options on the table (and I'll get to them over the next couple of weeks), but it feels likely to me that Tyrion will be the one to carry the Lannister name onward.

Let's go ahead and assume Tyrion's survival, putting aside the fact that such an assumption is setting us up for heartbreak if he dies in the climactic final moments of the final series premiere. (Seriously, trying to slide that out there into the universe as a means of ensuring it never happens.) Where do things end for him? What's a satisfying conclusion for a man who has traveled all around the world, saving the men and women of Westeros and beyond from more atrocities than they could ever possibly understand, all while weathering massive quantities of insults and slights, only able to withstand it all thanks to very bad drinking and philandering habits?

How about the one place where philandering is particularly frowned upon: Castle Black? As it stands, Dolorous Edd (Ben Compton) is the 999th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. I don't expect him to hold the title for much longer. When the snow settles on Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister will be the 1000th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

Just going to let that linger a moment. I know it's as bold a prediction as it is a weird and honestly out-there prediction. But as a man who has seen so much of the world, has fought so many battles and has strived so long to find purpose, a final fate in which Tyrion remains North to help atone for some of the damage his family wreaked upon others very fitting for the man. It would certainly put his Blackwater resumé to good use, should a defeated White Walker army ever pose another threat. It would add new context to Tyrion's series-opening journey to the Wall, in which he got along famously with certain members of the brotherhood, and even relieved himself on "the edge of the world." Perhaps that was an early step on Tyrion's own final path. There are other outcomes to consider — death being the big and likeliest one — but there's something fitting about Tyrion winding up on the Wall, far away from the world that's rejected him, keeping those same people safe, one cold command at a time.

Last Hope: In season six's "No One," Tyrion sits with Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) in a Meereenese chamber, drinking wine. He forecasts his hopes for the future as follows: "One day, after our queen has taken the Seven Kingdoms, I'd like to have my own vineyard to make my own wine: The Imp's Delight. Only my close friends could drink it." Few things would please me more than if the Lord Commander prediction burns away with the White Walkers, in favor of the happier ending at the Imp's Delight.

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