And thus season 4 comes to a close. There’s a lot to be said about the finale, but I’m only going to talk about one character: Tywin Lannister.
I know I’ve said it before, but Tywin Lannister is my favorite character from the book series, and was my favorite character from the show. The first scene we see with Tywin he’s cutting up a deer carcass. It’s a good scene, but the sense of Tywin I got from Charles Dance was different from what I got from the books, so I wasn’t immediately sold on him. Of course, as the season wore on, Charles Dance’s Tywin not only grew on me, but overpowered and replaced the Tywin Lannister I had in my head from the books. That Tywin—book Tywin—was more of a monster in my head—almost savage. Dance’s Tywin is the epitome of gentility. He is stern, he is cold, but he is always in control of every situation, and of his own emotions. He isn’t actively menacing the way I imagined him in the books.
But, of course, Dance’s Tywin is, I feel, the more accurate of the two. No matter how powerful or rich you are, you can’t get on as well as Tywin does if you’re an outright monster. And we do get the sense that if you remain on Tywin Lannister’s good side, he’s a fine guy to be around. A prime example of this are the few scenes with Arya and Tywin in season…two, I want to say? It may have been one. Even in a very kind of creepy way the scene with Tywin and Tommen, where Tywin is giving the new king a “lesson” on what it means to be king. It’s really easy to see how he could build a legion of followers who can see him treating others poorly and rationalize it by believing that they deserve to be treated poorly (if they didn’t, why would he do it? Tywin’s always so smart and sees things so clearly, after all!).
Now, before I go too far, make no mistake: I think Tywin Lannister, the character, is a bad person. If this were a real person, I would definitely not want to have any dealings with him, let alone have him as a father. But you don’t have to like a character as a person to like what they do for a particular story, and love the performance of the actor that portrays them.
And, honestly, I think the master stroke for Charles Dance was his very last scene. Tywin Lannister is always in control. No one ever catches Tywin with his pants down (though Cersei gets to him in this episode, doesn’t she?). And then Tyrion does—literally. This is a position that pretty much no human on Earth would be able to play off well—and yet Tywin does! He’s literally sitting on a toilet with his pants down, and somehow he still manages to be in control of that situation. He has all the right responses for Tyrion! The only thing that shifts the balance of power in that scene is the fact that Tyrion is armed and Tywin is not. Even here Tyrion can’t beat Tywin in a battle of wits or passions (something that Arya ends up doing with the Hound). Tywin doesn’t break. He doesn’t beg for his life. He doesn’t apologize. He doesn’t back down from his beliefs even in that position. Truly incredible, and a very well-executed scene from all concerned.
So something that I wondered—and perhaps other fans have wondered, as well—is if Tywin is so smart and so powerful and so rich and so cunning, how is it he still ends up on the wrong end of a crossbow on the privy? While there’s a lot to be said about his feelings regarding his dead wife and how his children continually fail him in his eyes, one thing keeps coming back to me. One of Tywin’s key failings is that he likes to teach lessons. If you’ve seen Arrested Development, perhaps you’ll remember the fellow with the one arm, and Michael’s lesson about not teaching lessons. That last lesson is one Tywin should have learned. It wasn’t enough for him to stick a false conviction on Tyrion: He wanted to teach Tyrion a lesson about falling for whores. Honestly, he didn’t need Shae’s testimony to convict Tyrion: it was just a cruel, public humiliation. Ultimately, this is what did him in. Without Shae, recall, Tyrion probably would have gone along with Jaime and Tywin’s plan and taken the black. And in fact even if all the events had transpired as they did up to Jaime’s rescue, consider: What would have happened if Tyrion had snuck into Tywin’s bedroom and found him alone? We’ll never know, but it’s worth mulling over.
Alas, Tywin is gone, and along with him Charles Dance. Truly, though, this was a masterful performance. I never met Charles Dance, but I will now look for him in other things just based on this performance. Sheer brilliance. And, of course, my hat is off to George R. R. Martin as well. He created the character who is just as electric in the books and paved the way for this outstanding role. Mr. Dance, you will be missed.
As for the rest, there’s too much to say, and I bet everyone else will say it, so I’ll leave it to them. I do want to praise the performance of the actor who played the shepherd, though—the one who lost the daughter. His lines were all in Meereenese Valyrian, but the emotion was raw. You didn’t need to understand what he was saying to feel it. A heartbreaking moment, and he acted it superbly.
And now we wait. Just a year, though. These things go by in the blink of an eye nowadays. Season five will be here before you know it!