This paper will focus on the television show Game of Thrones, a fantasy drama series that centers around seven noble families fighting for the rule over a mythical land. The shows main antagonist (which I will try to complicate in my essay) is the brutal and calculating leader of one of the seven noble families. I want to read Game of Thrones as a show that, depending on the way you look at it, truly doesn’t have an explicit good or bad side. In this series, what appears to be a ruthless villain in Tywin Lannister, is, in fact, a sympathetic character if you understand his life and his motives. Viewers of the show, think of Tywin as a villain because of the evil acts he plots and executes on the other noble families in this fantasy world. However, if we can overlook the evil actions, we can see that Tywin is a very decisive and powerful character. I will point to specific evil actions that Tywin has done throughout the series, but through my close examination of his motives and his past I will show how he complicates our view on him as a truly evil villain.
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In the episode, “The Rains of Castamere,” Tywin decisively plots the killing of one of the main protagonists, Robb Stark, and the leaders of his army. This episode left many viewers stunned and angry about how Robb Stark and the rest of the leaders of the Northern army died at what was supposed to be a peaceful wedding ceremony. This was the second time in the series that the main character was ruthlessly killed off with absolutely no way of seeing it coming. This was a truly cruel and savage act that was plotted by Tywin. This goes against all of the honor and moral codes of this time period, but it was what had to be done from Tywin’s point of view. Tywin explained to his outraged son, after hearing the news of this, by stating, “explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in a battle than a dozen at dinner?” (Tywin Lannister, episode 10). This decision was made during the middle of a raging civil war that had already cost thousands of people’s lives, Tywin was thinking about his family and his side of the war effort when he plotted this and I understand but not necessarily agree with his decision. Tywin was looking to save his family and win the war because that was what he was supposed to do, he was the commander of the army and he saw an opportunity to end the war and pounced on it.
In his essay, “Villains Who Are Not Villains,” Chuck Klosteman explores what it means to be look at as a villain but not truly be one. Klosterman argues that a villain who is a “confidence man” can never truly be a villain because they are “suave, slick, and capable” people. Tywin Lannister is one of the characters the directly fits the “suave, slick, and capable” style. Throughout the series, you hear time and time again a character describing Tywin as being so wealthy and powerful that he is able to “shit gold” ( Robb Stark, Episode 8 “The Pointy End”). Everyone recognizes the Lannisters being the wealthiest and most powerful of the seven noble families and Tywin is their leader making him the most powerful man in the show. I can complicate Tywin being a villain by arguing that he portrays Klosterman’s “confidence man” and how he is too confident to be looked at as a villain.
In her article, “The Sympathetic Villain,” Tess Collins explores what it means to sympathize and understand villainy. Tess argues that a villain who is unpredictable and untrustworthy is a sympathetic villain because they keep us readers on edge. What the villain is going to do next keeps us engaged with the whole story and complicates how we look at them because we are constantly trying to figure them out. Collins argues that we are meant to read about “three dimensional villains” with complicated pasts and complicated motives in order to sympathize and really enjoy them as a character. Game of thrones is a show that directly focuses on villains. Tywin Lannister is definitely a villain that keeps us on edge. From his mental battles with his children to his ruthless and brutal orders, Tywin has never ceased to surprise us. I will work to forward Collins argument about how a “three dimensional villain” can’t be a villain at all through my close reading about Tywin’s ruthless, but well thought out and honest, actions.
In her article, “A Valentine For Tywin: That Bastard (Feudal) Poster Boy,” Jamie Adair explores how she “loves Tywin Lannister even when he is at his most heinous” (Adair). Adair argues that Tywin is loveable because he is brutal and fearsome, but, also, because he is cunning and in control. Adair shows how Tywin isn’t like the rest of the cold-hearted villains in the show because Tywin has a lot of depth to why he does what he does. I can add to what Adair points to in her article by focusing on how Tywin’s intelligence, power, and even his brutality make Tywin a more sympathetic villain. I can add on to Adair’s focus on how Tywin is a “loveable villain” by tying that into Klosterman and Collins’ focus on what makes a sympathetic villain. I want to expand my evidence that Tywin is a sympathetic character by describing and adding to Adair’s specific points about how Tywin is a “loveable character” because he is three dimensional, realistic, and family oriented.
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