By Johanna Edwads
There are a million reasons to love Tyrion Lannister: his sardonic wit, his brilliant insights. He’s a scene stealer, on a show packed with star performances. But for me, the thing I love most about Tyrion is this: He lives in the moment.
At first glance, his motivations can seem simple. Tyrion loves wine and women. He “drinks and he knows things.” In a lesser actor, under a lesser writer, such a character would run the risk of becoming one-note; mere comic relief in an otherwise brutal world. But Peter Dinklage takes George R.R. Martin’s brilliant creation and elevates him to extraordinary heights.
On a show where nearly every principle character aspires to sit on the Iron Throne, the most captivating person of all is the one who has no desire to ascend to power.
You’re interested in every word he says, you watch his every move. And yet, at no point in time are we under the illusion that Tyrion is going to wind up King. What’s more, we don’t even want him to.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve focused mainly on the television adaptation of Tyrion Lannister. Perhaps that’s a strange choice for a writer. Shouldn’t I care more about the book? But Peter Dinklage’s performance is so epic it’s impossible to ignore. Every actor is better who shares the screen with him. He makes even flat, uninspired performers shine brightly (I’m looking at you, Shae). He has chemistry with every single character he’s pitted against, even when he’s alone in the room with CGI dragons.
While most of the characters on Game of Thrones are driven by vengeance (Arya), power (Daenerys), or both (Robb Stark, Cersei Lannister), Tyrion doesn’t doesn’t waste time with such pursuits. Nor does he waste time with “what ifs.” He doesn’t allow himself to dwell on the past or daydream about the future. He sees life as it is, takes each day as it comes, and is shockingly honest and forthright about his abilities.
Early on, Tyrion says to Jon Snow: “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
It’s a brilliant insight, and in that one moment we recognize the depth of Tyrion’s self-awareness.
So many times in life we get caught up in fantasies, in nostalgia, in wishing things could be a different way. But Tyrion does waste time with “what if’s.” He doesn’t bemoan his fate or curse the gods for having made him a dwarf. He quickly and quietly accepts who he is, never wasting even one second on the fruitless pursuit of trying to change immutable facts.
It’s the core of what makes his character so great, and it’s the primary reason that I have always loved him. Those are the qualities I wish I could have in my own life: greater self-awareness and an ability to live life to the fullest no matter what gets thrown your way.