Game of Thrones: The Case for a Tywin Lannister Spinoff

With the final season of Game of Thrones just around the corner, the stories of Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon Snow, and so many others will be concluded at last. This will undoubtedly leave a dragon-shaped hole in many fans’ hearts, and it seems that HBO is looking to fill this hole with several Game of Thrones spinoff shows. There’s only one spinoff confirmed to be in production at the moment, the unofficially titled The Long Night, which will be set thousands of years before the events of the main series and focus on the first conflicts between the Starks and the white walkers. While I’m sure this series will dazzle with its visuals just as its predecessor does, I don’t believe that producing The Long Night show is the best route for HBO to take.

First of all, the most compelling aspect of Game of Thrones is its politics and its characters, not its grandiose wars against evil ice zombies. Granted, the white walkers aren’t entirely mindless or morally corrupt, as they clearly possess some capacity to negotiate agreements, forge weapons, and hatch nefarious plans, but their true nature is largely unclear. For the white walkers (presumably) to play a significant role in The Long Night, they would likely be fleshed out much more than they currently are in Game of Thrones. This isn’t undoable by any means, but I do see a strong possibility of The Long Night falling into the same pattern that Game of Thrones has fallen into over its last few seasons: becoming a show more about the battle of good versus evil rather than the more nuanced conflicts between and within morally complex characters.

Another factor working against The Long Night is its lack of connections to the main series, which admittedly doesn’t reflect on the quality of the show; it may, however, reflect on how many viewers HBO will pull in. People will undoubtedly watch The Long Night because it’s simply more Game of Thrones, but a series that isn’t set eight thousand years in the past is likely to have more connections to the events of the original show, and thus attract more people.

This is the more consumer-driven reason why a series exploring the young life of Tywin Lannister would be so successful. Even if you don’t love Tywin, you probably love to hate him, and Charles Dance’s performance as the leader of House Lannister was iconic and intensely captivating. He’s one of the most memorable characters from Game of Thrones, and much like within the universe of Game of Thrones itself, Tywin’s very presence demands attention from his audience. Additionally, the bulk of the proposed show would be set about 40 years before the main series (although there would be a lot of jumping around the timeline, and there are some discrepancies between the show timeline and the books timeline), so some familiar faces like Walder Frey and the Mad King would show up.

The real reason that I think a Young Tywin series would be such a great choice for a spinoff, however, is due to the complexity of Tywin’s character. Tywin would be the protagonist, so we would see things from his perspective, and we would understand why he acts the way that he does, both in the present moment and later on in his life. What’s most important isn’t that the audience roots for Tywin or agrees with his ideology, but rather that they understand Tywin’s motives and why he is so ruthless in achieving his goals.

In order to show this, this series would focus largely on the most important relationship in Tywin’s life: that with his father, Tytos Lannister. Famously weak-willed, Tytos was openly mocked by his supporters and bannerman throughout his time as the head of the Lannister family. Houses great and small would borrow money from the Lannisters and never pay them back, and Tytos never punished them for this for fear of being disliked. Tywin despised his father’s spinelessness and felt great discontent at the state of the once-proud Lannister name, which would eventually lead him to rebel against his father. This sort of rebellion, however, didn’t involve wearing black leather, listening to punk rock, and staying up late on school nights. Unfortunately for those who opposed him, Tywin’s teenage rebellion was of a much more murder-y variety.

Before we dive into all of this wonderful murder talk, let’s highlight a more affable side of Tywin’s character by discussing his siblings. In Game of Thrones (the show), Tywin only has one sibling, Kevan, but in the books, he has three others: Genna, Tygett, and Gerion. While this spinoff series would have to retcon in more siblings, it’s not a true retcon, as Game of Thrones already retconned most of the Lannister siblings out. So in reality, it would really require reversing a retcon of already irrationally removed relatives.

My reasoning behind including Tywin’s siblings even though they don’t exist in the main continuity of Game of Thrones is because they are relevant for his character. Tywin legitimately cared for his younger brothers and sister, and he clearly held a sense of responsibility as the oldest, even from a young age. When Tytos’ only daughter, Genna, was seven, Walder Frey proposed a betrothal between Genna and an insignificant son of his who would never inherit any of the Frey’s fortunes or lands. Despite the fact that a proud and ancient house like House Lannister shouldn’t even consider marrying one of their children to such an insignificant noble, Tytos agreed to the betrothal, not wanting to displease Walder Frey. Tywin, however, a boy of ten at the time, denounced the marriage in front of a room of grown lords and called the whole thing off. Throughout his young life, Tywin witnessed his family be laughed at and taken advantage of over and over again by those who were supposed to pay tribute to the Lannisters. In this hypothetical show, we would see Tywin’s frustration with his father grow and shape Tywin into the man he would become, for ultimately, it was Tytos’ weakness that drove Tywin to become his opposite, to become a man that no one would ever dare to laugh at.

Tytos Lannister and his son, Tywin.

Tywin’s obsession with escaping his father’s legacy and raising the station of the Lannister name led him to mercilessly slaughter two families that had defied the Lannisters for years: the Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall and the Reynes of Castamere. When both houses refused to pay back the debts they owed to House Lannister, Tywin, nineteen years old at the time and still technically beholden to the rule of his father, swiftly took action in a particularly murder-y way. He gathered a host and descended on the Tarbecks quickly enough to gain the element of surprise, and his victory was overwhelming. No member of House Tarbeck was spared, and an ancient family was wiped off the face of Westeros forever.

The fate that awaited the Reynes of Castamere was of a crueler nature, however. Upon hearing of the destruction brought upon the Tarbecks, the Reynes retreated deep within their castle, to the mines that the foundations were built upon, thinking themselves safe from the Lannister army there. Unfortunately, in doing this, they literally sealed their fate. Despite the Reynes offering terms of surrender, Tywin sealed the Reynes and their servants within the mines, blocking all possible exits. He then dammed a nearby river and redirected it to the castle, and soon, the mines began to fill up with water. It was said that the screams of hundreds of men, women, and children were soon heard by the Lannister host, but not for long.

The reason why this event (which of course, the song “The Rains of Castamere” is based upon) is so significant is because it highlights two aspects of Tywin’s character: first, the pragmatic side that believes retaking the Westerlands with an iron fist will be ultimately beneficial to all of the Westerlands in the end—which he isn’t exactly wrong about. Secondly, and more importantly, I would argue, is the personal aspect. Tywin has no qualms about being that cruel because he’s insecure. He hates being laughed at, being mocked, and hearing the Lannister name called weak, and he is willing to go to any lengths to prove them wrong and prove to himself that he is stronger than his father.

Tywin’s hatred of laughter, and perhaps his entire motivation as a human being, is best explained through a quote from Tywin’s wife, Joanna: “We all dream of things we cannot have. Tywin dreamed that his son would be a great knight, that his daughter would be a queen. He dreamed they would be so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at them.” Tywin’s goals, in some backwards, messed up way, are pure. He desires a better life for his family and for his children, but unfortunately, his methods aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and can far too often lean into murder territory.

Structurally, this show could take a lot of different routes. As tempting as it would be to zig-zag across timelines, swapping between child Tywin, teenager Tywin, and adult Tywin, I think that a format like this would best be avoided. Given how complex the politics of Game of Thrones can be, I think a largely straightforward narrative would make the most sense. For the first season of the show, Tywin would be about eighteen to nineteen years old, and it would cover the building tension between the Lannisters and their insolent bannermen. After all, Tywin didn’t just wake up one day and spontaneously decide to slaughter the Reynes and the Tarbecks; there were inciting incidents, moments where the tension between the Lannisters and their vassals increased. Through all of this, we would see Tywin struggling to handle his own desires to restore the power of the Lannisters while also being hampered by his father’s passive mandates. This would culminate in the end of the season with Tywin eliminating the Tarbecks and Reynes.

There would be flashbacks to Tywin’s childhood, however. The scene where Genna has a marriage match proposed would be crucial, but we’d also see other key elements of Tywin’s upbringing, such as his hatred of laughter. Witnessing his father be openly mocked by those who have sworn him fealty, only for his father to laugh the loudest at these japes, would certainly be interesting to view from Tywin’s perspective. There would also be several flashbacks to another important relationship in Tywin’s young life: that with Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King.

 For those in need of a refresher, Aerys II Targaryen is Daenerys’ father. He was the previous ruler of Westeros before Robert Baratheon rebelled and won the crown from him, and he was slain by Jaime Lannister, Tywin’s son, during the sack of King’s Landing at the end of the war. What some may not know about Aerys Targaryen is that he was best friends with Tywin Lannister when they were teenagers, and that his madness only crept on later in life.

This relationship would be a key focus of the show, as what started as a strong boyhood bond eventually soured into a bitter hatred. Tywin was fostered at King’s Landing as a boy, meaning that he grew up in the court of King’s Landing and struck up a close friendship with the then-prince, Aerys, who eventually knighted Tywin after they fought together on the battlefield. Given he and Tywin’s close relationship, Aerys’ first action upon being crowned was to hire Tywin as the Hand of the King, making Tywin and House Lannister his closest political ally. Despite being only twenty years old, the youngest man to ever earn the esteemed role of Hand, Tywin brought prosperity and wealth to his home of the Westerlands, and to the Seven Kingdoms as a whole.

All good things must come to an end, however, and Aerys eventually grew to despise Tywin. Perhaps it was due to his creepy infatuation with Tywin’s wife, Joanna; perhaps he was jealous that people spoke of Tywin as the true king of Westeros, given Tywin’s enormously successful turn as Hand; or perhaps Aerys’ paranoia inevitably ate away at his sense and caused him to spit on even his closest allies. Either way, the Mad King would take every opportunity he had to publicly mock and shame Tywin, and after years of enduring this abuse in silence, persisting in his duties as Hand of the King while being constantly laughed at (echoing, of course, Tytos being laughed at by his supporters), Tywin eventually resigned from the position.

I think that this relationship, which isn’t explored to extraordinary depth in the main series or the extended universe content (most of the above information is taken from The World of Ice and Fire, an in-universe history book), would highlight how Tywin came to be so cruel, bitter, and humorless. At the end of Robert’s Rebellion when Aerys was at his most desperate, it was Tywin, fittingly, that showed up at the gates of King’s Landing to seemingly save the day and turn the tide in the favor of the Mad King. So Aerys opened the city gates to Tywin and his troops, thinking himself saved, and Tywin turned on him and sacked the city. Despite all of the hatred and resentment Tywin must have held towards the Mad King for all the humiliation he had endured under his employ, Tywin must have felt something, some sadness, at betraying Aerys, whose final mistake was trusting his oldest friend. Perhaps that’s reading too much into it, but it’s undeniable that this is a very compelling, human, and emotional story—and that is what Game of Thrones is interested in exploring at its core.

While there are plenty of other recognizable and fan-favorite characters that could appear in this show, such as King Aegon V Targaryen, Ser Duncan the Tall, Walder Frey, and more, I think it would be best for the show not to overindulge itself with making references for the sake of making references. Granted, famous events like the tragedy of Summerhall would at the very least be mentioned, but the focus should never stray away from the core of the story. If these sorts of Easter eggs fit naturally into the narrative, then I see no reason why they couldn’t be included; if they are featured even when it harms the overall direction of the narrative, I can’t recommend that certain characters appear in the show.

Some characters, however, like Steffon Baratheon, Joanna Lannister, and Rhaella Targaryen, would have fairly important roles in the series—Steffon Baratheon being Robert Baratheon’s father and another childhood friend of Tywin’s, Joanna Lannister being married to Tywin, and Rhaella being married to Aerys (similar to Tywin and Aerys, Joanna and Rhaella also became best friends while Joanna was fostered at King’s Landing). Seeing their relationships with other characters and their perspectives on the events of the series would doubtless be interesting, particularly in the cases of Joanna and Rhaella. Witnessing the immoral actions of their husbands from their perspectives would be undeniably interesting, and we’d get to know what makes these characters unique in a way that the extended universe content has yet to fully explore.

Of course, everything that I have mentioned here wouldn’t fit into one ten-episode season, but there’s a lot to cover about the life of Tywin Lannister. That works to the show’s advantage, in my opinion, because there’s a lot of source material to draw from and a lot of different directions for the show to go in. While there are some events that I think would be necessary to occur in this show, the writers would have a lot of creative freedom to explore these portions of Tywin’s life.

I could go on about the many ironies of Tywin’s character, like how he orders his stepmother to be stripped naked and paraded through the streets just like his daughter Cersei eventually is condemned to do, or how the same prostitute that he forbids his son Tyrion from bringing to King’s Landing is the same woman that Tywin himself is caught in bed with, but I will spare you from further ranting. Don’t take those words lightly, either, because I rarely, if ever, cut my rants short.

Look, I by no means expect an executive at HBO to read this article and exclaim, “Wow, we’re sitting on an untapped gold mine of storytelling! Order a Tywin Lannister spinoff pilot at once!” This is a pipe dream at best, but the future of Game of Thrones is uncertain. Let’s face it, HBO would be fools not to milk this cash cow for every drop, and there are many stories worth telling in Westeros and beyond; heck, the Game of Thrones fanboy within me, which comprises about 70 percent of my overall personality, wants them to milk the franchise for all its worth because of this. But if they do, I want them to get it right, and a Tywin Lannister television series would allow them to do just that by reaffirming what Game of Thrones is truly about: the exploration of complex characters and the conflict that those characters encounter. The ball’s in your court, HBO. Whatever direction you take the future of Game of Thrones in, make it worth our time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s