Warning: major spoilers ahead for the fourth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8.
No doubt the two scenes that will generate the most conversation from tonight’s episode will be Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth finally hooking up and Missandei’s really upsetting execution. I get it. That’s where the emotional punches came from (well that and the dragon dying), but tonight’s most important moment almost certainly came in the form of a conversation between Tyrion and Varys. The show’s two best remaining schemers (RIP Littlefinger) discussed whether Daenerys is fit to rule. Varys clearly feels Jon is a better option, and heavily implied he has a plan in place to put Jon on the Iron Throne. So, where is Game Of Thrones going with this? Let’s back up to a couple of Season 7 moments first.
Moment One: Back in Season 7, Dany and Varys had a particularly tense back-and-forth in which Varys admitted he’s not loyal to her or any other monarchs, he’s only loyal to the people. At the end of the conversation, she asked him to look her in the eyes and tell her if she’s failing the people. He agreed. Then she said if he ever went behind her back, she would burn him to death.
Moment Two: Melisandre and Varys had a super creepy conversation on a rock cliff. During the talk, Varys told Melisandre to leave because she’s not safe, and she told him she’d return one more time to Westeros because both she and Varys are destined to die there.
Some of these things have already come true. Melisandre returned to Westeros, helped at the Battle Of Winterfell and then promptly died, and Varys looked Dany in the eyes and told her she would be failing the people if she burned Kings Landing. Now that Missandei is dead, I think we can all agree she’s about to burn a whole bunch of people, and based on Tyrion and Varys’ conversation, it’s pretty obvious Varys is then going to betray Daenerys. That leaves burning him to death as the last remaining prediction from these two conversations.
That all seems pretty straight forward to me, and I’m very confident those steps will happen. The question is what the show is setting these events in motion to actually do. I believe it’s to push Tyrion into making a choice between Dany and Jon. The seeds have already started to be planted. Sansa has repeatedly questioned Tyrion about why he’s loyal to the Dragon Queen. She outright told him she didn’t trust her this week. Varys has repeatedly said the same thing. The two were in very poor spirits when Dany decided to burn the Tarly family to death, and when Varys asked if he thought Jon would be a better leader than Dany, Tyrion gave a non-answer about Jon not wanting the throne. All of this is swirling around in Tyrion’s brain, but he’s still not ready to betray his queen… yet.
But what will happen when he watches Varys burn to death? Will Game Of Thrones give Varys one final speech in which he uses his words to further point out Dany’s instability? I love Varys. He’s one of my favorite characters on the show, but realistically, he’s not important enough to conspire and successful kill Daenerys (at least I don’t think he is). If she’s going to perish, it’s going to need to be by one of the core characters. I think Tyrion makes the most sense, and I think Varys’ death, given their history, is what is needed to send him over the edge.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that Varys burning to death makes sense for two more reasons. He still has one major unanswered question. We need the full story of the voice he heard in the flames. That has been brought up too many times to not get a resolution. And what better way to get the backstory of what he heard in the flames than by giving it to us while he’s literally burning to death? That could be an incredible moment. And beyond that, Varys choosing to burn to death for what he thinks is right would be one final sign to the audience that unlike almost everyone else on Game Of Thrones, he actually does have a good heart. In a show where everyone repeatedly acts selfishly and for personal gain, he’s one of the few characters who can live and die with the honor of knowing he did all he could to make the people’s lives better.
Be sure to tune in to HBO on Sunday, May 12 at 9 p.m. ET for the next episode of Game of Thrones.