The end of Game of Thrones is nigh. At the beginning of season 8, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was Westeros’ benevolent new leader, charging into Winterfell to save humanity from an icy apocalypse. Remember those halcyon days? Now, as we head into the upcoming series finale, that Dany is gone. In her place is a vengeful terrorist who fulfilled the Mad Queen theories we hoped were so very wrong.
With this new Mother of Dragons comes a long line of people who may be ready to kill Daenerys Targaryen. Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington) ends penultimate episode “The Bells” running from Dany’s carnage. His little sister-cousin Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) fled King’s Landing like a knight ready to slay a dragon. However, it’s possible we’re overlooking the person best poised to end Mad Dany’s reign with a fatal betrayal: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), her loyal Hand.
Among Thrones’ main characters, it’s Tyrion who lost the most in the Siege of King’s Landing — and that’s all because of Daenerys.
First, Tyrion has the obvious Lannister family tragedy to contend with after “Bells.” At the top of the episode, the Hand learns his older brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has been captured by Team Targaryen on his way to reunite with his twin-lover Cersei (Lena Headey). Tyrion, realizing this is his absolute last chance to save his siblings, frees Jaime and tasks Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) with smuggling his brother into the city from the Targaryen camp. Davos will then leave a dinghy on the shore and head into battle with Jon. Jaime is meant to ring the bells of surrender, convince Cersei to flee the capital with him, and use Davos' dinghy to go anywhere but King’s Landing (Tyrion suggests Pentos).
This plan fails. But, that’s not because Jaime didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. Jaime followed Tyrion’s orders to the letter, and winds up in the bowels of the Red Keep with a teary Cersei. Both are prepared to run away from Westeros with their unborn baby. The problem is, the crypt is completely destroyed thanks to Daenerys’ fire and blood attack of the city. There is no way out. So, Jaime and Cersei seemingly die in each other’s arms in the final collapse of the castle.
This physical loss speaks to a greater emotional loss for Tyrion: the disillusion of Dany as wheel-breaking regent. During Tyrion’s final conversation with Jaime, the latter reminds his brother he’ll be executed by Dany for freeing someone as dangerous as the Kingslayer. Tyrion says he hopes his queen will show “mercy” to the one person who made it possible for her to take the Iron Throne “without wading through a river of blood.” Tyrion truly believes that is the kind of political coup Daenerys is looking for.
After defending the dragon queen to Varys (Conleth Hill), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and every other treasonous naysayer since season 5, Tyrion has to believe Dany is as gracious as he paints her to be in this moment. At one point later in “The Bells,” Tyrion even stands at the broken gate of the city, anxiously waiting for the titular surrender bell to be rung. It’s his last shred of hope.
Then, Daenerys sacks the city after someone rings the bells (we can assume it’s Jaime). After all the careful planning Tyrion put in to give Dany the option of a fairly peaceful ascent to the Iron Throne, she chose her family's deadly nature. She chose to murder the “thousands of innocents” Tyrion was so worried about during his final conversation with Jaime. With the roar of her dragon, Dany proves to Tyrion she is no longer the ruler he believes her to be. She is worse than the father he murdered (Charles Dance), worse than Cersei, who only blew up one single sept, and even worse than Dany's own father, King Aerys (David Rintoul), who never got the chance to set off the casks of wildfire he commissioned.
Daenerys, on the other hand, bathed King’s Landing in both wildfire and dragon fire, leaving thousands of burned corpses in her wake. It’s horrifying. In the last we see of Tyrion in “Bells,” he is bewildered while taking in said horror from the edge of the capital. The closed captioning of the scene simply reads, “Breathing shakily.”
It is unlikely Tyrion will ever be able to bow to his queen again. She has proven Varys right — and Tyrion personally had the Spider killed for his regicidal theories. Now that Tyrion is living with the guilt of having the one person who truly saw Daenerys for what she is executed, he may just pick up that same cause. It’s not like Tyrion didn’t kill the last woman to seriously disappoint him on a parent-centric holiday.