“I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. She’s your kind of woman,” Cersei snarls at Tyrion, referring to Daenerys, in Game of Thrones’ explosive seventh season finale. “A foreign whore who doesn’t know her place.”
Her words reverberate again as Tyrion lingers outside his queen’s door, as she and Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) finally consummate their season-long affection and have sex. While Jon and Dany roll around in the sheets and Bran’s voiceover confirms Jon’s parentage and his birth name, Tyrion looks curiously morose. It’s more than apprehension on his face, more than a weighing of the strategic disadvantages of their union. It’s a look of personal heartbreak—right?
The ambiguity of Tyrion’s reaction to his queen’s latest, greatest, totally incestuous love affair set the internet ablaze with wild hypotheticals. Tyrion is in love with Dany, some deduced. A decades-old pitch letter from George R.R. Martin to a publisher, which outlined a since-discarded Jon-Arya-Tyrion love triangle (blech), suddenly became a clue about the “deadly rivalry” to come between Tyrion and Jon Snow, with Daenerys replacing Arya.
And indeed, the dwarf has always advised Daenerys against falling in love while on her quest to retake Westeros. On his advice, she left Daario Naharis behind in Meereen last season, calling him a “liability.” In the touching scene that followed Dany’s breakup, Tyrion told her, “He wasn’t the first to love you. And he won’t be the last.” Could that have been a veiled hint about his own affections?
Others posited that Tyrion’s face looked guilty, a sign of a planned betrayal of his queen. That theory hinges on supposed off-camera dealings with Cersei after the estranged siblings meet in private. The conversation ends on screen with Tyrion’s discovery that his sister is pregnant. But what if that knowledge—and his guilt over her other children’s deaths—prompts him to cut a deal with Cersei off-screen, encouraging her to lie to Jon and Dany about supporting them in the war against the undead?
There are a million more progressively weirder and wilder theories “explaining” Tyrion’s actions and motives in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” To gain some clarity on the matter, we had a quick chat with the episode’s director, Jeremy Podeswa. Fair warning: He has some discouraging news for the conspiracy-minded.
So what everyone is wondering about is what we should read into Tyrion’s expression as he stands outside Dany’s room while she and Jon are having sex inside. He definitely looks apprehensive, but are we meant to see jealousy as well?
Well I think there’s jealousy, but it’s maybe not romantic jealousy, in the way that it is for Jorah, for example. I think that for Tyrion, it’s more complicated. I think he has a very special relationship with Dany and he really believes in her as a true leader and has invested a lot in her. I think for him, with Jon and Dany getting together, this represents a possible undermining of his position with her and also a monkey wrench thrown into what the master plan really is meant to be around this entire alliance. The way I see it is Tyrion is a bit of a strategist—not just a bit of a strategist, he is a major strategist—and I think now, he can’t see where this is gonna go and that’s very difficult for someone who is always thinking three steps ahead. The consequences of Dany and Jon getting together are completely unknown. Is she gonna make decisions now based on this new relationship? Is she gonna be able to separate her personal [interests] from the interests of the greater group? What is this going to foretell for the alliance and what they’re all meant to do as a united front? So I think the worry for him is that now, everything is up for grabs. We don’t really know who’s going to side with who, what’s gonna happen at the end of the day, and which alliances are going to be the strongest.
The desperation on Littlefinger’s face as he realizes Sansa and Arya have double-crossed him is so satisfying. How far back did they know what Littlefinger was up to? Are we meant to assume that the threats and rivalry we saw in earlier episodes was all part of the ruse?
No, for me, it doesn’t mean that at all. I really believe that some of Littlefinger’s manipulations of Sansa were working on her, and that there was a question in her mind at some point of what Arya’s motives really were and whether she could trust her. And I think there was a feeling from Arya that Sansa saw herself as Lady of Winterfell and that she didn’t deserve to have that title. Littlefinger’s strength is that he finds things that are real and finds a way to manipulate the situation around those things. And so I do think that there is a germ of truth in all of that. Personally, I don’t think that they were putting on this ruse for the entire season. I feel like what probably happened is that Bran got involved and he was able to answer a lot of questions and fill in a lot of gaps the both of them had, and later when we see him in the scene with Littlefinger, all the stuff that Bran is saying in that scene is not news to Sansa and Arya. So clearly they’ve been apprised of all this stuff before. But exactly when that happened is the question. Like how early did they know all this and how early did they decide to turn the tables on Littlefinger? That’s a bit of a question. But I feel that there was a journey for both of those characters through all of that.
Was there an explanation for why the Wall’s magic crumbles under wight dragon fire? We’ve heard a lot from different characters over the course of the series about the magic that prevents the dead from crossing south. Was it the same principle as when the spells around the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave were broken?
Well I think there’s a sort of received wisdom about certain things, like there was received wisdom about what happened with Rhaegar and Lyanna. There’s certain things that people hold as truth, but that are not always necessarily true. So there’s received wisdom about the Wall, that it’s absolutely impenetrable. But I think what this proves is that actually, that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t entirely impenetrable. This is an eventuality that nobody ever predicted. But this is the one thing that actually makes the Wall vulnerable, and it’s the power of the undead, you know, the undead dragon. Who could ever have imagined such a thing could be possible? The thing that nobody ever imagines is the thing that actually disproves the accepted wisdom around this.
My favorite part of this episode was Tyrion and Cersei’s private meeting/reunion. What was it like filming that scene between the actors?
It was an amazing thing to shoot. Really one of my favorite ever. I think both of them are just so at the top of their game and the writing is really exceptional in that sequence. It’s the sort of scene that’s a long time coming because their characters haven’t been together for a long time. There is this tension in the scene that Cersei really could kill him at any moment. He knows it and I think there’s this tension for the audience too that it could completely go off the rails at any time. And this writing is so sophisticated, there are so many different shifts and turns and subtleties within that scene. I think for actors, a scene like that is a gift because you really get to play with dynamics and you really get to play with each other in a powerful way. We always do, like, a little blocking rehearsal before we do anything, where it’s just me, the actors, and maybe the cinematographer, just sitting in a room and playing it. I knew from the very first playing of that scene that it was sensational and very moving. Peter [Dinklage] and Lena [Headey] both were just, from the very first moment, right in it. They knew exactly how to play it. And after that, it was just a matter of capturing it.
Should we assume that a lot was said off-camera after Tyrion discovers Cersei is pregnant? There are already conspiracies swirling about major alliance shifts that could have occurred off-screen.
I think the assumption is there definitely was more conversation after that, which leads to her coming back to the Dragonpit and agreeing to be part of this alliance—we think, at that point. (Laughs.) So yes, there was definitely more conversation after that. But that’s all gravy. The essence of it is where it gets to at the end of that scene. I think, for me, that’s one of the great moments for both those actors. I literally had to take a breath. The first time they played [the pregnancy reveal], I was like, (gasp). It was a very powerful moment.
How do you approach a sequence as complicated as the Dragonpit meeting, with so many actors and characters’ dynamics at play?
It was a very complicated sequence to plan, actually, and to execute. I knew we’d have about six days to shoot it. I also knew it was a huge amount of material to get through, about 40 or 50 pages. I worked with the actors first in Belfast. It was the rare circumstance where we have the entire cast together to rehearse something, because we could never have figured this out on the day [of shooting]. So it was not just a matter of figuring out the choreography and the blocking but also just the tension, and which moments are really important, and whether everything in the script is holding well. Then at rehearsal, it’s just how to play everything. Where were the moments, where was the nuance, where was the complexity, what are the intricacies of all their relationships, and having it all come across.
But once you figure all that stuff out, then I started to figure out how to shoot it and break it down into digestible bits. I had a certain sense of how much to try to accomplish on each day and how to get through all the material. So I approached it like one big play and the play had many acts. We’d get through one or two acts a day, progressively in story sequence, through the entire piece. When we got there, it was really just seeing what happens when the cameras are actually rolling and making sure that we captured all those individual and very specific moments between all these characters that were detailed in the script and that we knew we wanted to capture.
It’s certainly epic to see all these characters together again in one place.
We knew going in it was an epic sequence for many reasons. It was epic for the fans and for people who have been watching the story closely because there are many characters who have either never met, or who haven’t been together for a long time. Every encounter is laden with meaning and tension and portent and all those things. But it was also epic in terms of every actor having to be there for each other for an entire sequence, whether they were on-camera or not. What’s so great about this cast is they really are like a family and they’re very committed to each other. Everybody was always there all the time, whether they were directly involved in what was happening or not. And everybody’s reactions are important, whether or not they have dialogue. They all do have a big role to play, no matter what part of the sequence we were in. So it was a real group effort to kind of make it strong and meaningful and emotional and powerful. And really, practically, just to get it done.