Game of Thrones season 8: Varys' plans for the Iron Throne draw from this storyline in the books

Rohini Nair

May 06, 2019 13:03:20 IST

SPOILERS AHOY! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Varys — Game of Thrones' Master of Whisperers — has been on the sidelines for a while now, but that doesn't mean he won't prove to be a kingmaker yet.

How? As Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 — 'The Last War' — showed: by actively supporting Jon Snow's claim to the Iron Throne, now that he's found out about the former King in the North's true Targaryen identity.

Varys' support of Jon has a certain parallel in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books.

In the books, Varys is working to install Aegon Targaryen (not Jon, but the child who would have been Jon's half-brother — Rhaegar Targaryen's son with his first wife Ellia Martell) on the Iron Throne. The twist in the books is that this Aegon isn't actually Rhaegar and Ellis's son at all, but an impostor propped up by Varys.

Game of Thrones season 8: Varys plans for the Iron Throne draw from this storyline in the books

Count Varys out at your own peril. Image from Game of Thrones. HBO

While the Game of Thrones TV series has done away with fake Aegon (as it has with many other characters and plotlines) the books' plotline provide a hint as to what Varys will do next.

The Varys on the TV show (played by actor Conleth Hill) has spent many years (with a little help from friends across the Narrow Sea, like Magister Illyrio) trying to get a Targaryen back on the throne. Notwithstanding his sending an assassin (the wine merchant) to kill Daenerys on Robert Baratheon's command — a discrepancy the show hasn't really explained — it emerges that Varys has all along been supporting a return to Targaryen rule, which he feels is in the best interests of the realm.

Also read — Post-Battle of Winterfell, what comes next for the Lannisters, Targaryens and Starks?

We know this because of his conversation with Illyrio in the underground passageway of the Red Keep, that Arya overhears (while chasing a cat), and because Varys himself tells Tyrion about his long-running plans when they both reach Pentos safely after Tywin Lannister's murder. While Varys' motives seem inexplicable to nearly everyone who encounters him — be it Ned Stark or Littlefinger or even Tyrion, at times — the "Spider" himself has steadfastly maintained that whatever he's done, he's done to ensure peace reigns in the Seven Kingdoms.

Given this is his motivation, it's natural that Varys has genuinely come to believe that having Rhaegar Targaryen's son on the Iron Throne — the rightful heir by the laws of succession — would be the realm's best chance at peace, unity and prosperity.

As Varys points out to Tyrion, unlike Daenerys, Jon is a Westerosi born and bred, with his half-Stark, half-Targaryen lineage making him the perfect candidate for the Iron Throne.

Varys has also been — after the Battle of the Goldroad — extremely concerned about Daenerys' propensity to douse her opponents in dragonfire. Rewind his conversation with Tyrion in Dragonstone, where he exhorts the Queen's Hand to "make her (Daenerys) listen".

He recounts his own horror at having played a role in aiding and abetting her father, the Mad King's rule for so long — reassuring himself every time Aerys performed some new depravity that he (Varys) wasn't the one doing it.

Traces of this same conversation echo in 'The Last War', where Varys tells Tyrion he's spent too much time serving tyrants not to recognise a potential new one, just riding in on a dragon in the horizon.

Suggested read — Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 review: The Last War proves the living are a greater threat than the dead ever were

Few in Westeros (or Essos) understand power quite like Varys does. Littlefinger and Varys may have both wielded knowledge as power, but the Spider's plans ultimately proved to have far greater scale than Petyr Baelish's. In recent times, he's been content to stay quiet, but we'd do well not to count him out just yet.

After all, remember what he said to Oberyn Martell about how being devoid of sexual desire, as an eunuch, left him free to pursue "other things" — looking meaningfully at the Iron Throne when Oberyn asks what "other things".

What webs the Spider will spin — or indeed if he will get to spin any at all in the little time we have left — on Game of Thrones season 8 remains to be seen. But once set into motion, his plans are sure to have far-reaching consequences.

Updated Date: May 07, 2019 18:41:46 IST

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