Game of Thrones: What did Varys’ sacrifice accomplish?


During the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, Lord Varys was the first character to perish. But was his treason worth getting killed for?

There were countless casualties during Game of Thrones’ penultimate episode, “The Bells,” but Varys the Spider was the first character to perish this week. As promised, he was burned alive by Daenerys after betraying her trust—although, to be fair, he did keep his vow to speak truly to her face before stabbing her in the back. Sadly, the queen just didn’t listen.

Given Daenerys’ refusal to heed her counsel, it’s only natural that Varys would reconsider his allegiances. It’s not like the Spider has never switched sides before, and as he points out to Tyrion during the previous episode, Jon is a more acceptable contender for the throne, at least by Westerosi standards.

(L to R) Kit Harington as Jon Snow and Conleth Hill as Varys – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Varys also rightfully predicts what Daenerys will do when she attacks King’s Landing—perhaps realizing his queen’s course of action before even she does. “You know what she’s about to do,” he tells Jon when he arrives at Dragonstone.

But even if Varys called Daenerys unleashing her inner Mad Queen on King’s Landing, was it worth betraying her and losing his life over? It’s out of character for Varys to be so obvious about his scheming, especially if it could get him killed.

During the first season of Game of Thrones, even when he knows Joffrey and Cersei aren’t fit to rule, he still stands aside as they imprison and kill Ned. And he does similar things throughout the series, willing to sacrifice his morals in order to ensure he’s still around to watch out for the realm.

So, why openly risk defying Daenerys knowing the consequences?

(L to R) Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister and Conleth Hill as Varys. Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Either Varys is really confident that Tyrion and Jon will do what needs to be done for the sake of the realm, or he has something else up his sleeve. It’s possible he’s already successfully acted against Daenerys, ensuring her demise regardless of whether or not he’s alive to witness it. Not only would this make his choice seem more in character, but it would make sense of Melisandre’s implication that he’s destined to die in this country, presumably fulfilling whatever purpose the Red God has in store for him.

And Varys is shown writing letters revealing Jon as the true heir to the Iron Throne during “The Bells,” though he’s never seen sending them. Still, he appears to be writing from daylight to dusk, leaving viewers to assume that some of those scrolls must have been sent—even if he burns the last one before the Unsullied come knocking.

So, who were these letters for? Fans have guessed the new Prince of Dorne could be one of the recipients, along with the remaining lords of Westeros. Yara Greyjoy also might also be on Varys’ mailing list, though it seems unlikely the Iron Born would care much about Jon’s claim, especially when they essentially choose their leaders democratically.

The other question is what good Varys’ letters will do, even if they are received by every remaining person in Westeros. It’s not like any of the other rulers can stand up to Daenerys—her dragon and the fact that there’s only one 80-minute episode left in the series will prevent that from happening.

This means that it’s basically up to those closest to her to put an end to her reign. And with King’s Landing already in ruins, it seems that Varys could have kept himself alive until that happened.

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