When I was much younger, I used to go through phases where I would have a crush on an actor. I suppose this behavior counts as “fangirling,” but since it was before the internet I didn’t know that term. Anyhoo, one of those crushes was Charles Dance.
I know. Don’t judge.
I loved him for his portrayal as Eric in a TV-version of Phantom of the Opera, and for his role as Sardal Numspa in The Golden Child, which is another delightful film you should totally check out. I have no explanation of why I liked him so much, other than it was a phase and I am strange.
With that said, there is literally no one else on this planet I could see in the role of Tywin Lannister. Charles Dance is perfect.
If you haven’t seen the show, then everything you need know is summed up in this mnemonic device I used to help me remember his name when I first started watching:
Ty(rant) + Win = Tywin Lannister, the Tyrant Who Wins
If I had more time and less employment, I would create a Tumblog dedicated just to scenes of him entering rooms like a badass. Because there are copious scenes of him entering rooms and just filling them with his magnificent presence. Alas, some other person shall have to come up with it.
The reason they love to show him entering rooms/scenes like a badass is multifold:
- His physical presence – Charles Dance is tall and elegant, and the camera loves his long, stately stride. he enters rooms and then WORKS. THEM.
- His abstract presence – TL just walking into a room changes what’s going on in it. People stop what they’re doing, conversations end, and everyone basically waits for him to dictate what’s going on next; as the (arguably, to be explained below) most powerful man in Westeros, they are on his time, he is not on theirs
- For the purposes of filmmaking, it’s easier to begin a scene with a character entering or leaving a room/scene than in the middle of a conversation or situation, especially with as many characters and situations as GoT has.
Look how the man works that horse.
Makes me think of Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China, except the exact opposite: “Everyone stop relaxing, I’m here now.”
Incidentally, this is a scene in the second season where Tywin’s arrival saved the day – by displacing the former acting lord of Harrenhal, Tywin exercises some much needed order over the ruinous castle and its ruinous garrison. The acting commander at Harrenhal was the psychotic and terrifying Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain That Rides, aka the 8-ft tall guy who cut off a horse’s head with a single blow in the first season during the tournament. Tywin arrives and ends the random killing of captives, and puts them to work in the castle.
While he does employ psychotic and terrifying people like the Mountain, he considers them only useful in battle. “Meet your enemies with fire and sword, but help a kneeling man to his feet” is one of his axioms. And he does do this – there’s not much TL takes personally, when it comes to the other lords and people of Westeros, unless someone tries to start some shit with his family. THAT he does not put up with. Granted, he usually turns things to his advantage when dealing with his former enemies, but while he can be duplicitous, he is at least generally in the open about things and you usually know where you stand. His first loyalty is to his name and his family: but whatever threatens the realm, like instability, threatens his family.
I think something a lot of people overlook with his character is the fact that he spends most of the War of the Five Kings cleaning up other people’s messes. To wit:
- He goes to war with the North after his son is taken prisoner by Catlyn Stark. Granted, he could have ransomed Tyrion or something, but anyone who knows him know he doesn’t do things half-assed nor suffer fools. But he’s also upholding the stability of Westeros – there are a lot of highborn lords out wandering around, and if people start getting the idea they can just grab somebody and demand terms, well, there would be a LOT of problems. People need to see what happens in such cases.
- He continues the war of the Five Kings because of the actions of Cersei and Joffrey; Cersei, who blows her nose with the will of her DEAD KING, and Joffrey, who beheads his own Warden of the North. They wrote some checks they couldn’t cash and TL WILL NOT allow the honor of his house to be sullied by their actions. You don’t become the (arguably) most powerful man in Westeros by shrugging and “just going with it.” I wish we could have seen his reaction when he heard about what the queen and Joff did, although it would hvae been best viewed from a safe distance; the surface of Mars, say.
- He arrives in King’s Landing just in time to save the day and rout Stannis’s army, but also to salvage the wreckage of Joffrey’s actions – this is after he’s been acting as Battle Commander for a few months in the West and Riverlands, losing several battles to a sixteen year old. True, it is INCREDIBLY shitty that he takes up the position of Hand and relegates Tyrion to some crappy darkened room to heal up. That’s a dick move, hands down (HURRR). So he loses cool points there, but he didn’t get where he is by worrying about whether people like him or not. Lannister can read between the lines of Westerosi history: a weak king requires a strong Hand, and he knows that better than anyone.
This is all doubly interesting if you consider that cleaning up family messes was how he started his life: his father was a weak man, who loaned out money freely without demanding repayment. He was disrespected by his bannermen when they were drunk, and generally thought of as The Local Softy. When some nearby families started some shit, he backed down. Eventually, the widowed Tytos brought a common woman into his bed, and gave her run of Casterly Rock. The situation was sort of like if the Kennedys (Lannisport sounds a LOT like Hyannisport to me) replaced Jackie Kennedy with Britney Spears. After his father died, Tywin Lannister became the lord of Casterly Rock and he had had ENOUGH. He threw the woman out and made her do the Westerosi version of the walk of shame – naked as a jaybird, right through the middle of town. Then when the Reynes started some shit, he marched on them and eradicated the entire family, and burned down their seat. “The Rains of Castemere” is like the Lannister Fight Song.
Then he had to serve Mad King Aerys, who went all sideways on him. The twenty years he served as Hand are remembered fondly by the common people as a time of peace and plenty.
Anyhoodle, I just love Charles Dance in this role. His elegance, his grace, and his arrogance are all perfect. Most poignant of all his is use of stillness in the role. He is a patient man, a still man. He does not fidget. He masters himself like he masters his surroundings. He knows that the victor is not always the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but the one who can endure. As I mentioned above, everyone else is on HIS time. He comes across as inhuman at times…but he most assuredly isn’t.
And just to show that Mr. Dance can be silly too, here he is in a scene from Da Ali G show, shaking that thang:
Thanks for reading my long rambling love letter to Tywin Lannister. Have a great day!