Why does Tyrion free Jaime and betray Dany in Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5?

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – Photo: Courtesy of HBO
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – Photo: Courtesy of HBO /

With one decision, Tyrion all but ordered his own execution. So why did he do it?

This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5 “The Bells.”

Tyrion fans, hold your favorite imp close, as he’s not likely to make it out of season 8 alive. Yes, Tyrion lived through The Last War in season 8 episode 5, but his decisions this week have all but confirmed his death in the season finale.

Specifically, the decision to free his brother Jaime, who had been taken prisoner by Daenerys’ troops when he tried to make it past their lines to get to Cersei. (For those still hoping Jaime was heading for King’s Landing to kill Cersei himself…it turns how he was very much traveling for love.) More than just freeing Jaime, Tyrion also gives him directions for how to escape (and instruction to ring the damn surrender bells) with Cersei.

As Jaime accurately surmises, Tyrion’s Queen Dany will certainly execute him for this. (Moments before, she had told Tyrion said that if he failed her again, it would be the last time.) So, Jaime, and millions of viewers at home, were left to wonder why on earth Tyrion was doing this. After all, Cersei was a right monster to Tyrion his entire life. Why would he want to save her?

His answer suggests that it really wasn’t about her at all. Not only does he value the lives of the citizens over his own, but his love for Jaime, and his gratitude, outweighed any animosity for Cersei.

“10,000 of innocent lives, one not particularly innocent dwarf. Seems like a fair trade,” Tyrion tells Jaime. “If it weren’t for you, I never would have survived my childhood. You were the only one that didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.”

Unfortunately, it’s all for naught. Not only does Jaime and Cersei not make it out alive — their exit is sealed with rubble and they are ultimately crushed underneath the castle — but Dany ignores the bells and burns King’s Landing and all the innocents to the ground.

Varys had good intentions. So did Tyrion. Hard to imagine Tyrion meets a better end.

Next. 25 best episodes of Game of Thrones. dark

Game of Thrones ends next Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.