Spoilers for A Game of Thrones (all books, including Dance) and the HBO show…after the leap.
Spoilers ahead. I bloody warned you.
Spencer Ackerman has a long post up on Varys focusing on his brief scene at the end of A Dance with Dragons.
The epilogue scene in the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire confirms that the new central political question surrounding George R.R. Martin’s epic is why Pentos cares about the governance of Westeros. Assuming — for the first time — that Varys is a reliable narrator during his mustache-twirling soliloquy with Ser Kevan, his intentions are now clear: he has played a long game for Targaryen restoration, with Illyrio Mopatis as his Pentoshi agent. (Or maybe Varys is Illyrio’s Westerosi agent. Who knows.) The basic question is why. We have insufficient textual basis to answer as yet. But the game just got more fierce.
With that reveal, Varys’ actions in A Game of Thrones now look rather inconsistent with that goal. After all, he set into motion Robert’s plan to assassinate Daenerys and her unborn Rhaegal. There’s no real textual reason to believe that he sabotaged the plan: Ser Jorah’s guilty conscience unraveled it. But Varys collaborated with Illyrio to broker Dany’s wedding to Khal Drogo, a route to Targaryen restoration that ran through Viserys (assuming that Varys & Illyrio didn’t believe that Viserys’ essential Viserysness would botch the whole thing) and not young Aegon, whom Varys tells Ser Kevan is the linchpin of his long-hidden plan for the Iron Throne.
He posits two theories about the role Varys is playing in the books.
First, that Varys is okay with any Targeryen on the Iron Throne. But then why help Robert assassinate Dany?
Second, that Varys wants Aegon on the throne since he’s the rightful heir. But then why go to all the trouble in Pentos with Viserys and Dany?
I think the second theory is correct. Varys wants the true heir, Aegon, on the throne. The rather dramatic move of sending Viserys and Daenerys off with Khal Drogo was a highly visible move as well. There was no way that the Baratheons could miss it, but also little likelihood that Robert could do much once Dany was surrounded by the Khalasar.
On the other hand, I suspect Illyrio and Varys also believed that Viserys would be killed by the Dothraki and that Dany would become a pretty little wife for Khal Drogo and never be heard from again. In other words, the whole thing would serve as the perfect diversion. The dragons were an unsuspected twist, though even the birth of the dragons only served to further divert the attention of the Westerosi away from Aegon, who was kept tightly under wraps, and toward Daenerys.
Meanwhile, Varys works to create as much chaos and war as he can in the Seven Kingdoms and does a damn fine job in that role as well. Not that the Lannisters and Starks needed much goading. Still, one wonders how much of a role Varys actually played in events such as the death of Eddard Stark – could he have planted the idea to behead Eddard into Joffrey’s brain? Is Varys possibly manipulating Littlefinger as well? Did he free Tyrion in the hopes that Tyrion would kill Tywin?
Whatever the case, the Spider is in it for the long-con. He’s moving pieces about the board and nobody sees him doing it. Meanwhile Varys has little birds everywhere, keeping their ears – and their knives – oh so sharp.