We’ve advanced the theory, in the past, that all of Game of Thrones is the war between Varys and Littlefinger. When we caught up with Conleth Hill, who plays Varys, we had to ask him about this. Plus Hill told us why Varys and Littlefinger are opposites, but Varys and Tyrion are the same.
Warning: There’s a big book spoiler at the end of this interview.
When we talked to him at the Entertainment Weekly party at SDCC on Saturday night, Hill was careful to say that he didn’t know if it was true that everything that happens on the show is really about his character sparring with Varys. “But I can see how that assumption is made.”
And he explained to us what he sees as being the essence of their conflict: Varys is in favor of order, while Littlefinger wants chaos. “So they’re good polar opposites.”
Based on this most recent season, Littlefinger seems to have outsmarted himself, while a lot of his schemes have backfired horribly. And meanwhile, Varys is moving all his pieces into position for a Daenerys win. So is Varys actually winning his game with Littlefinger, maybe? Hill says that he believes Littlefinger’s schemes are motivated by pure ego and selfishiness, while Varys is a much less selfish manipulator—so maybe Littlefinger’s schemes are harder to accomplish because they require him to gain power personally?
In any case, Varys says that “at the moment, it seems” as though Varys’ only ambitions are for others to gain power.
But does Varys worry, even a little, that he’s bet on the wrong horse by backing Daenerys? She’s been acting awfully impulsively recently, after all. “No, I don’t think he does” doubt Daenerys, says Hill. Varys wouldn’t have gone all the way to Meereen if he had any doubts. “I think his hand was forced a little in the TV show, because of Tyrion’s murder of his father—and the fact that he helped [Tyrion] escape. I think he knew he had to leave as well, otherwise he would have been held responsible by Cersei. So that was his motive for getting out.”
But now that Varys is out of Westeros, there’s no doubt in in the Spider’s mind, says Hill. “The Targaryen restoration has been a long-held ambition of his.”
And in season six, you can probably expect a lot more of Tyrion and Varys working together, and arguing about the nature of power and justice, as they try to get the city of Meereen back on track, says Hill. “They’re now left in the position, at the end of series five, where they have to restore order to a city that’s in chaos. I think that’s their challenge, primarily. And they’ll probably have a bit of quipping and bitching along the way.”
Does Lord Varys actually care what happens to Meereen, or is it just a dry run for taking over Westeros later on? “I think he likes the challenge,” says Hill. “I think he likes getting a city in order, and using everything, all of his faculties and his spy network to get that ball rolling.”
Plus Varys was enslaved himself, when he was a child—and he obviously has a certain amount of sympathy for the Unsullied. “He has a lot in common with [the Unsullied] because they’re eunuchs, and he has a lot in common with Tyrion because they were both victims, and they’re both survivors.”
Book spoiler ahead....
But don’t expect Varys to sneak back into Westeros himself and start assassinating people himself, like he does in the books. Hill says that it’s a long way back to Westeros, and he doesn’t imagine they’d want to show Varys hiding out in Westeros—because that’s not terribly interesting to film.