Game of Thrones covered a lot of ground in its latest 80 minute installment—seven characters died (Ser Harry Strickland doesn’t count), King’s Landing was torched by a dragon, wildfire was exploding everywhere. And in the midst of that sensory overload it was potentially easy to miss a small but quiet moment early in the episode.
Varys made it clear to Tyrion in Episode Four that he believed Jon Snow would make a better ruler than Daenerys Targaryen. The beginning of Episode Five found Varys at Dragonstone writing a letter naming Jon as the true heir to the Iron Throne and consulting with one of his “little birds,” an adorable kitchen girl named Martha.
“She won’t eat,” Martha told Varys.
“We’ll try again at supper,” he replied.
Martha let Varys know that she thought soldiers were watching her. “Of course they are,” he responded. “That’s their job. What have I told you, Martha?”
“The bigger the risk, the bigger reward,” the girl replied.
Daenerys wasn’t named in the exchange, but on whom else’s behalf would the troops at Dragonstone be spying on a kitchen maid? And why else would Varys be concerned about whether or not the queen he wants to topple is well fed?
Varys trying to eliminate Daenerys by poison fits perfectly into a line from Season One, back when Ned Stark was trying to piece together the death of Jon Arryn, his predecessor as Robert Baratheon’s Hand. Ned suspects, correctly, that Arryn was poisoned, and told Grand Master Pycelle.
“I’ve heard it said that poison is a woman’s weapon,” said Ned.
“Yes, women, cravens, and eunuchs,” Pycelle responded. “Did you know that Lord Varys is a eunuch?”
Varys’s attempt to poison Daenerys makes his execution pretty justifiable—she had promised in Season Seven to burn him to death if he attempted to betray her, after all. It also makes Dany’s too-rapid descent into Mad Queen status and city burning feel a little more natural. On top of losing her dragon and her best friend and finding out that her lover was actually her nephew and potential rival, one of her closest advisors was trying to have her killed. But the fact that she went on to torch King’s Landing also suggests that it probably would have worked out for the greater good if Varys’s poisoning plan had worked.
“I hope I deserve this, truly I do,” Varys said moments before his execution for treason. “I hope I’m wrong.” He wasn’t.