Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night.”

As Game of Thrones moves into the second half of its final season, we’re in the endgame — not just for the remaining contenders for the Iron Throne, but also for the behind-the-scenes string-pullers with their own grandiose plans for the fate of Westeros. Littlefinger’s cunning, Varys’ spy networks, Tyrion’s battle strategies, and Melisandre’s prophecies and fire magic have all been involved in manipulating and shaping the kingdom’s current chaos. But the show has not been friendly to any of its masterminds.

In the season 8 premiere, Varys, Tyrion, and Davos Seaworth watch Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen from a distance, musing over their suitability as a marriage alliance. “You overestimate our influence,” Varys says. “Jon and Daenerys don’t want to listen to lonely old men.” Tyrion protests, “Our queen respects the wisdom of age.” Varys quips back, “Of course she does. Respect is how the young keep us at a distance so that we don’t remind them of an unpleasant truth… that nothing lasts.”

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