In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tommen Baratheon is 8 years old. Possibly due to the time-warped years and seasons in Westeros, he’s now about 12, estimates Dean-Charles Chapman, the 17-year-old who portrays the young king. “Tommen’s so young, I try to do a higher-pitched voice,” the actor said when we caught up with him at the show’s international press day in Belfast. “It’s kind of hard to get in the mind of a 12-year-old, because I can’t even remember being 12. And Tommen is so young, he’s like a baby.”
The show may have slightly aged Tommen up to help with his impending marriage to Margaery. It’s a little less disturbing if he seems closer to the age where he could consent to it; plus, it makes him appear to be more of a power player. In the books, Margaery gives Ser Pounce (and two other cats) to Tommen to influence him because he has the innocence of the child (for one, he thinks being king means he can outlaw beets). On the show, she influences him by taking his innocence.
“Ever since Margaery came into his bedroom, Tommen just loves her,” Chapman said. “In his eyes, she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. He never really had contact with a woman before, not even just talking to one. And it would kill him if he thought she was insincere. He’s really innocent to what’s going on around him, which is rare in Game of Thrones. He’s too young to know. He’s easily manipulated.”
This wasn’t a problem when Tywin, his grandfather, was the one doing the manipulating. In his role as Hand of the King, Tywin, effectively, was king, and Tommen his apprentice, although the boy may not have realized it. “A wise young king listens to his councilors and heeds their advice until he comes of age,” Tywin tells Tommen. Tywin tries to advise him that winning the throne and ruling the kingdom aren’t the same thing, and hidden within that is a nugget about attending Small Council meetings. But have we seen Tommen at the Small Council meetings ever since?
Without Tywin, Tommen is indeed lost, a puppet without a Hand. His mother Cersei knows she can’t technically be Hand of the King, but she thought she could declare herself Queen Regent — again — telling everyone she’s just advising her son until he comes of age and chooses a Hand for himself. This might have worked the first time around, but round two is not going so well — not without Tywin to back her. “[Tommen] should be here, learning what it means to rule,” her uncle Kevan insists. “I do not recognize your authority. You are the queen mother, nothing more.” As queen mother, “Cersei’s role of ruling is definitely downgraded,” Chapman said. “And it’s going to be hard to learn the right stuff [from her] that’s needed for the kingdom.”
How long can Cersei play puppet master? And who else has the power to sway King Tommen? His great uncle Kevan has gone back to Casterly Rock. Uncle/Dad Jamie’s gone off to Dorne. Uncle Tyrion is on his way to Meereen. The Small Council is now stacked with folks like Pycelle, Qyburn, and Mace Tyrell — none of whom have his ear. Even Cersei recognizes that her influence is not enough, “if he’s going to rule well.” A king needs a queen, she once decided. Too bad it’s one she threatened to strangle in her sleep, whose grandmother has already killed at least one Lannister. “The only people Tommen has left are Cersei and Margaery,” Chapman said. “Tommen’s going to have to choose. He’s going to be torn.”
Neither option offers Tommen the wisdom and direction he needs as king. Both Cersei and Margaery make decisions that are ultimately about themselves, not the realm. Cersei’s actions are more apparently selfish, but Margaery is no less of a social climber. This is her third marriage to her third king. While the bodies of her first two husbands were still lying in state, she made her wishes known. “I want to be the queen,” she said, looking at Renly’s dead body. “So am I the queen?” she asked after Joffrey’s murder. She didn’t care if she were married to a monster because at least “I would have been the queen!” she told her grandmother. Sure, Margaery seems kinder — to Sansa, to Brienne, to strangers — but her charitable work serves a dual purpose: It benefits her to be the queen loved by the people.
What advice would Margaery actually have? “Whatever you need to do” is what she told both Renly and Joffrey, which suggests that she’s really more hands-off, even when it involves something she would oppose. Remember, she supported Joffrey when he suggested making homosexuality punishable by death — never mind how that would affect her brother Loras. And throughout Tyrion’s trial, even when she knew that the proceedings were a farce, she did nothing. Surely there could have been a way, without implicating her grandmother, to help save an innocent person? One of the judges was her own father, an easily manipulated man if there ever were one. Power — not reform, nor justice — is her priority.
So, whom does Tommen choose? Mother or wife? Queen or Queen Regent? “If I had to choose between them, I’d just say, run away!” Chapman laughed. “Commit suicide! Seriously.”