While HBO's epic fantasy series Game of Thrones has stirred much debate over its nudity and violence, Peter Dinklage's scene-stealing turn as Tyrion Lannister has been almost universally praised, even scoring the American actor an Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.
His recognition should come as no surprise to fans of the show and author George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series, on which Thrones is based, but for newbies looking to understand Dinklage's appeal, here's a few reasons why we think the actor, 42, deserves Emmy gold for bringing Tyrion to life:
He's no pushover. With his older sister Cersei ruling over Westeros as Queen and her twin brother Jaime serving in the King's Guard, Tyrion is often overlooked and considered an embarrassment to the Lannister family, having been born a dwarf and incapable of serving as a solider. But despite the lack of respect he receives from his tyrant father Tywin, Tyrion never ceases to impress, and often outsmart, his rivals. Dinklage plays the character as a confident and competent voice of reason with whom the audience can identify, in addition to being the only person in the Lannister family willing to stand up to Cersei's insufferable son, Prince Joffrey.
He's sympathetic. Despite his status as a Lannister, the richest house in Westeros, Tyrion treats even those considered beneath him with the same respect he does his equals, in particular, the bastard Jon Snow. Being the illegitimate son of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell affords Snow little privilege, and Tyrion is quick to counsel the boy on how to deal with life as an outsider during their journey to Castle Black, home of the Night's Watch. Likewise, he finds empathy for the fate of Stark's young son Bran, who is paralyzed in an accidental fall that, unbeknownst to Tyrion, was orchestrated by his siblings. On his return journey home, he stops at Winterfell and provides the Stark family with saddle instructions that will allow the boy to ride again.
He's hilarious. Dinklage's true talents as an actor are no more on display than in bringing moments of comedic relief to an otherwise dark and bloody series. When imprisoned at the Eyrie, the home of Lady Cateyln Stark's sister Lysa, Tyrion barters his freedom by agreeing to confess his crimes, and goes on to mockingly atone for stealing a servant girl's robes and leaving her naked, filling his uncle's boots with goat excrement, and masturbating into his sister's dinner. The scene also unites Tyrion with mercenary Bronn, played by Jerome Flynn, who becomes Dinklage's comedic counterpart as the series progresses.