For a show that opens each episode with an elaborately animated map, Game of Thrones has a very flexible understanding of distance and travel times. Sometimes characters will take multiple episodes—whole months of narrative time—to move from one location to another. On other occasions, they cross continents and oceans in a flash. The sixth season is replete with such enigmas: Littlefinger and his knights seemingly cross the distance between Moat Cailin and Winterfell overnight. Likewise, Arya makes it back from Braavos so quickly that it’s not clear she ever really left.
No one, however, moves faster than Varys. The erstwhile spymaster of King’s Landing typically oozes into scenes. In the series’ sixth-season finale, however, he all but teleports from one location to the next. Early on, he makes a surprising appearance in Dorne, showing up to help the Sand Snakes persuade Lady Olenna to join their cause. Seemingly mere moments later, he’s back at Daenerys’ side on a ship from Meereen, ready for adventure. The most reasonable explanation for such jarring jaunts is lazy storytelling: Varys doesn’t really need to travel to Dorne (presumably he could have just sent a raven or something), but his presence there has more visual impact, more directly signifying the budding matriarchal alliance that will, presumably, back Daenerys’ campaign of conquest in the coming seasons. He’s there, in other words, because it looks better, not because it actually makes sense for him to go. For much the same reason, the show needs him to return to Meereen so we can get a cool shot of all our pals on the deck of a ship.
So yes, there are bad reasons for Varys’ rapid transit. But what if there was a good reason? What if—bear with me here—Varys is a merman?
This, at any rate, is the theory put forward in a 2013 Reddit post that goes into elaborate, delightful detail. Look, maybe it’s not that crazy. Merpeople—or Merlings as they’re apparently called in Westeros—do apparently exist in George R.R. Martin’s fictional world. And there’s definitely something going on with that whole Drowned God business in the Iron Islands.
On Reddit, facts accumulate. Here are just a few: “Varys is noted to have a peculiar, slimy smile,” the post’s author observes. That makes sense, right? If he makes his home beneath the waves, his mouth probably would be icky. Likewise, the user notes, “When the subject of eating people came up, Varys licked his lips.” Fair point: Obviously mermen would like eating humans. Does most of this evidence seem circumstantial? Sure it does, but it adds up! Are most of the details derived from the novels rather than the show? They are, but that’s also true of other fan theories, plenty of which have proved correct.
Does Varys ever wear pants? Nope, it’s long robes for our Master of Whispers. What if that isn’t a fashion preference but a choice forced upon Varys so as not to reveal his hideous, fishy tail? That’s how Varys got from one place to another so quickly: He swam. Obviously.