“The Laws of Gods and Men” was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, we caught up with some folks we haven’t seen in a while, filling in the gap their storylines left with our own imaginations. On the other hand, we finally got to see Tyrion brought to trial and suffer through countless betrayals and hurt – only to find that the long-awaited trial will yet go on. It felt like the episode was left spinning its wheels in places while we caught up with plot lines left long in wait and others just inched along.
So you see what I mean by a mixed bag. With that being said, I thought the episode was visually stunning with the introduction of Braavos as a new location and also the throne room in Meereen. This show has the ability to create sets that still marvel four seasons in and locations that still make the expanse of George R.R. Martin’s world seem believable. And Peter Dinklage did not fail in cashing in another fantastic performance as Tyrion Lannister: Dwarf on Trial. The departures from the books are growing, but in very interesting ways that I think ultimately make the show tighter. We readers may be squirming in our seats, but we all know that these plotlines will ultimately end up where they need to.
That giant lad made of stone and bronze is the Titan of Braavos. It isn’t mentioned in this episode but the Titan is a line of defense for the Braavosi and lets out a loud noise of warning when a ship approaches. It’s an intimidating thing to behold, and an awesome opening shot with Stannis and Davos sailing beneath it.
It is here we find the Iron Bank. Stannis is there to ask for money, for the backing of the Iron Bank in order to take the Iron Throne. For lack of a better word, the “chairman” of the Iron Bank is not inclined to back Stannis as it is not logical in mathematical terms. Ser Davos shines as he says the words that Stannis is too prideful to speak: the Seven Kingdoms are powered by Tywin Lannister. We all know it. And for the first time in this episode (a little something I like to think of as foreshadowing) we are reminded that Tywin Lannister is an old man. When this old man dies, who will be left to rule the Seven Kingdoms? Cersei, a Queen despised by the people? The boy King born of incest? Jamie Lannister, the Kingslayer?
I loved this scene, because we are reminded that though we, as a viewing audience, are invested in the drama in Westeros – the rest of the world is not as invested. The Iron Bank is the money; they are not interested in blood rights and usurping. I was glad we didn’t see them consent after Ser Davos gave his impassioned speech; instead we got some of that nudity and a naughty pirate whose ships are bought in gold. What will Stannis do now? What is his next step now that he has the Iron Bank at his back?
Ohhhhhh, Yara … there you are!
Is it just me or were you all left wondering how time exists to the Iron Islanders? I saw no time turner, so I am left to assume that Yara has basically been traveling this whole time. Traveling since the end of Season 3? It took Catelyn Stark one episode to get from the North to Renly’s army in the South back in Season Two. Okay, okay, I know with plot lines as far reaching as these we didn’t need her journey televised, especially since it never happened in the books. And the reading of the letter to the crew? That felt less like a dramatic encouragement to the Iron Islanders on board and more like a reminder to the audience of who Yara is and where she is going and why she is going there. I just hated every second of it. Her invasion and voice over intercut with a sex scene with Ramsay just didn’t go over well for me.
Reek … it rhymes with weak
Theon is brainwashed and damaged, housed with the hounds and afraid of his own sister. It’s real sad, and I am really impressed with Alfie Allen’s performance. He is completely believable as the broken man he has become. This is such a dramatic transformation that harkens past the fantasy divide into what torture goes on in the world we live in to achieve the same end, and torture that has occurred in the past to break human beings down until they are more like animals. Humanity is what was stripped away from Theon, and when Ramsay later offers Theon a bath and washes him by his own hand, we see he is restoring that humanity in a manipulative way that will bend Theon even more beneath his thumb.
This bathing scene was so suspenseful, like Reek I was waiting for Ramsay to do something horrible. The suspense was brief but it was effective. This is another plot line that edges forward a notch. Yara will now flee back to the Iron Islands (however long that takes through whatever weird time continuum her plot line flows through) and Ramsay will have Reek act like Theon for political maneuverings that need to be undertaken.
Whoa, Dragon Lady
That Drogon looks like he’s going to be a rebellious teenager. He’s taken to stealing from local goat herders for his snacks and Dany can’t ground him for being bad, so instead she offers to pay the goat herder three times the amount of each goat. Oh, that Daenarys, she’s so nice.
Except when it comes to the treatment of the Masters she crucified. The noble Hizdahr zo Loraq appears in her court to ask that the body of his father be taken down so that he can be laid to rest according to Meereenese custom. This scene was fairly intense and I really enjoyed Dany being faced with the repercussions of her decision to crucify the Masters unquestionably. It just so happens that Hizdahr’s father was against what was done to the slave children. He calls her actions into question as well as her perception of justice. I’m glad that she agreed to the proper burial in the temple of the graces, because echoes of Antigone were bouncing off the pyramid walls.
Back in King’s Landing the small council is all talk about the Mother of Dragons. Her army grows as her dragons do, and the rumors of a Targaryen girl with her eye on the Iron Throne are no longer rumors, they are unfolding events that have already begun creating ripples in Westeros. But again – Dany is in Meereen trying her hand at being Queen. She is standing still. And Varys has dispersed his little birds.
Tyrion, poor poor Tyrion
It was good to see him. He’s one of my favorites, but I hate that his character has been in wait for so long. The trial itself is quick moving, but getting there took forever. I guess that’s how long it takes to stack a fake case and pay the right mouths.
Grand Maester Pycelle was a given witness for the prosecution with the culprit necklace that Sansa wore as evidence of poison. Ser Meryn was there, of course, to speak of Tyrion’s treatment of Joffrey and his threats. And Cersei with the ashes of joy in her mouth was full of expected wrath. However, Varys’ testimony was startling. I thought Varys and Tyrion were allies of a sort, and I still think this connection between them is alive despite the damaging testimony.
Things are not looking good for Tyrion and there is no matter of wit that seems capable of wriggling his way out of the guilty seat. However, Jamie makes an arrangement with his Father. And this is the second mention of Tywin Lannister’s inconvenient mortality. He will one day die and who will carry on the Lannister line when Tyrion is gone and Jamie has taken a vow that doesn’t allow him to father any children or rule any lands? Jamie says that he will leave the Kings Guard and do as Tywin asked him to do in the premiere episode of this season – carry on the Lannister line. Did anyone else catch the look in Jamie’s eyes, that maybe; just maybe his father had been plotting something like this in order to get his way as he always gets his way? Or perhaps it was just recognition that Tywin is an opportunist and seized upon Jaime’s empathy in order to carry on the Lannister Dynasty he is so obsessed with. In exchange, Tyrion must plead for mercy and he will be sent to The Wall. Jamie alerts Tyrion to some portions of this plan. But then … Shae hits the fan.
That’s right, she’s back, and she is a woman scorned. My heart broke for Tyrion. Shae’s testimony felt like a slap in the face, she even throws Tyrion’s last words back at him. She’s just a whore, remember. The emotional upheaval and injustice of it all sends Tyrion into a rage. Rightfully so – and he demands a trial by combat, he’d rather leave his fate in the hands of the gods than the men and women who are so readily poised to destroy him. And. So. The. Trial. Goes. On.
Other awesome stuff I will mention from this episode …
- We get it – Oberyn Martell is a perv. It has been reiterated enough. I don’t know if a man with that wet an appetite is fit to serve on the small council and be taken seriously as a sound judge.
- Varys is asexual. His nonattachment to either sex even before he was made into a eunuch left him without the drive of desire that gets in the way of so many of these characters – no, Varys had more important things on his mind, and we are left questioning what those things are. Who is he really loyal to? He isn’t like Littlefinger who is only out for self gain. I believe he has a vested interest in actually protecting the realm, and his confession to Oberyn just confirms that very crucial difference between Varys and Littlefinger, and yet they are the strongest puppeteers of power.
- I really think that Varys was forced to testify against Tyrion in order to keep his position, but based on their exchange about Varys not forgetting that Tyrion once acted heroically on behalf of the realm to protect King’s Landing from the horrors of war – I think something is dangling out there. Politicians owe each other favors all the time and you cash them when the moment is right. What is Game of Thrones if not some medieval portrayal of politics? Varys still owes him one.
- Peter Dinklage’s performance tonight was pretty outstanding. He lashes out in a believable way and reminds the entire court that he is the reason they are all alive. And then a really intense staring contest commences between he and Tywin. A tad too long in my opinion, but hey, drama is drama.
Amanda Lowery lives, writes and studies in Baltimore where she is held hostage by potholes, stray cats and rats that make her watch way too much TV and rhyme unnecessarily. You can find her book reviews and pop culture thoughts at amandasthinkingoutloud.blogspot.com.