Monday, May 12, 2014

“Game of Thrones” Season 4, Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 12:17 AM

The bulk of this week’s episode was basically “Law & Order: Westerosi Victims Unit,” a.k.a. the trial of Tyrion Lannister for the murder of King Joffrey. Honestly I wish the entire episode had been devoted to it, because that was some gripping television that told the story far better than the books did. The other plotlines tonight were largely unexciting, but did serve to move a few other arcs along.

We’ll start in a new location, Braavos (I always love when we get new sites on the world map!), where Stannis and Davos sought to get financial backing from the Iron Bank. This never happened in the books -- or if it did, it was all off page. Stannis disappeared after the Battle of the Blackwater, only reappearing at the end of Book 3 in a completely unexpected location. The Iron Bank and its financial leverage over Westerosis alluded to fairly frequently in the books, but the show seems to be making it a more explicit plot point. Hence the casting of Mark Gatiss as a bank representative, the world’s fussiest loan officer (do not take any buttons from crazy old ladies who want mortgage extensions, Mark!) who initially turned down Stannis’s request for dinero. But once again Davos proved himself to be one of the shrewdest characters in this universe, arguing that if the bank continues to back the Lannisters, it is going to be SOL once Tywin kicks it. Yeah, can you imagine how bad Cersei’s credit score is? She can’t stop buying all of that gaudy costume jewelry from Medieval QVC’s Mary Queen of Scots collection… Anyway, It appears that Davos’ gambit was successful, as he immediately took some coins and repurchased pirate Salladhor Saan’s services. But Salladhor seemed awfully unhappy about that arrangement, and wasn’t just about Davos’ A-plus cockblocking game.

Hey everybody, Yara Greyjoy still exists! Unfortunately it seems that her entire personal plotline has been jettisoned by this show and instead she’s being wound into Theon’s drama much earlier. I hope that doesn’t end up being the case. I really like Yara (or Asha, as she’s known in the books) and her Book 4 arc, which goes much deeper into her extended family and the Ironborn, and includes some super interesting twists that I personally expect to play a part in the series’ endgame. Anyway, in this episode Yara and a crew attacked the Dreadfort in an attempt to free Theon. But Theon was full-on Patty Hearst-ing and refused to leave Ramsay Snow -- Theon doesn’t even believe he’s Theon anymore, just Reek. There was a fight, Ramsay ran Yara off with his dogs (but not before Theon literally BIT HIS SISTER), and Yara told the surviving members of her crew that Theon was dead. Except he’s not. Ramsay -- so very pretty, so very crazy -- has a new mission for Reek that involves him pretending to be Theon Greyjoy so that they can retake a castle. And he also gave Reek/Theon a bath, but did not include any bubbles or a rubber duckie. Ramsay really is a master torturer.

Over in Essos, Daenerys met with her supplicants. If this bored you, strap in -- the Dany plotline gets stuck in this setting for quite a while. Among the subjects seeking her aid was a shepherd whose entire herd of goats was wiped out by Drogon, Daenerys’s most precocious dragon kid. (Aside: in the books, the goatherd loses more than his animals to the dragons -- although that might still be in the offing on the show.) Dany also treated with Hizdahr zo Loraq, a scion of Meereen, who requested that Dany allow them to remove the crucified slave owners from their crosses and bury them. There was a decent debate over what is just, but ultimately Dany granted Hizdahr’s wish, and probably also regretted going against Barristan Selmy’s advice about all that crucifying thing in the first place. Basically Dany is learning what all middle managers know: when you’re overseeing people, there is no winning. There is only degrees of making people angry. And Dany has already pissed off a LOT of people.

And then it was on to the main event in King’s Landing. There was a brief meeting of the new Small Council, which includes Oberyn Martell (he is SO much more interesting in the show than he was in the books) and human sack of potatoes Mace Tyrell. Of interest is that Tywin has put a bounty on The Hound’s head, and that the Council is finally taking Dany seriously as a threat. Tywin even asks Varys to send some of his “little birds” across the Narrow Sea to infiltrate Camp Targaryen -- or possibly worse. (Aside: this was a very good Varys episode, and served to remind us just how good he is at playing this game. But do not for a second take that look at the Iron Throne as an indication that Varys has any intention to rule. Varys works behind the scenes, which is where the real power lies. He is not stupid.)

Tyrion’s trial itself was filled with great character moments. We got testimony against him from Cersei, dick knight MerynTrant, grandmaesterPycelle, and, interestingly, Varys (please remember that a few episodes from now). During a recess Tywin and Jaime argued over the BS kangaroo court and Jaime offered to leave the Kingsguard and go back to Casterly Rock to start a family if Tywin let Tyrion live -- and Tywin immediately agreed. Because, of course, that is what Tywin wanted all along. He has no love for Tyrion. None at all. But Tywin is shrewd, and knew that this was a perfect bargaining chip to make Jaime do what Tywin believes is his familial duty. (Remember, Tywin never wanted Jaime on the Kingsguard at all -- but had he not been on it, Mad King Aerys would have destroyed King’s Landing, and possibly all of Westeros. So food for thought.) The deal was that Tyrion would be found guilty, plead for mercy, and get sent to the Wall to serve as a member of the Night’s Watch, while Jaime immediately surrendered his white cloak -- a lovely bit of black and white symmetry for the brothers Lannister.

But that didn’t exactly work out once Cersei played her trump card: Shae. To my recollection, this was done differently in the show than it was in the books, where Shae's actions kind of come out of nowhere. The show has been building up Shae’s betrayal of Tyrion since the end of last season, and has made crystal clear her motivations, and how she got involved with the other Lannisters. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it gave us that courtroom scene, which was brutal to watch (in a good way). She lied about Tyrion’s role in Joffrey’s murder (she said that he planned it with Sansa as a way to get her to sleep with him), humiliated him publicly, and basically said their entire relationship was a lie. That led to some terrific acting from Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion watched once again as a woman he thought loved him was coerced into betraying him in the most vicious way -- and it was all orchestrated by his family. But this version of the story is also unfortunate, because Shae’s eventual betrayal of Tyrion in the books is such a blindside. So I’m sorry that the show won’t have that impact.

After Shae atomized everything Tyrion believed, he went into full self-destruct mode and told the crowd that not only did he wish he HAD killed Joffrey, but he wished he could kill them all, too. Spoiler: Tyrion will not be voted prom king this year. He then completely effed Tywin’s plan -- and possibly consigned himself to death -- when he decided to forego a jury verdict and instead demanded a trial by combat. Hey, it worked out well for him in the Vale!

NEXT: Bring your bibs, ladies (and gents of a certain persuasion), because we’re getting a prime slab of shirtless beefcake in the form of The Mountain Mark 3! And some other stuff. But shirtless, giant-like Nordic man! Swinging a big-ass sword! YAAAAAAS!

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