by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)
As I watched the intro sequence start up for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, I was about to write in my notes how I was disappointed with the intro sequence this season. Sure we got new locations like the Dreadfort and Meereen at the start of the year, but each episode it has been exactly the same, even when swapping Dragonstone for the Eyrie would have made sense. But as if hearing my pleas, Braavos appears! The Titan of Braavos, a towering statue that straddles the entrance to the Venice-esque city, makes for an iconic monument and the rolling coin was a nice way to link the bank into our first look at this new opening location.
This leads nicely into the first scene of the episode which shows Stannis and Davos sailing into Braavos for their meeting at the Iron Bank. As much as I love to geek out over the intro sequence, it was even cooler seeing Braavos in the show proper. As someone who has read the source material, a lot of my joy in watching the show comes from seeing things I have read about and only seen in my mind come to life on-screen and this includes seeing new locations like Braavos. It is one of the reasons I hope we end up in places like Casterly Rock and Dorne in the show’s future which have only been talked about to this point. Just seeing how they match up to the picture in my mind would be so much fun.
Stannis and Davos discussions with the bankers in Braavos are fairly interesting. They are all about the numbers over there and seem to make purely logical decisions. But Davos gives an impassioned speech noting that Tywin is long in the tooth and without him, the realm will be in Tommen and Cersei’s hands. And that they’d be better off putting their faith in his man, the reliable Stannis. They get the money and Davos is even able to hire back his old friend Salladhor Saan to help bolster their fleet. It was definitely a good showing for Davos this week.
The sequence that follows, the season’s first appearance of Yara Greyjoy, is really the only blemish on an otherwise flawless episode. I get the point of the whole thing is to show just how broken Theon is at this point, but everything that surrounds it just doesn’t work. The random interspersed sex scenes for no reason. Yara and the supposedly, incredibly tough and armored up Ironborn being able to breach the Dreadfort, only to be run off by a shirtless Ramsey and some dogs. It all just falls flat for me sort of like Locke’s final actions last week. The main takeaways are obviously the hold that Ramsey has on Theon and that Yara has sort of given up on her brother after seeing him in that state. Ramsey also talks of using “Reek” pretending to be Theon to help him get into Moat Cailin (or at least I assume this is the castle he was talking about since Roose tasked him with taking it a few weeks back).
This week also saw the return of dragons! Or at least a dragon, as Drogon comes in and roasts a goat before snatching it up and flying off with it. We then transition to Daenerys holding court as the Queen of Meereen. Here the goat herder comes to see her with a pile of charred bones, letting her know what her baby has been up to lately, and she agrees to pay him three times over for his trouble. She is also visited by Hizdahr zo Loraq who asks for his father to be taken down from on a post for a proper burial. He was one of the slavemasters that Dany had crucified and Hizdahr paints him in a much different light than she had originally imagined him. She eventually grants him his wish. These are only a couple of hundreds of visitors she had this day and gives us and her a small slice of the kind of problems she will have to deal with as the new Queen of the city.
From here we head over to King’s Landing for an extended stay for the remainder of the episode. It starts with a small council meeting, our first with a couple of new members. I love the stark contrast between Mace Tyrell’s feeble demeanor and Oberyn’s cocky attitude. This scene also helps to tie together some disparate plotlines as they all discuss various issues around the realm like The Hound in the Riverlands and Dany in Meereen. Tywin seems to have plans for both of them, but we’ll have to see what exactly those entail in the weeks to come. Post-meeting we also see a small conversation between Varys and Oberyn that helps further unravel layers of these two fascinating characters.
After this it is finally time for Tyrion’s trial to commence. As the three judges and Tyrion look on, a number of witnesses are marched out. Ser Meryn Trant talks about the threats that Tyrion made against Joffrey over the years. Pycelle talks of theft of poison and his belief that Tyrion was behind it. Cersei reiterates that one quote that sticks with her and how this was Tyrion’s way of enacting revenge on her. And Varys talks about some threats Tyrion made against the boy King and how Sansa may have made him more sympathetic to the Northern cause.
This is followed by a brief recess where Jaime pleads with his father to let Tyrion live and talks about something that all the viewers were thinking as they watched, that the trial is a farce, one most likely manipulated by Cersei. The two end up striking a deal. Tywin will send Tyrion to The Wall if Jaime will give up his spot in the Kingsguard and become the heir to Casterly Rock. Jaime seems to even get Tyrion to buy into the plan.
But then everything changes as the final witness makes her way to the stand. It is Shae who betrays Tyrion painting a pretty vivid picture of how he and Sansa conspired to poison and kill King Joffrey. From here Peter Dinklage’s performance takes over. As he twists in agony over his love’s betrayal and lies, he finally breaks. He confesses not to this crime, but of the one his father has held against him all his life: the crime of being a dwarf. He calls out the crowd in the throne room, talking of how he saved them at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. And finally he decides to put his fate in the hands of the Gods and demands a trial by combat just before the episode ends. Dinklage was in top form here giving one of his best performances to date and it made for one heck of an episode.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: Obviously the one with Tyrion’s final speech. It was incredible.
- I can’t get over how much they have nailed Oberyn. I love everything about him in the show so far.
- I kind of forgot we’d be taking a week off. Not next week, but the one after between episodes 7 and 8. Going to be a long couple of weeks there!
- Missing in Action this Week: Another focused episode and I love it. No Arya/Hound, Brienne/Pod or anything up North around The Wall, but the show is better when it doesn’t spread itself too thin in a given week.
“The Laws of Gods and Men” was one of the season’s best episodes. While I didn’t care for Yara’s return to the show, everything else was fantastic. The trial and surrounding actions in King’s Landing were the star of the show buoyed by Peter Dinklage’s incredible performance as Tyrion Lannister, but the other smaller scenes across the narrow scene felt purposeful, making the most of their time this hour. This was an excellent episode that should help propel us into the second half of the season.