”Everybody is interested in something.”
There's yet to be a season of Game of Thrones without a regicide, but last week's “First of His Name" was still the series' first coronation in some time. That's what happens when all the killed 'Kings' are merely claimants to the Iron Throne and not actually calling the shots from King's Landing. And now that a new leader of the Seven Kingdoms has been crowned, it's time to proceed with prosecuting the one responsible under “The Laws of Gods and Men.”
Or at least prosecuting the one being framed for the crime, since audiences are well aware that Tyrion took no part in the coup called the 'Purple Wedding' that claimed the life of Westeros' beloved King Joffrey. Who would have thought that the "fantasy series as courtroom drama" would prove such an impeccable installment? Oh, and some other pretty great stuff happened as well. In the previous recap, I discussed the show's structural changes this season, less cutting back and forth between locations in favor of letting the action occur unbroken, but they were even more apparent last night as events in (only) four different places played out in succession...
”We prefer the stories they tell. More plain, less open to interpretation.”
The episode opened with the truly awesome introduction of a new location on Game of Thrones as Stannis and Davos sailed under the Titan of Braavos to visit the Iron Bank. We've heard of both many times before. Syrio Forel, Arya's dancing master, was the First Sword of Braavos and the Iron Bank has been mentioned in pretty much every installment leading up to "The Laws of Gods and Men." Like the (free) city, Tycho Nestoris, envoy for the Iron Bank, was also introduced this week with the character being played by Mark Gatiss, who many probably recognize from his role as Mycroft Holmes on BBC's Sherlock. He was, of course, wonderful in the brief appearance.
The sequence also did a lovely job of setting up this week's trial, with 'Lord' Stannis not only having to plead his case (of which Davos did a far better job than the stubborn King) but then also get lectured by Nestoris on the problem with people and their stories. Cue the witnesses! Wait, not yet. Because even after the lecture, Davos manages to persuade the Iron Bank to fund their cause. And fortunately for Salladhor Saan, the Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts. Of course, this means he has to sail away from that bathhouse and back into battle. The war is not over.
”My brother is dead.”
The storytelling continues up north as Yara Greyjoy's first appearance this season begins with her reading a letter from Ramsay Snow. Too bad for her younger brother that most of these stories are true. Ramsay even mails her Theon's 'toy' just to make sure the other Greyjoys get the message and pull their men out of the North. I feel bad for the Raven who had to carry that package. The Iron Born are prickly people though and the threat only angers Yara and she, with some rousing words of her own, inspires her crew to mount a rescue attempt.
The infiltration of the Dreadfort actually goes quite well and they might have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids! I mean, Reek. Yep, Theon is so far gone that he pretty much ruined any chance of being rescued, and now the story that will be told around his homeland is that their Prince is dead. However, Ramsay still has use for Theon Greyjoy and plans to have Reek once again play the part. The sequence might have been the weakest of "The Laws of Gods and Men," but Alfie Allen's performance always makes the visits worthwhile even if the siege ended anticlimactically. How did Yara outrun the dogs (and all of the Dreadfort) to get back to her ship?
”Is it justice to answer one crime with another?”
Did I mention that the through-line this week was storytelling? Cause that also seems to be the thrust of the action in Meereen. But before we get to the Pyramid, where Dany is hearing tales from over two hundred of her new people, Drogon first gets his own story. The dragons are always a welcome sight and we got a nice taste of what the teenagers can do at this point. It's important to not only give the audience what they want, but also show the dragons as a sort of status update on Dany's threat level. If she weren't so embroiled in her 'liberation' of Slaver's Bay, would she have enough firepower to conquer Westeros?
Perhaps. But her chances will only improve with time as long as nothing happens to her fire-breathing children. For now, she's learning how to be a ruler, not merely a conqueror, and that means listening to the people and making restitution for the damage your children cause. If your dragons kill a shepherd's entire flock, you pay him back three-fold. If a man makes an impassioned plea for his father to have a proper burial, you let him have the body. That's right, perhaps things are not so black and white when it comes to those slave children. Did she care to find out if any of the masters, like Hizdahr zo Loraq's father, objected? Does it matter? Hm. Ruling is hard.
”If found guilty, may the Gods punish the accused.”
And now on to the events in King's Landing, which, for the second time this season, took up the entire second half of the episode. The first time this happened, we got the 'Purple Wedding.' This time it's the trial for the regicide that took place at the memorable reception. Well, there are a few things that happen before Tyrion's trial officially begins, like a meeting of the new Small Council to show just how much Mace Tyrell is under Tywin's thumb. He has the Lord of Highgarden fetch him a pencil, for God's sake. On the other hand, Oberyn is anything but under Tywin's thumb, as he continues to be this season's wildcard. Not to mention the most enjoyable to watch. Getting a scene with just him and 'Lord' Varys was a treat.
Then Jaime brought his brother into the throne room so story time could really begin. Did anyone else want to jump through the screen and strangle Meryn Trant and Grand Maester Pycelle? Cersei too, I suppose. And Varys, well, I think we're all not mad, but just disappointed in Varys. Things are not looking good for Tyrion, and then there's the faintest glimmer of hope in the form of a golden hand. Jaime is not the only one who sees that the trial is a farce; the shots of Margaery show she's at least sympathetic, but he is the only one willing to do anything about it.
”I am guilty of being a dwarf.”
In one of his more heroic moves, Jaime appeals to his father's weakness for family legacy and makes a deal that will save his younger brother's life. All it will cost him is his place in the King's Guard and by Cersei's side. As you can tell, his relationship with the latter is exactly what is used to be so perhaps only the first one really stings. With the deal done, all Tyrion needs to do is sit quietly and plead for mercy and he will live out his days at the Wall. Tywin should probably have a better idea of what's really going on up there, but King's Landing has long scoffed at the needs of the Night's Watch.
Then comes Shae. The most damning witness and, to make matters worse, completely unnecessary. He was going to be found guilty anyway; talk about insult to injury. No wonder our 'little Lion' couldn't contain himself. This isn't over. And no matter how it all turns out, Tyrion at least got to see that look on his father's face. A Lannister always pays his debts. Sans hand, Jaime is no longer fit to be Tyrion's first choice so who will be his champion? Perhaps Bronn have to step in and fight for his friend again? It worked out well for both last time.
”I demand a trial by combat.”
The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with Episode 7, “Mockingbird,” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV series was adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.