While we didn’t get any Tyrion action last week, ‘The Laws Of Gods And Men’ made up for that in spades, giving us one of the best scenes the show has ever done. The tail end of the episode was all about Tyrion’s trial, and therefore it was a showcase for Peter Dinklage’s fantastic acting chops. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? The latest Game Of Thrones outing started off with a visit to the Iron Bank by Stannis and Davos, a visit that had a surprisingly smooth outcome. After the bank’s spokesman (played by Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss) gave the duo a very hard time he was suddenly convinced to lend the bankrupt Stannis a large amount of money to support his conquest of the Iron Throne, because of a speech Davos gave. It felt rushed and sudden because Gatiss’ character seemed immovable before Davos’ grandiose delivery and the Onion Knight’s speech mostly only rephrased the information that was already laid out before the Iron Bank committee. This was an example of a plot-driven scene, a scene that has to end a certain way to move the story forward without the appropriate screen time to really sell it to viewers. Despite its conclusion it was a well-acted scene that proved Davos’ value to Stannis and the viewers, because up until this point the character hadn’t really done anything of consequence in a long time. Additionally it saw the Onion Knight seek out some of his old pirate buddies and have them fight for Stannis’ cause, because now he could pay them handsomely to do so.
Another storyline that suffered from a lack of screen time was Yara Greyjoy’s attempt at rescuing her brother from the vicious Ramsay Snow. As sudden as the operation began it ended, when she wasn’t able to free her brother who seemed to have no recollection of his old self. When she tried to take him away, he bit her instead, a loyal dog to his master Ramsay. When Ramsay then threatened to set the real dogs loose on Yara and her soldiers, the show suddenly cut to her making it back to the boat she arrived on, declaring her brother dead. It was a jarring transition that undermined the entire rescue mission before it and Yara’s character too: we knew her as a headstrong, smart and loyal woman, and now she suddenly abandoned her brother after a setback. Not only was it rushed, it took away from the established character traits. Also: when Ramsay slowly and playfully threatened to set his dogs loose, couldn’t Yara just have cut his arm off? This is Game Of Thrones after all, where behavior like that is usually punished, effectively avoiding clichés. A special mention has to go to Alfie Allen though, who at least makes you buy into the fact that Theon’s psyche is so severely damaged that he now believes himself to just be Reek, and makes him incapable of disobeying his master Ramsay. The scene in which Snow awarded Reek with a bath for his loyalty was hard to watch: both physically and psychologically Ramsay has molded Theon into an obedient creature. “Do you love me, Reek?” Ramsay asked. “Yes, of course, my lord,” Theon answered. If that isn’t bad enough, Reek is now sent back to the Iron Islands to pretend he’s in fact Theon Greyjoy, another of Ramsay’s twisted schemes.
Daenerys meanwhile is trying to rule and she found out it wasn’t as simple as she’d hoped it would be. One by one her subjects came in, presenting her with problems or making requests. It all started simple enough: one of her dragons ate a shepherd’s flock and she promised to compensate the man for his troubles three times over. After that however she was confronted by the mourning son of one of the city’s rulers who she had crucified, a man who apparently wasn’t all bad. The grief-stricken son asked her for a decent burial of his father, which she eventually allowed, but it took a toll on her: she had made a mistake and caused pain and injustice for once. Being confronted with a pained citizen was something completely different from the worshiping freed slaves she’d seen until now, and it grounded her in reality and made her realize there’s still much to learn. This scene did very much with very little, also showcasing Emilia Clarke’s talents.
Now, on to the meat of ‘The Laws Of Gods And Men’: Tyrion’s rigged trial, “a farce” as Jaime put it. Tyrion took it pretty well until the break, in which his brother tried to save him by promising Tywin that when he would spare Tyrion’s life, he’d leave the King’s Guard and make sure the Lannister lineage wouldn’t end. Tywin immediately agreed to this proposition, showing once again that he’s a master at planning ahead and that Jaime’s words came as now surprise to him. Jaime than went on and told Tyrion about the deal briefly and about what he had to do. All seemed fine and dandy, but then the gut punch came: Shae walked onto the stand and royally screwed Tyrion over, told everyone in attendance that he and Sansa conspired together to kill Joffrey and that Tyrion was a sadistic, cruel and conniving man. The slander Tyrion had to endure by everyone had already hurt him, but Shae’s testimony destroyed him, a cruel act by a woman who still hadn’t realized everything Tyrion had done, he had done to protect her. It sent him over the edge and the speech that followed (embedded below for your pleasure) will surely earn Dinklage an Emmy: “I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to have you all swallow it.” In the hands of a lesser actor the speech may have sounded grotesque and unearned, but Dinklage made you believe every word of it because he had shown the build-up to it in the previous episodes and during the trial itself. All the boiled-up rage came spilling out and it was glorious, a brilliant ending to the episode that makes it hard to wait another week for the trial by combat Tyrion’s demanded. Not only because of his speech, by the way, but also because I have a feeling this will be the Oberyn vs. The Mountain fight that’s been heavily telegraphed all season.
‘The Laws Of Gods And Men’ had some shaky parts, but was elevated by its final segment featuring brilliant writing and the fantastic Peter Dinklage on top of his game. 8/10