Peter Dinklage takes center stage as Tyrion’s trial takes over the latest episode of Game of Thrones to great effect.
Let’s bitch it out…Game Of Thrones has one of the largest (if not the largest) casts on television right now, so it’s inevitable that we will not see all of the characters in a single week. The decision to accept that and let the scenes play out has paid off significantly this season. The show feels like it has breathing room, particularly in episodes such as ‘The Laws Of Gods And Men’ which – like ‘The Lion And The Rose‘ – dedicates the back half of the episode to a single significant event.
Joffrey’s death by poison was the last time we stayed in a single location, so perhaps it makes sense to dedicate so much time to Tyrion’s trial, which is easily the best part of the episode. We’ve known since Tyrion was arrested that he would be found guilty of Joffrey’s death, so it’s no surprise that the parade of witnesses casts him in this light. The fact that Varys (Conleth Hill) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) are among those confirming his guilt, however, is surprising. Varys’ testimony is perhaps less surprising given his earlier conversation with Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) during which he confirmed that his lack of desire has enabled his pursuit of the Iron Throne. Going against Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) would surely fly in the face of that. Last week we learned just how skilled a liar Littlefinger is when there is power on the line; this week Varys proves himself just as adept in similar circumstances.
Shae, on the other hand, is mystifying. Her appearance a complete surprise; the last we heard, Bronn was confirming her presence on a boat sailing across the Narrow Sea. Now she’s back and blatantly lying about Tyrion’s plans with Sansa to murder Joffrey, which clearly doesn’t add up. It’s possible that Shae is still angry about how Tyrion ended their reputation, or she may be under threat by someone powerful who will benefit from Tyrion’s death. Regardless of her motives, however, Shae’s testimony is the element that finally breaks Tyrion. Despite his brother Jamie’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempt to convince Tyrion to accept exile to the Nightswatch over death, the imp launches into an angry speech about his innocence, his glee at watching Joffrey die and his desire to poison everyone in the room. As delivered by Peter Dinklage, it’s a powerhouse rant; a rage against everyone for their failure to thank him for saving them during the Battle of Blackwater. But most importantly, it’s a continuation of the battle of wills between Tyrion and his father, as evidenced by the tense close-ups on their both of their faces at episode’s end. Tyrion may feel betrayed by the people of King’s Landing, but for him this trial is merely the latest in a series of lifelong betrayals by the patriarch of the family. Could he have accepted Jamie’s truce and gone to the Wall? Certainly, but Tyrion would never concede defeat to his father. They’re more alike in that fashion than either would likely care to admit.
Unfortunately Tyrion’s outburst could very easily cost him. Thankfully the imp has one last desperate measure to try and gain his freedom: he calls for a trial by combat. The question now is who the hell will take up his banner (Bronn, his potentially traitorous sellsword? Certainly no Jamie, his one handed brother…)
There is action elsewhere in the episode (though nothing quite as spectacular as watching Peter Dinklage rip into the people of King’s Landing):
- Dany (Emilia Clarke) settles into her new role as Queen of Meereen by dealing with issues small and big. Her approach to law and justice is noticeably different from Tyrion’s trial (where he can’t even defend himself). Dany is open to arguments, regardless of the stature of the defense, as evidenced by the two cases we see (one involves charbroiled goat; the other involves the Crucified body of one of the former Masters). Still, at the end of the day her brand of justice is a lengthy one (we leave her with 212 people in the queue).
- For the first time this season, we spend time with Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). After receiving a box featuring “a piece” of her brother, Theon (Alfie Allen) – now Reek – Yara seeks to rescue him from the dungeon of Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). (Side Note: just in case we’ve forgotten about what Ramsay took from Theon, her rallying speech is intercut with Ramsay porking, then killing some woman. Boobs and blood, y’all!) Unfortunately for Yara, the mental damage from Ramsay’s torture is too severe and Theon has had a dissociative break; he no longer recognizes his sister. While the storyline with Theon and Ramsay is far more interesting than it was last season, I’ll confess that these scenes still feel like the least memorable portion of the episode.
- We also spend some time with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) as they venture to Braavos to make a pitch to the Iron Bank (mentioned last week by Tywin). This is a great scene for Cunningham, who turns a dismissal by the smug bank proprietor into a sales pitch for Stannis to great effect. Despite a small army, few boats and essentially no supplies, Davos wins the bankers over with logic and passion, then recruits his old frenemy, pirate Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) in what may be the most jovial performance we’ve seen from Davos yet. All you’ve got to do is get him away from the Red Witch for a boy’s weekend and Davos lightens right up!
- Finally, our trade-off for good dragon CGI is terrible CGI on Davos’ fingers and the giant figure their ship passes through en route to Braavos. Why can’t we have nice things all of the time?
- Oberyn (once again reiterating his priorities): “I have seen the Unsullied first hand. They are very impressive on the battlefield. Less so in the bedroom”
Your turn: what did you think of Tyrion’s trial? Did you enjoy his rant? Were you taken by Davos’ coin earning speech? Are you disappointed that Yara proclaimed her brother dead so easily? And how long would it take to preside over the complaints of 212 people?! Speculate away below.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO