Game of Thrones S4E6 “The Laws of Gods and Men”
A cello rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” played us to the credits in “The Laws of Gods and Men” and no song could be more fitting. The inner dynamics of House Lannister are on full display here in a role reversal with the previous episode. We press pause on most other areas and turn our focus to the capital where we bear witness to one hell of a trial. Tyrion may be the one on trial but I think we learn a lot about every Lannister, what their motives are, what they value the most, and so on. A riveting trial with a surprise ending steals the episode but we also see Stannis and Davos take a trip, a failed rescue mission at The Dreadfort, and Dany realizing that ruling is more complicated than conquering. Let’s recap.
We start the episode with a new location so I’ll follow suit and start the review with it. Stannis and Davos have arrived to the Free City of Braavos, and the huge statue known as The Titan of Braavos is quite the site. They dock their ship and wait for their appointment at the Iron Bank. Much to Stannis’ dislike, Tycho Nestoris, the banker hearing their pitch is a few hours late to an appointment at his own work place. Things don’t get much better for Stannis as he tries to make his pitch to the bank as Tycho cites that they currently can’t feed the men they have, so adding more men with the gold he wants won’t be very productive. Tycho declines Stannis’ loan application but then Davos comes and saves the day. He concedes that Tycho is right that Tywin is the real power in Westeros right now but says that the crown will fall apart once he dies. Davos vouches for Stannis, saying he’s the right man for the crown given his age, leadership, and ability on the battlefield. Now knowing that money talks at the Iron Bank, Davos puts it all together and tells Tycho that because of everything he’s just said, Stannis is their best shot at getting some of their money back from the crown. Davos’ speech seems to have worked because we then cut to sometime afterward where Davos runs into his pirate friend Salladhor Saan, who Davos gets back into Stannis’ fleet with plenty of gold. Not nearly enough to fight for Stannis’ claim yet but it’s certainly a start.
To Meereen we go and it’s proving to be quite a busy day for Queen Daenerys who meets with 214 supplicants. Fortunate for us, we only see two of these hearings and they get the point across quite well that ruling a city won’t be nearly as easy as taking it. The first is a goat herder whose goats were taken by Drogon for a lunch. The herder brings Dany the goats’ charred skeleton as proof and Dany decides to pay the herder the goat’s worth thrice over. Next up is the noble man Hizdahr zo Loraq. Hizdahr’s father was one of the slave masters and unfortunately is one of the 162 of them that are currently rotting away as a result of being crucified by Dany’s orders. Hizdahr asks Dany to allow him to remove his father and give him a proper burial but Dany asks what of the children that suffered the same fate. Hizdahr reveals that his father was adamantly against crucifying the slave children but was overruled by the majority who wanted it. After contemplating it, Dany allows Hizdahr his request and you have to wonder if this opens her eyes to the fact that every decision has consequences. She’s never ruled a city before so there’s going to be a learning curve for her, the other 212 supplicants provide plenty of proof for that.
After a season filled with Theon being tortured by Ramsay Snow, we haven’t seen a lot of these two. It makes sense, we’ve seen so much torture already that something else has to happen to dignify an appearance at this point. We get it in this episode as Yara and her fifty Ironborn soldiers have reached The Dreadfort. At night, they scale the wall, killing most of the guards and keeping one alive to lead them to Theon, and then killing him shortly thereafter. Yara is surprised to see Theon is in a kennel next to all the hounds but time is of the essence so she opens the gate and tells Theon she’s here to rescue him. The problem is that Theon is so mentally broken that he thinks this is just another psychological trick on the part of Ramsay so he refuses to go, even going as far as to bite his sister and returning to his kennel, proclaiming himself as Reek. They’re taking far too much time and Ramsay comes along with some guards to ruin the party. Ramsay and his men win the fight in a rout and Yara is left standing with only a few more soldiers. Ramsay releases the hounds and Yara has no choice but to call retreat and they get back on their boats to start the long trip home. “My brother is dead” Yara says when one of the soldiers asks why they didn’t bring him. Aye Yara, Theon is dead, there is only Reek.
After Ramsay and friends have successfully dealt with the threat, Ramsay decides to reward Reek for being loyal. Reek is so broken that something as simple as the gift bath Ramsay is giving him, causes Reek pause as he wonders how this could be used to mess with him. Much to Reek’s delight (if he even remembers what delight feels like), it’s not a trap and he actually does get to bathe for the first time in probably ages. Ramsay tells Reek that he has a mission for him. Ramsay still hasn’t taken back Moat Cailin like his father asked him to and he’s decided that Reek can help in that regard. Reek is going to role play. Reek has to pretend to be none other than Theon Greyjoy. I can’t even begin to think about the psychological stuff that this will trigger but we shouldn’t be surprised that the cruel Ramsay is going to play another sick joke on his pet Reek, that’s what he does.
On to King’s Landing. Tywin holds a meeting the small council and announces that Tyrion’s trial will take place that day. He allows brief time for news of The Realm so we’ll do the same. Varys has received word of Sandor’s relative location and Tywin tells him that they will offer a large bounty for anyone that succesfully kills him. To those who try, good luck with that. Someone probably will try to take him the next episode he shows up in and I don’t like their odds. The other news is that Varys is now aware of Dany’s numbers, including 8,000 Unsullied, 2,000 Second Sons, The Meereen Navy, three dragons, Jorah, and Barristan. Varys quips that Cersei’s forceful retirement to Barristan seems to have hit him hard and he’s taken up with a rival claimant in retaliation. Cersei doesn’t see the big deal and says that he wasn’t fit to protect Joffrey while Tywin scoffs at her and says releasing him was an insult and ultimately useless because Cersei got her way and Joffrey died anyway. Tywin says it’s time to do something about her before she turns her eyes to Westeros and whatever his plan is, it’s coming in the form of a letter. Hope we get to see what that’s all about. Also, Prince Oberyn and Mace Tyrell are now on the small council. Enough of that though, it’s trial time.
Jaime comes to escort his brother from the dungeons to the throne room and after Tommen recuses himself and defers judgement to Tywin, Mace, and Oberyn, the trial is officially underway. Cersei calls plenty of witnesses to the stand, including Meryn Trant, Pycelle, Varys, and even herself. Here we learn just how important context is to a story as everything that they say (except for Cersei who throws lies in her testimony) is true, it just lacks the context that makes Tyrion look alright. Without the context, he very much looks like a bad person. Tyrion’s attempts to interject and provide the proper context are shot down by Tywin who tells his son that he will only speak when asked to. After the testimonies, Tywin adjourns the court and tells everyone they will continue in an hour.
Jaime goes to his father during the recess and calls out the trial for what it is, a complete farce. Tyrion has hardly been able to get a word in and it’s quite obvious that Cersei has rigged the trial to her favor. We’d be dumb to think Tywin didn’t see this happen but we all know the man is about legacy. Fixing a trial that would result in his own son’s death would look very bad, but because someone else is doing it, Tywin’s conscience (Or whatever it is that he has) is clear, he’s even casually eating lunch despite the gravity of the situation. Jaime however, does feel the gravity of the situation and steps in for his brother. Jaime tells his father that if he show’s mercy to Tyrion, he will leave the Kingsguard and return to Casterly Rock and take his place as his heir. In yet another instance of Tywin’s extraordinary ability to negotiate any situation into his favor, Tywin tells Jaime that if he does take his place as the heir to Casterly Rock, Tywin will allow Tyrion to take the black and spend the rest of his days up at Castle Black. It’s such an interesting dynamic here. Jaime loves Tyrion and is willing to leave the Kingsguard to save him, something he wouldn’t even consider when Tywin asked him straight up to do in the start of the season. Tywin has wanted Tyrion dead his whole life but sparing him allows the son he loves to be back in the fold and continue the Lannister name. This family is so messed up that the members of House Lannister basically view each other as chess pieces, and man is it an interesting and complicated game.
As the trial is about to resume, Jaime goes over to Tyrion and tells him of the deal in place between him and their father, and asks Tyrion to enter a formal plea of mercy to make the plan go into action. Tyrion is rightfully distrusting of his father but Jaime tells him to forget about that. Jaime asks if Tyrion trusts him and Tyrion says that he does trust Jaime. Jaime says to believe in him if he won’t believe in Tywin and tells Tyrion that this will all be over soon. The tragedy of what happens next is that Tyrion’s trust of Jaime would be enough to take the deal in almost any situation imaginable. For the trial to have gone down so drastically different than Jaime or Tywin anticipated, for it to end the way that it did, there was only one thing that could cause it.
Cersei calls her last witness to the stand and it is none other than Shae. Tyrion can’t believe what he’s seeing but it only gets worse from here. It’s very obvious that Cersei paid her off because Shae lies about their entire relationship, only telling the truth when it would embarrass Tyrion. She then tells the version of the story that Cersei wants, Tyrion and Sansa plotted the murder of Joffrey. Tyrion pleads with Shae to stop but she keeps on going, burying Tyrion. It reaches the point of no return when Tyrion announces that he wishes to confess. Tyrion then reflects that he saved this entire city from Stannis but now wishes that he didn’t, he wishes that he just let Stannis in so he could have killed them all. Tywin quiets the hecklers and asks about the confession again. Tyrion tells him that he wishes to confess to something he’s been on trial for his whole life, being a dwarf. Tywin asks specifically about Joffrey and Tyrion says he didn’t do it. From here on out is acting perfection, as Peter Dinklage just oozes out anger that Tyrion has bottled up his whole life. Tyrion turns his attention to Cersei and Shae and destroys them both, saying he took more joy watching Joffrey die than he could ever get from lying with a thousand whores. His whole life he’s been viewed as like some kind of monster and Tyrion says he wishes he could become that monster now and if he could, he would gladly give up his life to see the entire population in the throne room die from his poison. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Tyrion plays the one card he has left. Knowing there’s no way he can possibly win this trial by court, Tyrion demands a trial by combat. Everything after this is just awesome, the chaos of the crowd, the stunned reactions of Tywin, Oberyn, Jaime, Cersei, the look of satisfaction on Tyrion’s face as he stares down Tywin. The end of this trial is quite easily the best scene that Game of Thrones has given us, ever.
Who the hell is going to fight this thing for Tyrion? Bronn’s probably out because they wouldn’t even let Tyrion use him as a witness in the trial. Jaime would probably do it if Tyrion asked him, but Jaime has looked nowhere near his old self fighting with just his left hand.
Oberyn asks what his formal position on the small council is and it’s never actually addressed. He’s got a point, he’s got to be master of something, right?
I’m not 100% sure but this very well could be the first episode in which no Starks or Jon Snow show up. This season has transitioned the show from more of a Stark show to a Lannister show but even still, it goes to show how deep and high quality the character roster is for this show that a large and super important family is completely ommitted and the episode is still one of the best in the series.
That failure of a rescue is going to make that long trip home for Yara even longer. For real, it’s a really freaking long trip. The Iron Islands and the Dreadfort are on exact opposite sides of Westeros and there’s no river or canal that connects them. She had to sail around the southern tip of Westeros and sail all the way back to the north, just to fail the mission anyway. Rough.
We didn’t get to see much of the exterior of Braavos but that statue known as the Titan of Braavos probably makes it the coolest place we’ve seen on the show yet, and most definitely the coolest looking place to feature on the intro map.
Quote of the day isn’t happening this time because it’s speech of the day, and you know what it is. Me writing it won’t do it justice. Go watch Tyrion’s “confession” again. It’s just as awesome the second time around.
“The Laws of Gods and Men” shifts focus back to King’s Landing and delivers not only a court scene for the ages, but also the best scene Game of Thrones has had up to this point.