‘The Laws Of Gods and Men’ – Tyrion the Lion is braver than everyone.
If we’ve learnt anything this series, it’s that wars are not won by the righteous or moral – the good guys – but with money. The Lannisters may look comfortable on the throne, but as we learned last episode their pockets are empty and their family is splitting apart. Stannis Baratheon sails to Braavos to demand funds from the Iron bank. Unfortunately the bank doesn’t take kindly to orders from men across the Narrow Sea, and Mark Gatiss – playing, essentially, an uptight accountant – rejects Stannis’s loan. While Stannis does nothing but frown and blame Ser Davos for this failed meeting, the Onion Knight makes the bank’s representatives sit up and listen: the current king, Tommen, is too young to lead, Cersei is mad and hated by many, Jaime is a kingslayer and Tywin is an old man. By all accounts here, Stannis is the strongest bet and the man to back for the remaining battle for King’s Landing. You can imagine Stannis as a king who rules by austerity rather than pomp, so it seems Davos did the smart thing by bringing him to Braavos’s money lenders, who respect numbers and odds more than entitlement.
Ramsay Snow’s fort is attacked by the Ironborn (led by Yara Greyjoy) come to rescue Theon, or rather Reek, who now lives in the dog pens like an animal. This scene was incredibly hard viewing, mostly because of how strongly Alfie Allen plays Theon as a completely broken shell of a human being. His slurred yelling as he claims his name is Reek and he’s not going anywhere, the way he doesn’t believe it’s his sister standing in front of him trying to help. As Ramsey’s men reach a standoff with Yara’s, the Bolton bastard releases the caged hounds and the Ironborn are forced to escape without Theon. When asked about her brother, Yara states that he’s dead. With his mind destroyed, Theon is willing to do anything to make Ramsay happy, but it sounds like a true test of his loyalty will be coming soon. Ramsay asks Reek to go to a castle and ‘pretend to be someone [he’s] not’ – Theon Greyjoy.
Dany is trying to be a powerful leader in Meereen, but her dragons are getting scarier every time we see them. Causing mayhem by burning goat herds alive may soon become the least of Dany’s worries if the dragons start wreaking havoc on the human population. Dany learns a striking lesson during her interaction with her subjects, namely that her thirst for justice left her blind to the pain she was exacting on others. She may have become a mighty threat to the throne controlled by the Lannisters, but she faces greater struggles from those she claims to be fit to rule in these freed cities.
The main part of this episode, the final twenty minutes in fact, is reserved for Tyrion’s trial. As many reviewers have already attested, Peter Dinklage is outstanding in his moments here.
Through general incompetence and widespread maliciousness on the part of the witnesses brought forward in the trial, Tyrion is painted as a monstrous murderer. What’s worse is that Tyrion has no way to speak against the accusations, and his own words become twisted against him – by his accusers and his own family (yet Jaime stays silent throughout, only expressing his anger to Tywin behind the scenes). Tywin is craftier than perhaps anyone has given him credit for, having seemingly staged this entire ‘farce’ of a trial to control all three of his children. With Jaime pleading for Tyrion’s life, Tywin agrees to spare his youngest child from death if Jaime leaves the King’s guard and takes over Casterly Rock like a true Lannister. All along, Tywin had planned for this – that Tyrion would be found guilty but would not be executed, but instead sent to Castle Black to join the Night’s Watch. Jaime would marry and have children, continuing the Lannister line.
For a short time it seems that, despite the subterfuge, Tyrion will come away undamaged from this trial, but the final stinging blow is kept for last, as shockingly Shae is brought to the stand. When she walks in, Tyrion could almost look hopeful, until she states, under oath, that he and Sansa Stark planned Joffrey’s death together. Good men don’t just fall in Westeros; good men are crushed completely.
Shae says lie after lie about her former lover, imagining him as a merciless and lewd man. Even though it seems she was reciting a memorised script (likely provided by Tywin), it is heartbreaking watching Tyrion’s last remaining hope die in front of him. Shae may have carried around some spite for him after he sent her away, but there’s no way she would sink low enough to frame him for murder.
Tyrion’s subsequent speech is astonishingly well-acted and a perfect scene for the character. His anger at the world and the people who judge him every day comes across so vehemently and so pathetically, as he feigns being the monster they think him to be. He confesses, but he confesses to the crime of being a dwarf, not to murdering his nephew. Unwilling to play by Tywin’s rules again, Tyrion demands a trial by combat (remember when he was imprisoned at the Eyrie). With this, Tyrion can smile a small smile, as he bests his father for a tiny moment, even though he has likely just sent himself to be executed.
All in all, this was a great episode of Thrones but possibly the hardest one of the fourth series to watch. There is no justice or hope in Westeros, and when people think themselves to be winning, they fall further into misery.