This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 6, “The Laws of Gods and Men.” Enjoy!
Antonio Gramsci, one of the most famous prisoners of the 20th century, once said that if “if you beat your head against the wall, it is your head which breaks and not the wall;" this week, Tyrion Lannister and Theon Greyjoy learned the truth of that adage as they refused their siblings’ offers of escape and retreated back into their own prisons, physical and emotional.
Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen both got some lessons about ruling. This was also the first episode of the show in which not a single Stark appeared. (Hopefully this will all be rectified next week, and we may even find out what happened to Rickon!)
We open with the male affiliates of Team Dragonstone sailing to Braavos to ask for a loan from the Iron Bank, giving the audience a glimpse of a place that has often been mentioned on the show. Basically, Braavos is Venice, except with an enormous statue of a standing guard over its lagoon. Even the stunning beauty of his surroundings and Davos’s reminiscences about pirates fail to get Stannis to unclench his jaw, as he and Davos cool their heels in the waiting room of the Iron Bank. I’ve watched Despicable Me a few too many times, because I half-expect Mr. Perkins of the Bank of Evil to walk out and crush an apple, but instead, it’s Tycho Nestoris (played by Mark Gatiss), who questions Stannis about why he’d make a good risk for the Iron Bank’s money, because he has 4000 men, 32 ships, and nothing to feed anyone with. If Tycho had made a big “L” sign in front of his forehead, he couldn’t have made it clearer that he thinks Stannis is a loser.
But Davos is there to save the day, reminding the Iron Bankers that Tywin Lannister won’t live forever, and showing the Iron Bankers the stubs of his fingers as evidence that Stannis is really serious about becoming King. (They could have also brought along an urn with the ashes of the dudes Stannis let Melisandre burn!)
I’m really sure why Davos's finger amputation proves to the Iron Bank that Stannis is a good risk, but for some reason, this is totally convincing to the Iron Bankers and they give Stannis lots of money, some of which Davos passes along to his old friend Salladhor Saan, the pirate who rescued him from his rock after the Battle of Blackwater. Never let it be said that Game of Thrones passes up a chance to show breasts, because Saan is telling a terrible joke to two unclothed women in some sort of bathing brothel (at least we know everyone’s clean and it’s not Littlefinger’s pad, so that’s something!)
Unlike Stannis, Dany has already conquered herself a throne, but now she has the considerably more difficult task of actually ruling Meereen, a task not helped by her dragons, who are helping themselves to the local population's livestock (char-grilled, of course!) At least the dragon ate the goats and not the goatherd or his child, which is what I feared would happen! The goatherd shows up in court where Dany is holding her audience, and presents the bones of his flock, for which Dany orders that he be given three times their value in compensation. She looks pleased with herself at this judgement, but the problem is that if dragons eat ALL the livestock, neither the goatherds nor the general populace can eat gold. I think it's time for a call to the Dragon Whisperer, personally! Those critters need some obedience lessons!
Dany’s next supplicant is a young Mereenese nobleman named Hizdahr zo Loraq (excessive usage of the letters z and q is one of my beefs with fantasy naming conventions! Don’t the authors realize how hard it is to type those names on a QWERTY keyboard? Huh?) Anyway, Hizdahr is there to ask Dany if he can bury his father, one of the 163 “masters” whom Dany crucified as revenge for the slave children who were crucified by the Meereenese nobles. Except it turns out that Lorax the Elder actually argued against that bit of cruelty and Dany just randomly executed him anyway, while ignoring Barristan’s advice about justice, etc. So that kind of sucked! Anyway, Hizdahr is pretty much like “hey, you’re the queen so I can’t stop you from killing people but can I please bury my dad before he goes all rotten on that cross?” Dany, somewhat chastened, gives her permission. (Plus, those rotting corpses probably posed a significant public health hazard.) I have to say that in two minutes of screentime, TV Hizdahr gave more discernible evidence of a personality than Book Hizdahr did in about 900 pages. In other words, I kind of like him!
At the Dreadfort, Yara Greyjoy’s months-long rescue mission to rescue Theon finally reaches fruition. (Seriously, didn’t she leave the Iron Islands at the same time that Jaime and Brienne got back to King’s Landing, which we know was months ago? I guess she lacks Littlefinger’s jet-assisted takeoff capabilities that see him traversing Westeros in no time at all!) Anyway, Yara’s here to save the day and bring her (somewhat) newly neutered baby brother back home. The Iron Born attack the fort while Ramsay is having sex (eww, no thank you!) and find their way to the dog kennels, where Theon is imprisoned. Prison Break, Westeros Edition, looks like it’s about to happen, except ...
It turns out that poor Theon has been so broken mentally, emotionally and physically by Ramsay Snow that he prefers his cage in the dog kennels to going back “home” with his sister (insofar as the Iron Islands actually are “home” for Theon, since he has been back there once for a few weeks since the time he was nine. I would argue that Theon’s true home was Winterfell.) Theon refuses to go, getting more and more panicky that Ramsay will blame him for this escape attempt, or that this is all some kind of a test that he desperately wants to pass. He keeps insisting that his name is Reek, and doesn’t seem to recognize Yara.
Eventually, the Dreadfort’s alarm system goes off, and Ramsay and a group of his men trap Yara and her men in the kennels where they’re still arguing with Theon. Ramsay miraculously doesn’t get hacked to pieces by the Iron Born even though he’s totally shirtless. Ramsay starts opening the dog cages, and Theon, whom we shall have to call Reek now, bites Yara on the hand and retreats back into his cage. Yara, who’s no dummy, won’t die or command her men to die for someone who doesn’t even exist any more. “Theon is dead,” she tells her men as they abandon their rescue attempt.
As a reward for Reek's “loyalty,” Ramsay offers Theon a bath, ordering him to strip. Thankfully we don't see the most drastic mutilation of Theon's body, but we see numerous marks of torture on Theon’s body. Poor Theon doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and shivers in fear as he slowly lowers himself into the water. Ramsay doesn’t even need a cage for Theon any more: thanks to his conditioning, Theon’s mind is prison enough to hold him forever (and I have to say, huge props to Alfie Allen for this masterful understated portrayal of a man who has completely lost his sense of self.) It turns out Ramsay is just going to sponge him off. Which is every bit as disturbing a thought as it sounds! As he tenderly bathes Theon, Ramsay tells Theon that he’s going to go to Moat Cailin and “pretend” to be Theon Greyjoy again to the Ironborn who currently occupy it.
In King’s Landing, we have another meeting of the Small Council (though it’s considerably less entertaining than the chair-shuffling meeting of Season 3.) Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martell both take their places at the table for the first time and the chief topic of discussion is Dany and her activities in Meereen. Cersei scoffs that the dragons are tiny still (um, no! They’re pretty big, Cersei!) and Tywin issues a few scornful words about what a bad idea it was to have Barristan Selmy dismissed from the Kingsguard because now he’s advising Dany. (It’s ok, Tywin, she’s totally ignoring his advice!) Varys and Tywin also remind us that Jorah Mormont was—at one point—spying on Dany for the regime in Westeros, though he’s definitely stopped doing that now.
And now it’s onto Tyrion’s Show Trial! First of all, King Tommen recuses himself, partly because Grandpa Tywin told him to, and partly because I think he actually likes Tyrion (plus, given that Joffrey threatened to skin Tommen’s cats and feed him ground up catmeat, I’d say Tommen probably isn’t that sad that Joffrey’s dead.) Anyway, Tywin takes the throne as Hand and looks like a natural sitting there.
A parade of witnesses proceeds to provide evidence damning Tyrion: first Meryn Trant recalls Tyrion striking and threatening Joffrey after the King’s Landing riot; then Pycelle, who is a more dangerous enemy than Tyrion reckoned on, accuses Tyrion of stealing a long list of poisons from Pycelle’s stash. After Pycelle, Varys, who once called himself an ally of Tyrion’s, takes the stand and, while speaking nothing but the truth, makes it look like Tyrion was plotting Joffrey’s death all along. (Hey Tyrion, remember when you kept saying that “King’s Landing is a dangerous place, trust no one” to Shae? Yeah!) Next up is Cersei, who remembers every word of Tyrion telling her that her “joy will turn to ashes in her mouth” and relishes disclosing that Tyrion kept whores in the Tower of the Hand. It takes all of this to make Jaime, the prettiest and the dumbest Lannister, realize that Tyrion will never get a fair trial. (Hello, does he even know Cersei or Tywin? They’ve wanted Tyrion dead forever.)
Jaime goes to find Tywin who’s eating lunch during the recess, and offers to do exactly what Tywin wants (i.e. leave the Kingsguard, become the heir to Casterly Rock, and father children “who are Lannisters”—as Tywin warns him!) if Tywin send Tyrion to the Wall instead of executing him.
Jaime’s all proud of himself for his secret plan to save Tyrion and tells Tyrion to throw himself on the court’s mercy. Poor Tyrion nods his assent. It’s not as though he has any other choices BUT to trust Jaime, at this point, but he also has a lifetime of trusting his big brother to save him to fall back upon.
The Crown calls its final witness and Jaime’s deal is blown out of the water, because Shae, who was supposedly on a ship out of a town, walks in and proceeds to shred what is left of Tyrion’s heart and self-respect. Either Bronn sold Tyrion out completely and handed Shae right over to the Lannisters, or else in the general lockdown after Joffrey's death, Shae, who served as Sansa’s maid, was plucked off her escape ship.
Shae, who’s still bitter about the terrible, cruel words Tyrion used to make her leave, as well as no doubt hugely intimidated by Tywin (who wouldn’t be really?) agonizingly tells the court about her relationship with Tyrion, skewing everything to make Tyrion look like the perverted monster that everyone already believes he is. Poor Tyrion’s heart breaks before our eyes, as the woman he loved, and whom he believed loved him, destroys him. (I do think Shae truly loved Tyrion, and this is her vengeance, but vengeance has never quite proved successful for anyone, long-term, on this show. Also, OUCH!)
Tyrion forgets Jaime’s advice completely, and like Theon earlier, rejects his older sibling’s rescue attempt, choosing instead to retreat back into the iron cage that he and his family have made for him all his life. He did it before, when he refused to flee to Essos with Shae, but that was in the hope that someday, somehow, his father would come to appreciate him. Now Tyrion knows for sure that his life-long quest for love and appreciation is doomed, so he lets out all his long-suppressed fury, bitterness and sorrow.
Tyrion tells the court that he wants to confess; once he has their attention, he says that he’s guilty of being a dwarf, and has been on trial his whole life for the crime of being born. And then he turns and screams at the leering witnesses to his trial that he saved the city from Stannis, and that “I wish I was the monster you think I am!” He tells Cersei that “watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores.”
Last of all, Tyrion demands a trial by combat (well, hey, it worked out well for him in the Vale!) Jaime’s face crumples, as he realizes he can’t save Tyrion; Cersei looks vindicated in her belief that Tyrion did murder her son; Tywin looks mildly annoyed that his plans didn’t work out; and Oberyn looks absolutely fascinated by the public meltdown of the family that he hates more than anything. And we close on the Rains of Castamere, which, more and more, is starting to sound like a dirge for the Lannisters.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.