After a somewhat flat previous instalment, Game of Thrones this week featured no seismic surprise blows or gigantic battles scenes which the show has made its trademark. Nonetheless it was as epic as anything the show has done before.
Expertly scripted by fan-favourite Bryan Cogman and deliciously directed by former Sopranos cinematographer Alik Sakharov, The Laws of Gods and Men was a beautifully constructed culmination of everything Tyrion has headed towards hence far in the series.
The centrepiece was Tyrion’s trial, a sadly distorted perspective of his time in power. Yes it was out of context but was predominantly based on truths. It was an endless parade of characters Tyrion had seemingly bested but now returning with vengeance (strangely reminiscent of the final episode of Seinfeld).
As successful as Tyrion was in mitigating some of Joffrey’s behaviour and defending the city from Stannis’ attack, he certainly made no friends doing so. While his rationale was noble, and those he intimidated deserving, his use of his wealth, sardonic wit and hired muscle were as divisive as the fact that he was a dwarf.
Tyrion used these tools as a bastion against the discrimination he had faced his whole life, yet his “me against the world” perspective was a cause of his demise. In this instance, Cersei’s soft manipulation and corruption have proved a much more persuasive form of power. This was most devastatingly present with the reappearance of Tyrion’s spurned lover Shae.
Tyrion, more than anyone else, seeks the love and approval of those around him – the support he has consistently been denied. His relationship with Shae offered hope that he might have finally have discovered someone who truly appreciated and loved him, yet this was destroyed in one painful submission.
It was also interesting to note the reoccurrence of exile to the Night’s Watch as a decoy plot device. Previously Ned Stark and Theon have been offered a chance to take the black, and yet again this option was presented to Tyrion. Viewers undoubtedly expect major characters to converge on the north to help expel the threat of the White Walkers and yet at every turn this has been dangled before the characters only to have it ripped away in unforeseen circumstances.
Of course, Tyrion’s ‘Hail Mary’ request for a trial by battle has worked before and you certainly can’t count him out yet.
After the bravura of last season, Yara fails in her mission to rescue Theon not out of any fault of her plan, but because what she knew as Theon has gone. The wreck so brutally constructed for us and now left behind bears no resemblance to her brother.
In a show replete with gruesome acts of violence, Ramsey’s ability to deconstruct Theon psychologically and remodel him as the subservient Reek, is as chilling as anything. There’s a perverse Shakespearean take on role-play going on in Ramsey employing Reek to act as Theon again.
We are introduced to the city of Braavos for the first time in the series, where Stannis and Davos are seeking to win the support of the Iron Bank. The Iron Bank claims that they can’t be won over by stories, but only by cold hard factual numbers. And yet Davos wins them over not by assessing how they would be better placed to win the Iron Throne, but by presenting Stannis as a long-term chance for stability and security.
Davos presents something which is often scarce in the battle for the Iron Throne, something for which an ordinary man will fight for. It is the daring contradiction of his missing fingertips he presents the bankers; they represent not only justice served, but undying loyalty gained. Stannis is not the most likeable person but for what he lacks in charisma he delivers in single bloody minded honesty.
Winning the Iron Bank marks a monumental shift in the balance of warring powers. Not only does it provide Stannis with the means to reinforce his military but after Tywin’s revelation of the state of their gold mines and now the defection of the Iron Bank, the Lannisters have become even more dependent on their alliance with the Tyrells.
Daenerys is facing the consequences of ruling, the least of which appears to be the endless stream of supplicants waiting. Her dragons are loose and hungry requiring the financial reparations for their feed, while the former ruling class must also be abated. According to Hizdahr zo Loraq, not all of the Meereenese were as keen on the brutal form of slavery as appeared to Daenerys from the outset.
After appearing in the city as a foreign conqueror with fire breathing beasts and a predilection for crucifixion, Daenerys may find it harder to rule the city than it was to win. Tywin had previously stated that letters could be as important to win wars as swords and his plan to thwart Daenerys with a mysterious missive is surely an ominous sign for her.