Tales From Westeros – The Laws of Gods and Men
We’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of talk about ships lately, and this episode opens with another one, sails boasting the new Baratheon fiery stag and carrying Stannis and Davos to…that’s a good question. Where are they going, we wonder? …Then the Titan of Braavos appears on the screen and a bunch of nerds start breathing into paper bags. (I must confess I also got wicked excited when I saw the Titan pop up in the title credits.) If you have been paying attention, there have been many ominous references to a certain Iron Bank of Braavos throughout the season so far. The Lannisters for sure owe them an indescribable amount of cash. It seems Stannis has decided to trust Davos enough to sail all the way to Braavos to entreat the Iron Bank for cash. Tycho Nestoris, the apparent head Iron Banker (played by Mark Gatniss of Dr. Who and Sherlock fame, if you hear any more fan-screaming in the distance), greets Stannis coolly and calls him “Lord Stannis” before Davos imperiously corrects him with the full title. But really? Tycho points out that not only does Tommen Baratheon sit the Throne, but Stannis lacks both men and resources. He goes on to describe the Braavosi concept of looking at cold hard facts (read: the figures in their ledger books), and it seems there’s no hope for a bailout. Yet Davos saves the day again—he vehemently vouches for Stannis, ripping off his glove and displaying his stubs because his King is an honest man that deals with debt. All you have to do is compare/contrast that to the Lannister situation, and Mycroft/Tycho is straight convinced.
Davos then makes a point of visiting his old friend Salladhor Saan in the hot tub room as he entertains some ladies. It seems this scene exists for two reasons: boobs, and to show that Davos did manage to get the dough. Moving on!
Meanwhile, Yara Greyjoy gathers the Ironmen and sails to the Dreadfort in an attempt to rescue her brother Theon. She’s heated, and ensures her men are too by reading Ramsay’s letter to them and making a fine point: “They skinned our countrymen and they mutilated my brother—your prince!” The invasion goes smoothly as they infiltrate the castle under the cloak of night. Theon isn’t in the dungeons though—he’s locked in a cage, and crazy as a shithouse rat. The Ironborn have the advantage for a bit, but (speaking of crazy) Ramsay soon shows up with his men. Unlike the others wearing armor, he’s shirtless, scratched from God-knows-what, and unfazed as fuck about it. The ensuing battle is close and dangerous, with axes and swords flying everywhere. (This is actually the kind of television fighting that gives me panic attacks.) At the end, with only a few men (and Yara, a complete badass) standing, Theon only cowers, suffering from the absolute worst case of Stockholm Syndrome. Ramsay even gives him the option to leave, knowing what Theon will choose: to stay. He’s not Theon. He’s Reek. As Yara witnesses this, her resolve is shattered. This isn’t the brother she assembled her men to rescue, or the brother she defended against their own father’s coldness. She leaves him at the Dreadfort, declaring “My brother’s dead.” What will become of Theon now?
After that insanity, Ramsay wants to reward Theon for his loyalty in the form of a bath. Call me crazy, but if I were in the service of the Bastard of Bolton, I’d want more than a bath for my troubles. Anyway, Theon disrobes and his body is covered with angry scars. As Ramsay looks over his handiwork with relish, you almost expect the camera to pan down to show his greatest “accomplishment,” but the question of “Did he REALLY cut off his…?” is never 100% answered, at least visually. It doesn’t matter, because this sick game of reward/punishment continues—Ramsay asks Theon if he loves him because there’s something he needs him to do, and that something is getting a certain castle back by pretending he’s someone he’s not: Theon Greyjoy.
Over by Meereen, we’re treated to an idyllic pastoral scene of a goatherd and his kids taking care of their animals. But those goats are fucking TOAST—the dragons are growing, they’re hungry, and they kill things with so much fire. As part of her queenly duties, Dany must sit and hear the complaints and requests of her subjects. During a session, the aforementioned goatherd drops a sack of charred goat bones at her feet. Dany pays him the value of his herd three times over, but it’s clear the dragons are swiftly becoming more dangerous by the day. She may be their mother, but they are TEENAGE DRAGONS and won’t listen. Soon she has a new visitor: a man named Hizdahr zo Loraq. Hizdahr has beef with the new regime. Turns out his father was one of the Grand Masters Dany left to rot in the sun. Whatever, right? An eye for an eye. However, Hizdahr’s father was a good man that argued against killing the slave children, yet still paid the ultimate price. All he wants at this point is for Dany to give back his body and allow him to be buried according to Meereenese tradition. It seems a simple request, but unfortunately one that opens up a moral can of worms. Our Khaleesi is realizing that ruling a kingdom is much harder than yelling bold things and saving slaves. She must make incredibly frought decisions and the outcomes won’t be perfect. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, Dany. Eventually she allows Hizdahr zo Loraq to bury his father. When this is done, she asks how many more supplicants wait for her? Her work is never done: 312. The scene ends on a beautiful long shot where she looks small and defeated.
Back in King’s Landing, the Small Council meets, including its new member Oberyn Martell. Oberyn doesn’t even get up when Tywin enters the room, how insolent. The council has some important topics to discuss. Sandor Clegane has been spotted in the riverlands—at which Oberyn perks up, as his vendetta is against the Hound’s brother Gregor. The issue of Dany and Slaver’s Bay arises. At first, no one in Westeros really took her seriously, but they’re finally realizing that she’s a real threat, especially with Sers Jorah and Barristan as her advisors. Tywin gives Cersei a long look at the mention of Barristan Selmy, since it was Joffrey’s folly that eventually brought him into Dany’s service. So what is Tywin’s plan of action? He’s going to write more letters, of course.
It’s good to see Lord Varys back. As slimy as the character is, Conleth Hill plays him to perfection and he’s always muttering something mysterious. He’s catching up with Oberyn and is surprised when the Dornishman figures out some of his secrets, like the fact that Varys is from Lys. Always one with shadowy motives, we get some more insight when he declares that he benefits from the “absence of desire,” even more interesting when juxtaposed against all-desire-all-the-time Oberyn. It’s definitely an advantage, but he doesn’t clarify if it’s just physical desire—Varys is a eunuch but he’s definitely staring longingly at the Iron Throne a few beats too long. Surely there’s no way he could end up sitting the throne, right? If that’s not what he wants…then what does he want?
Okay, here we go. Jaime is sent to collect Tyrion from the dungeons. It’s time for the trial. In one of the more obvious displays of who wields the power in the capital, King Tommen officially names Hand Tywin as judge in his stead. (The other judges are Oberyn and Mace Tyrell.) Tyrion stands accused of regicide and even if we didn’t know the truth behind Joffrey’s murder, this trial would still be a complete farce. Evidence piles up from “witnesses,” some of it entirely false, some true but twisted to be more incriminating—all of it infuriating.
When they break for snacks, Jaime appeals to Tywin with the only thing he knows he’ll accept—the continuation of the Lannister name, meaning Jaime will have to quit the Kingsguard and move to Casterly Rock to marry some highborn wench and have lots of highborn pups. (Legitimate ones this time.) It’s less skin off his back as it would have been a while ago, as his relationship with Cersei is now ruined. It seems like a win-win for all involved, and Tywin agrees quickly, suspiciously quickly even. Was this what he wanted the whole time?
At this trial, Tyrion is confronted with all the oppositional forces he’s been dealing with for years in King’s Landing (his whole life when you consider Tywin and Cersei). You really feel Tyrion’s rage and the weight of his disadvantaged (probably worse in the midst of so much advantage) existence when he forcefully claims he’s on trial for being a dwarf. Not only that, but Peter Dinklage himself probably knows exactly how Tyrion feels—you get the sense he was channeling his own personal experience at that moment, and his acting during the trial was on point. He was just great. And when the piece de resistance arrives in the form of his former lover Shae, who arrives and sturdily delivers the most incriminating evidence of all, it’s completely heartbreaking. Even though Jaime lets him know the deal, Tyrion’s rage and indignance swell to the point where he confesses—and demands a trial by combat.
What did you think of this episode? Who do you think Tyrion will name as his champion? Jaime, or someone less obvious?
-Izzy Vassilakis Eden
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