When the “Previously on…” clip at the start this week played a montage of all the enemies that Tyrion has made throughout the series, I could tell that this would be a very fun episode of ‘Game of Thrones’.
While other events also transpire, some of them quite important, the centerpiece of episode ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’ is the trial of Tyrion Lannister for the regicide of his nephew, King Joffrey the Whelp. As expected, it’s a kangaroo court with little pretense of actual justice. A parade of witnesses testify against him, often blatantly lying, or at least willfully manipulating the context of what happened, and Tyrion isn’t allowed to speak a word in his own defense.
During a break, Jaime confronts Tywin (acting as chief judge). He reminds his father that Tyrion is the only Lannister still capable of producing a legitimate heir and carrying on the family name. As a member of the Kingsguard, Jaime has sworn an oath prohibiting him from marriage, and Cersei’s children are (at least for the purposes of the official record) Baratheons. Jaime offers a deal: If Tywin will spare Tyrion’s life, Jaime will resign the Kingsguard, marry and sire children to continue the Lannister line. Ever a pragmatic man, Tywin instantly agrees, as if he had expected this all along. All Tyrion has to do is keep his mouth shut until he’s found guilty, then plead for mercy. His father will sentence him to join the Night’s Watch at the Wall, rather than execution. Relieved, Jaime sneaks a quick word with Tyrion to deliver the news.
Well, those plans go awry pretty quickly. When the trial resumes, the next witness called is Tyrion’s mistress, Shae. Unsurprisingly, she never left King’s Landing. Does this mean that Bronn lied to Tyrion about putting her on a ship, or did she sneak back into the city afterwards? Still incredibly bitter about the way he broke things off with her (and apparently not bright enough to understand why he had to do it that way), Shae twists the truth and lays out a story where Tyrion kidnapped and forced her to become his sex slave. Then she flagrantly lies about overhearing Tyrion and Sansa plot to kill Joffrey in retaliation for the death of Ned Stark.
At this point, Tyrion just plain loses his shit. He speaks up and offers to confess – but not to killing Joffrey. No, he confesses that he took great pleasure in watching Joffrey die, and that, “I wish I was the monster you think I am.” He wishes he had enough poison to kill every bloody hypocrite in the kingdom who betrayed him. He refuses to beg for mercy, and demands the rite of trial by combat in order to put his fate in the hands of the gods.
If Tyrion is most fans’ favorite character, this is one of his spotlight, defining moments.
Oh Yeah, Other Stuff Happened Too
- The episode opens with Stannis and Davos sailing to Braavos for a meeting at the Iron Bank, hoping it will payroll Stannis’ rebellion. Despite Stannis informing them that the Baratheon children are really Jaime’s bastards (which they aren’t at all surprised to hear), the bankers initially refuse to back him. They don’t care how legitimate his claim to the throne may be. With his army currently a fragment of its former strength, as a purely practical matter, he’s a poor investment. Stannis is dejected, until Davos steps in and makes a strong case that Stannis would be the only king capable of bringing stability to Westeros, and thus returning the Bank’s investment. The Lannisters are too unreliable and untrustworthy. Clearly, the argument worked. Later, Davos tracks down his pirate friend Salladhor Saan and presents him with a big load of money for the services of his fleet.
- Theon Greyjoy’s sister Yara and a small battalion arrive at Dreadfort to raid the castle and rescue her brother. They find him locked up in the kennel with the dogs. Unfortunately, when Yara tries to set him free, Theon (now “Reek”) thinks it’s a trick and refuses to leave. Ramsey finds them there, and a short but extremely bloody battle ensues. With Theon seemingly lost to Ramsey forever, Yara retreats and announces that her brother is dead. Afterward, Ramsey rewards his pet Reek for his loyalty with a nice bath, during which he hatches a plan to send the simpering fool back home undercover as a gambit to conquer the Iron Islands.
- On the other side of the world, Daenerys sits on the throne in Meereen and listens to requests from the kingdom’s supplicants. At first, this doesn’t seem like such a burden, as she rewards a poor goatherd with generous compensation for her dragons eating all of his goats. However, she begins to doubt the decisions she’s made as queen when the son of one of the city leaders she crucified informs her that his father was a good and honorable man who had fought to end the poor treatment of slaves. Has Daenerys been too hasty in her thirst for vengeance?
- Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, Price Oberyn attends his first meeting of the Small Council. When informed of the latest developments involving Daenerys, Tywin continues to be dismissive that she will ever amount to a serious threat. Perhaps he should pay better attention.
Even though it’s just a small part of the episode, I find the Daenerys storyline fascinating this week. Despite her pretense of being a great and just liberator of the people, she’s falling into the same traps as countless monarchs and tyrants before her. (After all, she is the child of Mad King Aerys.) She’s become so focused on expanding her power that she’s failed to understand the complexity of the issues she faces. A scene where she sits contentedly on the throne while her name is announced with a ridiculously long list of pointless titles is nicely juxtaposed against another scene of new king Tommen being announced the same way in King’s Landing. When the Meereen nobleman is introduced to her with a similar battery of descriptions behind his name, she has no patience for it at all.
Yet, slowly, Dany may be growing self-aware of this problem. That’s what will ultimately determine her true worth as a ruler.