This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
And ne’er a Stark
Was seen nor heard.
By which I mean this was the first episode of Game of Thrones not to feature any members of the Stark family at all. Which is pretty cool, considering in the first season they are arguably the centre point. I mean, obviously half of them are dead now, so that may have a lot to do with it, but it’s cool to see how the show develops more and more characters (such as Brienne, or even Yara Greyjoy), bringing them into the spot light. This is what happens in the books too – the two aforementioned characters, among others, become point of view characters and we get to see the world through previously unknown eyes. The show reflects this very well, I think, and it’s a credit to the writing. Saying that, there was one scene in tonight’s episode that bugged me, but more on that later.
Fans were treated to a new location in the show’s introduction in “The Laws of Gods and Men”: Braavos.
The city is located on the north most point of Essos (the continent across the Narrow Sea when Daenerys is) and is steeped in history. Topographically, it’s like a Game of Thrones Venice – built in a lagoon, the city is comprised mainly of canals and waterways. It is the richest and most powerful of the Free Cities (Pentos, Braavos, Lys, Qohor, Norvos, Myr, Tyrosh, Volantis, Lorath) and is ruled by what is known as the Sealord. At the entrance to Braavos stands the Titan of Braavos, a colossal statue that acts as Braavos’ entrance and line of defence – it lets out a loud boom whenever ships approach, to warn the city (though sadly I don’t think we witnessed this in the episode). Braavos was the home of Syrio Forel, Arya’s swordsmaster, who we discussed last week. It is also where the Faceless Men – the elite group of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of – are based. And, of course, the Iron Bank of Braavos.
The Iron Bank has…a lot of money. They are currently helping to fund the Crown, who as we found out as early as season one, are heavily indebted to them (among others). Stannis seeks out the Iron Bank’s aid because he sees himself as rightful king and – as discussed in my last article – if the Lannisters should fall, the Iron Bank would lose a lot of their money. Stannis, obviously believing that he will win the war, wants to convince the Iron Bank that if they back him, they will receive their debts. But the Iron Bank does not make investments hastily. Mark Gatiss brilliantly played the role of one of the Bank’s most prudent representatives, Tycho Nestoris (though it kind of just seemed like Mycroft had been transported into another world and settled into a new job), epitomising how stern, meticulous and tentative the Bank can be. At the end of the day, they don’t care who sits on the Throne, as long as it is a good investment for them. It isn’t until the humble, brave and honest words of Davos Seaworth that they change their minds. This is a massive blow to the Lannisters, as they have now lost the funding of their biggest investors. We already know that, apparently, Casterly Rock is dry when it comes to gold, so how will the Lannisters pay their debts now?
During the Stannis story arc we were also reintroduced to the infamous pirate Salladhor Saan. We first met him in season 2, when Davos (the two were old friends) was trying to acquire ships for Stannis. After the Battle of Blackwater, Salladhor resigned from Stannis’ cause. We encountered him again when he saved Davos at the beginning of season 3, before convincing Lord Seaworth to abandon Stannis too. Naturally, Davos refused, and was rewarded by Stannis with a dungeon. So now we meet him again, frolicking in some Braavos bathhouse. Will Davos’ promise of wealth entice him to fight for Stannis again?
Meanwhile, some few hundred miles away, we see that Dany is struggling to rule. Not much to say on this scene – it was all pretty self-explanatory (dat dragon CGI doe). Essentially, Daenerys doesn’t seem to really have a game plan, and thought that feeding and ruling over hundreds of liberated slaves, Unsullied, Dothraki and mercenaries would be quite simple. Naturally, when you take over a city, there is going to be strife. We were introduced to Meereenese nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq. The names don’t get any easier. Hizdahr is peed off, as you would be, at seeing his father (a slaver) crucified. We already know Dany has a little bit of madness in her, but no other character has really addressed it until now. But if Hizdahr can see it, and has the courage to point it out, how long will it be until others follow?
I’ve noticed that I have ended the last three paragraphs with open-ended questions, so I will try really hard to finish this one with a good, old fashioned full stop.
Now for the scene that I didn’t particularly like: the Dreadfort. Firstly, Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Theon-turned-Reek is outstanding, terrifying, and very sad. But I can’t help that but think that this scene was just a filler to show that- which would be fine, if it wasn’t so poorly executed. There was quite a lot of suspension of disbelief here, and if you haven’t already guessed, this scene wasn’t in the books. Firstly, Yara Greyjoy made a big speech at the end of season 3, and another in this episode, about finding her little brother, which was great. Bear in mind, however, that the Dreadfort is right on the other side of Westeros to the Iron Islands, which means that Yara et al would have had to sail all the way around Dorne and up again. Which is fine, it’s obviously been quite a while since she set sail. But you would have thought that after such a long cruise, they would have tried a little harder to get Theon back? So, they break into the Dreadfort – which is currently the ruling stronghold of the North – pretty easily. Before freeing Theon and escaping, Ramsay shows up – topless (but wearing plot armour), pretty much unarmed, and covered artistically in blood from somewhere. Think back to the Greyjoy words – “We Do Not Sow”, and how much Balon Greyjoy was banging on about paying the ‘iron price’ – that is, kill things. The Ironborn are supposed to be seasoned fighters – especially Yara. And yet they are very nearly defeated by a handful of Bolton men and an unarmoured Ramsay, who, if I remember correctly, seems to take out about four of them. Fast forward. The battle is over. Why the hell doesn’t Yara just throw an axe at Ramsay’s face and be done with it? Ok, so Theon is brainwashed and doesn’t want to come, but after sailing literally half way around the world, you wouldn’t expect Yara to just give up like that, would you? And then, and then, these armoured, veteran warriors are chased out of the castle by….dogs? Really? It just all seemed a bit stupid. Don’t get the wrong, the fact that Ramsay would rather chase them out of the castle and humiliate them, rather than kill them, was very in line with his character, but thus far in the series the Ironborn have just been a joke.
Oh well. The series is amazing put it isn’t immortal – I guess they’re always going to have little slipups.
Now the centre point. The scene that is on everyone’s lips as they weep tears of empathetic pain. Oh, Tyrion! As Jaime puts it, that wasn’t a trial: it was a farce. Everyone, including Tyrion, knows what the verdict will be, regardless of any evidence in his defence. Meryn Trant, Pycelle and Varys all give compelling evidence against the Halfman – and whilst the first two generally despise him, I feel that Varys still has a lot of respect for Tyrion. But then, as we all know, Varys has his own agenda, whatever that may be. It was interesting to see Margery’s reactions too, as she is probably the only one in the room, aside from Tyrion himself, who knows for 100% that he didn’t do it. But speaking up would mean the end of her family, and she can’t have that now. Speaking of her family, lol Mace. Roger Ashton-Griffiths plays the bumbling, arse-kissing oaf perfectly – I just want to see more of him gallivanting around King’s Landing, making observations and writing them in his journal (I assume he has a journal of inner thoughts). Shae’s reveal was as heart-breaking as I dreamed it
would be, but the standout performance in that scene was definitely Peter Dinklage. His deliverance in the final speech was just…remarkable. Tyrion has finally been tipped over the edge. All of the anger, sadness and betrayal that he must have been feeling at this time – Dinklage channelled it into that speech superbly. But here is a plot twist that Tywin didn’t see coming – a trial by combat! Jaime’s face said it all – he assumes that Tyrion will pick him – which, in his current state, could be very detrimental to both Lannister brothers’ health. Then the question arises who will stand against him? As Cersei is the accuser, it falls on her to pick a champion. Whilst you may assume that she would choose Jaime too, I don’t think that he would ever fight against his brother. So who does that leave? She can probably pick literally anyone in the Seven Kingdoms. There will probably be a mountain of knights piling up, willing to fight for her favour against the evil Imp, but who will she pick?
Damn, ending on a question again. I’m so sorry, reader. Or readers, if there is more than one of you. Excelsior!