CSI: King’s Landing
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The sixth episode of Season 4 follows the same format as the excellent second hour The Lion and the Rose with a few locations visited and then the second half of the episode was confined to King’s Landing. Not as good as that hour, The Laws of Gods and Men was nevertheless a great fifty plus minutes in which Peter Dinklage truly affirmed that he is one of the greatest actors of all time. That is high praise, certainly, but incredibly well-deserved. Those final moments in the Red Keep will go down as one of television’s finest moments and when director Alik Sakharov’s camera goes between Tyrion and Tywin, my does the heart nearly stop pounding. It seems that everything is built towards this divide in the Lannister family and interestingly enough, this is the first Thrones episode that does not feature any Starks at all. The story has moved on in many ways (although that should be rectified next week). In all fairness, fairly significant things happen before the trial, so let’s delve into those before I throw all of the Emmys in Dinklage’s direction.
Let’s begin with the Dreadfort sequence, the weakest part of the episode. It’s not a bad scene entirely, but one that begs for at least five more minutes and would have made more sense outside of this episode, perhaps. Nevertheless, this scene follows Yara Greyjoy’s attempt to rescue her brother Theon (she seems to be the only person still who gives a damn about him). She gives a rousing speech by reading Ramsay’s letter in full and using the pride of the Iron Islands as selling point for why everyone with her should risk their skin for an ass for whom almost no feels sorry for anymore. A lad shows Yara the way to the dungeons and she promptly cuts his throat (more of Yara, please). The Iron Islanders fight their way into the dungeons and come face to face with a bloody Ramsay Snow. A great close-quarters combat ensues, but despite Yara’s efforts, Theon refuses to go with her. He keeps on repeating “Reek! I’m Reek!” over and over again, terrified of the potential consequences if Ramsay tortures him again. Yara is disgusted. Ramsay begins to cut his vicious dogs loose (they’re all female, in a great moment) and then the shot promptly cuts to Yara and her surviving men running to their boat. This transition is annoying as all hell. One, I don’t believe that Yara would back away from Ramsay like that or at least not throw her knife at him. Two, why not kill the dogs while they’re still inside? It makes sense that Yara has given up on Theon and she reaffirms that with “He’s dead” on the boat, but two minutes to join the two scenes would have been helpful. It’s a rare framing misstep for the show, and I share a little bit of disappointment at a relatively loose follow-up to her awesome Season 3 ending scene on the ship at Pyke. This storyline is far from over as Ramsay is now twisting Reek into being Theon so he can take over Moat Cailin and become a Bolton. The problem ultimately with this scene is that when it cuts to Yara and Co. running, it kind of neuters the tension from before and despite not being a climax feels like one. What would have helped if this scene were to have remained in this episode would be a lingering shot between Yara and Theon before Yara throws a knife into Ramsay and then escapes. That bridge would have been helpful and sold the entire sequence a bit more solidly and kept more true to Yara’s character.
We now move to the opening sequence of the episode. Braavos arrives on the opening credits map after being mentioned for pretty much forever. The direction from Sakharov is truly astounding here as the camera moves from Stannis and Davos upwards, scaling the absolutely massive Titan of Braavos, a Westerosi-equivalent of the Colossus of Rhodes to slowly pan over and reveal a stunning city built upon islands like Venice that are connected by bridges, but the overhead architecture seems more like Constantinople. It’s stunning. Stannis goes to the Iron Bank of Braavos, who have been mentioned more times this season than “Winter is Coming” probably to ask for a loan to defeat the Lannisters. As charming as ever, Stannis gets refused by the bankers, led by Tycho Nestoris (played by the great Mark Gatiss from Sherlock fame). Ser Davos steps in, making an impassioned case that Stannis pays his debts no matter what, showing his hand with some missing finger parts as proof of when he used to be a smuggler. He makes a point that Lannister power comes from Tywin, and considering Tywin’s age, who was going to take the reins after him? The bankers thought this was a great point and in the next scene, we see Salladhor Saan with whores in a bathhouse being given a ton of gold by Ser Davos. He jokes about the rest of the gold being given to his wife, and Saan has a killer of a line here: “You are no friend of mine, my friend.” Thrones really excels at great pairings, doesn’t it? Now Stannis has gold and more ships coming. This war isn’t over yet.
In Meereen, we get a great overhead shot of the Great Pyramid, you know, the one that 1,000 slaves died building and all. The throne room for Daenerys is absolutely breathtaking, the massive space evocative of the throne rooms of the greatest Pharaohs of Egypt. But before we continue in the throne room, let’s talk about that foreshadowing scene. A goat herder and his child are happily raising their goats in stunning Croatian scenery, I mean, Essos scenery. The child throws rocks into the deep chasm until the earth begins to shake. Out slowly rises a massive shadow of Drogon, fierce and terrifying in his “I-am-so-much-bigger-in-comparison-to-the-season-premiere” pose. And it’s astonishing to think how much bigger they’re actually going to get. Drogon roasts the poor duo’s entire goat heard in a blaze of glory and flies off with dinner. He puts a whole new spin on fast food, doesn’t he? The goatherd comes to Daenerys (announced by Missandei with the longest title I can think of) with the charred bones of one of his goats, absolutely terrified as he approaches the queen. Daenerys gives him three times the value of the goats in gold, the man nearly sinking into the ground in a hurried form of gratitude. Then another subject comes in, a nobleman of Meereen by the name of Hizdhar zo Loraq (say that five times fast). His father was amongst the 163 slavemasters who were crucified, but he had argued against the crucifixion of the slave girls that had made Daenerys so angry in the first place. Daenerys defends her actions, but you can see the crack in her confidence. She realized that she had made her first major mistake as Queen of Meereen. Hizdahr beseeches that Daenerys is the Queen, but that she allow him to bury his father and she reluctantly agrees. Then Daenerys learns there are 212 more supplicants waiting for her and the expression of “Are you f***ing kidding me?” on her face is golden. Conquering is easy, but ruling is difficult.
Small Council scenes are the best, and this one was no different. Oberyn, being himself, is the only one who doesn’t stand up when Tywin arrives, instead wondering what he was Master of. Mace shows an intense dislike of Oberyn, but considering Mace’s relative dullness in more ways than one, we’re inclined to side with Oberyn here, who greatly doesn’t seem to give a damn if Mace likes him or not. Or anyone else, for that matter. News of the Hound’s sighting reaches the table along with his infamous “Fuck the King” phrase and Tywin, ever broke now, offers 100 silver dragons for his capture when the original suggestion was for only 10. Varys mentions Daenerys’s strength in Meereen. Cersei wonders if she really is a great threat. Oberyn offers up his own helpful suggestion of how great the Unsullied are as warriors but terrible in the sack. Tywin pens a letter to Meereen instead, taking the Mother of Dragons quite seriously. He surmises that it wouldn’t be long before Daenerys turned her eyes towards Westeros. We readers are hoping that she turns her eyes there, too. Varys and Oberyn have a great conversation by the Iron Throne, and Oberyn as always disguises his true intents behind sex. Or maybe blends sex in, there’s an higher possibility. Varys admits that he is asexual and that his lack of desires helps him pursue other things. Glances at the Iron Throne follow.
Tyrion’s trial. One by one, every individual Tyrion had gone against came up to viciously attack him, from Ser Meryn Trent to Maester Pycelle to Cersei. The real catch here, shown through Bryan Cogman’s excellent script, is that all the words they use against him are true, just disfigured horribly in the wrong context. Jamie sees the sham in the trial and strikes a deal with the ever-Machiavellian Tywin. If he lets Tyrion live, then Jamie will give up his position in the Kingsguard and go to Casterly Rock. But back at the trial, two things send Tyrion into a loop. First is Varys’s testimony against him, ever the man who strives to survive. Tyrion bitterly asks him if he remembers how he had told him at the end of Season 2 how no one would remember Tyrion’s role in saving King’s Landing from Stannis’s troops and if he had forgotten himself. Varys remarks “Sadly, my Lord, I never forget a thing.” Then comes the gut punch. Shae enters the courtroom, condemning Tyrion and Sansa as having plotted Joffrey’s death. This is a shocker and watching Tyrion’s heart literally break was one of the most saddening moments on this entire series, and boy isn’t that saying something. My analysis is that for Shae, it was a combination of her anger towards Tyrion not standing up to his family and one can only imagine what position she was put in by Cersei and Tywin. Shae is a surviver too, after all. Tyrion had bought Jamie’s deal but when Shae condemns him, he couldn’t hold it any longer. Then erupts Tyrion’s fury and every moment is sold beautifully through Peter Dinklage’s most brilliant performance to date:
TYRION: “Father, I wish to confess. … I saved you. I saved this city. All your worthless lives. I should’ve let Stannis kill you all.”
TYWIN: “Tyrion! Do you wish to confess?”
TYRION: “Yes, father. I’m guilty. Guilty. Is that what you want to hear?”
TYWIN: “You admit you poisoned the king?”
TYRION: “No. Of that I’m innocent. I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I’m guilty of being a dwarf.”
TYWIN: “You’re not on trial for being a dwarf.”
TYRION: “Oh? Yes I am. I’ve been on trial for that my entire life.”
TYWIN: “Have you nothing to say in your defense?”
TYRION: “Nothing but this: I did not do it. I did not kill Joffrey but I wish that I had! Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores! I wish I was monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it. … I will not give my life for Joffrey’s murder and I know I’ll get no justice here. So I will let the Gods decide my fate. I demand a trial by combat.”
The scene ends with a showdown of angry visages between Tywin and Tyrion before cutting to black and “The Rains of Castamere”. This battle of wills crashed Tywin’s plans and we’ll see where we go from here. The champions for both sides are obvious given the title for Episode 8, but speculate away, folks. Trial by combat worked once for Tyrion, but would it work again? Oh, but Peter Dinklage. Have I mentioned he’s going to win another Emmy? On to next week, folks.
Title: The Laws of Gods and Men
Written By: Bryan Cogman
Director: Alik Sakharov
Speech Transcript/Image Courtesy: On the Red Carpet, Game of Thrones Wiki, Breaking News @ IE, Page to Premiere