Look, I love all Game of Thrones episodes as a rule, but "The Laws of Gods and Men" was my least-favorite episode of Game of Thrones in a while, despite a strong finish. There's just something about watching characters go to the bank to apply for a loan that isn't as exciting to me as, say, oh I don't know, people getting swords put through their faces. That's not to say the episode wasn't important, because every episode of Game of Thrones is important, but it's also important that I occasionally spend a Saturday going to Target to pick up kitty litter, and I wouldn't ask you all to tag along with me.
In its more exciting goings-on, "The Laws of Gods and Men" continued Season 4's penchant for extended scenes by devoting a huge chunk of time to Tyrion's trial. And although it was just testimony after testimony pissing on Tyrion, these longer scenes really suck you in and bring things to life just by virtue of giving us more time to settle into them. I love scenes like that! We experienced a similar feeling at Joffrey's wedding in "The Lion and the Rose," and outside the gates of Meereen in "Breaker of Chains"; the extra time in one spot transforms Game of Thrones into a living, breathing entity rather than a whiplash sightseeing tour of Westeros hot spots. And now I would like to start a petition for HBO to make every episode four hours long, because one hour just isn't enough of what is genuinely becoming one of the best television series ever made.
"The Laws of Gods and Men" also felt like a bit of a relaunch as we enter the second half of the season. The first half cleverly relied on the multi-episode arcs of Jon Snow's assault on Craster's Keep (which wasn't in the books), Bran's tie-in, Sansa and Littlefinger's incredibly revealing outing, and Dany's assault on Meereen to keep up the storytelling momentum. But with the mutineers dead and Meereen captured, it was time to kickstart some new plots while the main story at King's Landing continued to chug along with intrigue. That made this episode a little jarring, because there was no Bran, Jon, Arya, Sansa, Littlefinger, Brienne, or Pod—and given how invested I've become in Littlefinger's and Jon's stories, I was slightly disappointed. But that's the drawback of a series that's so expansive and rich with complexity; not everyone can be serviced at the same time. Oh well! At least you all know why I hate Shae so much.
Gather up your goats and let's discuss what happened in "The Laws of Gods and Men."
"When Tywin is gone, who do you back?" —Davos Seaworth
UGH the bank! If you enjoy going to the bank, then there is something wrong with you and you should seek help immediately. Banks are horrible places that make money off of money. I still don't understand how they work, which is why I keep all my money under my mattress. Yep! Sixty-two dollars, all in nickels. But for some people, banks are absolutely necessary. Like when you need a loan to start a new pet-grooming business, or to make a down payment on a new wagon, or to fund a war for the Iron Throne.
You only end up at the bank if you're desperate, and the bankers know that. So when Stannis arrived at Braavos's Iron Bank, the bankers made him wait for hours and then materialized out of a wall as if they were part of some Illuminati ceremony. They were already playing mind games with Stannis knowing full well that they were in power, and they continued their power-tripping throughout the loan process via Tycho Mestoris (guest-star Mark Gatiss, co-creator of Sherlock), who knocked Stannis down a few pegs by reminding him that his titles actually belonged to someone else and all but 32 of his ships are currently at the bottom of Blackwater Bay.
Davos saved the day as Stannis's hype man with a rousing speech about the frumpy guy's leadership qualities (ahem, really?) and rights to the throne while also reminding Tycho that when Tywin Lannister kicks the bucket, the throne will be in the hands of a prepubescent boy and a former queen who no one likes. I'm not sure that would be enough for me to dump a bucket of gold coins on Stannis's head, but it worked. Why wouldn't Tycho mention that the cash-flush Tyrells are marrying into the Lannister family (and debt), or that Stannis is a huge loser who already got his butt kicked while trying to take the throne? If the Iron Bank was in the business of loaning out finger nubs, then sure, give Stannis whatever he wants. But enough money to hire an army? Doesn't the Iron Bank know that willy-nilly subprime lending leads to massive delinquencies, which in turn results in the devaluation of attendant securities? I don't know what that means but I read it on Wikipedia, and what I'm actually trying to say is that giving a bunch of money to a guy who lives on an island and has no army seems like a risky venture. Anyway, I guess this means the Iron Bank can also pull financial support away from the Lannisters?
"This is turning into a lovely evening." —Ramsay Snow
Yara Greyjoy led a boat full of Ironborn squidmen in an assault on the Dreadfort with the objective to free Theon from Ramsay's clutches. It did not go well. After penetrating the Dreadfort's walls and killing a host of guards rather easily, Yara was led to the kennels, where Theon, err, Reek was kept. Reek didn't want to leave with Yara because he's been brain-erased, and then Ramsay—sporting fresh wounds on his shirtless torso from a war with a sharp-nailed bed buddy—showed up to the fight. THAT was an entrance. Ramsay may be one of Westeros's worst citizens, but I can't help but love how vile and insane he is.
I've never been brainwashed or had my wee-wee cut off, so I can't say for sure, but television storylines about severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome seem like bull honky to me, and I find them hard to swallow. If I were Theon, every time I had to sit down to pee it'd be enough of a slap in the face to remind me of what happened, and that Ramsay wasn't the most gracious host. But then again, Theon was always one to think with his smaller head, so now that it's cut off, maybe he can't think for himself at all. Regardless, Theon has become an afterthought this season, because a passive character is an uninteresting character. I don't remember any of this from the A Song of Ice and Fire books that I read, so if was Game of Thrones' decision to keep Alfie Allen on the show just to make him a tortured prisoner who thinks he's a dog named Reek, then I think the writers should've just left him out. I mean, look at the "duh doi" look on this guy's face:
Snap out of it, man! I'm not entirely sure what the point of this scene was, but it could've been to set up an epic battle between House Greyjoy and House Bolton. However, that fight is the metaphorical NIT tournament to the March Madness that is the war for the Iron Throne. Also, if I'm sailing all the way from the Iron Islands to the Dreadfort (the two locales are on opposite coasts and not exactly a day trip), scaling castle walls, and engaging in close-quarters combat with dudes carrying swords and shields, I'm probably not going to run away from angry dogs. Just sayin'!
"RAWWWWWWWR! I'm a dragon!" —Drogon
Am I supposed to believe that the goat herder's kid DIDN'T see a dragon the size of a Greyhound bus in the gulch below him? It's pretty easy, kid. The things that look like rocks are rocks. The things that look like gigantic winged lizards are DRAGONS. This dumb tween also broke the first rule of rock-tossing: Look where you're throwing! It's dangerous to aimlessly chuck stones. You could hit a innocent bystander, you could topple some guy's elaborately staged dominoes piece that he's been working on for weeks, or you could anger a dragon. But instead of learning a life lesson by becoming a dragon snack, the kid lived and the poor goats had to pay for his reckless time-wasting. What a menace. I'd rather spend a week locked in a room with Roose Bolton than that dummy.
We can thank him for initiating some great dragon porn, though, which is 80 percent of why we watch Game of Thrones in the first place. You could actually see the goat's face saying "Oh shit oh shit oh shit" as he tried in vain to outrun Drogon's fiery spew. I made a .GIF here, but the colors on the fire were all wrong and I don't know how to fix it.
That scene segued into Dany hearing the problems of the Meereenese, the first of which was, "Your dragon barbecued my goats because my stupid kid threw a rock at it." Of course, the goat herder can't be too mad at Dany because she's his new ruler, but his message was clear: Put a leash on your flying reptilian terrors. And really, it's the LEAST she can do. Imagine if someone took over the top spot on your neighborhood council and let her bloodthirsty pit bulls run amok. Dany is a terrible pet owner, plain and simple. Are her dragons flying around doing whatever they please? Because let me tell you something, what they please is setting stuff on fire and eating livestock, and Dany's attitude is simply, "That's dragons for ya!" It's time to call in the Jackson Galaxy-equivalent from the dragon version of My Cat From Hell to teach Dany how to train her dragons! Meereen's famous Goat Stew Festival depends on it.
But Dany's problems extended beyond the random massacre of farm animals, and another citizen came to tell her that she'd nailed his dad up to one of those signposts even though he actively spoke out against the practice before Dany arrived. Now all he wanted was to take down his dad's corpse and give it a proper burial. Being a ruler is hard! Dany granted his wish after visibly wrestling with the idea that she may have over-generalized the slave masters of Meereen. And now she's in trouble, because you can't grant one person's wishes just because they came to you with a sob story when your whole platform is punishing slave masters. Honestly, we have no way of knowing if that guy who wanted to bury his dad was even telling the truth. Is Dany going to grant clemency to everyone now? Are all the bodies going to be taken off the signposts? How will people know how to get to Meereen without the rotting body of a dead slave master pointing the way? Now Dany will have to strengthen the infrastructure committee to build new signs. I don't ever want to be a leader, no thanks! You can't win. Dany is probably wishing she'd hopped on those boats and crossed the Narrow Sea instead of taking on the burden of dealing with everyone else's problems, and the line of 212 people waiting to be next indicates that the moaning of the people won't end soon. I told you, Dany! Get the fudge out of there! That place and all of Essos is a disaster.
"I demand trial by combat." —Tyrion Lannister
Finally, we're back to the small council meetings! These business gatherings should be nothing but drab affairs, but they always end up being way more entertaining than you might expect. Case in point: Oberyn couldn't be bothered to stand when Tywin entered the room because F him, and Mace Tyrell's sycophantic shlurping noises were cut off mid-sentence because no one, especially Tywin, cared what Mace had to say. Mace is only around to occupy a chair and do what Tywin says. Game of Thrones really shines when its characters are nasty to each other, and these small council meetings are filled with such instances. And when Tywin ordered Mace to get a pen and some paper, Mace took the menial job with misplaced pride and arrogance. Comedy! Anyway, Varys said he could get some of his little birds inside Meereen to see what Dany was up to, so let's all be very suspicious of any handsome gents who suddenly show up to mack on Dany.
Tyrion's trial took up the final 20 minutes of the episode and was a rather difficult watch given that Tywin is presiding over a witch hunt and we all know that Tyrion didn't kill Joffrey. The testimony came from a litany of witnesses gathered up by Cersei and the others who want to see Tyrion hanged. Ser Meryn Trant talked about an incident from Season 2, when Tyrion spoke up against Joffrey; Maester Pycelle made up some lies about his apothecary being raided and poisons being stolen; Cersei recalled Tyrion's tongue-lashings without mentioning any of her own and even stole some of Tyrion's own words; and Varys mentioned a fews times when Tyrion said things we were all thinking. It all felt like the trial was merely procedure and the guilty verdict was already a given, no matter what Tyrion said.
After a quick recess during which Jaime begged his father to spare Tyrion's life (we're currently back to Good Guy Jaime again), Tywin revealed that he'd always meant to save the Dwarf by sending him to join the Night's Watch. PHEW. Everything is going to be okay!
Except then something big happened. I've been telling you all about how awful Shae is for weeks now, and finally you doubters and misguided Shae supporters know the truth. She is AWFUL. The worst! Called as a surprise witness, she spouted lie after lie about Tyrion, saying that he and Sansa cooked up a plot to murder Joffrey as revenge for all the dead Starks. She may as well have cut Tyrion's head off herself. UGH someone shoot Shae into Blackwater Bay with a cement block chained to her neck. Throw her to the hounds with a 24 oz. Porterhouse wrapped around her waist. Dunk her in some Wildfire and shoot a thousand flaming arrows at her. Was this the last desperate and petty act of a woman scorned, or something worse? Was Shae always plotting against Tyrion, or was she that upset about being dumped that her next course of action was to commit perjury in the name of revenge? So uncool, Shae.
With the tide turning, Tyrion WENT OFF on everyone in the room, unloading the weight that builds up over the course of a lifetime's worth of underserved persecution. Let 'em have it, Tyrion! "I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had," he grumbled through a scowl pointed at Cersei. "Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores!" He also made it pretty clear that he basically wanted to poison everyone in the room. That seemed like an ill-advised thing to say given that his innocence was on the line, but Tyrion had a plan. Abuse this shoddy judicial system's loophole! He demanded trial by combat, because a 50/50 chance is better than a zero-percent chance.
Tyrion's howling monologue will go down as one of Game of Thrones' best, and Peter Dinklage acted his face off. I mean it, look at this screenshot of his face literally falling off:
So who does Tyrion choose as his champion? Bronn? Jaime? Whoever it is, if I were him, I'd make a request that the guy take an extra wild swing with a sword near Shae.
Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 4 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!
This week: Despite a thrilling finish, the first half of "The Laws of Gods and Men" featured some of the season's weaker scenes, as secondary characters embarked on moving their stories forward by mere inches. Okay, I'm giving the episode a harder time than it deserves, but it was decidedly less thrilling than previous episodes. Hey, one of these episodes has to occupy the last slot, and I'm going to pick the one where a guy went to the bank. "The Laws of Gods and Men" was still very good—especially during Tyrion's trial—but it was still a step behind the others.
1. "The Lion and the Rose" (Episode 2)
2. "First of His Name" (Episode 5)
3. "Breaker of Chains" (Episode 3)
4. "Oathkeeper" (Episode 4)
5. "Two Swords" (Episode 1)
6. "The Laws of Gods and Men" (Episode 6)
– My favorite part of the episode? Seeing Braavos! And seeing Braavos in the opening credits! How cool was the rolling coin in the Braavos tinker-toy model?
– In unnecessary nudity news, we got a scene with Salladhor Sahn recycling pirate jokes about shit-colored pants to some naked bath ladies. I do love the relationship between Davos and Salladhor, though. While Salladhor had his arms around the women, Davos snuck in a mention of Salladhor's wife, leading Salladhor to shoot him a look and say, "You're not my friend, my friend."
– In other unnecessary nudity news, the intercut between Yara reading Ramsay's letter and Ramsay getting laid seemed like some unnecessary nudity!
– In other other unnecessary nudity news, is there such a thing as unnecessary nudity? DISCUSS!
– Messandei is becoming Game of Thrones' version of Sigourney Weaver's character in Galaxy Quest. All she does is repeat what Dany says. What happened to the romantic sparks between her and Grey Worm?
– The most interesting thing to come out of the conversation between Oberyn and Varys was the reveal that Varys has aspirations for the Iron Throne. I had always pegged him as content to remain behind the scenes and be close to whoever's actually in power.
AIRED ON 6/15/2014
Season 4 : Episode 10