Monday, May 12, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Laws of Gods and Men

Have you ever been hurt very badly emotionally? I mean really stretched to your breaking point and even broken? I've found that the only people who can do that are almost by definition people with whom you have intimate vital relationships. That is to say siblings, parents and long standing providers of your nookie. Generally speaking nobody else can get close enough to stick the knife into you. Nobody else knows exactly where to strike to do the most damage. Both Yara Greyjoy and Tyrion Lannister discover that the hard way. More on that in a minute. Stannis Baratheon and Davos Seaworth, being short on money and resources decide to take a long shot, actually their only shot and travel to Braavos to request a loan from the legendary Iron Bank. Stannis thinks this should be a slam dunk as he is the rightful king of Westeros. But as another man once told Daenerys in a similar situation there is a bit of a problem in trying to borrow or demand resources from people on the basis that you're ruler of all Westeros when in truth you don't actually rule Westeros. The bankers, especially the lead banker Tycho, force Stannis to admit that he only has a handful of ships and men, lost his last battle and lacks resources to fight a war or pay the bank back. They deny the loan and would prefer Stannis and Davos depart immediately. Business is business. Nothing personal you know.

In a scene which perfectly reflects the relationship between Davos and Stannis, Stannis silently asks Davos for help. Stannis is far too proud to actually verbalize the request. Davos makes an impassioned argument that the war is not over until Stannis dies. Davos tells the Iron Bank that by backing Stannis the bank will have a better chance of getting its money back since the elderly Tywin Lannister can't be long for this world. Davos emphasizes Stannis' rectitude by revealing his own amputated fingers. This speech evidently works. Davos' old buddy Salladhor Saan is relaxing in the hot tub with two women when Davos stops by to pay him and to tell him that they're putting the band back together. The war is back on!

In Meereen Daenerys learns that giving justice is not as simple as conquering is. We see that her dragons attacked a goat herd and made off with some goats. When the herder comes to her she offers him three times the value of the goats. Sounds good but what if everyone starts to claim damages? And shouldn't she have a better way of feeding her dragons? What sort of ruler lets dragons just fly around the countryside doing whatever they want?  But that's small potatoes to the next claimant. Hizdahr Zo Loraq is a member of the noble class. His father was one of those whom Daenerys crucified. In a nod to the Antigone tragedy, Hizdahr claims that all he wants is a proper burial for his father, whom he claims was actually against the crucifixion of slave children. He begs the queen for this. After some back and forth Daenerys allows the burial to proceed. Not letting people be buried is an atrocity. Was Daenerys' decision an act of mercy or one of weakness? Time will tell. Life is not necessarily as black and white as Daenerys thought it was.
Yara has finally reached the Dreadfort and has scaled it with her merry band of killers. We see an impressive speech in montage as she implores her men to remember what was done to her brother Theon was done to them all. They're IRONBORN dammit! Nobody does that to them and lives to talk about it. I'm not sure about the mental capacity of the Northern Lords. Haven't they ever heard of perimeter security? What's the freaking point of having a castle if people can just climb right in anytime they want? Anyway Yara and crew are handling their business Greyjoy style, until they finally reach Theon, kept not in dungeons but in kennels.  As we know already Theon has long since lost his identity. Theon thinks Yara's appearance is a Ramsay trick.  He refuses to answer to his name and has to be dragged out of the cage. This is what enslavement does to people. It's an ugly scene. It's only fantasy of course but was quite reminiscent of events in real life. When Ramsay counterattacks,  Theon runs back into the cage. When Yara makes a last attempt to rescue her brother he actually bites her. The emotional damage is probably more hurtful to Yara than the physical. Fleeing, she tells her waiting men that her brother is dead.
The episode's balance takes place in King's Landing. Again Charles Dance deserves so much credit for his Tywin Lannister but Peter Dinklage matches him as Tyrion Lannister in Sunday's show. At the King's Landing Small Council meeting Tywin discusses his concerns about Daenerys, The Hound's continued existence, and how to deal with the Unsullied. Tywin thinks armies win wars, not dragons. Varys says that Jorah Mormont is no longer giving information on Daenerys. We also see that Tywin absentmindedly treats Mace Tyrell as a secretary. Later in a conversation between Prince Oberyn and Varys we learn that Oberyn spent five years in Essos. This allows him to correctly guess that Varys is from Lys. Varys doesn't want to talk about that but does claim to be asexual and only interested in power.
The trial has opened. It's an obvious railroad job. Tyrion is chained in the defendant's stand while witness after witness comes forward and talks of how they never liked or trusted him. As any liar would tell you, the most convincing lies are those mixed with bits of truth. Ser Meryn, Pycelle, Cersei and even Varys all tell of hostile statements (taken out of context) made by Tyrion. Pycelle even claims that Tyrion stole poisons from him. Dontos' body has been found. Sansa's necklace was with it of course and has poison residue. This of course is considered to be proof of Tyrion's and Sansa's involvement. In anything approaching a fair trial someone would ask Pycelle what was HE doing with poison in the first place and why didn't he report anything stolen but this isn't a fair trial. Other than saying and repeating that he didn't do it Tyrion isn't allowed to speak. And when he is his trademark witticisms/sarcasm have left him. Anger is all he has. Jaime is increasingly discomfited by this and confronts Tywin during a lunch break. Tywin may not know or even care who killed Joffrey but he does know what he wants. And so does Jaime. In exchange for Tywin showing mercy and sending Tyrion to the Wall, Jaime agrees to resign from the Kingsguard and become the heir his father always wanted in order to continue the Lannister name. In a snarky aside that imo shows that yes Tywin really does know about the incest, Tywin orders Jaime to marry a woman and "father children named Lannister!".
OK. 
Feeling a little better, Jaime tells Tyrion to be cool and once found guilty to ask mercy. Tyrion isn't sure about this but we know that the brothers love and trust each other. But as I mentioned before everyone has their breaking point. Tyrion's is reached when Shae is brought in as a witness against him. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Shae lies outrageously about plots between Sansa and Tyrion, claiming that Tyrion agreed to murder Joffrey to consummate his marriage with Sansa. Shae has very obviously been coached. Shae speaks dispassionately about her status as prostitute for Tyrion. This last, finally is simply too much for Tyrion to take. The woman he loved is trying to get him killed or exiled and his family is helping her do it.
In an angry and incredibly intense outburst Tyrion again says he didn't kill Joffrey but wishes that he had. He says he's on trial for being a dwarf and by the way f*** all of y'all! He wishes he could have been the monster that everyone thinks he is. He wishes he had let the city burn. He demands trial by combat.
What I liked
  • I thought that this was the best episode of the series, save Joffrey's assassination. 
  • Tywin uses the trial as a gambit to force one son to do what Twyin wants while getting rid of another son. That's using the law to your advantage, something Tywin knows all about. He's the ultimate pragmatist. He may think incest is wrong but he's gonna play the hand he's been dealt.
  • Varys' dismissal of desire as being dangerous fits in very well with Tyrion's predicament. All Tyrion has ever wanted is romantic love from a woman and familial love and respect. To have him brought so low and finally accept that he can't have either of those things was a milestone for the character. Even in his outburst at his father you could see the love, that hurt and rejected, has turned to hate. If Tyrion hadn't had desire he wouldn't have tried to protect the city or protect Shae.
  • Very little that Littlefinger does is by accident. The discovery of Dontos' corpse with the necklace makes Sansa look even more guilty which increases her dependence on Littlefinger. It obviously puts Tyrion in a very bad place. I'm sure Littlefinger, thru appropriate cut outs, told people where to find Dontos. He set Tyrion up very effectively.
  • Shae's return. This means that either Bronn sold Tyrion out or Cersei's/Tywin's people were closer than Bronn had thought. It will be interesting to see if we learn what happened. Was Shae tortured? Was she acting from spite? Was she paid off?
  • Theon's aka Reek's psychological destruction. Well I don't mean that I liked it per se but it showed that Ramsay Snow is a total monster. He's able to infest people's minds even when he's not around. It's enslavement. It's mental torture/rape. It's evil. And given the amusement with which Ramsay viewed Reek's tortured, naked body was I the only one who thought that Ramsay was about to rape Reek? It didn't seem out of the realm of possibility. The violence against Theon is as painful as anything in the show.
  • Jaime's willingness to sacrifice his relationship with Cersei and his Kingsguard position, two things which define him, in order to save his brother's life.
What I didn't like
  • Although I liked the exposure of the depths to which Theon has fallen I still thought the scene was a little rushed. Why wouldn't the Ironborn have immediately killed Ramsay's dogs and pulled Theon out, regardless of whether he wanted to go. This was a departure from the books.
  • The running time was a little shorter than normal. 
  • Pycelle tested the residue on the necklace? CSI: Westeros?
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..

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