Dragons go kill-crazy and Peter Dinklage secures his Emmy nomination.
After a few weeks of fumbling, The Laws of Gods and Men finally sees Game of Thrones back on track. This was a great hour of TV, capped off by Tyrion’s return at his trial, which surely stands as one of Peter Dinklage’s finest moments on the show – which is saying a lot. The episode began with Stannis and Davos voyaging to Braavos in order to negotiate a loan from the Iron Bank. Entertainingly, the emissary that the Bank sends to meet them is none other than Mycroft Holmes himself, Mark Gatiss, who brings all the smugness and smarm you’d expect from someone who works at the Game of Thrones equivalent of the Bank of America. Amazingly, they get the loan, largely through Davos’s honesty and (somewhat confusing) conviction in Stannis’s cause.
We reunite with Yara Greyjoy, sister of Theon, who is on a mission to rescue Theon from Ramsay Snow. She’s the Only Ironborn Who Isn’t a Complete Arse, and it’s good to check in with her again: her sequence saw her attack the Dreadfort, fight Ramsay, but ultimately abandon trying to rescue Theon because he’s entirely regressed into the persona of Reek. As she says, her brother is dead, completely crushed by Ramsay. Also dead: a number of both her men and Ramsay’s, slain in the battle. It’s hard to tell how many died, but 12 seems like a reasonable estimate.
The subsequent scene where Ramsay bathed Reek was legitimately terrifying: Iwan Rheon is brilliant as the psychopath compared to whom Joffrey looks reasonable, and makes the audience fully understand why Reek is so frightened of him, because you feel he could snap and go kill-crazy again at any moment.
Also going kill-crazy are Daenerys’s dragons, and we get to see how big and fierce they’ve become when one of them barbecues and steals a sheep to eat. Admittedly it wasn’t on screen for long, but it’s a great-looking dragon, and hopefully Game of Thrones’s presumably colossal budget means they have the money to show us quite a bit more of the dragons later on.
Daenerys herself continues to stumble in her attempt to bring justice to Slaver’s Bay, learning that she crucified a man who had spoken against the previous crucifixion of those 163 slave children. It’s a good character beat as she realises her mistake, and it seems she’s beginning to learn that she’s not infallible just because she’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. We’re now getting through her story much more quickly than the books do, and it’ll be very interesting indeed to see where she ends up at the end of this season.
In another reunion with a long-absent character, Conleth Hill’s eunuch Lord Varys made a very welcome return to the King’s Landing story. He got a nice scene where he discussed his sexuality – or lack thereof – with Prince Oberyn, and continues to work at making his motivation utterly opaque by first hinting that he’s after the Throne as well, and then turning on Tyrion at his trial. And oh, that trial. It’s the centrepiece of the episode, taking up most of the second half, and could easily end up as one of the best scenes of the season.
The evidence that Tyrion was responsible for Joffrey’s death seems quite damning, even though we know he’s innocent, and Peter Dinklage once again reminds us why Tyrion is most people’s favourite character on the show, gradually slumping lower and lower in the dock in despair and disgust at the proceedings. In one especially horrible, gut-wrenching moment, his former lover Shae testifies against him in revenge for him spurning her earlier in the season. It’s this testimony that pushes Tyrion over the edge, prompting him to give the speech that should end up as Dinklage’s Emmy nomination clip come August.
Cementing his status as Best Actor on Game of Thrones, he turns the full force of his hatred and anger against the people who’ve put him on trial, confessing to “the crime of being a dwarf”, for which he’s been on trial his whole life. He saved the city back in season two, and everyone still assumes he’s an evil monster purely because he was born a dwarf. Between this, Breaking Bad and True Detective, the Emmy category for Best Actor is going to be a very tough competition this year. It’s a spectacular speech, The Rains of Castamere gradually building during it, and it ends the episode on a great cliffhanger: Tyrion demanding trial by combat, just as he did in season one.
Game of Thrones is back on form. The Laws of Gods and Men got the balance of character and action pretty much perfect, brought back a lot of fan-favourites, and had one of the best sequences of the entire series in Tyrion’s trial. House Baratheon can have five points for actually getting a loan from the Iron Bank, and even though Tyrion’s functionally no longer part of House Lannister, they can have 10 points because he’s just that awesome.
Lannister: 20 / Stark: 25 / Baratheon: 25 / Targaryen: 35
Another low death toll this week, with the 12 people killed in the battle at the Dreadfort, bringing our total up to 392. And with the wildlings bearing down on the Wall, and Tyrion’s trial by combat still to come, we can expect a lot more blood in the final four episodes.
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All images: HBO