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What makes Game of Thrones so unique, and often so good, is when they take their time to develop and execute scenes much longer than anyone is accustomed. “The Laws of Gods and Men” was the second time this season Game of Thrones stopped its character hopping to take a moment and let a lengthy scene develop and build – the first being Joffrey’s wedding. Tyrion’s trial may be the shining moment this season, even after the shocking death of Joffrey.
It should come as no surprise that Tyrion’s “trial” was always going to be a farce considering Tywin chose the judges and, usually, gets what he wants. That, however, did not make Tyrion’s trial any less compelling. Shackled and chained to the defendant’s stand, which even Jaime found ridiculous, Tyrion’s indignation for the simple thought that he could have killed Joffrey, let alone that he actually did it, slowly metamorphosed into defeat, sadness, and then absolute vitriol.
And Peter Dinklage played it perfectly, his facial expression and body posture saying everything that he was, basically, not allowed to say during the trial. After being locked in a dungeon for a few weeks it was great to see Tyrion, and Dinklage, back in the middle of things, even if it was only to be railroaded in his trial. Where most of the characters have only a couple notes, Tyrion is often given the entire range notes and Dinklage is never out of tune. “The Laws of Gods and Men” was a reminder of just how great an actor Dinklage is and how much stronger the show is because of his performance.
Where Tyrion was simply letting the forces that be act upon him how they so chose, Tywin revealed just how intricate and masterful he is. It was telling that the only time we left the trial once it had begun was to see Jaime barter for Tyrion’s life with Tywin. The smirk that Tywin gave when he revealed to Jaime that it was his plan all along to send Tyrion to Night’s Watch after Jaime promised to inherit Casterly Rock was devious and destructive. In that moment, Tywin had won everything he had always wanted and his acknowledging smirk was all that was needed.
Oberyn also continues to shine. He is a man who is clearly bored with the normal social mores of high society and is not afraid to let everyone know it. Even after Oberyn is schooled by Varys as to his desires, he cannot help but perk up at the mention of whores during Tyrion’s trial. Oberyn is always utilized well as the show leaves you wanting more of his particular sensibility – he is almost an enhanced version of Tyrion’s snarkiness and fun and, unlike Tyrion, he doesn’t need to keep up appearances.
However, Tywin’s plans do not always come to fruition as the end of the trial revealed. Calling Shae to the witness stand was a step too far for both Tyrion and Tywin. Whether Tyrion was acting on pure emotion or had made split decision to ruin Tywin’s plans is a question that will probably go unanswered but it was clear Tyrion, who hides his true emotions so well, could no longer keep them inside. Very rarely does Tywin get defeated in a war of words, but he did so as Tyrion confessed to crimes of saving King’s Landing during the Battle of The Blackwater and of being a dwarf. After a life's wait, seeing Tywin's first time atop the Iron Throne ruined by his unwanted son as Tyrion condemned Tywin for indefensible truths and ruined the trial by requesting a trial by combat is one of the best moments of the show. Tywin finally lost to one of his children. Sitting on the throne never turns out how you want it to be.
Dany is finding just how tough sitting the throne can be in Meereen. After a quick scene to spice up the action of one of Dany’s dragons charring a goatherd’s herd and carrying one off to eat, Dany is seen ruling for the first time. After being benevolent to the goatherd bowing at her feet an aristocrat whose father she crucified is pleading with her to be allowed to bury his father. She eventually allows him to do this and realizes that ruling is harder than she thought. It was a scene that was a little too pointed but it certainly reinforced what her story line will be for a while.
The swashbuckling came in the form of Yara’s failed attempt to save her brother Theon from Ramsay, to no fault of her own. Theon’s refusal to follow Yara as he cowered in the corner of his cell was a much better example of Ramsay’s total dominance over him than when Ramsay had Theon shave him in front of Roose. It was actually startling to see just how damaged Theon was, especially when Ramsay wanted to reward him by giving him a bath. Ramsay’s gambit to send Theon to his sister so soon after the rescue attempt, however, could end up being folly.
Finally comes the beginning of the episode in which Stannis and Davos have sailed to Braavos to ask for a loan from the Iron Bank. This was much like a trial as well as three bankers, including one played by Mark Gatiss (famous for being Mycroft Holmes on PBS’s Sherlock), judged the feasibility of Stannis continuing his war for the throne. It is clear the Iron Bank does not believe Stannis has a very good chance until Davos makes an impassioned speech on behalf of Stannis. Stannis had yet to really trust Davos since being released from jail but this should certainly gain Davos a little more leeway in their relationship and, perhaps, distance Stannis from Melisandre’s influence. The reintroduction of Davos’s pirate friend, Salladhor Saan, as he tells a popular joke to a couple whores in a bathhouse, was a great way to let the audience know what kind of guy he is.