Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Sharp-eyed viewers will notice the addition of Braavos to the opening credits for Episode 6 of Game of Thrones Season 4. In fact, the episode opens with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) pleading with the Iron Bank of Braavos – more precisely, a wonderfully smug Mark Gatiss. There’s almost no way anyone in their right mind would back Stannis for the Iron Throne, but the pair manage to convince Gatiss’ loans advisor that perhaps betting on an aged Tywin Lannister might have been a poor move.
Over in Meereen, Danaerys realises she may have upset far too many of her new subjects – it seems that Drogon the dragon likes goats more than the Hound likes chicken. Having crucified the masters of the city, Dany (played by Emilia Clarke with an increasingly-quivering lip) is going to have to make the right deals to remain ruler.
The Laws of Gods and Men also sees the return of the Greyjoys. Here, the action skips forward to A Dance With Dragons (book five). Following an odd sequence where Yara Greyjoy attempts to rescue her brother, she discovers that Ramsey Snow, now the undisputed master sadist of Westeros, has truly broken Theon. It looks like the series is skipping the fight for succession on Pyke, Balon Greyjoy having previously died off-screen – the succession sucks up a lot of time in A Feast for Crows and isn’t especially memorable. Condensing three books of Theon for the screen, then, looks like a smart gamble.
As one might surmise from title, though, the main event is Tyrion’s trial for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey. Jaime remains convinced that his brother didn’t poison Joffrey and pleads with Tywin (the stoney-faced Charles Dance) to enable Tyrion to live and join the Night’s Watch if he confesses and pleads for mercy. This is not without some cost – Jaime agrees to leave the King’s guard as well and rule Casterly Rock. And have children. And all the other good things Tywin wants.
The trial itself quickly descends into a farce and it becomes obvious that Tyrion has been set up. Grand Maester Pycelle rattles off a list of poisons that had been stolen from his quarters, presumably in Hogwarts. Meryn Trant and Cersei, meanwhile, testify to the numerous threats Tyrion had made to Joffrey in the past. We know from the Episode 5 that Littlefinger intended for Tyrion to be executed, but it feels like the conspiracy goes beyond Baelish’s calculated plotting and Cersei’s bloodlust; it turns out that Tyrion has simply upset rather too many of the great and powerful of King’s Landing. Even the comparatively neutral Varys plays a part in the plot to find him guilty.
The final bitter blow is played well, punching straight to the unmentionables, when Shae is brought out to testify. Sibel Kekilli’s whore declares that Tyrion and Sansa plotted to kill Joffrey together. She is clearly being forced to make these accusations, but who is forcing her is unclear – surely, this brings into question the loyalties of others in King’s Landing. Shae was supposed to have left the city already. Bronn swore he put her on a boat. But how much can one really trust a sellsword, even one as entertaining as Jerome Flynn?
In the box, Peter Dinklage masterfully embodies Tyrion’s rage and humiliation, ultimately announcing that while he didn’t kill Joffrey, he did want him dead. Dinklage is the standout performance of The Laws of Gods and Men. Last week’s episode was good enough to almost stop you noticing his absence. This week, it’s the opposite: we’re missing updates from The Wall, Arya, Littlefinger and Bran, but you’ll be too gripped by Tyrion’s trial to care.
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