TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Gets Legal

Things get back on track pacing wise, with Game of Thrones‘ stellar new episode, “The Laws of Gods and Man.”.

Westeros has long been a place where concepts such as morals, ethics, and justice are far removed from ambition and power. The fate of Ned Stark is repeatedly used as a touchstone example of how trust in this world will cost you your head. During Tyrion’s steamrolling farce of a trial that dominates the back half of this episode, he reminded Jaime of this fact when his brother asks Tyrion to trust that their father, the archetect of the Red Wedding, will keep his word.

But ambition and power are their own worst enemies, and we see what happens when our players find their reach exceeding their grasp. “The Laws of God and Man” begins opens on Stannis and Davos, seeking an audience with what looks like a loan officer panel for the Iron Bank of Braavos. Short on money and soldiers, Stannis has come seeking money to build his army for another run at the Iron Throne. But the bankers have a different reaction to Stannis’ claims of bloodright and Lannister incest, preferring the trustworthiness of accounting to the whims of violence. It’s not until Davos steps in with his charismatic speech and sells the abrasive Stannis to the bankers, leaning on that same uncertainty in regards to Tywin’s longevity. Davos make sthe scene and it’s great to see him getting more screen time to stretch his legs.

No one else fares as well as Davos this hour. We check in next with Dany, who made the tactical decision last week not to advance upon King’s Landing, but rather remain in the Free Cities as a queen. Dany soon finds ruling is not as easy as she thinks. She’s pretty pleased with herself when she solves the goat herder’s problems, but is nearly dumbstruck when one of the sons of the Masters begs for his father’s body. She hadn’t considered that there might be dissidence among the ranks of the Masters. The encounter leaves her looking a bit drained, only to discover there’s 212 more people seeking her audience.

Tywin, by contrast, commands the meeting of the small council in King’s Landing with nearly brutal effiency. He dispenses with business quickly, whether it’s raising the bounty on the Hound’s head or brooding over rumors of Dany’s growing presence. Prince Oberyn is the only one who looks amused at the proceedings, something that he carries over into his role as judge at Tyrion’s trial and is quickly earning him a high ranking on my favorites list.

Before we jump into the trial, Yara’s wasted assault on the Dreadfort. Yara is another character more accustomed to the benefits of power, especially being Ironborn. We watch her deliver a rousing speech to her men as they prepare to rescue Theon, appealing to their sense of honor to send them on their bloody quest. But it’s Ramsey’s power that holds firm after all, and we see Theon so broken in every way that he cannot consider leaving with his sister, even as she tries to free him from the cage he shares with Bolton’s dogs.

Still, there’s no better example of how power works in Westeros than Tyrion’s trial. It’s every bit of the farce we all knew it would be, worsened only by the occasional hope that the purpose is to find the truth and not a scapegoat. Alas, poor Tyrion must watch as those around him repeat his words out of context, each witness more damning than the last. Cersei and Pycelle are not suprise, nor is Varys, although he at least had the decency to warn Tyrion. The real heartbreaker comes after the conversation with Jaime I mentioned earlier. Jamie secures Tyrion’s life by vowing to return to Casterly Rock and sire children for the Lannister legacy if Tywin will allow Tyrion to live out his days on the Wall, a bargain Tywin jumps on so quickly it’s almost like he’s showing his cards.

Despite this arragnements, Tywin still has one last blow to deliver to his other son, and the look of pleasure on Tywin’s face is just as awful as Tyrion’s crushed expression as Shae takes the witness stand to lie and mock her former lover in public. I swear I felt my own heart break in this scene. Still, it’s this moment where victory is pulled from Tywin’s smug face. Rather than lie down and beg for mercy, Tyrion delivers a searing monolouge to the court all of whom he basically saved from destruction during the Battle of Blackwater. He simply refuses to beg, and instead demands a trial by combat and chucks his father’s plans into the fire.

Peter Dinklage literally owns this show now. Tyrion’s absence from Game of Thrones these last few episodes is completely made up for in this hour. The character is the show’s main draw and Dinklage rises to the occasion and acts his ass off. If they wanted to go ahead and give Mr. Dinklage the Emmy now, it would be a suprise to no one. There’s so much promise in this character, not just as we watch his struggle with his pride and desire for recognition and power in conflict with what he knows of justice and honor. There’s still so much more depth to Tyrion we have yet to see onscreen. He truly does define Game of Thrones.

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