Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 6 - The Laws of Gods & Men (TV SPOILERS)

Unbowed, unbent, unbroken



Game of Thrones bounces back from a couple of mediocre episodes with a rip-roaring and thrilling entry with a gigantic amount of intrigue, dragons and boobies. We get Law and Order: Westeros edition. Why do y’all think Shae is testifying against Tyrion? Oh, and where the hell is Bronn?! Davos in Braavos: Stannis has a meeting with his bank manager, who happens to be Mycroft Holmes. Who knew. Also, poor old Theon…there are no lessons to be learned here, just more cruelty. Themes of the week are (a) second sons/daughters (b) surviving captivity and (c) more Freudian stuff about phalluses. P.S. I would watch a show entirely made up of Salladhor Saan and Ser Davos on a stag do.

A couple of graphs first:

Stannis and co. leap above the Starks, as they can now feed themselves, atleast. Tyrion falls.

Shame, Stannis. Well, it's a start, anyway.

Architecture of the week: Braavos, who else? Even Game of Thrones’s bankers live like Kings. Real Kings.

1.       Where the hell is Bronn?!
2.       How did the Crown find Shae?
3.       Why is Shae doing this?
4.       Who gave Maester Pycelle the necklace?

Main plot movements:
Stannis Baratheon and Ser Davos – following a meeting with his bank manager, Stannis gets the loan he wants. All thanks to a Jerry Maguire moment by the Onion Knight, who was just one line away from “so who’s with me?!”
Tyrion Lannister – following a sham trial, there will be trial by combat. Oh, and Shae’s back.
Daenerys finding it hard to rule – she realises not all the masters she crucified were bad, which makes her bad. She clearly does not have an eye for detail, which should probably be left to Barristan and Jorah.
Tywin focusing on Daenerys – we see the small council discuss Daenerys at length, with Tywin attempting to place spies in Meereen. What does he have in store for her? Please no.
The Greyjoys – Ramsay Snow wants Theon to infiltrate the Iron Islands, following an aborted attempt by Yara to rescue him.

All in all, this episode was an absolute humdinger for me and clearly the best of the season. We’ve had a few scene-setters and it’s about time we got some payoff. Patient journeys and character-building by the storylines of Arya+Hound, Lord Baelish+Sansa, Bran et al and so on mean we have enough to go on. My favourite this week was probably the Tyrion storyline, which culminated in a fire and guts mini-speech by Tyrion at the sheer ruthless efficiency with which society has connived against him for decades.

So, themes of the week: the continuing theme of GoT this season: second children. This includes Tommen, Stannis, Daenerys and Tyrion. It's almost as though the crown is so heavy that it destroys first children and in reality it's the second children who get to enjoy the fruits. Joffrey had to go through the Battle of Blackwater Bay in order to stay King (although he barely shed a bead of sweat) and now Tommen gets to enjoy the unfettered power of the Lannisters. I'm sure there's a theme of wanting to prove themselves as better than the first children too. In almost every case, the older child was a cancer: Joffrey was a psychopath, Viserys an impudent social climber and Jaime a rapist. Robert gets a pass.

We've talked about this often so instead we'll focus on another recurring theme: I could’ve sworn it was centred around the consequences of a society that raises the ownership and use of a penis as justification for all sorts of actions, including war. Take, for instance, claims to the throne by Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen, for the simple reason that they happen to have occurred from an egg fertilised by a sperm belonging to a certain man (in the case of Stannis, because he is also the son of Steffon Baratheon and in the case of Daenerys because she is the daughter of Aerys Targaryen). There is literally nothing connecting Daenerys to Westeros apart from her lineage, but she seems to think that is enough for her to walk around claiming the throne. Ultimately, it is the best combination of accumulation and use of power that will decide who sits on the throne, rather than whose daddy sat on the throne at some point.

Also take for instance, the fact that we saw Varys and Theon in the same episode, both of whom are conspicuously sans phallus. In Theon, we have someone who has lost all sense of self without a penis and refused to even be rescued by his own sister, and in Varys, a self-possessed man who revels in it and finds the empty space leaves more space for thought. Note how Stannis’s ship had to go between the legs of a gigantic statue.

Also let me say again how sad I am to lose Olenna Tyrell. I was hoping she would bring Tywin down a peg or two, although that job now belongs to Oberyn Martell. This episode, Oberyn was mostly an observer, but it’s already clear that Tywin respects Oberyn’s threat immensely. In fact, there is a hint of something more than respect in the way Tywin refers to Oberyn. Hmm, it smells a bit like…fear. The kind of fear a lion, who despite being King of all he surveys, knows that a well-prepared wolf could take him in a dark, dirty corner.

Oberyn: "Most of us live and die in the same corner and never get to see it"
Tywin would only have given Oberyn this position if he thought he could be reasonably controlled, although Tywin wasn’t entirely able to control Joffrey. Hell, Joffrey wasn’t able to control Joffrey! While Joffrey was a tremendously malevolent force, Oberyn is a different matter entirely: a man who can be passionate, thinks with his penis (drink!) but also with his head and the human equivalent of the Iron Bank: he cannot be blackmailed, threatened or cajoled. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. As I’ve said previously, I think Tywin will come to regret appointing Oberyn to Kings Landing.

“He doesn’t just talk about paying people back, he does it!”

Davos in Braavos

Recap: Ser Davos’s grand plan that got me excited was simply that he and Stannis would ask for another loan from the Iron Bank. Such genius (!) Anyway, they get what they want thanks to a stirring speech by the Onion Knight. He shows some real analytical chops by making a salient case about the age of Tywin Lannister and the coterie of fools, inbreds and psychopaths that currently make up the succession list. Then Davos hangs with Salladhor Saan in a sauna.

Stannis Baratheon, the pretender to the crown who most resembles a dour Presbyterian minister, may finally have something to buttress his 4,000 men and 32 ships (remember Daenerys has 10,000 men and 93 ships, and she’s like, 16). Apparently, he’s got the birthright (drink!).

What I found particularly interesting here was that the Lannisters, as the bad-guys-in-chief, have so far been very strong (nearly invincible) despite having the Westerosian equivalent of the Addams Family. However, Ser Davos takes the family apart in style and proves that Tywin Lannister’s lack of supervision over his, um, unruly family will ultimately prove their undoing.

On another note, Mark Gatiss! He has a tendency to improve every scene he’s in, but then again he plays a type: Mycroft Holmes and Tycho Nestoris share a certain Shakespearian, starched-shirt look and feel. You’ll never see him play a crack dealer. On another note, with Ser Davos and Salladhor Saan reunited, we can be assured of more buddy comedy in Dragonstone. My, Stannis Baratheon, a religious nutjob/witch, a smuggler AND a pirate…what an advisory board you have.

Up north

“Everything they’ve done to him, they’ve also done it to you!”
Recap: Yara tries to rescue Theon but Theon himself doesn’t want to be rescued and Ramsay proves to be far tougher than he appeared. So she returns.

Another unglamorous chapter is created in the Greyjoy anthology: Yara’s aborted mission to retrieve Theon was tragic to behold, which is again testament to how GoT makes us grieve even for thoroughly despicable characters like Theon, who has become so brainwashed that he didn’t even recognise his sister (not that he’s known her long, but still! Call it Stockholm or Dreadfort syndrome if you prefer). It looks like the sight of Ramsay’s frenzy and his dogs was enough to scare off Yara, who after seeing Theon’s brainwashing, decided fighting Ramsay and his dogs wasn’t worth it for what was left of her brother. Anyway, Ramsay’s attempt to use Theon to infiltrate the Dreadfort will be a low-risk, high reward strategy and possibly gain him the respect of his father, Roose Bolton. And the bad guys are winning again…
PREDICTION: Yara’s dad will make her come back for him but in the meantime Theon will find his own way to the Greyjoys. This being GoT, he’ll probably end up killing half the Greyjoys or something.

Across the Narrow Sea

“I pray you’ll never live to see a member of your family so cruelly treated”
Daenerys is beginning to find ruling quite difficult, as she begins to give the farm away for minor infringements (like loss of livestock) and finds out some of the people she crucified may not have been equally responsible for the crucified children. She’s meant to be a breaker of chains, but she’s meting out injustice of her own because she hasn’t learned to take the time to analyse matters. She loves to sweep in, make grand statements and create the stuff of legend. She never had the chance to learn the tough business of sorting out judicial councils and compensation committees, and she sure as hell wouldn’t have learnt it from her moron brother, the late Viserys (he of the “I’d let an entire army rape you” fame).

On another note, it’s slightly disorienting seeing a white character put in charge of a civilisation mostly made up of golden-brown people. But then it’s all about Westeros and it’s a “white” continent.
PREDICTION: Tywin will mess with Daenerys’s dragons or plant rumours about her doing something particularly bad, which will lead to some sort of civil war.

The trial of Tyrion Lannister

Recap: The “trial” is basically a sham in which witnesses come to the stand to twist Tyrion’s words to make him look murderous or in some cases, tell outright lies. Lord Varys sells him out entirely, but the killer blow is yet to come - Shae shows up to tell everyone how Tyrion used her as a sex-slave and about his hatred of Joffrey. Bizarrely, she also throws in some outright lies, like Sansa instigating Joffrey’s murder. Tyrion gets fed up, yells at everyone and then demands a trial by combat.

I had thought for a short time that Tywin would atleast be fair in his dwarf-son’s trial. But I think I fundamentally misunderstood him – he’s not cruel but he is ruthless. Meanwhile, he doesn’t seem at all interested in finding the real killers. I am assuming, of course, that a man of Tywin’s perspicacity should have realised that the assassination didn’t match Tyrion’s temperament or method.

The attempt to smear Sansa and Tyrion indicates a wider conspiracy. I think it’s obvious that Shae is being coerced into testifying against Tyrion, but how was she found in the first place? Was Bronn forced to give it up? Podrick is far away, so it can’t be him, right? Of course, this pushed Tyrion over the edge. He saved the city, went along with the marriage to Sansa and did right by most people he met, only to be stripped of authority, jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and to (apparently) lose the only true love he ever had. All this, just to see Shae use every word they whispered to eachother as evidence in a sham trial against him. We shouldn’t be surprised: this is what Game of Thrones (or a Song of Ice and Fire) does: it strips you of everything on the surface and checks if you still have something left.

What is particularly majestic about this scene is that despite being railroaded, every now and then Tyrion “talks back” and does so in a way that goes to the heart of the problems in Kings Landing and cuts right through the crap that even Tywin tolerated from Joffrey and the society at large. When Tyron explains Joffrey’s actions with Sansa, or how Varys considered Tyrion to be the saviour of the city but won’t be counted in the history books, or being on trial for being a dwarf his whole life, he cuts through so much BS in a matter of seconds, it’s breathtaking.

What I particularly wanted to see was Margaery’s face when Maester Pycelle spoke about Joffrey’s death and being the consummate professional that she is, there was almost nothing there. What a pro.

During the recess, Jaime asks Tywin what happens to their lineage (drink!) if Tyrion is executed. Tywin doesn’t even wait for Jaime to half-finish his sentence and launches into a plan that I imagine him having practised in his head several times. Jaime’s face during this exposition is priceless – it belies Jaime’s total disbelief at Tywin’s manipulation of his own flesh and blood as well a grudging respect that Tywin had thought several steps ahead. In a strange way, Tyrion’s challenge is an act of passion as well as a supreme checkmate to Tywin. Tywin wouldn’t get to win, even if Tyrion died. A last act of unrepentant rebellion and spite. Now where’s that bastard Bronn?!
PREDICTION: With no Bronn in sight, it’ll probably end up Tyrion’s Oberyn (The Red Viper) v Tywin’s Ser Payne (The Mountain), and 2 birds will be killed with one stone. I think Oberyn will win and Tyrion will live.


Boobs of thrones: Lots in a sauna and some congress whilst Yara gets ready to rescue Theon.

Violence of thrones: 7/10. Massacre at the Dreadfort and references to crucifying.

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