Game of Thrones Memory Lane 406: The Laws of Gods and Men

tyrionstrial

“The Laws of Gods and Men” is best known for Tyrion’s trial and understandably so. It’s a trifecta of powerful writing, acting and wish fulfillment. However, that isn’t the only scene that thematically fits the title. Several characters grapple with tough decisions and the elusive concept of justice, making “The Laws of Gods and Men” among the more thought-provoking episodes.

Stannis and Davos request a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos. While Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) remains unmoved by Stannis’ plea, Davos wins him over by using his own macabre experience with Stannis’ justice to convince Tycho of the truth: that Stannis is a man of his word and that this Baratheon always pays his debts.

Davos

Daenerys faces the unforeseen consequences of her actions while holding court in Meereen. Matters start out easily enough. A man brings Dany the burnt remains of a goat that Drogon roasted and she pays him his herd’s value three times over. Though it foreshadows later events, it’s a pretty clear-cut case. Then Hizdahr zo Loraq enters and begs Daenerys for permission to bury his father whom Dany crucified in episode 4. At the time, it seemed like she was answering “injustice with justice,” as she put it, but it turns out the masters weren’t a monolithic body of mustache twirling villains but a group of individuals with differing views and temperaments.

daenerys

To quote Hamilton, “Winning was easy, young [wo]man. Governing’s harder.”

Oberyn and Varys share a delicious scene in the throne room in which Varys delivers my favorite line about romantic love of all time.

When I see what desire does to people, what it’s done to this country I am very glad to have no part in it. Besides, the absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.

Then there’s Yara’s botched attempt to rescue Theon. The scene’s been criticized as a bizarre narrative cul-de-sac wherein Yara gives a rousing speech about RETRIEVING THE KRAKEN and then, when things go south, devolves into a Monty Python character.

runaway

I guess the word “ironborn” means nothing, then.

I can’t claim that Yara’s 180° turn from Best Sister Ever to “Brother? What brother?” is good writing (though this blog post offers some perspective). Nonetheless, I like what the scene brings out in the characters. I enjoy getting to see Yara act upon the sororal love she expressed back in 2×09 and Theon’s behavior during both the rescue and the bath scene afterwards demonstrates the thoroughness of Ramsay’s brainwashing.

theonbefore

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It also illustrates an important distinction between Reek in the books and Reek in the show. Alfie Allen told GQ that when Yara shows up at Theon’s kennel, he doesn’t recognize her.

With the two percent of Theon remaining, she seems familiar, but any face other than Ramsay Snow’s means danger … He was screaming out to let Ramsay know he was devoted. I don’t think he knew it was his sister, but there’s that slight recognition; it scares Reek that there’s this other part of his brain working.

Similarly, when Ramsay asks Reek if he loves him, Allen said that Theon really means it when he answers, “Of course, m’lord.”

ofcoursemlord2

… When he goes into the bath and realizes he’s not gonna be drowned, he just feels love for Ramsay, as fucked up as that may sound.

This presents a Theon Greyjoy who is unhinged from reality in a way that Theon never is in the books. In A Dance With Dragons, even at his Reekiest, Theon knows who people are and professes love for Ramsay to avoid punishment, not because he means it (though I guess that’s up for interpretation). This difference doesn’t really impact the story but I think it’s interesting that the show pulled back on Theon’s physical disfigurement yet worsened his psychological damage.

This places the responsibility of conveying the effects of torture almost solely on Alfie Allen’s performance. There’s no white wig or bald cap, no missing teeth or loose skin to distinguish Reek from Theon. It’s just Allen’s body language, facial expressions and, occasionally, his voice. While I could have done with some CGI-ed ribs…

You look waaaaaaay too healthy

You look waaaaaaay too healthy

… I think basing Theon’s physical deterioration more on psychological damage than bodily mutilation translates the (usually invisible and thus harder to understand) affliction of mental illness to the visual medium of television very affectively.

And now for the big set piece of the episode: Tyrion’s trial. Though the sobriety of his entrance has been forever compromised by the season 4 blooper reel-

the trial itself is infuriating. Listening to the prosecution’s witnesses give their technically-accurate-but-out-of-context testimonies evokes rage in me I haven’t felt since my 3rd grade teacher got away with playing favorites in elementary school.

Tyrion reaches his breaking point when Shae is brought in as the final witness. His reaction to her testimony alone is some of Peter Dinklage’s best acting.

tyrionshae3

This leads to Tyrion’s infamous confession and demand for a trial by combat. It’s a lifetime of rage packed into one monologue. Dinklage’s delivery is impeccable and Ramin Djawadi’s ominous rendition of The Rains of Castamere underscores (literally) the writing beautifully.

I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime [than regicide]. I’m guilty of being a dwarf … I’ve been on trial for that for my entire life

It’s a statement that I imagine speaks to a lot of people with dwarfism and anyone else who knows what it’s like to be punished for being born different. Dinklage has spoken about the prejudice that people with dwarfism continue to face and Tyrion’s significance as a dwarf character.

Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person. But by media, everything – NY Times

I loved The Lord of the Rings as books and movies but, like elves, dwarves are presented as another creature. They are not humans in those stories. We don’t have elves walking around, but we do have dwarves like myself. We are real. So it’s nice to be humanized in fiction for once, especially in that genre. George R R was clever enough to make a dwarf a fully fleshed-out human being – The Guardian


Creative Fandom

tyrionmeme

http://vvexpyke.tumblr.com/post/105390917266/show-asha-they-skinned-our-countrymen-and-they

 

One of these days Alfie Allen is going to strangle an interviewer who asks him about the song his sister Lily Allen wrote about him but this parody is just too good to leave out.


Beautiful Death– the attack on the Dreadfort.

bd

 

75 responses

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    1. Going to say something unpopular.

      I kinda liked Yara at the dreadfort. Loved the speech, loved her seeing Theon/Reek.
      Only complain is that cut they made, from the dogs to her running away.

      I have a feeling that if they showed a fight, and showed Yara making the decision to abandon Theon, thinking, corectly at that time, that Theon was already to far gone, people wouldn’t act like that scene was the antichrist.

      Edit: Won’t talk more on this subject as I’m not in the mood to argue with anyone

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    2. I read the aSoIaF series after watching Season 4 (mostly because I got tired of having things, such as Jon Snow’s death, constantly spoiled for me). I remember when I reached the scene with Tyrion’s trial in the books, it felt kind of underwhelming compared to what was on the screen. I actually had to stop reading the book and go to HBO Go to rewatch Tyrion’s “I’m guilty of being a dwarf” monologue just to recapture the proper mood before I could begin reading again.

      Peter Dinklage absolutely knocked that scene out of the ballpark. How he didn’t win an Emmy for that, I’ll never know.

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    3. So many great scenes in this episode!

      Meeting the iron bank for the first time on screen was intriguing, well executed.
      The Oberyn/Varys scene, could that be anything else than good?
      Reeks bath.
      Dany and Hizdahr, Emilia gives and takes..
      And of course, the trial.

      I’ll leave further comments to the professionals.

      And actually yesterday, upon my, idk maybe 57th (?), rewatch i finally almost the whole part of the Yara sub-plot even though the finish with Yara’s “My brother is dead” was awkward.

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    4. Mihnea:
      Going to say something unpopular.

      I kinda liked Yara at the dreadfort. Loved the speech, loved her seeing Theon/Reek.
      Only complain is that cut they made, from the dogs to her running away.

      I have a feeling that if they showed a fight, and showed Yara making the decision to abandon Theon, thinking, corectly at that time, that Theon was already to far gone, people wouldn’t act like that scene was the antichrist.

      Edit: Won’t talk more on this subject as I’m not in the mood to argue with anyone

      Exactly, couldn’t have said it better!

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    5. Mihnea,

      I like it too, every time I see it. I understand the sequence was originally written to be longer but production realities forced them to cut, so I give the show leeway considering all the other marvels it pulls off.

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    6. Josh L.,

      Agree, the book version has no where near the power this scene has.

      Tyrion in the books, feels quite differently in my opinion. From such small things as him feeling hurt when Tywin tells him how he wanted to kill him. The entire dynamic between Tywin and Tyrion is better in the show in my opinion.

      Also this small moments, like him whispering ”I wish to confess” rather then yelling also make me like him even more.

      Not even going to talk about Tyrion in ADWD…That is better forgotten.

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    7. Mack,

      See, that line, would have been fine if it showed Yara fighting a bit. Or show her being a bit more conflicted.
      In a way she is right, is it worth sacrificing more Ironborn to save….”that thing”?
      It’s that quick cut, that makes it look as she just changed her mind.

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    8. I thought Peter Dinklage was in with a chance for an Emmy after his speech in “The Laws of Gods and Men” (or is someone going to say he didn’t submit this episode?) I’ve never managed to see “Breaking Bad” though. However I hated the two episodes I forced myself to watch of “Mad Men” with all my heart.

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    9. This was Tywins downfall- he was gonna get exactly what he wanted (Tirion sent to the Wall & Jamie at Casterley Rock) & then his ace card – Sha – actually screws it all up

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    10. Mihnea,

      Yeah, that scene really suffered from production realities. I believe D&D or Cogman actually commented on it, that the scene was meaned to have a proper fight and scaling of the walls. I do believe, with some clever editing, the end of the scene would have been less jarring. I suppose similar problems ruined the Dorne fight as well, though I find that scene much harder to watch than the Ramsay/Yara one.

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    11. A Yara subplot that was set up, there was some pretty big build up and it lead to nothing. Skip the two Yara scenes in season 3 and 4 and you would literally miss absolutely nothing. It was very bad writing, maybe the worst on the show.

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    12. Yet another great episode. I have always preferred the books over the show ( which I love too of course) and the reason why season 4 is my favourite one is that it nailed so many scenes better than the books.
      How Daenerys conquers Meereen, the purple wedding, Bran’s arrival at the cave beyond the wall. And the best of all is Tyrion’s speech in this episode!

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    13. Being unsullied, all off season long I was imagining the possibilities of the impending Boltin – Greyjoy mini war that was about to ensue. Needless to say I was depressed when all we got was this one scene. Wish they cut a lot of the poorer scenes from this season and inserted more of the Greyjoy’s and Boltin’s. In the Greyjoy sequence in season 3, they seemed to focus the camera on one of the Greyjoy badasses bording the boat. I wonder if they had intended to make that guy a more integral character in season 4.

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    14. Just finished watching season 5 a couple hours ago and all I can say is that I hope her ass is back at castle black for a good reason like bringing back Jon. If she’s not bringing Jon back then I’d like to see Sir Davos Seaworth finally put an end to her.

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    15. Amazing episode, as are the next 4. Never understood the magnitude of the fuss over Yara and the Dreadfort. What she found was not her brother. Or 98% not her brother. But I do agree, an extended scene may have made her decision appear more conflicted.

      Dany in this episode and the next begins to wrestle with the two sides to her personality – “fire and blood” – which is superfically so appealing – and her mhysa/mother aspect.

      How should one respond to justice or crime or terrorism? What is justice? Can justice be applied to a people or a group, a race, a nationality, a religion, or otherwise, as opposed to individual actors? Seems a particularly relevant issue given the the current situation with terrorism and the responses thereto with some lumping the practictioners of an entire religion into one basket.

      I’ve always suspected Dany of harboring a hint or more of the Targaryen madness as her initial imperiousness (as in the scene with Hizdahr) and rashness (in the scene in the next episode regarding the Yunkai with Daario) indicates but in both she backs off. I wonder if her capture by the Dothraki begins a descent into greater anger and hate and greater emphasis on the fire and blood aspect of her personality.

      Judging by her vision and Bran’s vision, King’s Landing could end up a charred ruin or at least the Red Keep does. Westeros’s history is replete with the damage dragons can do. The dragons feel Dany’s emotions much as the direwolves feel and adopt the personalities of the Starks/Jon Snow. It seems like she could be walking a tightrope as she invades Westeros to keep her anger in check or another Field of Fire could easily result.

      If the human heart in conflict with itself is the basis of ASOIAF, this is Dany’s … which will ulitmately win out?

      And, if Slavers Bay is indeed Martin’s representation of the conflict in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, or even if it isn’t, the problems with imposing your values (whether it be religion, democracy, or other) on different peoples and regarding them as inferior to you because of the differences in values. As someone noted, winning is easy, ruling is hard. Billions and billions of dollars later, the US has learned that lession, and Dany may be beginning to learn hers.

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    16. Trystane,

      Unclear in the series. She certainly doesn’t like the way he preys on young females. In the books, it is somewhat irrational, but she thinks he is old, incompetent, somewhat senile, and dithering. While some regard him as a Lannister toad, he is not 100% one (notwithstanding telling Aerys the Mad King to open the gates of King’s Landing to Tywin’s army) and still has some level of a moral code. Unlike Qyburn who practices a scentific form of necromancy and is willing to torture (the Blue Bard for one) and is much more of a competent sycophanat.

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    17. Jaime’s mid-trial attempt to save Tyrion is one of the show’s more interesting narrative innovations.

      As somebody mentioned in a previous episode thread, the whole Yara plotline feels like something that the writers originally conceived of as being a much bigger deal, since its marquee placement tease in the season 3 finale looks rather silly in retrospect. It’s got some good parts; Yara’s speech is a strong bit of writing — it’s also, bizarrely, intercut with Ramsay banging Myranda. I recall a lot of people speculating at the time that Ramasy was supposed to kill Myranda originally and that was edited out, which I didn’t believe personally, even if that would at least be an explanation. I get the point they were going for with Theon’s scenes here, even if they didn’t execute it at all that well.

      This is only the second episode of the series with none of Ned and Catelyn’s kids in it (after 107), and the only episode of the series to date with none of them or Jon.

      Darkrobin:
      And, if Slavers Bay is indeed Martin’s representation of the conflict in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, or even if it isn’t, the problems with imposing your values (whether it be religion, democracy, or other) on different peoples and regarding them as inferior to you because of the differences in values.As someone noted, winning is easy, ruling is hard.Billions and billions of dollars later, the US has learned that lession, and Dany may be beginning to learn hers.

      The whole Meereen storyline isn’t really a good fit for the Iraq analogy. Way too many analyses of this story treat the Meereenese master class as if they’re analogous to oppressed colonial people, when they themselves are the colonialist oppressors of the slave population (who comprise the vast majority of the people in Slaver’s Baby). And the freedmen are overwhelmingly pro-Dany at this point (she becomes more unpopular after executing Mossador in Season 5).

      Dany is still an autocrat, of course, but so was Robb Stark, so are the Lannisters, etc.

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    18. Sean C.,

      Jamie’s volunteering to assume his rule as heir to Casterly Rock was a great change. I believe in the books Cersei begs him to do so at some point as Tywin has told her he is separating her from Tommen and then they both could go back together (he refuses). But this is much better. It also appears that Tywin has anticipated that this as a probable outcome as his response did not miss a beat

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    19. Brilliant episode. Breathtaking season from start to finish. Tyrion’s speech is one of the all time most iconic tv moments.

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    20. Well I really liked Alfie Allen’s acting in this, but the whole idea of having Yara make this attack which fails and with the dogs and everything ended up being silly. Now in fairness, the *stuntwork* on the fight scene was great (contrast with the Sands Snakes fight), but the writing just kind of shafted the ironborn ever since Season 2. I mean, sail to the Dreadfort? It’s on the opposite side of the continent! It’s like sailing from Peru to Venezuela by rounding the Horn of Magellan! (Okay, MAYBE they made a portage at Moat Cailin given that the ironborn controlled it at the time….but they never said that).

      But ignoring that, they really just ignored the ironborn as a faction since Season 2. I do, however, have hopes that Season 6 will make up for this.

      Acting at Tyrion’s trial was great, but overall I don’t think they handled Shae too well (the whole trying to make it that they were an actual romance thing) but more has been said about this elsewhere.

      ECSTATIC to see Braavos and the Iron Bank introduced.

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    21. Well, Meereen was written in the early 1990s long before the Iraq War, Martin has denied direct analogies, etc. — though in general, given the whole thing about him being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, he’s said it was more of a generalized criticism of foreign interventionism. I mean, anything you could say about Iraq you could say about Vietnam (broadly).

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    22. koempel:
      Mihnea,

      Yeah, that scene really suffered from production realities. I believe D&D or Cogman actually commented on it, that the scene was meaned to have a proper fight and scaling of the walls. I do believe, with some clever editing, the end of the scene would have been less jarring. I suppose similar problems ruined the Dorne fight as well, though I find that scene much harder to watch than the Ramsay/Yara one.

      This is good to know, thank you.

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    23. Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person. But by media, everything

      Oh come on. I’ve never heard of “prejudices” about dwarves (isn’t it supposed to be “little people”?), as in unjustified assumptions about individuals based purely on their dwarfism. They do get joked about, but most people in the world have some physical feature that is joked about, be it big ears, a beer belly, a bald head, etc.

      It’s all the more ironic since, were he not a little person, Dinklage would just be another competent actor among the thousands of competent actors hunting for work in Hollywood and on TV; as opposed to being immediately sought after for every part playing a little person (which there are a disproportionate number of in film and theater).

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    24. TFT,

      I disagree. They had to keep the Ironborn storyline ticking over and keep characters like Yara and Balon Greyjoy in the viewers’ minds.

      They didn’t have time to fit a whole sub-plot for the Ironborn into Seasons 3 and 4, but they couldn’t just allow them to be MIA for three whole seasons either.

      As has been discussed, the raid on the Dreadfort may have felt anti-climactic but it served its purpose of keeping the embers of the Ironborn presence on the show smouldering away, ready to be re-ignited this season.

      The scenes at the Dreadfort could have been larger scale and provided a bit more depth to Yara’s decision to abandon Theon once and for all. But as others have said, this may have come down to production constraints.

      All in all, I don’t have any issue with the Ironborn scenes in Seasons 3 and 4. They could have been much worse. And we could have ended up with a load of superfluous and cringeworthy scenes, like during the Dornish plotline in Season 5, if they had tried to shoehorn extra material in there.

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    25. The main problem of the Slaver’s Bay is that it is absolutely artificial and constructed of unavoidable stereotypes. Therefore, there is nothing and cannot be anything really interesting in that world. And what I hate most of all is the character of Hizdahr. It’s absolutely inconsistent and unconvincing. Happy, that the show hastened his mercy-killing.

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    26. I miss this Reek. Weirdly enough, he acts very different in Season 5, and appears much less brainwashed than in Season 4. One could argue that that’s caused by Sansa being there and all, but there wasn’t the slightest sign of a transformation from “100% Reek” to “not so much Reek still kinda Theon”.

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    27. Sean C.:
      I recall a lot of people speculating at the time that Ramasy was supposed to kill Myranda originally and that was edited out, which I didn’t believe personally, even if that would at least be an explanation.

      Bryan Cogman and Alik Sakharov refer in their commentary to a longer sex scene between Ramsay and Myranda that would have led to Ramsay getting scratched, hence that blood on his chest later on. There’s actually a shot of Myranda slapping Ramsay in one of the Season 4 trailers that didn’t make it to the final cut.

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    28. Dame of Mercia:
      I thought Peter Dinklage was in with a chance for an Emmy after his speech in “The Laws of Gods and Men” (or is someone going to say he didn’t submit this episode?)I’ve never managed to see “Breaking Bad” though.However I hated the two episodes I forced myself to watch of “Mad Men” with all my heart.

      Mad Men is a little overrated IMO, it’s certainly very good with the slick production that the awards people love but I found I couldn’t engage or empathise with the characters, and gave up with it at the end of the fourth season.

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    29. Jack Bauer 24:
      Brilliant episode. Breathtaking season from start to finish. Tyrion’s speech is one of the all time most iconic tv moments.

      Without doubt. Peter Dinklage should have been awarded an Emmy for his performance. It just all flooded out – “I’m guilty of being a dwarf”.

      He could see he would never get a fair trial and his final words:

      “I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you – I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it!”

      says it all then finally knowing he dropped himself in the shit with that outburst – “I demand a trial by combat!”

      You can see the vitriol oozing from Tyrion getting that off his chest. A trail by combat once worked in his favour when Bronn championed him at the Eyrie and won the day and he could see that was his only option.

      One of the most memorable scenes ever from GoT.

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    30. Sean C.: The whole Meereen storyline isn’t really a good fit for the Iraq analogy.

      Steven Attewell made an interesting observation on how the Meereenese storyline’s historical analogue may be the post-Civil War Reconstruction in the US South. I’m not all that familiar with finer points of US history, but I found Steven’s essay to be an interesting read.

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    31. The scene at the Dreadfort is so dumb. The best Ironborn warriors scared by a bunch of dogs and shirtless Ramsay and his plot armor. No thanks.

      Tyrion’s speech was ok.

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    32. This is one of my favorite episodes of all time (Yara’s little voyage aside)- Bravo Cogman!! Love the Davos and Stannis at the Iron Bank scene, adore all of Tyrion’s trial, just great writing and great acting! 😀

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    33. I’m pretty sure Dinklage lost out to Aaron Paul that year. It’s kind of a joke that Breaking Bad won any awards over Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad was really good B level entertainment, nowhere near the flawless masterpiece that GoT is. On the other hand, though I prefer GoT to have won, I have much much less of an issue with it losing to Mad Men which I felt was more then deserving of all the Emmy’s it won.

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    34. “I saved this city, and all your worthless lives. I should have let Stannis kill you all.”
      Yes. You should have. Also “I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had. Watching your vicious bastard die, gave me more release than a thousand lying whores!” Scathing. Score one point for Tyrion in his and Cersie’s longrunning game of who can verbaly sting eachother the most.

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    35. God, this episode’s great. It’s all the more impressive because, as Sean C noted, this is the only episode of the series to date that doesn’t feature an appearance by a member of the Stark family (including Jon in this case). The happenings in Braavos, Meereen, and the Dreadfort are all worthy of discussion, but ultimately, “The Laws of Gods and Men” is the Lannister’s hour, and they make the most of it.

      Like many have already expressed, I find Tyrion’s trial – and specifically his speech – to be more powerful and gripping on screen than I do on the page. That owes a great debt to Bryan Cogman’s tremendous script (it’s close with “What is Dead May Never Die”, but I think “The Laws of Gods and Men” is my second-favorite episode of his, trailing only “Kissed by Fire”). Tyrion’s trial is broken up over two days and chapters in the novel, which drains a little bit of the tension for me. For adaptation purposes, condensing it into one extended sequence and devoting half an episode to it was the right move.

      It’s thrilling and infuriating to see the witnesses cite actual interactions that we’ve seen them previously share with Tyrion on the show – stripped of all relevant context, of course. As in the book, it’s a powerful tool to make Tyrion seem more guilty. I love Varys’s sad little smile when Tyrion asks him if he has forgotten what he said about Tyrion’s role in saving the city. “Sadly, my lord, I never forget a thing.” The genuine friendship between Tyrion and Varys continues to pay rich dividends.

      I also love the added wrinkle that Jaime offers to leave the Kingsguard and become Tywin’s heir again in order to save Tyrion’s life. Jaime believes that he’s making a noble, self-sacrificing gesture – and he is. But of course, things aren’t so simple. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau perfectly captures all of Jaime’s conflicting emotions as he realizes this was Tywin’s plan all along. Nevertheless, he’s willing to play his father’s game – until Tyrion ruins their plans.

      And of course, the entire scene hinges Peter Dinklage’s unforgettable performance. It should have won him the Emmy and likely would have if Breaking Bad hadn’t been an unstoppable juggernaut that year. Andy Greenwald said it best: Tyrion’s trial was one of the finest set pieces in a show known for them; it crackled like wildfire; it chilled like a march north of the Wall. Handed the pages for his next Emmy submission reel, Peter Dinklage more than lived up to them. Few actors can glower like he does; none can bleed so palpably without being cut. http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/game-of-thrones-recap-tyrion/

      I can’t put it better than that.

      I also really like that when Tyrion delivers his defiant speech, Oberyn hasn’t yet agreed to become his champion, so he doesn’t have that card ready to play. Holding off on that agreement also enables the absolutely phenomenal conversation with Oberyn in the next episode, but we’ll get to that tomorrow.

      Tyrion’s gambling with his life here, but not having a backup plan in place makes his shame and fury when he’s blindsided by Shae’s testimony feel all the more raw and powerful. In such a state, it makes sense that he’s willing to throw away the deal Jaime just brokered for him in order to spite his former lover, his sister, and of course, his father.

      The icy staredown between Tywin and Tyrion that ends the hour is one of the most powerful endings to any episode of the series. I even get chills reading the final few beats of Cogman’s script (which EW released as an exclusive after Season 4 ended).

      The roar of the crowd is deafening.

      Jaime shuts his eyes. Any hope of saving Tyrion is gone.

      Cersei smiles, triumphant at having pushed him so far.

      Oberyn Martell leans forward, intrigued.

      As for Tywin, he stares straight ahead, in dark hatred, at his youngest son.

      And Tyrion Lannister, defiant, stares right back.

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    36. Great episode. A shame the Ironborn scene fizzles, because most of it is quite thrilling until it’s abruptly ended by the Bolton ultra-hounds. And the aftermath with Theon and Ramsay may just be Allen’s finest performance.

      All the superlatives towards the trial sequence are earned, not much more to say. It’s perfection, Alik Sakharov really directed the hell out of it.

      To me, the Small Council scene here is one of the finest show only scenes, it’s a shame we never saw more of that iteration. Though really, the Small Council scenes have always been fantastic to me, even in Season 5 when the membership is rather pitiful. Seeing Tywin casually destroy two major characters by decree is a great illustration of his power. Mace and Oberyn are hilarious, and it’s fantastic to have all these big personalities in a room together even for a brief few minutes.

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    37. Bryan Cogman seems like a nice guy, but I think he might get a little bit too much credit for the success of the episodes he writes. Though his name is on the script, it’s ambiguous as to what he actually wrote and what D & D edited / added in (my guess: they change a lot). Being that he had no writing credits to his name before the show (he was an actor I believe) and got the job through a connection, it probably isn’t a coincidence that the quality of his scripts are on par with D & Ds writing for the rest of the series.

      I think he did get hired to write Magic the Gathering and Sword in the Stone, will have to see how those turn out. I wonder how he has the time for those projects when he’s a full time writer / producer on GoT.

      I think it would be a mistake on HBO’s part to tab him as a show runner for a future ASOIAF series after GoT ends without first seeing how he does out of the shadow of D & D.

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    38. Well, that was not one of my favourite episodes. The Yara scene was odd indeed, but I see Mihnea‘s point in saying that for a bearly civilized people like the Ironborn, Reek is a complete waste of time.
      Well, Mihnea didn’t exactly say that, I got further away with his argument.
      And although I think Dinklage does excellent work in his lower key scenes, well, I found his acting in the trial scene a little bit over the board.
      So no, not a great episode for me.
      Apart from being so sad for Theon.

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    39. The Dragon Demands,

      I think many people think of Westeros as the British Isles and thus have no problem with the ability to move quickly from the Iron Isles to the Dreadfort or from King’s Landing to Winterfell or from Winterfell to the Wall, etc. Otherwise LF would need a teleporter …

      I think Martin has stated that Westeros is approximately the size of South America, and I seem to recall that in AGoT, it took over three weeks to go from Winterfell to the Wall, but it seemed that distances were loosy-goosy even in the books and have been understandably scaled down for the show.

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    40. I don’t find Yara’s assault on the Dreadfort to be nearly as egregious as some. Obviously it would have benefited from a bit more time to flesh out the sequence, or some better editing after Ramsay starts to release the hounds. Game of Thrones has absolutely outstanding production values, but the show doesn’t have unlimited resources. Almost every year, there’s been a sequence where they’re clearly running short on time and money, and just had to piece it together as best they can. This is one – the Water Gardens is another.

      As others have noted, setting up Yara’s raid on the Dreadfort in the Season 3 finale suggests that the Greyjoy-Bolton conflict was supposed to be a bigger deal before plans changed. However, because it had been set up in a previous season, it wasn’t a thread that the show could just drop. Nevertheless, the concept behind the scene is sound, and the payoff – the realization that Theon is truly broken, and that Ramsay can use him against his fellow Ironborn – is worth it (I really like the Moat Cailin stuff in “The Mountain and the Viper”, even though that scene apparently also felt the effects of the show running out of time and money).

      Bryan Cogman has also said that there will be consequences for Yara’s failed assault on the Dreadfort. Many people have speculated that Euron will bring it up during the Kingsmoot in Season 6 in order to denigrate her and drain whatever support she might have.

      I have no problem with Yara’s decision to leave her brother behind once she sees what he’s become. It annoys me when people dismiss the scene as just “Oh, she’s running because she’s scared of the dogs. Weak.” (To be fair, those are some nasty dogs, trained for the express purpose of hunting and killing humans. I’m not Ironborn, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to tangle with them). But that’s not the point. Yara doesn’t leave because of the dogs. She leaves because she realizes that Theon is lost, and that Reek isn’t worth fighting for.

      As for Shirtless Ramsay … whatever. I saw it as effective visual shorthand of how deranged Ramsay is that he would charge into battle without bothering to put on armor. And I have no problem with him being a better fighter than he is in the books. Many characters are.

      Petra, I really enjoyed your thoughts on Theon/Reek’s psychological damage, and how it exceeds even that which he feels in the books (even if the physical damage is less). Thank you for linking to that blog post. I hadn’t seen it before. A heartwrenching story, and one that offers clear parallels to Theon’s situation.

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    41. I didn’t get to it when talking about King’s Landing earlier, but I really like the Small Council scene. It ties the world together to have Tywin so openly discuss Daenerys as a threat. When Joffrey asked him about her in “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”, Tywin was dismissive of her chances, but this is now the second time he’s mentioned her in Season 4 (the first was to Oberyn in “Breaker of Chains”). Perhaps he was playing down his concerns earlier, but I take it more as a sign that now that the threat of Robb Stark is gone, Tywin is turning his attentions towards anyone who might one day challenge his family’s rule.

      The conversation between Oberyn and Varys about desire and its costs is wonderful as well. Yet another example of the show taking advantage of its ability to pair up great non-POV characters who don’t really interact in the book, and bounce them off one another to see how they’d react.

      Braavos is one of my favorite opening credits animations. I love that it features a coin rolling down a ramp into the basin, and the way that the Titan snaps into place. But of course, it can’t compete with the actual shot of Stannis’s ship sailing beneath the Titan of Braavos. It’s an impressive spectacle, and one that the show couldn’t have hoped to bring to life in its early days.

      (On a recent episode of GOO, Micah expressed disappointment that we first saw Braavos on the show via Stannis because, thanks to her relationships with Syrio and Jaqen,it was always “Arya’s place”. I can understand that argument, but the opportunity to bring the Iron Bank into the story early was too good to pass up. I’m glad the show handled it the way they did).

      I always liked Tycho’s quote about numbers. “We prefer the stories they tell. More plain. Less open to interpretation.” Davos’s speech to win over the bankers is impressive, although I’ll admit that I find the way he keeps flaunting his shortened fingers to be ever-so-slightly silly.

      I was happy to see Salladhor Saan return. The Sex Pirate Extraordinaire is just a fun character, and Lucian Msamati’s been delightful in all three appearances he’s made. With Stannis dead and Davos at Castle Black, his time on the show is probably done, but I hope we haven’t seen the last of him

      I have this hopeful flight of fancy that Salladhor will be the one who ferries Sam and Gilly to Oldtown, in place of the crew of the Cinammon Wind. What? As far as we know, Salladhor was still at the Wall at the end of Season 5 – assuming he didn’t peace right the fuck out after what happened at Hardhome. It’s not the craziest idea.

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    42. Drogon is really impressive in this episode. I remember when we first got a look at him in the trailer, we were all blown away. That awe seems quaint now – he’s only going to get bigger!

      Joel Fry is excellent as Hizdahr zo Loraq. When he entered the throne room, I was expecting him to start in on his spiel about the fighting pits. I was pleasantly surprised and actually moved by his eloquent case that he be allowed to bury his father. Fry’s performance is far more nuanced and sympathetic than it needs to be, and helped cultivate an appreciation for Hizdahr that I’d never felt before.

      It also helps greatly that Hizdahr’s the only Meereenese noble that we have to deal with. Implications about the true identity of the Harpy aside, I truly don’t miss the Shavepate, or the Green Grace, or Reznak mo Reznak, or … that’s it. I’ve exhausted my recollections of the Meereenese peanut gallery from ADWD.

      And Seven Hells, Dany, get a bench for Barristan and Jorah! They’re not young men. 212 supplicants are going to wreck hell on their knees and their backs. And maybe set up separate lines for the supplicants based on their demands? All goat-related petitions to the left. 😉

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    43. Jared:
      It annoys me when people dismiss the scene as just “Oh, she’s running because she’s scared of the dogs. Weak.” (To be fair, those are some nasty dogs, trained for the express purpose of hunting and killing humans. I’m not Ironborn, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to tangle with them). But that’s not the point. Yara doesn’t leave because of the dogs. She leaves because she realizes that Theon is lost, and that Reek isn’t worth fighting for.

      This! 100 times this!

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    44. Jared,

      It ties the world together to have Tywin so openly discuss Daenerys as a threat. When Joffrey asked him about her in “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”, Tywin was dismissive of her chances, but this is now the second time he’s mentioned her in Season 4 (the first was to Oberyn in “Breaker of Chains”).

      As I recall, in the books, Tywin was still dismissive of Dany. Having him start to seriously consider her as a threat does assist in tying together the two storylines.

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    45. LatrineDiggerBrian,

      To his great credit, Bryan Cogman has been very open about the fact that Benioff and Weiss play a major role in shaping, supervising, and occasionally rewriting every episode of Game of Thrones, including the ones that Cogman and GRRM write. He’s also been extraordinarily humble, frequently talking about how owes a significant measure of his success to D&D and their willingness to take a chance on him.

      Like most shows on TV, the writing staff works a team. Everyone contributes to every episode, no matter which person gets credit for the screenplay. But since Benioff and Weiss are the showrunners, ultimately they have final say. If something makes it to the screen, it’s there because Benioff and Weiss approved it – even if they didn’t write it themselves. So yes, an episode like “The Laws of Gods and Men” is as much their triumph as it is Cogman’s.

      The main reason that Bryan Cogman’s so beloved is that he’s a great talent, and the episodes for which he’s the credited screenwriter have generally been excellent. However, I don’t believe it’s unfair to say that a not-insignificant element of some fans’ appreciation for him stemmed from the perception that Cogman possessed a deeper appreciation for the books than his bosses did. I don’t believe that claim, and Cogman himself has dismissed it, but it’s easy to see where it came from.

      Before he became a full-time writer, one of Cogman’s jobs was to serve as kind of a fact-checker to make sure that the show was remaining consistent with certain details from the novels. His deep familiarity with the source material aligned with the idea that many of his episodes – particularly in the earlier seasons – seemed to be hewing closer to the books than others, especially when it came to dialogue.

      Obviously, that veneration of the source material is something which fans of the books loved and latched on to, and Cogman became something of a hero for it in certain circles. That’s where hopeful ideas – “I hope Bryan Cogman gets to run another ASOIAF series after GoT ends” – and derisive, blatantly incorrect ideas – “GoT would be so much better if HBO sacked D&D and hired Cogman to run it” – both found their roots.

      Cogman’s also on Twitter, unlike Benioff and Weiss, which makes him feel more accessible and approachable to the fans. Of course, that familiarity can be a double-edged sword. When the whole controversy about “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” flared up, Cogman took heat not only because he wrote the episode, but because a segment of the fanbase that had celebrated him as a bulwark against D&D and their changes felt betrayed. How could Bryan Cogman of all people be the one standing at the helm for this egregious deviation from the source material? Some of those people denounced him, and while others threw their anger at D&D, accusing them of dumping that particular episode on Cogman in order to shield themselves. Of course, the episode was as much of a collaborative effort as every other hour, but such nuanced realities are seldom appreciated by those consumed by the fires of Internet Rage.

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    46. Dragonmcmx,

      I disagree. The Reek we see in s4 is still completely traumatized. He as only just recently begun to experience any kind of life that doesn’t involve daily / weekly torture and we see on his body during the bath scene that after his penis was cut off, he’s been flayed, burned, cut, whipped, you name it. His torso is littered with scars and he is missing his right nipple!

      In s5 Reek is still subject to cruel treatment – look how he trembles and moans in fear when he is to give Ramsay his hand – but his role is different by now. He is still treated as less than nothing but he’s become a man servant too. He is clearly no longer being tortured on a regular basis, and ever so slowly he is gaining back some sort of mind, which was tortured out of him for a time being. No one – no matter how much torture and mind games they go through – loses themselves permanently. You see him pause and listen during a meal where he serves dinner for Roose and Ramsay prior to Sansa’s arrival. He is slowly coming back. I find the transition quite clear and not rushed. Alas, Alfie Allen is given very few lines but oh boy, can that man act!

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    47. Sou,

      Oh, glad I’m not the only one who thought Dinklage’s acting was too much during the trial speech scene. Personally, I found it toe cringing.

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    48. Jared,

      Yes, that’s true I’ve heard him go out of his way before to comment about how D & D play a big role in shaping his episodes. And like you say, while he might get all the credit for the great episodes, he’ll also get all the blame for the controversial ones because most people don’t understand how a writers room works.

      It’s also cool that he chooses to be on Twitter on a public account. Have to give people in the public eye credit when they do that as they are really giving away a piece of themselves with all of the negative comments people send them. Also cool how George responds to his blog comments.

      I don’t know if I agree that he’s a great talent, I think that remains to be seen. And to my original point, I think it would be foolish of HBO to put a new series in the hands of someone who hasn’t proven themselves yet on their own. Benioff and Weiss had both written successful novels and screenplays before getting GoT. Plus a new ASOIAF series won’t have any source material to rely on so it will in fact be a much tougher challenge.

      I suppose another ASOIAF series is years away though, and right now I should just savor the end of GoT because I really think there won’t be anything that surpasses it in our life times.

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    49. Mr Fixit,

      Thanks for the reference. The parallels to the American Civil War and Reconstruction do appear valid. I had read the Meereenese Blot but this provides an effective counterpoint. I see the parallels even though the two options suggested after examining the ways in which Dany’s efforts had failed – kill all the masters to avoid slavery being re-established – or have slavery re-established (better that the Great Masters of Meereen die, than the Sons of the Harpy be permitted to live) – seems to create somewhat of a false dilemma. But thought provoking …

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    50. Jared,

      And to add to my previous post, of course just as I make those comments, I go read his Twitter feed and he mentions how he was proud of Kissed by Fire because it was his least edited episode. If that’s the case, that’s impressive. That was a great episode.

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    51. Singedbylife:
      Sou,

      Oh, glad I’m not the only one who thought Dinklage’s acting was too much during the trial speech scene. Personally, I found it toe cringing.

      I’m with you.

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    52. Flayed Potatoes: I’m with you.

      I hear what you guys are saying. I don’t think the performance in its entirety was bad, but some of the parts where he was rage filled came across as weird. He is usually silky smooth though. iirc, I think that it was a really long shoot for the cast and people were tired at the end. Lena seemed to phone in her close ups.

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    53. Singedbylife,

      You do raise some good points, though I don’t think it was very clear. It just went from “I LOVE YOU MASTER… WHO’S THEON?” to “Hi Sansa, don’t worry I still remember everything just make sure to call me Reek not Theon.”

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    54. @Dinklages performance: I think it was very good, but a tad bit overdone for my taste. No matter how good of an actor you are, at some point it just becomes obvious that you’re “acting”, if you know what I mean.

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    55. The trial is surely one of my favourite scenes in the whole show! This one and the scene in which Jon fights the white walker are probably my 2 favourite scenes.

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    56. Dragonmcmx,

      I prefer books without too much detail. I like it when authors leave little gaps or holes that you as a reader must fill out yourself. The same goes with TV. I always thought it odd how clearheaded Book!Theon was. Made me wonder how it was that he didn’t simply kill Ramsay and Roose. I understand Show!Theon much better than I do Book!Theon.

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    57. Dragonmcmx:
      @Dinklages performance: I think it was very good, but a tad bit overdone for my taste. No matter how good of an actor you are, at some point it just becomes obvious that you’re “acting”, if you know what I mean.

      Part of the problem is that Dinklage is from New Jersey having to put on a pseudo-British accent — and that’s exactly what it invariably sounds like, ‘put on’ and ‘pseudo.’ One always gets the sense that he is focusing on the enunciation of the words, to the extent that he distances himself a tad from their meaning (although his furtive eyes speak volumes). Strangely, this suits his character in ‘real life’ — just a feeling… He always seems to position himself at a remove, even coming across as cynical at times, which I don’t believe he is. There was one line which rang painfully true though, ‘I’ve been on trial for being a dwarf my whole life..,’ at which one had the feeling that even Dinklage was surprised at how true and unguarded it felt, despite his best efforts to focus on his vowels.

      And let’s not forget Charles Dance, again brilliant in this scene. He brought a pathos to his character, non-existent in GRRM’s one-dimensional universe of Tywin, in addition to bringing the page marvelously to life. How does one act ‘gold-flecked’ glittering green predatory eyes…? Watch Charles do his Dance!

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    58. Could someone please explain why Varys spoke against Tyrion at the trial?? He didn’t have to bring up his remark about kings dropping like flies. Unless he thought him guilty. But I thought Varys had his little birds and always had the gist of what was going on behind scenes at KL, and if so, would have too much sympathy to go along with the farce.

      I was reluctant to re-watch the trial. It’s a frustrating scene. And the pain caused by Shae is so sad.

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    59. Dragonmcmx,

      I didn’t feel it was too fast at all. Firstly, in Season 4 he pauses for a moment when he hears that Robb Stark is dead (the razor scene). Then later that season he “pretended” to be Theon Greyjoy to flush the Ironborn out of Moat Cailin. Then in Season 5, he recognizes Sansa and hides away from her when she first returns to Winterfell. Then when she visits him in the kennel, he trembles and says “You shouldn’t be here”, warning her that the place is dangerous for her, which means there was still a part of him that cared for her as almost a family member. Then he sees Sansa get raped and cries. At this point, Theon is clearly stirring inside Reek. Then Sansa tried to remind him that he’s Theon Greyjoy and gave him the candle. Though he betrayed her, he looked horrified when the old lady was flayed, and surely he felt guilty that he had led the old lady to that fate. Then Sansa stirred Theon enough to admit that he had not killed Bran and Rickon. Then finally, when Sansa was on the verge of getting tortured by Myranda, it was the last straw for him. If you look at this transition, it has been quite gradual. It’s not like Theon completely died and then reappeared out of nowhere. After all, what is dead may never die.

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    60. YgiTTe,

      Do you think he would dare speak up against Tywin, Cersei, and everyone else who believed Tyrion guilty? Varys is first of all a survivor. That’s why despite being a Targaryen sympathizer, Robert Baratheon forgave him and kept him in court. Likewise the Lannisters never thought less of him for his Targaryen sympathies. As he says in the books, the storms come and go and the big fish eat the little fish, and he keeps on paddling.

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    61. YgiTTe,

      Varys was compelled to testify against Tyrion because he wanted to protect his position and, more importantly, continue to pursue his long game. The Crown (or more likely, Cersei) asked him to provide information against Tyrion, knowing that Varys’s’ status as a spymaster who knows everything about everyone would make whatever evidence he could offer about Tyrion’s alleged guilt even more damning. Faced with a royal command, Varys obliged, fulfilling his obligation as the Master of Whisperers to be sly, obsequious, and without scruples.

      (In the novels, Varys goes so far as to back up his testimony with documents and records, making Tyrion seem even more guilty).

      Varys may not have wanted to testify against Tyrion, but he didn’t have much choice if he wanted to remain free and alive. When Pod confesses to Tyrion that he was approached and asked to testify against him, Tyrion puts it quite aptly “Testifying against me wasn’t a suggestion … if they can’t tempt you with honey, they’ll find something less sweet.” If Varys had refused to testify, or testified on Tyrion’s behalf, he would have fallen under deep suspicion – at best. At worst, he might have been arrested, branded as Tyrion’s co-conspirator, and executed.

      Varys himself addresses the problem inherent in refusing or lying to the crown in “The Lion and the Rose”. When Tyrion asks him to lie about Shae to Tywin, Varys refuses point-blank:

      “No, I will not. How long do you imagine your father and sister would let me live if they suspected me of lying? I have no pet sellsword to protect me. No legendary brother to avenge me. Only little birds who whisper in my ear.

      He also reminds Tyrion that “No one weeps for spiders, or whores.” (which helps explain Shae’s testimony to a certain extent as well – she may be angry at Tyrion, but she’s also facing a similar threat). By testifying against Tyrion, Varys kept himself free to maneuver … and able to help Tyrion when the time came.

      It may not have been Varys’s explicit intention, but as a side benefit, the trial also mostly destroyed whatever loyalty Tyrion still felt towards his family. That eventually enabled Varys to send him to Dany, and have Tyrion be open to the idea of helping her take the Iron Throne away from the Lannisters.

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    62. Doesn’t Varys say that Tyrion says “Kings are dropping like flies” to him? I thought Tyrion openly said it to everyone at the table and not directly to Varys?

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    63. Tyrion’s trial is probably my favorite scene in the entire series so far, despite the fact that I preferred Shae’s less emotional motivation in the books. I thought that Dinklage’s acting in this sequence was completely brilliant – not over-the-top at all, but a perfectly believable explosion of rage suppressed for too long.

      I wonder if Americans are less bothered by his accent than British viewers who have particular standards of what he’s supposed to sound like. To me, Westeros is a fantasy world, and there’s no particular reason why people who live there need to sound authentically British (though it would bother me if they sounded excessively American, like a Brooklyn Italian or Bronx Jewish accent or a Deep South or Texas twang).

      It’s a shame that such an otherwise outstanding episode is marred by the Dreadfort scene, which to me was a complete misfire: Rheon in his worst goofy lunatic mode, terrible choppy editing, complete lack of plausibility. As someone else pointed out upthread, for the Ironborn to travel to the Dreadfort by ship would require sailing about 3/4 of the way around a continent (to a place that’s not even on the coast, but well inland up a small river). Portaging across the Neck could not have been be done without them passing through the crannogs and being shot full of poison darts. So for Asha/Yara & company to spend many months traveling there to rescue Theon and then just stand around waiting for Ramsay to let the dogs out, before hightailing it back to the boats after a brief scuffle, just made no sense – no matter how far gone Reek was.

      That being said, I agree with Petra about Alfie Allen’s brilliance at conveying Reek’s state of psychological trauma just with body language. He’s even better in the scene at Moat Cailin, I think. After his stint on GoT is done, someone should offer him a chance to play John Merrick onstage in The Elephant Man – he’d totally nail it without any makeup or prosthetics. Such a talented young actor!

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    64. Jared,

      Thank you, very good points. I had forgotten about that conversation with Tyrion earlier. And he does end up helping him escape after.
      I think he’s going to be one of the last ones standing. The point where Oberyn asks something like what kind of desire would motivate an asexual person and Varys glances at the empty throne, yet we know he has no desire to sit there himself, could foreshadow his ending up being the reluctant (or so we’d always wonder) new ruler who takes a seat on the iron throne after the war is fought, the long winter is ended, and everyone who was anyone from KL is gone. Cause right now I really don’t see a cliche ending of Dany or Jon becoming King/Queen.

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