“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
… 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…
… 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.
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
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.