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Game of Thrones – “The Laws of Gods and Men” Review: A Strong, Focused Episode

As with “The Lion and the Rose” earlier on in this season (also known as the episode where Joffrey gets killed), “The Laws of Gods and Men” spends a great deal of time focusing its action in King’s Landing after offering us brief but powerful moments in other storylines. With a cast as large as the one on Game of Thrones, with characters spread out all around Westeros and beyond, the show can often feel rushed or overcrowded when it spends an episode jumping through multiple storylines and trying to service all its characters. However, when an episode like “The Laws of Gods and Men” occurs, it slows the tempo of the season arc, allowing us a chance to catch out collective breath and spend time with a select few characters and stories.

We are only shown four stories this week (none of which contain any Starks, which highlights how few Starks are left), the first of which focuses on Stannis and Davos and their quest to receive funds from the Iron Bank. As you may recall, the Iron Bank is the shady organization that lends out absurd sums of money on credit- particularly to the King. Davos once again shows his worth to Stannis by convincing the Bank that while Tywin Lannister may currently be in charge in King’s Landing, he’s pushing 70 and won’t be around forever. And once Tywin is gone, who is there to protect the young, inexperienced King Tommen? No one.

It’s a brilliant speech, and highlights something that the Lannisters seem to be taking for granted: All their power now lies in Tywin, and once he is gone they will have almost no way to hold onto their power. Jaime has lost his hand and is unable to defend the realm. Cersei is a woman without any rights. Tyrion may not be long for this world (more on that later). And Tommen is really too young to do anything of note. Plus, the family, as we learned last week, is seriously in debt to the Iron Bank, so things aren’t looking particularly great for the Lannisters at this point.

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Our second stop-over on the way to Tyrion’s trial is with the long missing Yara, who is on a mission to rescue Theon from Ramsay. I’m not all that sure how far the Iron Islands are from Dreadfort (or, wherever Ramsay is current holed up, as he and Reek were set to head out to recapture a castle the last time we saw them), but it certainly took Yara quite a bit of time to make it there. Unfortunately, the Theon she finds is no longer her brother, at least not from a mental standpoint. While Yara and her men make it out of the castle unharmed, they are forced to leave Theon behind when he refuses to leave (even going so far as to bite Yara), and Ramsay’s forces within the castle remain too strong.

This scene is particularly interesting as it doesn’t actually occur within the novels. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Theon doesn’t actually appear in the third novel of George R.R. Martin’s book series (upon which this season and season three have been based). Therefore, all of Theon’s storyline for the past season and a half has been created by the series independently of the books, or has been culled from the fourth book in the series. I always enjoy it when the television series takes the time to come up with independent stories from the novels, but I do worry that Theon’s story may end up running out of source material before the sixth Song of Ice and Fire novel is eventually released.

Our final check-in outside of the goings on in King’s Landing finds Dany adjusting to the less glamorous side of ruling. It’s all well and good to free slaves and punish those who once ruled with a violent and iron fist, but the monotony of daily rule looks to be wearing on her already. In addition, it appears as if her dragons might be getting a bit out of control- killing and taking goats from a local goatherd and nearly killing his son in the process.

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Finally, the main action of the episode takes place at King’s Landing. Occupying roughly the last half hour of the episode, it is wonderful to spend so much time in one place. The central piece of the story is Tyrion’s trial, which also encompasses the schemes and discussions of others outside of the courtroom. As I’m sure we all suspected, Tyrion’s habit of speaking his mind and using his sharp tongue ultimately leads to scathing testimony against him by the likes of Cersei, Ser Meryn, and even Varys (who knows a thing or two about self-preservation). While the accounts presented are certainly not wholly accurate, there is enough truth in each to make them believable.

But, it is the surprise entrance of Shae that turns the tide of the trial in such a way as to spur Tyrion to finally act. It appears that while Tyrion believed Shae to be safe and sound in Braavos, she was actually intercepted by the Lannisters and held for her eventual testimony at Tyrion’s trial. After all, Cersei was well aware of her existence after her spy reported back to her, and it would have been far to lucky to have her escape unharmed. More importantly, this betrayal is one that has been expertly crafted by the show. While we all know that Tyrion had only the best intentions in sending Shae away (and that it pained him greatly to do so), we also know that to Shae, this was simply another instance of her being dismissed as being “just a whore.” We know that Shae truly loved Tyrion, and nothing is as dangerous as a woman scorned. Watching Tyrion’s face as Shae parrots back his own words to him is gut-wrenching.

The result of Shae’s testimony isn’t the confession that Tywin is hoping for. Rather, Tyrion, clearly seeing that the trial is a sham (and not wanting to take the Black and head out to the Wall- or, have Ned Stark’s fate befall him) opts for trial by combat. As we can recall from his time in the Eryie, Tyrion will need to choose a champion in the coming episodes to fight for him. Jaime, with only one hand, is almost certainly out of the running, and I’m not sure Bronn will be willing to fight for Tyrion this time around. Things are certainly looking grim for the youngest Lannister.

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Final Thoughts

— I was thrilled to see a small council meeting. It looks like Cersei is still underestimating the power of Dany and her dragons. Tywin isn’t much better, but at least he realizes that she needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. As usually, Varys is the only one with any forethought in on the situation.

— The small council meeting also serves to remind us that Jorah is supposed to be spying on Dany for the Lannisters. However, it appears that he has left his post and has refused to continue spying on the woman he is clearly in love with.

— I particularly loved seeing the reaction shots throughout the trial. Seeing Margery racked with guilt over having an innocent man take the fall for a murder she had a hand in (even though she wasn’t aware of her role) is particularly interesting. Margery is willing to manipulate others to get what she and her family want, but it appears as though letting an innocent man go on trial for his life might be beyond what she is willing to do.

— I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this is the first episode without any Starks in it in the entire series.

 

Rating
9.0
Pros
  • Strong focus on a small number of stories
  • Good plot movement
  • Excellent work by Peter Dinklage
Cons
  • No Starks

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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