‘Game of Thrones’ Review: “The Laws of Gods and Men”
‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 conjures its sixth episode of the season, “The Laws of Gods and Men,” as Tyrion's trial for murder takes several shocking turns, while Daenerys holds court in Mereen, and Yara attempts to reclaim Theon from the clutches of Ramsay Bolton.
Last week's ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 installment, “First of HIs Name,” saw Cersei attending to the fallout of Tommen being crowned King, while Daenerys made an important decision, and Jon Snow led the attack on Craster's Keep, unaware of his brother Bran's presence. So, what does the latest installment of season 4 bring?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4, episode 6, “The Laws of Gods and Men!”
Davos and Stannis arrive to the city of Braavos, wherein representatives of the Iron Bank delay their appearance at a meeting. Upon their arrival, Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) and the others consider Stannis’ claims of birthright to the throne, but refuse to lend any aid to his cause, considering the lack of financial value Stannis holds to their own pursuits. Davos points out that while Tywin Lannister has proven a reasonable intermediary to the crown, his impending death will leave either Tommen, Cersei or Jaime in command, none of whom have the value to Braavos or Westeros that Stannis has. A short while later, Davos visits Salladhor Saan a bathhouse with a full payment to sail under their command the following morning, as financed by Braavos.
Yara reads Ramsay Bolton’s letter regarding Theon Greyjoy to the Ironborn, reminding them that the mutilation of Prince Theon cannot go unanswered, before covertly breaching the Dreadfort. Yara manages to fight her way down to the kennels wherein Theon resides, though he insists on his identity as Reek, and refuses to go with her. With alarms raised, Ramsay and his men fight through the Ironborn, before finally releasing the dogs on Yara and the survivors. Yara returns to her ships, claiming to her men that Theon is dead. The following day, Ramsay offers Theon a bath as a reward for his loyalty, before tasking his loving servant with a special mission: reclaiming a castle by “acting” as Theon Greyjoy.
A goatherder tends his flock alongside his son, just before Daenerys’ pet Drogon attacks the herd for a meal. The following day, The herder visits Daenerys in her new Mereen court to display the aftermath, for which Daenerys graciously offers to repay him three times over. The next visitor, Hizdahr Zo Loraq, admits that his father was one of the slavers Daenerys had crucified, though in particular his father had spoken out against slavery before. Hizdahr asks only for the chance to bury his father properly, now that Daenerys has made her message known, something the Queen reluctantly agrees to. Two down, 212 more requests to go.
Tywin leads the latest small council meeting with new occupants Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martel, as Varys updates the group on the strength of Daenerys’ army, including the dragons, Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy. Tywin values the threat only slightly more than Cersei, and tasks Varys with getting his spies into Mereen. Afterward, Oberyn and Varys make conversation about their mutual time spent in Essos, as Varys admits that his interests lean more toward the Iron Throne than boys, girls, or any such pursuits before his castration.
Jaime brings Tyrion in for his trial, wherein Tommen recuses himself and leaves Tywin as the presiding judge alongside Mace and Oberyn. Tyrion denies his guilt, before Pycelle, Cersei and members of the Kingsguard testify to his past acts of aggression against Joffrey, and several damning threats. Pycelle presents the necklace worn by Sansa Stark and found on Ser Dontos’ corpse, pointing out the “Strangler” poison likely stolen from his stores. Even Varys testifies against Tyrion, to the latter’s great lament, before Tywin adjourns the proceedings.
Jaime accuses his father in private of allowing Cersei to fix the trial, though Tywin insists on allowing the hearing to come to its natural conclusion, the execution of his son or no. Jaime offers to renounce his oath to the Kingsguard and take up his place as heir to Casterly Rock if Tywin would spare Tyrion, to which Tywin reveals that Tyrion will be found guilty. That said, if Tyrion begs for mercy as expected, Tywin will allow Tyrion to spend his remaining days as a member of the Night’s Watch, while Jaime will return to Casterly Rock and marry regardless.
Jaime quickly informs Tyrion of the arrangement before the trial resumes, though all are shocked to see Tywin call his next witness, Shae. Shae fully condemns Joffrey’s murder as an act of Tyrion and Sansa’s malicious planning, explaining how Tyrion had originally forced Shae into his company, before trading up for Sansa, who would only accept Tyrion into bed in exchange for killing Joffrey. Tyrion pleads with Shae not to go through with her testimony, to which she reminds him that he’d earlier called her a whore. Tyrion announces that he wishes to confess, not to Joffrey’s murder, but that he wished he’d never saved any of Kings Landing through his actions at the Blackwater. Wishing he had been the one to kill Joffrey, given how much he enjoyed the King’s death, Tyrion renounces any notions of true justice at the hearing, and demands a trial by combat to allow the gods to decide his fate.
Despite the expansive nature of the series and saga itself, ‘Game of Thrones’ understandably tends to do its best work with more time devoted to a solitary location. There’s a difference between episodes that essentially confine the narrative to one place as in season 2’s “Blackwater,” and that which we saw tonight, an episode that still manages to dip in on a few characters spread about the map, but allows the most tension to build by focusing on solitary events like Tyrion’s trial. And even then, most of the proceedings are spent with Tyrion smirking in his chair while past figures deliver testimony and threats we’ve already heard, but once things take the inevitable turn, “The Laws of Gods and Men” proves all the better for its central focus.
In particular, it was rewarding to see as much reason floating about the throne room as deception and aggression, particularly in characters like Jaime or Tywin, who remain somewhat (and in Jaime’s case, quite understandably) starved for audience sympathy. And for as much as Tywin knows the trial to be something of a farce without Jaime needing to spell it out, he stil takes the most pragmatic solution to spare his son, until Tyrion’s defiance forces the decision out of their hands. And despite our familiarity with the books, Shae’s return proved a genuine surprise in the moment, and a devastating punch to see the history between the pair turned toward malice. No doubt folk will be trumpeting Peter Dinklage’s name for Emmy consideration once again, as the trial’s relatively slow build made its final resolution all the more effective.
On the other side of the map, it was good to check in with Yara and the Ironborn, who seem largely to have been ignored this season, as well to see the true extent of damage done to Theon Greyjoy’s personality. As tends to be the case with certain book diversions, relatively little seemed accomplished in the scope of the story to have Yara fail in her mission, and ultimately decide to leave Theon behind, but it should be interesting to see what comes of Ramsay’s mission to have Theon “act” as himself, for all the conflict within that could awaken. By the same token, Davos and Stannis’ trip to Braavos gave us some interesting new visuals and characters (welcome back, Salladhor!), but mostly only served to set up Stannis’ next move. And hey, whatever happened to his determination to aid the Night’s Watch last season?
And then Daenerys held court. We got to see a dragon eat a goat. It was cool beans. In all seriousness, Daenerys’ reasoning to remain in Mereen proved a strong character decision last week, though we hope the series finds more interesting ways to dwell on the character’s time holding court than to highlight the tedium of her visitors.
Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of sword-swinging ‘Game of Thrones’ action? What did you think about tonight’s installment, “The Laws of Gods and Men”? Check out all our other ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 coverage, and join us next week for the all-new episode recap of ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4's latest installment, "Mockingbird" on HBO!