Game of Thrones has made some new storytelling decisions this season – some, like the big change in Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, have been huge missteps – but their strongest new tactic is to shift focus to one character (or, as it happens, one group of characters) and not bounce around. Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve read the books, and without giving anything away, we absolutely don’t need to see characters like Arya, Bran and Jon every single week, because they frankly don’t have THAT much going on right now. Joffrey’s wedding was our first example of this, wherein half the episode was devoted to it without the show getting distracted and wondering how Theon was doing, and Tyrion’s trial is the next. From the second Tyrion sets foot on the witness stand, we don’t leave his side, although everyone in his life will.
But let’s start from the very beginning (a very good place to start). Stannis and Davos are in what I now know is called the Iron Bank (for all the names Martin comes up with, he couldn’t do better than that?) begging Mycroft Holmes for money to fight the Lannisters. Well, I guess they’re begging for money, but it sounds like they’re just playing Settlers of Catan. I actually cannot think of two more agonizingly boring things than Stannis Barathon and Settlers of Catan. (Apologies to my boyfriend, Ben Wyatt of Pawnee, Indiana, and all the other Settlers of Catan devotees out there.) Anyway, Davos is useful here, especially when he shows Mycroft (I’m not bothering to learn his Game of Thrones name, that’s Sherlock’s brother) his finger stubs to prove that Stannis always pays his debts – wait, that sounds like the wrong house motto to me – and picks up a damp pirate in the bath-house to sail with them. Whatever. Over it. I feel like I should try and outsource the Stannis parts of my recaps.
Let’s swing by Mereen, where Dany is getting a little bit ahead of herself. We do get a treat of an opening scene – a lonely goatheard [insert yodeling here] and his son are traipsing about in the meadows when one of Daenerys’ dragon’s pops up (literally), sets the meadow aflame, and snatches a little goat snack for himself. When the goatherd comes before Daenerys, telling her that his livelihood is, well, on fire, she tells him she’ll pay him three times the value of his goats, and he’s thrilled, but I’m not entirely sure that Daenerys is quite as rich as she’d like to think. Anyway, her second visit of the day is from the young nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq, whose father was crucified along with the slavemasters, even though he spoke out against slavery and was actually responsible for most of the city’s great halls and buildings, including the magnificent one she’s taken up residence in right now. He begs her to let him bury his father according to their gods, and though she says yes, she has over 200 people left to see. Yikes. With great power comes an absolute fuckload of responsibility, and Daenerys has definitely learned the hard way that you can’t just sack a city and expect it to be able to stand on its own two feet. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Incidentally, I think it’s also really funny that both Daenerys and Tommen (and, let’s be honest, Stannis probably does it too) call themselves the “Lord of the Andals and the First Men,” because at this point that title means jack shit. I’m going to start calling myself that in everyday life and see how it goes over.
Oh, right, there was some stuff with Yara and Ramsay and Reek this week. Yara storms directly into Dreadfort, after a nice battle montage where she reads Ramsay’s last threatening letter aloud (you may remember it as the one about Theon’s favorite toy), finds Theon cringing in a dog cage, and reminds him who he is – but too little, too late. He’s Reek through and through now, and realizing this, Yara bounces and just tells everyone that Theon’s dead, which I guess isn’t that far off from the truth. Then things get a little confusing – there’s a weird moment where Ramsay makes Reek take a bath in front of him and tells him he needs him to pretend to be Theon Greyjoy so he can take “a castle” (Moat Cailin) from “bad men” (the Greyjoys). To sum up: shit is getting weird over at the Dreadfort.
And finally, FINALLY, we get to Tyrion’s trial, where Peter Dinklage is turning out such spectacular work that I will personally raise hell if he doesn’t score his second Emmy for this series. He’s been a little less snappy this season, but it seems he was just saving it for this moment, where he can tell all of King’s Landing how he really feels. But let’s go back a bit. Tyrion’s trial isn’t being run by the young king, but instead, he’ll be attempting to plead his innocence to Mace Tyrell, Oberyn Martell (who has brought a healthy amount of skepticism with him) and his own father, Tywin Lannister. (Here in the US, we would probably call that a conflict of interest.) So, basically, he has a less impartial judge than any of those judges in Luzerne County who got paid to lock up teenagers. Cersei and Tywin have prepared a whole parade of witnesses to speak up against Tyrion: Pycelle, whom Tyrion had locked up, proves that Joffrey was poisoned and notes that his ingredients were looted; Meryn Trant reminds everyone of the time Tyrion called Joffrey a fool and wished him the same fate as the Mad King (although, as Tyrion can’t help but point out, this was while Joffrey was ordering the Kingsguard to disrobe and rape a helpless Sansa Stark); Cersei brings back Tyrion’s best monologues, “ashes in your mouth,” and puts on her best trite face; and Varys, whose loyalty lies with no one but himself, tells the audience he believes that Tyrion and Sansa were plotting to murder Joffrey as revenge for Sansa’s death. Tyrion gets permission for a single question, and asks Varys if he has forgotten the time he told Tyrion that he, Varys, would never forget Tyrion’s heroism during the Battle of Blackwater. Varys, snakelike as ever, responds, “sadly, I never forget a thing.” When the eunuch turns on you, it’s not looking good.
When the court takes a short recess, Jaime takes the opportunity to bargain with his father, who does usually keep his word – he’ll give up his white cloak and the vow of celibacy that goes with it and carry on the Lannister name if Tywin will allow Tyrion to live out his days with the Night’s Watch. Desperate for an heir from his non-dwarf son, Tywin agrees, on the condition that Tyrion makes a plea for mercy. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.
I guess it could have gone as planned, if not for the heartbreaking star witness. The final person to take the stand is Shae, and as she tells it, she was Tyrion’s long-suffering whore, who did whatever he wanted while serving his young wife. Either somebody paid her off, or she was pushed over the edge when Tyrion himself called her a whore, which she tearfully reminds him of during the trial. In a bleak monotone, Shae tells the court that she knew that Tyrion, trying to get into Sansa’s bed, promised to murder Joffrey as retribution for Robb, Ned and Catelyn. Even though that’s a lie, her representation of their sexual relationship is technically true, although tinged with a hardness and sadness that makes it sound tragic rather than loving and real. Worse than even her lie is the moment where she says Tyrion made her call him “her lion,” her pet name for him that was really borne out of adoration and desire.
This is what sends Tyrion over the edge, and rather than beg for mercy, he confesses to the crime of being a dwarf, which he has “been on trial for [his] whole life,” and tells the court that though he may not have poisoned Joffrey himself, he wishes he had. He wishes he could poison all of King’s Landing, he wishes he had let them all die at Blackwater, and his only regret, it seems, is actually being a decent man. Dinklage is phenomenal in this scene, howling and spitting like an angry dog, having finally hit his limit with both his family and his place in it. In the very last beat of the scene, recognizing that justice will not be served and refusing to pay for someone else’s crime, he demands a trial by combat, which worked out for him the last time he was wrongfully accused (at the Eyrie).
So, next week is shaping up to be a doozy. Will Jaime fight on Tyrion’s behalf and really piss off his family? (Maybe.) Will the show kill off Tyrion, easily its most popular character? (Nope. It will not.) Will I make more Sound of Music references? (There are 2 in this recap.) See you next week, when The Worst Trial Since George Zimmerman But For The Opposite Reason continues.