What an episode! Let’s get straight into it. Spoilers everywhere – please watch the episode before reading this!
Just last week I was complaining about the title sequence not updating, and this week we got to see Braavos!! I freaked out. Loved the animation, particularly the coins rolling around (hint hint – Iron Bank) and the way it all popped up to look like that old-school boardgame called Mouse Trap. And the big Titan of Braavos is amazing as well. Seeing Winterfell all burning and sad is just salt in the wound at this point. Still no Eyrie, however!
Alik Sakharov is the director this episode, and he’s been responsible for a number of other great episodes in the past, such as ‘What Is Dead May Never Die’ from season two, and ‘The Climb’ from season three. The episode was also written by Bryan Cogman, whose dialogue is always pretty excellent.
Firstly, we see Stannis Baratheon, the one true heir to the Iron Throne, and Ser Davos Seaworth as they sail in to Braavos. The camera pans up to see the amazing design of Braavos – not only the huge Titan of Braavos, a huge statue of a man that guards the city, but also the layout of the city in the form of many islands and canals. Braavos looks so beautiful, and is unlike any other city we’ve seen in the series. Stannis and Davos make their way to the Iron Bank, which also looks absolutely beautiful, and which all the characters have been hinting at being really important for a long time. Stannis is pretty funny when he’s impatient, as he’s been waiting for the Iron Bank representatives for too long, considering his royal status.
Stannis is at the Iron Bank to plead his case and gain some financial resources to continue pursuing his claim to the Iron Throne. He informs the representatives that King Tommen is a bastard born of incest who does not have the right to the throne. Unfortunately the guy at the Iron Bank isn’t having it, preferring instead to rely on objective statistics that show that Stannis is not a wise investment – less ships, less food, less soldiers. The Iron Bank makes it clear that they prefer to think in terms of numbers, as they’re easier to interpret in a concrete manner, and the current occupant of the throne is a safer investment than he.
However, Davos steps up to the plate as Stannis’ ultimate bro, revealing his chopped fingers as evidence of Stannis’ dependability. He informs the Iron Bank that the Lannister’s power is dependent on their patriarch Tywin, who is surprisingly old, and doesn’t have an equal in terms of power within his family. Who will be in charge when he dies – juvenile Tommen, hated Cersei, or kingslayer Jaime? In comparison to them, Stannis is the much safer bet. After all, he’s the only reliable leader left – for reasons of his birthright, his prime age, his battle experience, and his commitment to action. Regardless of numbers, Stannis is the only one the Bank can properly trust. Davos is killing it, and is very convincing.
Davos then meets with the funny pirate Salladhor Saan, who, though a scene with lots of boobs for the nudity-deprived audience, agrees to join them on their quest for the throne.
A random point: I really love the music associated with Stannis in the show. So good.
Then we finally get to see what those Greyjoys are up to! Yara, one of my favourites, is sailing to the Dreadfort to rescue her brother Theon from the clutches of the Boltons. Her voyage to the Dreadfort is intercut with Ramsay Snow having a great time with his girlfriend, and her reading the threatening letter that Ramsay sent to the Greyjoys last season. The score in this scene sounds a bit like Inception again. Yara and her Ironborn soldiers storm the Dreadfort looking for Theon. He’s in the dungeons, sleeping with the dogs.
I have to repeat myself here – Alfie Allen is simply amazing as Theon/Reek. The pure fear on his face is pretty horrible to see. Yara looks disgusted to see her princely brother sleeping with the dogs, looking a complete nervous wreck and telling her she’s trying to trick him into escaping. Ramsay has tested him before, and he knows not to go along with it. He’s been conditioned to want to stay, regardless of how Ramsay treats him. Theon/Reek bites Yara’s hand when she tries to take him away, and retreats to his cage.
Ramsay arrives, shirtless, and Yara and the Ironborn have a big fight with his soldiers. However, they are bested, and Ramsay sets his vicious dogs on them, causing them to retreat. Yara abandons Theon, saying that her brother is dead. She’s not leaving Theon behind – she’s leaving the shell of a human being behind that was once her brother.
The next day, Ramsay rewards Theon/Reek for his loyalty. Reek is scared and expect pain when Ramsay offers him a bath. The shotting of this scene is genius, giving the bath such a threatening quality. It looks like too good of a present, as if Ramsay might have put metal spikes in the bottom of it, or something else just as horrible. As a viewer of the show (and a reader of the books), I’ve learned not to trust Ramsay just as Theon/Reek has learned not to trust him. Theon/Reek takes off his clothes and Ramsay smiles at the extent of the physical damage he’s caused – massive scarring all over his body, a chopped off nipple, as well as his castrated genitals, an image which is thankfully out of frame.
Ramsay takes a cloth and bathes Theon/Reek with a careful tenderness that literally no one expected. He informs Theon/Reek that there’s a particular castle that he wants to conquer, and he needs his help. Ramsay proposes that Reek should pretend to be one Theon Greyjoy in order to take the castle back. At this point Theon has fully transformed into the pitiful Reek, so these mindgames are probably too much for him, as he’s completely forgotten what it’s like to be Theon, judging by his response to Yara.
Meanwhile, in Meereen there is some dragon drama happening as Daenerys’ largest and fiercest dragon attacks a goatherd’s flock. The image of this giant dragon rising up above the humans was pretty frightening, but I would have loved to see more of it!
We get a nice establishing shot of Meereen that shows some interesting parts of the city – gold-topped temples, smaller pyramids, some strange colosseum-type structures, and a long aqueduct that snakes through the city. Then we see Daenerys taking an audience in her royal chamber. It’s interesting that she’s taken a lot of titles in her journey, which are stated before her meetings to give extra weight to whatever judgement she bestows upon her supplicants. A man approaches her, showing some burnt goat bones, telling her that since her dragon burnt his flock, he has nothing. Daenerys mercifully offers to repay him thrice the value of his loss, and she seems pleased with her own benevolence as ruler of Meereen.
Then, one Hizdahr zo Loraq enters the royal chamber. The son of one of the masters of the city whom Daenerys crucified, he informs her that his father wanted nothing to do with the crucifixion of the children that she witnessed, and yet he was executed anyway. Daenerys attempts to defend herself, but it’s clear that she made a massive error in executing an innocent, lumping him in with the rest. Hizdahr admits that what’s done is done, but he wants to observe the funeral rites of his people and give his father a dignified funeral as per their religious beliefs. He wants to see this aspect of Meereenese culture maintained, regardless of whether the masters were guilty or not. Daenerys, visibly overcome by emotion, allows Hizdahr to give his father a proper funeral and to remove his rotting corpse from public display. Daenerys did not consider the cultural heritage of the land that she overtook, simply viewing the masters as slaver savages and child-killers. Now she’s seeing an alternative perspective of the conflict that she began, and she is clearly shaken by her own actions. Being queen is tough, and she has 212 more supplicants waiting to take audience with her.
Yet again I was struck by how masterful the language creation is in this show. The guy in charge of this is a genius, and here’s a pretty interesting article about him if you want to know more about the languages in the show!
Back in King’s Landing, the Small Council only has the morning to discuss matters of state as Tyrion’s trial is scheduled for later that day. Tywin, Cersei, Varys, Maester Pycelle, Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martell discuss the matter of Sandor Clegane (the Hound) in the Riverlands, and the threat of Daenerys in Meereen. Their discussion of Daenerys reminds the viewers that Ser Jorah Mormont (Lord Commander Friendzone) was informing on Daenerys back in season one, and was involved in a plot to kill her by the then-King Robert Baratheon, which he eventually chose not to partake in. They also remind us that Ser Barristan Selmy, Daenerys’ other trusted Westerosi advisor, was sent away by Joffrey in season one. They agree that Daenerys must be dealt with, and Varys agrees to send spies over to Meereen to watch her activities there.
There is an interesting dynamic between Oberyn Martell and Mace Tyrell. Mace is clearly intimidated by Oberyn’s presence on the Council, seeking favour with Tywin. Then Oberyn and Varys have a nice scene, discussing what else but power, their personal history, and the Iron Throne. This was a nice scene that served the purpose of fleshing out both characters a little bit more. Varys always gets good dialogue.
Next, Tyrion’s trial begins as he is humiliatingly brought down to the throne room in chains. The young King Tommen recuses himself from judging at the trial, nominating Tywin, Oberyn Martell and Mace Tyrell as judges instead. Tywin informs Tyrion that he stands accused of regicide, and asks if Tyrion killed Joffrey. He says no, and that they should blame the pie that Joffrey choked on; either the bakers, or the pigeons within. Despite the joking around, this is a pretty tense scene. It is clear that Tyrion is trying to make his way out of the situation through humour, which usually works for him. But that’s not good enough for Tywin, as the evidence is built up against Tyrion in a completely imbalanced fashion.
Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard says that Tyrion called Joffrey names, but neglects to tell everyone that he did so as Joffrey was torturing Sansa. Pycelle says that someone has plundered his poison stores whilst he was stuck in the dungeons and it must have been Tyrion, without any real evidence for saying so. He also says the poison that killed Joffrey was called “The Strangler”, recalling the vision of Joffrey’s terrible face as he choked to death. He also shows Sansa’s necklace that was found on Ser Dontos’ dead body, and says that the poison came from one of the jewels on it – thereby definitively implicating Sansa in Joffrey’s death. Cersei closes her eyes when hearing that Sansa was involved, and her face is one of pure, yet repressed, rage.
Then, Cersei gives evidence of the mean things Tyrion has said to her about Joffrey, and tells lies about Joffrey’s so-called bravery at the Battle of the Blackwater. She also tells everyone that Tyrion was keeping whores in the Tower of the Hand, cementing him in the eyes of the judges and the general public as a lecherous and deviant monster. Then, as if to put the final nail in the coffin, Varys gives evidence and says that Tyrion became sympathetic to the Northern cause after marrying Sansa. Tyrion attempts to get Varys on his side but it goes nowhere. Things are not looking good for him.
A scene between Jaime and Tywin establishes exactly what’s going on in Tywin’s mind during these proceedings. Jaime believes the trial is a complete farce, and that Cersei has manipulated everyone into seeing the events from her perspective, irrationally targeting her brother. There is a clear clash of ideals as Jaime and Tywin discuss the murder of Tyrion the innocent versus the justice for Tyrion the guilty. Jaime raises the question – what happens to the Lannister dynasty when Tyrion dies? He attempts to bribe Tywin and says that he will leave the Kingsguard and further the Lannister name if Tywin finds Tyrion innocent. However, Tywin is as always one step ahead. His plan is to find Tyrion guilty, and then show him mercy, allowing him to live out the remainder of his days as a Nights Watchmen at the Wall. Tywin says that when this happens, Jaime will marry a suitable woman, go to live at Casterly Rock and father more Lannisters to continue their dynasty. Does Jaime agree? He gives his word, but we all know how much that’s worth.
Back at the trial, Jaime lets Tyrion know about Tywin’s plans. Cersei sees Jaime talking to Tyrion and the look on her face is priceless, clenching her fists. Then there are some amazing reaction shots as Tyrion sees Cersei and Tywin looking at Jaime with strange looks on their faces. Is Jaime lying, is he being set up? What really is the worth of the word of a kingslayer and a kinslayer?
Another witness is called to the stand – Shae. Tyrion is visibly shocked as Shae walks forth, and this is heartbreaking. Shae says that Tyrion is guilty and that he and Sansa planned Joffrey’s death together. Sibel Kekilli’s acting is not very good but it comes off as Shae being fed and regurgitating a story that someone has given her to say, which works out well. Tyrion drops down into his stand in disbelief that Shae would lie about him. Shae says that Sansa wanted revenge for the deaths of her father, brother and mother, and that Tyrion was happy to help.
Then Shae does the worst thing ever, openly discussing her sexual relationship with Tyrion to the amazement and disgust of the public gallery. Not only was she Sansa’s handmaid, she was Tyrion’s whore. The details she discusses are humiliating for Tyrion, and this is framed in the context of Shae being a jilted lover as she tells him – “I am a whore, remember?”. She comes across as a heartbroken woman getting her revenge against an ex-lover, but her testimony could have dire consequences for Tyrion. Cersei’s face during this scene is amazing as she realises that this is the final piece of damning evidence needed to get rid of Tyrion once and for all.
However, Tyrion refuses to let these people lie about him. Disregarding Jaime’s advice, he stands up and starts confessing to Tywin to stop Shae from talking and hurting him further. He tells the public gallery that he saved all of their lives during the Battle of the Blackwater with his tactics involving the wildfire, and that he should have let Stannis kill them instead. He turns himself into a monster for the benefit of the gallery. He says he’s guilty, but not of killing Joffrey – he’s guilty of being a dwarf, and he has been on trial for it his entire life. Then Tyrion gives a powerful monologue as he says he wishes everyone of the gallery were poisoned and that he would love to see that happen. He says he’s aware that he won’t get justice in this trial, and that he won’t give his life for Joffrey’s murder. He then says he will let the gods decide his fate, and requests a trial by combat. The court erupts.
During this moment there were more amazing reaction shots from the court – Margaery’s shock, Shae’s shock, Oberyn’s look of intrigue, Jaime’s heartbreak as his brother goes against his wishes, Cersei’s disgust at her manipulations going awry, and Tywin’s look of absolute fury – not to mention Tyrion’s determined face before the credits roll to what else but the Rains of Castamere. BOOM.
When Tyrion said that he wanted a trial by combat, I actually jumped up from the couch and danced around. That’s what happens in my house on Game of Thrones night. There was a bit of scene chewing by Peter Dinklage here but it made Tyrion look like a complete monster, which definitely worked in this scene.
In this episode we missed out on seeing a lot of other characters, but I believe the episode benefited from a more simplified approach that focused on less characters. However, never fear – it looks like in the next episode, we’ll see more of them. Here’s the trailer. It looks like we’ll see some more Tyrion and Jaime shenanigans, some more murder with the Mountain who we haven’t seen for a while, some Daenerys and Daario drama, Arya and the Hound having another argument, Melisandre and Selyse Baratheon shenanigans, and some more of Sansa and Littlefinger at the Eyrie – with some threatening, crazy Lysa thrown in for extra fun. Cannot wait!
Episode rating: 4.5/5