12
May
2014
Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 6
The Laws of Gods and Men
Adam O'Brien


Wow. What an episode. Game of Thrones stumbles from time to time, but when they do things right, they really do things right. A thematically tight episode. Often there will be a dozen characters who each get their four minutes of screen time, often not consecutive, but tonight each story got it’s little block of time, with Tyrion’s trial taking up almost half the episode. I liked it. I’m all for juggling as many plot threads as needed to adequately tell a story, but it feels a little schizophrenic at times.

Davos finally grows a spine this week. It was pretty amazing to see him enumerating all the reasons the Lannister administration is on the verge of collapse, and how Stannis is not only the rightful king, but the only suitable one. And all this to men so powerful that Tywin Lannister himself is at their mercy to fund his wars. Stannis has such a priceless look on his face to see his quiet, deferential servant speak so passionately and eloquently on his behalf. It’s not an easy thing to make me like a character more on screen than I ever did in the book, but Liam Cunningham did it.

Even more surprised was I at Emilia Clarke, who emotes for the first time since the first season. She so convincingly plays the stern ruler who discovers that she is fallible, capable of mistakes. Coming on the heels of Davos’s plea to the Iron Bank of Braavos, the scene makes it apparent that, perhaps even more than Stannis, Daenerys would be a good queen for Westeros, and has just as valid a claim.

Normally, these two very well –executed scenes would be all I ask for in an episode, but then Peter Dinklage brought the house down. Tyrion watches the last few friends he has in this world abandon him: Varys, with whom there has always been considerable mutual respect, Jaime, whose dedication to his brother Tyrion is starting to doubt, and even Shae, the closest person Tyrion has come to loving since his first wife, Tysha (who, as it turned out, was actually another whore Jaime had paid). As Tyrion called out these high society liars and hypocrites, I found myself standing up in front of my TV by the end of the episode, enraptured by every word.

I have to marvel at how well so many of the actors on this show are suited to their characters. I remember reading in an interview with George R.R. Martin that when he was meeting with the creators to discuss the possibility of A Song of Ice and Fire becoming a cable television series, they realized how crucial getting the right actors would be. There were only two actors George had long since mentally cast: Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. To be sure, although Eddard Stark never had the kind of exciting speeches that are endlessly quoted on social media, he carried himself so well, with that scowl that belied his endless love for his family, that he was just so very right for the part. Peter Dinklage, though…

There’s something about the way he plays Tyrion that makes your heart go out to him. It may be that he’s not acting like he’s a dwarf, imagining a lifetime of mockery. It’s not even that he’s an author who spent a great amount of time and energy getting into this dwarf’s head. Peter Dinklage has been playing the role of the dwarf his whole life, because that’s who he is. You’ll read interviews with Dinklage, and you’ll hear him tell how he had the choice between making a decent living being the dancing leprechaun in commercials, or refusing to take those demeaning roles and barely scraping by in Brooklyn. The result is a career of roles that he’s proud of, roles that don’t ignore his height, but also don’t let it become the only defining trait of the character. I’m so glad Peter and Tyrion found each other, because I have never in my life seen an actor meant to portray a character like this.

I was worried before. Seasons 3 and 4 have roughly corresponded to the third book in the series, which has the highest density of my favorite chapters of all the books. At times it feels like the show just won’t do it justice, that the pathos of these very broken, tragic characters will be lost in the shuffle of awkward screenwriting, poor acting choices, and producers vying for mass appeal in a visual medium. Episodes like tonight’s set my mind very much at ease.

Grade: A

Other Thoughts:

-I know I’ve been largely ignoring the Theon stuff, but really it feels like filler. Not one thing was different at the end of the episode than before Yara mounted a rescue mission.

-Tyrion’s outburst always makes me think of this scene .

-Jaime being fully prepared to lay everything down for Tyrion really has to warm your heart. Is it really simple brotherly love, or does Jaime have other reasons he’s so keen to vindicate himself to his brother?

-I really liked the effect the Iron Bank scene had in the way of perspective. It’s easy to see Tywin and the other high lords as gods of this little medieval world, but this reminds us that our story takes place in one country in the far west of the known world, and there are other great political, military, and economic powers that have considerable implications.

-I can’t figure out what might have scared Shae to spouting such lies so convincingly, but I’m interested to find out.

-Varys is one of the most consistently mysterious characters in a show full of shady, shady people. I just can’t get a read on who, what, or why he is. In that way he reminds me a lot of Noah Bennet from Heroes.

-How much of Varys’s day is spent hanging out in the throne room, waiting for someone to chew the scenery with?

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