The trial of Tyrion Lannister is among the highest high points in A Storm of Swords, and of Games of Thrones’ fourth season. “The Laws of Gods and Men” shifts total focus to the trial after a few scenes that touch base with Stannis and the Iron Bank, with Dany and her new-found Queendom in Meeree, with Ramsey and his nonsense in the North, with Yara who wants to end that nonsense in the North, with a Varys and Oberyn exchanging pleasantries about false assumptions and true intentions, and with another scene, preceding the trial and the Oberyn/Varys scene, involving the small council, in which Dany’s portrayed as a viable threat to King’s Landing. Stannis, too, though he lacks the eloquence of nearly every character in King’s Landing, seems more dangerous after Davos makes his speech to the Iron Bank about the benefits of financially supporting the true king of the Seven Kingdoms, of all of Westeros.
Of course, Tyrion’s trial takes precedent over the other vignettes strewn about the episode like decorative things adorning a home for a children’s birthday party or communion party or any type of party. Jaime dismisses the trial as a farce to his father during a recess period, as Tywin enjoys a basket of fresh fruits which he eats virgorously, while listening to his son swear an oath Tywin asked him to swear to earlier in the season. The trial is a farce. The judges are Prince Oberyn, Tywin Lannister, and Mace Tyrell. Mace, the patriarch of the Tyrell family, exudes as much power and authority as Ser Pounce. Mace exudes the qualities that a governing body politic values in an ally. He doesn’t question the Lannisters. He reacts to the testimony against Tyrion with outraged, moral indignation, while unaware that Olenna had a vital role in the poisoning of ‘the most noble child of the gods’ or whatever the hell title Pycell gave Joffrey while venerating him and desecrating the image and reputation of the only consistently true and good Lannister.
Tywin Lannister fathered Tyrion, but yet oversees the trial. Tywin blamed Tyrion for his wife’s death. Tywin dismissed his son as monstrous after his wife died during the birth of him. Tyrion was more of a problem than problem-solver, an unwelcomed bother in his life. Jaime tells his father the trial’s a farce not because his father presides as judge and jury over Tyrion but because Cersei manipulated the proceedings. Cersei, who only wants someone’s blood as payment for her son’s death, orchestrated every testimony, and will thus manipulate the trial and orchestrate damning testimony to receive that blood payment. Tywin plays a game of his own throughout the trial. Jaime’s oath falls into his lap: Jaime will remove himself to Casterly Rock, marry a woman, and rule—in exchange for Tyrion’s life. Jaime’s offer seems a pleasant surprise to Tywin. Perched in the throne, Tywin looks content to give King’s Landing the justice of executing the king slayer. The role of judge and jury in his son’s trial is treated as merely a role for him. An old line in an old play—‘the play is the thing wherein we catch the king’—is reversed in Game of Thrones. The trial is a play, a thing, to catch the false king slayer. The small council play their roles assigned them by Cersei, the famous director, her previous show the acclaimed Marriage to Robert Baratheon. Hamlet works to catch the king caught in a moment of shock when he sees his act of murder committed in front of his eyes, in the comfort of the theater. Cersei works to catch Tyrion not in a re-creation of a real event but in the manipulation of old threats, past actions, etc., that’ll create a pattern of behavior that ended in the death of the noblest king to ever rule in Westeros. Pycelle accused Tyrion of stealing poisons after Tyrion locked him in the dungeon. Cersei recalls the time Tyrion promised her all she valued and loved would turn to ash. And so on.
The worst affront to Tyrion during the farcical trial is Shae’s surprised involvement. Bronn never got her to the ship that’d take her to Braavos, or he took more money in exchange for Shae. Shae stands against Tyrion, turning their genuine love and companionship against him to show the judges that he meticulously planned the murder of Joffrey. Tywin sits in the throne with a wry smirk on his face. Cersei stares stone-faced at no one in particular. Tyrion doesn’t look at Shae. Peter Dinklage conveys the bitterness of Shae’s betrayal to Tyrion’s system. He winces as if someone’s kicking him repeatedly. He shuts his eyes, as if to will away what’s happening. Shae’s testimony breaks him. He doesn’t reach the point of asking for mercy after the guilty plea. Tyrion turns to the people of King’s Landing, the city he saved during the battle of the Blackwater, who turned on him after his arrest at the wedding. Tyrion launches into a brilliant little monologue about what he’s guilty of and what he’s not guilty of. Of which he’s guilty for his is unavoidable fate, being born a dwarf into a family he’d rather see overthrown by King Stannis, and so he decides he wants a trial by combat, because a fair trial’s impossible to have. Jaime spent time this season practicing with Bronn, but he won’t be the champion for Tyrion. No. Tyrion said he used books to sharpen his greatest weapon: his speech. His eloquence of speech likely seals his death. Tonight’s portion of the trial doesn’t reach the highest heights of the trial. Oh no.
-The first 10-15 minutes were departures from the books. I can’t recall Stannis heading to the Iron Bank at all; perhaps my memory is foggy. Yara made her first appearance since the final and failed to bring her brother back to the iron islands. Theon moves away from her, repeating that he’s Reek. Ramsey rewards him for his loyalty by bathing him and then assigning him the role of Theon Greyjoy for the castle Snow needs to take.
-Dany meeting with the supplicants of Meereen is wonderful in the books and in the series. Emilia Clarke conveyed Dany’s emotions after meeting with two of the Meereenese with nuanced subtlety. She looks near tears when listening to Laraq about his father’s crucified body decaying in the sun and, previous to that, deeply remorseful to the goat herder whose goats were burned to death by Drogon. With the former supplicant, she weighs what’s right compared to what was done with the children crucified. Besides Tyrion’s trial, Dany’s one scene was the most engaging of the episode.
-Bryan Cogman wrote the episode. Alik Zakharov directed.