Whew, things are moving along…
I was so excited to see this in the title sequence.
I also loved seeing Mycroft Holmes (AKA Mark Gatiss) as one of the Iron Bankers. They weren’t particularly happy to see Stannis, though, nor he them. Stannis is a man who values his honour above all else; they have other priorities:
Your books are filled with words: “usurper,” “kingslayer,” “blood right.” Here, our books are filled with numbers. We prefer the stories they tell… less open to interpretation.
But once again, Davos saves the day. Tywin’s not getting any younger, he points out, and his potential successors — Tommen, Cersei, Jaime — are all bad bets. Stannis is the best bet there is, he tells them, brandishing the remains of his fingers:
He doesn’t just talk about paying people back — he does it!
We end our visit to Braavos in the bathhouse, where Davos once again gets Salladhor Saan on his side with a case or two of Iron Bank coins. So what exactly is Stannis going to do with the Iron Bank’s money? And where is Melisandre?
Further east, Dany‘s given her dragons free rein, and they proceed to snack on goats. But Dany’s feeling magnanimous, and she promises to pay the owner the value of the goat threefold.
The goatherd is suitably grateful, and she’s delighted with herself, but her flush of success at queening loses its lustre with the next visitor, a Meereenese noble called Hizdahr zo Loraq. Let’s all take a moment to wince again at Dany putting her beautiful foot right in it when Hizdahr mentions his father:
Dany: I would be honoured to meet him too.
Hizdahr: You have, your Grace. You crucified him.
The “justice” that Barristan counselled her against has come back to bite her. Dany allows Hizdahr to bury his father, but the day-to-day royal business of responding to petitions has lost its appeal — especially with 212 more people waiting for her.
Is it just me, or was there a better solution to this dilemma: the crucified Masters get a proper burial, but so do the slaves. C’mon, somebody make me queen of a city in Essos so I can get really good at queening.
The Dreadfort (I think?)
Despite setting off at the end of last season, Yara has only just arrived at her destination, with her men fired up and ready to fight as much as she is.
She was expecting a fight — but she wasn’t expecting the mutilation of Theon‘s mind as well as his body. He refuses answer to his name, to recognise her or go with her, even biting her hand when she tries to drag him from his cage. Ramsay releases the dogs, Yara escapes, and Reek is rewarded for his loyalty with a bath.
I like that we got a tiny taste of the psychological terror Ramsay has inflicted on Theon with the slow pace of the bath scene: undressing, we see Reek’s hesitation to show his mutilated genitals (what a contrast from the Theon from the first season in his scenes with Ros); we wince when Ramsay touches him; every second we’re expecting more pain. But Ramsay has an important assignment for Reek, one that his loyalty has earned him:
Pretend to be someone you’re not: Theon Greyjoy.
The one silly note for me was the juxtaposition of Yara’s attack with Ramsay and Melynda having sex. What did the sex scene do, really, apart from give Ramsay a reason to fight topless? A lazy note in an otherwise cracking episode.
We kick off in the Small Council meeting with two new faces at the table: Oberyn and Mace Tyrell (Master of Ships, and also Tywin’s paperboy). The Hound’s progress through the Riverlands has been noted, and a bounty is offered for his head (100 silver dragons? One guy was willing to kill him over some chickens!), but luckily or not, no report of his companion Arya has reached them. Dany’s progress through Essos is looming larger in their deliberations, too: Cersei wants to be reassured that she is no threat, but Tywin refuses and moreover castigates her for firing Barristan in the way she did. Note also that Jorah had been spying for Varys (as noted in Season Two and earlier) but not any more… when did he stop? Dany is now a genuine threat, as Robert recognised back in Season One; and now Tywin wants to send a message through Varys’s spies in Meereen. What’s the going price for the head of the last Targaryen?
Finally, then, it’s time for the trial, and the witnesses line up: Merryn Trant, Pycelle, Cersei, and Varys, each spouting a carefully-put-together mix of truth and outright lies that only Oberyn seems interested in deconstructing (as he’s interested in what’s behind Varys’s carefully-polished non-Lyseni accent). Jaime rails against his father for the “farce” of a trial: the system has always worked for the golden boy, but it’s not working here, and he offers what his father wants — his resignation from the Kingsguard — in return for Tyrion’s life. But the speed at which Tywin acquiesces to Jaime’s proposal makes Jaime realise this was Tywin’s plan all along and he’s capitulated for nothing.
But just as it seems that Tyrion may survive this “farce,” Shae appears to testify against him, and Tyrion loses his composure:
I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime — I’m guilty of being a dwarf…Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores.
For once, he won’t give his father the satisfaction of having everything his own way: he won’t go quietly to the Wall (a pity, as I think Jon could’ve used an ally). But last time he demanded trial by combat, he had Bronn: now that Shae is still in Westeros it’s likely Bronn has betrayed him, too — who will fight for him now?
And who will fight for the crown? Could Jaime do it — and for which sibling? And now that Jaime’s deal is off the table, will Tywin step in to save the Lannister name? Over on io9, Charlie Jane Anders makes a convincing case for why Tyrion, in his own way, is just as bad a player at the Game as Ned was. He trusted Varys as Ned trusted Littlefinger, despite being warned repeatedly not to.
I loved as well how events in this episode didn’t hop from place to place, giving us the treat of that nice, long juicy buildup to the trial. Also, hey, Varys is asexual! Here’s what we can look forward to next week:
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