Monday, February 27, 2017

Game of Thrones Rewatch 4.8: "The Mountain and the Viper"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.
 


4.8 “The Mountain and the Viper”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alex Graves

There’s a lot of really weird stuff going on in this episode, so let’s get right to it.

We open on Mole’s Town, and it took me a couple of minutes to figure out that’s where we were, because the whole thing is above ground. It looks like any other dirty little village that passes for not-King’s-Landing in this version of Westeros—mud streets, rotting thatch, and it’s so danged dark it’s hard to see anything. They had a really great opportunity to do something different here, given that in the books there’s maybe one or two structures above ground and the entire rest of the town is subterranean to protect from the cold. That’s why it’s called Mole’s Town. But I guess since it’s not someplace cool, important, or exotic like King’s Landing or Meereen, it didn’t deserve any special architecture.

One of the prostitutes demonstrates the difference between city whores and country whores by belching a tune and having the men guess what it is. Then she heads into a back room and yells at Gilly, who’s doing the laundry, about baby Sam crying all night and waking her up, then we get a bit of racism before Gilly recognizes a hooting noise and realized they’re about to get raided. Everybody dies except Gilly and baby Sam because Ygritte lets them live and gives Gilly the stay-still-and-be-quiet signal.


Of course, the Night’s Watch finds out about this, and of course Sam thinks Gilly’s dead, and he takes the opportunity to whine about how badly he messed up sending her away and how she’s probably dead and oh woe is me. Pyp tries to convince him that Gilly’s resilient and even Edd tells him that Gilly survived way worse than a raid on Mole’s Town.  Jon turns the discussion to defending Castle Black, since obviously they’re next, and Edd (back to his usual Dolorous self) says whoever’s the last to die needs to burn everyone else’s bodies. That’s the setup for the enormous fight next episode.


Over in Meereen, Missandei is bathing and notices Grey Worm noticing her, and everything is super weird and awkward. Missandei tells Daenerys about it, and Dany is the worst at girl talk, telling Missandei it can’t really matter that Grey Worm saw her naked, right, because the Unsullied aren’t interested in girls. As if whether Grey Worm is physically attracted to Missandei makes any difference in the fact that he was creepily staring at her while she’s naked and she clearly felt violated by the whole incident. This leads to Dany wondering just how much of his bits Grey Worm is missing, which makes everything even more awkward. I wonder what Benioff and Weiss were trying to do with this scene; was it just to show that Missandei trusts Dany enough to bring something like this to her? To try to have some rapport between two women (since there’s pretty much none anywhere else in the show)? Is it supposed to show how bad Dany is at relating to other women, and if so, is it because she’s a leader and therefore more masculine than feminine (because lord knows their characters can’t have layers)? Or do they honestly think this is how women talk to each other? You know what might have helped? Having a woman in the writer’s room. Just sayin’.


The subsequent meeting between Missandei and Grey Worm is even weirder; he apologizes for looking at her and doesn’t want to lose her friendship over this incident, because their lessons (she’s teaching him Westerosi) and her friendship are important to him. She tries to discuss his life before becoming an Unsullied, but he claims not to remember it and not to regret being enslaved because it all led up to Dany freeing him and him meeting Missandei. Before he leaves, she says he’s glad he saw her, and he says he is to, and I’m just super confused about this whole relationship. I like that they have one; they’re both such damaged characters who are really two-dimensional in the books, and expanding and exploring their histories and interactions is a nice touch. But did we have to turn it sexual (or sexual-ish)? Couldn’t they just be good friends?

Later, Tywin’s plot from last episode is revealed; he’s sent proof of Jorah’s spying to Barristan in order to disrupt Dany’s support structure. Jorah tries to tell her that that’s Tywin’s whole plan and she shouldn’t give him what he wants, but Dany’s a bit caught up with the fact that the attempted poisoning was all his fault, because he’s the one who sent the information to Robert that she was pregnant. She tells him to get out, he continues to try to talk her out of it, and she tells him to get. Out.


Meanwhile, the Boltons are using Theon to take Moat Cailin, not by swapping him like Roose had planned before Ramsay messed him up real good, but by getting him to convince the remaining Ironborn to come out and surrender. At which point they’re hung on crosses and flayed because who needs honor? This whole thing might actually have been a major mistake on the Boltons’ part, though, because even pretending to be Theon for a bit might have been what helped lay the foundation for “Reek” to turn back into “Theon” and rescue himself.


Also, as much as I generally hate the way the show has treated Theon’s storyline (and will hate it even more later—just wait), Alfie Allen has handled the portrayal of barely-hanging-on with some serious mastery. He’s really great at this and deserves some props.

After the retaking of Moat Cailin goes without a hiccup, Roose hands Ramsay a writ of legitimization, which is his second mistake, as we’ll see later. They also shift their seat of power from the Dreadfort to Winterfell, where they head at the end of this scene.


Petyr and Sansa have to deal with the fallout (heh) of Lysa’s death, the treatment of which shoves Sansa’s story further away from the book story. First of all, they took Marillion out of the Eyrie story way back in season one, so he’s not an available scapegoat. Then, Sansa tearfully admits to her real identity and supports Petyr’s story to the skeptical lords (and lady) of the Vale. Her sob story is so convincing that Lady Waynwood gives her a hug, and Sansa and Petyr exchange looks over her shoulder. With the lords convinced of Lysa’s insanity leading to suicide, they discuss what to do with Robin in a lead-up to joining in the war.

Later, Petyr comes to see Sansa in her room and asks why she helped him; this would have been a good time to strike out on her own, after all. He doesn’t trust her motives or her ability to play the game, but she knows that he’d never turn on her because of this Tully-fixation he has. They exchange super-creepy looks and she goes back to sewing. Later, when they take Robin out of the Eyrie and down into the Vale, she comes out in the results of that sewing—a slinky black dress with weird feathery things on the shoulders cut down to here and a collar-and-chain necklace and a smug, come-hither look at Petyr who’s drooling all over himself and I can’t even you guys. There’s just so much wrong with this.


First of all, Sansa is fourteen. Maybe fifteen, but barely. Petyr’s well into his thirties, possibly pushing forty, and his fixation with her is already super gross without her weird sudden discovery of the power of sexuality. Sexual manipulation goes against everything she believes in the books; it’s one of Cersei’s tools, and Sansa explicitly does not want to be Cersei. Instead of making her into Cersei’s opposite, Benioff and Weiss have turned her into a baby Cersei and sexualized a child. And don’t give me that guff about medieval sexual mores and no such thing as childhood and blah blah, because history doesn’t support it and this isn’t the Middle Ages, this is a contemporary show with a pre-industrial setting that bears some resemblance to the Middle Ages and Sansa is a child. Sophie Turner might be in her twenties, but Sansa is a child.

Also, there’s the whole extra-textual discussion of the costume and how it was developed; in Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons Three and Four, costume designer Michelle Clapton says that Benioff and Weiss “wanted Sansa to be her own woman rather than this victim,” and that “after this, she doesn’t really want to sew anymore” and that somehow that necklace is meant to echo Arya’s sword Needle and it’s her weapon, and none of that makes any gorram sense, so let’s try to break it down.

They “wanted Sansa to be her own woman rather than this victim”: okay, it’s phrased really badly (somehow a woman who’s been the victim of the kind of abuse Sansa’s endured isn’t “her own” anymore?), but it seems that they wanted Sansa to take control of her own life rather than being pushed around by the abusive people who have had her in their clutches since season one. Fair. But in order to do that, she has to use her sexual wiles on yet another predatory man who’s only using her to get what he wants? And sure, if he gets what he wants, she could be queen, but that doesn’t make him any less of a creepy, predatory, ultimately abusive, practically pedophile. And we’re supposed to celebrate her choosing to put herself at the mercy of this man? Somehow this makes her “her own woman”?


“After this, she doesn’t really want to sew anymore”: This is pretty much right in line with Benioff and Weiss’ disdain for traditionally female tasks and the ways that the women in A Song of Ice and Fire use them to gain or maintain power. They completely miss the whole point of the political power that can be gained by dancing, the arts, courtesy, and even sewing, so of course when they want to show that Sansa’s growing up and becoming a power-player, she has to give up traditionally female pastimes. Instead, she’s got to learn to gain and wield power in one of the two ways women are allowed to in this version of Westeros: through sex or violence. Right now, there’s nobody to be violent against, so sex it is. Did I mention gross?

Finally there’s the thing about that necklace, which makes the least sense of any of it. It’s “a ring that you stitch through and then that’s her weapon”? Huh? If it was supposed to look like a needle going through a circle in order to represent that she’s using her ability to sew as a weapon, they missed hard. Instead, it looks to me like a collar with a chain coming off, which conjures up all sorts of BDSM stuff as well as slavery and ownership and the connotations are just not good.

Arya and Sansa have a near-miss; Sansa’s preparing to leave the Eyrie just as Arya is finding out that Lysa’s dead, so she doesn’t try to go into the Eyrie. Since nobody outside the Eyrie knows that Sansa is Sansa, they don’t know to tell Arya that she’s there. Arya, presumably overcome by the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation, bursts out laughing, while Sandor looks super cranky.


It’s trial-by-combat time, but first we have to have yet another super weird scene, this one between Jaime and Tyrion. They discuss the possibility of Tyrion’s death, but then come around to a brain-damaged cousin who spent all day crushing beetles with a rock and making a weird noise while doing it. Tyrion tells a whole story about how he used to sit and watch Orson with his rock and the beetles, trying to figure out why he did it. Not only is the story completely pointless, as far as I can tell, it makes me like Tyrion even less because of the way he talks about Orson. He freely admits that mocking Orson made him feel a bit like everyone else, because at least he also had someone to look down on, but he also imitates Orson’s manner of speech and the weird noise he made in a way that seems like it’s supposed to be funny? Instead, it adds to the problem the show has with ableism by mocking yet another disabled person, one who doesn’t have Tyrion’s gift of intelligence and quick-wittedness to defend himself. I understand that this scene is meant to be bonding between Jaime and Tyrion before Tyrion’s final trial. I don’t understand why they talk about this during that time. I don’t understand what the character-building, world-building, or narrative purpose of it is. There’s so many things they just skip over, presumably because they don’t have time, but they can spend several minutes on this? I’m befuddled.


Tyrion’s dragged out into the square, where he berates Oberyn for drinking before a fight and not wearing a helmet. Oberyn is confident that today isn’t the day he dies; Oberyn is sometimes an idiot. The scene progresses more or less like it did in the books, with Oberyn yelling at Gregor to confess to raping and murdering Elia and killing her children, and Gregor getting more and more pissed. Oberyn gets a couple of good stabs in with his poisoned spear, but Gregor ultimately grabs him, pins him down, and crushes his head. What I’ve never understood (even in the books) is that this bout seems to have ended in a draw—it takes longer for Gregor to die, but he does die. He and Oberyn kill each other. So how is Tyrion automatically guilty? It seems like nobody’s claim is upheld here. My guess? Politics. Tywin calls the match for Gregor and sentences Tyrion to death because it’s the most politically expedient thing to do and he hates Tyrion. 


RIP:
Oberyn Martell
Black Jack Bulwer
Kegs
Mully
Mole’s Town residents
Kenning
Adrack Humble
Ironborn reavers

Next week: Mance reaches the Wall.

All images from screencapped.net

Monday, February 20, 2017

Game of Thrones Rewatch 4.7: "Mockingbird"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.
 


4.7 “Mockingbird”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Commentary by Aiden Gillen (Petyr), Kate Dickie (Lysa), Bernadette Caulfield (Executive Producer), and Chris Newman (Producer)

We’ve reached the seriously-ramping-up stage of the season, wherein all the setup starts to snowball toward the big huge shocks of the last two episodes. Once again, there doesn’t seem to be an overarching theme besides “shit is about to hit the fan,” and frankly unless one of the episodes does have one of these themes, I probably won’t even mention it again.

In King’s Landing, stuff’s ramping up for the trial by combat. Jaime spends some time yelling at Tyrion for being so damn impulsive, especially since Jaime can’t be the one to fight for him. Tyrion wonders aloud who Cersei will get to fight for her, which is a really stupid thing to wonder—both at all and now. Sure, Tyrion’s demand for a trial by combat was impulsive rather than calculated (as it was at the Eyrie), but he has to know exactly who Cersei would get.


Cersei finds Gregor Clegane working out or practicing or something by indiscriminately murdering a bunch of people who can barely protect themselves. There’s a lot wrong with this whole scenario, and a lot of it is emblematic of how the show treats the “smallfolk” overall. Martin does a lot of work to show how the non-nobility are disenfranchised during times of war and how they respond to said disenfranchisement. He also shows how much power they actually have over the nobility by sheer force of numbers. The Small Council is constantly worried about how their decisions will look to the smallfolk and how they’ll react. Joffrey is a liability because he has a habit of mocking the starving smallfolk from the battlements, threatening them (on at least one occasion, killing them) with his crossbow, and telling them to eat their own dead. The show cuts the smallfolk out almost entirely, using them only when they’re necessary for specific plot points—the riot in King’s Landing, Margaery visiting the orphans, Cersei’s walk of shame—and ignoring them the rest of the time. In Martin’s Westeros, Clegane just slaughtering random smallfolk as part of his workout regimen—in King’s Landing—would not fly. Especially not with Tywin right there. Out in the Riverlands, he can obviously get away with a lot more because there aren’t any nobles immediately available to a) stop him or b) worry about how his actions will affect their standing with their own smallfolk. Instead, the showrunners decided to show how big, strong, and utterly amoral Clegane is (all of which we already knew) by showing him slaughtering a bunch of random people.


Now, if they’d established that these are prisoners, for example, or that there’s some other reason why nobody would protest this treatment, that would be different. But they don’t, because Benioff and Weiss are really bad at writing politics.

Bronn also comes to visit Tyrion, because Tyrion’s hoping Bronn will step up for him again. Bronn basically laughs in his face and tells him there’s no way Tyrion can outbid a castle and a noble wife (Lollys Stokeworth, who’s apparently important enough to mention twice but not important enough to prevent the near gang-rape of Sansa by actually appearing in the show before now) and he really doesn’t want to die.

By this point, Tyrion’s out of ideas and he’s pretty much given up. Oberyn to the rescue! He saw right through Cersei’s little chat with him about Myrcella, and he shares a story about seeing Tyrion when he was just a baby. Cersei hated him even back then because of the loss of her mother, but Oberyn saw just a baby, not a monster. Oberyn recognizes that Tyrion is just as much a victim of the Lannisters as Elia was, and that he can kill two birds with one spear, as it were, by defending Tyrion. He can kill Gregor, and he can rob Cersei of something she wants desperately. So he offers to fight on Tyrion’s behalf in the trial by combat, and Tyrion breaks down crying in relief.


Out in the Riverlands, Arya and Sandor come upon another casualty of the unchecked chaos happening out here: a man next to an overturned cart, dying. They discuss death, dying, and mercy for a bit before Sandor grants him a quicker death than the one he’s currently suffering. He then turns it into a lesson for Arya—“that’s where the heart is.” Then out of absolutely nowhere, Rorge and Biter show up and Sandor gets bit on the ear. Sandor kills Biter and Arya recognizes Rorge, so Sandor asks if he’s on her little list. She says he can’t be because she never learned his name, so as soon as he tells her, she puts Needle through his heart, just like big brother Sandor taught her. (That might be a bit snarky, but I still absolutely love their relationship.)


At the Wall, Alliser is super mad that Jon made it back to Castle Black and makes him lock up Ghost as punishment for not dying. They also continue to ignore his advice about how to handle Mance’s oncoming army, which of course they do because as far as they’re concerned he’s a) a kid; b) a steward, not a ranger or builder; c) potentially a traitor; and d) super bossy for someone who’s not the boss. Once again, there’s a lot of nuance lost with this whole plotline, discarded instead for Jon Is Right and Everyone Else is Stubborn/Stupid. Because Benioff and Weiss are really bad at writing politics.


Daario continues being his forward self, letting himself into Dany’s room by climbing the pyramid to her window. He brings flowers that he claims he swam to an island a mile offshore to get, and she tells him not to do stupid stuff like that and by the way, these are her private quarters and unless you’re invited, stay out. Daario’s bored; he says he’s good for two things: fighting and women, and he’s not getting either of those here. So she tells him to take off his clothes.

There’s some stuff to unpack with this scene. On the one hand, we finally have a fully-clothed woman watching a man disrobe. On the other hand, Dany is still the object of the viewer’s gaze. The camera watches her looking at him; it doesn’t put the viewer in her place and allow us to see what she sees. Also, we don’t see any more of Daario than we’ve seen of any other naked man on this show. Now, I personally have no burning desire to see Michael Huisman’s bits, but it seems like they’re aiming for female-fan-service and missing because they don’t understand that the way they’ve framed this is still male-gazey. This isn’t throwing a little something in for the ladies, this is letting guys imagine themselves being the one Dany’s looking at like that. I am glad that we don’t get Emelia Clarke naked again (I understand that by this point she had refused to do any more nude scenes for the sake of nude scenes), but this is fairly emblematic of how the showrunners think they’re being feminist but they’re just managing the thinnest fa├žade of feminism that still services the male audience.


Jorah finds Daario coming out of Dany’s room the next morning, still putting his clothes back on. Dany assures Jorah that she doesn’t fully trust Daario, and in fact she’s sent him to essentially burn down Yunkai. Thus ensues yet another instance where one of Dany’s male advisors—because she doesn’t have any other kind—talks her out of doing something crazy and totally Targaryen by telling her stuff that she should already know or understand.  So she sends him to tell Daario there’s a change of plans and to send Hizdahr as an ambassador to the Yunkish.

There’s a bit with Melisandre and Selyse that I wouldn’t even bother to talk about if this image wouldn’t be important later for sheer continuity’s sake:


I strongly suspect (and will discuss more in season six) that nobody had any idea how important her necklace was going to be, and that they’re seriously all just making stuff up as they go along, stringing together bits of Martin’s story with their own stuff that may or may not make any gorram sense.

This brings us to the actual reason this episode is titled “Mockingbird.” Up in the Eyrie, it’s snowing, and Sansa is thrilled. She starts building a snow castle that turns into Winterfell and seems to be truly happy for the first time in a long time. So here comes Robin to completely ruin that.


Robin, like so many of the kid characters, was kind of ruined by aging him up. Also, they took away his actual disability and turned him into just a brat. In the books, Robert Arryn is possibly epileptic—he has some sort of seizure issue, anyway. He’s also a brat, but a lot of that is because Lysa is obsessively concerned about his health and shelters him to the point that he can’t handle any kind of adversity at all. I already talked about what Lysa’s problem is. So instead of a six-year-old boy with a seizure disorder (which the maesters treat by bleeding him) who is also weak because he barely gets any exercise and on top of that is spoiled rotten, we get an eleven- or twelve-year-old boy who’s just spoiled rotten.

Robin starts out okay, asking Sansa about Winterfell and bragging about the Eyrie’s Moon Door, but then he accidentally breaks part of the castle and then throws a full-blown temper tantrum when she scolds him. At which point, she slaps him.


Now, I’m not saying Robin doesn’t maybe deserve to be slapped. He’s completely insufferable and needs to grow up. However, that Sansa is the one to slap him and not, say, Petyr is another instance of them changing Sansa’s character—for the worse, in my opinion. Book-Sansa is generally a genuinely nice person. She feels for others, even scary people like Sandor. She wants them to be happy and comfortable. Her diplomacy thing isn’t entirely about protecting herself; a lot of it is just that she aspires to be like the princesses of song, and they’re courteous and genteel. Sure, she’s kind of awful to Arya, but she’s eleven years old and doesn’t know how to handle a little sister who doesn’t share her ideas about ladylike behavior. Book-Sansa is frustrated and irritated by Robert, but she’s always nice to him because she understands that his illness and brattiness aren’t really his fault. She does what she can to help train him out of his patterns of behavior, but she’s still nice to him. Book-Sansa never physically harms Robert and even feels bad when she’s verbally sharp with him.

But “nice” isn’t something main-character women on Game of Thrones are allowed to be. Heck, even secondary-character women don’t tend to be nice. The only character I can think of who’s genuinely nice is Missandei, and she’s pretty much got no political or social aspirations at all. She just wants to serve Daenerys (that’s its own problem).

Petyr comes out and assures her that she won’t be in trouble for slapping Robin, and that he really should have been slapped a lot a long time ago. He gives her some more of his faux-philosophical babble about how sometimes in order to build a home you have to demolish the old one. She demands to know why he killed Joffrey—the real, honest-to-the-Stranger reason, not more of his prevaricating. He admits that he loved Catelyn, that Joffrey hurt everyone, and that under other circumstances, Sansa would be his daughter. Because she’s not his daughter, though, and because he has a seriously unhealthy obsession with Tully girls, he kisses her. Which, of course, Lysa witnesses.


Lysa’s temper tantrum is way more epic than Robin’s snow-castle-destroying one. She’s convinced that Sansa is one more in a long line of people who have tried to keep her away from Petyr, who she’s loved her whole life. Every one of those people—Hoster, Jon Arryn, Catelyn—is dead now, and she shoves Sansa at the Moon Door to make sure she’s also removed from Lysa’s way to happiness forevermore with Petyr.

That’s until Petyr comes in, calms her down for long enough to get close to her, then drops the bombshell that he only ever loved Catelyn, and shoves her out the Moon Door.


I feel like this scene didn’t have the impact it could have. Maybe it’s because of all the problems I’ve already talked about regarding the lack of nuance in Lysa’s and Petyr’s characterization and their relationship. Maybe it’s because viewers had to have seen this coming; nobody as loose-cannony as Lysa would be allowed to live for very long when the stakes are this high. Maybe it’s because Petyr was way more open with Sansa about his obsession with Catelyn than he was in the books, so even his last words to Lysa weren’t surprising to anyone. Maybe it’s a combination of a lot of things.

RIP:
Farmer
Random smallfolk
Biter
Rorge
Lysa Arryn

Next week: Missandei and Grey Worm are awkwardly adorable. Theon takes Moat Cailin. Sansa’s plot starts to derail. Trial by combat.

Stills from screencapped.net. Gif from imgr.com

Monday, February 13, 2017

Game of Thrones Rewatch 4.6: "The Laws of Gods and Men"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.
 

4.6 “The Laws of Gods and Men”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Commentary by Byran Cogman and Alik Sakharov

Much like last week, this episode is made up of several big pieces, but the minor traveling character moments are missing this time. That’s kind of okay because we needed a lot of time for Tyrion’s trial.

Before we get to Tyrion’s trial, though, we get more faffing about from Stannis and Davos, who head over to Braavos to get a loan. I kind of dislike this whole sequence for two reasons: one, I feel like seeing the Titan of Braavos before Arya gets to Braavos steals a lot of her thunder; and two, I liked it better in the books when Davos is like “if you want to be king, defend your kingdom” and next thing we know Stannis is breaking the siege on the Wall and everybody—Jon, Mance, the readers, everybody—is surprised. This bit telegraphs the whole thing. I understand not wanting to have Stannis and Davos just disappear for a whole season, blah blah, but if they’re going to not show Bran’s story because it’s not “cinematic,” I would have been fie with them not showing this part, because frankly it’s boring, doesn’t do anything for character development (Stannis is stubborn; Davos believes in him; Salador is a pirate), and only kind of adds to the worldbuilding (we’d have gotten it later anyway).

Except that we get Mark Gatiss, which almost makes up for it.


Yara and the Ironborn make an attempt to rescue Theon, which fails miserably because Theon is completely broken and doesn’t want to be rescued. I really don’t understand why/how Benioff & Weiss restructured the whole Ironborn storyline, because it a) doesn’t make a lot of sense this way and b) takes away a lot of Yara/Asha’s character development. The show has a serious problem (that reaches a critical mass in season six) of taking away women’s power and handing it to the men in their lives, and having Yara wander around until Theon frees himself before actually setting in motion the Kingsmoot and Euron plots steals a lot of her thunder. While Theon’s off-page being tortured in the books, Asha’s visiting with her family (most of whom they cut from the show, including her mother and uncle) and working to consolidate support for her bid to the Seastone Chair after Balon’s mysterious death. Instead, Asha’s entire story revolves around Theon and it can’t move until Theon’s free of Ramsay.


Daenerys holds court and we see two of the 214 petitioners she has that day. The first is a goatherd bringing the burnt bones of one of his goats left over after Drogon torched his entire field. Daenerys, with the air of one conferring a great favor, promises to pay him three times what his goats were worth and then looks super pleased with herself when the goatherd is grateful. This ruling thing isn’t so difficult! Look at me nailing it! Then we get Hizdahr zo Loraq, who deflates her bubble a bit by asking for permission to take down the masters from the crosses, including his father, who spoke out against nailing up the children. She agrees to allow him to give his father a proper burial, and again there’s a bit of self-congratulation for being a kind and merciful ruler, though it’s not as clear as the earlier one. Missandei tells her she has 212 more people wanting her judgments on things, and she takes a deep breath and continues with the hard, drudgery part of ruling.


The entire rest of the episode occurs in King’s Landing, starting with a bit of power-jockeying and moving into Tyrion’s trial. First there’s a Small Council meeting, which Oberyn starts off by asking if he gets an actual title now, like Master of Coin or something. Varys demonstrates that he has eyes all over, even in the war-ravaged Riverlands, by giving an update on the Hound and then Daenerys. Tywin has a plan to break her before she can come to Westeros, but we’ll have to wait to see what that is.


Oberyn and Varys have a super interesting meeting at the throne that establishes that Varys was asexual even before being castrated, which Oberyn of course has no idea how to deal with. (Remember, Oberyn likes sex and hates Lannisters, and gods forbid that characterization gets complicated or expanded on at all.) One thing this scene does is contradict Tyrion’s constant insinuation that Varys is/was gay or a pedophile, as Varys denies ever having been sexually attracted to anyone ever. Now, some of this might be because he spent time as a sex slave and has some residual trauma, but it’s just as likely that what he tells Oberyn—that he never had any desire for anyone and witnesses how desire has broken entire nations—is the exact truth of it and Game of Thrones, of all shows, has a positively-portrayed asexual character.


Trial time! Tyrion’s chained, to his irritated disbelief, and hauled into the throne room, where Tommen recuses himself from the trial and leaves Tywin in charge. Tywin then proceeds to parade in a series of witnesses who talk about all the times Tyrion said bad things to or about Joffrey, as well as the times he hit him, all completely without context, of course, and often with just enough of a lie to make the testifier look completely blameless in any incident while Tyrion comes off as a monster. Meanwhile, Jaime clearly doesn’t understand why Cersei hates Tyrion so much that she wants him dead.


They take a break, and Jaime demands that Tywin put a stop to the trial because it’s clearly a farce and Cersei’s own personal vendetta, and nobody really believes Tyrion killed Joffrey. He points out that he also killed a king, specifically to save Tywin’s life, and this isn’t how he’d like Tywin to be using it. He says if Tywin will save Tyrion’s life, he’ll give up the Kingsguard and go back to Casterly Rock to be Tywin’s heir, which Tywin agrees to, though he’s not above rubbing Jaime’s nose in the fact that he already planned to send Tyrion to the Wall rather than have him killed. So everybody gets what they want, but especially Tywin.


The trial resumes with Shae being called as a witness and flat-out lying to the court about Tyrion and Sansa plotting Joffrey’s murder, as well as Tyrion forcing Shae to have sex with him. This whole thing just about breaks Tyrion, and he tries to get her to stop, but she throws his words about her being just a whore back in his face and the lies keep coming. It’s at this point that Tyrion decides—despite Jaime’s quick word with him about keeping his mouth shut and accepting sentencing to the Wall during the break—that this is all a bunch of bullshit and he’s not going to accept it. He demands trial by combat, because it worked once before. What could possibly go wrong?


Next week: Gregor (Mark III) returns. Arya crosses another name off her list. Dany takes what she wants. Brienne gets a lead.

All images from screencapped.net; gif from imgur.com