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This is probably the most Game of Thrones will ever feel like an NBC or CBS law procedural drama. That is both good and bad for the episode. It is a compelling episode of television for sure, anchored by the grounded performance of Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos, a remorseful and frustrated Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, and Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister, who fills the episode with a sense of impending dread throughout the trial portions. But it also has a hint of over-the-top courtroom antics to it, mostly due to the would-be shocking revelations and surprise witnesses who fill up the ad hoc courtroom in King’s Landing. The ending nearly goes off the rails, but Dinklage nails the scene and it avoids becoming high camp.
The episode opens with Ser Davos and Stannis Baratheon heading towards the free cities in a ship. They mean to meet with representatives from the Iron Bank of Braavos. King’s Landing owes the Iron Bank millions in gold, but the representatives are steadfast in their support of the Lannister family. That is, until Davos reminds them that Tywinn is old, Tommen is a bastard, Cersei is the most hated women in the seven kingdoms, Jamie is an oath breaker and a king slayer, and their dwarf of a brother is on trial for regicide. Stannis is younger, stronger, a better military tactician, and an honest man. Davos is able to convince the Iron Bank, but I’m not sure to what end. Will Braavos send a thousand sell swords to King’s Landing? I’m excited to see what happens next, because anything that gives us more Stephen Dillane and Liam Cunningham is worth watching.
In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen is having a difficult time adjusting to being a ruler who stays in one place. She had previously gone from city to city, but now that she is based, she can’t seem to make the best decisions. After her dragons inadvertently slaughter and eat a shepherd’s flock, she pays the man back several times over and is truly sorry. She then meets with a man whose father she had crucified, even though the father seemed like a just and honest man. She allows the son to bury his father in a proper graveyard so that he may have peace in his next life, as is the custom of the citizens of Meereen. Problems are mounting and mounting for Daenerys, and she is quickly losing control, both of her dragons and her city. If she’s not careful, she’ll next lose her army.
The bulk of the episode concerns the trial of Tyrion Lannister, who stands accused of murdering his king and nephew, Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey perished at the end of the second episode, a victim of a mysterious poison. We learn throughout the trial that someone had pilfered Maester Pycelle’s poisons, that Lord Varys is willing to sell out someone he considered a friend (in a heartbreaking scene), and that Shae becomes a surprise witness. Unsurprisingly, Shae throws Tyrion completely under the bus, twisting various situations and outright lying to make him look like a deranged lunatic. Jamie goes out of his way to save his brother, striking a deal with his father that would send Tyrion to the wall to serve as a member of the Night’s Watch, but Tyrion will have none of this deal.
This is the most interesting part of the episode to me. Tyrion has spent his entire life as a twisted creature in the eyes of both his father as well as the citizens of King’s Landing. His refusal to give up this deal his brother creates for him fits with his character, and Tyrion’s most raw emotions show through in what is one of Dinklage’s finest scenes in the entire series. The crowd listens in abject horror as Tyrion recounts the various trials he’s been on his entire life, trials that have only happened because he was unfortunate enough to be born a dwarf. As noted earlier, the scene could have devolved into high camp, but Dinklage’s performance keeps it from entering that stratosphere. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, which I’m sure will be resolved next week. It’s the perfect place to end the episode, with Tyrion demanding a trial by combat. Every trial by combat on this show has been super exciting, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.