For Seasons 1 and 2, I can now honestly and shamefully admit that I was part of the angry mob. Brandishing the books aloft, I would spout entire plotlines with fervour, shouting the angry mob’s well-known war cry: “But that’s not how it happened in the books!” But with Season 4, any plot with even a slight departure from the books is almost a relief for which the writers should receive more praise.
The first port of call in ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’ is the greatly anticipated and much-talked about Iron Bank in Braavos. Stannis Baratheon and Davos Seaworth are here to take out a loan to fund their very long work-holiday in gradually taking over the Iron Throne. The Iron Bank is cold and uninviting, much like Tychos Nestoris (excellently played by Mark Gatiss), a representative of the Iron Bank. At first, Nestoris is remorseless to Stannis’ lack of finances to take over King’s Landing. But with a passionate, reassuring plea from Davos on Stannis’ behalf, Nestoris warms up to his cause. For such a small role in a short scene, Gatiss was a scene-stealer, securely holding a role that betrayed no malice or friendliness.
Meanwhile in Meereen, a goat herder and his son tend to their flock of delightfully fluffy sheep by a cliff. The boy is languidly throwing stones off the cliff and having as much fun as one can as the son of a goat herder. We’ve never met this small family before and the scene is too calm and serene. Suddenly, Drogon (Daenerys’s favourite dragon of the three) rises up screeching from the abyss. Remember those tiny little lizard cuties when they were perched on Dany’s shoulder? Forget that – Drogon is now the size of a house, and it’s dinner time. Lightly crisping the sheep with a grill of fire, he flies off with a quickly barbequed sheep. What may have not even been a deliberate point was that Drogon could have attacked the goat herder and his son but he didn’t. This could be that Drogon just did not fancy some human but it also could be a small ounce of respect for Daenerys.
Daenerys, who has always been a strong figure to her subjects, is now visibly troubled with eroding doubt of her decisions. When faced with her supplicants’ pleas for help, she bestows a benevolent smile as befits a queen. However, when Hizdahr zo Loraq requests for his father’s crucified body to be allowed to be buried according to Meereen’s burial rights, Daenerys cracks with initial resistance and reluctant acceptance that she made a bad call in granting the same equal punishment to all of Meereen’s masters. I sincerely hope that the show will continue to show Daenerys’s mistakes as the foundations of her plans continue to splinter.
Outside the Dreadfort (definitely not the holiday home idyll that the name conjures thoughts of), Yara Greyjoy and her men are preparing to storm the fort and retrieve her imprisoned brother, Theon. Yara rallies her men, reading aloud the letter sent from Ramsey Snow, ordering the ironborn to leave the North or face a good old-fashioned flaying. All seems to be going their way as they scale the castle, quickly finding Theon in the cages alongside Ramsey’s human-hunting dogs. Of course, Game of Thrones is not about happy endings. A tense fight ensues between Ramsey’s men, an armour-less and topless Ramsey against Yara and her few loyal men. Theon viciously attacks Yara and cowers back into his cage. Confused by Theon’s madness and accepting defeat, Yara retreats back to her ship, pronouncing Theon Greyjoy dead. This was absolutely spine-chilling to see the effects of the worst of Ramsay’s cruelty on Theon, now a completely broken man.
Over in King’s Landing, it’s time for Tyrion’s trial. As we always suspected it would be, the trial was a farcical spectacle for the rich of King’s Landing, much like Joffrey’s and Margaery’s wedding. Presided by Tywin Lannister, the beautiful Oberyn Martell and Mace Tyrell, the testimonies against Tyrion is purely misquotes and out-of-context recollections. But these scenes were also the most painful of the episode, mostly due to another stellar performance from Peter Dinklage. There was Jaime’s fervent plea to his father for mercy on Tyrion, a vast departure from his almost jocular behaviour of this series. And there was the return of Shae in revealing the heavily embellished sordid details of her relationship with Tyrion in testament against him. That this episode ended with Tyrion pulling out his once-used-before-at-the-Eyrie playing card of trial-by-combat seriously pulled it back from the brink of utter despair, reassuring audiences that maybe not all hope is lost.
‘The Laws of Gods and Men’ tugged fiercely at the heartstrings. There was a tangible yet real unrest throughout the episode that played between the lines of fantasy and reality. Although it is difficult to call it at only halfway through the season, ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’ is one of the strongest episodes of Season 4 so far.