I'm guilty of being a dwarf.
Written by: Bryan Cogman
Directed by: Alik Sakharov
Peter Dinklage is a damn good actor. If you're not convinced of that after, "The Laws of Gods and Men", then I pray you never try to pursue acting as a career. Absent during all of "First of His Name", Tyrion comes roaring back with one of his best scenes in not just season four, but all of Game of Thrones, period. All his anger and all his disgust for those who look down on him for being a dwarf is finally unleashed during the highly anticipated trial scene, where witnesses alter the truth in ways to make Joffrey appear innocent and Tyrion look entirely guilty. As Petyr Baelish said: everyone in the Capital is a liar, and that continues to be very much true, even during a time when people swear to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth. Anger and disgust turn out to encompass a lot of what happens throughout "The Laws of Gods and Men", and the result is an excellent episode of television that sets up what will be the most dramatic and heartbreaking four episode stretch through Game of Thrones' first four seasons.
We start off with Stannis and Davos arriving in Braavos, where they meet with representatives of the Iron Bank, in hopes of acquiring additional funding. The main representative, Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss), denies Stannis' request, citing he does not have a large enough army nor enough food to sustain them. This is when Davos steps in and makes his own argument for why Stannis deserves financial aid, and it's able to make Tycho change his mind and grant Stannis the money he needs. Remember when Tyrion was acting as Hand of the King and proving that he would be an excellent politician in Westeros? Ser Davos Seaworth proves time and time again that he would make an excellent politician, this being one of several times where Davos makes a perfectly valid argument in hopes of getting someone to change their mind. Some of the best dialogue in an episode featuring Davos always seems to go to him, and this episode is no exception. Bryan Cogman puts together some excellent dialogue here for Davos, avoiding extravagant talk about how Stannis is the rightful king and pointing out all the right facts to how Stannis has gotten as far as he has.
So if "The Laws of Gods and Men" features a lot of anger and disgust, then that sounds like a good enough reason to get a sighting from one of Daenerys' dragons. Up until now, I don't believe the show has stated the official names of the dragons. We have her biggest dragon, Drogon, named after Khal Drogo. Then we have Rhaegal, named after her brother Rhaegar. Finally, there is Viserion, named after her brother Viserys. Drogon appears and attacks a goat herd, and when the farmer shows the charred goat remains to Daenerys, she agrees to pay him three times their worth. Daenerys has a ton of requests to hear, the next one being from a man named Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry), who tells Daenerys that his father was one of the slave masters who was crucified under Daenerys' order of justice. He asks for his father's body to be taken down so that is can be properly buried. Right away, Daenerys is learning the hard parts of ruling: other people being disgusted by her actions and calling her out on them. Game of Thrones is showing us that Daenerys' lack of true political experience is one thing that is holding her back. To this point, she has accomplished everything through kindness, mercy, and unleashing some fire and blood. Now as the Queen of Meereen, she is getting exposed for not fully understanding how the game works and that there's more to being a good ruler than just freeing slaves and crushing oppressive slave masters. It doesn't mean she's starting to become more poorly written. Quite the opposite actually. The writing is starting to flesh out Daenerys' greatest flaws and throw them right in her face. The first few seasons took the time to make Daenerys come out of her shell and evolve into a fierce, awe-inspiring leader. Now she has to settle in and play politics. So far, it's a bit of a rough start.
Say, you know another character who's feeling pretty angry right now? Yara Greyjoy. She leads a group of Ironborn Soldiers to the Dreadfort, in hopes of rescuing Theon. They find him locked in a kennel with the dogs, but Theon proves how low he has sunk: refusing to go with Yara while yelling that his name is Reek. Ramsay and his men arrive, and here we get the most crowded fight scene in all of Game of Thrones. The action is quite good for taking place in a tiny room, although it's a bit hard to tell who is an Ironborn and who is a Bolton soldier. The lighting is dim and the costumes are pretty similar, though the Ironborn have shields that vividly show us the Greyjoy squid logo. The fight ends as quickly as it begins, and Yara has to flee when Ramsay unleashes the hounds on her and the surviving Ironborn. The entire sequence is a scene that gets your hopes up something good will happen, only for Game of Thrones to swiftly remind you we can have no nice things, leaving us cursing and demanding for someone to go back and try to rescue Theon again.
Ah, but all three of those scenes are mere appetizers before the main course: Tyrion's trial which I already dug into a little bit at the start of this review. I love how the trial is structured to allow Tyrion to show off the full range of emotions we're used to seeing from him up until now. Tyrion doesn't look like he's taking the trial seriously at first, keeping his head down, slouching over, and firing off witty remarks when appropriate. This all changes when a special witness comes to testify: Shae. In perhaps the most heartbreaking moment since The Red Wedding, Shae falsely testifies against Tyrion, and this sets him off in a way Tyrion has not been set off in all the time we've seen him. This is an outburst that I think George R.R. Martin, and D&D, have been building up to since it was made known that Tyrion was a subject of endless prejudice by people all across the Seven Kingdoms. All the anger, all the hatred that Tyrion has kept hidden away inside him all these years has finally been unleashed. If you keep pushing and pushing a man without end, there will come a point where he will put his foot down and shout, "No!", and that is what happened to Tyrion here. Peter Dinklage is breath-taking in his line deliveries, some of which I am almost certain were inspired by the prejudice that Dinklage most likely received himself throughout his life. Dinklage treats this moment as an opportunity to speak to all those who insulted him and cast him down during his life, to finally tell all those people to shove it. There aren't too many moments in Game of Thrones where one person's acting completely takes over the scene, but this moment here with Peter Dinklage is absolutely one of those times, and it's one of the greatest moments of the entire series.
It might be strange to say "The Laws of Gods and Men" is one of the most intense episodes in recent memory, especially because all the actual fighting (and there's hardly any of it) happens in a cramped room, but with so much anger and disgust on display from its characters, this is an episode that will leave you gasping for air. Tyrion steals the show in one of the most dramatic and bone-chilling moments of the entire series, finally firing back at everyone who looked down on him because of his dwarfism. It is fantastic television at nearly every turn, and part of what elevates season four to be the best season of Game of Thrones yet.
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