Flatiron Hot! Critic: Game of Thrones Review – The Laws of Gods and Men
Spoilers for Game of Thrones S4E06 “The Laws of Gods and Men” follow.
Now that’s more like it. Game of Thrones has been a bit unsteady in the first half of season four, alternating some of its best moments (the Purple Wedding) with some of its most trite and pointless (the assault on Craster’s Keep). The lack of remaining book material for some characters has forced the creators to invent their own. We saw hints of this in past seasons, but with season four it’s reached a new level, with big chunks of episodes taken up by filler existing for the sole purpose of padding out certain characters’ narratives.
“The Laws of Gods and Men” is the first episode this season to pull off a good balance between book and non-book material. The voyage of Stannis and Davos voyage to the Iron Bank of Braavos is a solid introduction to an important faction in Westeros, although it’s a bit disappointing that the scene doesn’t further develop those two characters. The latter has devolved into something of a nonentity since season two, with the red priestess Melisandre, Davos and even Princess Shireen hogging the limelight. At times, he seems more like an inconsistent cipher for others than a character in his own right, which is a shame considering he’s so well-developed in the book.
Dany’s scene in Mereen is probably the weakest of the episode, which is starting to become a trend. This is a disturbing trend considering she has such a large role to play in the series moving forward. Her dragons’ massacre of a local shepherd’s flock opens up the possibility that Dany’s dragons can be hazardous as well as awesome, yet the writers brush it off in favor of a ham-fisted lecture on crime and punishment. Worse, the writers still neglect to develop Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont as characters, depriving Dany’s storyline of a much-needed human element. Yet, the Small Council seems to be hatching a plot involving Jorah that could spice things up.
Yara’s assault on the Dreadfort reminds us that Theon (aka Reek) is not the only Ironborn in Westeros. Reek’s refusal to be rescued shows just how completely Ramsay Snow has broken his spirit. More effective than the routine fight scene is the bath Ramsay so generously gives Reek after its conclusion. We expect Ramsay to play some kind of sadistic trick on Reek when he tells him to disrobe and get in the tub. Instead he washes him in an almost tender manner, suggesting an emotional, Stokholm-esque dimension in a relationship between master and slave that warrants greater exploration. There seems to be some genuine, albeit perverse, emotion running beneath the conquering and submission.
The episode ends on a spectacular high note with Tyrion’s trial. The scene is so effective because the case against Tyrion sounds persuasive from an outsider’s perspective. We know Tyrion and Sansa would never murder the king. Yet, the quotes cited by the witnesses seem damning out of context. So many characters have told Tyrion in one manner or another that his big mouth will get him killed. Here, we see that perhaps they were onto something.
Finally, we get to see Tyrion let loose with all the simmering rage and resentment that he’s typically covered up with humor and verbal parries. Tyrion is a small man, but he has a huge ego. He might have been grudgingly willing to take the black if Cersei and Tywin didn’t take things one step too far and call on Shae to testify. This is the proverbial straw that breaks the dwarf’s back, provoking an outburst that leaves none of King’s Landing’s population unscathed. His claims that he wishes they had all perished, though probably exaggerated in the heat of the moment, show just how much Tyrion has come to despise a humanity that has, indeed, put him on trial for being a dwarf for his entire life.
Scenes like this are what make Game of Thrones one of the best shows on TV. Although the filler, endless exposition, painstaking setup and the delayed gratification can become irritating, there’s always huge payoff. This scene would not have had the same resonance if not for all the small character moments and plot twists along the way. More, please.