We open with a gorgeous shot of Stannis Baretheon’s ship sailing under the stone skirt of the improbably large statue in the bay of Braavos. Following Davos’ plan to get a loan to fund his next attempt at the ruling seat of Westeros, he presents his case to the Iron Bank of Braavos: Give me money because I’m the rightful lord of the seven kingdoms. You can imagine how that went over with the coin counters. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it because they clearly and precisely spell out that he has no collateral to back up a large loan. He is denied and sent off with one of those tight smiles bankers like to give you when you’ve been dismissed.
Then Davos himself steps up and lays out an argument worthy of the best political strategist of the realm. Tywin is clearly running the show in Westeros, but he’s old and when he dies, who is left? The dwarf everyone despises, the Queen Regent that is hated even more or the Kingsguard brother who cannot produce heirs. And of course, there is the question of Tommen’s lineage. When things shake out, it’s going to be Stannis with the only real legitimate claim to the throne. If the bankers want to back the winner in order to get their money back they loaned the Lannisters, Stannis is their best bet.
Did Davos make a convincing argument? Does HBO like to parade around some naked ladies in every episode? The answer to both these questions becomes apparent when Davos drops a lot of coin in front of the pirate Salladhor Saan who has two whores sitting on his lap. Stannis is funded again and is ready to raise a new fleet to take the throne.
Next, in the “never happened in the books, but makes for fine television” department, Yara leads a raiding party of Ironborn to rescue her brother Theon at Ramsay Snow’s castle. While Ramsay engages in shockingly normal sex, her team locates Theon sleeping in the kennels with Ramsay’s killer dogs. But when she tries to break him out, he refuses to go, claiming he’s Reek, not Theon and bites her hand when she tries to hustle him out, retreating back into the cage with wild-eyed fear. Ramsay arrives with only his britches and a weapon and proceeds to tear apart most of Yara’s crew. Being a psychopath, he decides to have fun with his prey and instead of trying to kill her himself, releases his hounds.
Somehow, through the magic of storytelling, I suppose, Yara manages to out run the dogs released in the very same room as her because in the next shot she is back down on the beach jumping in her boat and telling her men that Theon is dead to them. Ramsay shows great kindness to Reek by allowing him to bathe which makes Reek justifiably terrified that he is being set up to be tortured again. He is half-right. He is being set up to undertake a mission which will require him to act like Theon again which is probably torture to his broken mind and spirit.
You know, I was wondering who was going to be the new person we love to hate on this show once Joffrey got what was coming to him. I think it’s clear now that Ramsay Snow is being set up to take that role, though Tywin and Cersei are coming in a close second and third.
In the last episode, Daenerys decided that she can’t just conquer cities, but she needs to rule them as well if she wants to be able to hold on to Westeros once she reclaims her birthright. She decides to act like a queen in her most recently conquered city, Meereen. And that means dealing with the problems of her new people. But she quickly discovers that her actions are the cause of many of their woes.
The first is a goat herder that lost his flock to one of her hungry dragons. She agrees to pay him three times the price of his flock. Next is a young nobleman whose father Daenerys nailed to a cross in retribution for the city crucifying child slaves when they heard she was coming. Those crucified nobles are still hanging there. She tries to justify her actions, but the man points out that his father actually protested the child crucifixion plan, but was overruled by the other nobleman of the city. She relents and agrees to let him take his father down from the cross to give him a proper burial. The shine of being a ruler is quickly wearing off for Dany, especially when she discovers there are 212 more supplicants waiting for an audience with her.
Tywin pointed out in his initial history lesson with Tommen that Robert Baratheon was great at winning the throne, but lousy at running the country. Two different skill sets. And Dany is quickly learning that as well. She can’t be all the things to all the people. She’s going to have to start appointing others to carry out governmental functions. Let’s hope she figures that out soon before this turns into the People’s Court of Meereen.
The Small Council of King Tommen convenes with Tywin in full command. He increases the bounty on the head of The Hound and gets an update on Dany from Varys. Cersei dismisses Daenerys as a threat, but Varys quickly, but politely points out how well she’s done so far and how quickly her forces are building. Oh Varys, how we’ve missed your understated wit and honeyed barbs. Tywin has an idea on how to deal with Dany without using force, but doesn’t reveal it to us.
Oberyn and Varys have a conversation in front of the Iron Throne in another scene that was never in the books. The take away of this one is essentially that Oberyn is a creature of carnal desires and Varys is a creature entirely lacking of those impulses. In Varys’ view, that makes it easier for him to keep his eye on the prize, meaning the Iron Throne. Well, we knew Varys was a player and a very good one, but he can’t think to rule Westeros as King. I guess he envisions himself in more of a Tywin role. Of course, they are also setting up his motivation for his actions towards the end of this episode.
And now we get to the meat of this episode. The trial we’ve been waiting for. Tyrion is brought out in chains and Tommen recuses himself from the proceedings allowing Tywin to do something he’s likely wanted to do for a very long time: legitimately sit on the Iron Throne. Oberyn and Mace Tyrell join Tywin as the other two judges. Then witness after witness testifies against Tyrion, reciting all the threats he made against Joffrey over the years, which Tyrion can’t dispute. Grand Maester Pycelle, still upset that Tyrion had him thrown in the dungeons awhile back, testifies Tyrion raided his stock of poisons and even managed to procure the necklace that Sansa wore that held the poisons. Convenient that it’s suddenly in his possession since the last time we saw that was on the boat the Littlefinger commanded to spirit Sansa away to the Eyrie right after the poisoning. Even Varys, who Tyrion thought a friend, testifies against him, likely because it’s in Varys’ best interest to go along with the charade.
Things look very bad for Tyrion. So bad, that Jaime goes to his father and lays out an offer. Jaime will give up the Kingsguard that he loves so dearly and take a wife to give Tywin legitimate heirs in exchange for Tyrion’s life. Tywin accepts so quickly that it dawns on Jaime that he walked right into a trap Tywin had been carefully laying for quite some time. Still it saves Tyrion’s life though the dwarf will spend the rest of it at the Wall as a member of the Night’s Watch.
Jaime manages to tell Tyrion of the deal before the proceedings begin again. All Tyrion has to do is keep his mouth shut and beg for mercy at the end of the trial. Tywin will grant it and all will be well. But Cersei and Tywin have one more witness lined up that will inadvertently blow that plan to high hell: Shae.
Like the others, Shae tells (mostly) the truth, but in a way that makes Tyrion sound guilty. Her only outright lie was that Tyrion actively planned Joffrey’s murder with Sansa. The rest of her testimony used their tender moments to make him look like a monster and humiliate him in front of all the nobles of Kings Landing gathered to watch the proceedings. And that was a really big mistake.
Peter Dinklage must not think he has enough Emmy awards because his performance here is absolutely stunning. He proclaims he wants to confess, but it’s not to the murder of Joffrey. It’s to being a dwarf and being the automatic whipping boy for everything that goes wrong around him even though he does nothing but try to help people. And instead of throwing himself at the mercy of the court and thus allowing his father’s elaborate plans to proceed, he claims the right of combat to decide his fate, thus taking the matter out of the hands of Tywin and the court. And the stare he gives Tywin at the end of his tirade is the biggest fuck you of them all.