Game of Thrones 4×06: The Laws of Gods and Men

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Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa! Did this episode have it all or what? I’m talking sex, suspense, pirates, blood, boobs, ass, hounds, dramatic voice-overs, dramatic reaction shots, suspense, humor, a trial, an accusation of discrimination based on dwarfism! Hell, here were even a couple eunuch jokes thrown in there! In what was undoubtedly the most riveting and best episode yet in Season 4, “Game of Thrones” returned last night to HBO with fewer and more powerful storylines than normal, more Mother of Dragons (and on Mother’s Day!!) and an award-worthy performance from Peter Dinklage.

“Game of Thrones” Season 4 Episode 6, “The Laws of Gods and Men,” put a variety of characters on trial in their most desperate and pivotal moments yet: in Bravos, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) sits palms open at the Iron Bank begging for money to aid his failing army; in Meereen, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) sits atop a throne of a city she has conquered as her ability to rule—rather than conquer—is tested; and in King’s Landing, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is quite literally on trial, accused of regicide against “Joff”—a nickname invented for Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to make him seem less like this and more like this.

Across the sea in Meereen, where Daenerys’s experiment in queening has begun, Dany and her knight-buds have already grown so bored that they’ve taken to reenacting scenes from The Emperor’s New Groove (namely that one where Kuzco sits and receives random people; not the one where Kronk pulls the lever). Instead of conquering and giving corny speeches about freedom, Dany sits atop a foreign throne, receiving visitors and compensating sheepherders for dragon-food.

While other story-lines are important and loaded with the usual sex, blood and humor of a typical “Game of Thrones” episode—the real power of “The Laws of Gods and Men” is in the trial of Tyrion Lannister, over which his father, Tywin (Charles Dance), presides as head judge. To nobody’s surprise, the trial is a total sham—a theatrical performance for all the court to see. Witness after witness—from Varys (Conleth Hill) to Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie)—lie or manipulate facts and Tyrionisms in order to implicate Tyrion and ensure he is found guilty. Tyrion’s fate appears sealed but not before his brother Jaime negotiates the Westeros equivalent of a plea-deal with Tywin: Tyrion, if he asks for mercy, will be allowed to spend the rest of his days at the Wall, serving on the Night’s Watch, in exchange for Jaime agreeing to leave the King’s Guard and to marry and procreate, thereby carrying on the Lannister name.

Once Shae (Sibel Kekilli) —Tyrion’s former-lover and whore—makes her dramatic walk up to the witness stand to betray Tyrion, all bets are off: Tyrion becomes enraged and heartbroken, concerned for both his well-being and Shae’s.  For the first time since Tyrion drunkenly threatened Joffrey on his wedding night last season, Tyrion snaps from his usual wit and humor to deliver a chilling, powerful and award-worthy monologue in which he not only admits that he regrets not having let Stannis murder everybody in the capital but also accuses his father of putting him on trial for the crime of being a dwarf.

Tyrion’s drops mic-walks-off-stage moment reveals something about Tyrion that has been true from the beginning: he seems to be the only character in the entire show that is a rational and good person. He has saved the city time and time again and, throughout his entire life, has been rewarded with antagonism, mockery and condemnation. Only now has he finally spoken up. Standing in chains and addressing his father, Tyrion admits guilt—but not to the crime Tywin is hoping. “I am guilty of being a dwarf,” Tyrion tells his father. “I’ve been on trial for that my entire life.”

Tyrion’s words—either a brilliant calculation or an emotional reaction to Shae’s betrayal—so beautifully give Peter Dinklage the stage to execute his best performance of the entire series. The heartfelt emotion, the rage and suspense are all brilliantly played by a man who is undoubtedly faced with the challenge of being accepted as a dwarf both on and off the stage. Tyrion’s monologue is so full of power that renders himself—a dwarf and a tied-up prisoner—far more powerful than his father—a man who is sitting in the most powerful seat in the Westeros. In calling out his father for putting him trial for a condition with which he was born, Tyrion refuses Tywin the control he has so carefully manipulated. Instead, just as he did in the Eyrie, Tyrion will “let the Gods decide” with a trial by combat.

Just before his potential death, Tyrion has risen above the limits of his own handicap: he is the most powerful, most convincing and most dominating character in the entire show. Let us all pray for his safe combat next week. Until then, enjoy these awesome photos of Peter Dinklage being Peter Dinklage. Oh, and this.

p.s. Very important: Stannis’s WHAT-DO-YOU-MEAN-my-loan-is-being-rejected face is perfect. Meme away.

Contact Sam Avishay at [email protected].