Sucks to be a lot of people this week. Sucks to be on the Iron Throne when this war is really just beginning. Sucks to be Theon Greyjoy. Sucks to be an Essosian goatherd. Sucks to be a Meereenese noble. Sucks to be a eunuch. Sucks to be on the small council…but really, can anything suck as much as it sucks to be Tyrion Lannister?
The recap, with lots of spoilers, below:
We open in Venice Braavos, one of the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea and home to the Iron Bank. The Iron Bank is the Ol’ Dirty bastard of Essos, which means to say that they are only concerned with whether or not somebody has got. their. money. (bitch). Stannis apparently threw his personality overboard on the ride over from Dragonstone and fails to impress the Braavosi bankers, who decline his loan based on the statistical probability of his campaign (which at this point is nil-and-a-half). Thankfully Davos has a modicum of savvy and convinces them that Stannis is a better bet than the incompetent Lannister Incest Twins, who will be in charge of the kingdom once Tywin Lannister croaks. The bankers concede, and lend them gold. That’s how little faith these guys have in Cersei’s leadership. I say goddamn.
While we’re on the topic of Iron, remember the Ironborn? From the Iron Islands? It’s okay, nobody else does either. That’s why we have to have a rehash of their motivations when they’re re-introduced in this midseason episode. At the end of last season, Yara Greyjoy received her brother’s Theon’s castrated dick-in-a-box as a present from our new resident bastard/sociopath (RIP Joffrey) Ramsay Snow. She swore revenge on Ramsay and has organized a crack team of the baddest baddies on the Iron Islands to rescue Theon, who is still the heir to the Iron Islands. This exposition is intercut with a sex scene between Ramsay Snow and his psycho girlfriend Miranda because it’s HBO and they can’t resist Iwan Rheon’s extremely bankable typecasting as “that batshit crazy guy who is also, by coincidence, a tiger in the sack.”
This rescue attempt goes perfectly up until the point where they actually have to rescue Theon, who has gone insane from Ramsay’s torture and now self-identifies as Ramsay’s pitiable slave Reek, who sleeps in the kennels with Ramsay’s other vicious bitches (his hunting dogs). Disgusted with her brother’s mental degradation and confronted by a shirtless and blood-soaked Ramsay, Yara hauls ass back to her boats and tells everyone that Theon is dead. This marks the first time on Game of Thrones that any plotline is introduced and solved within seven minutes flat. Good job, writers.
Meanwhile, Dany is in her throne room in the Great Pyramid of Meereen and meets the noble Hizdahr Lo Zoraq- also known as that cute guy with the afro who seemed important on the walls of Meereen earlier in the season. He throws her freaky Targaeryan sense of justice back in her face by calling her out on crucifying his father for a crime he spoke out against, and begs her leave to have a traditional Meereenese funeral for his father and the other crucified Great Masters. I will also add that he does all of this while looking fine as hell.
The Small Council of Exposition meets in King’s Landing, and Oberyn Martell has taken his place as an “advisor” to the King. He looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, and also preferably having some nice sex. From the way he describes Dany’s Unsullied as “disappointing in the bedroom,” I’m 100% certain that he has at some point in his life tried to have sex with an Unsullied. Oh, Oberyn.
The final sequence deals with the trial of the century: The Seven Kingdoms v. Tyrion Lannister for the regicide of King Joffrey Baratheon. The first part of the trial…does not go well. Every time we as the audience cheered for Tyrion when he yelled at, slapped, or generally was a dick to Joffrey is brought back as “evidence” against him- which rehashes both how awesome Tyrion is and how shitty Joffrey was. Of course Tywin doesn’t see it that way, and his dwarf son looks guiltier by the minute.
During a recess, Jamie pleads with his father to allow Tyrion to plead guilty and take the Black, living out the rest of his life on the Wall. Tywin agrees, but only if Jamie breaks his vows and steps down from the Kinsguard. Jamie is once again caught between doing the honorable thing (staying on the Kingsguard/defending King Aerys) and doing the right thing (Saving Tyrion’s life/killing King Aerys); to his credit, he picks the right thing for the second time and buys his brother’s life at the cost of his honor.
Or rather, he would have bought his brother’s life at the cost of his honor if Tyrion had pled guilty, but by the end of the trial Tyrion is in no mood to play nice. The final witness is brought in, and to his horror it’s Shae, who never made it away from King’s Landing like he planned. Her testimony, a mix of lies and unfortunate truths, seals Tyrion’s fate and stomps on everything he ever felt for her- it’s a betrayal that’s both hard to watch and extremely effective, as it unleashes Tyrion’s final form upon the court.
“I did not do it,” he snarls, “I did not kill Joffrey but I wish that I had. Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores. I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it!”
Every ounce of Emmy-winning vitriol he spews amps the stakes up higher as he tells everyone in that shitty royal court what he thinks of all of them and flips off the entire trial by asking, in a climactic final moment, to settle his case as he settled another back in Season One: with a trial by combat!
Other things that happened:
Peter Dinklage got top billing in the credits last night. Woo!
The Iron Bank of Braavos looks like the Slytherin Common Room and is headed up by Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Thanks, fandom.
We have a great scene in a bathhouse that re-introduces Sallador Sahn, the fast-talking pirate who Davos re-hires to fight for Stannis now that the Iron Bank finances his cause. Welcome back Salla, we missed you!
Wave hello to a sizable chunk of this season’s CGI budget in the form of Drogon, Dany’s black dragon. Hi budget! Hi Drogon!
The understatement of the week comes when Varys mentions that Barristan Selmy took his dismissal from the Kingsguard “badly.” If by “badly,” you mean that he smuggled himself out of the country to join up with King Aerys’ daughter and now actively fights against the Baratheon line as an advisor to their primary threat…then yes, I’d say he took that badly.
We haven’t gotten a really good slow-pan over the Iron Throne in all of its heavily symbolic glory this season, but we get a really nice one today. Looking good, you spiky chair you. Keep on symbolizing absolute power; you’re going a great job.
Oberyn continues his exploration of sexual identities on Game of Thrones and discusses Varys’ asexuality in comparison to his own bisexual identity. It all comes down to sex with this guy, and that’s okay.
Margaery Tyrell has the sense to look mildly uncomfortable during the trial she knows is a farce, seeing as her grandmother confessed to killing Joffrey a few episodes ago. She doesn’t say anything of course, but she clearly feels bad.