This week’s episode was full of characters seeking justice: Yara seeking justice for her brother, Theon; A son seeking justice for his father; and a kingdom seeking justice for its murdered king. But as Tyrion says in the trailers for Season 4: if you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.
The episode opens with all that earlier plot seeding of the Iron Bank of Braavos paying off, as Stannis and Davos arrive in Braavos to negotiate funding for Stannis’ war. The Iron Bank is a shrewd organization, however, and while they might not be entirely happy with the debt incurred by the Lannisters, their debt is a real, easily understandable thing backed by the numbers in their books. Unlike the books of Westeros, which they describe as being full of ideas, complicated lineages, and open to interpretation.
They initially turn Stannis away, until Davos proves his abilities as a negotiator by demonstrating the justness of Stannis Baratheon, using his own severed fingers as proof of Stannis’ integrity and fairness as a leader. The Iron Bank is convinced, and gives Stannis the money he’s looking for.
Next up, we finally catch up with Yara Greyjoy, who set out at the end of last season with the intent of rescuing Theon. She infiltrates the Dreadfort, and finds Theon in the kennels, locked in a cage along with Ramsay Snow’s hounds. The extent of Theon’s psychological damage is once again illustrated, as his initial reaction to seeing his sister is that the rescue is some sort of trick. He’s so broken, he refuses an almost ensured rescue for fear of Ramsay’s reprisal.
Theon’s uproar alerts the guards and leads to a pretty cool little fight between Yara’s reavers and Ramsay Snow, who goes into battle completely unarmored and somehow comes out on top. He releases the hounds, chasing Yara and her remaining men from the castle.
I have to say, while it was nice to see Yara again, I’m a bit disappointed that her rescue of Theon played out like it did. It played out the way it needed to, of course, but it almost felt as if the writers had something larger planned, found it wouldn’t work, and resolved it by using the story to fill in a mid-season episode. I said last week that we’re likely to see more expanded subplots like this in an effort to draw the series out as it closes in on the source material, but unlike the Raid on Craster’s Keep, which had a couple episodes worth of buildup, Yara’s raid on the Dreadfort didn’t quite deliver. I like the character of Yara, and hope to see more of her, and while this was far from bad, I hope they can find something more for her in the future. Her story in the novel’s is a bit disjointed, with large spans of time unaccounted for between her chapters. I’m sure there’s a wealth of stories to be told.
In Mereen, Dany’s dragons have been very bad. Drogon is getting even bigger, and he’s terrorizing the country side in search of food. We get an impressive shot of him as he comes over a rise and towers over a Shepard’s boy, then torches the field, carrying off a flaming goat.
The goat herd brings the charred remains before Dany, who has opened her throne room to the people to air their grievances. Dany promises to pay the man for his goat herd, three times their value. Yay! Dany is a gracious ruler!
Not so fast.
The goat herd is followed by the son of one of the masters Dany crucified when she took Mereen. Hizdahr zo Loraq (thanks google!) tells Dany that his father actually stood against the other masters when they started crucifying children, but was shouted down. He then begs her to allow them to take the crucified masters down and give them a proper burial. Watching Dany realize that her swift justice may not have been so just was a telling part of her character, but at least she considers the idea that she may have acted rashly. She allows Hizdahr to bury his father, and wearily calls for the next supplicant to be brought in. It’s a short, very well done scene that illustrates the thin line between justice and butchery, as seen through the eyes of both the former slaves, and the former rulers. Dany runs the risk of alienating both through her inability to control three growing dragons and her treatment of the former regime, and shows that even when someone in this world wants to do the right thing, it can difficult to know exactly what that right thing is.
Finally, back in King’s Landing, the moment I’ve personally been looking forward to all season: the trial of Tyrion Lannister. Game of Thrones essentially became a court room drama for its second half: no battles, no dragons, no gratuitous sex. Just good pacing and an excellent performance by Peter Dinklage, which is saying something, because everyone was on point during this sequence. Whether it be Margaery silently watching the systematic take-down of a man she must know is innocent, Cersei desperately trying to see her brother convicted, Jaime desperately pleading for his brother’s life, Tywin using the trial to manipulate Jaime into doing his duty to ensure the survival of the Lannister dynasty…there was a ton of conflict and drama on display here. All building up to the moment where the one person whose testimony could break Tyrion took the stand. And break Tyrion it did. It was difficult to watch the clever man the audience has come to love disappear as just about every line that endeared him to us was used against him, and his final vitriolic rant about how he wished he was the monster they all thought he was, how he wished he had killed Joffrey, and how watching him die gave him relief was the stand out performance of the episode, if not the series to date. The episode ends with Tyrion forsaking the option of joining the Night’s Watch and demanding trial by combat, echoing the situation he found himself in back in season one. If this scene doesn’t put Dinklage at the front of the pack during Emmy season, I don’t know what will.