I’m just going to come right out and say: I wasn’t really feeling this episode. After the insanity that has been pretty much the entire season so far, and the intense political plays of “The Laws of Gods and Men”, this episode served as a deep breath before the last three episodes of the season.
Not that there wasn’t some good stuff here. The episode followed up with Tyrion, back in his cell and bitter as hell. Much of the episode dealt with him trying to find a champion to represent him in his Trial by Combat. Essentially, he was asking people to potentially die for him. There’s something inherently selfish in that, and the way he tries to convince his first two choices to fight for him, particularly when you consider who they have to fight (Cersei has conscripted Ser Gregor Clegane, a man people call ‘The Mountain that Rides’, and beheaded a horse with a single swing back in season one, when he was played by a different actor).
The first lucky candidate is Jaime. Unfortunately, Jaime’s skills are a little rusty to date, what with his sword hand having been cut off. The exchange between Tyrion and Jaime is well done, with Tyrion speaking quite candidly once again about Jaime’s relationship with Cersei, to which Jaime gives a suitably terse reply. Jaime fighting Clegane would be suicide. Tyrion, full of spite, tries to put a bright spin on that, saying that if both he and Jaime were dead, it would completely dash all of their father’s carefully laid plans. In the end, Jaime refuses. He loves his brother, but he isn’t stupid.
Next up was Bronn, and another great exchange about the fine lines dividing friendship, loyalty, and service. Bronn fought for Tyrion before, at the Vale. In that instance, however, Bronn knew he would win, and he knew he’d get paid. He no longer has a need for gold, and Tyrion cannot outbid Cersei’s offer of a title and lands. He likes Tyrion, but he isn’t stupid enough to fight the Mountain for him. And so, Tyrion’s last friend in the world turns his back on him. I’m a bit disappointed that Tyrion didn’t bring up the fact that Bronn assured him Shae was gone. I can’t help but wonder if Tywin intercepted Bronn and paid him off to bring Shae to him.
Tyrion’s final visitor of the night was one of the judges at his trial, a man who hates Lannisters, and someone who has no reason to do anything at all for Tyrion–Oberyn Martell. Oberyn tells him of the story of how he came to Casterly Rock after Tyrion was born, and all along the way he heard rumors of the monster that had killed his mother, had claws, one red eye, and tail between its legs. He tells of his disappointment when he finally saw baby Tyrion was nothing more than a deformed child. The reason he has come to Tyrion is to pledge himself as Tyrion’s champion. Now, we know from Oberyn that the people of Dorne are more accepting of things Westerosi society tends to be judgmental about, and perhaps he sympathizes with the way Tyrion has been treated his entire life. The real reason he does it, however, is because he’s been seeking justice against Ser Gregor Clegane, and now is his chance. As he says this we get another example of just how good Dinklage is. After his dramatic outburst last week, he gives a subdued, defeated performance here, conveying Tyrion’s desperation and gratitude perfectly.
Also strong this episode was Rory McCann as the Hound. After a short fight in which the Hound receives a nasty bite, Arya offers to sanitize the wound with a torch. The Hound freaks out, being afraid of fire as he is. And then he opens up to her, telling her the story of how his face became burned, and how what hurt the most wasn’t the fire, or the smell of his own burning face, but the fact that his own brother did it to him, and his father helped cover it up. It’s usually Arya that steals the show, but the Hound was the focus here, with McCann astutely conveying the Hound’s regrets and disappointments with life. Arya’s life has been hard, but at least she knew a family that loved her and had a brother that gave her a sword. All the Hound’s brother ever did was give him a scar and a lifetime of being treated like a monster (much like Tyrion).
Our other odd couple, Brienne and Pod, are still traveling, looking for Sansa. An old friend of Arya’s, Hot Pie, turns up and tells them that Arya at least made it as far as the north, and could still be alive. With Riverrun controlled by the Freys and Winterfell in ashes, there are only two places left for Arya to go: The Wall and her brother Jon, or the Eyrie and her aunt Lyssa. They choose the Eyrie, thinking that Sansa will likely be heading there as well, if she’s alive.
Sansa is, indeed, at the Eyrie, and she’s in deep. She’s got Littlefinger creeping on her, and when he plants one right on her lips, Lysa sees it and lures Sansa to the Moon Door, the Eyrie’s own little trademark style of execution. Lysa holds her niece over the drop, threatening to kill her, until Littlefinger intervenes, convinces her to let Sansa go, gets in close, and pushes her over the edge with a cruel little “I only loved your sister”. Creepy as that kiss with Sansa was, I wouldn’t put it past Littlefinger to know that Lysa was watching and the whole thing was a show to push her over the edge, allowing him to remove her from the equation and take control over the Eyrie and the Vale. Littlefinger is now Lord of Harrenhal and the Riverlands, Lord by proxy of the Eyrie, and he holds the keys to Winterfell through Sansa. He’s essentially winning the “Game of Thrones”, and nobody realizes it.
Over the Narrow Sea, Daenerys makes a decision regarding Yunkai. After using Daario as her personal boy toy, she sends him and the Second Sons to retake the city and execute the Masters. Ser Jorah convinces her otherwise, using his own past as a slaver to sway her decision. Dany is starting to let her advisers advise her, a key aspect ruling, if you believe what Tywin Lannister has to say. Unlike Tywin, who simply wants to manipulate Tommen, I believe Jorah (and Barristan, as seen in an earlier episode) are more concerned with keeping Dany from going down the tyrannical road of many of her ancestors.
Finally, we have some drama at the Wall and Dragonstone. Basically, Jon wants to block up the tunnel because Mance Rayder has giants. Alliser Thorne is a dick, and refuses to listen to Jon’s advice. End scene. Meanwhile, Melisandre wants Lady Selyse to bring Shireen with them when they go to meet Stannis. Melisandre walks around naked while giving a monologue about lies and they stare at a fire together. End scene. Neither scene amounted to much individually, and served more to set up events further down the road.
Next week…Oberyn versus the Mountain! Woohoo…wait. I have to wait TWO WEEKS!? BULLS*&!