Stannis (he who is dour) and Davos (he who is grimm) have travelled here to talk to the Iron Bank. Stannis insists he is the king, insists that Tommen isn’t, throws in claims of incest and illegitimacy – but the Bankers don’t really care. History, honour, bloodlines are less important than bank balances. And the balance of Stannis’s meagre forces, low resources and tiny fleet doesn’t look good. Davos tries to speak for Stannis (though how much the Braavosi are impressed by a smuggler is somewhat dubious). But he has some sense as well – when the 67 year old Tywin dies, then who leads the Seven Kingdoms? Tommen, a child? Cersei, a queen who is hated? Jaime, the Kingslayer?
Hah, shows how little he knows about Kings Landing – the Tyrells will rule!
While in Braavos, Davos meets up with Salladhor Saan (who is with naked prostitutes. Because Game of Thrones). He recruits him with cash (that suggests they got the loan) to Stannis’s war effort.
In the North – where everyone’s awful and we should be Team Nobody.
Yara Greyjoy – Theon’s sister and daughter of the Lord of the Iron Islands who still controls several men in the North, reads the letter her dad received from Ramsay Bolton (evil, creepy son of Roose Bolton who wants to take over the North now the Starks are dead/scattered/lacking the sense normally seen in cabbages) demanding they leave the North in brutal terms involving lots of flaying, complete with bits cut off Theon. While we watch Ramsay have sex with his torture buddy Myranda (we see her naked, him not so much. Because Game of Thrones) Yara gives a stirring speech to the grim Iron Men. She leads her men against the castle where Ramsay is – and demands to be taken to her brother
Who is kept in the kennels – and so broken he’s terrified of being rescued or called by his real name. Ramsay arrives, shirtless and covered in blood leading some of his men – and he’s loving the entertainment. He launches himself at the Iron Men – but Yara and her men are forced to run when Ramsay releases his hounds. She tells her men that Theon is dead.
As a reward, Ramsay gives Theon a bath, that really just emphasises what a pet Theon is to Ramsay. And is extra extra creepy – especially with Theon cringing at every move Ramsay makes. And for extra complexity – Ramsay wants Theon to pretend to be… well... Theon to help him claim the Moat Cailin (a strategic castle held by the Iron men) back.
Meereen Saviour Lady Holds Court
Daenerys is hearing supplicants and being a Queen – this includes a man she gives a wedge of cash because her dragon ate his goats, a noble who wants to bury his dad who she crucified (which she agrees to after learning that he actually opposed the whole mass slaughter of slaves).
Kings Landing back into the snake pit – but snakes are less venomous
The Small Council meets, including Oberyn who is very very amused by the whole affair. Tywin also has no time for flattery (from Mace Tyrell who Tywin treats like a servant). The agenda covers Sandor, the Hound (a bounty on his head), Varys summing up Daenerys’s forces in exacting detail (Jorah is also no longer their spy); Varys and Tywin both take the opportunity to tell Cersei how silly she was to sack Ser Barristan.
Afterwards Varys talks to Oberyn, questioning him about Oberyn’s many travels and being very suspicious of Oberyn knowing where he was from. Oberyn pries into Varys’s history and gets little- but is surprised to realise that Varys is neither interested in men nor women – he finds desire quite destructive and distracting and prefers to focus on other things – and looks to the throne.
Jaime and the guards take Tyrion to his trial, Jaime looking all guilty and Tyrion making sure of the fact. He’s taken to the very full throne room. Tommen announces the judges and proceedings begin- Tyrion doesn’t take things very seriously. Evidence is produced – including Tyrion’s awesome slap of Joffrey (ah, such a sweet memory), Sansa’s poison necklace (that has made its way back from Littlefinger’s boat on Dontos’s floating corpse), Pycelle accusing Tyrion of stealing poisons and of course, Cersei. Even Varys is quick to throw Tyrion under the bus, must to Tyrion’s shock because Varys respected him.
In the recess, Jaime appeals to Tywin for mercy for his brother (not taking kingslaying as an instant executable offence, for obvious reasons, and clearly seeing that Cersei is the mover behind the trial). Jaime also plays his trump card – with Tyrion dead and Jaime celibate, Tywin has to rely on some non-entity cousins to carry the Lannister name. He offers to give Tywin what he wants – to leave the Kingsguard and give Tywin the grandkids he wants, if he spares Tyrion’s life. Tywin agrees – when found guilty, if Tyrion begs for mercy he gets to join the Nights Watch.
Yeah, this “mercy” is rather limited all things considered.
Jaime takes the deal to Tyrion who points out that Ned Stark was promised the same thing. And the final witness is… Shae. She lies and declares Tyrion and Sansa guilty of plotting to kill Joffrey and adds that Tyrion “stole” her from another knight by violence
Tyrion snaps, wishing he’d never saved the city during the battle of Blackwater and confesses – to the crime of being a dwarf – the same trial he has been under all his life. He adds that though he didn’t kill Joffrey, he wished he had. He continues to rant – and demands trial by combat.
Varys is incredibly ruthless in his realism. His “betrayal” of Tyrion shows the extent of that – he knows what games he has to play, he knows what he’s up against and he doesn’t allow sentiment or loyalty or, well, anything get in the way of that. He’s not a Stark to die nobly for a cause (or die nobly while his cause collapses)
It looks like Tyrion hasn’t really played the Game very much this season, but then he has been given so little chance to. In some ways it emphasises that, for all Tyrion’s great intelligence and skill, part of the reason he uses them so well is because of the immense advantage he gets from being a Lannister – and once those tools are taken from you… well cunning only gets you so far. Also, has Tyrion made some of the mistakes that both his family and Ned did - not having enough true friends of influence and trusting too much? All of course added to the Lannister's other flaw - arrogance. Joffrey sorely deserved that slap, but Tyrion has made enemies left right and centre on the assumption that his family name would provide a shield - and when that shield is removed we see them lining up against him; Lannister pride mixed with Stark honour (unwillingness to allow the cruelties of Joffrey go unquestioned - like so many, Tyrion is just too good for Kings Landing politics). In some ways I also see a parallel with Varys on the trial – Varys isn’t playing a game he can’t win, and nor is Tyrion – he doesn’t even fight the trial. He knows better than to play a game so heavily stacked against him.
Of course, Tyrion is also human and after Shae turned on him and all he did for the Lannisters, I think he’s due a bit of an outburst
This whole episode feels a little distracted – with all that’s going on in the world, we focused on a very few scenes and very little advanced in any of them except Tyrion’s trial – but even then that’s the lion’s share of the episode and still not resolved; but then, this is an epic moment and probably needs the attention. I think Stannis and the Braavosi are an important element because they remind us, while Kings Landing is devoted to this trial, that the ending isn’t set – the implication of the Braavosi loan and the clear labelling of Tywin’s vulnerability remind us that it’s not secure.
Shae is surprising – but I think it’s wise to tamp down first instinct and ask just what does Shae owe Tyrion? Really? She was a prostitute and a maid, paid for her services, owned, and with little options or opportunities. Facing up against the Lannisters, should she really make such powerful enemies for the sake of Tyrion? Why is Tyrion owed such a sacrifice from her? Especially with his dramatic “I must hurt you for your own good” moment.
In other things not going as planned - Daenerys is finding ruling less than fun and not just because it's boring - but because her sweeping proclamations may work for grand gestures, but ruling requires a bit more nuance than that. And Theon has found his grand plans of empire not only failed, but now dramatic turned round into him being a weapon against his father