The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed a new location pop up in the opening credits this week; Braavos. We are taken straight there, and treated to some impressive shots of the city as well as the ridiculously huge statue guarding the harbour, whose legs all visitors must sail between (it makes the Argonath look like something out of Bekonscot Model Village).
That renowned Renaissance rascal William Shakespeare warned us to ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be’, but it seems there has been no equivalent wordsmith dispensing such sound financial advice in Westeros. Mark Gatiss has taken up residence as loans supervisor at the Iron Bank of Braavos, and Stannis Baratheon must convince him that the night is dark and full of terrors, and that his god of fire is therefore a secure investment. Of course, Stannis is far too stiff-necked to be any good at wheedling money out of people, so the bulk of the talking falls to Davos.
Davos gives an impassioned speech, so impassioned that even Stannis is giving him side-eye as he waves the stubs of his former fingers in Mycroft’s face; “Stannis doesn’t just talk about paying people back, he does it!” Not a technique to put to the test in your local Santander, but it does the trick, and the man Ned Stark believed to be the true king of Westeros will leave Braavos with far heavier pockets than when he arrived.
There’s a nice awkward scene in Meereen as Dany is faced with the reality of ruling the city. It’s not all reimbursing shepherds when your dragons flame their flock; some of it is looking into the eyes of a man whose father you crucified. At the Dreadfort, Theon proves that he really isn’t Theon anymore when Yara attempts to rescue him. We get the feeling she’s doing it more because the Iron Islands have been impugned than out of any real love for her brother, but even so, the look on her face as he protests his own rescue (“I’m Reek! I’ve always been Reek!”) speaks volumes.
However, most of this rather brilliant episode is given over to Tyrion’s trial. We say trial, but of course it’s really (in the words of the Westerosi) a mummer’s farce. Whether or not the other characters actually believe Tyrion murdered Joffrey is neither here nor there; he is accused by his sister (who hates him), he is being judged by his father (who really hates him), and everybody else knows a good scapegoat when they see one. Like rats from a sinking ship, the Imp’s former allies throw him to the lions, and those who were never his allies to begin with take the opportunity to really jam the boot in (we’re looking at you, Meryn Trant – we hope Arya sticks you with the pointy end).
The real kicker, of course, is Shae. Peter Dinklage is the very personification of ‘thrown for a loop’ (as were we all) when his former lover, and current love, walks demurely into the throne room and quietly twists everything he ever said or did in her presence into something foul. A scene to wrench at the heart of every single GOT fan who loves Tyrion – in other words, every single GOT fan.
Which makes the scenes that follow all the more brilliantly contrived. Half of us wants to cheer Tyrion on as he gives his fantastically vitriolic and bile-filled speech to the court (‘I should have let Stannis kill you all”), and half us is mourning for the death of the last bit of hope that remained alive in him. He’s been kicked while he was down since the day he was born, and now he’s got nothing left – and he knows it.
Hence, he decides to roll the dice, and requests a trial by combat. It’s worked for him before, when he was in the clutches of Lysa Arryn at the Eyrie. But King’s Landing is not the Eyrie – and who will step up to defend the honour, and the life, of a dwarf who has just vowed he would poison everyone in the city if he had the chance?
Something tells us that the four remaining episodes of this season of Game of Thrones are going to be more explosive than a whole fleet of ships filled with wildfire. Flaming arrows at the ready…
Best Scene: It’s a cop-out, but the whole of the last ten minutes of the episode. Might need to stick on some Fleetwood Mac to celebrate/calm down
Best Line: “You’re not on trial for being a dwarf.” – Tywin “Oh, yes I am. I’ve been on trial for that my entire life.” – Tyrion