Tyrion’s Trial: A Changing Tide? — Episode 6, Season 4 Recap

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Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is on trial for murdering King Joffrey Baratheon. © HBO.

Is a seachange brewing in Westerosi power politics? The Iron Bank may have foreclosed on the Lannisters as they turn on one of their own. Yara finally sails into the Dreadfort to rescue her brother. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys struggles for control.

Who is the Titan of Braavos?

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The Titan of Braavos at the entrance of Braavos (c) HBO

The tides are about to change in King’s Landing and the changes commence as a ship sails through the massive legs of the Titan of Braavos. Braavos is the largest of the Free Cities on the continent of Essos, which perhaps not uncoincidentally is about the same size as Eurasia.

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A sixteenth-century rendition of the Colossus at the entrance of the Greek city Rhodes, which was erected in 280BC. Image by Martin Heemskerck.

The Titan of Braavos, resembles the (erroneous) medieval conception of the Colossus at Rhodes, which when it stood was one of the Seven Wonders of the world.

Ser Davos and Stannis Baratheon sail crossing through the Titan of Braavos. Stannis is in Braavos to seek a loan from the Iron Bank — to fund his cause for the Iron Throne.

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The marvelous Mark Gatiss, aka Mycroft Holmes, is Tycho Nestoris. © BBC.

Tycho Nestoris, who is the head of the Iron Bank, is skeptical that funding Stannis is a safe investment. Tycho rejects the loan. The numbers indicate that Stannis won’t win. He only has 4,000 men, 32 ships, and no grain to feed anyone.

Daavos saves the day with his riveting argument about Stannis’ ruthless administration of the law. He argues that Stannis is the only “reliable leader left in Westeros.” Daavos may be a thief — as the Iron Bank is well aware — but he has paid the savage price Stannis exacted and still is loyal to him. Daavos describes it as “an honest accounting.”

Just as persuasively, Daavos argues that while Tywin may be a strong reliable leader, he is 67. When he dies, who is in charge? Cersei? A killer of kings? The bankers don’t like their odds with these Lannisters: Stannis gets his loan.

The Dreadfort: Yara, Theon, Ramsay Snow

Finally, Yara is back. When we last saw her in Season 3, she defied her father and set sail to rescue her baby brother – the recently gelded Theon – from Ramsay Snow.

As Yara and her men sail into the Bolton stronghold, the Dreadfort, under the cover of darkness, she gets their blood up by reminding them of the comrades Ramsay flayed. The iron-willed princess also argues that defiling Prince Theon – the Ironborn heir – is an offense against them: “Everything they’ve done to him, they have also done to you.” They cannot let this go unavenged.

There’s no reason that Yara and her tough Ironborn troops shouldn’t easily sneak into the dungeons and rescue Theon. Yet the rescue goes badly wrong. Yara finds her brother quickly enough – in a small cage in the dog kennels. But, Theon is broken. Terrified Theon believes the rescue is yet another one of Ramsay’s savage tricks, so he won’t go with her quietly.

Before Yara can persuade Theon to flee, the racket of barking dogs and the resisting Theon causes Ramsay to hear the commotion — and depart from his S&M fueled love-making. He traps Yara and her men in the stone kennels with only one way out.

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Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) fights Yara. © HBO.

Ramsay is thrilled: “This is turning into a lovely evening.” He fearlessly fights bare-chested against Yara’s armored and sword-wielding Ironborn men. Ramsay savagely dispatches several men with a mace and dagger.

Despite being bitten by Theon, Yara impales and slaughters at least two of Theon’s men. At the end of the skirmish, Yara has the upper hand — and holds the exit.

In a marvelously gratifying moment, Ramsay and Yara face off. Yara proclaims, “Give me my brother and no more of your men will die.”

Ramsay acknowledges Yara’s prowess: “You’ve got bigger balls than he ever did.” (“He” being Theon.) Then true to form, slippery Ramsay turns the tables.
Ramsay pulls the cotter pin out of the dog cages, releasing his blood-thirsty hounds.

Yara and her men run for their lives – abandoning Theon. At the shore, an Ironborn oarsman asks Yara what about her brother. She replies that her brother is dead. And sadly, she may be right.

**

Back at the Dreadfort, the masterful abuser Ramsay rewards Reek/Theon for not escaping with his sister. Ramsay lets Theon, the man who has not washed in a year, have a bath. Ramsay even bathes him. Creepy.

Ramsay wants Reek to resume his former identity – Theon Greyjoy – to help him seize a castle [presumably Moat Cailin – the key to Ramsay being restored to his father’s good graces] from some “bad men.”

Dragons Gone Wild, Daenerys in Meereen

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Not exactly babies anymore. © HBO.

We all knew it would happen. Daenerys’ dragons have grown massive and are out of control.

Daenerys is struggling on all fronts. Her wild dragons are almost a symbol for her inability to rule effectively. When Daenerys receives supplicants in her throne room, a poor goat herd begs recompense for an entire flock the dragons destroyed. The days where they daintily flambeed meat cubes are long gone.

After Daenerys pays the goat herd the value of his goats three times over, she grants an audience to a Meereen nobleman’s son whose father she crucified. Daenerys may come to regret her large-scale crucifixion. The nobleman in question argued against the illegal crucifixion of the child slaves.

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Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) receives supplicants in her throne room in Meereen. © HBO

The nobleman’s son asks her, “Is it justice to answer one crime with another?” He requests the right to give his father a proper funeral. Daenerys crucified 162 Meereen nobleman: she has 212 people wishing an audience with her. Atonement for a rash decision? So far, her rule is not going that smoothly.

King’s Landing

At King’s Landing, there is a growing awareness of the threat across the Narrow Sea. During a small council meeting, Varys notes, she has a powerful army, seasoned councilors, mercenaries, and dragons. At the same meeting, Tywin sets a price on the Hound’s head – who comes to Tywin’s attention after he hears reports that the Hound killed five Lannister soldiers.

Afterward, during a quiet conversation between Varys and Oberyn Martell, we learn more of their backstories. Oberyn spent five years in Essos. Varys is originally from Lys in Essos but has eradicated his accent. Also, Varys rejects sexual desire – and perhaps all forms of desire – entirely. Varys prizes his lack of desire since it leaves him free to pursue other things. What other things? That’s unclear, but Varys did look at the Iron Throne.

A Trial for Being a Dwarf?

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Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) fights for his life. © HBO.

The trial does not go well for Tyrion right from the beginning. As the head of the Kingsguard, Jamie and his men arrive to take Tyrion to trial – in chains – on his father’s orders. Tommen, traditionally fond of Tyrion, formally recuses himself from the trial and asks his grandfather, Tywin, to preside over it.

Not surprisingly, the witnesses are all hostile to Tyrion: they clearly distort the truth. Tyrion is not allowed to speak out in his own defense.

The witnesses include Ser Meryn Trant, whom Tyrion reprimanded for beating Sansa in the throne room on Joffrey’s orders, Grand Maester Pycelle, whom Tyrion arrested, Cersei, Varys, and, most shockingly of all the jilted Shae.

Maester Pycelle lists off the stores of poison and gives the gravest assurance that Joffrey died of poison. Pycelle shows Sansa’s necklace, which was found with the body of Joffrey’s fool Ser Dontos Hollard, with residue of a terrible poison. According to Pycelle, this poison is known as the Strangler.

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Cersei (Lena Headey) at Tyrion’s trial. © HBO

Cersei lies on the stand about her brother. Even Varys testifies against Tyrion. Even when Tyrion reminds him of the city’s debt to Tyrion, Varys does not recant.

During a recess, Jaime confronts Tywin about the showtrial. Jaime appeals directly to Tywin’s greatest love: his legacy. He offers to leave the Kingsguard in exchange for Tyrion’s life.
Tywin is plotting to have Tyrion found guilty and then planning to send him to the Wall.

Shae testifies against Tyrion under oath. She states that Sansa and Tyrion planned the death together. Sansa wanted revenge for father, mother, and brother— and agrees to sleep with Tyrion in exchange for Joffrey’s death.

Only Oberyn is suspicious: “Why would he reveal such plans to his wife’s maid?”

Shae’s testimony is too much for Tyrion. He turns on the audience, the people of King’s Landing: “I saved you and I saved this city and all of your worthless lives. I should have let Stannis

Tyrion then declares — knowing his family’s hatred of his diminutive stature — he is on trial for being a dwarf. The crowd hisses and boos him.

Stating flatly he will get no justice at this trial, Tyrion demands a trial by combat – and the episode ends.

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

13 Comments

  • Reply May 12, 2014

    Grant

    I think you mean that the Iron Bank’s numbers suggest Stannis will lose the war, not win it.

    And not sure why Yara would have an easy time getting to Theon. Typically prisons were places that were physically hard to get people out of.

    And with Dany, it’s an issue that usually doesn’t exist in fantasy. Either the humans know how to work with fantasy animals, the animal is naturally highly intelligent or it’s just ignored. But no, she has three powerful carnivores and no knowledge of how her ancestors controlled them.

    • Reply May 12, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      re: the Iron Bank
      Yes, you’re right. I’ll fix that. I have to admit – recaps aren’t my finest hour. 🙂 Unlike newspapers and big magazines who get preview tapes sent to them, I watch the show live and write the recap in the two hours or so show after the show. Sometimes I try to prepopulate the recaps based on what I know about the books, but the books and show are now too far apart in many places to truly predict what is in any given episode. (I may figure out some parts, but not all.)

      re: Yara
      Well, that’s a fair comment – except for some reason I thought it would easy. Yara is skilled, confident, and has the strong backing.

      re: the dragons
      That’s a great point. In the TV show Merlin, for example, the wizard Merlin could command the dragon Kilgharrah because he was a dragon lord. (I’m a tiny bit embarrassed to admit this but I loved that dragon.)

      Do you think it is because she doesn’t have the knowledge of how to control them, or do you think it is more than that? Have the dragons changed? Is her Targaryen blood too thin (or too thick from all that intermarriage 😉 )? Has the old Valyrian magic left the world?

    • Reply May 12, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Grant, somehow I’m still missing your point. I wrote that “Tycho… is skeptical that funding Stannis is a safe investment. Tycho rejects the loan. The numbers indicate that Stannis won’t win.”

      Do you mean that it is more than that – that Stannis will *definitely* lose with those numbers? If so, that’s a fair point.

  • Reply May 12, 2014

    Jun

    The geography has always been very screwy in the TV series. On this issue I’ve rolled my eyes too many times.

    People have pointed out that dragons in this case are an analogy of nuclear weapons. Just owning them is a loaded situation with potential harm to the nation’s own people, and to deploy them is even more loaded. I can’t think of any historical comparison to the idea of nuclear weapon. In this case, of course, Dany is the only one who possesses the advanced weapon at the moment and there is no threat of “mutually assured destruction.”

    Tyrion’s show trial reminds me of what’s been said (here) about Duke of Clarence’s show trial and led to his drowning. Or perhaps the show trial of Anne Boleyn and her brothers.

  • Reply May 12, 2014

    Grant

    On the original thing about Stannis, it said “Stannis win” with “won’t” missing.

    As for the dragons, I don’t believe that’s been exactly explained yet.

    However from what we do know from books and show I’d say blood definitely isn’t the issue. Dany’s hair is the correct color, her lineage indisputable, she shows possibly total immunity to fire and heat and perhaps most importantly of all, she was the one who managed to make the dragon eggs hatch.

    Additionally, magic doesn’t seem to be the problem either. As becomes clearer with each book and season of the show, magic and divine intervention is definitely returning to the world in full force. It might not have totally left (the Children, the Magi, the White Walkers, the dragons until their extinction etc), but it was certainly slumbering for a long time, and now it’s back.

    =====Spoiler Alert ====== Info from Books=====

    Now something new has appeared, note that this will be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the books. One of the characters who traveled to the area of old Valyria has recovered a horn that is claimed can bind a dragon that hears it to the horn blower’s master (and we see some evidence of the horn being magical at least). However we never heard anything about the Targaryeans using horns to control their dragons, and they certainly wouldn’t have just left the horns unguarded for someone to steal while they reigned. So while the Valyrians might have used those horns, we have no reason to think that the Targaryeans at the time of invading Westeros had any, let alone still had them by the time the dragons died off.

    So all that leaves only one option. Dany’s ancestors in Westeros had some way of training dragons without magic. We don’t know what it involved or how effective it was compared to the horns, but such a training program certainly existed.

    And it makes sense. I only have vague knowledge of how to train a dog to sniff out drugs and bombs, and that’s a creature that’s been embraced and trained by humans worldwide for at least ten thousand years. A dragon? Only one culture and one offshoot culture ever bred them that we know of, and they’re effectively extinct. There might, emphasis on might, be some people left in Westeros and the cities who could tell her what was done before, but who knows how reliable that is and for all we know Dany’s already ruined raising them.

  • Reply May 12, 2014

    Jamie Adair

    re: my typo – thanks

    You mean spoiled them, right? That is, she might not have raised them correctly?

  • Reply May 12, 2014

    Grant

    Whether or not they were spoiled isn’t clear, but there’s a strong possibility that they simply weren’t raised ‘right’. Perhaps she didn’t show enough firmness with them, or perhaps a necessary part of dragon juvenile development is regularly passing a flame over them and so they didn’t develop a strong enough bond with her, or perhaps a thousand other random guesses. Unless Martin addresses this, all we have is speculation.

    We also have no idea what a dragon’s development is. I’m not sure what the timeline is in the show (one year, three years?) between season 1 and season 4, but in the books it’s at most one year between the dragons hatching and growing from a bit larger than a hand into creatures larger than a human. I remember that in the books Tyrion considered the few books and scrolls he’d been able to find on dragonlore, which in his words weren’t very consistent.

    However it does not seem at all likely that what they’re doing is what the Targaryean dragons did in centuries past. I’m pretty sure that would have been recorded and remembered, no matter how hard the Targaryeans might have tried to cover it up. Now I will say that it is also possible that the dragons were just fed very well by the Targaryeans in their juvenile period, something that Dany might not have had a chance to do, but that doesn’t sound too probable considering that Dany is ruling the entire city now. I think she could manage to get the three their food, and they didn’t show this behavior earlier when food was more scarce.

  • Reply May 13, 2014

    Jun

    Given the courtroom drama in episode 406, it occurred to me that the novels spent a lot of time on the economic aspects of a pseudo-medieval society but little to none on the judicial aspects. We don’t see a system that sets and enforces laws. When people have grievances they just go to the lords or crown to complain. Seems rather chaotic. If there were a multi-tiered judiciary system, Daenerys would not have to personally judge 214

    Historically … well, I don’t know the details but I have heard of King Hammurabi’s code. And local magistrates serve as prosecutors and judges.

  • Reply May 13, 2014

    Grant

    Well, you’re looking at quite a large distance of regions in the show and books and mentioning legal traditions separated by millennia, but we do see some instances of law in the books and show.

    It’s pretty clear that in general the lords who own the land have the authority and responsibility to keep the peace there, resolve disputes and punish criminals. And from Eddard Stark’s recital before he chops off the deserter’s head in episode 1, that authority and responsibility comes to him as a servant of the king in Kingslanding. In other words, devolved law enforcement. There aren’t a group of royal judges who travel the lands to pass judgement or live there as an extension of the king’s authority. Instead the lords who own the land in the king’s name will do the work, presumably with regional differences in exact laws and punishment.
    This is pretty in keeping with feudalism at different points in Europe and devolved sovereignty that was established in Westeros.

    Beyond areas like treason or murder, justice and law often didn’t exist to the same degree that they do today. A lot of law and punishment wasn’t handled by courts, but rather through traditional decisions and the community’s opinions. You got more official state control of law when the state’s bureaucracy expanded, something clearly not happening in Westeros or Mereen.

    As for Dany, petitions to high ranking authorities were a very common thing, they even exist today although they’re not really consequential (petitions to the White House for example).

    • Reply May 13, 2014

      Jun

      Thanks for the explanation, Grant. The devolved feudalism doesn’t sound like much fun and almost a bit like the “Wild West.” I don’t know much about European history. Historically China has some form of feudalism but the state has a massive, meticulously constructed bureaucracy and a judicial system that separately manage a lot of the drudgery of dispute-arbitration and social order maintenance.

      I wonder if Dany is having second thoughts about her intention to “rule.” That story line in Book 5 provides a lot of food for thought about current international affairs. When a foreign army invades a country with its own long-established history, tradition, culture, and conflicts, nation building can be a big pain and doomed to failure. Does not make for fascinating drama, unfortunately. People seem to think Dany’s ruthless treatment of slavers is the cause of Meereen’s unrest. I am not sure that is true. Both Soviet Union and China have shown that such tactics can work to a certain extent — at least in establishing a new order. Otherwise the system will likely revert to the old order (which is happening in Astapor and Yunkai and, with the reopening of the Fighting Pit, Meereen).

  • Reply May 13, 2014

    Grant

    It depended. It wasn’t necessarily so great for crowded places with lots of people, like cities*, but was a pretty effective form of social control for less populated areas. Of course that wasn’t a lot of justice, but looking at old law I think the community opinion was pretty heavily emphasized in Europe. Life was difficult, your lord might protect you but he also demanded a lot from you, a single bad harvest might end your village and it was pretty far to travel beyond the next village. They needed to stay socially united or they risked losing everything.

    But yes, the flaws in that sort of legal system were recognized enough that as time went on formal courts (either royal or local) got established. It wasn’t a very uniform thing, we’re talking about dozens of nations (probably more if you consider all the different kingdoms that simply were wiped out by some invasion or assimilation) with their own standards. In England for example, going back about one thousand years royal judges were sent through specific regions of the land to make decisions.

    Anyway, back on the topic of Westeros and law, it isn’t surprising that formal legal proceedings happen in Kingslanding. Besides this being a very important issue of regicide, Kingslanding is the closest Westeros has to a political, financial and cultural heart and it clearly has a lot of crime happen every day. You can’t rely on arbitrary opinions or a very divided population there, you need a more reliable form of arbitration and criminal justice.

    *And unsurprisingly cities from ancient times through to today are often centers of law enforcement and legal thinking. A lot of money in cities, a lot of people in cities and a lot of thinkers in cities.

    As for Dany and the slavers, it sort of is the fault of her tactics, but that’s because of the circumstances. Dany’s made a huge change to society through force, but she didn’t leave behind any political faction devoted to her ideas before she took her force to the next city, and she doesn’t have any constituents to back her and develop political leaders. The former slaves might like her, but slaves aren’t noted for their political abilities, and definitely not in just a few months.

    Compare her with her ancestors when they went to Westeros. Just like her, they probably didn’t have many political allies in the places they conquered, but unlike her they guaranteed that for the people they were conquering, life would be pretty much the same, just with the Targaryeans at the top. Between the carrot of like being the same and the powerful defense of the dragons, and the stick of the danger of being cooked alive by the dragons if you rebelled, it’s not surprising that the Targaryeans conquered so much and kept it for so long even after the dragons died. If they hadn’t practiced inbreeding, it’s entirely possible that the Targaryeans would still be in control by the time of the books.

  • Reply May 14, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    A ruthless regime worked when William I, the Conqueror took over England in 1066 AD, though England may be smaller than the fictional Slaver’s Bay region. Of course he didn’t have dragons. Of course there were pockets of rebellion. From what I remember, eventually the Normans became absorbed into the greater population though there are some aristocracy in England (I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head) who can trace their ancestry back to someone who came over with William the Conqueror. The present British royal family is – tenuously – descended from William the Conqueror, though the descent has gone through the female line many times. The signing of the Magna Carta, which is often trumpeted as a landmark in the development of freedom in Britain, really only increased the “freedom” of the barons. It didn’t do much for old Joe (or Joan) Peasant.

    I liked the dragon in “Merlin” too. Maybe it was John Hurt’s voice. I liked “Merlin” despite all the plot-holes. Wasn’t too keen on “Camelot” though I didn’t watch the whole series.

  • Reply May 14, 2014

    Grant

    Yes, but prior to William’s invasion England had suffered civil war, near-civil war, political assassinations, political instability over who would be king, invasions by Norwegians and William brought with him his own people to rule. William didn’t conquer a place, and then just move his army and leaders out of it and expect it to stay loyal.

    It actually would be rather interesting to see what would happen had William’s invasion failed. I assume that based on geography England would have been a constant enemy of France, but the Hundred Year’s War might not have happened, and culturally England would have been very distinct from most of continental Europe.

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