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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.