Game Of Thrones season 4 episode 6 review: The Laws Of Gods And Men

This week's Game Of Thrones enters immediately into its own hall of fame. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.

4.6 The Laws Of Gods And Men

We’ve all seen a show have one or two good episodes, then kind of tail off into a status of eternal decentness. Never great, never bad, sometimes mediocre, and usually just kind of… pretty good. Game Of Thrones is not one of those shows. The first season was riveting, the second season became the showcase of Tyrion Lannister, the third season was the Red Wedding and the destruction of the Stark family. The worst episode, if you can call it that, is rated with an 8.5 on the IMDb.

That’s a very high average, and a very high bar for the average episode of Game Of Thrones to meet, yet The Laws Of Gods And Men may have become one of the best episodes on the show’s four seasons. Three or four of them are obvious: the ninth episode of the first three seasons (Baelor and the death of Ned Stark, Blackwater and Tyrion saving King’s Landing from Stannis, The Rains of Castamere and the Red Wedding) and season four’s second episode The Lion and the Rose (which took out the most popular bad guy in television history), and, if my ranking system is to be believed, and now, The Laws Of Gods And Men.

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Game Of Thrones is a show that remembers its history, and it expects the same from the viewers. Certainly you’ll get a nice opening “previously on” montage that will help refresh the memory, but after three and a half seasons, Game Of Thrones showrunners Dan Benioff and D.B Weiss are fully aware that if you’re not involved by now, you’re not going to get involved, and they’re free to pitch to a captive audience and really unearth all the little moments throughout the show’s run all at once, and these elements come back in a big way in Bryan Cogman’s brilliant script.

Lots of faces we haven’t seen for awhile make their return, from the pirate king and spectacular character Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati making a much-needed return as one of the most fun characters since the great Syrio Forel) to an incensed and vengeance-minded Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). However, when it comes to blasts from the past, no one is reaping more of what he has sown than Tyrion Lannister.

Arrested for the death of one king by another kingslayer, he’s facing a trial that will very likely determine his fate and live or die, every person Tyrion Lannister has ever wronged is ready to plunge a knife into his back. Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) shows up to remind us all of the time Joffrey got dung thrown at him before being slapped twice by his uncle. Grand Maester Pycelle is finally able to get his revenge for being thrown in the black cells by the former Hand of the King, painting Tyrion as a poisoner. Cersei gets her digs in too, reminding us all of the time he told her that her joy would turn to ashes in her mouth. Varys mentions the joke about kings dying like flies. And Shae… well, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she’s able to not only paint Tyrion as a murderer by crafting a tale of revenge and marital strife that damns both Tyrion and the woman who took her Lannister lion away from her, but she also goes out of her way to humiliate Tyrion.

Peter Dinklage already has an Emmy for his work as Tyrion Lannister, and while he hasn’t had as much to do this year as he has in seasons past, he’s doing just as much with the words he’s given as he possibly can, and it’s sheer brilliance. Tyrion doesn’t say a lot during his trial, but his reactions are priceless, and communicate the anger and hurt and helpless anguish that anyone would be feeling in that situation, and when Tyrion unleashes on the assembled crew of suck-ups and flunkies, he really lets them have it. Any scene with anger can be overplayed, but Peter Dinklage makes the most of his dialogue without chewing the scenery. It’s a controlled, righteous fury, not some sort of coked-up Gary Oldman rampage.

It’s the centerpiece of an episode full of brilliant moments. Varys is a clever and scheming as ever, and Conleth Hill proves his worth in a particularly good scene with Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn Martell. The torture of Theon Greyjoy was a bit much to watch as it happened, but since Theon has become Reek, Alfie Allen’s turned his acting game up to 11, selling every whimper, every tick, every tortured moment of conversation as a barely-repressed panic. Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth is one of the show’s most underrated characters and he continues to improve the fortunes of Stannis the Mannis during a meeting with Tycho Nestoris (a brilliant Mark Gatiss in full flower). Even Emilia Clarke seemed to bring her A game during her scene in the great pyramid of Meereen, getting her first real taste of life as a queen rather than a conqueror.

Director Alik Sakharov has put together a brilliant episode, balancing things well between Tyrion’s trial and everything else. It’s not often that the shows have to balance so much, but while Tyrion gets the emphasis, the other stories don’t seem to be neglected. Clearly, Sakharov knows how to handle his actors, as he gets great performances across the board, but the use of reaction shots is what really gets things going. In particular, the montage of reactions to Tyrion’s demand of a trial by combat is a thing of beauty, as is Tyrion’s reaction shots to the testifying against him. (Ditto Dany’s pained expression when Missandei tells her she has several hundred more supplicants waiting to see her, belying a frustration rarely seen on the face of the young queen.)

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Top to bottom one of the best episodes of the season and of the series as a whole, The Laws Of Gods And Men had something for everyone, from great writing and acting to a brilliant fight scene involving the Ironborn and Bolton’s Bastard, heartbreak, a classic pirate joke, and a some of the best CGI in the show’s run with both a flying dragon immolating a flock of goats and the Titan of Braavos rising over the sea. Very rarely does a television show stay this consistently good for this long, but four seasons in and Game Of Thrones is as strong and sharp as ever, much like a Valyrian steel sword. 

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, First Of His Name, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is a huge fan of Peter Dinklage, and if there was an Emmy available for only one scene, Tyrion’s courtroom outburst would win it. As it is, here’s hoping Charles Dance finally gets his due. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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