As we enter the latter half of Season 4, “Game of Thrones” eases us into the action with episode 6 “The Laws of Gods and Men” that both sets the stage for the big things to come, and brings the pain for a select few. Director Alik Sakharov balances both bloody action and one-set, dialogue-heavy scenes with a stylish aplomb, maintaining the high-wire tension throughout, and showcasing a bravura performance from a series favorite. And I’m burying the lede here, but we also got a whole NEW LOCATION in the credit sequence! That’s right, after much, much foreshadowing, we finally put Braavos on the map. And that’s where we begin.
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) sail right through the legs of the very huge Braavosi soldier statue that heralds the land of Braavos. While Davos and Stannis wait for their small business loan meeting, Davos tries to make small talk, but Stannis ain’t having it. They are finally greeted by some Iron Bankers, led by Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) to discuss the financials. While Davos claims Stannis’ kingly status, the Braavosis have heard otherwise, pretty sure that Tommen is actually the technical king right now. Tycho tells Stannis that ledgers filled with “usurper,” “madmen,” and “blood…right” ain’t going to fly in their bank. They want the cold, hard numbers! And right now, the numbers just aren’t in Stannis’ favor. Loan denied.
Stannis shoots crazy eye daggers at Davos, and as they are about to leave, Davos flashes his handful of chopped off fingers at the banker, as evidence of Stannis' honesty (okay...), calling it both an "honest payment" and “an honest accounting." Davos goes to the mat for Stannis, claiming that his king is the best bet for Westeros when Tywin (age 67) kicks it (Tommen and Cersei just won’t do). If it doesn’t convince the Braavosi bankers, it sure as hell gives Stannis pause about ditching Davos (who is such an underrated character, for the record).
Cut to: a steamy spa filled with naked ladies and Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati), Davos’ smuggler comrade, telling some maidens a well-known pirate joke. Davos sneaks up on the little ménage, and asks him to sail with him at dawn, and sweetens the deal with a rack of coins. He also says that he’s left a chest of the good stuff at his house with his wife. Does this mean that they actually got the loan thanks to Davos’ speechifying? He does seem rather pleased with himself, for once.
Iron Islands/The Dreadfort
Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) has got some vengeance and some brother rescuing to get up to, and she’s rounded up her best salty characters, reading Ramsay Snow’s (Iwan Rheon) message banishing the Iron Born and exhorting them to protect and rescue their prince, Theon (Alfie Allen). This speech is intercut with a scene of Ramsey having some very intense and creepy-eyed sex with a maiden. As they climax, the Iron Born breach the Dreadfort with grappling hooks. Yara quickly finds Theon/Reek with the dogs, but he doesn’t even recognize his sister, saying “you can’t trick me,” and he doesn’t want to leave with her, fighting her all the way.
Soon enough, Ramsay shows up, all shirtless and hairless and artfully splattered with disturbingly bright red blood. He quickly jumps into the mix, weapons flying, dogs barking, in the dark and narrow dungeon. Theon runs back into the cage, and the two sides come to a stand off, before Ramsay unlocks the dog cage and the Iron Born quickly retreat. Yara’s given up on Theon, her brother now dead for her.
As a reward for staying loyal, Ramsay has drawn a bath for Theon/Reek, and demands he remove his clothes, revealing his scarred and traumatized body (Ramsay gives him one hell of a creeptastic once over as he drops the britches). In the tub, Ramsay tenderly sponges at Theon/Reek’s body and asks him if he loves him, which Theon/Reek quickly affirms (truly the most fucked up relationship in this show full of fucked up relationships). Of course, it only matters because Ramsey needs Theon/Reek to pretend to be Theon Greyjoy in order to get to the castle that Ramsey’s been tasked with taking (Moat Cailin).
A goat herder and his son preside over a peaceful flock at the side of a waterfall. Soon though, they are visited by one of their Queen’s dragons who makes off with a quick snack of BBQ goat. The herder takes up the loss of his herd with Queen Daenerys (her title has gotten so much longer with all of her conquering too, btw) in her pyramid. She promises him to pay for the flock three times over, because Dany is a big ol’ softie.
The second person waiting to see her is Hizdarh zo Loraq (Joel Fry), a nobleman, who requests to be able to take down his father’s body and have him properly buried since the new queen had him crucified. Daenerys is kind of shady to him at first, and pushes back on the whole crucifixion thing, since she’s still pissed about the slave girls (Hizdarh claims his father was against it, which, WHOOPS, D, whiffed that justice thing there). And because she’s a big ol’ softie, she allows him to bury his father. After that, there are 212 more supplicants waiting. This whole “ruling” thing is hard.
The small council meeting has gathered, and Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) is being very, very Oberyn Martell (he’s cranky the meeting is early, because he was up late, doing you know what, obviously). But hey, Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) is just happy to be invited. Tywin (Charles Dance) arrives and they get on with the meeting, aka listening to the latest gossip from Lord Varys (Conleth Hill)—the Hound has been spotted, he said “fuck the king” and killed some guys, Daenerys is ruling Meereen in the East with her dragons, and her knights. Cersei (Lena Headey) is pretty dismissive of Daenerys as Queen, just like she was dismissive of Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), who's now off advising Daenerys. Tywin writes off that decision as “insulting and stupid,” as only he can. Oberyn makes a crack about the Unsullied Army’s talents on the battlefield, but not in the bedroom, because, Oberyn.
Varys and Oberyn have a small chat in the throne room—Oberyn susses out that Varys is from Essos, despite the lack of accent. Oberyn invites Varys to come to the brothel, have some Dornish wine and a chat with Ellaria Sand, and Varys reveals that he doesn’t care for boys, girls, or desire at all, blaming the downfall of the country on all that lusting. Varys has only got eyes for the Iron Throne, you see.
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) goes to collect Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) from his cell. Of course, Tyrion’s got some good cracks in there, sarcastically ruing the fact that his father had him brought to the trial in shackles and chains. At the trial, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) recuses himself from the trial and cedes the seat to Tywin, less than pleased to even be going through with this. Let the trial begin.
They call the witnesses to recount every time Tyrion said something mean to Joffrey: Ser Meryn (Ian Beattie), Cersei, Varys, and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) to read his inventory of poison. Pycelle also pulls out the necklace that belonged to Sansa (Sophie Turner), which was found on the fool Dontos’ body with traces of The Strangler poison. Pycelle adds in that Joffrey was “the most noble child the Gods ever put on this good earth,” and everyone else is like, um, I wouldn’t go that far.