An exciting new city unfolds on the opening credits, a King fails his credit check, a big sister goes on a rescue mission, a Queen discovers exactly how heavy a crown can be, a trial begins in betrayal, a whole lot of inspiring speeches get shouted through gritted teeth, and a quick moving and tense episode six sets us up for and exciting final four episodes (and can I tell you how much it hurts to write that?) Find out more after the break.
We open this week with the opening credits (which are, of course, the greatest opening credits in the history of television… only a few steps ahead of Rome). I confess to only giving them a half a glance at first this week, but when I caught the tail-end of a new figure unfurling on our favorite mechanical map, let’s just say I’m glad that I am in possession of the magical Xfinity wand of rewindification. Because the figure that unfurled was non-other than the Colossus of Braavos, the towering statue that marks the homeland of the greatest swordsman (and tutor) the world has ever known: Syrio Forel!
Ok, it’s also the home of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Which figures just a little more strongly in tonight’s episode then our departed Water Dancer. Under Davos’ direction, Stannis has applied for a war loan, and he’s pacing up and down the halls like a college junior waiting on results for financing his first car. Turns out he had reason to worry, since the Iron Bank apparently is not run by Lehman Brothers, and considers the possibility of getting paid back before handing out money. Stannis, after a meaningful glare in Davos’ direction, prepares to leave, but the King’s Hand pulls out his inner Alec Baldwin (link definitely NSFW) and gives an impassioned speech about the legitimacy of Stannis’ claim and his honor and somehow convinces the Iron Bank to give the loan to fund an army. The scene ends with Davos’ visiting his friend, the pirate Salladhor Saan, and letting him know he’s now a general in this man’s navy. The ordinarily jolly roger was not too happy to hear the news.
In Roose Bolton’s North, Theon’s big sister Yara gives an impassioned speech of her own, reading Crazy Bastard Ramsay Snow’s note to Balon Greyjoy (the one that accompanied Theon’s Naughty Bits at the end of Season 3), and inspiring her band of Iron Bound to attempt a daring raid of the Dreadfort to free her brother. The plan seems to succeed, as her party fights their way to the kennels where Theon lives with the dogs. Unfortunately for Yara, Captain Stockholm Syndrome is too far gone to help in his own rescue, actually fighting and biting to return to his cell. Their brief window of opportunity closes swiftly, as Ramsey appears with a company of soldiers, and though Yara and company manage to temporarily even the odds, they decide to flee before Ramsey gets all Mr. Burns on the group and releases the hounds. When she returns to their ships and others ask of her brother, she answers truthfully, “He’s dead.”
Theon really is dead, or buried so deeply within himself he might as well be. He’s Reek, completely owned by Ramsay. A little later, Ramsay rewards him with a hot bath in a tension-filled scene in which we see the Crazy Bastard’s handiwork in the myriad of scars upon Reek’s body. These two actors work well on screen. I’ve already applauded Alfie Allen’s work, and Welsh Actor Iwan Rheon fills the screen with unhinged menace. This scene was no exception, as you (and Reek) wait for the next blade to fall or whip to crack, or maybe a potential drowning to commence. And of course, we’re surprised again, as the Bolton Bastard instead reaches for a sponge and tenderly bathes the former fosterling of Winterfell. Ramsay explains a new plan, one in which Reek must enter Moat Cailin (a stronghold in the North, currently held by the Iron Bound), but must pretend to be someone else. He must pretend to be Theon Greyjoy.
Across the narrow sea, we’re treated to s scene of tranquil pastoralism, as a goatherd and his young son tend to their flock. This lasts for approximately 23 seconds before a covey of hungry, fire-breathing dragons descend from the sky. It looks like Queen Dany might need to put her kids on a leash. A short while later, we find the goatherd nervously placing a bag before the good Queen. I really thought we were going to find the kid had become dragon chow as well, but luckily it seems our fire-breathing friends prefer mutton, as only charred goat bones are present. The good Queen offers her apologies and agrees to pay the goatherd many times the value for his lost sheep. Next comes a request from nobility, a son wishes to bury his father (whom Dany had crucified) according to the rites of the Mereenese people. Dany comes out swinging, arguing that the father was a Master, and responsible for the crucifixion of children (back in episode 1). We find, however, that this particular Master had voted against such treatment, and his surviving son makes an impassioned plea that nearly leaves the Queen in tears. She quietly relents, allowing the son to bury his father, the crushing responsibility of the crown suddenly evident on her drawn face. When she asks how many more supplicants await that day, she is told over 200. I think that crown will get a little heavier for our good hearted Queen as the days go on.
And finally we get to Kings Landing, where Tyrion’s trial for regicide has begun. Tyrion’s father (Lord Snake eyes), has everything arranged, from placing Tyrion in irons before the trial, to a collection of witnesses, most of which testify using Tyrion’s own words, usually spoken in moment of anger when the dead Brat King acted his worst (the beating of Sansa, his cowardice at Blackwater). They even had physical evidence, Sansa’s bracelet with the poison pellets, found on Dontas’ body (and it makes you wonder if Littlefinger knew it would be discovered when he tossed the bracelet into the boat, just one more thing to force Sansa to stay close to him). It looked bad for our favorite Imp, so much so that Jaime was prompted to visit his father and beg for Tyrion’s life, offering to sacrifice his vow as Kingsguard and to marry to ensure the continuation of the Lannister name. Tywin accepts, and then rattles off a plan so quickly that you realize he’d been planning this from the beginning. Tyrion would be found guilty. He would ask for mercy and would be granted clemency in exchange for taking the oath to the Night’s Watch, where he could live out his days debating Westerosi history with Jon and Sam. Jaime quickly tells Tyrion the plan, urging him to trust him, and all seems as it will fall in place to ensure the best of the Lannisters lives on.
And this is where Tywin overplays his hand. By reaching for that final witness that would ensure no one doubted Tyrion’s guilt, or perhaps simply looking to make one more cut that showed even as he worked to spare Tyrion’s life, he would continue to drive daggers into his youngest son’s chest. Tywin produces none other than Shae as a witness, and she provides testimony that is filled with venom and lies, accusing Tyrion and Sansa of manufacturing the plan, Sansa for revenge, Tyrion to finally get in Sansa’s bed. I don’t recall her testimony being as damning in the books, but I think I understand why they’ve upped the ante in the series (and I’m not allowed to tell you because of MAJOR spoilers). Nontheless, her testimony and her betrayal enrages Tyrion. After he risked so much for her, for the whole city, he lashes out. Offers to confess his guilt “for being a dwarf.” Continuing to deny he killed Joffrey, but wishing he had so they’d have the monster they so wanted to see. Wishing that he had let Stannis kill them all, that he had enough poison to feed every last one of the “friends” who one by one turned their back on him. And finally demanding that the trial end. That he be granted trial by combat. It’s a powerful, chilling speech that will likely win Peter Dinklage all the Emmys this year.
How cool is Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne? Pedro Pascal plays him perfectly, an erudite, well-travelled man with no keepers. He’s serving at the request of Tywin Lannister, but is in no way beholden to him and his comments during the small council meeting, his brief conversation with Vaerys, and his look of disbelief and disdain as he serves as trial judge show he’s not locked into anyone’s agenda. How I wish he had more scenes.
Where does Vaerys now fit in all this? The Spider definitely seemed on the side of good, sort of the anti-Littlefinger; but his betrayal of Tyrion, including his well-scripted response to Tyrion’s question (“Sadly, my lord, I never forget a thing.”), not to mention the meaningful glance towards the Iron Throne when he discussed what those without desire want. Is he truly one with the angels, or just another guy trying to climb the royal corporate liar? And he can’t truly think he (a non-noble, former slave with no ability to father a son) would ever sit on the pointy chair?
Does the playing of the Rains of Castamere during the closing credits signify anything? Forgive my paranoia, but last time we heard it, we watched the Starks get slaughtered at the Red Wedding. Maybe they just ran out of score, but methinks big things are afoot.
Wow…only four more episodes to go and so many questions! Who will represent Tyrion in combat? Bronn? Jaime? Will Reek become Theon in name as well as face, and will Yara know either way? Can Dany bear the burden of rulership alone? Will Stannis ever get to the Wall, and will there be anything there if he does? So much to resolve and so little time! Maybe they’ll extend the season?