[This is a review of Game of Thrones season 4, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
The trial of Tyrion comes late in ‘The Laws of Gods and Men,’ a move that allows the episode an opportunity to end on a high note, wherein the accused demands a trial by combat. For all intents and purposes, this was a chance for Game of Thrones to demonstrate the inner workings of the legal system in King’s Landing – with the added benefit of the trial itself being quite scandalous – but it was not without its surprises.
So, perhaps it came as something of a revelation that, in the middle of a trial, the defendant can simply opt out of actually being tried (especially when the cards were so plainly stacked against him) and move straight to rendering a more decisive conclusion regarding the crime he is accused of committing.
For one thing, Tyrion’s decision frees the show from having to parade in more witnesses to recount his various quips, barbed remarks, and sometimes unpleasant interpersonal dealings with people, so that Varys, Pycelle, and Shae can twist them in such a manner that the former hand of the king looks like little more than a bitter assailant hell bent on assassinating his boss.
But after Tyrion’s speech, wherein he essentially tells those present he’s not the monster they think he is – which, if he were guilty would ironically be a monster who ostensibly freed them from living under the rule of an actual monster – it is plain to see that there is no chance of a fair trial. There can only be one judgment and, if Tyrion plays his cards right, it will be mercifully swift, regardless of which decision is ultimately favored.
Tyrion’s decision and realization that he was found guilty long before he even entered the courtroom has to do with the way in which he is perceived. And with that realization, there comes a throughline of people not being who or what they claim to be, or are claimed to be by others. And although the episode is somewhat light on the progression of the narrative, this particular throughline does provide further intriguing insight into the way the world of Game of Thrones is responsive to the power of perception, and the way in which the notion of how or who a person is can often times work to ultimately define who he or she actually is.
In the end, it’s all about that which is claimed. Claim to a title, claim to a name, claim to a deed, or, more importantly, claim to the Iron Throne. Ser Davos makes a compelling argument to the members of the Iron Bank on behalf of “the one true king,” Stannis Baratheon, by first correcting their claim that he was a thief, by explaining all he did was transport stolen goods, and then pay for that action with the fingers from his hand.
He then goes on to explain that Stannis’ claim is significant for reasons more persuasive than merely his name. Tywin is the true power in King’s Landing, and with his advanced age and lack of significant authority to follow in his footsteps, the logical choice for the Iron Bank would be to back the most viable candidate.
Davos is insisting that Stannis is something many would argue he is not – which is not simply the rightful heir to the throne, but also the only one capable of leading on the off chance something happens to the real power in King’s Landing. In that sense, the bank is backing a suitable stand-in based on their altered perception of one previously thought unsuitable for their money. That altered perception is also seen in Ramsay Snow asking Reek to pretend to be Theon – or the person he was but is no longer– while Daenerys finds her perception of Meereen’s former rulers altered when a supplicant requests those who were crucified in the name of justice be given a dignified burial.
The episode nicely ties these elements into the larger theme of the episode that perception is a game of multiples and endless variable; it is one that results in a man like Varys being referred to as “Lord” and being wrongly classified by Oberyn as desirous of boys over girls, when he would claim to be free of such desires.
Ultimately, it is one where there can only be one unifying conclusion about any single man or woman: Whether they are alive or dead. Knowing this, and being a lifelong victim of erroneous perception, it is no wonder Tyrion has chosen the most definitive course of action to end his trial.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Mockingbird’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: