I’m giving tonight’s episode a perfect score even though it wasn’t necessarily a perfect episode thanks to one clunker storyline. However, the ending sequence was above and beyond what I expected and Peter Dinklage’s performance reached new heights so I’d be remiss not to give it some sort of reward because I’m still reeling from that damn scene.
Before we even talk about the speech itself, let’s talk about the direction of that scene as it was just outstanding. The pan around Tyrion as he spoke, giving us a close view of his face while still coming across as epic and large lets us see Tyrion’s rage, but also lets us know that his words are damning all of the upper class in King’s Landing. This is personal in the sense that it reflects Tyrion’s state of mind and tells us his future is grim, but it’s also macro since we finally get a character stating to the upper class what they really are.
The scene shows how pointless and repetitive most courtroom sequences are and how mired in minutia they become. The trial in tonight’s episode is not about legal procedure, but about emotion, character, and theme. We already know Tyrion’s going to lose, remember him saying “If it’s justice you want then you came to the wrong place,” so it’s more about damage control and seeing how much dignity Tyrion can leave with (I’d say he left with quite a bit).
Director Alik Sakharov keeps the shots long during the courtroom scene, seldom cutting back and forth, allowing events to proceed at a more leisurely pace than usual and this worked for me because it leant a feeling of real gravity to the scenes, as if the show was telling us this sequence is important and will reverberate throughout the rest of the season.
Sakharov has directed episodes before, most notably “The Climb,” but tonight’s is definitely his best work for Game of Thrones so far (he also directs next week’s episode). A quick look at his CV tells me he’s directed for some of my other favorite dramas such as the underappreciated Brotherhood, the gone too quick Rubicon, and the other show I review here, Boardwalk Empire. Not only that, he won an Emmy for his cinematography in The Sopranos episode “Long Term Parking.” He’s a talented guy and I hope Game of Thrones makes more use of him next season.
Even though Sakharov’s directing is perfect, the episode’s final segment would not have worked without an excellent performance by Peter Dinklage and he sure gave one, didn’t he? His face showing shock at Shae’s arrival is heartbreaking and there was a lump in my throat long before the camera even showed us Shae. As a book reader, I knew who’d be arriving and that made it all the more tragic. Tragedy often works best when you know intellectually what’s going to happen, but desperately hope it doesn’t end the way it inevitably will.
Then we have the speech. It’s cathartic for us and cathartic for Tyrion, although we won’t have to withstand the consequences like Tyrion will have to. I’m relatively sure I’ll end up making a speech similar to his at some point in my life, self-righteous progressive ass that I am. God damn did I love seeing Tyrion “speak truth to power” and just point out how pathetic and selfish the upper class is, how they’re hypocritical and don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. After seasons of characters twisting words and people, the show has more than earned a character shouting down everyone else, telling them how monstrous they are. It’s entirely appropriate to have fan favorite Tyrion be the one to speak on our behalf.
Yet there is another thirty minutes of episode I haven’t talk about. Daenarys’ scene is a highlight this week and after I pinpointed Emilia Clarke’s weaknesses last week, I’m happy to see her nail the discomfort Dany is feeling as she hears about the repercussions of her actions and how her answering “injustice with justice” isn’t exactly working out. It’s difficult to imagine Dany building a working Meereen when the bodies of the old rulers’ crucified corpses are rotting out in the sun. The show seems to be telling us that Dany is not ready to rule, too succumbed as she is by anger and a broken sense of justice. Her despair at hearing she has two hundred more people to see tells us ruling is not what she thought it’d be. Being a liberator and a leader require different skill sets (something our recent endeavors in the Middle East have taught us) and only time will tell if Dany can fully develop both.
The clunker segment I mentioned at the top is the one involving Yara’s attempted rescue of Theon. It’s a pointless scene. If it intended to remind us about Yara’s existence then surely there was a better way to get that across other than a failed rescue of Theon. I mean, I’m always up for the over the top Ramsay Snow (although what was up with the sex scene intercutting?), but what exactly was the point of that? To show that Yara still cares about her brother? Apparently not since by the end of the sequence she announces he’s dead. It’s possible this will pay off down the line so I won’t moan about it too much, but I think I would’ve rather we spent time elsewhere than with a quick and pointless battle.
Today in pointless nudity: We get Salladhor Sahn making sure he’s at full mast while he parties it up with two women in a bath. We also get the inexplicable crosscutting of a woman having sex with Ramsay Snow. No idea what that was about.
Donald McCarthy is a teacher and writer. His fiction has appeared with KZine, Cover of Darkness, and The Washington Pastime. His non-fiction has been featured in The Progressive Populist, Screen Spy, and AOL Patch News. And here, too, but that was probably obvious. His twitter is @donaldtmccarthy and his website is donaldmccarthy.com.