The final act of this week's Game of Thrones culminated in a savage and long-deserved outburst from Tyrion Lannister, but the trial was more than just a platform for Peter Dinklage's explosive, Emmy Award-worthy performance.
Accused of King Joffrey Baratheon’s assassination, Tyrion Lannister stood trial for regicide at the end of Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, presenting himself before judges Tywin Lannister, Oberyn Martell and Mace Tyrell. A number of the more recognizable faces in King’s Landing gave testimony condemning Tyrion as guilty, including ‘Lord’ Varys the spider, Ser Meryn Trant and Grand Maester Pycelle, but it was a surprising betrayal by Shae that twisted the knife and spurned one of the series’s most fist-clenching, satisfying monologues and set Tyrion down a path that will follow the character through to the end of this season at least.
Tyrion’s assault on his father, his sister and the entire city of King’s Landing has been a long time coming. Throughout Joffrey’s short reign, Tyrion was the only person consistently keeping the unruly boy king’s ego in check. As Hand of the King, Tyrion single-handedly won the Battle of the Blackwater by securing and weaponizing the city’s stores of Wildfire, and for his service he was nearly murdered by one of the king’s own guards. And when Tywin Lannister arrived at King’s Landing and unceremoniously took his own son’s place as the King’s Hand, Tyrion ceded the position and followed through with a forced marriage, turning away a woman he loved, in order to secure lands and titles for his father’s legacy. Each of these actions, in addition to making fans love the cunning and witty Dwarf, were twisted upon themselves to make Tyrion look like a lecherous, violent cretin who turned against his family and the crown. Many people in Westeros have earned the right to hate the Lannister name, but few have as much reason as Tyrion Lannister.
The internet is in a frenzy over Peter Dinklage’s breathtaking performance this week, but in all the emotion surrounding the last twenty minutes, there are plenty of understated moments that may have gone unnoticed.
“I Wish I Was The Monster You Think I Am”
To the majority of Westeros, Tyrion Lannister is not the charming, intelligent man that we know as one of the few good people at King’s Landing. To regular townsfolk Tyrion is an ugly, deformed creature who needs to pay whores and servants to share in his company. In season two he’s referred to as a ‘Demon Monkey‘. In the books this goes even further: Tyrion suffers from heterochromia, meaning his eyes are of different colors. The wound on his face that he sustains at the Blackwater is also much more violent, effectively removing the majority of his nose. His appearance combined with statements put forth by witnesses at his trial paint a very different picture of Tyrion to the common people who would never have met him before.
Nikolai Coster-Waldau’s Performance As Jaime Lannister
He may have had less of an impact than Dinklage’s microphone-dropping speech, but in very little screen time, Coster-Waldau conveyed the emotional weight of Jaime’s entire relationship with Tyrion, which has been criminally overlooked in the show so far. Say what you will about Jaime’s more controversial actions, but he is the only Lannister to ever love Tyrion unconditionally as family. While Tywin and Cersei have forever resented Tyrion for being a cripple and for killing his mother in childbirth, Jaime always treated Tyrion as an equal, and loved him as a brother. So when he sees that the trial is a complete farce, he offers to trade his position in the Kingsguard (Which he took, sacrificing titles, lands and family, in order to be with Cersei) so that his brother may live. The shock, anger and sadness that wash over Jaime all at once when Tyrion throws that opportunity away is heartbreaking, and lasts only a second.
Also note the calls of ‘Kingslayer’ being lobbed at Tyrion as he enters the hall. Tyrion now also wears the title that Jaime has been silently burdened with for half his life.
Tywin’s Absolute Manipulation Of The Proceedings
Tywin’s control over the entire event comes to light as soon as he is confronted by Jaime during the the trial’s adjournment. Jaime barely has the opportunity to offer to leave the Kingsguard before Tywin accepts, indicating that he was holding out for his own gain, knowing all the while that Jaime would deal with him, or that Tyrion’s fate would be decided elsewhere. The entire trial was a sham from the start, as we could have guessed based on Cersei’s campaigning in the episode prior, however Tywin’s hands in affairs muddy the water a little bit: Meryn Trant and Maester Pycelle have been Cersei’s men from day one, but the surprise betrayals from both Varys and Shae are much more difficult to understand. Did they testify of their own free will, or have they been bought by Cersei or Tywin? Furthermore, where do the loyalties of Oberyn Martell and Mace Tyrell lie?
In a last-minute, rage-filled decision Tyrion took all the power away from the judges and put his faith behind a sword and shield: A battle will determine whether or not Tyrion is found guilty of regicide. Much like Tyrion’s trial at the Eyrie back in season one, this will be a duel to the death, however this time Tyrion’s first choice – his brother Jaime – is missing his sword hand and his old standby Bronn is now a knight who hasn’t joined in Tyrion’s company for some time. With the entirety of King’s Landing seemingly out for Tyrion’s head it doesn’t seem likely Tyrion can find a champion to stand for him in combat.
The Laws of Gods and Men was potentially one of this season’s best episodes, which is high praise considering The Lion and The Rose might be the best episode of the entire series so far. Based on our knowledge of the books and our understanding of the next three episodes, the run to the end of Game of Thrones for the rest of the season will be massive as well. If the cast and crew can set the social media world on fire with nothing but dialog and brilliant acting, imagine what will happen in the fall out of the impending trial by combat.