A new location on the opening credits map! We open in the free city of Braavos as Stannis and Davos have made the trip across the (very) Narrow Sea to petition the notorious Iron Bank. The bank’s customer service representative sees no reason to finance Stannis’ fledgling army and dismisses them unceremoniously. Davos is able to make a spirited, last-minute plea, which somehow convinces the banker that Stannis is a sound investment. Basically saying "yeah, we're good for it"… seems like bad banking to me, but what do I know.
From one naval power to the next, Yara reads Ramsay’s letter to her troops, then adds her own words to pump them up. This is the first time we’re seeing Yara and her ironborn after they left the Iron Islands to rescue Theon. Apparently it takes six episodes to get to The Dreadfort but only one to cross the Narrow Sea. Not a big deal I guess. Yara and her men break into the castle and make their way to the kennels where Reek is kept with Ramsay’s other pets. Reek refuses the rescue, thinking it another or Ramsay’s games, and fights to stay in the kennels. A topless Ramsay enters with some cronies and attacks the ironborn soldiers. Both sides lose about an equal amount of men, and although Ramsay is unarmored and Yara is an excellent axe-thrower with every opportunity to kill him, she runs away when Ramsay releases one of his dogs (which are also susceptible to axes). I obviously have a lot of problems with this scene, it’s just another example of an extra plotline that’s shoehorned into the show and feels rushed and sloppy. Putting aside the holes in the plot, (how can they just enter and leave the castle like that? Why not kill Ramsay before more men showed up? Why be scared of one dog?) the scene itself serves no purpose. Both Yara and Theon are essentially back to where they started with no new developments, Theon’s domestication is pretty well established at this point and Yara heads back home stating that her brother is dead. Afterwards Reek is “rewarded” a bath by Ramsay, who really wants Reek clean so he can look like Theon and treat with the ironborn at Moat Cailin.
In Essos Daenerys’ dragons are growing larger each time we see them. A goat herder is tending his flock when Drogon looms up over his son and then snatches up one of the goats for lunch. I don’t even care, every time we see the dragons is money well spent. The herder complains at Dany’s court and is promised reimbursement for his dead goats and as he leaves Hizdar zo Loraq enters. Hizdar petitions the queen to let him bury his father with honor even though his father was one of the Wise Masters Daenerys had crucified. After hearing Hizdar’s side and witnessing his humanity Dany relents, setting a second precedent, which may be hard to uphold. The pressures of ruling are already being felt and Dany has two hundred odd petitioners still in waiting.
News of Daenerys’ conquests has reached the small council table via Varys and the councilors agree that she must be dealt with. Cersei, oddly, is not concerned with the dragon queen in the East, she has a lot of other things on her mind, but news of the Targaryen scion and her army should be troubling. The meeting ends with Tywin ordering Mace Tyrell to “fetch” him a quill and parchment, oblivious to any insult Tyrell does as he is bid. After the meeting is adjourned Oberyn meets Varys in passing. As much as these scenes are some of the best features of the show I don’t understand how all the most important players of the Game of Thrones just happen to bump into eachother in the throne room. Like, how much time do they each spend in that room and where are they always on their way to? Regardless of circumstance Varys and Oberyn have a beautiful little dialogue where Varys explains his reasons for non-sexuality and hints at his larger ambitions.
The Remainder of the episode focuses on Tyrion’s trial, Tyrion is marched up to the throne and is forced to sit through all the false or exaggerated testimonies. All of Tyrions good deeds come back to haunt him as Ser Merryn, Varys and the queen quote Tyrion out of context. Pycell’s account is just a list of poisons and conjecture implicating Tyrion further. It seems that not only the witnesses are against him but also the judges. Tywin seems to have made up his mind, and therefore Mace Tyrell’s mind as well, Oberyn is the only wild card but also pretty indifferent to Tyrion’s plight. During a quick recess Jaime convinces his father to let Tyrion take the black rather than be executed, in exchange, Jaime must renounce the Kingsguard and return to Casterly Rock. When Jaime informs Tyrion he is reminded that Ned Stark was given a similar offer, but with no alternative Tyrion acquiesces. Until the crown calls its final witness: Shae. While the other testimonies were exaggerated Shae’s is straight-up lies. She tells the room of how Tyrion plotted with Sansa to kill the king and while none of it was really believable, it was all that Cersei and Tywin needed. What they did not expect, however, was Tyrion’s reaction; at first he was heartbroken and defeated, but his anguish turned to resentment and he let loose his contempt for everyone around him. Dinklage is, as always, phenominal and his emotional harangue was a perfect way to end the episode. Tyrion exercises his right to trial by combat, and the reaction shots of the onlookers were fantastic; Oberyn sitting forward, finally interested, Cersei surprised but still triumphant, and Tywin glowering down at his second son.
Other than the lack of pay-off for Yara raising her banners last season this episode was thoroughly entertaining. We saw some movement from Stannis and the promise of more action from his camp, an awesome show of Drogon’s lethal power, and the bid trial with an interesting twist. Who will Tyrion name to fight for him, his impaired brother Jaime? The noticeably absent Bronn? And whom will the crown name their champion? We'll hopefully get more from the north next episode, but with the way they've been speeding things along who knows. Either way the action in King's Landing could be its own show altogether and I am very excited to watch it all play out.