Welcome, Mediaite readers, to the most Mediaite-ish way of reviewing a television series, ever: the Westeros Power Grid, in which we analyze and rank the players in each episode of Game of Thrones according to how well they play politics. For the world of Game of Thrones is, if nothing else, much like the world of politics and media in which we cover: groups jostling for power, individuals rising and falling, and factions overthrowing their enemies. There’s just more blood and nudity.
Here’s how we do things: each week, we’ll review how well the players did in each episode, and rank our top five in each category (Houses, Politicians, Fighters, Women, and The North). Obviously, there are massive spoilers in each review, so be very, very careful. And for you book readers, please don’t skip ahead and ruin things for everyone in the comments, or we’ll make you do a Penance Walk.
Four words: Peter Dinklage Emmy reel.
Now for the rest of the words: this episode’s pondering on the concept of justice — particularly the justice meted out by kings (and queens) — forced the episode to focus on four storylines: Theon’s torture in the Dreadfort, Daenerys failing at ruling in Meereen, Stannis and Davos requesting a loan from the Iron Bank, and, most prominently, the trial of Tyrion Lannister, which, frankly, could have been the focus of the entire episode. Since nothing gets resolved in the matter of House in-fights or the North, we’ll limit the Power Grids to one category this week: the political players.
POLITICIANS: Let’s get the trial out of the way — whoever managed to flip Shae to testify against Tyrion is the true power in this trial. It could have been Varys (who did attempt to smuggle Shae out of King’s Landing, but is shifty enough to play all sides against each other), Tywin (who notoriously hates Tyrion and his whores), or even Cersei (who had a spy tail Shae in the first episode and, in her grief over losing Joffrey, wants Tyrion so very, very dead). But either way, when Tyrion accused the trial of being a farce, he wasn’t far off at all. In fact, Tyrion’s fallen so far from his own (imagined) status as the Hero of the Blackwater, that he has to remind Varys that the eunuch once praised him for saving the city, and now was testifying against him. (“You said the histories would never mention me, but you would not forget. Have you forgotten, Lord Varys?”)
Frankly, Tyrion wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the fact that he made a hundred enemies while being the Acting Hand: every single statement given during the trial is, technically, true; with Shae’s false testimony lending context, credence, and narrative to the dumb things Tyrion said over the years. In a sense, Tyrion and his arrogance as a leader was the cause of his own undoing (of course Pycelle would hold a grudge against him for being thrown into the Black Cells), but that still doesn’t detract from his powerful speech at the end of the trial, where he realizes, with a crushing blow, that in the eyes of these players, he will never be recognized for his intellect or bravery. “I’m guilty of being a dwarf,” he spat. “I wish I was the monster you think I am.”
As for the strongmen of Westeros, no swords were drawn, no battles won, but Jaime’s attempt to play the Game and save Tyrion’s life backfired miserably. Not only did he play directly into Tywin’s hands (giving up the Kingsguard to become the Lord of Casterly Rock), he couldn’t anticipate Tyrion’s outburst — and, unless some deus ex machina steps in, one-handed Jaime may have to be Tyrion’s champion, which would suck for Jaime.
On a separate note (and in a separate city), Davos is shaping up to be one of the best political advisors (and pundits) on the show, with his clutch move at the Iron Bank of Braavos in securing a loan for Stannis. The Iron Bank likely knows that the Lannisters and the Crown can’t pay back their debt, and in this situation, Davos realizes that they’re not looking for Stannis’s assets — rather, they’re looking for his creditworthiness. (FICO stands for Finger Insurance Credit Oversight.)
And why is Ramsay on the list, despite his appearance this episode amounting to a homicidal Ernie? Mainly because he just realized how much psychological control he has over Theon/Reek, and, by extension, the Ironborn. With Yara Greyjoy insisting that Theon is “dead” as a reason to flee from the Dreadfort without her brother, Ramsay Bolton has an incredible ace up his sleeve: the heir to the Iron Islands, completely under his control, and able to undermine the closest thing that the Greyjoys have to a leader.
Oh, and Daenerys? Good job with recklessly killing your potential allies, Mhysa.
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