Game of Thrones: The Laws of Gods and Men


A lot happened in The Laws of God and Men, but let's jump right into the heart of the episode, shall we? Tyrion's trial, and Shae's condemnation of him. Book readers have been anticipating (and dreading) this scene for months. And in the end, in many ways, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

And then, in other ways, it was worse.

When considered by itself, the trial scene was really, really good. Sibel Kekilli and Peter Dinklage both acted the hell out of the moment, making it compelling and completely convincing. My heart broke for Tyrion as the one person he loved and thought he could trust lied and condemned him. And I thought Shae was portrayed similarly sympathetically, as she recited the lines she had been taught, seemingly scared and under pressure, and as her hurt came out as she repeated Tyrion's declaration that she was "only his whore."

If it wasn't for the things that had come before, and if it ended there, it'd be a powerful and painful scene. In attempting to protect Shae, Tyrion has dug his own grave, and he knows it. He hurt her to save her, but the hurt was too real, and now he has been hung by his own petard. It's not book canon, but it's good drama.

Unfortunately, the scene isn't isolated, and the stuff around it simply doesn't work. I won't comment on how Tyrion may or may not react, since it hasn't happened yet, but the fact remains that the scene that enabled this moment was weak. Tyrion insulted Shae in order to protect her (one of my least favorite tropes, by the way -- she's not some wild animal you're trying to drive away so she doesn't get caught by the hunters, for god's sake), but it's still hard to believe that Shae would fall for it. Shae's a survivor. She's streetwise, she's an excellent reader of people, she knows how to look out for herself and those she cares about. She knew Tyrion wanted her to leave to keep her safe. And yet she believes him when he insults her? It simply does not follow.

There's also "jealous Shae," which seriously marred the otherwise excellent trial scene too. The show is so eager to emphasize that Shae was jealous of Sansa, that she couldn't stand Tyrion being married to the pretty young teenage noblewoman, that they even had to hint at it here -- the idea that Tyrion then only wanted Sansa, that he killed Joffrey to make Sansa happy. And we are supposed to believe that Shae, the woman who became Sansa's only friend, the woman who protected Sansa and advised her and was willing to fight to protect her, would basically throw the girl to the lions out of jealousy over her forced marriage to one of her enemies? Really? Their friendship, in the end, meant nothing, because Tyrion was the only thing Shae really cared about, and of course two women can't continue to be friends when a man comes between them in a forced marriage.

Yes, Shae accuses Sansa in the book. But the Shae on the show is no longer even vaguely similar to the Shae in the books. If the show wishes to change book canon in earlier seasons, it has to follow through and make more changes to maintain character and simple logic in later seasons. There are plenty of reasons why show Shae might have spoken against Tyrion. Doing so to protect Sansa, out of the belief that Tyrion can protect himself, would be a good one, keeping with the spirit of Shae's character and relationships so far. Her doing so because she was convinced, like Jaime, that she had a bargain that would spare his life might also work. Her doing so because of Tyrion's unconvincing insult, and throwing Sansa in with him in the process? Not so convincing. 

Meanwhile, Jaime's journey into total selfless lovable awesome guy continued unabated after that minor hiccup of him raping his sister/lover a few weeks ago. Now he's offering to sacrifice his position in the Kingsguard, the very honor he's supposed to now be attempting to regain, in order for his brother's life to be spared. On the plus side, this scene helped to clearly establish Jaime's love for Tyrion and his desire to protect him. On the other hand, once again we see Totally Awesome Jaime, who tries to help Tyrion, and Totally Evil Cersei, who tries to destroy Tyrion, a few weeks after Totally Awesome Jaime raped Totally Evil Cersei a few moments after she insisted that both Tyrion and Sansa should die. A suitable punishment for her cruelty? The show seems to think so.

The Laws of Gods and Men hit a lot of painful emotional notes really well. Even the Theon and Ramsey scenes were painfully convincing, focussing on the damage done to Theon and his struggles (and the reintroduction of Asha/Yara!) rather than more torture porn. Yes, there was unnecessary nudity (of course), but we also got some good character moments, particularly, I thought, with Tyrion and Varys, and with Davos. It was a pretty darn good episode. But it was marred by the fact that the writers haven't thought things through, and the fact that male character development and plotlines are prioritized over female ones, to the point that Shae throws her closest friend to the lions and acts counter to everything we've learned about her before. The acting and the drama is good, and the episode is gripping to watch, but in the end, it doesn't make sense. And for once, it's not entirely because the show has strayed too far from the book. For once, its because it stuck too close, all character consistency be damned.

Disappointing, considering how wonderful Shae had otherwise become.