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The Best of This Week’s Game of Thrones Recaps: ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’

This week on Game of Thrones, Stannis went to the bank, Daenerys received her subjects, and the Lannisters convened for jury duty. Bureaucracy has never been so entertaining! As Vulture recapper Nina Shen Rastogi writes, "The theme of the episode was reckoning, and these scenes of calculation and consequences took place in well-defined gathering spaces." Of course, the biggest reckoning of all was Tyrion's trial, a powerful moment for Peter Dinklage (and an Emmy-worthy one, if you ask some of our critics), where, as Shen Rastogi writes, "you could see the little lion finally turning against the aging one." Here is your recap of the recaps:

"Following up on Davos's Big Idea Bulb during storytime a few weeks back, Stannis and the Onion Knight set sail for the Iron Bank of Braavos to apply in person for a sizable loan. Problem is (as the Bank's representative Tycho Nestoriss, points out), Dragonstone isn't producing a whole lot of valuable exports these days; it's not like you can bottle gloom and creepiness (and even if you could, Littlefinger would just steal the bottles and frame Tyrion for it)....Stannis doesn't have much of a counterargument beyond 'Wah! Gimme!,' but it just so happens that Davos has prepared quite the compelling speech in his defense, pointedly asking Nestoriss whether the Bank really wants to be bound to the Lannisters once Tywin meets his seven makers, at which point the family's only claims to fame will be incest and missing limbs."Previously.TV

“The award for Biggest Waste of a Great Inspirational Speech goes to Yara Greyjoy, who rallied her troops mightily on the way to the Dreadfort only to be rebuffed by the dog-man Reek and Ramsay Snow, who emerges from a romantic liaison covered in blood because, sure. The shirtless Ramsay managed to dispatch several armored Ironborn soldiers and then sicced the dogs on the rest. Memo to Yara: Always kill the dogs first. (Please send all complaints about this memo in the form of a donation to your local chapter of the A.S.P.C.A.) What about your brother? someone asks Yara, after she shakes the hounds. 'My brother’s dead,' she says. This plotline, alas, apparently is not.” New York Times

“It’s one of the show’s best sequences, strong not simply because of Peter Dinklage’s performance but because of how long it takes before that performance emerges. In what will undoubtedly be Dinklage’s Emmy tape, he spends most of his scenes observing, taking in the falsehoods one by one. In talking with fellow critics, I suggested it would make a strong Emmy tape because trials are often showy and clearly legible highlight reels for actors, and Dinklage has that in his final moments. But he also gets to spend much of the trial slunk down on the stand, gradually falling further and further into a rage that has been building up since long before he was accused of murder. It is a reminder that he has been a victim of 'justice'—much of it equally enacted by his father—for his entire life, and Dinklage does a marvelous job of bringing all of that to the surface and bringing the episode to its cliffhanger conclusion.” Cultural Learnings

“Oh, how happy I was to see my favorite character enjoying a well-deserved schvitz in the company of fine women and awful jokes! And it’s not just Lucian Msamati’s merry performance that charms me. I’ve been arguing for years that the sex pirate is the most relatable character on Game of Thrones because he swears allegiance only to House Party. Last night, his welcome presence suggested something even more profound about the way his awful world truly works. Saan is a pirate and Davos is a smuggler — he was before he lost his fingers and, it seems, he will be soon once again. In other words, they are the individuals who move things from one place to another, who do the grunt work the Highborn are neither interested in nor aware of. Who do you think lugged those jugs of Dornish wine that Oberyn was bragging about in the throne room last night? Who do you think picked and packed the lemons that were baked into cakes for Sansa last week at the Eyrie?” Grantland

“We also got a whole NEW LOCATION in the credit sequence! That’s right, after much, much foreshadowing, we finally put Braavos on the map.” The Playlist

“I wish Ser Davos would snap out of it. He’s this super-cool dude who hangs out with pirates and knows how to talk his way into very lucrative loans, but he’s stuck with this fundamentalist creep who can’t even bring himself to smile for the sponsors. It’s as if George Clooney had to go everywhere with Rick Santorum on his arm. Still, I’m happy for him that he cinched that deal with the Iron Bankers, because that side eye Stannis shot him after the initial rejection had 'death by smoke creature' written all over it. Now Davos can afford to haul his unfunny pirate friend out of the brothel and back to Dragonstone, where they can plan their next assault on King’s Landing.” Vanity Fair

It’s a captivating scene not just because we know how much of his anger is justified, but because it’s not entirely clear how much of this is genuine, how much is performance, and how much is genuine feeling marshaled for the sake of performance ... Maybe he had that raging beast all along, but was able to suppress it under smiles and witty comments while he had some measure of power and control, while he was free enough to exercise his mind to his advantage ... Maybe he’s decided that if all is lost, he may as well let his inner lion roar. Or maybe he’s being crazy like a fox.” Time

When Jaime tells Tywin that the Mad King had demanded his head, the elder Lannister pauses and looks surprised for perhaps the first time ever. He did not know that. It reminded me of the scene from a few episodes ago when Bronn tells Jaime that Tyrion initially wanted his brother to stand in as his champion at his trial in the Vale. These family members have complicated and unnatural relationships with each other, they scheme and lie and wish each other dead. But they also keep secrets regarding good things they have done for each other, about the rare goodwill that exists. 'I saved your life—so you could murder my brother?' ... Yet it’s not that argument—or this new knowledge—that moves Tywin. It’s simply a transaction. Jaime leaves the Kings Guard and returns to Casterly Rock as the heir. Tyrion get to live. Not because his father gives a damn whether he lives or dies, but because that’s the transaction. What a family.” The Atlantic

“If last week’s episode of Game of Thrones was about women struggling to gain or retain agency in a male dominated society, much of this week’s 'The Laws of Gods and Men' focuses on the bonds between Westeros’s men. First, Davos reasserts his fealty to Stannis Baratheon, the man who once chopped the tips of his fingers off. Soon after, the pirate Salladhor Saan jokingly laments the lost love between himself and Davos. This idea of love comes up again — but twisted — when the sociopathic and sadistic Ramsay Snow rewards his mutilated, tortured slave for his loyalty with a long overdue bath. 'Do you love me?' Snow asks, playing at actual human decency — and homoeroticism — before setting the slave to another humiliating task. Man love is even discussed in a literal sense when the always-provocative Prince of Dorne broaches the topic of sexual preference with the eunuch Varys.” Salon

“Names and titles, however, are stitched tightly to Bryan Cogman’s 'Laws Of Gods And Men' script, with Stannis, Daenerys, and Tommen each identified by the honorific they claim as their own—with Dany’s growing to a garish length befitting her chambers in the pyramid. Tywin and Jaime, meanwhile, do some negotiating around their shared surname, circling the importance of ensuring the continuation of their line—before Tywin tips his hand to reveal that he already has the whole thing mapped out. The name you were given at birth holds tremendous sway in Westeros, but it’s just as mutable as any aspect of your personality: Just ask poor Reek, who’ll soon be performing the task/new form of psychological torture of 'pretending' to be Theon Greyjoy. Such minor distinctions feel like they’re everything this week: The difference between Theon and Reek is enough to declare the former dead; what Tyrion would call Shae in their shared chambers and how she’s described in the Great Hall is a betrayal greater than the one Tyrion stands accused of.” A.V. Club

“The Iron Bank has the Iron Throne by the Iron Balls because they bankroll the entire thing.” Nerdist

“Fuck the deal his dad and Jaime made; he'll take his chances on a trial by combat once again. He's gambling that his brother or Bronn will enable him to walk out of King's Landing a free man. But the fury Dinklage pours into him makes his real goal clear: He wants to give his father, his sister, and all the nobles in the realm reason to fear. Throne room or no, you're in his house now.” Rolling Stone

“And in King’s Landing, Varys tells Oberyn Martell that 'I was never interested in girls, either … When I’ve seen what desire does to people, what it’s done to this country, I’m very glad to have no part in it.' But when he nods towards the Iron Throne to acknowledge his aims, Varys is telling us only what drives him, not what constrains him. We know he hates magic, but otherwise, Varys is a man without friendships, without family, without love, and without the need for esteem. Last week, Game of Thrones suggested the Petyr Baelish might be the most dangerous man in Westeros for his cunning. In 'The Laws of Gods and Men' imply a rather different formula for that calculation, with Varys as a possible answer. None of the numbers imply a good ending, much less a happy one.” Washington Post

I didn't expect Peter Dinklage to spend the entire season in a cell, but the story has understandably kept him sidelined for the last few weeks. Here, though, he got a chance to shine (as of now, this is his clear Emmy submission episode) in an episode that played as a dark mirror of his trial in the Eyrie back in season 1.” HitFix

It's notable just how many freakin' times the full title of the King of Westeros (King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm) was mentioned last night. Everyone adheres to all this procedure and ceremony to reinforce their various claims on power. Even Daenerys, receiving supplicants in her mighty new pyramid, has come up with an endless series of titles to terrify every potential friend or enemy with. But as we see, she has just as tenuous a grasp on things as anyone else. Her dragons are stealing goats from peasants and eating them alive, and the nobility of Meereen, at least some of whom she'll need on her side to keep things in order, are not going to quickly forget her mass crucifixions.” The Wire

“We root for Daenerys because she’s a badass, for Jon Snow because he’s an underdog, for Arya because she’s got spunk. We root for Tyrion for all of those reasons, and also because he’s human. We don't simply want Tyrion to dominate or live, we want him to be happy. The show couldn’t possibly go on without him. Or could it?” The New Republic