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.
Varys professes not to have, nor to have ever had any sexual preference whatsoever: "When I see what desire does to people, what it has done to this country, I am very glad to have no part in it." His response can't help but remind the audience that the two most recent kings of Westeros -- both boys, both ill-prepared to rule a kingdom already in peril -- are the product of incest. Indeed, while "brotherly" love is portrayed evenly here, the relationships between actual brothers and sisters come across quite poorly this week. Yara sets out to save her brother, for who she never seemed to have much respect, more out of sense of devotion to her country than anything else. When she discovers the thoroughness of Theon Greyjoy's brainwashing, she declares him dead and abandons him. During Tyrion's trial for the murder of her son, Cersei says little. But it is clear from her icy glare and micro-expressions that she is the one who has orchestrated his overwhelming prosecution.
From this, not even the pure love of one brother for another can not save him. Jaime Lannister selflessly entreats his father Tywin for Tyrion's life and offers to give up his own freedom in exchange. "Do you trust me?" Jaime asks his brother, having struck a deal with dad. But their sister's vicious will wins out -- notice Cersei's look of self-satisfaction at the false yet damning testimony of Tyrion's jilted mistress. Tyrion's fate seems assured before he calls for a trial by combat -- a gambit that has saved him before. The trial will not culminate until next week's episode. But those who have read the books and know who stands up as Tyrion's champion will see the irony in one man defending another again his sister's hatred.