Genre: Historical Fantasy
Watched: Episode 38 – June 1, 2014
Title: The Mountain and the Viper
Summary: Wow, what a finish!
Joff bit it (or drank it) in episode 33, but we’ve been waiting half a season to see how this all falls out for poor Tyrion. Then we even had to wait an extra week without an episode. Now the moment is at hand.
As usual, I’ll break down the threads into their sub plots for discussion.
At the wall – The moles town brothel might be loud, but the girls have nothing on Littlefinger’s places down south. These are some seriously ugly whores. And mean too, as we learn when a drunk one harasses Gilly about her baby. But they aren’t long for the world, Gilly recognizes the wildling warcries. Soon, Giantsbane, the Thenns, and Ygrite are pretty much killing everyone — until Ygrite notices Gilly and her baby and lets her go. Still, they make a point of showing her massacre a good number of men and women alike.
Back at Castle Black, Sam thinks Gilly is dead and the others reassure him she’s tough. Jon knows Mance is close and they contemplate how grim the odds are for the defenders. I.e. setup for next week’s invasion!
Dany – We’re treated first to a bit of book free love story between Grey Worm and Missandei (the translator). The Unsullied are bathing near the female servants (opportunity for nudity!) and he “spies” on her (overtly). Later, she tells Dany about this and they discuss eunuchs (I guess reminding the non-dorks that Unsullied have no parts). Pillar and the stones. Anyway, Grey Worm comes to apologize and they have a little “moment.”
A boy (I wonder if it’s the same one from season 1) brings Ser Barristan a letter. It’s the pardon letter Jorah got for spying on Dany years ago. Barristan goes to Jorah straight and tells him first. Then Jorah approaches Dany on her throne to plead his case. He’s honest with her, but she gives him no chance to explain himself. If there is a theme this week, it’s all about reversals, and so Jorah is banished from the city and the woman he loves. For the second time, stripped of everything he cares for. But us viewers are treated to an awesome shot of Meereen as he rides off.
Ramsay and Reek – Ramsay and his army are parked outside Moat Cailin. We can see it’s a swamp, but only in the distance. He gives Reek/Theon a combined pep talk and scare. Theon rides in under the white flag, past dead and rotting soldiers. Inside, the Iron Born aren’t doing so well. Most are dead, all are sick (sieges suck). Alfie Allen does a great job as Reek playing at being Theon. He offers the chance to surrender and live. The leader mocks him, but another kills him (ironically, just like he himself was taken out back at Winterfell). His exact words were “treat you honorably like he did me” and Ramsay is a man of his word, as the poor guys end up flayed.
Later, Ramsay brings his army back to Roose and gives him the banner from Moat Cailin. Roose shows him the North all around them and officially recognizes him as a Bolton (as opposed to Snow). If he wasn’t such an evil dude it might be an emotional moment.
Arya – is finally approaching the vale with the hound (return to the Bloody Gate or whatever it’s called). They have one of their hilarious conversations. We are reminded of the Hound’s infected wound, and treated to more of Arya’s interesting view point about “proper” killing. “I’d kill Joffrey with a chicken bone if I had too.” And when they find out her aunt is dead, Arya cracks up (which actually gives a glimpse of the old more childish Arya).
Sansa – her older sister is being anything but childish. Littlefinger is being interrogated by the grey-clad lords and lady of the Vale about Lysa’s “suicide.” When they bring Sansa in, she tells a carefully constructed story riding the line between fact and fiction. In fact, she clings decidedly close to the truth, revealing her identity and spinning the crucial parts (the nature of her kiss and the murder itself) to Littlefinger’s benefit. Both sisters have grown. Littlefinger is let off. He works the lords pushing them toward war with the Lannisters and getting Robin out of the Eerie to “tour” the Value.
Later, Litlefinger visits Sansa to ask her why she helped him. She looks at him coyly. And as Littlefinger ushers Robin off on his “adventure” she appears in a striking feather shouldered dress. It’s been awhile since I read her parts in the novels, but this all feels decidedly more overt and adult than in the source material. Not that that’s a bad thing — particularly on TV.
Tyrion – And finally, the man of the hour. Jaime vists Tyrion one last time and they have one of those wry conversations, discussing duels, methods of execution, and words for different kinds of killing. Then Tyrion launches into this long story about his moron cousin Orson the Beetlesmasher. It’s a credit to Peter Dinklage that he makes it so spellbinding, and great writing that it turns out the beetle smashing is probably an allegory for human violence. In the end, Jaime wishes him luck.
And he moves on to the arena. This is a glorious set. Notched somewhere on the water in Dubrovnik the half circle of spectators looks out on the sea, and they’ve matted in a love Red Keep looming above. Oberyn is taking the whole thing lightly. Light armor and getting his buzz on. But the man is fast. He really does the grace and speed of The Viper credit — and the Mountain is huge. It is so George R R Martin that his character ultimate does him in. His need to toy with the Mountain and get the truth about his sister from the man leaves an opening for a huge last minute reversal. Oh it would be great to be a GOT virgin and experience it for the first time again.
Oh, and that is one seriously bad way to check out! Ouch!
All in all, this was a fabulous episode, probably my favorites of this season so far — mostly due to the Tyrion scenes and the fight, but there is lots of good stuff going on. George R R Martin has a real talent for reversals. His basic mode of operation is to make you fall for the characters, even painting the villains sympathetically, and then jerk their fortunes up and down unpredictably. It’s a damn effective dramatic strategy.