4×08: “The Mountain and the Viper”
Welcome back after the (well after) mid-season break! This week’s episode started out with the wildlings sacking Mole’s Town. And when the blood started dripping through the floorboards, that’s when I knew this was gonna be a bloody episode.
The attack on Mole’s Town is a big deal since it’s just a stone’s throw from Castle Black, reminding us yet again that a wildling force 100,000 strong is advancing on the Wall. (Like we needed reminding.) A major battle is coming, and I have a feeling that that’s going to be the main focus of the next couple of episodes (or the season finale at the very least).
But it’s also a big deal because Gilly was there in Mole’s Town with her son. And when the baby started crying, Ygritte found them — and spared them. And that seems strange to me, given what we know of her. She’s cold and hard, and she was like that even before Jon left her, although of course him leaving made her way worse. So why would she spare Gilly and Sam?
I have two theories on that. One, she recognized a fellow wildling — I’m sure she’d been Craster’s way before — and didn’t want to kill one of her own kind. Or two, even though she’s seething with anger at Jon and the rest of the crows, she has enough compassion inside her to save a young mother and her infant son. Either way, Ygritte has some standards, and I really like that about her. (Also, she axes people real good.)
Then there’s Theon, who’s actually not too far away. He’s at Moat Cailin, which is kind of a dump but is apparently strategic for some reason, on a mission from Ramsay Snow. After promising that the Ironborn camped there will keep their lives, Theon convinces them to surrender. Of course they do keep their lives, or at least for the amount of time it takes for Ramsay to not just flay them but I think actually chop up one guy beneath the torso and then open up his ribcage. (Thank goodness I ate before I watched.)
During that scene Theon actually breaks down a bit and starts muttering his name to himself. I just really need him to get away soon, because I’ve been watching him suffer for an entire year and I can’t handle this level of soul-crushing sadness. And as if that weren’t enough to make me upset, Ramsay Snow has pleased his father to the point where he’s legitimized and is now known as Ramsay Bolton. Because this psychopath doesn’t have enough going for him yet.
Up in the Eyrie, Petyr is being heavily questioned by some of the lords and ladies of the Vale. They’re suspicious about the circumstances of Lysa Arryn’s death, and they bring out the only witness to the event: Sansa Stark. Petyr is beside himself because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he hides it well. And as expected, Sansa launched into her wide-eyed routine where she spills everything, including who she really is.
But wait. Hold up. The story she tells definitely isn’t what happened. According to her, Petyr is like a father to her and has only had her best interests at heart. According to her, he only kissed her on the cheek (nope). And according to her, Lysa’s insecurities got the best of her and she flung herself out the Moon Door. Somehow Sansa manages to deliver this pack of lies not with the straight face that is so often associated with the liars of King’s Landing, but with the emotionally distraught demeanour that I’ve hated about her up till now.
When Petyr confronts her about it later, she coolly says that she didn’t know what they would do with her if he were killed. Her own well-being depends on his, particularly since she now knows what he wants from her. And she promptly reinforces this by putting on a dress with a plunging neckline and making Petyr eat his heart out.
Now that Sansa has finally learned to play the game — not soon enough to help her family, I’d like to add — I’m excited to see what she’s going to do next.
Across the Narrow Sea, Ser Barristan receives a letter meant for Ser Jorah, post-dated ages ago back when Robert Baratheon was still alive. It’s a royal pardon as thanks for him spying on Daenerys, who’s a previously unseen level of furious. There’s no shouting. There’s no screaming. There’s no crying. There’s only a cold, persistent voice demanding the truth without excuses, and once she’s heard it, Dany banishes Jorah from the city.
The weird thing is, I thought Dany already knew. See, we’re on season 4 now. Jorah did most of the spying way back in season 1. I’m finding it hard to believe that Dany went this long before thinking to herself, “Gosh, the Usurper seems to have really good tabs on where I am. Maybe not all of my friends are as awesome as I think they are.”
This is an old betrayal, and it doesn’t sting as much as it should. Obviously it’s irreparably destroyed their relationship, but it’s hard to feel too sad about that when it happened so long ago. By this time I’ve forgiven Jorah for his actions because he’s been so loyal since then. He didn’t know her then, not like he does now, and she didn’t know him. The pardon was signed by King Robert, and by the time he died Jorah was already pretty fond of Dany, so I don’t think he sent any new intel their way.
I realize that Dany is hurt beyond belief and that Jorah did a pretty awful thing, but I don’t think she should have sent him away. I think she should have imprisoned him, definitely, just long enough to send a statement to the rest of the city. But I think that sending away one of her most valued companions, the one who acted as her conscience when she became too ruthless, won’t end well for her.
Let’s be real: you probably didn’t really read anything up to this point because you were waiting for this. The fight between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane was everything I wanted it to be and more. For one thing, Oberyn is hella agile. I was super impressed, mainly because I can’t even walk a straight line without dropping something.
For most of the fight, Oberyn just dominates. He delivers a monologue worthy of Inigo Montoya and manages to get a few good stabs in there in the meantime — in fact, he actually manages to get The Mountain down on the ground. He demands the confession he’s always wanted, not just from Clegane but from Tywin Lannister, too. But people being people, everyone but him remains completely silent. And so he gets more and more worked up, shouting and accusing and demanding for someone to admit to the heinous crime that nobody wants to talk about.
Until he gets too close to The Mountain. Clegane grabs him in a death grip and spits out that he killed Elia Martell’s children, raped her, and murdered her. Then he pulls a Khan and crushes Oberyn Martell’s head like a watermelon before rolling over to die. And for some reason, even though it was a draw, Tyrion is pronounced guilty and sentenced to death.
Just… where do I even begin? For one thing, that was gruesome as f*ck. For another, I kept telling Oberyn to stop hopping around and monologuing and to just wait for Clegane to die, but just like when I watch football, nobody listens to me. And for a third and final thing, the reactions to the fight’s climax were just so, so amazing to me. Weird, I know, but let me explain.
Take Ellaria Sand. She’s on a whole new level of horror that makes Carol Marcus’s reaction look mildly disgusted. Carol just screams. Ellaria loses her sh*t. Then there’s Cersei, who looks… just way too pleased at the grotesque turn of events. Seriously, what’s her problem? And, of course, there’s Tyrion, who has that dumbfounded look that simultaneously says “I can’t believe what I just saw” and “oh sh*t, I’m gonna die.”
One of the things I love about this show is that it presents things in an unadulterated, uncensored format. Yeah, sometimes that translates to just ridiculous amounts of swearing, gore, and nudity. But that also translates to real, human reactions. These guys don’t scale back their performances because none of them are just playing a part. They really do become their characters while they’re on the screen, which is partly why we get so upset when awful things happen to them.
So yeah, this is the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding all over again. This is big. This is the defining moment of the season, and I challenge the two remaining episodes to top it.
Final Grade: A+
- In the book, didn’t it take like way longer for Theon to convince the Ironborn to abandon the castle? I only ask because I remember being bored out of my skull.
- Okay, I know it’s weird, but… I actually ship Grey Worm and Missandei so hard now. Also, hearing Dany calling it “the pillar and the stones” was freakin’ hilarious.
- Arya’s reaction to hearing that her aunt is dead. I’m not sure if it’s a “we’re three days late and I seriously can’t believe this like what even” laugh, a “dude we’re three days late and I told you so” laugh, or just a general crazy person laugh. I don’t even care; it’s priceless.
- What was the deal with the beetle story? Did anyone else understand the point of that? ’cause I sure didn’t. I mean, yes, lots of fun to hear Tyrion making those noises, but I have no idea what it meant.
- Ellaria Sand, what on earth are you wearing? Go home and put on a shirt. This is not bikini weather. Winter is coming. That is all.