GAME OF THRONES Recap: The Mountain and The Viper and The Betrayer and The Liar

Note: This recap contains spoilers for tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones. Obviously. If you haven’t watched it yet, please stop reading now. Or you’ll be pretty upset. Probably with us, but ultimately with yourself. You have been warned.

Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones was one of those magical moments in television. A special sort of case. The series’ creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff managed to accomplish the near-impossible: combine character development, emotional growth, spellbinding action, and major departures with mind-boggling meticulousness into one beautifully written and plotted script.

Yes: Oberyn Martell is dead. Yes: Tyrion has been sentenced to murder. But beyond all that — and please allow our emotional state to potentially hyperbolate a bit — but this was one of the most impressively written hours of television we’ve seen in ages. Maybe ever. “The Mountain and The Viper” has pushed Game of Thrones to another level. There’s a lot of shit going down right now in the Realm — and you all thought “Mockingbird” was nutty.

Even though next week’s major battle looms large on our minds — those penultimate episodes historically are quite a doozy — this episode felt nearly finale-esque. So much happened, so many things changed. We’ve got a lot to go over, so let’s get right to it.

Across the Narrow Sea:

First thing’s first: we need to talk about Meereen. (I know, I know — we’re saving the Red Keep business ’til the end just to torture you.) This episode saw the most significant amount of time we’ve seen devoted to Dany’s storyline this whole season. Typically no more than a scene or two at most — and terribly brief scenes at that — the players in Meereen saw major screen time, and with good reason.

Ser Jorah Mormont is gone. Cast out of the Queen’s company after that we-totally-forgot-about-it note regarding his pardoning from King Robert Baratheon made its way to the city. When intercepted by Barristan Selmy, Jorah’s whole world comes undone.

The betrayal Dany felt was palpable — as was Jorah’s heartbreak on the matter. No words nor feelings nor change of heart — not even the fact that he had stopped selling her out awhile back — could diffuse the realities in Dany’s mind: he’d spied on her for the Usurper in the selfish hopes that he’d be able to return to Westeros after his banishment. It was too hard for Dany to bear.

“I don’t not want you in my city dead or alive.” Adios Jorah. Until…who knows when?

Moving over to some In Happy For Once News, a little bit of love was cast upon this dreary situation: Grey Worm and Missandei may have just found it in this hopeless place. Which would be nice: there are no other couples in The Realm of Men that we can collectively root for. Sure his “pillar and the stones” may not be intact. Something tells us these two crazy kids might be able to make it work. Their chat in the throne room shows they might be keen on each other after all: she’s cautiously curious and he’s respectfully removed but up front about his feelings. So this is love? Mmmhhmm mmmhmmm.

Hangin’ Around at Moat Cailin:

The Boltons have gained much ground in this episode, and not only through the Reek-as-Theon-Greyjoy capture of Moat Cailin from the ailing Iron Islanders that were holding it. Ramsay Snow is now a Bolton, officially.

The bastard of Bolton has gone legitimate, with Roose fulfilling his promise to Ramsay after the seizure of Moat Cailin.

And we have to say it: Alfie Allen is really doing a lot of incredibly addled work as Reek/Theon. His mind feels constantly on the edge of breakdown, as if a single thread is all that ties him to reality. Not enough people are appreciative of it — not that it’s all that hard to overlook when you’ve got Peter Dinklage running around Peter Dinklage-ing the shit out of everything. But still: in the very least a tip of the hat is due to the young Allen, particularly the moment when everything nearly goes to shit for him at Moat Cailin. How he slowly unraveled — a twitch here, a mumbled “Reek” there — felt captivating and heartbreakingly real. He fully embodies a man barely surviving this life.

Over in the Eyrie:

Well, well, well: Sansa Stark has finally grown up. For better or for worse — though that all remains to be seen. At long last the gingered Stark has finally learned a thing or two about the game of thrones. She’s seen all the chaos that surrounds her and she’s decided to waltz up that ladder and get what she wants. She couldn’t have a better teacher at this rate, considering the master of manipulation Littlefinger has revealed himself to be.

Lord Royce and the other nobles of the Vale were skeptical of Littlefinger and the shocking death-via-Moon-Door that fell upon Lysa Arryn (proving that they all have, at least, half a brain). But Sansa’s unscripted reveal of not only her true self — Alayne no more! — but Littlefinger’s plot to save her from Red Keep (leaving out all that pesky “oh yeah he also murdered the king” stuff, natch), that kept him out of harm’s way. “He saved me; smuggled me away when I had the chance,” she quipped before bursting into some truly impressive crocodile tears. Somewhere in the Les Miserables-tinged distance, Anne Hathaway seethes with jealousy.

And did everyone see that straight-up Maleficent dress she was wearing at the end? Oh she knows what Littlefinger wants alright, and she’s not afraid to use it to her advantage. Not anymore.

Down in the Red Keep:

Awaiting his trial by combat, Tyrion was worried. Actually worried is probably an understatement: Tyrion was already planning for his death and essentially shitting his pants. “Oh he’s going to die. I’m going to die.” His worry wreaking havoc on his nerves to a point we’ve never seen Tyrion before — not even at the battle of Blackwater was he this terrified. Thankfully, Jaime did his brotherly duty and had a nice, long moment with his brother, making him laugh and even bringing him a bit of wine to calm the jitters.

Of all the Tyrion speeches we’ve seen this season — and there have been many and some that are really, really good — this one might have been the best. He recalls a time from their childhood when a simpleton cousin of theirs insisted upon beating beetles to death, day in and day out. He always wanted to know why: “There’s plenty written about great men but not nearly enough about morons. Doesn’t seem right.” The whole thing was just, well, BRILLIANT. There’s a reason Tyrion is “the smartest person” he knows — he likely takes that title for most people, viewers included.

And then came the Battle Royale: The Mountain and The Viper. Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell. Pedro Pascal, doing his best “Angry Mandy Patinkin” absolutely nailed the entire thing — from his cavalier attitude (“You’re going to fight that?” “I’m going to kill that.”) to his incredibly light and airy attack moves. His was character you never stopped watching — right up until the moment The Mountain killed him dead.

“You raped my sister! You murdered her! You killed her children!” Over and over again, Oberyn taunted The Mountain for the deeds he had done at the request of Tywin Lannister. This was his moment to redeem his sister Elia Martell from the injustice done unto her and her kids. This was the whole reason Oberyn came to King’s Landing in the first place: he was never going to leave there without The Mountain dead, a confession of his crimes fresh on his lips.

And The Mountain did confess… as he smashed Oberyn’s head in through his eyes before falling over, seemingly dead from his own wounds. It was awful.

Truly, there’s nothing sadder than seeing the end of Oberyn Martell — his presence in the story has been a breath of fresh, game-changing air. But that’s exactly why he had to die: he was a textbook tragic character, with one single fatal flaw: his stubbornness, even in the face of victory. He needed that confession, he had to have it. He wouldn’t be satisfied with a dead Mountain alone. And that is ultimately what killed him.

And ultimately it’s what also led to Tyrion’s sentence: Death.

Stuff and Things and Other Loose Ends

– The Wildling raid of Mole’s Town really set the tone for the rest of the hour: dark, ominous, and bloody as hell.
– Ygritte is such a secret softie, letting Gilly go because she was a Wildling.
– That blood pouring down through the ceiling was really quite something, wasn’t it?
– Hopefully the Brothers of the Night’s Watch will listen to Jon Snow, because Mance’s Wildlings are en route and the battle is a-comin’ right to their very doorstep.
– Arya. Oh Arya. What a change has happened to her over the course of this season.
– Now when she hears about a death in the family, all she can do is laugh.
– Her growth as a killer is also tremendous: the way she chastised The Hound for his prejudice against particular ways of killing? That never would’ve come out of Arya’s mouth a year ago.
– “I’d kill Joffrey with a chicken bone if I had to.” <—— As soon as she said this we thought, “This is why she’s totally going to become a very accomplished and well-respected Faceless Men of Braavos at some point.” Right?
– She may be a psychopath, but she’s our psychopath.
– Where do we think Robin Arryn is headed? And do we think the boy even has a chance at this point?

Needless to say: things are really changing on Game of Thrones: I think it’s safe to say, at this point, that no one’s really banking on any sort of a happy ending anymore, are they? Let us know if you are in the comments (you poor, unfortunate soul).

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