Last weekend Game of Thrones took a break since it was the Memorial Day Weekend, and thus we’ve had to wait two weeks to see the fabled fight between the Red Viper of Dorne and the Mountain in King’s Landing. The build-up has been quite immense and last episode certainly ended on a very interesting cliffhanger, although in regards to a different subplot altogether. I keep saying this, but season 4 has been very mixed so far for me, and while I kind of enjoyed this new episode as well, I certainly don’t see the trend changing any time soon.
With a title like “The Mountain and The Viper” and knowing what happened in episodes 6 and 7, you know full well what is going to happen in this episode. And the big fight between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane certainly delivers on expectations, although the ending is kind of really daft, as far as I am concerned. And elsewhere, we see ever more heartbreak as various things happen to make it clear that all these characters are just getting their asses kicked again and again. Kind of ruins the fun as far as I am concerned.
Note: Some spoilers from the various ongoing plotlines are mentioned, as is the result of the Viper-Mountain duel.
The new episode starts off with Tormund Giantsbane and the Wildling men and women under his command strike at Mole’s Town and raze the entire place to the ground, killing and butchering their way through everyone who stands in their way. It really was a rather boring start to the episode, except for the scenes between Ygritte and Gilly. Its all just mindless bloody slaughter and there is nothing exciting in it. We later cut to a scene at the Wall where Jon Snow’s and his friends discuss the destruction of Mole’s Town and the possibility of Gilly having survived. Decent stuff I suppose but not exactly stirring, and that’s what this series really needs right now.
The second major sequence deals with voyeurism and female nudity, two things that the show has really championed in its four year of existence. I mean seriously, how relevant was it show Missandei in the nude and with her breasts exposed while Grey Worm spies on her while submerged to his chins in the stream where he is bathing with other Unsullied? I consider this entire sequence to be incredibly stupid and irrelevant. There certainly could have been better ways for the two of them to fall in love. Because this is just exposing even more of the negatives of the show as a whole, and that’s something I really do mind. Much later on we see how Sier Jorah Mormont undergoes a rather severe loss and how stupid Daenerys really is. She continues to think with her animal instincts rather than with her mind, and that’s where she really shows how stupid she is, especially when she is in such a delicate period of her life and her rule over the various cities beyond the Narrow Sea. Some good bits, but ultimately very disappointing because the whole exchange is rather one-sided and there’s no room at all for any kind of a fair hearing.
Then we cut to the North as Ramsay Snow and Reek make an attempt at capturing Moat Cailin for Lord Roose Bolton and to end the war against the Ironborn of the Pike and the Iron Islands. This was really interesting, given that Ramsay and Reek themselves are involved, especially given what has happened in the last couple of episodes. Alfie Allen is definitely knocking it all out of the park here with his performance, and something like that really can’t be “faked”. Allen’s strong performance is indeed one of the reasons why I loved this subplot so much.
Back in the Value, where in the cliffhanger to episode 7 we saw Littlefinger push his newly-wed bride Lady Lysa Arryn through the moondoor, this time we see Littlefinger justify himself and prove his innocence before a tribunal of the Vale’s three greatest houses. Things are quite hotch-potch indeed and I liked the way that things developed for Littlefinger and Sansa Stark, right up until Sansa began to channel femme fatale much later on in the episode. That was what killed it all for me, because I just couldn’t take Sansa seriously up until that point.
Till now in this episode, we see how many of the more prominent examples of “heroes” are tricked and deceived and suffer irreparable losses against one danger or another. The only shining light of sorts is when The Hound and Arya arrive at the Vale and learn that Lysa is dead. It was a great setup but given the fact that Arya just laughs like a maniac confused the hell out of me. Is she laughing at the fact that whenever she comes close to being reunited with her family, she finds that those she has come to see are dead? That the gods are playing a cosmic joke on her? Possibly, but it was all just really, really odd.
The episode ends with a rather spectacular fight between Prince Oberyn the Red Viper of Dorne and Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, to decide the fate of Tyrion Lannister in the matter of the regicide of King Joffrey. Given the utter farce that his trial was turning into, Tyrion demanded trial by combat, to be judged in the eyes of the gods and with their blessing or curse, and now we see how that plays out. And it plays out very badly. Oberyn gets the jump on the Mountain several times, but he falls because he was too overconfident. The amazing fight between these two opponents ends when a down-on-the-ground Gregor Clegane sweeps Oberyn off his feet and crushes his skull in by first poking out his eyes. Bloody horrible way to die, that.
And that’s my problem with the entire story of The Song of Ice and Fire. Just when I really start to like a character, he or she is killed off. Or rather, some truly heroic and badass characters often find themselves on the short end of the stick. It happened to Eddard Stark and Khal Drogo in season 1. Tyrion Lannister almost died in season 2. It happened to Robb Stark in season 3. And with the way that this big duel ends, it is clear that this is a pretty shit season for Tyrion Lannister. The gods are playing a massive cosmic joke on him, one far bigger in scale than what is happening with Arya.
For me, the episode was ruined because of how the duel turned out. I was rooting for Oberyn to win, but that was taken away, and the hope that Tyrion had nurtured since the previous episode when Oberyn made known that he would be the imp’s champion proved to be nothing more than a false hope.
Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont and Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn were definitely the stand-out performances of this episode. They both get pissed over by the fates and it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the next couple episodes as the season draws to a close. The focus in this episode seems to have been on the story more than the characters because other than Ser Jorah Mormont and Prince Oberyn none of the other characters really did it for me. A mediocre episode at best with far too many things going on, few of which are of any particular interest.