Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep. 8 – The Mountain and the Viper

Mmmhmm. Dat justice. That sweet, sweet vengeance! The deliverance from evil!

Nope, you must have been watching some other show. This is Game of Thrones, and we don’t fuck around. Vallar Morghulis. All men must die.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time recounting the trial by combat because that was bad enough to watch (confession: I read the spoilers ahead of time and decided to cover my ears at the, uh, final moment). If you didn’t catch it – Oberyn’s head does a sweet impression of a ripe tomato and there is lots of screaming. “You could at least wear a helmet!” Yeesh.

Let’s give it up to Pedro Pascal who, in a mere 8 episodes, made us fall madly in love and subsequently broke all our hearts. The man gloriously brought Oberyn Martell to life, and now many of us have a new favorite character to mourn. Like Rob and Ned before him, Oberyn’s death was a massive shock and outrage, and sometimes I wonder why I come back to this hell where all the most interesting people come to die. Glutton for punishment, anyone? I think at some point it almost becomes fun to be so greatly disappointed.

Now Tyrion is officially sentenced to death, and all appears bleak.

On to other topics, shall we?

Recall that the 9th episode is famously the peak of the season – the biggest budget, the baddest battles. Season 1, Ned’s death. Season 2, Blackwater Bay. Season 3, the Red Wedding. Anyone catch the promo for this season? That’s right, full on Wildling versus Wall.

We get a preview of what’s to come with the massacre at Mole’s Town, a fun little made up scene to bring us all current with Jon Snow’s plotlines. I really hated seeing Ygritte brutally stab and murder those women in the bar, and then spare Gilly. Kind of a cop-out, if you ask me.

Thanks to Reek acting as Theon (Alfie Allen, “a dude playing a dude that’s disguised as another dude!”) and winter bringing on starving, sickness and mutiny, Moat Callin, the last fortress guarding the North, is abandoned by the Ironborn. Roose Bolton effectively now holds The North. What a cute, touching father-son moment we have between Roose and Ramsay, as they walk away from the men they just flayed and head towards the smoldering ruins of Winterfell. Just adorable.

There were a couple oddly sexual sequences in this episode that didn’t quite make sense to me. First, we have Missandei and Gray Worm. Ok, she’s good looking, he’s good looking. But this is just a little gratuitous. Whatever. “The pillar and the stones.” Good grief.

I tried very hard to recognize that seal on the note that Barristian Selmy gets, but it’s a bit lost on me. It could be from the Hand of the King, but I’m not sure. Any theories who sent that?

At any rate, it’s Ser Jorah’s royal pardon for his old life (he was banished for selling slaves, but pardoned for spying) and his new fate (shucks, banished again). I’ve got to be honest, I have always been sympathetic to Ser Jorah. Moreso in the books, I think, where his love of Danerys was more open and I found him to be a quite the romantic  tragedy. One can’t really look past his betrayal, however – who can blame Dany for sending him away? Guess we won’t be seeing that sweet blue scarf for a while.

I confess again – I have no idea what Sansa is up to, in what is our second confusing sexually suggestive scenes. In the books, she doesn’t rise to Petyr’s defense – he doesn’t need it. And maybe I remember incorrectly, but I don’t think Sansa leverages Petyr’s gross attraction to her – she’s mostly just trying to be good and stay alive. Not necessarily the most cunning thing to walk the planet, but hey, she’s a teenager. Here, we have her not only lying brilliantly, but also sexing it up a bit in her new getup. What is that, a disguise? You’re supposed to blend in, girlfriend. Not stand out in your new goth mockingbird outfit!

Oh, Arya. That laugh! The irony, the horrible coincidences! That’s the worst thing about this show – it’s all so absurd how close everyone comes to salvation, to their family and friends and a new lease on life, only to have it tragically slip away right in front of them. Or, three days ago, as is Arya’s current predicament. I guess the only thing you can do is laugh. If only she had made it all the way up to the Vale, she could have seen her sister (see! There’s the absurdity! They were so close! But so far! Arrrrrrrgh).

An interesting observation from this episode: Roose Bolton, Lord Royce and co., and those guards at the gate to the Vale all know that the Stark kids are alive. This, my friends, is how rumors get started. No one but the Starks’ immediate traveling companions know they are alive in the books. The writers try to play it off – Roose says “they’re probably dead;” the council promises Sansa her secret is safe with them; and come on, who the heck is that guard gonna tell that Arya Stark walked up to the door?  – but I just find it really fascinating we have all this acknowledgement of them being alive in one episode. Premonition, maybe?

One more  thing, before I leave you to your mourning  – that beetle smashing scene between Jamie and Tyrion is entirely scripted for the show. Anyone have any speculation what it was about? Some online discussion has been that it’s a nod to George R.R. Martin himself – as Tyrion could not understand his cousin’s behavior, perhaps we will never understand George’s delight in smashing.

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