Game Of Thrones Review: “The Mountain And The Viper” (Season 4, Episode 8)


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Sansa, though, is perhaps the MVP of this episode. Her status as a Stark makes it seem wrong to think of her as a secondary or supporting character, but widespread opinion seems to indicate that as far as this series’ characters have gone to this point, she is given little attention, largely due to her tendency to be the recipient of various misfortunates rather than actively pursue her own goals and ambitions. But after this week, it appears as though her individual agency has emerged, and she just might make it after all, not to mention keep us interested in what’s going to happen to her with her next.

This was indeed a crucial moment in her story, as she finally abandoned her allegiance to honesty and piety in favor of doing what she needs to do to survive, and right now that’s aligning herself with Littlefinger. Instead of merely going along with his wishes, though, she seems to be learning from his example and making her own decisions, spinning a story in a way only Sansa could, and with the aid of a closing shot highlighting her more mature fashion sense, letting everyone know she’s ready to play with the adults. I would not have anticipated a power strut from Sansa Stark this season, but she rocked it.

Other “minor” characters that I am becoming irrationally invested in are Missandei and Grey Worm, whose budding yet awkward relationship overshadowed even Daenerys dismissing Jorah this week, at least as far as I’m concerned. I tend to look down on what I believe are called “shippers” (?) who root for various characters to couple up in TV shows, but the show seems to have found really compelling tension between these two, who have had to overcome cultural and linguistic obstacles, and now the whole obstacle of whether Grey Worm’s “pillar and stones” are intact, or more interestingly whether that even matters in the midst of a real romantic connection, raising all sorts of questions of gender and sexual identification and all that fun stuff. I hope the implications of this story get explored to their fullest potential, because there could be a lot there.

Although I’m still not sure if the exploration of all the Grey Worms in the world would be enough to make up for the potential loss of Tyrion. His plight is by far the most emotionally engaging dimension of this series, which is why this trial’s stake feel so astronomically high. To heighten these feelings even further, we’re treated to yet another beautiful scene between him and Jaime, exhibiting their deep bond through the recounting of shared memories. Their differences are laid out plainly here, with Tyrion clearly being the thinker and Jaime being the doer, but their fondness for each other has never been more apparent than in their adorable reenactment of Orson Lannister smashing bugs. That story, as well, is sure to be interpreted in a number of ways over the next week. Some are already saying that Orson is like George R.R. Martin, gleefully killing off innocents on a whim. Others think that Tyrion identifies with the beetles, constantly being stepped on by fools with more power. I think it’s all these things. I also think it’s revealing, probably most revealing of all, that Tyrion simply observes and tries to rationalize the behavior, taking pleasure in of his own intellectual experiment while maintaining his own sense of superiority over his cousin.

The impression left by this simple yet perplexing story understandably carries over to the final dazzlingly portrayed scene between The Mountain and the Red Viper, as Gregor ultimately crushes Oberyn like an insect after he buzzes around and almost seems like he’s killed him with a poison stinger. It’s a sequence executed masterfully by this season’s breakout director Alex Graves, playing off of expectations set by the likes of Inigo Montoya, with whom Oberyn has drawn obvious parallels. But in the same way Game of Thrones has toyed with Lord of the Rings-style narratives before making a clear break from them, the break between Oberyn and Inigo is made the moment we see the Mountain’s thumbs enter his eye sockets, and cemented as we look at what remains of his skull. In the end, Oberyn got what he wanted from the Mountain, which was a confession, but this is a resolution that is wrapped up nicely in the least satisfying manner possible.

Additional notes:

  • For a sultry, fire-breathing, unburnt Mother of Dragons, Daenerys can also be ice cold.
  • Arya’s laugh is a real highlight of this episode. Lots of people seem to agree that it’s really the most sensible reaction she can give to news of another relative dying at this point. It reminded me of Catelyn’s chilling, maniacal and tragic final laugh in the novel.
  • Tyrion’s prison cell may be a dingy old place but it has spectacular lighting.
  • There really are only two songs in Westeros. If someone’s belching a tune, it’s either one or the other.
  • I’ve always thought of it as ‘Mole’s Town’ but when spelled ‘Molestown’ it looks like ‘Molest Town’ which is extremely appropriate.
  • That Wildling raid was one of the most cinematically artful sequences of the season, and given that next week’s episode seems to focus heavily on The Wall, we could be in for another tremendous ninth episode.

For more on “The Mountain and The Viper,” check out our official Game of Thrones podcast below:

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