Wow. Just Wow. Sunday was quite a night for Game of Thrones fans. Just when we thought we were safe because of the tradition of major deaths taking place in the ninth episode, the writers always know how to pull a fast one on us. Not only did we get a gruesome death but there was also character development all around, especially for Sansa Stark. The eighth episode, “The Mountain and The Viper” delivered exactly what the audience wanted: an incredibly intense- and gory- trial by combat. Even though it was the shortest part of the episode, it was worth waiting for. But besides the fight, the episode on its own was an example of writing at its finest.
Even with extremely cunning skills, Littlefinger can’t escape justice when there’s a murder on his hands. Being questioned by officials, Littlefinger’s story was that Lysa Arryn had committed suicide because of her obsession over Littlefinger. While not completely convinced, the officials bring their own witness in: Sansa Stark (who is only known as Littlefinger’s niece to them). Without previously counselliing her on what to say to them, the audience sees Littlefinger actually nervous for the first time. However, Sansa Stark isn’t stupid. Being held hostage in King’s Landing and witnessing the corruption of politics, she knows how to play this game better than anyone else. She first reveals herself as Sansa Stark and talks laments about her time being held hostage in King’s Landing. She convinces the officials that Littlefinger saved her and protected her from harm and that she witnessed Lysa Arryn jumping out of the Moon Door over her jealousy of Sansa’s and Littlefinger’s relationship. Her sob story, complete with actual tears, convinced the jury and they even vowed to keep her true identity a secret. When one of the judges goes to hug her, we see her soberly stare down a completely shocked Littlefinger. By the end of the episode, we see her with raven dark hair and a black feathery dress. While her facial expressions were usually scared or indifferent, this is the first time we truly see her confident. She doesn’t seem scared anymore. In fact, she seems excited for what’s in store for her now. For show watchers, and even book readers, it’s going to be exciting to see where her new change of character is going to go.
Outside the Eyrie
While Sansa and Littlefinger are celebrating their new freedom from Lysa Arryn, Arya and The Hound are heading up to the entrance trying to see her. When the guard mentions that they died three days before, we see Arya finally crack like an egg. When The Hound is giving his “Are you fucking kidding me?” look, Arya starts laughing hysterically as if things couldn’t possibly get any worse for her. For all of the things she’s witnessed, it seems that this is the last straw for her. To see her break down like that shows that there is truly no hope left for her to find family. It’s unclear if the Stark girls will reunite but seeing how Jon and Bran didn’t despite being feet apart a few episodes ago, I wouldn’t count on it.
Ramsay has a plan to take over Moat Cailin to please his father, Roose Bolton. He makes Theon (or should I say Reek?) to “disguise” as a lord to snatch it for him. Alfie Allen performs superbly as an extremely disturbed hostage who is putting on an act of someone who he once was. It made me nostalgic of season one or two Theon and it made me almost miss him. After some “negotiating” (AKA flaying some people), Moat Cailin is successfully taken and Ramsay is officially made a Bolton for making Daddy proud.
I’m starting to roll my eyes whenever the Meereen segments come on. I see it mostly as filler until Daenerys decides to head to Westeros again. For now, they’re trying to shove a pointless love story down our throats between Daenerys’ assistant, Missandei and Greyworm, an Unsullied soldier. I personally just think it’s going to be used as a catalyst for one of their deaths (most likely Missandei).
Thankfully, the whole segment wasn’t focused on Greyworm spying on Missandei taking a bath. The latter half was focused on the future of Jorah. Ser Barristan finds an old letter that reveals that Jorah was spying on Daenerys from the very beginning and telling Varys about her every move. When Daenerys finds out, she exiles him. But Jorah is right: It was no accident that that letter showed up. Tywin Lannister is trying to divide them and Daenerys is currently falling for it. But I’m sure Jorah will be back to save Daenerys. The fact that he wasn’t simply killed expresses that.
Gilly seems to be just getting by in her new home when the wildlings raid it, killing everybody in sight. Ygritte is included in this bunch and she is not showing any mercy on anyone. Ygritte goes into a storage closet where she finds Gilly with her baby. They stare at each other until the scene cuts to Sam and Jon discussing the raid. Sam blames himself for leaving Gilly there. It appears that she has been spared by Ygritte but we won’t truly know that until next episode, the final showdown between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings.
This last segment was full of obvious symbols of the kind of power that George R.R. Martin has and what kind of series Game of Thrones truly is. Tyrion and Jamie’s conversation about their cousin squishing beetles because they’re weak illustrates Martin’s ability to kill these characters off because he can. But what people don’t seem to understand is his philosophy. This series revolves around the fact that heroes do not exist. There’s usually no triumph over the villain and there’s rarely a happily ever after. If the villains are more skilled, then they will win in the end; it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, this applies to loved characters such as Oberyn Martell.
When Tyrion sees him before the fight, he has more alcohol in him than actual armor and incredibly confident about the fight. “Size doesn’t matter when you’re flat on the ground” he says before going into the ring. He demonstrates his moves with his spear like Darth Maul while The Mountain just simply stands there looking at him. But we know that Oberyn is not fighting just for Tyrion; he is also doing it for revenge. He wants a confession from the Mountain for murdering his sister and her children. “YOU RAPED HER. YOU MURDERED HER. YOU KILLED HER CHILDREN,” he repeatedly shouts like Inigo Montoya did to Count Rugen. He was able to stab through the Mountain’s armor and get him on the ground but his need for a confession got the best of him. While he was supposedly lying on the ground unconscious, he grabbed Oberyn’s legs and punched him, knocking out most, if not all, of his teeth. And The Mountain confessed… while gouging out Oberyn’s eyeballs and literally making his head explode. The immense amount of gore didn’t faze me much; it was the screams of an extremely confident man that got me. Oberyn’s cockiness seemed to go away in that split second that he was dying and his screams mixed with his mistress’s screams made my stomach churn. The episode ended with Tywin declaring Tyrion’s death to the audience.
As soon as the episode was over, I immediately switched the channel to something “happy”. I would be lying if I said that the scene wasn’t in my head anymore because it still is raw in my head. And as sad as I am to see such a cool character go, it goes back to Martin’s philosophy: nobody is safe, not even the good guys. While I’m hoping for some redemption in the last two episodes, “The Mountain and The Viper” was, to put it bluntly, fucking fantastic and gut-wrenching.