Monday, June 2, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Mountain and The Viper

And we're back. Once again it's on! If you didn't know already this episode made it abundantly clear for the six millionth time that the show creators are just that, show creators, and are not solely interested in bringing George R.R. Martin's unedited story to the screen. I don't mind this when they are tightening up storylines, dropping stereotypical characters or moving things along a little more quickly than Martin is wont to do. But it's a mixed bag when the showrunners start putting their own subthemes and stories into the series. It's inevitable I guess. We must take the good with the bad. In this episode sometimes the new material worked and sometimes it simply did not. I'll write more in detail on this once the season has completed. But for now all I can say is that the butterfly effect is real. I don't see how it's not going to cause some serious storms later on in the televised series.Ok, enough bellyaching. What happened. Well we open up in everyone's favorite Molestown brothel where a prostitute, jealous that Gilly doesn't have to sell herself and contemptuous of Gilly's wildling heritage, is both complaining to and threatening Gilly about her baby's noise. Gilly can't really pay attention because she hears the sounds of wildling raiding parties signalling each other.  Yes, Tormund, Ygritte and crew attack the brothel, killing everyone, prostitutes, customers, Night's Watch members. It's less of an attack than a massacre since most of the people are unarmed or hardly in a position to defend themselves. Ygritte decides not to kill Gilly and her baby but warns them to be quiet. 

Again, here is an example of wanton violence against human beings of both genders. The horror. Although I'm as prudish as anyone and more so than most it still fascinates me that generally depictions of violence are not as criticized as depictions of sex or nudity. Jon Snow and his friends in the Night Watch pout impotently about not being able to or allowed to protect Molestown.


As promised last episode Theon Greyjoy has been sent by Ramsay Snow to masquerade as well, Theon Greyjoy and convince the Ironborn holding Moat Callin to surrender in return for safe passage to the sea. The Ironborn commander rejects the offer but is murdered by his second who accepts. Of course the offer is bogus and once inside Ramsay kills all the Ironborn, taking the opportunity to flay a few of them, apparently just to keep in practice. Theon really is a sad sack but he brought it on himself. He betrayed the Starks. He betrayed and bit his own sister when she tried to rescue him. And he's betrayed his own people. Roose is pleased to receive Moat Callin from Ramsay. He legitimizes him. As Roose is now Warden of the North, perhaps he will need a new seat of power. Apparently Winterfell may be the new home that Ramsay told Theon about. That would really stink huh? But that's the way of the world. Sometimes people betray you at a wedding, kill you and take your stuff. Good, bad or otherwise, Roose Bolton is alive and Robb Stark isn't. There's a lesson to be learned there. I think it might be that if an ally of yours has a flayed man as his sigil that might not be the person you want to rely on or give any sort of responsibility to. Just saying.
In Meereen, Daenerys' court ladies and the Unsullied are bathing in adjoining areas. Grey Worm catches a look at Missandei nude. He takes a longer look. I would too. Any man would. My goodness. She is an incredible looking woman. Evidently she can made a dead man jump and shout. Literally, if Grey Worm is looking at her. I would include a (non-nude) picture but it's probably not really work appropriate. Missandei is not too upset that Grey Worm looked at her. While Daenerys is doing Missandei's hair the two ladies wonder if Grey Worm lost both twig and berries or just the berries and may still possibly be functional. In a powerful scene Grey Worm comes to apologize for looking at Missandei and says if he hadn't been Unsullied he never would have seen her. Missandei says she's glad that he saw what he did. If you were wondering how Littlefinger would explain his murder of Lysa Arryn he's claiming it was suicide. The other Lords of the Vale, led by Lord Royce, are skeptical of this version of events and want to speak to the witness, Alayne Stone, Littlefinger's niece. Littlefinger doesn't want this. Alayne Stone reveals herself as Sansa Stark. Using a skillful mix of lies and truth she backs up Littlefinger's lie of suicide. Freed from suspicion, Littlefinger begins plotting to have Robin leave the Vale, to help him grow up as it were. When he asks Sansa why she lied for him she says that she didn't know what the Vale Lords would do to her but that she knew what Littlefinger wanted. Sansa appears to be making a move towards becoming a player in her own right, especially when she later appears in an ever so slightly revealing gown to accompany Robin (and Littlefinger?) on a trip outside The Vale. Littlefinger has hungry eyes.

All good things must come to an end, right? Well Lord Friendzone aka Ser Jorah Mormont had a good run as Queen Daenerys' Number One Male Friend Who is Definitely Not Allowed to Do That Thing to Her. He need not wonder if he can ever make the jump to lover. The answer is not only no but F*** No!. Ser Barristan received a message from Westeros. It was a signed pardon for Jorah from King Robert Baratheon. Well why would Jorah be needing that? It's obvious of course. Barristan's no dummy and neither is Daenerys. Barristan's old school. Following the man code he tells Jorah to his face that's he's busted before he informs Daenerys. In what is likely the episode's high point a cold, regal and extremely upset Daenerys forces Jorah to admit that he was a spy and fed information on her and her brother to King's Landing. Jorah also finally admits that he loves Daenerys but he's a day late and a dollar short. She exiles him, giving him the patented Michael Corleone "Get outta my sight" brushoff. At least there was no Clemenza outside waiting for Ser Jorah with a garrote. Arya and the Hound arrive at the entrance to The Vale (Gates of the Moon) only to learn that Lysa Arryn is dead, something which the emotionally drained Arya Stark finds inappropriately hilarious. In King's Landing Tyrion and Jaime reminisce about old family stories in the jail cell. Tyrion is of course curious as to whether Jaime thinks Oberyn can win. I mean you don't get a nickname like the Red Viper just drinking tea and watching other men fight, right? 

The bells ring to summon the combatants to the courtyard. Oberyn is attended by his number one lady Ellaria Sand. When she sees the hulking Mountain enter she questions her lover "You're going to fight that?" Oberyn casually responds "I'm going to kill that." This dialogue was directly from the book. Tyrion is worried by Oberyn's nonchalance and his lack of heavy armor. Echoing that great philosopher Bushwick Bill Oberyn is not impressed with The Mountain's size. Size ain't s*** as far as Oberyn is concerned. Significantly Oberyn has chosen to fight with the paragon of Dornish weapons, the spear. Spears are great en masse in battle but can be less than effective against heavy plate armor in a duel. The person wielding the spear would have to be very skilled to find all of the rare weak spots against a person so protected. As it turns out Oberyn does happen to be extremely skilled. The match pits Oberyn's speed and skill against The Mountain's mass and brutality. In a deliberate nod to a similar scene in The Princess Bride, Oberyn continually chants "Elia Martell. You raped her. You killed her. You murdered her children. Say her name!"  It appears that speed does kill. Oberyn is able to dance in and out of The Mountain's range, knocking his helmet off, stabbing him in the knee and the foot and slowing him down. Eventually Oberyn catapults over The Mountain who he has knocked down and drives the spear through The Mountain's guts, pinning him to the ground. At this point the prudent thing to do would have been to grab the Mountain's greatsword and behead him from a safe distance. But Oberyn is not a prudent man. He wants Gregor Clegane to confess that Tywin Lannister gave the order.

As Oberyn harangues all things Lannister he makes the critical mistake of getting too close to The Mountain. If you remember in the last episode Bronn told us that The Mountain is devilishly quick for his size. Yes he is. The Mountain grabs Oberyn, punches him and knocks his teeth out. He pulls him to the ground and gouges out his eyes. He finally says "Elia Martell. I raped her! I killed her children! I bashed her f****** head in. Like this!" The Mountain crushes Oberyn's head like a rotten plum. Cersei's happy. Tywin pronounces a death sentence for Tyrion.

What I liked
  • In a world full of silicone one woman named Missandei stood up and said "Enough!". Heh-heh.
  • Jorah's emotional pain at being forced to admit that yes he had betrayed the woman he loved but things were different now and couldn't she give him a pass. All Daenerys can see is that Jorah was working for Robert Baratheon, the man who killed her brother and drove her into exile. I thought the acting here was pretty intense and extremely well done. Jorah telling Varys about Daenerys' unborn child is what Daenerys can't forgive.
  • Sansa becoming a player. This is questionable morally of course and as Littlefinger reminds her she doesn't really know him. But she's seen first hand what happens to those who try to remain morally pure.  There's a lot Sansa doesn't know. There's more I want to say here but I'll save that for a later post.

What I didn't like
  • The final battle scene between The Mountain and Prince Oberyn was FAR too short. I don't think we got a sense of how epic this showdown was supposed to be. The Mountain is the undisputed heavyweight champion of vicious killers. NOBODY thought that Oberyn could defeat The Mountain. It is a great shock to everyone when Oberyn has The Mountain flat on his back. Tyrion is obviously not only hopeful but confident. Oberyn wore The Mountain down via speed, endurance and constant invocation of his murdered relatives. Watching the scene I didn't get the feeling that Oberyn had FINALLY gotten what he was looking for, a chance at vengeance/justice. The whole thing felt rushed to me. I think it needed more time to allow the viewer's (and Tyrion's) hope to build.
  • The scene with Tyrion and Jaime in the cell was FAR too long. I don't care about stories about deceased mentally challenged relatives. This took precious time away from what should have been the episode's main event.
  • I would have thought Littlefinger would have had a plan that did not involve relying on Sansa Stark to avoid imprisonment or execution. More on this later...
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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