After a week’s hiatus, the episode that fans of the GOT series eagerly awaited finally aired this past Sunday. And true to form, it all came down to the most anticipated fight scene of the season – between Prince Oberyn Martell (aka. The Red Viper) and Ser Gregor Clegane (aka. The Mountain). And having just watched it, I can honestly say that it was a perfect example of everything the show has done right and wrong this season.
You know what, let’s not drag this out. Plenty of time to praise and criticize this episode after I’m done recapping it!
The Mountain and the Viper:
The episode opens in Moletown, where Gilly is struggling to fit in with her new surroundings and companions. During a night of drunken festivities, she hears a noise coming from outside, and knows to be afraid. Within minutes, the Wildling party consisting of Ygritte, Tormund, and the Thenns attacks and overruns the entire place. Gilly manages to hide beneath the floor boards while the others die, and Ygritte takes notice of her, only to spare her and tell her to keep quiet.
At the Wall, news of the attack is received with anger and grief. Sam suspects that Gilly was killed and blames himself for sending her there. However, his brothers console him by telling him that Gilly has seen worse, surviving both Craster’s abuse, the forced march south, and an encounter with a White Walker before making it to the safety of the Wall with him. The brothers are angry that they cannot ride out to stop it, and Jon estimates that Mance’s army is nearing them.
In Slaver’s Bay, Missandei and Grey Worm appear to be experiencing a budding romance. After seeing her naked and washing in the stream, Grey Worm comes to apologize, only to learn that Missandei does not feel offended at all. Meanwhile, Ser Barristan recieves a copy of Jorah’s royal pardon from Robert, proof that he was conspiring with the Iron Throne to spy on Daenerys. When news of this is brought to her, she banishes Mormont from her court.
In the North, Theon is tasked by Ramsay Snow to go to Moat Cailin as Theon Greyjoy and deliver his terms of peace. In exchange for their surrender, the Ironborn – who are sick and dying in Moat Cailin – are promised to be received mercifully. They accept, but Ramsay promptly has them all flayed. He then presents the standard to his father Roose, who renames him Ramsay Bolton and designates him as the proper heir to their house.
In the Eyrie, Baelish is entreating with the lords of the Vale after Lady Arryn’s death. He claims her death was a suicide, but they are unconvinced. They bring in Sansa, whom they believe to be his daughter Alayne, and ask for her version of events. She confesses that she is in fact Sansa Stark, and claims that Lady Arryn committed suicide out of jealousy for her. Baelish asks her why she did this, and she claims it was out of personal interest and self-preservation.
Impressed with her, Petyr takes Robin into the Vale to learn how to be a lord after securing permission from the other lords to do so. Sansa, who now appears darker and more confident, goes with them. Nearby, Arya and the Hound are seen entering the Vale and are stopped at the Bloody Gate. When the Hound asks for permission to enter and speak to Lady Arryn about having her niece in his care, he is told that Lady Arryn is dead. Arya begins to laugh uncontrollably at the news, though the Hound is hardly amused himself.
In King’s Landing, the trial by combat finally begins. Tyrion talks to Jaime beforehand, and then goes to the ring. Oberyn is dressed in light raiment and armed with a spear, whereas the Mountain comes in full armor wielding his giant sword. Oberyn is supremely confident, and puts on a display of skill by wielding his spear around in front of the crowd. The fight begins, and he tells Gregor who he is and why he has come – namely, to kill him for murdering his sister and her children.
Oberyn proves equal to the Mountain and outmaneuvers him at every turn, all the while taunting him with the same lines over and over: “You raped her. You killed her. You murdered her children.” Soon, the Mountain gets enraged, is stabbed, and begins to falter. Oberyn finishes it with a powerful stab to his chest, and then demands he confess before he dies. Clegane manages to trip up Oberyn and then smashes his face with his bare hands, and then falls back down again. Tywin declares Tyrion guilty and sentences him to death.
Let me be blunt. The fight scene was the obvious highlight of this episode, and it was pretty damn badass! This scene was definitely one of the high points of book III, and also one of those terribly sad George RR Martin moments where he kills off a beloved character! Still, the way Pedro Pascal and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson portrayed “The Mountain” and “The Red Viper” (not to mention the fight choreography) was nothing if not spot on.
However, the entire episode up until that point was long, boring, and more often than not, unnecessary. All throughout, it was packed with material that didn’t happen in the books, was supposed to have happened a long time ago, was not supposed to happen until book V, or just served no real purpose. The only exception to this being where Theon and Ramsay traveled to Moat Cailin to deliver the terms of surrender, which actually happened in the book and was accurately conveyed.
Everything else was a repeat of all that they’ve done wrong this season. First, the attack of Moletown, for example, never happened in the book, and Gilly was never there to begin with. And Jon Snow and the brothers saying they can’t ride out to meet this threat because “it’s what they want” seemed quite dumb in light of recent events. In episode four, Jon is given permission to ride north to kill mutineers; but now, suddenly, he doesn’t want to move, and they are told to stay put and not venture out. Weak!
Second, there was no relationship between Missandei and Grey Worm in the novels and this seemed like nothing more than a pointless aside to shore up material for the Daenerys thread. And considering that the Unsullied have no genitals for exactly this reason, it really makes no sense that Grey Worm would be entertaining romantic notions about Missandei. And they even acknowledge this, but undercut it by having Missandei say that she actually doesn’t know if they take off the “pillar and the stones” when they castrate them. Again, weak!
Third, the whole thread involving Sansa, Baelish and the Vale was vastly rewritten. In the novels, Baelish blamed her death on a court musician, who he knew had made a pass at Sansa. After having the poor boy tortured to within an inch of his life and his eyes plucked out, the boy confessed and was executed. Sansa went along with the story, but mainly out of necessity and fear. She did not lie for him so boldly and change into this darker, more sinister version of herself. Thought I have to admit, it was cool to see them doing this with her. I am guessing all her victimhood and crying was growing tiresome for viewing audiences.
Also, the way Daenerys learns of Mormont’s betrayal was something that was supposed to have happened much sooner. As I mentioned a previous review – episode three, “Breaker of Chains” – it was during the siege of Mereen that she learned that Mormont had been working for King Robert, and of Ser Selmy’s (who had been posing as Whitebeard) true identity. It was for this reason she sent them into the sewers to open Mereen’s gates so it could be sacked. After this, she pardoned Selmy, but exiled Mormont because she grew tired of his advances.
But that was a minor issue compared to the rest. Really, the fight scene was the high point whereas everything else was just a lot of boring stuff leading up to it. Even the part where Jaime and Tyrion are talking while they wait for the fight to begin, holy shit that was boring! What purpose did that long story about their simple cousin serve? The last time I heard such pointless dialogue was in The Expendables when Randy Couture needlessly drones on about an experience he had involving a college roommate talking about his cauliflower ear!
And all this is reminding me of what I was saying last season. You know, how changes in season two necessitated changes in season three? Well its the same now. Since they chose to cut book III – A Storm of Swords – in half and make two seasons out it last season, it has left them having to pad this season just to make ten episodes out of it. And to do this, they’ve either had to add stuff that didn’t happen or mine material from book V in order to get it.
It’s understandable, there was too much material for ten episodes, not enough for twenty. And I’m guessing they wanted to give George RR Martin more time to write. But if this means the highlights of this season are going to be things that don’t even fit into the context of the larger story or feel like afterthought to the main plot, doesn’t it make things seem kind of dumb? Ah, whatever, I’ve grown cynical and more than a little elitist with this show, I’ve found.
So perhaps I’ll just not review next season and go back to waiting for book VI – The Winds of Winter – to finally come out. Which, by the way Mr. RR Martin, when will that be???