GAME OF THRONES SEASON 4 EPISODE 8, ‘The Mountain and the Viper’
Hopefully I’ll locate my stomach again somewhere during the writing of this recap. Let’s begin!
This episode starts out with rain dripping prettily down a thatched roof. I was able to examine this in detail because HBOGO didn’t, well, go. Where in the Lord of Light’s Seven Kingdoms are we? We are at a whorehouse/inn/tavern! A lady (I’m using this word loosely) has clearly had too much tequila/beer/Fernet Branca/wine and is utilizing the effects of said beverages to play ‘Name That Tune’ with belches. Tres charmant. She breaks from this diverting activity to go bully poor Gilly. Baby Sam apparently woke the belching hooker with his crying, and instead of using her insomnia to practice belching, she just got all mad and now she’s going to hurt Gilly and eat her baby. Gilly is going to need a safe place away from her safe place. An owl hoots. The belching hooker dismisses this but Gilly knows this means . . . WILDINGS ARE HERE TO EAT HER BABY (before the belching hooker can do.) Are hooting owls really a harbinger of impending wilding mayhem or am I brain damaged? Mayhem ensues. Ygritte personally slaughters every person she sees, because hell hath no fury, but when she discovers Gilly and whimpering baby Sam she just shushes them and moves on to continue to kill other innocent women who can’t melt her cold, cold heart with a the magic of a crying infant. Behind Ygritte and her adorable shh gesture, blood pours through the ceiling.
News of this raid reaches Castle Black in the next scene. Jon Snow, Dolorous Edd, Samwell Tarly and then some other guy again discuss their odds against the wildings. Still not looking good. They presume Gilly dead, but then speculate that maybe she isn’t. It doesn’t really matter because they, themselves are, in scientific parlance, totally fucked if someone doesn’t leap to their rescue in the imminent wilding battle.
Meanwhile in Mereen there is a beautiful swimming hole and naked people! Grey Worm is there but we don’t see his goods, or lack thereof. Missandei is also there and we definitely see her goods, as does Grey Worm. He stares. Unabashedly. Wow, is he ever staring. I believe the proper adverb might be “wolfishly.” He is staring so hard that she notices. His expression doesn’t change much, but the vibe is such that Missandei gets bashful and covers herself up with her arm. Later, when the Khaleesi is braiding her hair (this episode is really full of tiresome clichés of female behavior) Missandei confesses that the staring struck her as overtly sexual and then the two of them speculate as to the contents of Grey Worm’s, um, undertunic or whatever he wears under his leather dress thing. “Did they take all of it? The pillar and the stones?” The Mother of Dragons wonders, pausing mid-braid. It’s like they’ve never heard of, how shall I put this, the various ways that a person can please another person sexually, in ways not involving a pillar and/or stones, with acts commonly referred to in compound words ending with “-job.”
Grey Worm approaches Missandei in the Throne Room and apologizes for ogling her areas. She apologizes that he doesn’t have a pillar and/or stones. He says he’s glad that he’s Unsullied, because if he weren’t, he wouldn’t be standing across from her in the Throne Room right then. Awww. She says she’s glad he saw her naked, and he says he’s glad too. Wait, is he glad or is he sorry? Maybe he is glad and sorry like that song by the Faces? It’s a pretty scene but we have a lot more to cover.
In the next scene! More horses!
Mean Sean Astin Ramsay Snow is telling Theon Greyjoy Reek about the Kraken, which I think means octopus. I didn’t see that release the kraken movie, so don’t quote me on it. After this rather heavy-handed metaphor they move on to discussing whether Theon is Theon or Reek. Theon is absolutely positive that he’s Reek. Great, now that we have established that, he’s going to pretend to be Theon to go wheedle the Ironborn at Moat Cailin, because PTSD. Great, good talk. Reek goes to Moat Cailin and claims to be Theon all the while knowing, deep down, that he is Reek. Got it? Yes we all have it. Theon announces himself as Theon and then as Theon advises his fellow Ironborn to yield Moat Cailin to Lord Bolton. Though he is collapsing and hacking up blood, the commander of the garrison doesn’t feel like surrendering. He calls Theon a dog or maybe a woman (yuck, what an insult) for even suggesting such a thing and hacks some blood into Theon’s face. Theon goes into a PTSD fugue state and starts muttering about being Reek and then the guy standing behind the commander cuts all this nonsense short by heaving an axe through the commander’s skull. He’s a problem solver that one. Theon promises that if they surrender they won’t be hurt. Turns out they did get hurt, in fact they got their skin peeled off by Ramsay Snow immediately after surrendering, which probably hurt a great deal.
Back in the Vale: Did you know Creepy Old Uncle Littlefinger had a grandfather from Braavos? I wish there was more Braavos on the show right now but we’ll probably have to wait til next season. Littlefinger is seated with a council from the Vale, inquiring about the circumstances of Lysa Arryn’s suicide. They find it suspicious that she was wed and dead within days of Petyr Baelish’s arrival in the Vale. Yes, most peculiar. They want to talk to the witness Sansa, whom they believe to be his niece. She enters the room and tearfully tells the council and Littlefinger that she has to tell the truth, which she does, confessing that she is Sansa Stark and that she sought safe harbor in her aunt’s home. She details her troubles in King’s Landing, her joy at being among family, her aunt’s love of Littlefinger. She tells the truth up to the part where Littlefinger kisses her, whereupon she starts lying her young, lovely ass off. She calls the kiss a “peck” and backs Littlefinger completely, corroborating his story that Lysa committed suicide. It’s a quite a performance. Baelish reverts to smirky and in control, discussing the future of the Vale and Robin Arryn with the council. Also the word ‘teat’ is used. Can there please be a fictional world where this word doesn’t exist.
In order to kill more time before the big fight scene we go back to Mereen where Ser Barristan Selmy finally receives his high school diploma. No it’s not a diploma! It’s a missive of some sort, sealed with red wax imprinted with a hand. It’s from the king! But which king? Ser Barristan cracks open the document and has himself a read. Oh dear! He must go see Jorah at once! Because you see, the document is a royal pardon, signed by Robert Baratheon. Barristan confronts Jorah: Jorah is a spy! He was reporting back to King’s Landing about Daenerys Targaryen from the early days of their relationship! In order to get a pardon! What a jerk! Who is surprised! Let’s get to the fight already! Jorah goes to confess to Dany directly, and she is understandably beyond angry. She doesn’t kill him, but exiles him from even the friendzone where he’s been languishing for the last three point five seasons. Go back to King’s Landing, Jorah.
Annnnnnd Ramsay Snow again, meeting with his dad, Roose Bolton, pandering for approval about taking Moat Cailin. My notes say: “On top of a hillside. Bolton is the Warden of the North. The North is big. Now Ramsay Snow is Ramsay Bolton because his dad is proud of him for peeling people’s skin off. Aww. Ramsay’s not so bad, he just wants to peel people’s skin off and have his dad like him.”
Back in the Vale, Part 2: Sansa isn’t a child any longer, growls Creepy Old Uncle Littlefinger. He wants to know why Sansa is helping him. She says that she wants to stick with the devil she knows rather than see what happens to her alone. “And you think you know me?” asks Littlefinger. “I know what you want,” Sansa replies. “Do you?” he returns. Oh, Sansa, no.
Look it’s Arya and the Hound! Arya is saying that she thought the news of Joffrey’s death would make her happy, but it doesn’t. Nothing makes you happy, says the Hound. Unfair! Killing her enemies makes her happy. She would be happy if she got to kill Joffrey, or at least watch. They start arguing about what’s masculine (stabbing, presumably because it’s confrontational and mimics the action of pillars) and what’s feminine (poison, also hair braiding, and not killing people because they have babies.) Then Arya hands the Hound a copy of Judith Butler’s GENDER TROUBLE and after perusing it they both agree that gender is a performance. Just kidding, that didn’t happen. What does happen is Arya says, “I’m not a lady.” Bravo. Anyway! They are finally at the Bloody Gate. Their journey has ended. Arya is delivered into the hands of her Aunt Lysa and the Hound will have his reward. Except. . . . Oh yeah. The keeper of the Bloody Gate delivers the news of Lysa’s death. Arya responds with hysterical laughter, which seems perfectly appropriate given everything.
Back in the Vale, Part 3 and final: Littlefinger counsels Robin. Seems the boy has been too protected and needs to begin to learn the ways of the world, starting with leaving the house occasionally. Nobody says ‘teat,’ thank the Lord of Light. It seems like Littlefinger might be sending Robin on a trip of some sort. Maybe he wants to be alone with Sansa. Alone, with grownup Sansa who carries keys and wears jewelry and walks in beautiful beaming sunlight. I mean, maybe he’d like that.
In the next scene we are finally, finally there! The Imp is in the dungeon preparing for the trial by combat. He and Jamie are discussing his alleged crimes—regicide, and oh yes, nepoticide. It’s good to know that the Latin language existed at some point in this universe. Don’t think about that too hard or your head will explode like mine did when I read the books and Martin paraphrased Shakespeare. The brothers Lannister converse about their developmentally disabled cousin Orson and his habit of smashing beetles. Why did he smash those beetles all the livelong day, why? Why? Why? I don’t know. The nature of obsession is truly mysterious. The bells ring! Let’s get to the fighting!
In the arena, Lannisters sip wine ringside. So does Oberyn Martell, to Tyrion’s displeasure. Maester Pycelle gets long winded in emcee duties, and Tywin interrupts him by signaling for the wrap-it-up music. Ha ha. Last part of my notes read: “OH SHIT.”
What a battle. Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, is a beautiful fighter. The Mountain is a terrifying hulking brute. The viper evades the Mountain with what looks a lot like Arya Stark’s “water dancing,” deft and agile. “Do you know who I am?” he asks the Mountain at the beginning of the fight. “A dead man?” asks the Mountain. No, actually . . . He explains why he is fighting the Mountain. Not for Tyrion. Not at all. He’s there to avenge his sister.
“You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!” He says over and over. Viewers quote Inigo Montoya, over and over. Other viewers tell them to shut up, over and over.
Oberyn Martell wants to know who ordered his sister’s death. He wants to hear it said, in public. He wants his sister’s killer to confess, in public. Cersei and Tywin Lannister look increasingly nervous as the fight progresses with Oberyn landing more and more blows. The Mountain topples. Ellaria Sand looks proud. Oberyn presses again for a confession. He points to the Lannisters, demanding to know who gave the order that his sister be killed, demanding that Gregor Clegane say her name.
He gets his wish, in this. The Mountain sweeps Oberyn’s leg out from under him and Martell goes down; teeth scatter as the Mountain lands a stunning blow to Martell’s face. ELIA MARTELL, he roars, pinning Oberyn and pressing his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyes. I KILLED HER CHILDREN, he continues, pressing harder, I RAPED HER, harder still, THEN I SMASHED HER HEAD IN LIKE THIS.
Ellaria screams. Cersei looks smug. Tywin sentences his son to die. There are two more episodes left in this season.