‘The Mountain and the Viper’ – Warning! Heartbreak ahead, as the Viper bites the dust.
This show should come with an alert before every episode: Warning! Heartbreaking and bloody awful time ahead!
Viewers should know by now that any attempt to salvage a glimmer of hope and goodness from the story is futile, the moments fleeting, and any positives are immediately (or maybe slowly and painfully) destroyed. Such a despairing show should send us all reeling, never to return. Yet we do, week after week. What does that say about us? Well, pretty much exactly like the characters we’re investing our time in. The ones who should take off and run instead of stay and fight; the ones who obsessively pursue justice when they should just take a moment to stop, relax, and rethink. Oberyn Martell I’m talking to you.
Skipping to the final, brutal scene of this episode – the Red Viper has gone, and left an internet-wide frenzy of broken hearts in his wake. Grotesquely mangled by the Mountain, his face literally exploded by the force of an 8-foot man beast, the Prince of Dorne was killed and Tyrion lost his champion, and as such, will lose his life. At least Oberyn managed to live up to his legend as one of the deadliest fighters in Westeros before succumbing to the Mountain’s might. While Cersei’s champion fights slowly with brute strength, the Viper is slick and speedy with a spear – initially this match up looks like Oberyn has the upper hand, but much like the Hulk, the taunting, winning attitude of Oberyn causes the Mountain to rage out and finish him, squashed like a bug. When Ellaria Sand’s screams ended it, so did ours.
Side note: in the scene before this, Jaime and Tyrion discuss the case of a relative who enjoyed killing bugs more than anything else. Although this can easily represent the Mountain’s attitude to human life, did anyone else find it more an apt description of George R R Martin’s attitude to his characters? That’s something to ponder.
In other brutal news, though less visceral, is Jorah Mormont’s ‘betrayal’ of Daenerys. A letter appears from Robert Baratheon (Tywin Lannister probably) revealing Jorah’s role as a spy, causing Daenerys to banish him from her life. This is so horrible for viewers, as Jorah has been shown to be one of the few truly loyal and devoted characters on the show and Daenerys’ ferocious rejection of him is palpably raw.
We return also to another set of characters not seen in a while, Gilly and her baby, and Sam. She hasn’t had the best time at the brothel Sam abandoned her in, and that’s even before the Wildlings show up. They attack and destroy Moles Town and all its inhabitants, but Gilly and Sam survive, surprisingly because Ygritte makes a merciful decision to let Gilly and her son escape (after viciously murdering others in her way).
Sansa finally takes leave of the last vestiges of her innocence by lying for Petyr Baelish and convincing the Lords and Ladies investigating her Aunt Lysa’s death that it was simply a tragic suicide, instead of a cunning murder. Later in the episode we see her making alterations to her gown, and when she appears on the stairs in her new attire, she has finally become a woman instead of an innocent child. Sansa is now more aware than she’s ever been of her own strength, derived not just from her stoicism, intelligence, or resilience, but in the knowledge that her sexuality can be powerful. Not saying that this makes her a hero, but that she finally can see how the world really works. There are no more safe havens in fairy tale castles. Let’s just hope Littlefinger’s scheming and manipulative behaviour doesn’t rub off too much on Sansa. We need the Starks to be the good guys against the morally reprehensible bad guys. And by aligning with the man who, by the way, plotted to murder her father, Sansa could be heading down the wrong path.
While Sansa is now set up in the Vale quite comfortably, Arya and the Hound arrive at its gates. On announcing his travelling companion as Arya Stark, the guards offer their condolences that Lady Arryn has died. Arya’s reaction is to laugh hysterically. This would be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that her laughing fit is probably born from all the madness she has had to endure. What’s more, it’s probably unlikely that her and Sansa will reunite. The Starks never do.
Ramsey Snow makes his attack on the Ironborn, using Reek as a lure. Ramsey’s accomplishment at winning this attack means that his father finally grants him the title he has sought for so long – the validation that he is a Bolton, not a Snow. The Bolton’s are now a powerful family in the North, as they now control Winterfell.
With possibly the most visually shocking death of the entire series run, viewers were not just watching a fan favourite die, but also the idea that heroes can ever possibly win out in this show. This idea leads us quite aptly into the next episode, which looks to be set entirely around the battle for Castle Black – Jon Snow and the infighting Nights Watch against the Wildlings and their band of merry cannibals. It’s definitely going to be depressing and possibly a tearjerker, but with all the fiery deaths, decapitations and epic shots promised by director Neil Marshall (who did series 2’s ‘Battle of Blackwater’), there’s no doubt we will all watch it with eyes glued to the screen.