Game of Thrones S4 E8
The Mountain and the Viper by Nikole Gunn
Thank the Old Gods and New; Game of Thrones is back, even if it is just for a few more weeks. And in “The Mountain and The Viper”, story lines are starting to be tied up, while others are beginning to open up.
Episode 8 followed a familiar path: touching base with other characters to remind us the wheel is still turning and then a jaw-dropping final 10 minutes: Joffrey’s death, a White Walker sacrifice, Tyrion’s court room showdown and Lyssa’s death at the Eyrie.
This time we knew what was coming, it was in the episode title: the Mountain-Viper smack-down, but there was no rushing it, no cutting to the chase to see whether Tyrion and his champion would survive the trial by combat.
Instead, we were given story padding in the form of Grey Worm seemingly lusting over Dany’s handmaiden, even though to become Unsullied, the “Pillar and the Stones” are removed. I’m sorry, but there was five minutes that could have been cut. Hmmm, that could be a poor choice of words.
Eventually, we find out that Ser Jorah had been spying on the Khaleesi to earn a royal pardon – it turns up in Mereen a couple of years after it’s signing by King Robert, but it’s enough for him to be sent packing. Iain Glen plays the broken man beautifully.
The Wildings are making trouble north of The Wall. Again. This time by sacking Mole’s Town, where Sam took Gilly and her baby to be ‘safe’. Poor choice, Sam, poor choice. Jon Snow’s erstwhile girlfriend, Ygritte, is part of the rampaging horde, but stops short of killing mother and babe.
Meantime at Castle Black, the younger Brothers are angry that they didn’t heed Jon’s warning of a couple of episodes ago. Jon tells them they’re next. And that’s the last we see of him. I’m not liking this lack of Snow action.
But we do catch up with the sadistic psychopath who carries the surname of all northern bastards: Ramsay Snow. He’s forced Reek/Theon to pretend to be a Greyjoy again to capture Moat Cailin. As a token of his appreciation, Roose Bolton gives Ramsay his name – a nice father-son moment.
To the Eyrie, where the Lords of the Vale are trying to get to the bottom of Lyssa Aryn’s apparent suicide. They grill Littlefinger and their contempt for him is very obvious. They demand to speak to his ‘niece’ to verify his version of events.
But it seems Sansa has learned the art of lying and manipulation while a guest of the Lannisters in King’s Landing. Rather than throwing Littlefinger under the bus, she spins a story that saves him and paints him as a hero who tried to save her aunt. They buy it and the look she shares with Petyr shows he may have met his match. You go, girl!
And while they make plans for Lyssa’s son Robin, Arya and the Hound turn up at the gates, where they’re informed her aunt is dead. The Hound had been banking on a reward, but this turn of fate causes Arya to crack up laughing. All that travelling for nothing.
By this point, the pace has picked up and we return to King’s Landing where Jaime is again visiting his baby brother in his dungeon. Trying not to think about what lies ahead, they reminisce about a cousin who was dropped on his head as a baby and spent the rest of his life killing beetles. Gallows humour at its finest.
And now the moment of reckoning. The Mountain and The Viper in the trial by combat that could save or condemn Tyrion. It’s clear Oberyn is dwarfed by Gregor Clegane, but he IS a spear dancer and can’t be underestimated.
He spins and turns, demanding Clegane confess that he raped and killed Oberyn’s sister before murdering her children. The dance is excruciating. He ducks and weaves, before eventually bringing down the Mountain and running him through.
And just when you start to breathe easier for Tyrion, the Mountain rears up, puts his thumbs in the Viper’s eye sockets and crushes his head, before collapsing and dying.
Surely that makes it a draw? They’re both dead. Tyrion’s off the hook? Tywin declares the Gods have spoken and Tyrion must die for his ‘crimes’.
And there we leave it for another week.
The things I loved: The Red Viper’s spear dance with the Mountain. Tyrion and Jaime sharing a brotherly moment in the dungeon. Sansa finally showing some Stark backbone.
The things I didn’t love so much: The story padding. Only two scenes with Jon Snow. No Hodor. No Brand. There are only two episodes to go.