Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Game of Thrones - The Mountain and The Viper - Review : "What's It All About?"

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Game of Thrones - The Mountain and The Viper - Review : "What's It All About?"

    Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper,” was written by the team of David Benioff and DB Weiss and was directed by Alex Graves. I have to admit that my review is late this week because I was so disturbed by the final scene of the episode. It’s amazing that this show can still lull us into investing in these characters whose lives are so very precarious. The richness of this universe and the story telling that we are treated to every week explains why the show continues to grow its ratings and be the most pirated show on the Internet.

    This episode features spectacular performances from Sophie Turner (Sansa), Aiden Gillen (Baelish), and, of course, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion). I would be remiss in not singling out Alfie Allen for his performance of Reek playing Theon Greyjoy and Pedro Pascal for his wonderful portrayal of Oberyn. The final fight scene was fantastic, brutal, and heartbreaking, and I have to admit that I was literally left with my mouth hanging open like the horrified Ellaria (Indira Varma).

    The episode deals with the fallout from the death of Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) last week and makes us wait almost the entire hour for the climactic moment of this week's death. Baelish is being interrogated by Lord Royce (Rupert Vansittart) and two other of the nobility of the vale. He tries his usual tactics to ingratiate himself, but no one knows him in the Vale except as a “whore monger and money lender” known to serve their enemy Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). Royce is right suspicious of Baelish arriving in the Vale and marrying Lysa only to have her fall out of the moon door. Baelish attempts to weave a tale around Lysa being prone to melancholy, but the woman present says she doesn’t believe that Lysa would ever willingly have left Robin (Lino Facioli) because of how she doted on him. The jury are clearly suspicious of the right things.

    Baelish is concerned when they suggest bringing in the girl who was present – it’s Sansa who they still believe to be Baelish’s niece Alayne. He tries to dissuade them, saying she has no learning and scattered wits. Baelish clearly has no idea what she will do – and neither do we! Turner is simply amazing in this scene. Sansa has finally learned from her past mistakes and the terrible things that she’s been through.

    As she enters, she seems like the frightened and unsure Sensa we’ve always known. She almost immediately confesses her true identity after apologizing to Baelish for having to tell the truth. Royce is appalled that Baelish lied to his face about Sansa’s identity. Sansa responds that “Lord Baelish has told many lies.” There’s a wonderful pause and then Sansa, who has been looking down submissively, looks up, takes charge, and adds, “All to protect me.” She lists all of the indignities that were heaped on her at King’s Landing, and it’s clear that rather than the little mouse that she appeared to be, she’s harboured and nurtured a hatred for those who were cruel to her.

    Sansa plays her role perfectly. The men are outraged at how she was treated in King’s Landing. She explains that Lysa had always loved Lord Baelish but had married Lord Arryn because it was her duty – here she pulls in the woman who nods in sympathy and agreement. She then goes on to say that Lysa was a jealous lady. The entire time Baelish is seated behind her – still in full view of those investigating him. As Sansa weaves her tale, however, the very barest hint of a smile ticks up one side of his mouth. He’s both surprised by her and proud of her. She has learned her lessons well. She tells just enough of the truth to make the story believable. She tells them that Lady Arryn saw Lord Baelish kiss her – just a peck on the cheek! Nothing more – except that we know it was more.

    Sansa then tells them that her aunt turned on her, calling her a whore and promising to throw her out the moon door – at this point Sansa begins to cry, continuing to play on the heartstrings of her audience. She’d been so happy to finally be safe, only to be turned on. Lord Baelish tried to calm her aunt but she struck him and finally stepped out the moon door... at this point Sansa can’t go on and the woman takes her in her arms, sobbing. Sansa looks up, dry-eyed, straight into Lord Baelish’s gaze. The entire thing was a performance and Baelish is impressed. She’s managed to catch him off guard.

    Baelish quickly takes advantage of the good will Sansa has created for him, encouraging Royce and the others to take a stand, and to stand behind the Lord of the Vale – Robin – as their choice for King. Baelish also proposes to take Robin on a tour of the Vale and teach him what he needs to know – how to ride and swing a sword. The psychotically sheltered Robin is terrified to leave the Vale. Baelish tells him not to worry about his death, but to worry about his life. “Take charge of your life for as long as it lasts.” This is clearly what Baelish himself has done and what Sansa has done in this episode.

    Baelish visits Sansa to find out why she helped him. She is busy sewing something and explains that she would have been in trouble had they executed him.  Baelish attributes it to being better to gamble on the one you know than the strangers that you don’t. He then asks Sans if she thinks she knows him. She tells him that she knows what he wants. He asks, “Do you?” She then meets his eyes for the first time in the scene and smiles slightly before going back to work. She clearly sees in his eyes that she’s right.

    When next we see Sansa, she appears out of the light at the top of the stairs wearing the dress she was working on in the previous scene. She has transformed herself into a bird, a worthy consort for the Lord of the Vale – or his guardian. This Sansa has a whole other way of comporting herself. The girl we first met dreamed of being a Queen, but now she has lived among royalty and knows what it means. In many ways, she’s had a hard education that her mother didn’t. Baelish is quickly coming to recognize that Sansa is more than her mother. Sansa has learned how to dissemble and manipulate and is now much more like Baelish than her mother ever was. Again, kudos to Turner for this wonderful performance.

    Did anyone else scream at their television upon seeing Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) arrive at the Eyrie only to discover Lady Arryn is dead – and likely just missing Sansa? I loved the Hound and Arya discussing her unhappiness at not at least being present when Joffrey died even if she didn’t get to kill him herself. One has to wonder how the Hound would feel at not getting to kill the Mountain (Hafpor Julius Bjomsson). The scene is made, however, by Ayra’s breaking out in hysterical laughter as the Hound’s face falls at having his attempt to ransom her fail yet again. I had to wonder what the sisters will think of each other and how they’ve each transformed when they do meet again – assuming they ever do!

    We also see Alfie Allen transform the obsequious, grovelling Reek back into Theon Grejoy – a prince who sits and stands tall and looks men in the eyes. Yet, Ramsey’s (Iwan Rheon) conditioning is so complete that he can send his slave into the heart of an untakeable keep and rely on him to betray his own people. Did Reek know they would be shown no mercy? It’s hard to tell. Reek tells them that Ramsey will be “just and fair as he has been with me,” which simply drips with irony. Reek starts to bleed through Theon as soon as the leader calls him a whip “dog” and a “woman.” Again, the irony is clear – we know that Ramsey keeps Reek with his hounds and thinks of him as a dog and that Ramsey has, in fact, made a woman out of Theon by completely castrating him. It’s the memory of that torture that sees Theon start to crumble, only to be saved by the second in command killing his leader and surrendering. Ramsey is rewarded by his father (Michael McElhatton) by being made a legitimate Bolton.

    The reference to Theon’s castration resonates with events in Meereen. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) are both bathing and she sees him watching her. She stands up, completely – and symbolically – revealing herself to him. He, on the other hand, submerges himself beneath the water. Is this a kind of re-birth? When Missandei seeks advice from Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Daenerys asks if Grey Worm has been completely castrated – had both the pillar and the stones removed – we know that all of Theon’s was removed and sent to his father. It remains a mystery as far as Grey Worm is concerned.

    However, we know that Grey Worm was cut when he was very young, so it’s possible that his testes were not completely descended at the time. It’s also possible for eunich’s to have sex too. Grey Worm reveals more of himself when he comes to Missandei in the throne room. In yet another scene in which one character appears above another on stairs – and I have to point out that it is always the women – Sansa, Missandei, and Daenerys – Grey Worm comes to apologize for looking at Missandei. He has learned a new word – precious – just for this occasion. It proves that he doesn’t have to learn from Missandei but seeks her out. He tells her he is not sorry for all that has happened to him because it has all lead to him knowing her. She tells him that she’s not sorry that he “saw her.” There is clearly a deeper meaning here. As a slave, Missandei would not have been acknowledged or “seen” as a person by her masters. Under Daenerys, both she and Grey Worm have the opportunity to be people. Grey Worm says he’s happy he saw her too – acknowledging that she has shared herself with him.

    Daenerys finds herself above Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) as Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney) has revealed Jorah for a spy. Daenerys finds that she has never “seen” Jorah for what he is and spends most of the scene looking up and over his head – but not at him. I have to take a moment to praise Graves’s direction for carrying this thread throughout the episode – when we see people’s eyes meet and when they drop them.
    Jorah pleads to speak to Daenerys alone, but both she and Barristan won’t allow it. He doesn’t lie to her. Her betrayal is complete, however, and she can’t forgive him even though he has fought and killed for her, staying with her even after he was pardoned. He tries to point out that it is Tywin who profits from her sending him away, but she is implacable. She won’t kill him, but won’t have him in her city either. Glen was simply fantastic in this scene. I’m very much hoping we will see Jorah redeem himself quickly and get back to Daenerys as he’s always been her best advisor.

    The centerpiece of this episode is Tyrion’s discussion with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) about their cousin Orsin, who after being dropped on his head as an infant was simple-minded and spent his days crushing beetles. This isn’t really what Tyrion is speaking of, however. Dinklage is once again magnificent in this scene as he muses about life and its value in the world in which they live. He tells Jaime that he was determined to unravel the mystery of Orsin because he was the smartest person he knew – it is said self-deprecatingly, but he is, in many ways, the smartest person in the world of Game of Thrones. The fact that he is talking about more than just their cousin killing beetles is underscored by his telling Jaime that he was thinking of Orsin even as their father droned on about the family legacy.

    Tyrion follows a clear scientific method in his search for knowledge. He tries asking his cousin directly why he does it. He gets no satisfying answer for the slaughter. He then turns to the library – to history – remember the book he gave to Joffrey for his wedding. Tyrion values knowledge. There is not enough information in the library on “morons.” Clearly, Tyrion is equating “morons” with those who mindlessly slaughter beetles. Beetles are a stand in for the common people who are sent to slaughter by the nobility – the crazy, blood-thirsty morons – every day. Jaime even questions why Tyrion was obsessed by beetles when “Every day around the world men, women and children are murdered by the score, who gives a dusty fuck about a bunch of beetles?” Jaime doesn’t see the connection. He’s already said that he drifted away from his cousin because he had other interests. His only recollection of the librarian is that he tried to touch him inappropriately when he was a boy. Jaime loves his brother, but he is one of the smashers and even he can’t see that – but unlike Tywin, Jaime does kill with the intention of saving the innocent.

    When Tyrion cannot find a satisfactory answer to justify the killing the morons do, he turns to observation. He tells Jaime that Orsin’s “face was like the page of a book written in a language that I didn’t understand.” He once again equates Orsin with the wars of conquest when he tells Jaime “I read the histories of Targaerean conquests. Did I hear dragon wings? No. I heard the cunk, cunk, cunk. And I still couldn’t figure out why he was doing it. And I had to know because it was horrible that these beetles should be dying for no reason.” The conquest of territory does not justify the slaughter.

    Tyrion tried to stop his cousin. Jaime remarks that Orsin was twice Tyrion’s size – and of course, everyone is twice Tyrion’s size – both physically and in power. Tyrion has tried to do the right thing. Yet, he’s been continually pushed aside. In the end, he asks Jaime, “Why did he do it? What’s it all about?” Tywin crushes those around him without a second thought. Tyrion is afraid to die, but he’s also afraid that his own life has been a waste – that he’s accomplished nothing.

    And what of the other cases of mindless slaughter we see in this episode. It opens with Mole’s Town being attacked by the armies of Styr (Yuri Kolokolnikov) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju). Gilly (Hannah Murray) hides with Sam and is spared by Ygritte (Rose Leslie). There is a beautiful shot as the two women’s eyes meet (there’s that recognition again!) and Ygritte presses her finger to her lips as blood pours from the ceiling behind her. Two women, who perhaps better understand the preciousness of life itself over mindless slaughter. The men of the wall are simply the beetles of society to be crushed to keep the nobility safe. For all that Daenerys has nurtured and freed her slaves, she has also been guilty of mindless slaughter. Yet she can’t kill the man she knows.

    The final scene confirms what Tyrion told Oberyn in the last episode. He’s come to the wrong place for justice. Neither Tyrion nor Oberyn find it on this day. Oberyn’s final words are a collection of ironies. He tells Ellaria that “Today is not the day that I die,” and asserts that “Size does not matter when you are flat on your back.”

     The fight itself was gloriously choreographed and Oberyn certainly did live up to his name of the Red Viper of Dawn. Sadly, the fight moved on to mourning.  It was a nice touch to watch Jaime’s growing admiration for Oberyn’s skill and his growing hope for his brother – with whom he shares a look. It’s only as the Mountain crushes Oberyn’s skull that he admits to having raped and killed Oberyn’s sister and her children, but he never does confirm Tywin’s part in it. Still, it seems likely that Ellaria will not leave King’s Landing alive either. Cersei (Lena Headey) does not smile until Oberyn’s death and Tywin passes judgment on Tyrion – condemning him to death.

    Dinklage is once again fantastic in this entire scene as he moves from concerned criticism of Oberyn’s preparations – for which Oberyn mocks him (oh, how I wanted to see a friendship play out between these two!). We see Tyrion’s growing hope and then his utter devastation.

    What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked by the ending? If you knew what was coming because you’ve read the books, were you shocked when reading? No spoilers for what’s coming though!! Do you think Tyrion can get out of this? Will the wall fall? Will Sansa and Ayra be reunited? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Sign Up for the SpoilerTV Newsletter where we talk all things TV!


SpoilerTV Available Ad-Free!

Support SpoilerTV is now available ad-free to for all subscribers. Thank you for considering becoming a SpoilerTV premmium member!
Latest News