Game of Thrones: 408 “The Mountain and the Viper” Review
Reviewed by Thomas Firth.
Perhaps the most gruesome ending to any episode since the Rains of Castamere and it just gets better and better. The horrifying demise of Prince Oberyn Martell just underlines how often Game of Thrones can outdo itself. The murder of Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and Talisa Stark was heartbreaking, but the latest death was just as brutal. The charismatic character of the new season, who became a friend to Tyrion in the end, has been wrenched from the television screen. A Song of Ice and Fire readers might’ve known what was about to happen, but they never expected such a graphic ending to an iconic character. And Ellaria Sand’s screams just made it all the more realistic. Typically, our hero had been winning the contest, had already dealt the fatal blow to Ser Gregor Clegane, but hellbent on gaining his revenge, he was killed first, bringing Tyrion down with him.
It was interesting to note the connection between the penultimate scene and this one, as Tyrion and Jaime joke over the unusual habits of their cousin Olson. He had an obssession with killing beetles, crushing their tiny little bodies one by one. Jaime was surprised that Tyrion became so concerned by this, and it’s quite poignant that Tyrion then watched his own beetle crushed by the Mountain. Some mature themes enveloped this week’s episode, owing to a very well-rounded plot. It wasn’t all about the duel in King’s Landing however, because this episode was probably the fastest-paced this season.
Scenes in Mole’s Town were intriguing, with the Wilding groups making a quick attack on the brothel, slaughtering everyone. The brutality of the attack reflects the fact that they’re savages determined to make the world their own. But, it’s interesting to note, despite Ygritte’s relentless killing, she still spares Gilly’s life. A scene, which will hopefully be considered in the next thrilling instalment.
The ruthless writing just gave more power to the story, especially when it came to the scene in Meereen involving Jorah Mormont. His betrayal is finally revealed when a pardon arrives from the late King Robert Baratheon. Whilst Ser Barristan is honourable enough to meet Ser Jorah first, his loyalty to the Khaleesi forces him to relate the news to Daenerys. Her ferocity towards her long-time friend is frightening, and it’s almost as if there was never any bondage there. All trace of friendship has dissipated into anger and Emilia Clarke excels because of this potent scene. But has she just banished one of her most loyal subjects?
In the Eyrie, it’s rather quiet without the self-absorbed Lysa Arryn around, but there’s a small trial for her murder, an accusation against Lord Baelish. Sophie Turner plays a wonderful Sansa Stark who has turned to her uncle’s side. It hasn’t been revealed yet, but is this her manipulation, or is she besotted with Littlefinger, enough to protect him? If only she knew what he’d done to her father. But, looking at this from an entirely different perspective, one can see that Baelish sees Sansa as her mother when she was young – and perhaps he will truly take care of her. After all, “I have only ever loved one woman. Your sister.” Coinciding with this, Arya and the Hound finally arrive at the Eyrie, with Sandor’s full intent to sell her to her aunt. However, as we’ve already learned, they hear that Lysa has died three days beforehand. Arya’s laughs are haunting, but at the same time, cheerful. It’s hard to decipher whether she truly finds her aunt’s death comical, or if it’s a long-awaited, meniacal outburst, following her killing spree.
The story surrounding Ramsay Snow and Theon Greyjoy (Reek) has made a worthy step forward in this episode, following a rather patchy tiptoe. Moat Cailin is finally taken, and with brutality (as the Boltons would have wanted). But, for a moment, it’s uneven whether Reek succeeds in fooling the Iron islanders, or if they believed him to be a fake. Whatever, the cowardice of the Ironborn men pulls through, and they were slaughtered. It has become a novelty in Game of Thrones for a slaughter to happen every week, but it remains fresh nonetheless. In addition to this, whereas our favourite characters are being killed off, the accursed ones are being promoted. Ramsay gains his title as the rightful son of his father, instead of a “Snow”. Lord Roose makes a quaint summary of his lands, which he emphaises is the largest kingdom in Westeros. And after two years of waiting, Wintefell finally makes its first appearance, now owned by the Boltons, respectively.
One element of the episode restrained it from getting full marks. The love affair between Grey Worm and Missandei, whilst likely, feels negligible amongst the rest of the episode. It feels more of an injected scene in order to stretch out the story. However, in a more low-key episode, where it might be better suited, their relationship could be believable as they are two individuals who were once forced into slavery. But initially, especially in the throne room, the acting appeared awkward, almost as if the actors themselves didn’t believe in what they were saying. I have to say, I wasn’t convinced.
All in all, though, I felt this episode overshadowed The Lion and the Rose to become the best episode of Season Four so far. There were a range of emotions with the laughter of Arya, Jaime and Tyrion dampening down the heartbreak of Prince Oberyn’s downfall. Maybe he should have heeded Tyrion’s words after all. Less drink, might have meant less talking. And we’d still have the wonderful Pedro Pascal as part of the cast. Ah well, so be it – this is Game of Thrones after all.