GAME OF THRONES Recap: Sorry, Ladies

This is a recap of what happened on Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 8 (The Mountain and the Viper). So, you know, there are MANY spoilers. DUH.

People, people, people, people. Are you kidding me? I’d be remiss if I didn’t start out this week’s recap by thanking HBO, because they’ve finally done something to surprise this book reader. In a way it’s usually a little depressing viewing and writing about GoT when you know what’s coming. Ned Stark’s death, the Red Wedding, Joffrey’s death, even the Blackwater — all were done well, but none of them thrilled me by giving me more than I expected. But I have to say, they really went above and beyond tonight with the battle between Oberyn Martell and the Mountain, Gregor Clegane. And even before that, another minor miracle — they made a few changes from the book of which I actually approve, as opposed to disliking or being neutral about them. Has hell frozen over? Is some wonky alignment of planets and constellations happening? What the hell am I talking about? Read on to find out.

Mole’s Town/The Wall: We’ll start with what is currently my least favorite place, Castle Black and the nearby Mole’s Town, home of the musical burping whores of the north. (This is classy stuff, people.) One of these delightful wenches attempts to start a fight with laundress Gilly, but the joke’s on her when Mole’s Town is wiped out by Ygritte and her roving band of wildlings. Did Ygritte really spare Gilly and the baby? No time to be sad, Sam; if the wildlings attacked Mole’s Town, they must be hitting Castle Black next, and how in the hell are 102 men going to stop 100,000 when Mance Rayder’s army shows up north of the wall? If I were them, I wouldn’t be too worried, since Mance’s army has apparently been creeping along at a glacial pace for the last 5 million episodes. Their Google maps must not be working, or else they’ve all thoughtfully killed each other off in an epic battle after a case of too many choruses of “are we there yet???”

Moat Cailin: Ramsay Snow sets in motion his plan to win back Moat Cailin from the ironborn by sending in Theon to treat with them. Big surprise here, instead of letting them go as promised after they surrender, he kills the lot of them. When he presents Moat Cailin’s banner to his father, Roose Bolton rewards him by legitimizing him — he is henceforth known as Ramsay Bolton, heir to Roose, who is Warden of the North — oh, and by the way, the North is the size of the six other of the Seven Kingdoms combined, and since they haven’t heard anything from Locke about the last two Stark boys, they must be dead right? This is all ours now! Muahahaha!

Meereen: It’s happy fun community nude bathing time in Meereen. Boobs for all! But seriously, this is where one of the changes comes in that I like: the sweet, burgeoneing relationship between Grey Worm and Missandei. In the books, Missandei is a pre-teen girl, and the Unsulllied definitely lose both “the pillar and the stones” when they are first cut, so there’s no relationship between the two. However, HBO has aged Missandei up and left some doubt about the whole pillar vs. stones thing. I like this as a pleasant little side story in a pretty brutal world, and I hope it works out for them. Elsewhere in Meereen, though, things aren’t so hot for another would-be lover, Ser Jorah. Ser Barristan receives a mysterious, anonymous scroll revealing the fact that early on Ser Jorah was spying on Dany for Robert Baratheon in return for a pardon. Our khaleesi is not amused, and in a fit of non-eye-contactual overacting by Emilia Clarke, Dany banishes Ser Jorah from her sight and her city. Never fear, Thronians; this is not the last we’ll see of our eternally Friend Zoned knight.

The Eyrie: And now we come to the second book-to-TV change of which I approve. (I must be getting soft in my old age.) I don’t think it’s any major spoiler to tell you how book Petyr gets out of murdering Lysa: he pins it on a douchebag of a singer that everyone hates, who is Lysa’s right hand man and in the room when Petyr shoves her out the Moon Door. Petyr plays a fairly masterful game in convincing the other lords/ladies of the Vale of this, and is accepted as Robin’s protector without anyone ever being the wiser that “Alayne Stone” is actually Sansa Stark. With no singer to blame, TV Petyr claims Lysa committed suicide, and lone witness “Alayne” is called in to tell her story. Book readers are holding their breaths — what’s she going to do? She breaks down and makes a tearful confession to Lord Royce and Lady Waynwood — she is Sansa Stark, she was held hostage and abused at the hands of the Lannisters at King’s Landing and married off to the Imp, but she was saved by Petyr and brought to her aunt Lysa. Lysa loved Petyr, she said, but was jealous and worried, and lost it when she saw Petyr give Sansa a kiss…book readers inhale and wonder if she’s going to throw him under the bus…but no, it was an innocent peck on the cheek, and Lysa was just so crazy she jumped despite Petyr’s best efforts to talk her down. Seven bless her, TV Sansa is finally starting wake up and play the game. This is pure genius on her part — telling 99% of the truth to make the 1% lie more believeable. The look that passes between her a Petyr here is priceless, as is their later interaction where Petyr wants to know why she lied for him. The sexy, confident Sansa that ends the scene as she, Petyr, and Robin embark on a journey outside the Eyrie is a far cry from book Sansa, who is still just sort of rolling along letting others shape her destiny. I’ll be interested to see where this goes. (Side note: the newly created non-book problem of Sansa’s identity/whereabouts being known to the public at large is solved by the lords assuring Sansa that her secret is safe with them. Side note #2: also during this part, a statement is made that I can only assume is a wink-and-a-nod bit of foreshadowing for book readers to an event that will happen in the not too distant future. Did you catch it?)

“Hello. My name is Oberyn Martell. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.”

King’s Landing: At last we come to the main event: the trial by combat that will determine Tyrion’s guilt or innocence in the murder of his nephew King Joffrey. In Tyrion’s cell, he and Jaime are having some brotherly bonding time discussing the various terms that exist for killing members of your family, as well as trying to discern the motivations of a mentally disabled cousin of their youth who spent all day squashing beetles in the garden. I’m sure there’s some kind of deep psychological observation you could make out of all this, but seeing as this is Game of Thrones, we’ll fast forward to the good stuff. The city has gathered for all the fun of seeing Ser Gregor and the Red Viper battle to the death. “You’re going to fight THAT?” asks Ellaria Sand when she sees the Mountain. But our intrepid Dornishman gives no fucks: “I’m going to kill that,” he replies, and with a drink and a kiss he’s off the exact his revenge on the man he believes killed his sister. The choreography here is amazing. The Mountain may be big and have a sword the size of the Washington Monument, but the Red Viper has a spear and some serious skills (though we already knew the Viper was good with his spear, wink, nudge). His darting and dancing around Ser Gregor and his fast spearwork are a sight to behold. He gets in a few stabs and Ser Gregor is down! Jamie, Tyrion, and Ellaria all have a look of triumph on their faces. He’s done it! Or has he? Not content to just kill Gregor, Oberyn tries to make him confess to raping and killing Elia, and admit he did it on Tywin’s orders. Blinded by the need for revenge, Oberyn falls for the oldest trick in the book — Gregor is down but not out, and with a swoop he’s knocked the Viper down. He finally admits to raping and killing Elia, and sqeezing her head open — which, coincidentally, is what he’s doing to Oberyn while he’s talking. KER-BLAM! That’s right, Thronians — in the blink of any eye, and with much blood and squishing, our favorite new character is dead — and Tywin declares Tyrion guilty and sentences him to die. The end.

WOW. Even though I knew the outcome of this battle, I had no idea what was in store — like I said, bonus points to HBO for this one. (My only two notes for this scene were “fancy spear work” and “OH SHIT.”) Kudos also to Pedro Pascal, who made us love the Red Viper so quickly and regret his loss all the more. Ladies and gay dudes, let us shed a tear in remembrance — that accent! Those scenes! Oberyn, we’ll miss you, and we can only hope that when we travel to Dorne — and never fear, non-book-readers, we have definitely not heard the last of the Martells — that Areo, Arys, Doran, and the Sand Snakes will deliver.

What did you think? Were you blown away by the outcome? Do you like the changes? Which storylines do you hope we follow next? We’ve only got two more episodes this season, but plenty of material to cover in books 4 and 5, so we should be fine for next season despite no news on the release timeline for book 6. A few questions to ponder going forward:

1. Who sent that letter to Ser Barristan, and why? 2. What’s Stannis up to with his newfound loan from the Iron Bank? 3. How ARE the Black Brothers going to stop Mance Rayder’s army? Or are they?

4. And here’s an oldie but goodie: who is Jon Snow’s mother?

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