Game of Thrones: The Mountain and The Viper Review

game-of-thrones-prince-oberyn-martell-season-four-headerNormally, I try to wedge in a little bit of an intro for these posts before I put in the jump from the home page to the full post. Today, I don’t feel up to doing it. If you watched this episode, you’ll understand why. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it and come back.

Spoiler Alert: Regular readers know the rules. Nothing from the third book onward. If you spoil Tyrion’s story arc, you’re barred from this blog for life. I’m going to pretend that everything is going to be sunshine and lollipops from here on.

Well… That happened. Okay, the episode was a lot more than one single moment but all any of us can remember is Oberyn’s getting crushed and teeth, blood and brain matter exploding all over half of King’s Landing.

Before we get into the thematic elements, acting and choreography of The Mountain vs. The Viper, those special effects people… If you thought the death of Joffrey was well done on the makeup front, the prosthetic department stole the show this week. Between teeth falling out and eyes getting gouged and heads exploding, the end of that fight was so gruesome that even the book readers, who knew what was coming, were shocked by the brutality of it all.

And considering all the other death and destruction this week, the blood and gore department were busy. There was the blood dripping through the floor of the bar/brothel in Moles Town. The leader of the Iron Born in Moat Cailin getting an axe to the back of the head was pretty good. And to think everyone forgot about the flayed man in Moat Cailin too. That should have been the most gruesome moment of the week but… NOPE!

Perhaps the worst part of Oberyn’s death was the moment of triumph and justice being ripped away from all of us. We should know better than to have nice things. Just when it looked like the forces of good were going to triumph over evil, hubris caught up to Oberyn and so did a right hand from The Mountain. After being built up as a bad ass in a David vs. Goliath battle, David won… and then lost the war when Goliath crushed his skull with his bare hands. I’d imagine the Bible story of David vs. Goliath was probably beat for beat identical to The Viper vs. The Mountain. Right down to the skull crushing finale.

The ending also makes the scene between Jaime and Tyrion before the fight seem all the more prophetic. An acquaintance said he didn’t see the point of the scene but it served two purposes. One, it showed the Tyrion and Jaime relationship to an extent that we hadn’t seen before. They got along like friends rather than Jaime as his brother’s keeper. Two, squishing beetles with a rock was an oddly appropriate metaphor for Ser Gregor Clegane squishing Oberyn’s head. Maybe it was the inexplicable killing that seems oh so GRRM that was the real metaphor this scene was going for.

One great thing that Martin (presumably) and this show does is foreshadowing. You wouldn’t have thought much of the beetle scene or Bronn talking about how one mistake against the Mountain would lead to a man’s death. If Oberyn hadn’t been so set on getting a confession, he would have won the fight. Instead, he made a mistake by not finishing The Mountain when he had a chance. Rule number two of Zombieland is double tap. That one mistake resulted in his death. Bronn did end up making the smart decision, after all.

Also, I don’t think it was just the suddenness or the gruesomeness of Obryn’s death that made it more disturbing than many of the other deaths we’ve seen. Listening to Oberyn, an otherwise confident and self-assured man, screaming in agony as his eyes were popped like grapes and his head squeezed… It was so unexpected and so out of character that I missed the skull crushing sound effect that all my friends were traumatized by.

So now we’re waiting for another two weeks for more on Tyrion’s fate. It’s as if the producers knew that there was going to be a Memorial Day break between episodes seven and eight and mimicked the gap to torment us with another two-week wait on Tyrion’s fate. They can’t kill him, right? Granted, I think I said the same thing about Ned Stark and he lost his head. Tywin has shown as much disposition for violence against Tyrion as Joffrey did for the Starks. I wonder if his pigeon pie will choke him to death as well… No, Tywin’s the big bad. He’s not going anywhere. Maybe if we all start loving him, he’ll die too.

Speaking of people we love, Arya bursting into a fit of laughter when another relative dies upon her arrival is just perfect. You don’t even need the POV from the book to figure that out. Every time she thinks that life might just go her way, someone else dies. That and The Hound won’t get his reward. I just loved this scene. I wish they ended the show 15 minutes early on this moment.

And on to people who I love (and probably no one else): Ramsay Snow is no longer Snow but now a Bolton. Taking back Moat Cailin with Reek/Theon’s help earned him his title as a Bolton. Maybe it’s just because Ramsay Snow scenes have been in spectacular episodes but I’ve been loving that crazy bastard this season. Equal parts insanity and evil make for an entertaining character and isn’t that what we all want in the end?

Meanwhile, in the Eyrie, Sansa’s finally getting her game on. Her Game of Thrones, that is. Not the little black number and dyed hair that Littlefinger and most of the male audience was perving on.

She quite adeptly manipulated the small council of the Eyrie into believing Littlefinger’s story about Lysa committing suicide. After seasons of wishing Joffrey would just off Sansa, they’ve finally given her some material to work with and Sophie Turner is knocking it out of the park. Working with Diana Rigg, Aiden Gillen and The Dinklage didn’t hurt matters. Sometimes, you need to get a little help from an actor rather than a director. Maybe that’s why Ben Affleck is a better director than actor. He can direct from the actor’s perspective rather than the writer or cameraman’s perspective which results in better performances.

Anyway, I figured going in that this wouldn’t be the end of Littlefinger but the way that Sansa was able to manipulate everyone seemed to impress Petyr when it really should have scared him. She’s learning from him and she’s learning far too quickly and far too well for his eventual well-being. He might end up eventually ruling the North or the whole of the Seven Kingdoms but she might stab him in the back when he least expects it. Of course, that’s assuming that these Stark girls are all of similarly homicidal tendencies.

For once, I’m not looking forward to finding out what Littlefinger has up his sleeve next. It’s what Sansa’s going to do next that interests me. She’s playing the Game and Littlefinger has no idea that he’s her final boss. She uses him to dispose of the Lannisters before disposing of him. A glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak episode.

And poor Ser Jorah Friendzone. While he’s right that someone was setting him up by sending the pardon again and having Ser Barristan see it, that doesn’t change the fact that Dany was betrayed by him, even if he loves her too much to betray her now. Of course, Jorah’s move from the friend zone to the exile zone is probably an enviable one. One, any guy who has been “friend zoned” would rather be anywhere but there. Two, when things go wrong, as they tend to do frequently in this show, he won’t be anywhere in the neighbourhood.

Well… That was 1,300 words of venting more so than reviewing but I think we all need to unwind a little bit after this week’s episode. It was an intense rollercoaster ride the likes of which I don’t think the show has pulled off before. So much happened that it was a little overwhelming when you look at it in hindsight but it never felt rushed while watching. It was just fantastically paced.

The only problem is that I’m tormented by Oberyn’s death. It’s not just the sights or sounds. It’s the fact that anyone can be swept out from under us at any point in time with the warnings only realized far too late. Watch Ser Alliser get Ygritte next week and then do in Jon Snow when he tries to exact revenge. Then Tyrion gets his head lopped off for good measure as every remaining Stark gets filled with arrows. Damnit, George! See what you’re doing to me?

Other random points of note:

  • Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scored but that woman scorned still has a heart of gold. Too bad Jon Snow likely won’t be on the receiving end of Ygritte’s mercy next week.
  • Just when you thought things were going to turn around for Theon and the Ironborn would realize that he’s a Bolton puppet, that guy takes an axe to the head. You can see Reek start to slip out from underneath Theon and then AXE IN THE SKULL! Oddly, that foreshadowed the ending too.
  • Oberyn and The Mountain #TrueDetectiveSeason2

Next week, we’re all wearing black. While you would think things like Joffrey dying or The Mountain and The Viper would be Episode Nine material, it’s the invasion of the Wildlings that gets billing in Episode Nine, The Watchers on the Wall. It’s all about this one battle that can single-handedly decide the fate of everything south of The Wall. It might be interesting to note that Neil Marshall is directing this episode. That’s the same Neil Marshall who direct S02E09, Blackwater. Hold on tight, folks. This one should be absolutely epic.

Cross-posted from et geekera. For more from et geekera, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr and RSS.

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