This week on Game of Thrones: The Wildlings come to Mole Town, A Bastard becomes a Lord, Oberyn Martell fights Godzilla, and Sansa Stark goes full Sith.
Ahem. I apologize for the immature beginning of my review, but that’s really the quickest summation of my opinion of this episode. Damn.
I want to talk about my three favorite things in this episode, which was filled to the brim with action, drama, performances that were even stronger than usual, and even a little bit of romance. I know everyone is likely talking about the showdown between the Red Viper and The Mountain, and as awesome as that was, it was another scene that stole the show for me, because I didn’t see it coming.
Petyr Baelish is being questioned by the Lords of the Vale about the death of Lysa Arryn, and they’re not buying it. The show has excised an important part of Littlefinger’s story, you see. In the book, he lays the blame on a jealous court singer. With that character gone, Petyr claims that Lysa committed suicide, and it isn’t exactly the most believable of stories, especially for a liar as accomplished as he.
Things don’t look much better when Sansa is called in to testify. She walks in, apologizes to Littlefinger, and says that she must tell the truth, and for a second, I was certain Petyr was fried (and from the look on his face, he was, as well). And the story Sansa does tell is indeed largely the truth. She reveals that she is in fact Sansa Stark (another departure from the source material). She even reveals that Littlefinger kissed her, and oddly enough, that’s the change in that little detail that saves Petyr’s bacon. “It was just a peck on the cheek,” she says, enough to send Lysa into her jealous rage.
Sophie Turner is great here, finally given material she can really sink her teeth into as Sansa has started to learn to play the Game. Remember when Littlefinger told her that everyone around her was a liar, and all of them were better at it than her? Not really sure that applies anymore.
The Lords vow to keep Sansa’s true identity safe, acquit Littlefinger of any wrong doing and even agree with him that it is time to let Lysa’s son, Robyn, leave the Eyrie and start learning to fulfill his duties. The scene ends with Sansa transformed, her hair darkened to help hide her identity and wearing a freaky looking black gown that yells E-V-I-L. It’s fantastic. The only question now is, and the question I’m sure Littlefinger is asking himself is, is just how far Sansa is willing to follow his plans, and does she have plans of her own?
My next favorite thing, again before we get to the fight, is the final exchange between Tyrion and Jaime. These scenes have been some of the best this season, but this one was truly great. The brothers Lannister are discussing a rather absurd story about a cousin they once had, who would spend his days in the garden squashing beetles. It allows for some dark humor as Tyrion intersperses his dialogue with periodic sound effects imitating his cousin while discussing the lives of beetles being snuffed out by the thousands. He wonders why all those beetles had to die, to which Jaime responds by saying that all over the world, men, women and children die by the thousands every day…who gives a dusty fuck about a bunch of dead beetles? It’s a grisly bit of commentary on how little life is valued in the world of Game of Thrones, and perhaps even a bit of a judgment on the series itself.
This of course all leads up to the show’s big climax, and my number three favorite thing about the episode: Oberyn Martell versus the Mountain. I’d be interested to know what was going through peoples heads who weren’t familiar with the source material. This is a show known for taking out beloved characters without a second thought, and yet, it made a valiant attempt to make us think Oberyn had a shot. One, by stringing us along with Tyrion’s quest to find someone to represent him in combat, a quest that ended with an eleventh hour volunteer in Oberyn Martell, an underdog given his size relative to Gregor Clegane, and a fun character in his own right that quickly cemented his place in the show’s cast of characters. They even had the Mountain get a few good blows in, disarming Oberyn at one point and calling into question the outcome, only to have Oberyn come back, seemingly disable his opponent, and impale him.
But then he got cocky. This fight was never about saving Tyrion for Oberyn, it was about revenge, and with Clegane on his back and seemingly unresponsive, Oberyn pushes for him to implicate Tywin Lannister. This isn’t just an epic duel…its an epic duel with the weight of history, of Oberyn’s need for closure, and Tyrion’s life on the line. And it all ends with a startling reversal. The Mountain does confess, but not before catching Oberyn off guard, getting him on the ground, and gouging out his eyes. He confesses, and then crushes Oberyn’s skull with his hands. It’s brutal. It’s insane. And the look on Tyrion’s face as Tywin passes judgement and the episode closes is gut wrenching.
Now, the rest of the episode:
The Wildlings continue their march to the Wall, stopping off at Mole’s Town. Remember how Sam left Gilly there because he thought she’d be safer? Good job, buddy. Luckily, Ygritte’s the one who finds her, and while Ygritte isn’t exactly holding back from slaughtering anyone else she comes across, she isn’t so blood thirsty as to kill a mother and her child.
Across the narrow sea, Grey Worm watches Missandei bathing. Grey Worm being a eunuch, this raises a plethora of questions involving not only desire and love, but causality. When Missandei tells him she is sorry that he was castrated as a boy, Grey Worm tells her that if it hadn’t happened, he never would have met her. Whether or not everything he’s been through was worth it is debatable, but in the end I suppose you have leave that up to Grey Worm himself. I have my doubts, but I also have to admire the man’s optimism, for lack of a better word.
Jorah’s past comes back to him in a big way as well, in another powerful scene I overlooked above. The show held off on this for a while, and after last week I was beginning to wonder if it would be changed, but no. Daenerys discovers that Jorah knew about the poison wine way back in season one because he’d been spying on her for Varys. He cites his service to her as proof of his allegiance, but the fact that he’s lied to her for so long only means that service keeps her from killing him outright. Dany exiles Jorah, and he leaves the city. I’m sure Ser Barristan is completely broken up about that.
Finally, Ramsay Snow’s sick mind games continue as he sends Theon into Moat Cailin to negotiate the surrender of his country men. Theon enters the castle, and actually manages to hold up long enough to present the terms. But when the enemy commander spits blood in face, Theon starts to break down, muttering ‘Reek’ under his breath (another nice bit of acting from the underrated Alfie Allen). Things aren’t looking good until the commander gets an axe to the skull from behind. The iron born aren’t really big on glorious final stands, it seems. I like to joke that they’ve seen ‘300’ and ‘The Alamo’ already and know how those tend to end.
With the surrender solidified, Ramsay of course breaks the terms to let the remaining Iron Born go by promptly having them all flayed to death. Theon doesn’t even seem to care anymore (which is echoed in Arya’s brief scene, in which she arrives at the Vale only to learn that her aunt has died shortly before. Arya breaks out laughing, because, of course the family member she hoped would take her in died. Why not? It’s par for the course. The only option left is Jon Snow. Jon…I feel sorry for you, bro.) Ramsay then meets with his father, who formally recognizes Ramsay as his true-born son and heir, casting away the bastard name ‘Snow’ and naming him ‘Bolton’. They then ride off to their new home…Winterfell.
Next Week: The Siege of Castle Black! “Watchers on the Wall” is once again directed by Neil Marshall, who also directed the excellent season 2 penultimate episode “Blackwater”. Can’t wait!