So...how is everyone feeling this beautiful Monday?
I myself haven't seen an outburst like that since Red Wedding. Actually thanks to marketing and what seems to be an universal love for Oberyn it might have been worse. After the episode aired all the fanboards were down. IMDB was down. I got text messages yelling at me for not warning people about what would happen. Non book readers are in hysterics, women are weeping, men are shaking their heads in disbelief, unborn children clench their fists and try to yell 'Oberyn!' from the wombs.
The show has done it again.
The Mountain and the Viper, the episode that shows what's left of the quiet and starts the storm, surpassed Mockingbird. There might have been things I wasn't a fan of but they were still very well written scenes. And the finish line of the episode entered my top 10 moments of the show very easily. In fact my jaw never dropped for quite this long while watching the show before.
We open with some random whore being disgusting in a brothel. I had a long day, that's as specific as I will be here with this recap. It's Mole's town, charming place Sam left Gilly in. The random whore mentions something about Gilly's baby crying at night and then Gilly goes all mama bear on her. And then we hear the noise...
Tormund, Styr, Ygritte and other wildlings attack the village. Gilly hides with her baby. Ygritte notices her and puts a finger to her lips showing Gilly to be quiet. Let me just note Rose Leslie was more awesome in this scene than Emilia Clarke in all of her scenes this season. Combined. And watched while drunk. It was also ingenious of them to include such a moment with Ygritte - reminding us some wildlings are not complete monsters - right before the battle episode.
Meanwhile, when the news of the attack reach Castle Black, Sam is devastated, being convinced Gilly is dead and it's all his fault because he left her there. Pyp, Grenn and Edd are there and Edd is trying to give him hope that the girl survived so many awful things that she might have survived now too. Sam takes the bait and remains hopeful.
Jon is there too, all gloomy and sullen reminding us and them that the Wildlings will attack Castle Black next. I may have misheard them but it seems Night's Watch has 100 men. Well, they do also have Ghost but there are 100,000 Wildlings. And they have giants. And something else, we haven't even seen yet on the show....
Across the Narrow Sea we are treated to the revisionist version of Jaws/Predator mash up in which Grey Worm watches nude Missandai. Two quick observations - one, male fans of the show rejoiced as they saw Nathalie Emmanuel (I too consider her one of the most beautiful girls on the show), two - we're lucky Grey Worm is castrated, Graves directed that episode and we all know how well he does with sexual scenes.
Then we have two scenes expanding on that. Two. One with Daenerys talking to Missandai about the inciident and another with Grey Worm apologizing to her about that. Yes, it's all very sweet and very sad but let me say this - Grey Worm's phantom dick got more mentions this week than Stannis in last 2 episodes.
In freakshow storyline Ramsay is telling Reek how to be Theon so basically how to act like who he is. This is some heavy Tropic Thunder kind of method acting right there. Theon tries to keep his shit together and rides to Moat Cailin to convince the Iron Born to surrender.
Theon is being questiond by highly unpleasant commander of the garrison who is then killed by one of his men. The guy who did the deed is eager to get the pardon. Theon promises them if they surrender they will be spared and they will be free to go home.
Cut to that same guy, without one eyeball and all flayed. Ramsay mumbles something about honoring traditions to Reek who is now so far gone he doesn't even look particularly affected by what he has done. I thought the scene was very well done - in the books it was many flayed Iron Born, which is implied that this is what happened in the show. Flayed bodies everywhere would make for one hell of a visual but I think the point was made by showing us just one.
Meanwhile, in Creepyville, we are treated to Littlefinger being questiond by Lords Declarant who arrived to investigate Lysa's death. Littlefinger tries to sell it as a suicide but unfortunately for him Lysa was far too attached to her son to let got and leave him alone.
So the lords summon Sansa, who they think is Littlefinger's niece Alayne. In a move that angered tons of book purists out there (I barely noticed because truly I do not give a crap about Sansa) she reveals her true identity. Again, I do not care but if memory serves well no one knows who Sansa is in the book other than Littlefinger and, I think, Robin.
Sansa starts selling them lies, Sophie Turner was actually good here. She tells them the selective truth - she twists it to make Littlefinger look like a noble guy who take care of her selflessly. As she continues to tell them that Lysa jumped. Littlefinger looks beyond proud and turned on. He is impressed and the two share deeply disturbing, 'we are evil and we love it' look. Oh, Sansa. What would your mother say?
I'm all for Sansa becoming empowered. However her remaining two scenes this ep yet again pushed her into smug and annoying territory for me. I swear I'd love her if she was mute. It's something with her voice, I cannot stand it.
In Meereen convenient plot device in the form of a small child appears carrying convenient plot device in the form of a royal pardon signed by Robert. We saw Tywin sending a letter, are they connected? Not important. You see, it's another of these things that happen whenever the show makes a detour and then the writers are desperately trying to bring it to book climax scene even though the path taken in the show is different.
In the books Barristan knew Jorah spied from the beginning. He heard of this in King's Landing. So once he revealed himself as Barristan to Dany (something that would not be possible in a medium you immediately see and recognize the actor, hence he told her who he was in the show immediately) he told her the truth which was right around that time in the storyline.
Barristan shows Jorah the letter letting him know that he knows. He, I think, was trying to make it possible for Jorah to try to escape, considering how
There is no turning back for Emilia Clarke. Every episode she manages to top her awfulness with even more profound, horrible kind of awfulness. She has managed to wreck the only good scene she had this year. What the fuck was she looking at above Jorah's head? Was there a camera about to shoot pics of her for a photoshoot? Was Daario hanging from the ceiling naked?
What, in the book, was a scene filled with emotion, Clarke acted out as if she was in toilet paper commercial. I talk shit about Turner but at least she manages to be very good sometimes. Clarke is just horrid. She was acting bitchy instead of showing pain, she was acting high and mighty instead of revealing vulnerability and heartbreak. Kit Haringon makes her look like he is Brando and she is Paris Hilton this season.
What was one of the most powerful moments in Dany's story arc lacks depth, lacks emotional impact, lacks momentum and it's all Clarke's fault. It's the end of an era - Jorah and Dany have been together since the very first episode. And now she is banishing him. Her friend, her advisor, her ally. But the way Clarke plays it you don't get any of that. It's as if Jorah was some travelling salesman and Dany says 'no, go away' to him.
Thank the Gods for Iain Glen. That's acting. You can see the fear, the heartbreak, the nervousness, all of it. His acting and the quick intercutting of Jorah and Dany's lines showing how much he wants to explain and how she doesn't care rescued the scene.
We see Jorah leave Meereen, alone. But do not worry, we'll see him again.
Speaking of hot older men, Michael McElhatton made a surprise appearance last night as Roose Bolton and my heart jumped a little. Thank freaking God for Stephen Dillane being on that show. Had his almighty gorgeousness not be there I'd no doubt be smitten by this one and he plays a Bolton! The horror!
Anyways, in this scene Ramsay meets with his father to tell him he took Moat Cailin as he was told to do. Locke is briefly discussed (still not over the show killing him). Roose is all like 'look son it's the North, it's bigger than the rest of the kingdoms combined and it's ours'. Roose legitimizes Ramsay who actually acts graceful and kneels but then mentions traditions so you just know he is gonna flay a whole bunch of people.
I have so many things to write here and I cannot write about any of them because I do not want to spoil you.
The scene ends with beautiful (damn!) shot of Bolton army heading towards Winterfell, I think, with the accompaniment of some great music too. I think this is the last we see of Boltons this year, at least I hope as this is a perfect scene to set up next season.
Meanwhile in the Eyrie Sansa is sewing and Littlefinger comes over to ask her why she lied for him. Some more creepiness follows and I keep losing interest.
And yes, here it is. Another almost Stark kids reunion. The Hound and Arya arrive at the Eyrie and they are told Lysa is dead. Arya, struck by the cruel irony of this being yet another time she is near a member of her family who turns out to be dead explodes with laughter.
I loved that. In the book it is Tyrion who starts laughing manically upon seeing the outcome of trial by combat. The show honored that reaction by giving it to Arya and what they did with Tyrion was for me, far more effective. Very respectful, very clever, everyone wins.
Next we see Littlefinger who is talking to Robin (drops a nice line of foreshadowing in there too) as we know from his earlier conversation with the lords that he wants Robin to grow the fuck up and basically be a Tommen to his Tywin. Then dark haired Sansa descends with half love struck half I'm trying to be evil and don't realize I look ridiculous look and this is officially where I stop caring.
The whole point of dying her hair was to disguise who she is before she gets to Eyrie. The show playing the events the way it did suggests Sansa becoming different - cold, calculated, sinister. And Turner doesn't has range for any of this. Oh, boy, this will be fun next season.
We arrive at controversial part of the episode. People are running around praising Turner and nominating Emilia for major awards, they keep complaining about nudity and rape scenes but when actual good acting and subtle symbolism happens there is talk of 'wasted of screentime'. This world is doomed.
This is one of these pair's many scenes that have been wonderful without exception since the beginning of the show - the scenes depicting the bond between Jaime and Tyrion. Jaime is there as the last one giving Tyrion courage before the fight. The two joke about their simpleminded cousin. Tyrion's mind starts going to dark places as those who are frightened often behave. He starts panicking that if Oberyn loses, Tyrion dies. The fear and vulnerability in Peter Dinklage's voice were incredible.
Tyrion mentions how their cousin used to kill beetles. Crush them, hundreds of them, for no reason. Tyrion tried to understand why it was, what reason did he have to kill those beetles. He never got an answer.
That scene is not only a tremendous moment in terms of what the entire series is plagued with- evil men, simple men, men who don't even bother about thinking of the magnitude of killing, taking lives just because they can, just because they feel like it, chaos and randomness of it all - but it's also the perfect set up for the crowning moment of that episode.
The trial by combat where it is up to Gods to decide who wins. Champion of the Crown - The Mountain, who if wins dooms Tyrion's life. Champion of the accused - Oberyn, who if wins proves Tyrion's innocence.
The moment Tyrion enters the stage of the fight is amazing - the music, the cinematography - such a fantastic way to start the scene. He sees Oberyn, drinking and kissing Ellaria. Tyrion is nervous about Oberyn being so carefree and about his armor being so light. Next to them there is a tent with the spectators - Cersei, Tywin, Jaime...
Gregor enters to Ellaria's horror '- Are you gonna fight THAT?' '- I'm gonna kill THAT!' Oberyn answers in the lines lifted straight off the book. Pycelle goes to the middle of the arena to announce the trial. When it starts Oberyn puts a show for the crowd, spinning with his spear, moving so fast, circling around
Many people were worried the lines from the book won't be kept but they were. Oberyn tells the Mountain he is there to avenge his sister. Elia. Princess of Dorne. He is there to avenge her children that he killed, after which he raped her and murdered her.
You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.
Oberyn yells over and over again as he tries to poke Mountain with his spear, avoid his sword, spins, jumps and moves so fast you can barely see him. The Mountain is growing more and more furious. It's like watching an elephant and a hummingbird.
Graves may be a shit director when it comes to subtlety of sexuality but my God the man can direct a fight. Thanks to the choreography, the tension, the editing and just flawless pacing this is now easily my favorite duel in the show, and given how flawless its ending is it even topped the famous Thirteenth scene from Rome.
As Oberyn keeps on shouting, he becomes more and more angry. His spear breaks and he quickly grabs another. Several times he falls on the ground, Mountain can throw him like a ragdoll. But he stands up and continues to tire and taunt his enemy.
The show has a way of making the emotional scenes even more emotional and so it was the case here - with the hopeful and reassuring looks exchanged by Jaime and Tyrion, both impressed with Oberyn ability to fight and both becoming more and more hopeful Tyrion will be find Innocent with each second and the final smile Oberyn and Ellaria share. That just made everything so much more awful.
To understand what happened here is to realize that sometimes the most noble of quests turn into just as strong obsession. Oberyn has been consumed with his desire to avenge his beloved sister for years. His older brother Doran held him back, But when Oberyn heard Cersei chose Gregor for a champion, it was a sign. It was his chance. It's not about winning. It's not about losing. It's about hearing the admission of guilt in front of the entire world. And it's about vengeance.
After Oberyn 'for a second had wings' (which is my favorite moment of the duel) and put the spear through the Mountain he doesn't let go. It's not over. He wants The Mountain to admit what he did. And - in addition to the book content - he wants to hear who gave the order (camera panning to Tywin to whom he is pointing). He is circling around the Mountain.
And then just after Oberyn glimpses Ellaria, The Mountain manages to grab Oberyn's leg. The Mountain pulls Obryn close to him and we see fear, true fear in Oberyn's eyes - he is going to pay for how bold he was. He is going to pay for wanting to avenge his sister. And in this moment ironically Oberyn gets what he wants - The Mountain says Elia's name and confesses.
I'm not sure why the show introduced the confusion of having Oberyn say The Mountain cut Elia in half with his greatsword, yes he did say it's a rumor and I'm glad the show stayed close to the book with the lines during trial. The whole irony in the outcome of trial by combat is that Oberyn dies the way Elia did. The Mountain confesses - as he is punching Oberyn causing his teeth to fall out...
...and sticking his fingers in his eyes gouging them. He then tells Oberyn he killed her by smashing her head and he does the same to him. The result is essentially the same as in the book where the Mountain - after the eye gouging part - put his entire fist, which was in gauntlet, into Oberyn's mouth. Upon pulling back he massacred his face and caused his teeth to fall out.
This right here is what I consider the most horrific death in the book series. There are worse deaths - Vargo Hoat, the man who maimed Jaime in the book, is essentially fed pieces of himself by the Mountain until he dies, but he is a bad person.
Oberyn Martell was not an evil man. And he had right and love on his side.
Here's another part of the shock - the hype. Oberyn is the first major player we meet from Dorne in the books and in the show. In the TV show he was ridiculously promoted in all the trailers. Most people in Internet polls really did believe he will win that trial. It can be a mixture of many things - the realization that if Oberyn dies, Tyrion last chance to live is gone. The hope that the good will win. The feeling that they won't kill off such a fan favorite character.
And we did only have Red Wedding last year. Yet the show still has the ability to punch us in the heart.
For me it was the only revelation that made my jaw drop and almost made me fall into despair. I know all the twists (well, apart form those occasions the show strays dramatically from the source material or moves beyond the books) but this is the first one that hit me so hard. It's because they really didn't hold back and because of how amazingly well directed that sequence was.
When we see the champions, the people they are representing come into focus, slowly revealing smug Cersei and horrified Tyrion. We hear Ellaria's soul tearing screams. And the camerawork is amazing - in the book ending to the scene, Tyrion vomited. Then he started to laugh. What they did on the show was so much better.
After Oberyn's face essentially explodes and Mountain lies next to him, barely alive (but still, alive) we pan in such a cool way to Tyrion to reveal he is not even looking,. He is too mortified about what he saw. A good man dead. Dead for him. Dead for just cause. Dead in such a way. And his death meaning doom for him too.
We see Cersei smiling with joy - by the way kudos to Lena Headey, not a single line in this episode and yet how bright she managed to shine - and Tywin getting up to announce that the gods have decided and that Tyrion is sentenced to die.
What will happen to Tyrion? We'll see in two weeks.
Next week the director of my all time favorite Thrones episode, Blackwater - Neil Marshal returns with the gigantic battle on the Wall in The Watchers on the Wall - which is actually 3 battles combined in one episode.
Will Jon manage to hold the castle?
Who will live and who will die?
Does Night's Watch stand a chance or will they need a miracle to survive?
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