This episode of Game Of Thrones has just been fantastic TV. It is one of those rare events when you actually forget you are watching a screen. There is no point in hiding the fact that this episode is about the duel to the death between Gregor Glegane ‘The Mountain’ and Prince Oberyn Martell ‘The Red Viper’, but this episode is so much more than that. It progresses pretty much every major storyline in a meaningful way and repairs some of the damage done to Jon Snow’ storyline. Which frankly, has been boring as hell since season 1.
*** HEARTBREAK and SPOILERS ahead ***
Game of Thrones ‘The Mountain and The Viper’ Review
I will try to recap each major event for each of the storyline. Please note that the spoilers get worse as the recap progresses.
At the Wall
With Mance Rayder’s army of a 100.000 wildlings just outside the wall Ygritte, Styr and their men attack Mole’s Town from the rear. They slaughter everyone but Gilly, who is spared by Ygritte. News of the attack reaches Castle Black where Sam starts blaming himself for leaving Gilly at Mole’s Town until persuaded by Jon and others that she is a survivor. Despite the fact that this episode mainly features Jon and the rest of the Blackwatch sitting at tables discussing events beyond the wall it does manage to adequately create the feeling of impending doom. Next week’s episode will be about the Battle of Castle Black and though no doubt spectacular it will mostly act as a turning point for characters such as Jon and Stannis Baratheon and allow them greater prominence in the story.
In the North
Ramsay Snow continues his sick torment of Theon, who is now forced to call himself Reek. Ramsay orders Theon to make the Ironborn holding Moat Cailin surrender. The Ironborn are all starving and near death but their leader still refuses and starts questioning Theon’s manhood. The commander of the Ironborn is then murdered by those who do want to surrender. When they do so they are killed and flayed. Roose Bolton then informs Ramsay he has been legitimized as Ramsay Bolton and will become his successor. In a rare act of thoughtfulness Ramsay bows to his father. However, Ramsay shows Theon little regard despite his help and as they approach Winterfell he asks for a bath. Though Ramsay is still alive in the books it can be confidently stated he will probably die in the next one. This episode sets the stage for the war between the Bolton’s and Stannis Baratheon. Ramsay showed some restraint at times in this episode, but it is really just a façade. However, this show too often uses his dumb cruelty for shock instead of showing a purpose to his madness. Some may say there is no purpose other than the cruelty itself, but that is not true.
Across the Narrow Sea
The Game Of Thrones TV series has had a problem with the characters Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) ever since their introduction. Missandei differs a lot from the book and it is difficult to give them a meaningful storyline. This episode tried to correct that but ends proofing it can’t be done and that it shouldn’t be done. Missandei catches Grey Worm observing her as she bathes nude. Dani (Emilia Clarke) questions Missandei whether she knows how the Unsullied are castrated, whether their ‘Pillar and Stones’ are removed. Missandei admits she doesn’t know but she is interested to know. Grey Worm later apologizes to Missandei for watching. She questions whether he has anger over being castrated and Grey Worm states he doesn’t as otherwise he would never have met either Dani or her. Barristan Selmy meanwhile receives the pardon sent by Robert Baratheon before his death to Ser Jorah Mormont. Dani demands what Jorah had to do to earn it and he admits to spying against her. Dani banishes Ser Jorah in an act he considers crueler than death. She states that if he should ever return she will have him beheaded. Ser Jorah leaves Meereen without looking back. In many ways the TV series moves ahead faster than the books with the story between Dani and Ser Jorah. After this there is little development until Dani is herself taken away from Meereen by one of her dragons. Nonetheless, ever since season 1 Ser Jorah’s betrayal has been hanging over their relationship and now the plunge is taken.
In the Vale
Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) meets with the nobility of the Vale, including Lord Yohn Royce. Petyr tells them that Lysa committed suicide by jumping through the Moon Door, but they do not trust him. Royce demands to speak with Sansa (Sophie Turner), who is acting as Petyr’s niece, Alayne. She appears to crumble under the pressure of the situation, admitting her true identity to the group. Sansa corroborates Petyr’s story, and convinces them of his innocence. As Petyr walks the group out of the Eyrie, he makes plans to have Robin (Lino Facioli) tour the Vale. Sansa interrupts Petyr Baelish and Robin discussing his rule wearing a tight corseted dress signaling her move into womanhood. Outside, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisie Williams) walk the narrow path toward the Eyrie. Coming to the Bloody Gate, they are informed of Lady Arryn’s death by Donnel Waynwood (Alisdair Simpson). Araya spontaneously starts to laugh at the bad luck The Hound is having in selling her to her family members.
In King’s Landing
Shortly before his trial by combat is to begin, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) discusses his chances with his brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The two reminisce about Orson Lannister, a dimitted family member famous for smashing bugs before his death by being kicked by a mule. Tyrion’s asks why he smashed all those bugs, Jaime admits he doesn’t know. the story serves as leitmotif for Tyrion’s life. When Tyrion is taken outside, he has a brief conversation with his champion, Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), who is confident. Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) arrives shortly thereafter, and the trial commences. Oberyn speaks with the Mountain during the fight, demanding he admit to raping and murdering his sister, Elia, and her two children. Oberyn lands several attacks on his opponent, stabbing and cutting him with his spear. As he knocks the Mountain to the ground, Oberyn demands he confess, screaming at him and hoping the Mountain will admit that it was Tywin (Charles Dance) who gave the order. As Oberyn circles him, the Mountain reaches out, knocks him to the ground, and pins him. The Mountain grabs Oberyn’s head, gouging out his eyes before confessing to the murder of Elia and her children, and crushing Oberyn’s skull. The Mountain, suffering from his grave wounds, then collapses to the ground. Tywin rises and sentences Tyrion to death for regicide.
This episode does so much good and so very little wrong. Yes, the story between Grey Worm and Missandei is odd and events at Castle Black are still boring but the episode manages to pivot so many storylines in subtle ways. Season 4 so far has felt a little strong handed with events being pushed into apparent meaningfulness because not everything from the books could be covered. I would have like to have seen more of Pedro Pascal but Game of Thrones is at its most effective when it is unflinchingly cruel. This episode acts very much as the conclusion of the season and in many ways it is. However, we do have to more episode to go enjoy the aftermath of what happened in ‘The Mountain And The Viper’. This was Game of Thrones ‘The Mountain and The Viper’ Review.
Score; 9.2 / 10. All the storylines are good and the final duel does not disappoint. Some of the developments feel forced for the sake of pacing.