Game of Thrones 4×08 Review: The Mountain and the Viper
WARNING: Please note that the following review contains some minor spoilers for the book versions of events in this episode.
If I had to select the episode I anticipated since this season began, it would have to be this one. I loved the fight between Oberyn Martell and the Mountain in A Storm of Swords and was looking forward to seeing how the show interpreted the material. Overall, they didn’t disappoint, and what’s even better is that there were many other amazing moments in this episode! But before I get too carried away, I’ll break down my favorite moments from “The Mountain and the Viper”.
This season the scenes at the Wall have been a bit tedious. While I love Jon and Sam, the story there hasn’t been very interesting; it all smells of “we’re stalling until wildlings arrive at Castle Black to fight so here’s some filler until then”. And to me, this episode was no exception. The wildlings attack Mole’s Town (which I’m still disappointed isn’t underground), so they’re pretty much a hop, skip, and a jump away from Castle Black. We finally got to see that stone-faced façade of Ygritte’s slip for a moment when she came across Gilly and her baby. I may not like Ygritte as a character, but I appreciated that she seemed to recognize a fellow wildling and was willing to keep her safe. Back at the Wall, I thought it was really sweet that the guys tried – in a very manly sort of way – to cheer Sam up and stop him from worrying about Gilly. I really like this little group of black brothers that Jon Snow has surrounded himself with, and given the seemingly budding romance between Sam and Gilly, I’m interested to see when and how Sam will find out that she is still alive.
In Meereen, the show is continuing to develop the relationship between Missandei and Grey Worm. Though very different from her fictional counterpart (which I really like), the writers and actress are still maintaining some of the character’s innocence. Nathalie Emmanuel and Jacob Anderson do a fantastic job, and I’m glad that the writers of the show are giving the people of color a bit more of a storyline. You could see Grey Worm’s internal struggle, the mentalities of slave and freed man warring for dominance. He was so sweet and endearing in his apology as he struggled to speak properly in the Common Tongue. What I loves most about his speech – and about his character in general – is how he reasons all that has happened to him. The training of the Unsullied is horrifying and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but Grey Worm is a true survivor. He doesn’t seem to be bitter about what has happened to him; he says himself that if it hadn’t he wouldn’t be where he is now – freed, the general of the Unsullied, and in the presence of the beautiful Missandei. I really adore this little storyline and am excited to see how it is further developed.
But as it is on this show, you have to take the bitter with the sweet. All season, I have been waiting for – and dreading – the reveal of Jorah’s secret and him subsequently being cast away from Dany’s side. To say this story is radically different from the book would be an understatement, but it still packed one hell of an emotional punch. I can’t find it within myself to be angry at Ser Barristan for telling Dany about Jorah because he went about it the honorable way: he warned Jorah first, “man to man”, as it were. Ser Barristan isn’t about backstabbing and manipulations; he’s truly a man of honor. But as for Jorah, it still killed me when he went into the throne room to face Dany – I’ll admit to being a Dany/Jorah shipper, so you can probably imagine how hard it was for me to watch this scene. Hats off to Iain Glen, who portrayed Jorah’s desperation so perfectly. Emilia Clarke did such a great job portraying Dany’s barely contained rage and her hurt over Jorah’s betrayal. Even though he has long since been loyal to her, to know that he was spying on her for Robert in the beginning was surely a bitter pill to swallow. I wonder if this is the last we will see of Meereen this season, and I hope that, at least in this corner of the world, the writers won’t break my heart any further.
I hope this is the last that we will see of Ramsay and Theon this season. Ramsay Snow – or should I say Bolton? – is such a sadistic character, and I can’t help but feel pity for what Theon has endured with him. In this episode, Theon assisted Ramsay in retaking Moat Cailin for Roose. Moat Cailin itself was a very desolate looking place but was impressively realized in the show; the production on Game of Thrones never fails to impress me. And I have to give major props to Alfie Allen, who continues to do a great job at portraying the effects of the psychological torture Ramsay puts Theon through on a daily basis. Given the man he used to be, it was so tragic to see him so uneasy in his old “skin”, as it were – the panic in Theon’s demeanor and voice when the Ironborn man rejected the surrender terms and was bullying him, how he even let a soft “Reek” slip out. I’m glad that they only showed the one flayed man, as in the book the entire garrison was flayed and their bodies displayed along the road. Having this scene followed by Roose legitimizing Ramsey gave these events the same air of unease and “oh no, things are about to get even worse” as when Joffrey was crowned king. As Tyrion very astutely observed once, “It’s hard to put a leash on a dog once you’ve put a crown on its head.”
High up in the Eyrie, I found myself starting to warm up to Sansa. Apologies to all of the Sansa fans out there, but I’ve always struggled with connecting with her as a character – I’ve felt sympathy for what she was going through, but her story wasn’t one I was emotionally invested in. However, now that she’s with Littlefinger and is becoming something of a protégé of his, my interest is piqued. It goes without saying that Sansa’s Eyrie storyline has been changed from the source material, but I was shocked when she actually told the Council her true identity. Given how much danger she’s in with connection to Joffrey’s death, revealing herself to anyone seems completely nonsensical. In the book, there was a singer that witnessed Littlefinger pushing Lysa out of the Moon Door, which led to Littlefinger (with some minor involvement on Sansa’s part) framing the singer for the murder. Absent said singer, I still think the show did a great job with Sansa’s cover story.
Sophie Turner is an extremely talented actress, and her scenes in the Eyrie showcased that talent in more ways than one. She was able to manipulate the Council with her version about what happened to Lysa, and later speak very frankly with Littlefinger. I still don’t like the creeper vibes I get from him every time he’s around Sansa, but at the same time they do make quite the manipulative pair. And if there’s anyone from whom to learn the finer points of lies and court intrigues, it’s Little Finger. I can’t help but wonder where they’re going with this tour of the Vale with Robin, but I suppose we’ll have to wait until next season to find out. Despite their blunder of having Sansa reveal her true identity, the writers gained my forgiveness by finally having her dye her hair and become Alayne Stone. (Although in the books, Alayne is Littlefinger’s bastard daughter,while in the show, she’s his niece.) I have to say that I love Sansa/Alayne’s new look! The gown she put on is different from anything we’ve seen Sansa in before, and it seemed like such a cool way of showing her willingness to truly begin to play the game. She has come a long way from that little girl we knew in season one, and I can’t help but feel excited about what we’ll see next!
The following scene with the Hound and Arya was a bit awkward, though. They show up at the Bloody Gate only to find out that Lysa is dead, at which point Arya starts laughing hysterically. I didn’t really like this scene, as the laughter seemed so bizarre and out of place for Arya at this point. It felt a bit like Bran almost getting reunited with Jon at Craster’s Keep: filler just to give the character something to do. I love Arya, she’s one of my favorites, but I couldn’t help disliking this scene, as it seemed below par compared to what we’ve been given previously.
Finally we get to the moment everyone has been waiting two weeks for: the trial by combat between Oberyn Martell and Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane. The scene beforehand between Jaime and Tyrion was a bit odd and, though I must admit to it wrangling some inappropriate laughs from me, I question its placement. But then we finally got to the fight and I am pleased as pie with how loyal the it was to the source material. My only real gripe is one from a technical aspect – without any background music throughout the entire fight, I feel like some of the dramatic tension was taken away from the scene. But that aside, I loved that they showed how different Oberyn and the Mountain’s fighting styles were: Oberyn very flashy and cocky with plenty of movement, while the Mountain was more lumbering and awkward. But the best part was Oberyn chanting the Mountain’s crimes against Elia and her children. That aspect was what affected me the most in the book; how he wouldn’t let up for one moment, reminding this monster of what he did and demanding his confession. In the show, Oberyn hasn’t kept his disdain for the Lannisters a secret; he obviously blames them for what happened to Elia and her children, and this fight felt like a climax to all that boiling rage.
But that rage proved to be his downfall. He was so swept up in demanding the Mountain’s confession that he let his guard slip, which allowed the Mountain to grab hold of him. I must confess some disappointment that the writers didn’t include Oberyn’s fiery promise to the Mountain before he was struck down, that being, “if you die before you say her name, ser, I will hunt you through all seven hells.” What a line! But Oberyn went down regardless, and the Mountain gave him his confession. I must be one sick individual because I was thoroughly impressed with Oberyn’s death. I can’t help but love that the writers went there: showing the Mountain just crushing his head like it was a melon. It looked wickedly and horrifically awesome, although there is a part of me that died with Oberyn. Let’s give a final round of applause to Pedro Pascal for giving us such an entertaining and deadly character!
WHEW! Can you believe we still have two episodes left? Next week looks to be our big battle at Castle Black, for which I’m pretty stoked. But for now, dear readers what were your thoughts about “The Mountain and the Viper”? What moments from this episode thrilled you – or killed you – the most? Whatever they are, comment below, and thank you for reading!
Author: Sarah Sue
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