Thursday, June 5, 2014

(TV) Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 8 “The Mountain and The Viper” TV Review

Oh no!! They did it again!! The Bastards!!! They did it again!!! For all the pacing problems and rushed scenes in previous episodes setting up the big events set to go down in the last two episodes, “The Mountain and The Viper” was bloody brilliant and bloody infuriating in equal measure.

Game of Thrones has had its fair share of gory and tragic deaths but Oberyn’s death literally at the hands of The Mountain left me squirming and slightly depressed as I was expecting Dornish prince to win but as the show has proved time and again, come into Game of Thrones with expectations at your peril.  

This week’s episode brilliantly directed and written as director Alex Graves and show creators David Benioff and DB Weiss as they went balls to the wall throughout this episode all the way to the bloody and disgusting end. Pedro Pascal has been brilliant the moment he showed on screen as The Red Viper and I would like to see what he does in the future as actors with genuine onscreen charisma just aren't a dime a dozen these days.

The Wildlings, The Wall and Moles Town

Much went on in Westeros and Essos in “The Mountain and The Viper” as the episode kicked off with the brutal sacking of Moles Town. To be fair, it’s been on the cards for a while but it was still well done like pretty much everything else in this great episode which is quite easily the best instalment the season so far. As we watch Ygritte, Thormond and the Thenns slice and dice their through the brothel town. We get the feeling that this is routine as there is little huff and puff involved in their work.

So far we’ve seen Ygritte ruthlessly cut her way through villages without much in the way of emotional baggage but in her short scene where she spots Gilly and baby Sam hiding away from the carnage, we realize that Ygritte humanity hasn’t gone on permanent vacation as she instructs Gilly to stay quiet as blood seeps from the floorboards above.

We’ve known for some time that the men of the nightswatch, for the lack of a better or subtle phrase, are truly buggered. Faced with the fact that the wildling offensive at Moles Town has trimmed their already meagre numbers and face an army that each member of the nightswatch would have to kill at least 5,000 wildlings a piece just to make a dent, the mood at the wall was sombre to say the least.

In short trip to the wall this week, we find John, Sam and co totally despondent as they face the near certain prospect of their brutal deaths. We find Sam cursing himself over his decision to send Gilly to Moles Town as we see his reaction to the news  of the Moles Towm massacre. However, looking at the options that presented Sam, he shouldn’t be too hard on himself as he was forced to make the calculation that Gilly has a better chance of surviving a small company of professional murderers than a 100,000 strong army looking to “set the largest fire the north has ever seen”  

Dany, Grey Worm , Missandei and Jorah

Westeros is miserable place and Essos isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs either but finally, GOT has thrown together at least two characters in Grey Womr and Missandei who many have a chance of happiness in a very unhappy world. However, things didn’t as Grey Worm was caught by Missandei ogling her naked body.

So far we’ve seen little looks here and there between the two and many have seen this storyline as a complete distraction and waste of time in wider scope of the GOT narrative but for us, it a much needed break from seriously unhappy people ordering and committing murder all in service of getting their hindparts on arguably the ugliest and most uncomfortable chair in fiction.

We catch Missandei soon after having a chat with the Mother of Dragons about the incident that degenerates into a hilarious discussion into the extent of the unsullied castration as Dany speculates whether the “pillar” or “stone” was cut. Later, we find Missandei in the throne room with Grey Worm who apologies for gawking at her, she insists that there no need for it before strangely apologizing for his childhood castration.  

Grey Worm gives an even stranger but understandable answer as he sees his castration as a blessing as without it, he wouldn’t be in command of one of the more superior armies in the GOT universe and touchingly, he notes that wouldn’t have met her. I don’t know about you but I don’t think anybody male in real life or fiction has had such a positive attitude about being castrated as a toddler but power to him, he’s able to see the positives in his past traumas. Sure, the scene was no 101 in romance but in Game of Thrones that’s as good as it’s going to get.

In playing the Game of Thrones, secrets have a way of biting you in the arse exactly when you wouldn't like them too and this is what happened to Jorah. He has been at Dany’s side from the beginning and has had a key role in her rise from a slave bride in all but name to a formidable queen with a feared army. He also has harboured a deep love for the mother of dragons that she’s probably aware but is not prepared to act on.

He is also been the source of some of Dany’s smarter decision of late from resisting the temptation to march on King’s Landing upon the news of the death of King Joffrey and rule over Meereen to advising her against succumbing to her growing blind spot for nuance and murdering all the masters in Yunkai. However his days of giving Dany advice are over thanks one of Vary’s little birds handing Ser Barristan Selmy a copy of his pardon issued by King Robert. Ser Barristan, being the man of honour he is, approaches Jorah first with the poison letter looking to get the truth from his colleague and rival before he informs the queen first.

The tension is palpable in the next scene as Jorah approaches the mother of dragons. She asks him why he got a pardon from King Robert, he rightly tells that the pardon is nothing more than a crafty but obvious ploy by Tywin Lannister to split the camp and rob the mother of dragons of easily her best adviser. However, the mother dragon informs him that the date on the pardon is exactly around the time they meet up. Jorah then confesses to his rather brief spell as a spy for the realm. Dany, so far calm and relaxed, probes Jorah over the nature of his dispatches with the spider making him reveal his role in letting the realm in on the birth of her yet to be born son and the assassination attempt that he stopped.

Dany, not exactly known for her ability to see the grey in any given situation, admonishes her chief adviser for his transgressions as Jorah reminds her that the assassination attempt against was thwarted because of him but Dany, ever obstinate, was having none of it. Dany then proceeds to banish her most loyal adviser which I feel could be a serious mistake as he is, despite his early betrayal, her best adviser and most importantly, the adviser who has more than most to smooth her still rough edges when it comes to dealing with the nuances of power.    

Reek, Ramsey Snow Bolton and Moat Cailin

Westeros has its fair share of psychopaths and sadists but Ramsey Snow is the worst of them all bar none as we watch another disturbing interaction between the Bolton Bastard and the cypher formerly known as Theon Greyjoy. Almost every scene between Ramsey and Theon/Reek has been a tough and uncomfortable watch as this week was no exception to the rule as Ramsey “prep talks” Theon into convincing the iron born soldiers held up at Moat Cailin to surrender and vacate the castle by reminding him who he really is, Reek and nothing more ‘till he’s food for the maggots.

Alfie Allen hasn’t put a foot wrong as the once pompous and treacherous prince of the Iron Islands but his turn as the shell shocked and tormented “Reek” has been excellent as we get just from his eyes and body movement the results of his torture and overwhelming shame.
As Theon rides into Moat Cailin we find out that the Bolton’s would probably have had to wait out the remaining iron born at the moat a day or two as a combination of sickness and hunger had taken most of their numbers. Theon is escorted into the main court where he finds small company of despondent iron born soldiers and their ailed commander barely able to stand up.

Theon offers the Bolton’s terms of surrender to the commander who from the off is rather skeptical of the sincerity of the offer and his supposed prince no doubt in light of the fact he’s marching with the Bolton’s. Probably fortified by the death and sickness that has visited him and his charges, the commander is more than willing to pay the iron price before his sickness brings him low forcing his soldiers to pick him up. Not willing to quit and almost smelling the fear on Theon as he plugs for their surrender, the commander spits at his prince in disgust and berates his lack of spirit by asking him is he a woman.

He continues to tell his prince shove the terms of surrender where the sun don’t shine as his skepticism and aggressive questioning nearly sends Theon into a full blown nervous breakdown only avoided by the brave and obstinate commander getting an axe in his head by one of his not so brave and obstinate charges more than willing to take the terms of surrender.

Being an commander of an iron born army must be most dangerous job in the world as that’s twice we've seen an iron born army brutally abandon their commander when going got tough as Theon himself, to his ruin, found out as he was knocked out mid speech and given tothe Bolton's by his own company at the end of season 2. In the next shot, we find the iron born soldiers flayed and mutilated by the Bolton’s with Ramsey, smug faced as ever reminding Theon how the Bolton’s deal with their enemies when they’ve got them cornered.

Later on in the episode, we catch up with the Boltons as Ramsey shows his father in what was one of the more stunning wide shots in the season. Roose Bolton, ever the cold fish, blankly stares back at his deranged son and ask him to walk with him.  In earlier episodes we’ve seen that the father and son dynamic between the two is more Tywin and Tyrion Lannister than John Snow and Ned Stark so any walk between these two up a hill didn’t look to have a good ending.

Unfortunately, it did for one of the more undeserving characters in the history of the show as Ramsey Snow became a Bolton. The only rational reaction to this news is WTF as why would Roose Bolton, a man just as cold and calculating as Tywin Lannister, make an heir of a son he knows to be murderous psychopath with little in the way of a conscience. From what we’ve seen Roose has kept him at arm’s length because he knows he’s liability so it makes no sense on his part to legitimize a son that might one day kill him to take top spot.  

Sansa, Littlefinger and the Vale

If there was a theme for “the mountain and the viper” it would be the prevalence of hidden depths as Sansa, easily the most powerless and often thought the most witless character in the Game of Thrones universe showed her growing understanding of the game and her superior acting skills as both Sansa and Sophie Turner played a blinder this week.

Baelish, an amoral schemer by nature, found himself in one of those rare occurrences in his time at the Vale, a real pickle as three lords of the Vale grill the Lord of The Vale in all but name. Baelish does his best to sell the idea that Lysa Arryn jumped to her death through the moon door but the lords are having none of it and having had their fill of Baelish suicide story, they pull what they thought would be their ace in the hole, Petyr Baelish’s mysterious “niece”.

For four seasons, we haven’t seen Baelish in an position where he wasn’t in total control of those around him moving pieces on the board playing his on game of chess but in this instance, he was at the mercy of a girl he thought to be stupid and unwilling to learn. However, Baelish had nothing to worry as Sansa pulled off an Oscar winning performance by first revealing who she was, emphasizing Littlefinger’s role in helping her and most importantly, backing up Baelish’s version of events.

It’s was always obvious that Sophie Turner was an talented actress but she outdid herself as she showed a girl not only acting her boots off but using the only emotions she can easily access to pull wool over the eyes of the Lords of the Vale, fear and deep sadness.

However, it wasn’t really a shock that Sansa could access her emotions and use them to her advantage as she had spent a good deal of the GOT narrative suppressing them in aid of her ultimate survival which she did with aplomb barring a few slips in front of company she trusted and the unwisely to the scheming Tyrells informing them of the truly brutal nature of the late boy king.

Baelish, not used to others lying in his defense or having to rely on others in general, later confronted Sansa over her choice to bail him out of a tough pickle and her answer was along the lines of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. This may have shocked most viewers but Sansa has been forced to lie pretty much in every scene we’ve seen her in as the truth could have got her killed so lying to protect who has stuck his neck out for her so far is not beyond her capabilities as a person.

In short, The short but telling scene between her and Baelish marked not a transformation but a strange blossoming of a once damaged flower now realizing where she can exercise power and Baelish, notably, realizing just how much pull she may have with him and her understanding of his motives as far she’s concerned. 

Right after short scene in Sansa chambers, where at the blood gate with Arya and The Hound, now worse for wear thanks the flesh wound in his neck. They reach the end of the blood gate only to find out that there long and dangerous trip has been wasted and their situation may become that bit more precarious due to the death of Arya’s aunt Lysa which brings one of the best moments of the whole season when she laughs hysterically at the cruel cosmic joke constantly being played against her of being in close proximity to the death of just about family member she has left.

Westeros and its many gods has been cruel to its populace so it’s quite a treat to see one of its most afflicted victims find some levity in an utterly dire situation that may have got worse.  

Tyrion, Jamie, Oberyn and The Mountain at King’s Landing

There are many unlucky and hard done by people in the GOT universe but few can claim to have it worse than Tyrion who has had push away his  lover who ends up fitting him up for a murder he didn’t, getting accused of a murder by a sister whose wanted him dead from the moments he was born, betrayed by his bodyguard and friend and fatefully, getting sentenced to die by his own father who could care less.

However despite all his bad luck, he still finds a friend in his older brother Jamie, the only real friend he’s ever had. The scenes between Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have been magic this season and this week’s installment was no different as the two brothers philosophize about Orson, a mentally challenged cousin with a penchant for killing beetles with a rock. While the conversation between the two was brilliant as always between the Lannister siblings, it did seem to be aimless and out of context but if your fate was literally in the hands of someone else, a discussion about anything but is understandable or in Tyrion’s case, desirable.

The Lannister siblings meditation on their mentally comes to an end as the bells toll for main set piece of the episode, the trial of combat between Mountain and The Viper. Oberyn has been one of the bright spots in GOT’ grand narrative and has stolen just about every scene he was in but now the main attraction which notably gave light to his main strength and as we found out to his and our detriment, his passion and confidence.

Both have made the red viper a compelling watch throughout the season so far and in his fight with the massive Gregor Clegane was no exception. Being the smaller and weaker man, we find the red viper enjoying some Dornish wine wearing super light armor wearing a knowing smile. Tyrion, concerned with the nuclear combustion levels of confidence brimming out of his champion, points out that his confidence may be blinding the Dornish prince to the need for stronger armour and a helmet against a man though twice his size and maybe three times his weight is armoured up to the hilt.

However as we saw, the Dornish prince lack of real armour or a solid head gear didn’t matter much as he spent most of the fight dancing round the mountain and frustrating the man giant at every step using his speed and reach offered by his spear to stay out the bear like clutches of the head of house Clegane. Done with dancing round with The Mountain, Oberyn put seemed to put an end to the duel as he brought The Mountain to his knees by running his spear across Cleganes’ calf then runs his spear straight through The Mountain’s gut instantly flooring the giant.

The feat shocks everybody as the Dornish prince was a clear second favorite but the feat of The Mountain, out cold and on the verge of death, justified Oberyn’s brash yet alluring pre-fight confidence. However, beating a formidable foe wasn’t enough for the Dornish prince as she harangues the out cold but still dangerous man giant to confess to his crimes against his Elia and his children and not only admit to his crimes but implicate his liege lord Tywin Lannister.

There are many unofficial show motto's for Game of Thrones that could be attached to this show, all of them as depressing as they are true but the one that stands out the most is “win or die” as Oberyn was to find out that if justice can’t be found in Westerosi courts, they definitely can’t be found in fights to the death.

Oberyn clearly wasn’t present when Cersei uttered the “win or die” mantra that has hung over the show since as The Mountain trips the Dornish prince in full flow of an epic rant for justice then punches his teeth and lights out. What happened next stayed with me for a few days after and I’m sure a large number of you reading this review as The Mountain mounts Oberyn and cruelly gives the him the confession he been looking for while gouging his eyes until his skull cracks and head explodes.

Game of Thrones has subjected us to a number of gruesome deaths of well-liked and hated characters alike but something about Oberyn’s awful death stuck from his traumatizing screams as The Mountains thick thumbs pressed his eyes to back of his skull to the horror on the face of his paramour watching her beloved meet a truly horrible death.

All in all, “The Mountain and the Viper” was a truly brilliant episode that once again proves that indeed Game of Thrones is the best thing on TV bar none at the moment.

Episode Rating:


Connect with The Carnage Report at @TCRblogspot and read the review of last week’s episode, “Mockingbird”.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...