We’re back after a week off, and it’s time to dive back into the wacky world of Westeros. There’s another easter egg in the opening credits this week—Moat Cailin makes an appearance, the geography of the show growing with each episode. “The Mountain and the Viper,” directed by Alex Graves (you might remember him from Joffrey’s Purple Wedding), has promised us the trial by combat, the showdown and revenge we’ve been waiting for this whole season, and we’re going to get it … right after all of these hideously boring monologues. The episode is a series of rather long, wordy, staid scenes bookended with bursts of bloody violence. A few of the monologues could stand to have been heavily edited, and time was checked during the show, a truly rare occurrence.
We open on the dark and damp streets of Mole’s Town, and into Mole’s Town’s finest establishment, a brothel where the working girls burp the tune of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” This is where Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) dropped off Gilly (Hannah Murray) and baby Sam to “stay safe.” It seems like the least safe place on earth, especially when Ygritte (Rose Leslie), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and their cannibal Wildling pals sweep in with a throat-slashing fervor. While nearly everyone in the tavern is skewered, stabbed, and otherwise dispatched, an empathetic Ygritte notices Gilly hiding with her baby and gives her only a “shhh” before leaving her as the lone survivor of this massacre.
At the Wall, Samwell, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and friends are processing the news of the attack at Mole’s Town, with Samwell blaming himself for what he assumes to be Gilly’s death. His buds remind him that Gilly’s survived Craster, The Wall, and a dang White Walker, so she’s a resilient and clever girl—there’s always a chance for her. They also realize that they are the logical next place for the Wildlings to attack in full force. Drink up boys, this could be your last.
The Unsullied soldiers have stripped down to take a quick bath in a stream, where Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) catches a glimpse of a nude Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) going about her daily ablutions. She tells Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) about the encounter later, while the queen braids her hair (so that’s how they always have such crazy up-dos, was wondering where they get the time for that). Daenerys seems confused that Grey Worm might have been in any way intrigued by her nude bod, cause they’re castrated, right? Missandei insists that he was, and Daenerys ponders the gory details of the castration process.
Later, in private, Grey Worm apologizes to Missandei for the encounter. He remembers nothing about his prior name, his castration, and though Missandei expresses sympathy for his tragic injury, Grey Worm understands that this event led him to be in the place where he is now, leading Khaleesi’s army and falling in love with Missandei. He doesn’t regret it, and Missandei doesn’t regret that he saw her either.
Elsewhere in Meereen, things are not so lovey dovey. Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) is supervising crucifixion disposal when he receives a message with the seal of the Hand of the King. Right quick he runs over to Ser Jorah Mormont’s (Iain Glen) outdoor map office, and is like nyah, nyah check this out you terrible traitor. It’s a royal pardon for Ser Mormont, signed by Robert Baratheon (terrible mail service there), which can only mean one thing! Uhh … It means he spied on Khaleesi, which Selmy helpfully explains for us. Must be in the letter. He’s all, “you’ll never be alone with her again!” which is the worst thing ever for Mormont. When he goes to see Daenerys, she is PISSED, even though Mormont tries to argue that Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is just trying to drive them apart (a very good point). He confesses to being one of Varys’ little birds, leaking all of her secrets, and she gets her scary eyes and tells him to pack his things and get out by nightfall or find his head thrown into Slaver’s Bay. This fruitful relationship has seemingly come to a unforgivable end.
Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) has suited up his charge, Reek (Alfie Allen), in armor, and told him to go play “Theon Greyjoy” in order to take Moat Cailin from the Ironborn, as Ramsay’s father, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) bid him. Ramsay uses a confusing metaphor about krakens and their strength in and out of water in order to make sure Reek keeps his Reek identity, and not get confused with this princely code-switching.
Things are not going so hot at Moat Cailin! Lots of dead bodies being picked over by crows and the survivors are all beset with some terrible plague of facial sores and coughing up blood. The main dude is super sick, but he’s not ready to surrender to to the Boltons at any time, even though the Boltons promise them safe passage to the shore. Well, if there’s one thing the Ironborn hate, it’s surrendering! Or at least this one guy. He calls Theon a whipped dog and a woman—which almost makes the nervous Theon lose his nerve and drop his act—before one of his guys puts an axe into his bald head. He wants to go home, y’all!
Of course, in true Ramsay fashion, it’s a bait and switch—he flays all the skin off the Ironborn. Some passage to safety! And what does this get him? Why the approval of Daddy Bolton! Who, as the new Warden of the North, decides Ramsay has done a great enough job conquering Moat Cailin (easiest task ever) to earn the last name Bolton. Oh happy day for Ramsay, no longer a bastard or a Snow.
Baelish (Aiden Gillen) is under investigation by the worst “Law and Order” cast ever, in the Case of Lysa Arryn Who Fell In The Moon Door. It’s Lord Royce (Rupert Vansittart), some aunt and some guy who doesn’t talk at all. They HATE Baelish and are convinced he killed Lysa, because she would never have abandoned her son, Robin (Lino Facioli). Call the first witness to the stand! It’s Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), whom Littlefinger is passing off as his simpleton niece, Alayne. Sansa takes the stand (metaphorically), and gives a virtuoso performance, crying and and apologizing to Littlefinger that she must tell the truth. She reveals her true Stark identity, appealing to Royce, a friend of the family. She tells the whole truth, nothing but the truth … except that, with tears streaming down her face, she laments the suicide of Lysa Arryn, provoked by her jealous madness, and in doing so, effectively saves Littlefinger’s hide.
They apologize to Littlefinger for the inconvenience, and he convinces them that Little Robin Arryn should be the one to back in this whole mess, and that he’ll take the sickly little boy out and about, to leave the proverbial “nest,” as it were. Although Robin doth protest too much about going outside, Littlefinger’s got the impressionable young lad in check, especially with the help of his newly dark haired lady, Sansa, serving some Maleficent realness in her new get up. She’s looking awfully sophisticated after her post-testimony chat with creepy uncle Littlefinger in her chamber.
Just outside the Bloody Gate to the Eryie, The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) have finally reached their destination. The Hound is ready to hand over Arya to Lysa Arryn for a hefty ransom, though he’s only about three days too late, as he is informed by the gate guard. Arya wins the best response, bursting into peals of laughter at the Hound’s dumbfounded expression. Once again, they find themselves in the right place at the very wrong time. If only they knew Sansa was inside…
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are knocking back a few bladders of wine in Tyrion’s cell while waiting for the trial by combat to start. Tyrion’s nervous and chatty, and he embarks on an endless monologue about their brain-injured cousin Orson, who used to sit around and crush beetles all day. I kept waiting for the punch line, and the damn thing just never came. If anyone can illuminate the point of this never-ending beetle crushing monologue, it would be much appreciated.
However, there’s no time to talk beetles, there’s trial by combat to get up to. Oberyn Martel (Pedro Pascal) is prepping for his showdown with the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) by drinking wine and kissing his lover, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma). He’s forgoing a helmet, which worries Tyrion, while the Mountain is suited up for the gods. Despite Tyrion’s and Ellaria’s worries, Oberyn is a lithe and agile fighter, driven by his vengeance for his sister, declaring instantly that he will have a confession from the Mountain before he dies.
Oberyn twirls his staff like the best baton twirling drum major in the parade, besting the clunky Mountain and his massive broadsword. He flips and twirls his way away from the brute, and finally gets in a few good pokes, all while doing his best Inigo Montoya (“you raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children”). And just when he has the Mountain on his back, spurting blood, he continues to circle him and chant his mantra, demanding the Mountain confess and say who gave the order, pointing right at Tywin, watching in the stands.
Leaving him alive was a very bad idea because with one swipe of a meaty paw, the Mountain knocks Oberyn down, gets in a few punches and suddenly the power is flipped. Oberyn is on the ground, and he gets his confession, which the Mountain delivers while gouging his eyes out with his thumbs, and then demonstrating how he crushed their skulls by exploding Oberyn’s head like a particularly ripe pumpkin. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, please proceed straight to the top of the list of Goriest “Game of Thrones” Moments. The Mountain then keels over and dies next to him (I think…).
While Tyrion cringes and Ellaria wails, Tywin stands and makes the proclamation: Tyrion is sentenced to death. Cut to black. Silence.
Thoughts on this week’s episode? Please share your trauma at Oberyn’s death in the comments—any particularly good reactions at the watch parties? For such an overall boring episode, it sure ended with a … squish. Next week’s episode is number 9, which has always been the craziest episode of the season, and rumor has it that next week’s episode, directed by Neil Marshall (who also directed “Blackwater,” the ninth episode of season two), is sure to be amazing.