Directed by: Alex Graves
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
This was an episode plagued by death. By the sword. The spear. A monster in the guise of a man, using only his hands to crush the skull of the Prince of Dorne. Littlefinger’s interrogation, and Tyrion’s sentencing.
All men must die. But does it really have to be so gruesome when it happens?
To summarize: The Wildlings who made it past the Wall have converged on Molestown, the town where Sam hid Gilly in order to protect her from the savagery of the Night’s watch. Discovering Jorah Mormont’s true reason for swearing allegiance to the Targaryens, Daenerys excommunicated him. Sansa made a shrewd decision to defend Petyr Baelish to the council that has accused him of pushing Lysa through the moon door. Theon delivers Moat Cailin to Ramsay Snow, who in turn receives the name Bolton from his father. The Hound and Arya have finally made it to the Bloody Gate, the last passage before reaching the Eyrie, where she can be ransomed. Jaime and Tyrion reminisced about family as the hour approached for the latter’s trial by combat. And the Mountain fought the Red Viper.
There isn’t much to say for the Wildling attack save for the fact that they are drawing closer to Castle Black and Mance Rayder’s army is marching further South. The Crows at Castle Black are sworn to defend the realm, but what can 102 men at an 800 foot dam do to ebb the flow of an endless ocean of 100,000 men? More than men, considering what creatures we’ve seen join the ranks of Rayder’s army. Giants and tribal cannibals. All of them driven southward by an even greater force lying further North than them. The White Walkers.
Not appearing in the book is a new relationship for Grey Worm. The soldier and Captain who had his emotions drained at the tip of a razor seems to have discovered a dormant… curiosity, for Missandei, the Khaleesi’s translator. Of course even Daenerys had to comment, “Do they take the pillar, and the stones?” when pondering just what Grey Worm would do if he had a woman. As that relationship waxes, another wanes. Barristan discovers, thanks to one of Varys’ spies, that Jorah was pardoned by Robert Baratheon. When his espionage was brought forth to the Khaleesi, despite going so far as to profess his love for her, she sent him away for the betrayal. Jorah Mormont is not a good man, but a man seeking redemption isn’t something one should regard with disdain. It was his counsel that helped Daenerys get this far. His strength and strategy are what won her the slaver’s cities from the wise masters. He’s a man who abandoned his first country, and now faces exile from his new one. Only time will tell where he plans to go, if he even plans to go anywhere else.
Theon Greyjoy was always one of the more pitiful characters on the show. Pompous and self-righteous, he never saw himself as simply another man in the ranks of humanity (if you could call it that in this show) and it was evident in the way he treated and was treated by others. Reek on the other hand isn’t so pitiable. He’s a creature akin to a roughly-hewn Unsullied, bred into servitude through torture and mutilation. However, pity isn’t a word one could use to describe him anymore. When he walked into Moat Cailin and promised the men there safe passage after which they were all flayed by Ramsay, he became no more than an extension of the bastard’s reach. It’s a sympathetic situation, but now, the same as with Arya and Sansa; he’s become something completely different. The Stockholm syndrome he’s been afflicted with will only get more people killed. One could say he deserves it for burning those two boys in the stead of Bran and Rickon Stark. Personally, I think Reek isn’t the same man who committed that crime. They’re two separate people, Reek and Theon. In this case the real evil is Ramsay, now Ramsay Bolton.
Historically, Sansa has always been the victim. Simply trying to survive the madness of those around her she submits and endures in the hopes that her torment will end before something worse happens. When Littlefinger saved her from Lysa’s jealous rage, it seems like she finally had enough. Discovering the power in her supposed weakness, she managed to influence the council considering whether Petyr Baelish really killed Lysa to reconsider their suspicions. Similar to the way Cersei framed Tyrion’s angered promise of happiness turning to ash in her mouth, Sansa professed an admiration for Littlefinger and lamented the madness which consumed her aunt’s mind, which led to her stepping through the Moon Door of her own volition. How could she be feeling about that as she descended those steps towards Robin and Petyr; knowing that thing she was once so afraid of, so afraid of becoming, she finally accepted and let in just a little. The instinct to survive through manipulation. It parallels the advancement of Arya as she picked up what lessons she could from the Hound about being a better killer.
Speaking of Arya, after finally reaching the Vale, a trail of corpses in her wake, she learns that just three days prior is when Lysa fell to her death. Maybe Arya had it right; the best recourse when all is said and done is to simply laugh at the fact that everything you went through for an ostensibly simple task can fall into tatters against a few frail words of comfort. Since becoming a political object, Sansa has slowly figured out how to properly play the game herself in order to survive. Arya has learned how to be a cold-blooded killer. They are both in danger of being completely consumed by what they’ve been forced to become. Hope and relief have died in their eyes after the decimation of their family. Yet so close to each other now, maybe they can still eke out some sense of peace with the world around them.
In the minutes before Tyrion’s “trial”, he spent some of what could be his final moments conversing with Jaime about his simple cousin, Orson, who spent his days in the garden crushing beetles with a rock. Tyrion practically studied him trying to look for some rhyme or reason for the purpose of crushing those beetles all day. Why should so many living creatures have to die, even as Jaime remarks on the inconsequentiality of a beetle compared to number of people; men, women, and children who are killed by the score every day. Tyrion explains that it wasn’t so easy to ignore because it was happening right in front of him. To ascertain some sort of purpose would have given reason to the slaughter. But sometimes there’s only the chaos. It’s easy to gloss over this story in lieu of the more violent aspects of the episode but this was probably the most important part of the episode. Fate is simple and unsympathetic. Whatever happens to Tyrion, it won’t be because of some whimsical deity’s interest in his life, and afterwards it would only be the lead up to another similar situation.
As Tyrion’s champion, Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, faced off against Cersei’s champion, Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides. The Mountain, as seen in older episodes when he took another form (as if he were a Faceless Man of Braavos, but really it was just constant recasting), is a man of simple motivations. His drives are anger, adrenaline, and a pleasure that can only be derived by the suffering of others. Beaten by a more elegantly attired knight at the tournament celebrating Eddard Stark’s ascension to Hand of the King, he took his broadsword and almost completely took his horse’s head off in one swing. It’s that efficiency which makes him the perfect tool to be utilized by those who possess few scruples.
Oberyn’s technique was extremely elegant and poise. Unable to match the Mountain’s brute strength he fought with speed and agility, maneuvering around the radius of the Mountain’s enormous swing and stride. Overconfidence was his downfall. Overconfidence and pride. The match was his to have, but he underestimated what sheer force can accomplish when fueled by a homicidal bloodlust. To immobilize a man who fights with speed means his certain demise. Oberyn’s boastfulness and righteous infuriation at Clegane shone through with his constant shouting, trying to get the Mountain to confess to the crimes committed against his family. That was enough distraction for Clegane to swipe at his legs while flat on his back with a blade yanked from his guts. With a punch to the jaw that knocked out at least four teeth, Oberyn was caught with massive black gauntlets around his head. Gregor Clegane then admitted that he raped Oberyn’s sister, killed her, and then killed her children as he crushed Oberyn’s skull. And the sentence against Tyrion was cast.
Personally, I thought this was a really heavy episode, offset only by the teensiest glimmers of promise for the future. One, is that Tyrion isn’t dead yet. Having not read the books I have absolutely no idea what will happen to him in the future and if this truly spells the end for him, the same way Ned Stark faced down the headsman after his plan failed. Gilly and her baby were spared from the onslaught of the wildlings, and if killing a White Walker is any indication then that means they are likely going to do something else even more significant in the future. Lastly, and probably most exciting is that Arya and Sansa are only paces away from each other now. That reunion is all one could hope for, assuming the Hound doesn’t turn tail or Brienne doesn’t come along and ruin it. I’m gonna miss Oberyn, but for now there is still some hope left to the show for what may come. All that’s left is to keep watching in order to find out.
Here’s a preview for next week’s penultimate episode, “The Watchers on the Wall”, along with this week’s “Inside the Episode” for you to enjoy:
If you liked that review, Marc’s started a blog! Check out kinocabal.blogspot.com for more insights and critical analysis of movies and TV shows!