Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 8 “The Mountain and the Viper”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Meereen: Grey Worm is bathing in a river with some of the other Unsullied, when he spots a group of women bathing further up the stream, including Daenerys’s translator Missandei. She catches him staring at her naked body. Later she mentions this to Daenerys, and she is surprised because the Unsullied are castrated, so should have no interest in women. Missandei says he was definitely interested. Daenerys wonders just how much is removed in the castration. A bt later still, Grey Worm approaches Missandei to apologise for staring at her. She kind if says it’s okay, she likes him. He says he likes her too, then takes his leave and wanders off, leaving Missandei thoughtful.

This is a weird development. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere unless it’s foreshadowing for some development of a relationship between these two later on. Just how that can happen if he’s been castrated is an interesting question. Maybe as Daenerys wonders, the castration wasn’t as complete as when they do it back in Westeros. This is an odd bit of plot, and I’m wondering where this is going.

A small boy approaches Ser Barristan with a sealed scroll. He asks where it came from but the boy runs off without answering. The wax is sealed with a hand sigil – the Hand of the King. Barristan reads it and approaches Jorah Mormont, who is peering at a strategic map, probably planning how to invade Westeros. He shows Jorah the letter, which is a royal pardon signed by Robert Baratheon, in exchange for spying on Daenerys (and her brother back when he was alive) and sending information back to King’s Landing. It’s not explained here why Jorah needed a pardon – presumably he committed some crime against Robert, but I don’t remember what that might have been.

Daenerys calls Jorah to account for himself. He admits he was sending information to Robert, but since then he’s been loyal and served well and… he loves her. Daenerys is disgusted and exiles him, because she doesn’t want his dead body around to pollute her presence. Jorah tries to reason with her, but shuts up and takes his medicine, riding away from Meereen.

I think this is a bad move by Daenerys. Okay, sure, she thinks he betrayed her, but given how he’s behaved recently I can’t see Jorah actually betraying her any more. He’s served her interests well, and it’s obvious that he has a sweet spot for her. By now, he is actually her loyal servant, but alas someone – who?? – has thrown a spanner in the works. Maybe it was Tywin. He’s the current Hand of the King, so has the seal necessary to forge the letter. And I recall that he said something an episode or two ago about fetching his quill and some parchment to write a letter to someone, but I can’t remember the details, and I didn’t think it was important enough at the time to write about it. If this is the case, the only real question is why did Tywin wait so long to sow discord in Daenerys’s retinue?

Castle Black: In the nearby town, Mole’s Town it’s named apparently, Gilly is trying to raise her baby amongst a den of prostitution. She hears an owl call and freaks out; one of the ladies chides her that it’s just an owl, but Gilly says it’s not just an owl. Indeed, it’s a call of the Wildling raiding party, and they attack and ransack the town, killing everyone. Except Gilly and young Sam, since Ygritte finds them and tells Gilly to hush and hide.

Back at Castle Black, Sam takes the news hard, blaming himself for leaving Gilly there to die. Jon tries to convince Sam that maybe Gilly survived, since she’s tough and she survived living in Craster’s Keep. Then conversation talks to how to defend Castle Black against Mance Rayder’s forces. He has a hundred thousand men, to the paltry hundred defending Castle Black. I expect Jon to reiterate his plan to seal the tunnel through the Wall, but the scene cuts, leaving the question hanging, and we don’t return to them again.

Well, looks like Gilly will survive, at least for a while. The question is will Sam go to try and find her? Or will she show up at the fort? And what will happen when Mance arrives? It seems grim and hopeless… so clearly something interesting must happen, because Jon and Sam and everyone else dying and the raiders rampaging southward seems too boring.

I suddenly realised we haven’t seen Bran Stark for a long time. He’s off wandering somewhere north of the Wall, looking for the three-eyed raven with Jojen and Meera Reed. And Hodor. And Rickon, right? Oh… (searching through my notes on past episodes)… no, the last we saw of Rickon was when he went off under Osha’s care, way back in Episode 9 of Season 3, almost a whole season ago. Huh. So we haven’t seen Osha or Rickon for ages. I wonder what they’re up to.

Moat Cailin: There’s a new place in the map in the opening credits, Moat Cailin. I don’t recognise the name, but it becomes clear in a scene with Ramsay Snow and Theon Greyjoy that this is the castle he wants Theon to help capture, mentioned two episodes ago. Ramsay has Theon go through his “deception”. Theon has been brainwashed to think of himself as Reek, but Ramsay wants him to pretend to be Theon Greyjoy and infiltrate the castle. This should be easy, since he really is Theon Greyjoy!

He goes into the castle, and finds it full of men on their last legs, succumbing to illness from a siege. They are Ironborn, from the Iron Islands, subjects of his father. He is their prince! He brings a deal from the besieging Ramsay. If they surrender the castle, Ramsay will guarantee their freedom and passage to the coast, where they can board ships home. This appeals to the men, and they agree. And then the next thing we see, Ramsay is celebrating his conquest of Moat Cailin by killing all the men who surrendered. Even this doesn’t force Theon to remember who he really is.

Roose Bolton, Ramsay’s father, arrives and is pleased with what Ramsay has done. They walk the hills together, and Roose shows Ramsay the extent of the lands of The North, stretching hundreds of miles in all directions. And Roose is Warden of the North, and now since his bastard son Ramsay has proved himself, he tells Ramsay he is no longer Ramsay Snow, but Ramsay Bolton, his heir. Looking back through some of my notes for previous episodes, I see that this was all set up back in Episode 2 of this season, when Roose explicitly gave Ramsay the challenge of capturing Moat Cailin, with the reward of being made his legitimate son.

A digression on the surname of “Snow”. Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s bastard son, and Ramsay Snow is Roose Bolton’s bastard son. It’s never been explained (that I can remember) whether “Snow” is a pseudo-surname used by all bastards in the North, or if – an intriguing possibility – both Ned Stark and Roose Bolton had flings with a woman named Snow, whose surname the two bastard sons adopted. If this is the case, then perhaps Jon and Ramsay are half-brothers! I don’t actually think this is likely – it’s more likely I’ve missed some explanation of the surname somewhere.

The Eyrie: Petyr Baelish appears before Lord Royce and a couple of other old people. They are apparently suspicious of Petyr’s story that Lysa committed suicide by jumping through the Moon Door. Especially given Petyr’s status as a foreigner and brothel owner. Royce asks if there was any witness, and Petyr mentions his “niece”, i.e. Sansa. Royce wants to hear her story. Petyr offers to get her, but Royce says no, he doesn’t want Petyr to feed her a story. Sansa is brought in and Royce questions her.

Sansa horrifies Petyr by saying she isn’t his niece, she’s Sansa Stark, daughter of Ned Stark, Lord of the North, and actually the niece of Lysa. Well, you know Petyr is horrified inside, but he plays it cool. But Sansa doesn’t spill all the beans. She tells Royce that Lysa was obsessive and unstable, and after Petyr married her, she saw him kissing her (all true so far)… but it was just a quick uncley peck on the cheek (false!). She says Lysa was so unhinged with jealousy that she confronted Petyr and then flung herself through the Moon Door. Petyr breathes a sigh of relief, as Royce now believes his story.

But Petyr is mystified as to why Sansa protected him. He asks her about it later. She says that if she told the truth, they would have executed Petyr, and then she had no idea what they would do to her. Then she says, “But I know what you want”. Whoa… all of a sudden Sansa is cunning?? Where did this come from? Does she really think she now has blackmail material on Petyr, and will be able to control him? Petyr is too smart for that. This feels like Sansa making a huge mistake.

Then a bit later, Petyr is talking to Robin, Lysa’s Joffrey-esque brat. Petyr tells Robin he is now the Lord of The Eyrie, and he has to go out and learn how to ride horses and swing swords. Robin seems a bit afraid, having lived his bratty life in luxury up to now. This feels like Petyr setting the wheels in motion to have Robin “accidentally” fall off a horse or something. And then Sansa appears… whoa, she’s dressed more seductively and looks 5 years older. What the hell?? This is really doing my head in. I never pictured Sansa as having any worldliness or sophistication to take this direction. I have no idea what she’s up to, and I suspect neither does she. She’s only going to get herself into trouble, I fear.

But maybe help is on the way soon. Because Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and Arya are approaching The Eyrie, along the same ravine that Petyr led Sansa a few days ago. They are challenged by the guards, and Sandor says who he is, and that he is bringing Arya to be ransomed by her aunt Lysa. The guards tell him that Lysa committed suicide three days ago. Arya cracks up laughing. I guess in her situation you may as well laugh or you’ll end up crying.

I would guess that Arya enters The Eyrie and meets up with Sansa; they’re so close to each other now. I guess Petyr would pay the ransom. But who knows? Or will Sandor do something more rash now that he thinks the ransom might not be paid? Are Sansa and Arya going to be kept apart after coming so close again?

Note added in a later edit: I forgot, at one point Sandor winced at the bite wound he sustained in the last episode, and Arya says, “You should have let me burn it.” This seems like foreshadowing of Sandor falling ill with infection, and quite possibly dying from it. Infection felled the mighty Khal Drogo, it could claim another victim here.

King’s Landing: Tyrion’s trial by combat is held, in the same square where Joffrey was poisoned. Prince Oberyn is not armoured, to the shock of Tyrion, but Oberyn says he prefers freedom of movement. Gregor “The Mountain Clegane appears in full armour, wielding a huge sword. The fight begins, with Oberyn wielding a a sort of blade on a long pole. He does move freely, dancing around acrobatically and evading Gregor’s mightily swung sword. Oberyn starts taunting Gregor, demanding that he admit to raping and killing his sister, and then murdering her children. Oberyn wants to kill Gregor, but he wants to hear the confession first. He gets a few hits on Gregor, and hamstrings him, so Gregor falls to the ground. Then he plunges his weapon deep into Gregor’s chest.

Oberyn can make the killing blow as Gregor gurgles blood on the ground. But no, Oberyn makes his demand again. He wants to hear the confession. Silly man. Suddenly Gregor swings his sword, knocking Oberyn off his feet. Gregor leaps and jumps on Oberyn, grabbing his head in his huge meaty hands. He presses his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyes, and Oberyn starts screaming. Gregor says, “I raped your sister, I killed her, I murdered her children.” And then he crushes Oberyn’s skull in an explosion of blood. Then Gregor collapses on the ground next to him.

Wow, gruesome. When you seek revenge, first dig two graves. Oberyn, you fool. You could have won, you could have had your vengeance, but you pushed your luck too far. And you didn’t just lose for yourself. With Oberyn dead, Tywin rules that Tyrion has lost the trial by combat, and is sentenced to execution.

Okay, I don’t know how Tyrion can get out of this. I kind of assume he must, because he seems pretty much like the major character of the entire series. But then I thought that about Ned Stark, and look what happened to him. So maybe Tyrion is going to get his head chopped off in the next episode. If anything can save him, I expect it’s going to have to be something huge, like an attack on King’s Landing, either by Stannis or Daenerys. But I don’t think either is in a position to get here fast enough. I hope Tyrion survives – I like him. I guess we’ll see.

But there’s another complication here. Cersei had previously asked Oberyn to take a ship to her daughter Myrcella, in exile (Episode 5 of this season 4). But now he can’t do it… and it’s virtually by Cersei’s own hand. She wanted Tyrion to die, but now one of the side-effects is that Oberyn died along the way. This makes me wonder why the story has her asking Oberyn to do this. If Oberyn can’t do it, why bother making a point of showing us this little bit of story? There must be some reason for it. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Myrcella or that ship that Cersei wants to send to her.

2 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 8 “The Mountain and the Viper””

  1. Glen says:

    The reason Jorah needed a pardon was Jorah had sold captives into slavery; this is a serious crime in Westeros (though I get the impression Jorah thinks it was justified in the circumstances). He went into exile to escape Ned Stark’s justice (i.e. execution). Brief reference is made to these events once or twice earlier in the show, I think it is mentioned by Jorah at one point, and also by Ned in a different scene, though these mentions would be easy enough to miss or forget about, especially given the long period since they would have been mentioned. [btw, Jorah’s father, Jeor Mormont was Lord Commander of the Nights Watch; Jeor made reference to this disgrace on his house when he gave Longclaw to Jon — Longclaw is the Mormont family’s Valyrian steel sword that Jorah left behind when he fled Westeros.]

  2. Lauri T. says:

    I believe Jorah actually makes a reference to his crime in the episode immediately before this one, in the scene where he persuades Daenerys to show leniency to the Masters of Yunkai. I don’t remember exactly how he puts it, but basically he’s saying that he was a slaver too but she gave him a second chance, so why shouldn’t the Masters get one too.

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