Once again, Twitter is providing some great openers for an episode that could best be described as mind blowing.
The Mountain and The Viper is an episode I’ve been waiting for since around Season 2 and I was absolutely not disappointed when this week delivered one of the best episode’s in the series so far.
It would have been easy to base close-to-half the episode around the showdown between Oberyn Martell and The Mountain Who Rides. Although the show settled for reserving Tyrion’s trial by combat as the episode’s closing act, The Mountain and The Viper was no weaker for it with a great moments across the board for its southern subplots. This episode really brought things together in terms of its southern plotlines and also did a great job of setting the stage for next week’s hour long showdown at The Wall.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
Given the expectations surrounding next week’s successor to Season 2’s phenomenal Blackwater, it was good to see the episode start shaking things up for the Night’s Watch with Mole’s Town being raided by Wildings. I really liked the chaotic style of this sequence and it was neat to see the scene revolve around Gilly and her place in all this.
Rose Leslie plays her role as Ygritte perfectly here and it’s a shame how little we’ve really gotten of her in this season. I had hoped she would end up being our eyes and ears for the wilding raiders, but things really haven’t worked out that way. Anyway, I dug Ygritte’s small moment of mercy and it’ll be great to see things come together with next week’s episode, The Watchers on The Walls.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been pretty ambivalent when it comes to Dany’s plotline this season but I thought this week’s installment was actually really strong when it came to the Mereen plotline. Grey Worm and Missandei did a good job of holding up a subplot together while the division between Dany and Jorah took centre stage.
In what was some of Emilia Clarke’s best work this season, Dany let loose at Jorah and banished him from her service. It was poetic and cool to see his actions in Season 1 finally come to haunt him – a predicament not necessarily unique to Jorah this season but cool to see nonetheless. A silver lining of this of course is that we’ll get to see the criminally underused Iain Glen get some screentime with some of the show’s brilliant other actors.
The other big subplot this week brought Reek, Ramsay and Roose into play with the Bastard of Bolton finally shedding his low-birth title after he uses Theon to capture Moat Cailin. Iwan Rheon continues to do a phenomenal job as Ramsay Snow and his chemistry Michael McElhatton continues to be superb. It’ll be interesting to see where their plotline goes from here with Ramsay alluding to the Bolton’s making a move their ‘new home’ as Wardens of the North.
I really dug the visual design for Moat Cailin and the shots of Theon’s approach to the castle were some of the most breathtaking in the episode (and they actually formed a nice mirror of Jorah’s departure). Alfie Allen consolidated his status as best Reek that book-fans could hope for this week. He did a good job of Reek playing Theon and it was fascinating to watch it all peel away when things started to not go his way.
The Mountain and The Viper also followed up on it’s predecessor’s big event – the death of Lysa Arryn. Given his talent of seeming suspicious of all times, Littlefinger is being interrogated by the lords of The Vale to determine whether he was responsible for Lysa’s death. Although watching Littlefinger flawlessly spin a web of manipulation over the lords was fun to watch, it was Sansa’s role in the trial as a wildcard that was great to see here.
As of this week, Sansa has now surpassed her book counterpart and entered the game of thrones as a player in her own right. Her bold choice to reveal herself to the lords of The Vale here not only won her their support, it also placed Littlefinger in her debt. In a bizarre turning of the tables, Sansa now understands how to manipulate both Littlefinger as well as the lords and ladies of The Vale. It seems like Sansa is done being a victim and I can’t wait to see where thing go from here.
Arya’s screentime this week was relatively subdued but the scene where she and The Hound arrived at the Vale of Arryn only to discover that Lysa has died definitely earned its place here. Given the symmetry of this scene to her tragic near-miss with Catelyn during the Red Wedding, it was hard to join in the hilarity of Arya’s mad cackle at the absurdity of the moment.
While Jorah’s departure, Sansa’s power plays and Oberyn’s clash with Gregor Clegane were all handled incredibly well this week, it’s quite possible that this week could go down as the week Game of Thrones devoted ten minutes talking about beetles. Although the conversation was definitely a nice send-off to this intimate jail-cell conversations between Jaime and Tyrion we’ve gotten this season, it also functioned as a brilliant prelude and parallel to Oberyn’s own arc.
Like I’ve said (probably too) many times, I have been waiting the showdown between The Red Viper of Dorne and Gregor Clegane for a long time and the show’s adaption of the pivotal scene did not disappoint. The choreography and direction for this sequence was top-notch and the show captured the edge-of-your-seat excitement and then utter traumatic horror that I remembered from reading things unfold in the book.
Oberyn danced around Gregor with almost superhuman style and it was cathartic to see the Red Viper tear one of the series greatest monsters to bits. It was made very clear that while The Mountain is one of the most fearsome warriors in Westeros, Oberyn is on a whole other level – something made all the more tragic when his obsession with extracting a confession gets him killed.
Plenty of other reviews have already gone on about the use of gore and special effects during this sequence and while I do commend their commitment to making Oberyn’s death as spectacularly brutal as possible, it’s hard not to note the contagious horror that Ellaria Sands’ scream brings.
I can’t emphasize how impressed I was on a second viewing, when I noticed the precise moment that Oberyn turns the trial from a fight to a public message and seals his fate. The show’s adaption of the scene was shock and awe in the best way possible and I can’t wait to see how the series will handle the next two episodes.