So much to talk about with our return to Westeros. We have betrayals old (and newly discovered) and new, the return of our favorite crazy redhead, promises kept, perfect lies, and the fate of two second-borne sons. More after the break.
Our episode opens in Mole’s Town, where some errant Night’s Watchmen are playing the favorite game of the North: Burp Karaoke!
The debauchery is loud, gross, and makes you wonder exactly how stupid Sam is for leaving Gilly and child there for protection. We find her, doing the laundry and dealing with the abuse and threats of Mole’s Town’s finest Burpstress, until some suspicious owl calls fill the kitchen, and before you know it, Thormund, Ygritte, and the Thenns are slaughtering Night’s Watch, whores, and servants a-plenty. Ygritte in particular seems to be on a mission, as her woman scorned routine hasn’t faded in the weeks since we’ve seen her last. A little bit of Jon may have rubbed off on her though, for when she comes upon Gilly and baby Sam hiding, she shushes them and shuts the door as protection against her murderous kinsman.
We’re unsure whether that protection worked, however, as the scene switches to Castle Black where an even more dolorous Dolorous Ed is sitting in mournful shiva with Sad Sam, Joyless Jon Snow, and some other Night’s Watchmen. Ed is mourning their brothers slaughtered at Mole’s Town, Sam regretting leaving Tilly behind, blaming himself for her apparent death. Ed, in an abrupt change of character that might indicate head trauma, becomes the optimistic one for a moment, pointing out Gilly’s resourcefulness and ability to survive Craster’s, the walk to the wall, and several weeks surrounded by potential rapists at Castle Black. Jon of course has to bring everyone back down, by reminding everyone that if Mole’s Town fell, than Castle Black isn’t far behind, which means Mance’s attack is imminent. We’re left with the reminder that there are a little more than one hundred men defending the castle, against an army of 100,000.
I’m a little concerned about the storyline, mostly with how many marauders managed to get south of the wall and how easily they’re moving. If the Wildlings could so easily get dozens over the wall in a few weeks, and can rampage through the north with just this crew, why do they even need an army of 100,000. I know the idea is to make the situation look as dire as possible, but I’m having a hard time suspending disbelief. And I think Jon and friends are going to have to pull one heck of a lead-lined refrigerator to get out of this one.
Or maybe they can get super-spy Reek on the job. Ramsey has sent the Manchurian Greyjoy into Moat Cailin bearing a white flag and truce terms. The Iron-Bound who hold the fort are dying from hunger and disease by the dozens, but their leader is unimpressed, spitting blood into Theon’s face. Theon begins to fall apart, and Alfie Allen does another spectacular job, his face trembling, sheer panic in his eyes. Luckily, the rest of the Iron-Bound have other ideas, and they mutiny, the temptation of free passage too great to resist. They must not have watched last season, else they would have known that crazy Bolton Bastards have a different definition of truth, and the Iron-Bound are slaughtered and flayed according to the old Bolton customs.
Another Bolton custom appears to be following through on promises made to crazy Bastard Bolton’s because Roose Bolton is very pleased with his son. So much so that he informs a shocked Ramsey that he is a Snow no more. Roose has given Ramsey his name and legacy, essentially giving him all he promised. It’s an interesting contrast to Jon Snow and Ned Stark – or more specifically Catelyn Stark – who had promised the gods she’d ask Ned to share his name with Jon, then found she couldn’t relent.
And over at the castle with the highest insurance rates…
…Petyr Baelish stands before the heads of the Houses of the Vale who are skeptical about his claims that Lysa Arryn took a long walk out a short moon door on suicidal impulse. And they want to hear from the other witness to Lysa’s fall, Baelish’s sweet, simple “niece” Alayne (we know her as Sansa). Littlefinger is understandably nervous, since we’ve seen entire monologues over the past four seasons about Sansa’s inability to lie. She enters, and right off the bat confesses to the council that she’s living a lie (I’m pretty sure Littlefinger soiled his smallclothing at this point). She’s really Sansa Stark and Lord Baelish has been lying to them. She then goes on to explain that Littlefinger was the only thing keeping her safe in Kings Landing, and everything he’s done was to protect her. And while at this point she hasn’t really lied, she moves on to explain that her Aunt Lysa grew jealous when she saw Petyr give Sansa a chaste kiss, and leaped out the moon door despite Baelish’s best attempts to talk her down. She finishes her performance with a storm of tears that seals the deal.
Later, as she sews, Littlefinger asks why she helped him and she answers simply if she didn’t, they would have killed him and she had no idea what it would happen to her. Baelish appears interested in Sansa’s sudden willingness to play the game, and when he asks “do you know what I want” she responds “I know exactly what you want” and casts a glance that makes me worry she’s now willing to give it to him. Later still, after Baelish convinces the Lord of the Vale that Robyn would be best touring the countryside, letting the people see their new ruler, we see Sansa again, wearing a very adult looking dress with a look that states she has moved past childish games and desires. I have to confess, I hope I’m misreading this, but it looks like our little Sansa may have embraced the dark and slutty side.
A little ways away from the Aerie, we find the buddy cop team of Arya and the Hound, talking amiably about their favorite subjects (poison, blades, murder). It looks like the Hound is finally going to get his gold, and Arya something like home. Unfortunately, just like their journey to the twins, they’re a little too late; and as Arya is informed that her aunt has died, she breaks into bright hysterical laughter that echoes off the cliffs. Looks like we’re going to get that “Game of Thrones” spinoff announcement any day now… that is if the Hound can keep his filthy hands away from the infected wound in his neck.
Across the narrow sea we first find Grey Worm enjoying some leisure time, bathing, and watching a naked Missandei. She catches him watching, and appears both flattered and concerned before Grey Worm disappears beneath the water. Later, she asks her queen for advice, assuring Daenerys that Grey Worm’s interest wasn’t passing, that she saw desire despite the gelding that comes with becoming Unsullied. Dany wonders whether the Unsullied has both the pillar and the stones removed, and setting us up for the possibility of romance. Grey Worm and Missandei meet again, and he gives an impassioned speech that says that he’s glad he was cut. For if he hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have been Unsullied, he wouldn’t have met Danaeryus Stormborn and joined her army, and he never would have had a chance to see Missandei. It was touching, delivered haltingly but with dignity by yet another great GOT actor, Jacob Anderson.
Alas, all is not romance across the narrow sea. A young boy delivers a message marked with the Hand of the King and finds a pardon issued to Jorah Mormont for services rendered. He confronts Jorah, let’s him know he brought it to him first, but he would never let him alone near the queen again. Jorah is summoned, and through tears tries to explain to an angry Dany how it started, how all that was before he knew what she means to him, how this is a trick by Tywin Lannister to drive them apart. She exiles Jorah, stating he will be killed if he steps foot in her city again. The last we see of Jorah is him riding away surrounded by the obligatory depressing departing guy music. I’m not sure what the show runners have in store for him, but I’ve a feeling Jorah isn’t going to go down without a fight. Inhabitants of the friend-zone rarely do.
Ah, but everything until this point has only been leading up to one thing. The Dual. The Viper and the Mountain. Spider-man speed vs. Hulk Smash strength. But first we have to sit through Tyrion and Jaime musing on the various words used for killing someone (we discovered there is no word for cousin-cide), family history, and a five minute dissertation on why one of their Special Needs kinsman killed beetles. I’m fairly certain that we were supposed to enjoy the metaphor between Cousin Olson killing beetles and the rich and powerful killing the weak, but by that point I had waited 52 minutes for a dual, so it didn’t really resonate.
The horns that blew though did resonate, and soon enough Tyrion was standing by Oberyn’s side, begging him to take the Mountain seriously, and to stop drinking before the match. Oberyn for his part was confident, reminding us that “size doesn’t matter when you’re flat on your back.” The dual begins, with Oberyn moving, taunting the Mountain, trying to get him to confess that he raped and killed Elia and her children. At first it seems The Mountain’s size and brute strength are a match for the Vipers speed and skill, even breaking one of Oberyn’s spears. But eventually, a blade between plates of armor, a flick of the spear removes a helmet and slices the neck, and suddenly, shockingly Oberyn gains the upper-hand and thrusts the spear through the Mountain’s gigantic belly. It looks like justice is served, the gods have spoken, and Tyrion will be free.
Unfortunately, Oberyn’s anger, his obsession with gaining justice and learning the truth about his sister leads to his downfall. He doesn’t finish off the Mountain, instead, he continues to dance around him, demanding he confess…most importantly, demanding he admit Tywin Lannister’s role in the massacre. Oberyn lets his guard down, and the Mountain moves, grabs the fleet Dornishman and brings him to the ground. He grasps the head of the Viper, screaming curses and informing him he did kill Elia and the children. And as his thumbs burrow deep into Oberyn’s eye sockets filling them with blood, the Mountain screams that he crushed her head and proceeds to do the same to Oberyn, exploding his skull with brute strength as Ellaria Sand screams in horror and loss and Tyrion sees all hope of his freedom fading away. Over the screams we hear Tywin’s voice, declaring that Tyrion has been found guilty and would be sentenced to death.
I’m only left to wonder, what in seven hells has to happen in episode 8 to top this. Yeesh.