Spoiler Alert: Once again, they will be coming right from the start.
After reading Martin’s account of the Trial by Battle for the life of Tyrion Lannister, I had to go back. I had to make sure I read the account correctly. Did the Mountain really kill the Red Viper? Did the pride of Oberyn Martel to hear a confession from Gregor Clegane really lead to his death and further mean our beloved Tyrion was sentenced to death as well? On second reading, the answer was yes. And so a character which such promise was lost after just a portion of chapters in the books and less than a season on television. I was certain that Martin had a long term plan for this new character only to have any potential long term plans developing in my mind squelched quickly by Martin’s desire to go the complete opposite way of what the expected result should be. And not only go in the opposite direction, but do it in the most brutal way possible (and Oberyn’s brutal death was portrayed very accurately to the way it was portrayed in the book). But at this point, we should not be disappointed. Yes, we can mourn understandably for the Red Viper and his failed attempt to avenge his sister, niece, and nephew. But what we love about Martin is his willingness to do the thing we lest expect him to do, keeping us surprised and keeping the results of the show unpredictable. And Martin has a way of taking stories to significantly better places than we thought they could go.
But while the battle between the Mountain and the Viper was the main event, let’s not forgot about the Wildlings (the show sure seemed to for a while) moving closer still to the Wall. The Bolton’s now rule the North and there were significant happenings in Meereen (finally!!!!) as Dany had to release one of her most trusted allies. And we also get the answer to the question “Is it possible for a eunuch to love?”
At and Near the Wall
Important rule to remember whenever watching Game of Thrones: If people are enjoying themselves or doing something that a normal person or group of people would be doing in the Middle Ages, they are about to die. The brothel in Molestown is like the abandoned bunk at a Summer Camp in a horror movie where two teenagers are having sex, so you know they are about to die. Everyone is happy and drunk until Thormund Giantsbane, Ygritte, and company show up and start slaughtering everyone they see. That is, until Ygritte sees Gilly with her baby. She tells them to be quiet and moves on, sparing the mother and son. Do you remember Ygritte? You know, the redhead that used to be on Downton Abbey that slept with Jon Snow last season? I just thought I’d remind since it seems like a long time since we’ve seen her.
At the wall, Jon (who knows nothing) and his friends on the wall have heard about the attack and know they are next. Sam is regretting the decision that, if he would have just asked us all, we could have told him not to send Gilly to that brothel. I wonder when he will find out that Gilly is ok and how will she respond to Sam sending her away? The brothers also discuss their numbers. They believe 100,000 wildlings are coming compared to a little over 100 brothers of the Night’s Watch. Dolorous Edd gives the best suggestion, recommending that the last man alive “burn us all.” I don’t think I have to say why at this point.
It’s bathing time for Dany’s servants and Grey Worm has an eye for a naked Missandei. Wait a minute-isn’t Grey Worm missing the thing he’s supposed to have to be attracted to women? He later apologizes, admitting he has a very odd affection towards Missandei. Though these are minor characters, I do love the interactions between these two.
Later, Barristen receives a letter. It is a pardon Ser Jorah received back when Robert Baratheon was king. Going back to season one, Ser Jorah had been spying on Daenarys for Varys. Because of this, he had knowledge of an assassination attempt that he saved her from. But now the spying has caught up to Ser Jorah. Barristen takes the letter to him, giving him the chance to explain it to Daenarys himself.
Despite begging for forgiveness, Daenarys can no longer trust him and commands him to leave Meereen. More on this later.
It’s time for Theon to show his loyalty, which surprisingly doesn’t take much. He only has to take Ramsey’s terms to Moat Cailin and give them the option to surrender or be overthrown. The men at Moat Cailin are very sick and low in numbers, so when the commander refuses, he receives an ax in his head. That doesn’t stop Ramsey from killing the men anyway because he is a twisted freak. I really thought that would be more difficult. But apparently, it was enough for Ramsey’s name to change from Snow to Bolton as Roose and his son now rule the North.
Petyr Baelish is on trial as the important lords (and lady) of the Vale try and determine if he was responsible for Lysa Aryn’s death. The only person they can turn to is Sansa for the truth and Sansa proceeds to tell them everything she’s been through, including who she really is. Well, almost everything. She does leave out that little part where Petyr was the one who pushed Lysa through the moon door, not that Lysa jumped herself. Apparently, Sansa would rather work with Lord Baelish because she “knows what he wants” and doesn’t know what the leading houses of the Vale would do with her. Lord Littlefinger also uses their hatred of the Lannisters to convince the lord and lady of the Vale (more on them later) that he should take Lord Robyn under his wing and teach him how to rule. And it would appear Sansa will be there to help him as well. We are used to seeing Sansa ready for a knight to come and sweep her off her feet. We’ve also seen frightened-for-her-life Sansa, saying what she needs to say to stay alive as all the other players in the game determine how best to use her as their pawn. But now it appears we will see scheming Sansa, who while somewhat a pawn in Lord Baelish’s game, is playing the role by her choosing and not reluctantly. And it only took four seasons for her to make a decision on her own. Well done, Sansa!!!
Only one Lannister sees Tyrion in his cell before the impending trial by combat. Jamie is the only one who ever cared for Tyrion, so it is fitting that he sits with him before the proceedings begin. They reminisce about their simple cousin who used to smash beetles all day and some other philosophical ramblings. Together they hear the summons, and Tyrion heads to the grounds where his fate will be decided.
Now for the main event!!! Tyrion is dismayed to see the Red Viper wearing no armor and drinking before the battle. Oberyn show boats, spinning around with his spear to get the crowd behind him. The Mountain goes straight ahead, establishing the strategies of the two combatants. Oberyn knocks off the Mountain’s helmet. But the Mountain is able to knock the spear out of Oberyn’s hands, forcing the Viper to scramble and retrieve the weapon. Martell appears to take the upper hand with a spear shot to the stomach then a shot to the leg, taking the Mountain to the ground. While on the ground, the Red Viper puts the spear in place and drives it in, but not far enough. Throughout the battle, Oberyn reminds the Mountain who the Red Viper’s sister was, saying “You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children.” And he doesn’t just want the Mountain to die, he wants a confession before he kills him. He does get that; instead, the Mountain swipes his leg out from under him, knocking him to the ground, and then proceeds to gouge Oberyn’s eyes out and crush his face, killing him in what might be the most gruesome death scene to date on Game of Thrones. And as the Mountain collapses, Tywin announces a death sentence over his son Tyrion as we fade to black.
Observations and Questions for Next Week
-The fight scene between Oberyn and the Mountain was as accurate to the book account as we have seen from the show. The only parts missing were the dialogue between Elaria Sand and Tyrion, who becomes quite confident in the Red Viper’s victory before his face is crushed in.
-I was surprised at how quickly Jorah’s dismissal from Daenarys’s service took place. I expected at least an episode or two of tension to rise between him and Dany or someone else close to her before she found the cause to dismiss him. But she did show some mercy allowing him to live at all considering the treasons he had committed.
-We also received a reminder that the Hound was bitten last week by Biter and that the wound is slowing him down. But I found his and Arya’s scene odd this week for a couple of reasons: 1. In the books, Arya and the Hound never make it to the Vale. Their journey gets sidetracked for another mission. 2. When it’s announced that Lady Lysa is dead, Arya laughs hysterically. While the reaction was quite humorous, further showing how cold Arya’s become, I would think this would get her killed by either the men of the Vale who served Lady Lysa or by the Hound, who now has no further use of her. I guess they have become true traveling companions after all.
-A couple of new characters were introduced this week in the Vale:
-Yohn Royce/Known as “Bronze Yohn” he is the head of House Royce, a noble house sworn to the Vale. His son was a member of the Night’s Watch who was killed by White Walkers in the first scene of the very first episode in Season 1.
-Anya Waynwood/ The widowed head of house Waynwood, another noble house sword to the Vale.
-Based on the preview, next week’s episode will be about the Wall. Here’s hoping all the walking in place the events at the wall have done this year pays off with a big episode. But don’t expect final resolution for Tyrion until episode 10. I could be wrong on this, but the preview for next week included only scenes from the wall, leaving little time for anything else of substance next week. And Tyrion’s story cannot just wrap itself up in a cliffnotes version. So the stage is yours, Jon Snow!!!
-I will close with a bold prediction: Episode ten will be better than episode nine this time around. Usually, the TV show likes to place their most epic climaxes in the ninth episode (Ned Stark’s beheading, Blackwater Bay, the Red Wedding). But while the battle at the Wall is important, there are significantly more plot twists left this season and they cannot all fit into next week. So look for episode 10 to be the more jaw dropping of the two this year.
(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jeff Merrick)