Ramsey Bolton uses Theon to persuade the Iron Islanders at Moat Cailin to surrender, after one of the Islanders splits the noggin of their defiant commander in two with an ax. Fickle bunch, these Islanders are. Ramsey, of course, flays the whole lot of ‘em in truly bloody fashion, earning him the castle and the new-found acceptance—and surname—of his father, Roose Bolton. To think, on another planet, earning the last name of “Bolton” would be cause for shame and embarrassment. “Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks!”
Back in the Vale, Baelish is being questioned about the Lisa Arryn moon-door-pushing by the ruling council. Sansa’s their star witness, their Colonel Jessup, their Mona Lisa Vito. Instead of condemning Baelish, though, she saves him, spinning a tale with a good ¾ of the truth, but persuading the court that Lysa jumped to her death in a fit of madness. She sells it, and they believe her. “Better to gamble on a man you know than the strangers you don’t,” Baelish says to her later, acknowledging her burgeoning political acumen. She’s already avoiding the mistakes her father made. The last scene presents a suddenly vixen-like Sansa heading out to tour the kingdom with Robyn and Baelish. Boy, no character’s changed as much this season as Sansa has, and it’s been great to see. Can’t really roll your eyes at her anymore.
Meanwhile, we’re so close to another family reunion—as the Hound and Arya arrive at the vale only to find that Lysa Arryn is dead. The hound gets that Spinal Tap-seeing-Stonehenge shocked expression, while Arya just bursts out laughing. Priceless. Like Jorah, they’re left without options. Maybe they’re all destined to meet.
Finally, after 45 minutes and another long jailhouse chat between Tyrion and Jamie—featuring an extended, delicious Tyrion monologue / anecdote about a deranged cousin and his penchant for squishing beetles—we get to the real showdown. Oberyn is dressed light, with more alcohol in him than armor on him, and spins around a spear like Darth Maul. The Mountain has a Panzer tank’s worth of metal on his titanic frame and wields a sword the size of Connecticut. The classic matchup—speed versus brawn.
For a while, speed prevails. Oberyn, whirling and spinning in the air with an acrobat’s flair, dodges, ducks, dips, dives and dodges out of the swings of the mountain’s huge sword, taunting him with his litany of crimes all the while. No way, he can’t actually win, can he?, is the expression on Tyrion’s face—and, probably, the line running through the head of everyone watching. After that, Oberyn gets a few good slices and a stomach-stab to the chest of the suddenly-mortal Mountain, and we’ve got our “The Russian is cut!” moment of this match (with appropriate acknowledgement to Bill Simmons). Hot damn, we’re gonna win this thing! Will Tyrion actually survive this?
Leave it to “Thrones” to sucker-punch us just when we think there’s going to be a little light in our lives. One massive Mountain fist around Oberyn’s leg and a brutal punch to his jaw later, and Oberyn’s teeth are gone in a bloody Tic-Tac shower and the whole thing’s just about over. All that’s left is one of the goriest scenes in the history of …anything, really, as the Mountain squishes Oberyn’s eyes and sinuses with those two big thumbs and bashes the rest of his skull over the stone battle area, leaving it a soup of brains and blood. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen too many things—in any medium—that were more viscerally disturbing than that scene. The episode closed on Tyrion’s face, jaw dropped in shock and dread. It’s a good bet that most of the people watching the show had the same countenance. I know I did. It feels like the Mountain worked all of us over. Why the hell do we keep subjecting ourselves to this, year after year? Sigh. I’m depressed. It’s okay to start drinking at 10:00 on a Sunday, right?
Other thoughts, as I wonder how I can use “the pillar and the stones” at my next meeting at work:
- Any way we can get Donald Sterling in a trial by combat? No?
- Won’t it be great to see Winterfell not on fire in the opening credits someday?
- The last battle so traumatized one of my roommates she immediately fled to her room to “watch something happy.” I might have to send her an edible arrangement or something.
- Jon Favreau was on the Nerdist podcast a few weeks ago, and the first twenty minutes of so feature his thoughts on “Game of Thrones.” He’s a fascinating guy and a great interview, and he really gets right to the heart of the show’s success. Well worth a listen.
- Glimpsed some seriously fantastic “Thrones”-inspired T-shirts at the American Craft Beer Fest on Saturday at the Seaport, especially this “Winterfell Beer” T-shirt. Sadly, the Ommegang booth had none of the “Thrones”-inspired beer there. More than made up for it elsewhere.
- This picture of David Bradley (best known for playing Walder Frey) holding up a “Weddings For Dummies” book with a fan is just great.
- Another great link from the Winter is Coming website: fight night posters for the Oberyn—Mountain match.
- Next week: “The Watchers on the Wall,” written by Benioff and Weiss and directed by Neil Marshall—the feature-film director (“The Descent”) who also helmed a little episode called “Blackwater.” Judging by the name of the episode and the pedigree of the man behind the camera, it’s easy to predict that next week will bring on the wildling assault on The Wall. Odds are that the entire episode will chronicle the battle, just like “Blackwater” did. This one should be jaw-dropping. Get excited, folks—“Thrones” is surpassing itself every week, and next week’s could be pretty legendary.
Follow Michael Nadeau on Twitter at @ElDu.
‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: Episode 8, ‘The Mountain and The Viper’ – Boston.com
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