When I saw the title of this week’s episode, I was excited to see that my long-time dream of an Eminem and “Game of Thrones” collaboration was coming true. I’m sorry to report I was mistaken.
Season 4 Episode 7 of “Game of Thrones,” Mockingbird, is, like episodes prior, a conversation episode. Many small conversations about many big issues—from the discussion of Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) sorcery to the flirting-then-sexing between Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and ex-Fabio look alike Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein)—make “Mockingbird” a slow, but exciting episode. There are only a couple of guts spilled, just a pair or two of boobs shown and merely one major death—a commendable feat for HBO’s next-level soft-core porn series “Game of Thrones.”
Earlier in the series, Tywin (Charles Dance) told The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), “I always thought you had a talent for violence.” Two seasons later, Clegane’s violence is making a comeback: Cersei (Lena Headey) has chosen The Mountain as her champion in Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) trial by combat. Tyrion, who has seemingly dug himself into a hole so deep this may be his last problem he tries to wiggle out of; Bronn (Jerome Flynn) has moved on; Jaime refuses and is unable to fight; and The Mountain is one of the most notorious killers in Westeros. However, there is one man in King’s Landing who is willing to fight for Tyrion—a man who shares Tyrion’s enthusiasm for harlots and an eagerness to end The Mountain’s life: Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). Martell, who came to King’s Landing to avenge his sister’s death, volunteers to be Tyrion’s champion in the hopes of serving his own version of justice.
In Meeren, Daario is on an early morning walk of shame. Scratch that: the walk of pride: he f***** the Mother of Dragons! (Hey Jorah, I’m sorry bro. Really I am. I know all of your hopes and dreams were shattered because Dany chose ex-fake Fabio over you, but cheer up man, everything will be okay.)
In Stannis’s lair—which could really use some damn natural lighting—Melisandre makes a not-so-shocking confession: her religious displays of blackened fire and weird flame games have been nothing but tricks—I mean, illusions—making her less like a priestess and more like a really hot, really naked female Houdini.
In the Eyrie, PETYR KISSED SANSA PETYR KISSED SANSA LALALALALA! In what is yet another kind-of-incestuous-move, Littlefinger, who is now Sansa’s uncle by marriage, took her advances to the next level: he admits his lust for Sansa and kisses her. And in the Riverlands, The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisie Williams) continue to misread the map and walk in circles. Across Westeros, it’s apparent that Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) are becoming the counterparts to The Hound and Arya: they are both on a hunt for living Starks and, thanks to information revealed in this episode, both are headed to the Eyrie. Will The Hound and Brienne pull a Hagrid and Madame Maxime and find love at first site because big people need love too? Or will they be forced to face off in a battle once finally reaching the Eyrie?
While Oberyn’s promise to kill The Mountain and Cersei in the pursuit of justice may suggest that “Mockingbird” is another “Game of Thrones” episode about justice, in Episode 7, justice is merely a smaller part of a larger question: the importance of family. Throughout the season, the importance and role of family have been challenged time and time again. And as each episode passes, the familial tensions that run deep in Westeros escalate: Tyrion’s own sister is after his head yet his brother cannot step in to protect him; Melisandre’s earlier obsession with king’s blood is poised to resurface with her insistence that Stannis’s daughter accompany them; The Hound shows his softest, and most desperate side when confronted by Arya about his brother, The Mountain, and the scar he burned into The Hound’s face.
But nowhere is the question of the importance and role of family—specifically extended and marital—more important than in the Eyrie, Sansa’s new prison. The continued advances from Sansa’s now-uncle Petyr Baelish coupled with the cruelty from her only known living “relative with money,” Lysa Arryn, have already complicated the precarious role the family has played in Sansa’s life: most are dead, one is at the Watch, two are missing and the remaining is deranged with madness and attempts to kill her. Ironically, the only true friend of Sansa appears to be her husband, Tyrion—a member of the Stark’s sworn enemies. This only begins to crack the surface of the familial complexities that run deep in “Game of Thrones.”
Sansa is left without any blood relative other than her siblings, but the question remains: was she better off in the care of her demented aunt Lysa or in the hands of creepy accent-slaughterer Petyr Baelish? Similar questions can be asked about other characters: should Tyrion ally with somebody who is not a Lannister or trust that his brother will swoop in to protect him? Will Martell’s commitment avenge his family’s death lead to his own?
In the remaining episodes, we can expect most of these questions to be answered as, without doubt, some of our favorite characters are sure to parish. We shouldn’t expect another Red Wedding, but we should expect some significant deaths by the end of the season. After all, this is still the work of serial killer George R. R. Martin.
“Mockingbird” is the calm just before the storm—the moment before everything comes crashing down. While the scenes are slow and dialogue-driven, Episode 7 is simply the build up to a great ending. In the next episodes, we can expect the crescendo.