Game of Thrones 4×08: “The Mountain and the Viper”

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*WARNING: Spoilers ahead … Read only if you have already watched*

One word: nausea — the only suitable word to describe Episode 8 of “Game of Thrones.” Nausea from extreme shock; nausea from extreme grotesque; nausea from extreme sadness. On “The Mountain and the Viper” Westeros is, per usual, swallowed up in violence: the Wildlings invade Mole’s Town and slaughter scores; Ramsay Snow/Bolton (Iwan Rheon) kills and tortures a battalion of Iron Born, skinning one of them presumably alive; and the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, (Hafthor Julius Bjornsson) faces off against the Viper, Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), for Tyrion’s Trial by Combat. Equally heartbreaking: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) banishes Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) upon discovering that he once worked as a spy in the employ of Varys (Conleth Hill) sending information about Khaleesi to King’s Landing. Poor Ser Jorah. Forever in the friend/enemy (frenemy?) zone.

In the Eyrie, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) takes a dramatic turn, lying about the circumstances of Lysa Arryn’s (Kate Dickie) death to protect Arryn’s murderer Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen). Sansa bursts into tears when recounting her aunt Lysa’s death but her piercing blue eyes and smirk reveal her cunning. Years of living as a captor and a “play thing for Joffrey” in King’s Landing have taught Sansa well: she must take her fate into her own hands, by any means necessary. Trust few, avoid honesty and always be three steps ahead. No longer will Sansa be a pawn in the games of men — she is now Littlefinger’s accomplice, poised to climb the infamous ladder of chaos and power alongside him. Put simply, Sansa has embraced the dark side.

There are plenty of important scenes in last night’s episode that deserve to be discussed: Ramsay earning his proper “Bolton” title in reward for his cruelty towards the Iron Born or Arya finally reaching the Vale only to learn of Lysa’s death (HOW CUTE WAS THAT LAUGH? UGH PERFECT!). However, the real meat of “The Mountain and the Viper” is, as its title suggests, the epic battle between the Mountain and the Viper in King’s Landing. You know that burp-vomit taste you get in your mouth sometimes? Yeah, this thing. Well, if you’re looking to avoid that, “then you’ve come to the wrong place.” Tyrion’s Trial by Combat is the most gruesome and most explicit scene yet in the entire series. A great one to watch while eating!

At first, it seems Oberyn is poised to win: he toys with the Mountain like a snake (viper) playing with its food. He dances around him, taunting him and telling him to confess to the murder and rape of Oberyn’s sister. “You raped my sister. You murdered her. You killed her children.” Oberyn tells Clegane. “Say it now and we can make this quick.” Bam bam bam, a few blows to the chest and leg, knock the Mountain over.

But Oberyn is a prideful fool. Overwhelmed with passion, Oberyn underestimates the Mountain’s resilience and, having dealt him a near-fatal blow, parades around his body while delivering a passionate monologue about revenge. Stupid Oberyn! Stupid stupid Oberyn! The Mountain did not earn his title as the most feared fighter in all of Westeros by being put down by a few blows of a spear. I mean, c’mon man, he smashed your nephew’s skull in with his bare hands! Mid-sentence, the Mountain trips Oberyn, grabs him by the neck, punches out all of his teeth, pushes his eyeballs into his head and squeezes his head with such force that it explodes. The scene is as gross as it sounds: scrambled Oberyn brains with a side of teeth for Tyrion’s last meal. NO SUBSTITUTES! GRATUITY WILL BE ADDED FOR PARTIES OF 6 OR MORE!

And just like that, Tyrion’s Trial by Combat ends. His victor has lost and he is sentenced to death for regicide. :( :( :( :( :( :( :(  It should be noted: after Oberyn is killed, the Mountain does not stand up but rather rolls over onto his back. This is an interesting but subtle conclusion to the scene. Considering Oberyn was a master of poisons, might he have used a poisoned spear in order to guarantee the Mountain’s death? If that is the case and the Mountain dies, what then happens to Tyrion? What are the exact rules for Trial by Combat anyways?

And for some deeper, more insightful commentary, we turn to Twitter: