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Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 8, ‘The Mountain and the Viper’

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Game of Thrones, you’ve done it again.
An episode that will be remembered for a long time, “The Mountain and the Viper” featured the greatest one-on-one fight scene the show has delivered so far, the culmination of which was arguably the most graphic and gruesome death yet (no mean feat for this show).
This episode reinforced the show’s ability to shock, not just in terms of graphic violence, but in sudden, game-changing plot twists.
Game of Thrones is in many ways a revisionist approach to storytelling. What makes the story so effective is how it establishes classical narrative arcs and motivations, only to tip them on their heads and stomp on them violently. It takes delight in prodding us to believe that Ned Stark is the central hero, his son Robb’s rebellion is the central friction point in Westeros, or that any person, anywhere, is safe.
Few stories take such glee in making you fall in love with a character before destroying them in front of your eyes. Oberyn was perhaps not in the same league of importance as the deceased Starks, yet his anti-Lannister creed and defence of Tyrion quickly established him as a firm fan favourite. His cocky bravura won the audience over, yet in the end his head was smashed to a bloody pulp while his partner looked on in shocked horror.
Oberyn’s death also shows the futility of grand revenge schemes. It’s easy to get wrapped up into his Inigo Montoya-esque motif, but Oberyn’s quest was a flawed thirst for closure for his sister’s death. When presented with an opportunity to finish off Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane he hesitated, waiting for a confession that would implicate Tywin.
Game of Thrones continually reinforces the unintended consequences to the general population of the games of the high lords fighting for power. Oberyn, of course, is no mere beetle crushed under the Mountain’s palm. He is a prince of Dorne, and his death will undoubtedly cause further friction between the Martell clan and the Lannisters, whom the Martells already blame for Elia and her children’s deaths.
After the best of four seasons spent being the pawn in others’ games, Sansa is finally asserting her own role in the game. While she was in a position to have Petyr exposed for murdering Lysa, she instead lies to protect him. This not only because she takes a punt on the “devil you know”, but because she would be in a position of greater power and agency with Petyr.
In response to why he orchestrated the death of Joffrey earlier this season Petyr replied that if people didn’t know what you wanted, it was hard to for them to predict what you would do. Sansa has uncovered something Petyr wants, and she’s going to use whatever leverage she has to further her own interests. A parallel can be drawn to House of Cards’ Rachel and the leverage she attempts to gain over Doug through his attraction to her.
Tywin’s mysterious correspondence to Meereen is also unveiled. A pardon granted to Jorah for services rendered for spying on Daenerys is handed rather inauspiciously to Barristan. Jorah correctly surmises the sudden appearance of the pardon as a scheme of Tywin Lannister to weaken Daenerys’ support, yet is unable to mitigate the effect.
Exiling Jorah is a very tough decision made by Daenerys, one that further reinforces the idea that she bases many of her decisions on rash, short-term emotional judgements. Jorah was, as Daenerys noted not so long ago, her oldest, most trusted advisor.
Jorah’s exile also removes the greatest advocate of returning to Westeros quickly from Daenerys’ council, signally a further shift in Daenerys’ focus from launching a conquest of King’s Landing to stabilising her new anti-slavery world in Meereen.

One response to “Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 8, ‘The Mountain and the Viper’

  1. Despite all the other deaths that came before, I was secretly certain that my fav Tyrion could survive anything. After last night… I’m not so sure.
    But also from this ep – don’t forget Ayra’s reaction when her and the Hound reach the Vale…. a much needed laugh for us all.

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