Review: Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 8 – The Mountain and the Viper

His name is Oberyn Martell. He came here to chew bubble-gum and kill the Mountain - and he's all out of bubble-gum. Tyrion Lannister's fate is decided in this week's Game of Thrones

After missing out on our dose of Game of Thrones last week due to Memorial Day in the US, most of us were jonesing pretty badly for GOT by the time this episode rolled around, and with very good reason. This week’s ep features the much anticipated showdown between Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane and Oberyn ‘The Viper’ Martell – and the outcome will decide whether or not Tyrion gets to keep his head.

Many of the key events in this episode revolve around the thin line between loyalty and betrayal. Theon/Reek keeps faith with his master, the newly named Ramsay Bolton, by betraying his Ironborn brothers at Moat Cailin – cue a lovely example of the Bolton’s patented method of flaying. It’s arguable that he was really trying to save their lives, although who knows what’s going on in Reek’s confused head right now; he should be thankful it’s still on his shoulders.

In Meereen, Daenerys finally discovers that Ser Jorah was spying on her for Robert Baratheon in season one. Feels like a hundred years ago, doesn’t it? Especially when taking into account everything that has happened since then, including all the times that Jorah proved his loyalty. But Daenerys has grown into one hard hearted warlord, and she’s having none of it; he’s unceremoniously sent packing, and one of the longest lasting onscreen partnerships in GOT comes to an end.

At the Eyrie, it looks as though Sansa is about to throw Littlefinger to the wolves – but she doesn’t. Cleverly, she manages to safely ingratiate her true self with the Lords and Ladies of the Eyrie, while also lying for Littlefinger, effectively saving his life. Why does she do it? Because she’s learned how to play the game; better the devil you know.

Let’s take a minute to talk about Sansa, played by young British actress Sophie Turner. In season one, we didn’t like her at all; she was whiny and boring and only interested in new gowns and courtly love. Then Joffrey became king, and things got interesting (and infinitely worse) for her character. Beaten and mentally tortured, Sansa has learned how to keep herself locked away. After learning by watching Littlefinger, she is no longer completely in his clutches, and is now a player in her own right. Who’s to say Sansa won’t end up on the Iron Throne?

In King’s Landing it’s goodnight, sweet prince, for Oberyn Martell – because of course it is. We knew something was wrong the minute he pranced out and started playing silly buggers with that ridiculous spear of his. Granted, it was a brilliant fight scene, and it looked very much like he was about to win – after all, he was giving it the whole ‘My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die’ spiel – but then he showboated just a little bit too close to the flame and, in one of the goriest scenes we’ve ever had on GOT (and that’s saying something), his brains ended up strewn across the sand.

We liked Oberyn Martell, in general; he wrote poetry, he had a lot of indiscriminate and consensual sex, and he was plotting the death of the execrable Gregor Clegane and the downfall of the Lannisters. But ultimately, his death (sad though it is) only paves the way for something much worse – the death of Tyrion Lannister.

I have a friend who says that the violent unpredictability of Game of Thrones has now itself become predictable. Nothing ever turns out the way we want it, and terrible things keep on happening regularly, almost by rote; some viewers are getting tired of it. It seems the showrunners have picked up on this too, judging by Arya’s cackling on discovering her aunt has died three days before her arrival, and Tyrion’s story about his simple-minded cousin who smashed beetles in the garden all day long; life in Westeros is just one long round of pointless misery and death with no end in sight. Is the same true of Game of Thrones itself? Or has this fourth season got a few genuine surprises left in it yet?

Next week it’s episode nine, and you know what that means. Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye.

Best Scene: Butter wouldn’t melt in Sansa’s mouth as she lies through her teeth to the elders of the Eyrie

Best Kill: Well, the obvious choice would be the Mountain’s murder of Oberyn Martell by colossal head-crushing, so we’re going to choose that (disgusting though it was)

Best Line: “Whoever dies last, be a good lad, and burn the rest of us. Once I’m done with this world, I don’t want to come back.” – Eddison Tollett

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