The board is set, and the pieces are moving. The build up to Tyrion’s trial by combat has begun; the dwarf must find a man to champion him against Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane, or all will be lost.
In Meereen Daenerys decides to send Daario and his cronies to retake Yunkai, but far more importantly, she also decides to jump his bones. Of course, in the grand scheme of things this isn’t that important at all. What’s important is that we don’t get to see it happening. What’s this? we cry, Game of Thrones not taking the opportunity to show two hot naked people doing the nasty in glorious technicolor?
The more jaded among us would perhaps suggest that GOT is not interested in showcasing sex that is neither non-consensual nor paid for in advance. Which may well be true, but consider this: a while back a rumour went around that a Game of Thrones actress, speculated to be Emilia Clarke (who plays Daenerys), had refused to do any more nude scenes. This was never actually confirmed in any way, but it seems likely that Clarke – who regularly took her kit off in the first season – has used her gradually increasing clout to nip that whole ‘Queen of the naked Desert’ thing in the bud.
Which is a good development in the eyes of those of who felt the series was becoming a bit too focused on gratuitous sexposition. I mean sure, it was fun for a while, but you can have too much of a good thing. On the other hand, Clarke is forging a decent acting career for herself while standing on the shoulders of GOT, therefore she can afford to set conditions; the nameless female extras wandering around the brothels in their birthday suits, or getting raped in the background while Karl quaffed wine from the Lord Commander’s skull, do not have that luxury.
The fact that Oberyn Martell has been quite underused in the last few episodes has now played to the show’s strengths. The showrunners haven’t been touching base with each character nearly as much as they have in previous seasons, and it’s working well for them. Leaving characters such as Oberyn dormant for a while (but not so dormant that we forget about them or their motives) means that when they show up in a dungeon, deliver a spine-chilling monologue and then offer to battle the Mountain – a steroid case of Himalayan proportions – in order to save the life of a member of a family they despise, it comes as quite a surprise all round.
Particularly to Tyrion, who has already been turned down by both his brother Jaime and his ‘friend’ Bronn, who fought for him in his last trial by combat. Tyrion bears no ill will toward Bronn, who has weighed the odds and found his offer wanting. After all, don’t hate the player, hate the game, and Tyrion is one of the few people in Westeros who truly understand how the game is played. You’d think that Oberyn would consider the downfall of any Lannister to be a notch on his bedpost (side note: wonder how many beds Oberyn has whittled through in his time?), but as far as the Dornish prince is concerned, Tyrion is small fry. Here is Oberyn’s chance to stick it to Tywin (the man who ordered his sister Elia and her children butchered) while also putting the Mountain (the man who did the butchering) firmly into the ground.
The visual dexterity of this episode really makes an impression; how certain characters are shot, or lit, becomes just as important as what they are doing and saying. The Mountain that Rides is shot from below, making him seem even more ridiculously tall and imposing. Tyrion, still rotting in the dungeons, is always shown completely or half in shadow, the play of light and dark over his scarred face making him appear to be the monster he has been painted as.
And Sansa, the long-suffering innocent who still occasionally plays at being a child, is seen bathed in white light, reflected off the driven snow. Her building of a snow Winterfell is rudely interrupted however, firstly by her momma’s boy husband-to-be Robyn (whom she ends up slapping in the face), then by Littlefinger, the Mockingbird of this episode’s title, who has upped his creep level yet again (and who ends up kissing her on the lips), and finally by crazy ol’ Lysa herself, who has witnessed her new husband smooching with her underage niece in the snow, and has the quite reasonable reaction of attempting to throw said niece out of the Moon Door.
As luck would have it, Littlefinger arrives and sets her straight, before unceremoniously shoving his wife to her doom – something we’ve wanted to see ever since we met Lysa, and learned what the Moon Door was. Although, like a meal we didn’t know we were hungry for until the plate was set in front of us, we didn’t know we wanted it until we saw it actually happening.
So, now we’ve got Littlefinger alone with Sansa at the Eyrie. But we’ve also got Brienne and Pod, and Arya and the Hound, on their way to the Eyrie. Will any of them actually get there? In the next episode (which will be a little delayed, airing in the UK on June 2nd) we will see the Mountain face off with the Viper. The odds are all in the Mountain’s favour, but Oberyn has surprised us before, so who’s to say he won’t surprise us again? After all, we’d so hate to see Tyrion’s head on a spike.
Best Scene: Arya and the Hound’s little chat with Rorge, before Arya jams Needle into his heart
Best Line: “If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.” – Tyrion Lannister