Holy moly. The finale of “The Mountain and the Viper,” the eighth episode of Game of Thrones’ thrilling fourth season, ended with one of the most brutal, Cronenbergian deaths in the show’s violent history.
But more on that later.
The episode began, fittingly, in a seedy brothel at Mole’s Town. After one of the most impressive displays of hooker-belching you’ll ever see, the imposing baldy Magnar and his cannibalistic Thenn people, along with the wildlings, attack and slaughter all the prostitutes. Ygritte, the redheaded wildling (and Jon Snow virginity-snatcher), comes upon Gilly and decides to spare Craster’s tormented ex-wife, along with her crying baby. Over the last few seasons, Gilly has dodged Craster, a dire wolf, the White Walkers, the Night’s Watch mutiny, and now the Thenn. She is, in the immortal words of Destiny’s Child, “a survivor.”
When word gets to Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, and the rest of the gang at Castle Black, they fear for Gilly’s safety, and also worry about the impending showdown between their mini militia versus Mance’s Army. “How do 102 men fight 100,000?” they wonder. Can’t wait to see.
Action then shifted from a brothel to a few characters who never get laid. There’s Grey Worm, a.k.a. commander of the Unsullied (the warrior-eunuchs of Astapor), a.k.a. Young Obama, who’s caught going all Peeping Tom on a very nude Missandei as she bathes in a brook. Things have been heating up between Daenerys’s two sidekicks who, in Episode 4, intimately shared their life stories. So, Missandei mentions the episode to the Mother of Dragons.
“When the slavers castrate the boys, do they take all of it? The pillar and the stones?” asks Daenerys. “I don’t know, Your Grace,” she replies. “Haven’t you ever wondered?” presses Dany. “Yes, Your Grace,” says Missandei. Then, Grey Worm confronts Missandei and apologizes for checking her out but, after tearfully confessing he’s glad he was castrated because it led him to her, Missandei says, “I’m glad you saw me.”
Speaking of the castrated, Theon Greyjoy is still in full-on Stockholm syndrome mode and is manipulated by his kinky-sadistic captor, Ramsay Snow, into infiltrating an ironborn garrison and requesting that they surrender to Lord Bolton’s army. The garrison’s de facto leader, Ralf Kenning, doesn’t buy in—but his own men do, spiking his head with an axe and surrendering. After taking the garrison, Reek’s owner, Ramsay, is awarded the name of Ramsay Bolton, son of Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort in the North. This will, presumably, not bode well for the tortured heir of Lord Balon Greyjoy.
And speaking of brothels, Westeros’s biggest pimp, Petyr Baelish, is brought in front of Lord Royce and Lady Anya Waynwood back at The Eyrie, who suspect the goateed schemer of shoving Lysa Arryn out the Moon Door to her death.
“You’ve been licking Tywin Lannister’s boot so long it’s a wonder your tongue’s not black,” they tell him. The gang is almost ready to lynch Baelish when Sansa Stark saves the day. She’s called in to testify against him, but ends up defending him instead. “Lord Baelish has told many lies… all to protect me,” she says, adding, “He saved me, smuggled me away when he had the chance.” It’s a tear-filled, Oscar-winning performance by the teenager, who’s suffering her own form of Stockholm syndrome. When the mustache-twirler asks her why she helped him, she says, “I know what you want.” “Do you?” he replies, staring at her with menace. Once he’s back on House Arryn’s good side, the Frank Underwood of Westeros angles to have Lysa’s son, Robin Arryn, rule—even though he’s got emotional problems and was breastfed until he was 10. Like puppet master Tywin Lannister, who’s inserted the meek Tommen Baratheon in the role of king so he can rule by proxy, Baelish has found his easily-manipulated boy-king. We’re then treated to a new, icier Sansa, who’s dressed like a Westerosi Goth and channeling her inner Black Swan.
Back in Slaver’s Bay, a missive comes from Tywin Lannister to Ser Barristan containing some damning evidence: a royal pardon signed by Robert Baratheon stating that Ser Jorah spied on Daenerys to save his own hide. When Dany confronts poor Ser Jorah, he admits to sending letters to Varys, the “spymaster of King’s Landing,” divulging that Khaleesi was marrying Khal Drogo, and that she was carrying Drogo’s child—which led to her almost being poisoned. He pleads with her and tells her he loves her—he does—but it falls on deaf ears.
“Don’t ever presume to touch me again or say my name,” she tells him, banishing Ser Jorah. Dany’s ruthlessness, we see, is really starting to backfire. She’s losing control of her dragons, who recently murdered some goats; had sex with her sworn protector Daario, against her better judgment; needlessly crucified the leaders of Slaver’s Bay as a show of power; and has now dismissed a man who served as her conscience and helped her build this budding empire. She may have the dragons and the slave army, and her milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard, but Dany needs to refocus.
As for Arya and The Hound, which sounds like a bizarre R-rated spin-off of The Fox and the Hound, they’ve finally reached the gates of House Arryn—despite The Hound’s depleted state. The gigantic warrior is, it seems, slowly dying due to the slash he received on his neck, followed by his refusal to let Arya burn it, since he’s deathly scared of fire after his brother, The Mountain, burned his face as a child. Will he, like Khal Drogo before him, wither away from an infected wound?
At King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister visits his brother, Tyrion, in prison and brings him his second favorite thing in the world (after prostitutes): a jug of wine. They discuss their simple cousin, Orson, who was dropped on his head as a child and subsequently spent his days smashing beetles with a stone—until “that mule kicked him in the chest and killed him.” Jaime says that, of all people, Tyrion should’ve empathized with this unfortunate soul. “Laughing at another person’s misery was the only thing that made me feel like everyone else,” Tyrion says. It's pretty funny that the simple cousin is named “Orson,” given homophobic author Orson Scott Card’s longstanding beef with the series.
A bell sounds, signaling the heavyweight bout we’ve all been waiting for: Oberyn “Red Viper” Martell, played by the brilliant Pedro Pascal, against Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.
“I want to bring those who have wronged me to justice,” said the Viper to Tyrion in the previous episode. “And all those who have wronged me are right here. I will begin with Ser Gregor Clegane, who killed my sister’s children and then raped her with their blood still on his hands before killing her, too. I will be your champion.”
The Red Viper is terribly cocky. When Tyrion urges him to stop drinking before defending him in the trial by combat, he says, “I always drink before a fight,” and then proceeds to showboat in front of the crowd, spinning his spear around like a warrior-baton twirler. During the showdown, however, the Viper’s bite proves just as strong as his bark, as he flips and twirls around—sans armor—slicing and dicing The Mountain with his spear.
“You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children!” he screams at The Mountain repeatedly, channeling his inner Inigo Montoya.
After slicing his ankle and spearing him in the chest, he stands over the mega-warrior’s body, gloating before Tywin, Cersei, and the surprised crowd.
“You’re dying? No, no, no… you can’t die yet, you haven’t confessed!” he says. “Say her name: Elia Martell.” He shouts, and points toward Tywin. “Who gave you the order!”
But his cockiness proves to be his downfall, as The Mountain flips over and, in one swift blow, punches out all of the Red Viper’s teeth, which scatter on the ground like Chiclets, and then shoves his thumbs deep into his eye sockets until his head explodes like something out of Scanners. Everyone is shocked by the horrific display—present company included.
“The gods have made their will known: Tyrion Lannister, in the name of King Tommen of the House Baratheon first of his name, you’re hereby sentenced to death,” announces Tywin.
We’ll see how the slippery Imp gets out of this one. In the meantime, let’s all pour one out for the Red Viper. You’ll be missed, you sexy devil.