Definitely an infuriating episode for most of us, “The Mountain and the Viper” does not disappoint in this season’s promise of many more “episode 9 moments” throughout. Oberyn was seriously one of the coolest characters we’ll ever see, and Pedro Pascal did a fantastic job with him. This is a great example (one of many) of the acting and casting perfection of this show. I promise you it’s just as, if not more, frustrating to read through that part of the book, and as with many other deaths in the series I find myself wondering what might have been, perhaps too often. Tyrion’s trial in King’s Landing is the most prominent scene, but there were a couple other big developments across the board so lets deal with them first.
The episode opens in the North, in a little bar where the Coyotes are extra ugly and Gilly is having a hard time fitting in. While Gilly is being confronted by one of Mole’s Town’s finest the Wildlings descend on the town. Styr, Tormund, Ygritte, and the other Wildlings tear through the town mercilessly killing innocents along the way, until Ygritte comes across Gilly and Sam Jr. in the brothel. Ygritte chooses to spare the two because, you know, killing innocents is wrong…
Sam is distraught upon hearing about the raid on Mole Town as it was his dumb decision to send Gilly there in the first place. While Sam rues his actions, his brothers discuss their situation. As much as they would like to ride out and meet the Wildlings they cannot afford to lose a single man before the real battle is fought. The Watch has only 102 men left, including Sam and Maester Aemon, who must prepare to fight Mance Rayder’s With no more towns between Mole’s Town and the Wall Jon predicts that Mance’s army will reach the Wall next episode. (He doesn’t actually say that but we all know what this scene is about)
I have no idea what the Missandei/Grey Worm scene is about so I’ll skip to the much more interesting Meereen story line. Ser Barristan receives a letter sealed with the Hand’s insignia from some random kid; he then confronts Ser Jorah about its contents. Although Jorah has been faithful to Daenerys since, he did inform against her in season one and now that secret is out. To Jorah’s credit, he not only brings up a good point about this dividing them and benefitting Tywin Lannister, but he is also honest with Dany about his betrayal. His honesty does him small good, however, and after he admits his information was the catalyst for her attempted assassination his fate is decided. Furious, Dany won’t look at the knight or hear his excuses, and Jorah is exiled from her city and her service. A little harsh in my opinion, since the wine incident Jorah had served her diligently and had been her most trusted advisor, obviously the trust would be an issue after this but he was still an integral part of her retinue.
From Meereen we jump to the Eyrie and Littlefinger being questioned about Lysa’s death. Baelish waxes poetic about Lysa’s “suicide”, but the lords of the Vale aren’t buying it. Sansa is brought in to recount her version of events. She starts by apologizing to Littlefinger saying she must tell the truth and then reveals her true identity. As far as Littlefinger, or the audience, is concerned he is completely screwed. As Sansa’s story unfolds we see so many pieces of the truth and others slightly bent or omitted, just enough to make her story believable and still serve her purpose. Littlefinger always says the best lies contain seeds of the truth. Sansa is finally learning (although Littlefinger is hardly the noblest teacher) and she is finally taking charge of her own fate, using whatever means are at her disposal. This transformation becomes visual later in the episode. As Littlefinger finishes explaining that Robin must also take charge of his own life, he is distracted by the all-new and bad-ass Sansa, wearing all black with her hair dyed and a confident swagger, she asks if they’re ready for their trip, although the destination is not revealed.
The episode ended with two absolutely phenomenal scenes in King’s Landing. The first was yet another conversation in the dungeons between Jaime and Tyrion. At this point they’re just sitting around waiting for the trial and Tyrion nervously questions Oberyn’s chances before settling down with the wine Jaime brought him. As the brothers spend what could be their last moments together Tyrion recalls their cousin Orson who had been dropped on his head as a child, and the two of them laugh as they imitate the noise Orson made as he smashed beetles: “Kunth! Kunth!” Jaime couldn’t care less as to Orson’s motivations, but Tyrion was both fascinated and obsessed with them. Tyrion spent hours studying his cousin, eating his lunch to the music of “Kunth! Kunth!” Perhaps this anecdote is yet another facet of an ongoing theme exploring the concept of power, perhaps Tyrion feels rather like a beetle currently, or perhaps it’s as arbitrary as life and death often are.
In the end the bells toll and neither Orson’s reasons nor the moral of Tyrion’s story are revealed. Tyrion arrives at the arena to find a lightly armored Oberyn enjoying a pre-duel refreshment. Unorthodox as Oberyn is, he impresses the crowd with his spear flair and proceeds to talk to his opponent. After revealing to the mountain his identity and purpose, Oberyn’s accusations are boiled down to three simple sentences: “You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children!” which he repeats continually throughout the fight. Oberyn’s speed and precision allow him to take the Mountain apart piece by piece, finally pinning him to the ground and seemingly Winnipeg the fight. At this point the Red Viper of Dorne is perhaps overconfident and rather than finishing his opponent he waits for a confession implicating Tywin. Oberyn gets too close to the grounded Mountain who is able to pull him down and grab his throat. Now Oberyn’s size and speed are a disadvantage, as he cannot escape the Mountains grip. Now Tyrion, Ellaria and the rest must watch as Oberyn is brutally punched and gouged until at last Tyrion hears a sickening, and all too familiar, “Kunth!” as Oberyn’s head is smashed in. Ellaria screams, Jaime grimaces, Cersei smirks, Tyrion is completely shell shocked and just like that the trial is over and Tywin sentences Tyrion to death.