“Mockingbird” begins with Tyrion casting about for a champion, and as many of us anticipated, he winds up with Oberyn as a volunteer once Cersei chooses the Mountain. This is of course only after Jaime turns out to be both unwilling and unable to stand for him, and Bronn has been bought off for a price beyond what the dwarf can hope to match. And even if he could, well…I still don’t think Bronn would fight against his pal for any price, but if the choice is between a pile of gold for taking a suicide run at the biggest, strongest killer on the continent and the same size pile for simply agreeing not to do any of that, then those scales are not exactly square, are they?
Speaking of the Mountain, this is, I believe, the third actor who has portrayed the brute. It hardly matters, as he’s never been called upon to be more than a hulking physical presence. The new guy certainly delivers on that score, and really, despite a lack of screentime, Ser Gregor Clegane has cast an appropriately-large shadow over the proceedings for years now. In addition to battling Robb Stark and killing Berric Dondarion off-screen for a season or two, his brutality in the sacking of King’s Landing and before has been a major force that has sharpened if not entirely driven Oberyn, Viserys and Dany’s desire for revenge. And as we are reminded this week, it was his abuse that made our favorite Hound who he is.
And the Hound is also a butcher, although he is more capable than his brother of turning his proclivities to merciful ends, as his treatment of the dying farmer (who apparently cultivates fields of figurative thematic dialogue) and protective turns toward the Stark girls have shown. He’s not a big cuddle-bunny inside or anything, even after we see him practically blubbering about childhood toys, but that’s what keeps him interesting even as he stays bogged in a period-rendition of Curly Sue with Arya. Of course, it also helps that Arya remains awesome, and is learning to be a proper seamstress with her Needle. I had high hopes that she would make her way to Braavos to get some more dancing lessons, but at the rate she’s mowing through the more unremitting shitbags on the show, it’s starting to feel like she doesn’t even need them.
Speaking of shitbags, I’ve been generally for the show’s use of one-dimensional villain types on the peripherary, as they can still work as effective foils for the “heroes” even as it makes the larger point that none of them are wholly virtuous when you get down to it. But there are moments when it goes too far, like when we have to wallow in Ramsay Snow’s sadism for episodes on end, or the master in Astapor whose entire personality seemed to be an elaborate, multi-faceted plea to be viciously murdered. Another one I’m having trouble getting behind is Commander Thorne’s complete dismissal of the threat posed to Castle Black by an army of 100 freaking thousand men. I understand that a theme of the show is how the Game makes people so eager to ignore the major apocalyptic threats around the corner. But this problem is at his door already, and he doesn’t seem to doubt the size of the army (which more people than Jon can attest to), but does seem to think that a roughly 1,000-1 disadvantage is no cause for alarm. And somehow the other commanders of the Watch seem to agree with him. I could use some context for what these people think/hope will happen when Mance’s army hits the Wall, but none has been forthcoming thus far.
Now, what I expect to happen (not that Thorne possibly could), is that as the Night’s Watch is worn down to a barest nub, one Stannis Q. Baratheon will come charging in with the army he tricked the Iron Bank into funding by saying it was for the Lannisters. And it will be, eventually, in his mind, but the end of last season promised too much about his investment on this front – including “a great battle in the snow” – for it to have completely dropped from his radar now. Thinking about the titles that were listed so repetitiously last week, my guess is that Stannis has decided that before he can become King of the Andals and the First Men, he will have to first become the legitimate Protector of the Realm. Unfortunately, it seems that he has more hardship to endure before he gets there, as Melisandre/the Lord Of Light has some nefarious plan for his young daughter. I really don’t want to see a little girl sacrificed in some sort of heathen blood ritual; however, I am eager enough for this storyline to move past portents and pacing that I’d actually like it to happen sooner rather than later, if it must.
Meanwhile, in Mereen, Dany wears the living hell out of some blue dresses and screws Daario.
In slightly more eventful news, Hot Pie bores Pod and Brienne with the intricacies of kidney pie construction, which leads to their discovery that Arya is alive. I hope Brienne finds the younger Stark girl before the elder, as I think she would be a good mentor/protector figure for the girl after the Hound, but they’re all on the way to the Eyrie so maybe there can be one big happy family reunion, give or take one constantly raving, frequently lactating aunt.
I think most of us saw Littlefinger’s offing of Lysa coming; his ultimate designs for Sansa have been about the only clear thing about his motivations since the first season. And while the girl is no doubt horrified by the awkwardly CGi-ed plummet of her “last” living relative, she may ultimately be relieved that this is probably going to spare her from another engagement to Joffrey 2.0 in Robyn, who makes up in petulance what he lacks in sadistic inventiveness. The Moon Door is the solution to every problem for the young Lord of the Vale, who is basically the medieval version of that weird homeschooled kid, except with an army of knights at his command.
Or are they now at Littlefinger’s command? Varys did predict that it would not be long before he had an army to go with his gold and titles, in the conversation that accidentally prompted Olenna to conspire with him to kill Joffrey. And it would seem he is on the verge of revealing himself to be, as the Spider has long believed, the most dangerous men in Westeros. That is, if he can avoid following his wife out the Moon Door for a bit longer. And hey, it’s not like that scene from last week where Robyn played with the little mockingbird trinket for a minute before getting bored and tossing it out on a whim could be read as foreshadowing anything, right?
But all that intrigue and sexing can wait. For we have bread and circuses coming our way first, in the form of a Viper vs. the Mountain showdown. Oberyn may have told Tyrion a story that suggests that no one is really monster when you get to see them up close, but he now has to face off with the closest thing the show has to an actual ogre, at least on this side of the Wall. And I expect him to triumph, not so much (as I got into last week) because I think Oberyn is a self-evidently bigger badass, but because I don’t think the show would have spent as much time on him if he was going to be swept off the board without impacting the narrative in a more profound way. And since it would doom Tyrion in the process, I think their cumulative character weight is so much greater than a Mountain’s worth that the outcome is pretty much predetermined. Right? Right? Please tell me I’m right (unless you’ve read the books; then please tell me absolutely nothing). Because the bit about the Hound refusing to cauterize his wound does remind me that this is a show that once spent a season building up Khal Drogo as this ultimate badass only to have him just get randomly sick and die. For a series that prides itself on making such borderline perverse storytelling decisions, I know I shouldn’t make such predictions with any sort of confidence. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…
Is it next week yet? Wait, 2 weeks? Oh, come the living fuck on!
Let’s pass some of that time gap reminiscing about some of the old pals we haven’t seen in ages.
Remember Gendry the bastard?
Thoros and the Brotherhood?
Osha and Rickon (and Shaggy Dog)?
We miss you all! Except Rickon.