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Monday, 19 May 2014

Game of Thrones S4E7: Mockingbird.

Game of Thrones
S4E7: Mockingbird.

This is one of those episodes that I'd call a bridge episode, which rather erroneously makes it sound like nothing really happens – in actuality, this episode is more dense in plot than a lot of the ones we've had this series, but much of that plotting is connecting tissue meant to bind one major story beat to another. There is one large story event, though, at the end of the episode, so we'll get to that later.

The story opens on Jaime berating Tyrion for choosing a trial by combat, and saying he can't be the one to fight for him, as he only has one hand and isn't very good at fighting any more. Tyrion makes a joke about how it would greatly spite their father, which, to be honest, kind of hits the nail on the head as to why Jaime should by Tyrion's champion: Tywin and Cersei are not, in a thousand years, going to allow Jaime to die. If Jaime became Tyrion's champion, they'd find a way to call off the trial.

This seemingly doesn't occur to either of them, possibly because it turns out that Cersei's champion is The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, now played by his third actor in four series. It's fine, so long as someone is bearded and huge we all know who they're meant to be, there aren't really many huge, bearded men in Game of Thrones, except as background characters played by Northern Irish heavy metal fans. Either way, though, with Gregor Clegane as champion, it's understandable Jaime wouldn't be keen to take part in that cunning ruse, given Gregor's problems with self-control and cutting the heads off things he really shouldn't.

Tyrion's search for a champion continues, with his second choice being Bronn. But Bronn has no desire to fight Gregor either, especially as Cersei has rather kindly set him up with a minor but be-castled noble. I'm assuming there are eleven other suitors and some kind of audience vote, that just seems like the kind of thing both Cersei and Bronn would go for. If I'm being honest, it wouldn't surprise me if this is the last we see of Bronn: There was an air of finality to this scene, the ending of his relationship, both working and affectionate, with Tyrion, especially as Bronn now has everything he wants, and it would be odd if we saw him again after that.

Quite possibly our last Tyrion-Bronn scene?

Tyrion's out of potential champions, the list having apparently consisted of his one-handed brother and his mercenary mate, which just seems like poor planning to me. As he's stewing in his dungeon cell, Oberyn Martell visits him, and by torchlight they discuss their first meeting. Tyrion was just a baby at the time, and Oberyn describes how everyone talked about him as a monster, but when Cersei showed him to Oberyn, he was just a regular baby. Oberyn goes on to talk about how child!Cersei had said that Tyrion had killed her mother, and that she hoped he died soon.

It's a brilliantly acted scene, I'll say that. Pedro Pascal is measured and calm, charismatic enough to drag your attention towards him, and fills the speech with understated emotion and gravitas, and it's only helped by Dinklage's pained, bitter expressions as Tyrion. He genuinely looks like he's about to burst into tears.

As the monologue ends, Oberyn remarks that everyone he needs to gain justice for his sister is here, and that he'll be starting with Gregor Clegane – and volunteers to be Tyrion's champion, thus setting us up for the fight mentioned in the next episode's title: The Mountain and the Viper.

Much of the other viewpoint scenes are just short, single scenes, or sometimes sets of two scenes.

We see Jon return to Castle Black, where Lord Commander McObviously-Evil commands that he cage Ghost, and then proceeds to shoot down his suggestion to block the castle's obvious weak point in preparation for the siege, thus proving himself to be not only obviously evil but also obviously not very good at his job.

In Essos, we see Daario appeal to Daenerys to let him be her personal assassin, and she has the slightly odd but really not entirely unexpected response of 'or we could have sex' and commands him to strip for her.

Is someone playing Barry White music?

The morning after, Daario encounters Jorah, now wearing a fedora and a t-shirt saying 'NICE GUYS FINISH LAST', who then gives Daenerys yet another lecture on not murdering slave-owners, and pointing out that he was once a slaver, which probably explains why Jorah is the most popular Game of Thrones character in the states of Texas and Arizona. He does manage to sway Daenerys, though, and she has the unnervingly pretty man from last episode sent with Daario as her ambassador instead.

Melisandre has a discussion with Stannis' wife, in which she mentions that she often uses powders and poitions to trick people, using them to create illusory effects to guide people towards conversion. It isn't long until the true reason for their discussion emerges: Stannis wants his adorable scaly daughter to travel with them when they leave Dragonstone. His wife, chagrined at their daughter's refusal to worship the Lord of Light, disagrees. Melisandre dismisses her concerns and tells her to look into the fire, where she will see the truth of why they need their daughter to come along – as ever, we don't see what happens in the fire, but Stannis' wife looks pretty perturbed by it.

Or maybe her eyes are just hurting. Flames are bright, man.

Arya and Sandor – who I'd usually refer to just as Clegane, but since there's a multitude of Cleganes in this episode, I'm stuck being incredibly informal and referring to the lad by his first name – meanwhile, kill some people. Some are willing, others aren't, but the two are becoming great murderbros, with Sandor asking a man for his name so that Arya can comfortably stab him.

I usually complain about Arya and Sandor's scenes not really moving the plot along, and I'm not going to make that complaint here. Their second scene doesn't really do anything, but their first scene demonstrates something very important about Arya: She's not just becoming a killer, she's becoming somebody who worships death, not unlike Jaqen did, and anybody who saw the end of Series 3 can probably see that that's going to be important later.

Speaking of Arya, Brienne and Pod are meeting an old friend of hers, who not knowing his name I shall refer to as Chatty Wolf Bread Boy.

Quick, ask me why.

Chatty Wolf Bread Boy chats at them for a while, and suspiciously denies knowing anything about the Starks – but does eventually come around, finding them in the morning and telling them that he's never met Sansa, but Arya was in the hands of the Brotherhood, who intended to sell her for a ransom. He doesn't know, obviously, that Arya is no longer in their clutches, but it sets Brienne and Pod on the right path anyway, towards Lysa Tully and the Vale.

What does Pod even look like? We just ... I can't remember ... everything is ... faint ...

Which brings me neatly to the last viewpoint, and probably the meatiest of the episode, as it's in this viewpoint that we encounter this episode's one major story event. Sansa is at the Eyrie, enjoying ('enjoying') the hospitality of her psychotic aunt, psychotic uncle, and equally psychotic cousin/potential future husband, the last of which has an inordinate fondness for throwing people off cliffs. Seriously, it's like his favourite thing, and as he comes upon Sansa building a snow model of Winterfell, he seems shocked and alarmed that they have no portals leading out onto sheer drops through which to fling people.

He's quick to destroy her model, she slaps him, and he runs away crying and screaming (what the hell, kid, you're like fourteen. Which is odd, because in the first series you were about five, are you and Tommen related?), much to the approval of a watching Littlefinger. Sansa apparently wasn't fooled by his earlier explanation of why he killed Joffrey, and asks him for the real reason – as we all knew, Littlefinger loved Catelyn, and he tells Sansa as much, asking her what they do with those who hurt the ones they love?

Sansa's smile is positively diabolical in this scene. It's as if she's just realised that not only is she smarter than one of the most dangerous players in the game, she also has an emotional hold over him, and she can see a way to use that to her advantage. Sansa is rapidly becoming one of the game's best players. 

Sansa Stark, plotting the murder of everyone who annoys her.

The scene quickly turns creepy, though, as Littlefinger kisses Sansa. She pushes him away, much to, I think, everyone's relief, because Littlefinger is quite old and Sansa is a teenage girl, and even knowing that Littlefinger is one of the creepiest and most evil people in Westeros, this is a whole new low for him.

Lysa saw, however, and in the next scene she's quick to go from calm to screaming, holding Sansa over the Moon Door and threatening to throw her out, ranting about how everyone stood in the way of hers and Littlefinger's Great True Love. She's stopped by Littlefinger, who in a display of uncharacteristic steeliness for one so generally slimy, demands that she let Sansa go, saying that he'll send her away.

As soon as Lysa does and Sansa is a safe distance away from the massive hole in the floor, Littlefinger is all slime and charm again, rushing forward to embrace his wife. I think this is the moment when everybody, whether they'd read the books or not, realised what was about to happen, but if it wasn't, then when he eased her into a standing position, horrible realisation probably set in. There may have been flashbacks to his discussion with Sansa. Mostly, there was probably the horrible awareness that there's a gaping hole right there.

Don't play coy with me, Baelish.

It's one of the best lines in the show, though, and definitely the best line in the episode. As Littlefinger murmurs to Lysa that the one woman he ever loved was her sister, you can just see Lysa's heart break and, then, a second later, she catches up with what the audience has already realised is about to happen.

So now Lysa's gone, which is a pretty major thing. It means that Sansa and Littlefinger now control the Vale, because heaven knows Robin isn't up for the task. So Sansa and Littlefinger now have the only intact army in Westeros, and an impenetrable fortress from which to operate out of.

Good going, guys.

You're still creepy, Littlefinger.

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