Monday, June 2, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.8: The Mountain and the Viper

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalalalalalala goo goo goo!!!

Yeah, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to watch it. I was so curious about how they translated the fight between the Red Viper and the Mountain to the TV screen. Holy uncooked macaroni lost for an indefinite amount of time in the depths of space somewhere beyond the Kuiper belt. I was fricking shocked while watching it. What the hell! Did they, like, think, how can we surprise the bookworms a little bit here? I don't know about you, but I flinched and actually, for the first time I believe, while watching this show, looked away for a few nanoseconds there. That was so brutal my head is spinning and I'm almost forgetting there was more to this episode than Ser Gregor Clegane showing us the meaning of nasty. Man, Pedro Pascal delivered so incredibly well in this scene - up to the very last moment, the way his voice cracked, I was literally telling him from the comfort of my chair that, "Dude, I really feel for you but it ain't going to happen." And it didn't. Well, it did. Gregor did say the words Oberyn wanted to hear. But damn. I've always loved this scene for how surprising it managed to be (who wasn't betting on Oberyn?) and yet they managed to shake me inside out with that very visceral, gory ending to Oberyn's life. Does the book describe that his head actually, you know, fucking explodes?! Maybe it does; I doth not remember. I suppose it didn't explode, but rather was crushed (which sounds more bookish to me) but it looked and sounded as if he exploded and that was, I suppose, a bit silly. And nasty. Oh oh.

All right. Wow.
It will be really interesting to read this week's tweets and comments everywhere. Brutal.

The episode did start very slowly, though. For a while there, especially during the scenes between Missandei and Grey Worm, I was ready to get on with it, but in hindsight I can see how this slow opening contrasts the high octane ending. Also, Missandei at the river. I did not mind. Hey, I'm a guy. Wa wa wee wa. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, there was the Mole's Town scene. I loved the opening visuals, somewhat reminiscent of Bree as it was portrayed in Fellowship of the Ring. I liked the touch of humanity they managed to give Ygritte in there, with her saving Gilly and the baby (all the while slitting throats and stabbing stomachs left and right, but still). I feel they spent a minute or three too long on these scenes, though. But I was impatient for the Viper of Dorne! And scenes with babies in danger are very uncomfortable. Which makes Game of Thrones occasionally uncomfortable. But this baby got through all right, and I am glad for that.

The scene is followed by an interior scene from Castle Black, with Sam blaming himself for Mole's Town, and the other characters (Grenn, Pyp, Jon, Edd) around to explain/remind us of plotsy stuff. The gist being, they are coming for Castle Black next. Edd isn't dolorous enough, if I have to pick a nit here. It's a fine enough scene, Jon Snow back to his gloomy self. I still think the casting of Grenn and Pyp is brilliant. They have become those characters in my mind's eye.

Ah, and then we have Mmmmmissandei and all that love stuff they invented for I don't know why. Still, the actors are doing a splendid job with the material I have to admit. But I would rather have more book stuff than this additional, alternative fiction.

All right! All the scenes with Ramsay, Roose and Theon this episode are so beautifully shot, with cold colors that accentuate landscape and characters both. Excellent acting from all involved, including Ralf Kenning (it was a Kenning, in any case). They've really made the Boltons the new big enemy in the show, and I think it works. The scene where Ramsay becomes Bolton is almost reminiscent of Anakin becoming Darth Vader, at least in the sense of character progression, only in Game of Thrones it is actually good. That sudden axe in the head was a nasty little first reminder that in this show, violence may ensue. And man, doesn't Alfie Allen play his character(s) well. Awesome.

Heck, even Littlefinger is great today, which I seldom think he is. The close-up shots of him explaining himself finally bring some character into Petyr Baelish, and I loved Royce and the two other nobles; the lighting of the scene where Petyr is being interrogated. Dialogue is also good. I believe the Eyrie scenes were excellent this time. We're moving surprisingly fast through Sansa's material, though. When is The Winds of Winter coming again?

And Sophie Turner. Great stuff. Great stuff. Wow, I don't think I've gushed so much about an episode before. What have I been drinking? I am not sure I am comfortable with the idea that Sansa reveals her true name, or that she is the one in charge here; I rather liked how Petyr "shaped" her in the books, but of course, time limit. But why do they operate on such a tight time limit when they know the books are late anyway? Why not build a little more upon the book here? Have a scene where Petyr instructs and teaches Sansa what to do? Oh well, I suppose this works too. And it keeps the pace brisk.
I was just waiting for Sophie to look up from that old woman's embrace to give Petyr a look, and she did. Great stuff.

Another scene that came as a surprise was Ser Jorah's dismissal. What surprised me the most was how touched I was by it. Well acted, especially by Ian Gleeson as Ser Jorah, who really sold the idea of how he now regrets what he did (spying on Daenerys). I like how the misdeed comes to bite him in the ass, because in Martin's world, actions do have consequences, but from here on out I am afraid I no longer find Jorah's story interesting or believable (at least until I have re-read the two last books and hopefully see something I didn't see before that makes me appreciate where the story is going). Great parting shot too.

Heck, is this like going to be my favorite episode of the season, even though they once more are so very liberal with the source material?

Ramsay and Roose in the wind, banners flapping behind them, army arrayed behind them, Roose Bolton naming his bastard a Bolton, Ramsay's look when he realizes he has won his name: I can dig it. Roose still doesn't look like the Roose I always saw when reading the books, but, as I have seen others write on the interweb, maybe it's a good thing he doesn't look like a vampire. The actor certainly does a fantastic job, and has done since he was cunningly put into the show. Epic scene. And since they put so much effort into visualizing Ramsay becoming a Bolton on screen, I can only assume that Roose Bolton will die, and Ramsay will become steward of the North. What do you say to that, Stark-supporters?!

A quick scene back at the Eyrie; lovely use of lighting again; I haven't watched the episode with proper volume so I don't know if it's actually there, but while watching I missed a constant hiss in the background suggesting high mountain winds. Good scene, though.

Another surprising scene was the Hound and Arya; I rather liked it, they once again had some very good/entertaining lines of dialogue, and when Arya burst out laughing at the news of Lady Lysa Arryn's death, I was literally sitting there with my mouth wide open in surprise. I really didn't expect it, but it made sense. It showed us so much about Arya Stark with such a simple tactic - a slightly unhinged laughter. And the Hound's look when he's told he's come all this way for nothing was priceless, too. I do miss Nymeria, though. Couldn't they have one tiny scene where Arya hears wolves howl in the distance? Why is Nymeria and her pack completely ignored in the show? In the books I have the feeling there is some importance to it. But the writers know more than me, of course, so I have to trust them. Short, great scene. I'm still angry with the scene two weeks ago when the Hound was given his wound, though. It wasn't dramatic enough. I am sure there were people watching who were wondering what the Hound is complaining about, he looks fine (although a bit unstable - I thought he was drunk at first).

Another short Eyrie scene, with Sansa showing herself as a beautiful lady. Wonder where they are going with Littlefinger pushing Robin to become a real lord. We'll see. Maybe I've forgotten something from the books but I can't remember that this was important there.

And then we have Tyrion and Jaime in Tyrion's cell just before the trial. It's a long scene, full of words, but the actors are just so damned excellent I'm sucked in regardless. Now, the whole tale of the dim-witted beetle-crushing Lannister is nowhere to be found in the books, but it was, according to me, anyway, one of the better written "fan fiction" bits in the series, because it was poignant (and also funny at the same time), and it showed on some level how afraid Tyrion is that there's no afterlife. And it made me anticipate the trial to come just more.

Which finally led to the scene. Now, I can nitpick and say that Gregor's extremely limited screen time took away some of the drama, but at the same time it was a well choreographed (for the most part - one little glitch I noticed in the editing), exciting, hope going up and down and up and down again, some great acting, and they kept it relatively faithful to the books. And when Pedro's voice broke, oh man, goosebumps all over (almost all over). Not sure I want to watch the last minute ever again, though. Man. Pedro really made his mark on the few scenes (they seem so few now) he was in, and I am sure people will revel in shock and surprise at this turn of events. Loved how impressed Jaime looked with Oberyn's martial prowess. But that incredibly inane scene from two weeks ago with peasants lining up to be slaughtered by the Mountain still lingered in my mind and I am a bit miffed Gregor wasn't shown to be the brutal monster that we saw in the books, so that people would be even farther out on the edge of their seats hoping for his comeuppance. I also feel that they wrapped it up too quickly, the scene really needed a little more time, a breath beyond Tywin announcing his own son's death, for the viewers to catch their own breaths...or so I believe.

All right, all of the above was written almost stream-of-consciousness right after having watched the episode, so I might have cooled off by tomorrow but there it is. I think the best moments (the trial by combat, Sansa fooling the lords and lady of the Vale, and Ser Jorah's dismissal) were among the best scenes this season, but the opening of the episode was a little weak, perhaps. So maybe not my favorite episode, but then, every episode has a little bit of the good and the bad.

And now I've just got to read what people are saying over at Winter is Coming.


  1. I thought the beetle smash scene was a bit (way) too long, but It did mention tyrion studying dragons, which might be important later.

    1. Oh yes, if there's one thing I am 100% sure about with regards to future story lines, is that Tyrion will become heavily involved with one or more of Daenerys' dragons.

  2. "How to lose battle you almost won" by Oberyn Martell =D