Hello, friends and bannermen. On Sunday's Game of Thrones, The Mountain meted out the trauma, while we dealt with the fallout drama. How did it match up with the books? How did it differ?
This weekly chat series is for fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, upon which HBO's fantasy drama is based. It's meant to be a safe haven to discuss spoilers and changes from the novels and how they have played out or will play out in the TV series. Hanh Nguyen and Sadie Gennis are longtime fantasy fans of varying levels of geekiness who will sound off on all things Westerosi (and beyond!).
Game of Thrones "The Mountain and the Viper" postmortem
[Warning: If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has stumbled upon this chat and haven't read the books yet, begone! Instead, check out our postmortem of "The Mountain and the Viper" for a spoiler-free discussion.]
Sadie: I watched before breakfast this morning. MISTAKE!
Hanh: Yes, even knowing what was going to happen, watching Oberyn's destruction was so viscerally brutal, different from the Red Wedding, but still. Just wow.
Sadie: It was mind-blowing, to say the least (pun fully intended). Watching Oberyn's Cirque du Soleil Montoya routine was so exciting, but also so frustrating because I knew if he was focused more on killing The Mountain and not about these lofty ideas of justice he would still be alive. But what better way to remind viewers that there is no such thing as justice in Game of Thrones than literally exploding some guy's head? It was perfect. But I do believe Pedro Pascal summed it perfectly when he tweeted: "Ouch."
Hanh: I <3 Pedro Pascal! It was also just a great contrast to show that vitality one minute and then a Gallagher melon explosion the next. Poor Ellaria!
Sadie: I almost expected J. Walter Weatherman to pop up and be like, "And that's why you never fall in love with a vengeance-obsessed prince."
Hanh: They never revealed that the spear was poisoned on the show, did they?
Sadie: In the books we didn't learn the spear was poisoned until The Mountain took ill afterwards, and I'm not sure if they had mentioned Oberyn's proclivity towards poison previously in the show. Knowing the truth, though, it was so satisfying watching him get a few stabs into The Mountain.
Hanh: Tywin did mention something to Oberyn about his reputation for poison right after Joffrey's death, but that was it. I just know that when I wrote my postmortem with Pedro Pascal I was going to call the match a Pyrrhic victory, but realized that non-book viewers won't see any victory not knowing about the poison. It just seems like a total loss for now. I'm going to have to be careful and not spoil that! And although we haven't officially learned in the books who Ser Robert Strong is, I know we all assume it's a zombiefied Mountain. So I wonder if we'll see Qyburn at work next season?
Sadie: Ooh! I hope so. It's such an odd little side-story running throughout the last few books and one that I'm really curious to see where it's going.
Hanh: It'd be funny if Season 5 was just The Mountain dying for all 10 episodes
Sadie: He does take awhile to die. Who knows? As long as I don't have to see too much of him in his gruesome pre-zombie pain, I'm fine either way.
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Hanh: But man, Tywin is one cold MF-er!
Sadie: He couldn't even let Pycelle finish his ceremonious speech! He was just like, "Yup. Let's get on with this so I can sentence my son to die." Way harsh, Ty.
Hanh: Ha! The band played him off like they do with awards show speeches.
Sadie: Cersei's face though at the end was as golden as her hair. I really think Lena's going to shine when she's allowed to play full-blown crazy.
Hanh: Really, all the Emmys to this cast, which brings me to Alfie Allen and Sophie Turner. Let's take Reek first. I thought Reek as Theon was going to explode just standing there. The trembling lip, the false veneer of Theon-ness -- how does Alfie do that?!
Sadie: It was so great to watch! And Alfie really has no idea how good he is, which just makes me love him more. My whole body tensed up seeing his Theon facade start to break down, it was such a great moment of suspense. Thank the gods that Kraken axed their leader in the head or else they would have met Reek and all would have been lost! Well, I guess all would have been lost for Ramsay and Theon. We should probably pour one out for those unfortunate flayed men. They never saw it coming (and I never want to see that again).
Hanh: It was the second-most horrific sight in the episode, which is a new high (low?) for Game of Thrones. Iwan Rheon just being pals and throwing his arm over Alfie's shoulder while they're standing by the flayed Ironborn was hilarious though.
Sadie: Personally, my favorite Ramsay part of the episode was the adorable Lion King moment he shared with his father. It was so oddly touching to see men we typically only view as villains have this real father-son bonding moment -- and just in time for Father's Day! I'm really glad we got to see that exchange play out instead of just hearing about it second-hand.
Hanh: I think the moors scene also was important because it really drives home that bastards are second-class citizens. Also, it was a cool parallel to hear both Roose and Ramsay ask at different times in the episode, "What is your name?" The concept of identity is so tied up to names this episode. For Theon/ Reek, his new name is so dehumanizing. For Ramsay now Bolton, it's validating. And yet, both circumstances just highlight how effed up this world is.
Sadie: It also helps put Ramsay's sadism into context. So many abusers do so because they suffered some kind of abuse or mistreatment. Which is exactly what Tyrion was discussing with Jaime when he explained why he, too, mocked their cousin. And during that entire conversation, I couldn't help but wonder if the cousin simply wasn't exerting his power and letting out his frustration on the beetles because they were the only things really below him. This episode was like a delicious, bloody onion. So many layers!
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Hanh: Right. I was like, "Orson is mocked by everyone! The beetles are the only ones he has power over."
Sadie: Tyrion is so bright! How could he not see that? And because it wasn't so obvious to him, I found myself doubting my own interpretation.
Hanh: Yeah, I feel that the writers did him a disservice here. At least he could have suggested that as an interpretation that was never confirmed. But maybe they just really wanted us to draw our own conclusions. Maybe Orson just liked the squishy sound/sensation and it's as simple as that. Who knows? Speaking of power, Sansa finally comes into her own, complete with magnificent Maleficent wardrobe. Honestly, I thought Melisandre had just entered the room when I saw the cleavage and sauntering walk. So everyone highborn in The Vale dresses like Dark Crystal characters? Methinks I like it. I was bewitched!
Sadie: Obsessed. That is the only word to describe how I feel about everything Sansa this episode. She's been my favorite for a while and maybe now non-readers will finally understand why. That look she gave Littlefinger when she was crying on the woman's shoulder. Her nonchalance about the way she played the game and how she knows "what he wants." That outfit. That walk. Sansa gave me life this week!
Hanh: Yes, her performance (and the duality with us knowing it's a Sansa AND Sophie performance) during her testimony was equally amazing. I do feel that she and Littlefinger have a mutual respect now, but man, I cannot shake that pedo-vibe. I really hope that those flirting looks are just reveling in her power and holding it over him. When she says, "I know what you want." And he says, "Do you?" I was freaked out. Nevertheless, this is by far my favorite deviation from the book. I'm glad Marillion was out of the picture.
Sadie: I just wish she was about five years older, because then I could ship them without any feelings of ickiness. As it is now, I just have to hope he keeps his mouse in the house and continues to mentor her into becoming even more of a bada--. And I totally agree about Marillion. Good riddance to that and to those endless squabbles over Littlefinger's claim and trustworthiness. However, I worry about how much more Robin all these deviations will entail.
Hanh: Ugh, true. I draw the line if he wants to try to nurse from Sansa.
Sadie: Thanks for putting that image in my mind, Hanh. Real nice. Excuse me for a minute while I bleach my brain.
Hanh: You can always just watch Oberyn's death again...
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Hanh: As long as we're talking about breasts (Worst. Segue. Ever.), let's move on to Missandei and Grey Worm. That romance and his possible feelings of lust upon seeing her naked are an intriguing addition to the Meerreen story.
Sadie: I actually really enjoyed it. It was a way for the show to address questions that viewers have about the Unsullied (Do they take the pillar and the stones? Do they still lust? etc.) without painfully uncreative verbal exposition. Though, we are still waiting to learn about the pillar/stones mystery. Plus, it was nice to see Missandei get her own story line outside of serving Dany.
Hanh: The Pillar and the Stones is my favorite euphemism so far ... and from Dany no less! Yes, I'm happy that both Missandei and Grey Worm get to be actually be people. Also, she gets Dany as her hair-braiding handmaiden for a time. It's like they were having a sleepover. In that regard, it's also good to see Daenerys have a real friend (not just a strategic ally who may want something from her or be in love with her) and a girl friend at that!
Sadie: Agreed, but I love that strategic ally who is in love with her! I knew it was coming, but I was so sad to see Jorah go. At least I have the comfort in knowing we'll meet again soon.
Hanh: Well, if you noticed, I think Braavos was yet again in the opening sequence even though we didn't actually go there this episode! Foreshadowing for where Jorah (and everybody else) is headed?
Sadie: I noticed that as well. But I guess Arya will be heading there soon enough now that The Hound's hope of selling her to Lysa have been dashed. Arya's reaction to discovering her aunt had died truly was priceless though.
Hanh: Aside: Pedro Pascal has truly learned the joys of Twitter. His latest tweet: "I sh-- you not. I can't get rid of this headache."
Sadie: That's amazing! I also found this old pic of Lena and Pedro that makes so much more sense now! Check it out here. But with Sansa, Littlefinger and Robin heading out and The Hound and Arya last seen at the gate? Do you think there's a chance they'll run into each other next week?
Hanh: This show has teased me with a Stark reunion before, and I won't be fooled again! No! I can't let my hopes be dashed. But Arya's belly laugh warmed my heart.
Sadie: That laugh warmed your heart? That was the laugh of a crazy person! You might need to get yourself checked out, too.
Hanh: Ha! Yes, it was a crazy laugh! And I liked her for it. I mean, the look on The Hound's face was priceless too.
Sadie: It was crazy, but by the end of the episode I could relate to her. It was such a gut-wrenching, rollercoaster week that maniacal laughter seemed like the only response.
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Hanh: Yep, cathartic. My least favorite parts of the episode, however, were the Mole's Town massacre (I mean, really, burping songs? And how do we only have two songs in this gods-forsaken land?) and Castle Black. I was mildly interested in seeing how violent Ygritte can be, even if she did spare Gilly and the baby, but other than that, meh. For some reason I'm not overly excited about the battle at the Wall. I'm sure I'll change my mind once I see it though. I am curious how people will feel about Stannis swooping in.
Sadie: I don't know if any battle with ever top Blackwater, personally. Plus, the battle at the Wall is so impersonal. For the most part the Wildlings are all the way on the ground while the Night's Watch shoots arrows and dumps oil on them from above. I'm assuming they'll spice it up for TV, but it wasn't the most exciting fight.
Hanh: Yeah, you know the Magnar of Thenn will get a spotlight death. And of course, seeing all of Jon's Night's Watch friends gathered around him Sunday night made me realize, "Yup, you're dead Grenn, and Pyp, and Dolorous Edd." Sam, of course, needs to sail away.
Sadie: First, he needs to find Gilly. *yawn* I'm just ready for Tyrion's escape! Everything before then will just be killing time for me.
Hanh: Ooh, which reminds me, I forgot who said it, but I loved when they were listing the many ways people can die and someone mentioned on the chamber pot.
Sadie: It was Littlefinger.
Hanh: Of course it was!
Sadie: That was such a nice little Easter egg to throw book readers ways.
Hanh: Thanks, Dan and Dave! OK, let's see what our readers think of the episode.
How much more traumatizing was Oberyn's death on screen than in the books? Did you enjoy Sansa's transformation? What were your highlights from the episode? Are you looking forward to the battle at the Wall?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. Want to relive the epic fight? Watch "The Mountain and the Viper" here.