Sunday, June 1, 2014

Game of Thrones "The Mountain and The Viper" Review

Names: one’s last name, the name one had before one become a slave, the names of those one wishes to kill, the names of the dead, brutally murdered by a beastly mountain. Names have power in Westeros. Robert Baratheon’s signature had immense power. His signature pardoned Jorah Mormont. Roose’s decision to share the Bolton name with his bastard Ramsay moves Ramsay to his knees, overcome by the meaning and import of becoming Ramsay Bolton. The Hound wonders why Arya utters the names of those she wants dead. Her answer veers away into a playful chat about the satisfaction of watching people, but before it veers she responds that it makes her feel better. Prince Oberyn, the Red Viper, insists The Mountain say the names of the people he killed, confess to their deaths, and offer up the name of the one who ordered the murders. The Red Viper’s obsession with hearing The Mountain’s confession, with fighting him to the death, after he had stabbed him through the chest with a spear, loses him his life and Tyrion’s life. The Mountain confesses to the crime after breaking The Red Viper’s jaw and voraciously finishes by smashing Tyrion’s champion’s head in. “The Mountain and the Viper” concludes with a final name—Tywin hereby announces that Tyrion Lannister is sentenced to death.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss promised fans of the books and the series that the trial-by-combat would be the best fight in the history of television. The trial-by-combat was not the greatest fight scene in the history of television. Many fight scenes have been staged and choreographed throughout since the beginning of the silent film. Fight scenes don’t succeed or fail because of visceral physicality but because of the fight’s story, i.e. why the characters fight. It’s an obvious statement, but it’s overlooked in an entire industry. Tell someone professional wrestling tells stories all the time, and that person will scoff, roll his or her eyes, cackle at such a ridiculous statement because all wrestling is is grown men, oiled up, doing stuff in their underwear. ANGEL staged an excellent fight in its fifth season episode “Destiny,” in which Spike and Angel race to a mystical grail in the desert that’ll grant whomever drinks it first is the fated champion mentioned in the Shanshu prophecy. Spike and Angel fight for nearly three acts over the ‘cup of perpetual torment.’ Their fight involves more than drinking from the cup for the sake of quickening of a prophetic destiny; it involves their complex personal history through the decades, and it’s also spectacularly badass. The Mountain and the Red Viper fight is splendidly described in the books, but it is merely decently rendered on film. The viewer sees glimpses of Oberyn’s expert fighting ability, but his mastery of the art eludes the viewer. We’re more told than shown that he’s great. The Mountain looks oafish and uncoordinated. The writing clearly sets up the surprise cinematic moment when The Mountain destroys Oberyn.

The only moment the fight reaches exulted territory that the show runners promised during the last two weeks happened when Oberyn had put the spear through The Mountain’s chest and screamed for a confession and screamed for The Mountain to say Tywin ordered him to murder his family. Oberyn dropped the false pretenses of his arrival in King’s Landing. His earlier conversations with the Lannisters were lightly honest. He played a cool, lax game in which he alluded to truths the power and influence of court that do not allow further elaboration. So, he played little games, dropping this or that detail about his family’s tragic history to see whether or not Tywin or Cersei will twitch when those precious, dear Martell names were uttered. Oberyn screams for more bloody revenge. Tywin finally squirms in his chair seconds before The Mountain bursts to life. The moment lasts briefly and in another moment The Mountain kills The Red Viper and Tyrion’s hope for pardon.

Tyrion converses with Jaime before the trial-by-combat. The brothers remember their cousin, Orson, who had the misfortune of falling headfirst to the ground, which made him ‘simple.’ Orson killed beetles by smashing them with a rock. Jaime did not think about Orson’s actions beyond the thetic stage. Orson didn’t think about what he did. Tyrion disagreed. For years he watched Orson in hopes of discovering the reason why he chose to smash beetles with rocks day after day. Tyrion didn’t believe his cousin did not have something going on in his mind. He believed his cousin had a type of sense, but he could not crack why he chose to kill thousands of beetles in his life. He never learned the answer. He couldn’t learn why it happened to those innocent beetles. Tyrion imagines himself as the beetle, his family as Orson and the rock. And his family smashes his fate like Orson smashed the beetles that had the misfortune of being born in Casterly Rock.

Other Thoughts:

-The trial-by-combat happens in the final scene. The penultimate scene is the aforementioned Orson story. The rest of the episode splits between The Eyre, the sacking of Moat Cailin, and Dany’s response to Robert Baratheon’s pardon of Jorah Mormont. Dany sent Jorah away from Meereen after learning of his betrayal. Jorah expressed remorse, and then love. Jorah relayed information to King’s Landing in season 1 when he traveled with Viscerys and Dany amongst the Dothraki. Dany sent him away because she couldn’t trust him after he sold her out, her child, and her brother, for the sake of a royal pardon. There’s another minor story happening aside from the Jorah exile, which is Grey Worm’s growing crush on Missandei, whom he saw naked. They converse about what happened while they each bathed. Missandei wants to know his name from before. Grey Worm does not know. Their slow courtship should delight many fans of the series, but their indoor scene was flat and uninspired. Grey Worm delivers a monologue about why he wouldn’t trade what happened to him as a boy (becoming an Unsullied) because it led him to Dany, his triumph over the masters, and his meeting Missandei.

-Sansa lied her face off because she’d rather trust someone she knows than a group she doesn’t. Benioff and Weiss made Sansa’s transformation clear when she entered the last scene dressed like Maleficent. Arya arrived at The Eyre and then erupted into laughter when she heard Lysa died three days (it was my favorite part of the episode).

-The sacking of Moat Cailin showed more of the Bolton brutality, and also the family’s habit of breaking oaths.

-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. Alex Graves directed.


-Next episode will be bonkers.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.