Last week’s Game of Thrones had a fan favorite fighting for his freedom. This week has that same character brewing for a life-changing (or life-ending) confrontation, while a manipulator we love to hate made a move that has us conflicted. What went down? How are we handling it? Dig in then sound off in comments.
Note: Please keep your comments to this recap free of book spoilers. Those comments are welcome on our spoiler-friendly post here.
Some of you are exceptionally clever folk.
Last week Tyrion’s kangaroo court ended with the enraged Halfman demanding a trial by combat. I pondered briefly who would be his champion: brother Jaime or bestie Bronn? But a couple of sharp commenters noted that Jaime is in no shape to take on such a fight, Bronn has been acting shady, and Cersei would be likely to call on the Lannisters’ most reliable killer, The Mountain. The math on this equals Oberyn Martell, Second Son of Dorne, Man of Lust and Leisure, Hater of Lannisters, will be Tyrion’s Champion. Like little Arya Stark, he too has a list of vengeance, and Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is at the top of it. Or as Oberyn would tell you Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is at the top of it for raping and murdering his beloved sister Elia, because not a single conversation with a Lannister–no matter how casual–can go by without him mentioning it. And who are we kidding? We love him for that (among other things).
This episode was all about setting up for what seems to be this season’s major showdowns. Sure, Oberyn in a new character, but who among us is not already deeply invested in his feud with the Lannisters? He hates them to their core for what they’ve done. He’s also not a fan of who they are. But hey, he’s a live-and-let-live person in many respects, as long as you don’t rape and murder his beloved sister. Obviously.
Getting to this thrilling moment (“I will be your champion!”) was a road paved with heartbreak and disappointment for Tyrion. First came Jaime, who for a second time will not be his brother’s savior. Peter Dinklage rightly gets loads of praise for his performance of Tyrion, but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau deserves notice for the compelling work he’s been doing with Jaime. You can sense in his portrayal both Jaime’s genuine regret that he can’t personally get Tyrion out of this, and also his sense of relief he doesn’t have to get in between Cersei and Tyrion here. Dinklage and Coster-Waldau do impeccable scene work together. From Tyrion stepping Jaime through how their father attempted to play them, to the moment where they grin, imagining Jaime dying in trial by combat and thereby fowling all of Tywin’s plans, you can see the bond of these brothers. And the Lannister dynamic becomes richer still.
Next to kick a man when he’s down is a dapper-dressed Bronn. King’s Landing has changed this sellsword, and not for the better. If anything, it’s made him colder and more brutal. He’s gotten a taste for the finer things, and that includes pretty brides with easy-to-off sisters and roomy castles. My heart sank when I saw Bronn traipse in in his finery. He wore it to tell Tyrion (and us) their arrangement has come to an end. Bronn will not save Tyrion’s life this time. Remarkably, they part as friends with a bittersweet handshake. Things were looking pretty damn bleak, him being left without a single ally worth a damn. At this point, I genuinely began to fear this could be the end for fan favorite Tyrion. (As everyone who has read ahead in the books warns me to not get too attached to anyone, ever.)
However, some of you speculated that Bronn is the one who handed over Shae, and that particular point remains unclear here. Did Cersei pay him to give up Tyrion’s whore? Or was he paid to stay away and not come to Tyrion’s aid? Would he hide this betrayal from Tyrion when he was so up front about the rest? Would Bronn care the heartbreak such a revelation would cause to The Imp? I’m not sure. Plot-wise, it makes sense Bronn handed over Shae, but I think my desire to still like Bronn is fighting that thought…as I try to ignore his plans for his future sister-in-law.
Finally, in the penultimate sequence in this seventh episode, Oberyn swans in with his summery yellow silks and sensual accent. He unfurls a story about the first time he met Tyrion, when the latter was just a baby. As ever, the stories of Tyrion’s ugliness and monstrousness were wildly overblown. Tyrion tears up to hear of the cruelty his sister bestowed on him even in his infancy. Imagine how different Tyrion’s life would have been had be been a son of Dorne.
Then with the ease which he propositions prostitutes, asks Varys about his personal pleasures, or threatens Cersei Lannister, Oberyn lays out his plans to use this trial by combat to accomplish his quest to kill The Mountain. And the crowd (okay, me) goes wild! Hope for Tyrion’s survival is reborn. I was half-expecting Oberyn to mic-drop that torch and the show cut to black. But of course this episode is called “Mockingbird,” so instead we fly up to The Eyrie to visit owner of the mockingbird sigil Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, and the twisted combo family he’s stitched together there.
We begin with Sansa in the snow. For the first time in gods knows how long, she looks happy. Then in a tender and tragic act of remembrance, she tries to rebuild Winterfell, fully aware this is the closest she may ever be to a returning home. But her solitude and solace are destroyed by that little maniac mama’s boy Robin, who promptly decimates snow Winterfell. His tantrum gave me flashbacks of early Joffrey, and we know how to treat a riled Joffrey, don’t we.
I just can’t get enough of this.
No sooner has Robin run off that Littlefinger has slunk out of the shadows to whisper creepy nothings in Sansa’s ear. “I only killed Joffrey because he killed your mother!” Sansa has gotten better at lying and hiding her emotions, and I can’t believe she believes Littlefinger’s pretty lie. (Ahem, Catelyn wouldn’t have been thrown to the Lannisters were it not for his mechanizations to begin with!) But while I was scoffing, Littlefinger creeped in for a kiss. As I shuddered, a rack focus reveals (dun DUN DUN!) Lysa spying on them!
Afterwards, Sansa walks out to the main court to join Auntie Lysa, you could smell blood in the air. Someone was going out the Moon Door. If Loopy Lysa had her way it’d have been her pretty niece, but Littlefinger intervened just in time, saving Sansa. He played Lysa like a harp from hell, broke her heart, then pitched her ass out the Moon Door. AND SCENE!
I admit I was torn about this murder. Of course I hate Lysa. I hated her as a smothering mother, a twisted sister, a threatening auntie, and Littlefinger’s lusty puppet. It was poetic justice she met her end through the Moon Door, the same one she had taught her son was like a personal garbage disposal for anyone who ever bothers you. But her death just makes it all the easier for Littlefinger to rule the Eyrie and make stomach-churning advances on poor Sansa.
On an up note: it was in this final moment the season’s other big confrontation fell into place. Now headed to the Eyrie in search of Starks are The Hound & Arya, and Brienne & Podrick. Will they meet on the road? Will they fight or join forces? Will their combined forces be enough to topple Littlefinger’s creepy empire? Who will be the next to exit the show through the Moon Door!?
- The up-angle shots of The Mountain really hammer home his insane size. I’m practically giddy to see him duel with easy breezy Oberyn.
- Arya has become a nihilist. She believes in nothing.
- She’s also getting wicked with Needle, killing her would-be rapist with a single blow! Even The Hound was moderately impressed. I am too. But also a bit sad. I miss the spritely girl who was chasing cats and water dancing. Then again take a cue from another teen killer: adapt or die.
- I expected more of a moment when these two discovered Joffrey’s dead. ~grumbles~
- I know Bronn has killed a lot of people for less, but there’s something especially grim about him murdering some barren old maid for her inheritance. Right?
- I’m digging Dany and Daario’s flirtation. You can read Dany’s interest and arousal, but she’s grounded and staying in control. Also cheers to Game of Thrones for giving us a sense of the female gaze during Daario’s strip tease. But jeers for endless amounts of T&A but cheating us on the D once again.
- We’re finally getting to learn a bit more about Melisandre’s Lord of Light. Apparently drugs and pyrotechnics are tricks of the trade to win followers, and little Shireen has a place in her witchy plans.
- Poor Jorah. He’s suffered a lot of indignities on and off screen in his arc, but running across Daario during the mercenary’s Walk of Shame–ouch.
- I had gotten bored with Dany and her stone-faced rhetoric of freedom and revolt. But Meereen is brewing interesting complexities from her ill-advised romance to her learning the intricacies of rule. I’m back on board Team Dany.
- The Hound recounts The Mountain’s mutilation, and it becomes starkly clear how his entire worldview came together. If your brother destroyed your life over a petty trespass, and your father moved to have his cruelty hid instead of punished, you wouldn’t have much respect or expectation from authority or society. His working for Joffrey makes lots of sense in this context.
- Brienne and Podrick meet Hot Pie! That tubby chatty Cathy is still alive! And still oblivious on how to read the room. But hey, he has gotten better at making direwolf bread.
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Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) is a New York-based film critic, entertainment writer, and co-host of the movie review video podcast Popcorn and Prosecco. When she’s not eat/sleep/breathing all things film, she can be found nerding out over board games, Adventure Time, Game of Thrones, or Jeff Goldblum.