Thursday, June 5, 2014

RECAP: Game of Thrones 4x08 - Only the Good Die Young

While I am happy to be back to blogging (yay!), it's totally bumming me out that the two episodes to be recapped this week are so overwhelmingly depressing. And sad. And miserable. Guh. Seriously. Convincing myself to recap this is like when you've left the bandaid on for too long and your leg hair is grown in and you know you have to rip it off because it's starting to smell but it's going to huuuuuuurt.

Anyway. Might as well get this over with.

The episode picks up in mucky wet sadness, aka that random town in the North where Sam left Gilly in a brothel. Gilly is not happy. Gilly does not like working in a brothel. The whores aren't very nice to her, because nice people are in scarce supply in Westeros. Probably because they keep getting murdered. Someone should look into that.

Gilly stops their argument when she hears an owl cooing. Except it's not an owl and Gilly knows it. It's the Wildlings, who after like three episodes of doing things off screen are finally back and sacking a town. They appear to be looking for something specific, or else they're just clumping together because it's a good fighting strategy (which it is). Ygritte goes into the whorehouse and kills a bunch of the whores. But not Gilly. She lets Gilly and her son, Sam, live. Probably because she recognizes something in Gilly's cold dead eyes - the North.

Sadly, though, no one has managed to report Gilly's not death to big Sam (Samwell Tarly) up at Castle Black. He mourns her. He loves her. Even thinks of her child as his own, and he's the one who put her in that brothel for safekeeping. He feels responsible.

The other Black Brothers are pissed because some of the men in the brothel were of the Night's Watch, but they aren't being allowed to retaliate. If they do, then it'll become increasingly clear how strained their resources are, and also it will slowly weaken their defenses. Nope, they have to stay there. But at least there's hope for Gilly. As the other men point out, she survived Crastor, living in the North, the Wildlings, climbing the Wall, and even facing up a White Walker for crying out loud. Gilly's fine.

Jon, with his usual cheer, points out that the Wildlings must be coming for them next. They're screwed. There are only about a hundred of them and Mance Rayder has an army of a hundred thousand. Balls.

Oh hey, it's Grey Worm taking a bath and totally creeping on Missandei, who is also taking a bath. She sees him creeping. It is a sad moment of deep and meaningful awkwardness. But generally speaking, I think we can all agree that, Dammit, Grey Worm, you should not be staring at naked ladies who are just trying to get their clothes clean. That is wrong and deeply disturbing. Stop it.

Missandei tells Daenerys, because they are besties, and Daenerys responds with all of the tact and reasonableness you would expect from the Warlord whose only sexual experiences are from being a child-bride who married into a tribe of casual nudists who believe in exhibitionist sex. So, you know, not super helpful. Anyway, Dany points out, the Unsullied don't care what ladies look like under their clothes, because they aren't interested.

Except Grey Worm really clearly was. Then there is a charming conversation about exactly how castrated Grey Worm and the other Unsullied actually are. Also Missandei might have a crush on Grey Worm back. Uh, I feel like this has potential to be the most cringe-inducing plotline yet on the show. From just plain old awkwards.

Grey Worm comes and apologizes to Missandei for his actions. He also says that she is "precious" to him. He even took extra lessons in Westron to learn how to say that, which is, I have to admit, super cute. Oh gosh. Now they're talking about Grey Worm's personal castration experience. Missandei says that she's sorry it happened to him (he doesn't actually remember it), but Grey Worm isn't. He's glad. Because if he was never cut, he never would have become Unsullied, and if he never became Unsullied, he never would have gotten to meet her.

I am in a glass cage of emotion. Grey Worm apologizes again, a lot, and then tries to walk out. Before he does, though, Missandei, who has so far been quiet about how she feels about Grey Worm creeping on her, says that she's glad he saw her. And then he leaves. Neither of them cracked a smile throughout this entire exchange. What's up with that? Smile already! Life isn't so bad! Neither of you are slaves any more, and you know Dany ships it and would totally let you get married and valiantly attempt to have babies.

On a more serious note, I do appreciate that the narrative here recognizes that what Grey Worm did (spying on a naked Missandei without her consent) was wrong and a violation of her trust. How Missandei handles it is really up to interpretation, but I like that at the very least, Grey Worm and Missandei both recognize that he crossed a line (even if Dany is confused why this is a line and what it's doing there). He apologizes, and she accepts. Most important though, he apologizes without prompting. Which is good. He should.

Up in the North (but not as North as Castle Black), Ramsay and Reek are out for a little jaunt with a giant freaking army. Ramsay needs Reek to pretend to be Theon Greyjoy for a while (please bear in mind that Reek actually is Theon Greyjoy) so that he can call the Greyjoy soldiers off and send them back to the Iron Islands. Ramsay needs the Greyjoys to think that the North is still theirs so that he can take it in the name of the Boltons.

What mostly confuses me is why anyone wants this land at all. Look at it. It's not very hospitable, is it? Dany's desert is nicer.

Theon!Reek rides through the battlefield up to the burned out husk of some city or another. The Greyjoys have taken it and taken it with abandon. The problem is that they're now cut off from the rest of the army (by Bolton's forces) and they are way far away from the sea. Since the Greyjoy army's strength is primarily naval, because, you know, islands, this is a problem. Theon gets into the keep and proceeds to give his spiel about how they should all surrender to the Boltons because the Boltons are super nice, you guys. Totally ignore how their sigil is a flayed man

For some reason the Greyjoy commander is not overly fond of this idea. And he can see through Reek's Theon facade. Reek kind of freaks out. But then the commander (who spat on Reek, nice) gets murdered by his own men, and those men are definitely totally willing to surrender and get to live. They like living. Living is nice.

They don't get to live. Ramsay has them all super murdered, because he is a psychopath. Reek has feelings about this, but he is smart enough to avoid speaking them in front of Ramsay. The question remains, though, if this and the accompanying horrors will be enough to break Reek of his devotion to Ramsay. I hope so?

Petyr Baelish is facing the consequences of throwing his wife out of the Moon Door. I mean, the guys interrogating him don't know that he did that, but come on. Who in that room thinks that this guy didn't do it? Plus, they're all suspicious of him because he comes from new money and owns whorehouses and is well tied to the Lannister family. Which are all pretty decent reasons to be suspicious, actually. Since he is now the acting Lord of the Vale until Robin comes of age.

They don't really believe that Lysa committed suicide. Because obviously she didn't. Anyway, the advisors want to see Sansa (who is there as Petyr's "niece", remember). She's their only witness. And they insist on interrogating her in front of Petyr. She tells them that she's Sansa Stark, not Alleyne, and she tells the advisors that Petyr saved her and that she's super grateful and he's so kind, etc. Which isn't exactly true, but dang is Sansa getting good at this political stuff.

Sansa Stark is, as I have pointed out many times, shaping up to be the most politically interesting character in the show. She's awesome. Anyway, Sansa's testimony is like Oscar worthy and she convinces the council that Lysa was bad and evil and that Petyr totally saved her life and yay, isn't he the best person ever? She insists that she's the one who kissed Petyr, and that Lysa saw it and went nuts and killed herself. And Sansa sobs and the advisors rush to comfort her and Sansa makes some intense eye contact with Petyr to make it clear: he owes her.

The council apologizes profusely to Petyr for doubting him, and then they discuss plans for the future. Petyr points out that the Vale has stayed out of the recent political conflict, and when they ask who they should back (since Robb Stark, the only contender they liked, is dead), Petyr announces that Robin Arryn (aka, crazy whiney weird boy) should claim the throne. Uhuh. So what angle are you playing now, Petyr?

Over in Meereen, Ser Barriston (Dany's old white advisor - it's hard to keep them all straight) gets a message with a very suspicious seal on it: the King's Hand. Well that can't be good. He goes to see Jorah, who is looking at the map and generally brooding. Then he sticks the message, which was apparently a royal pardon signed by Robert Baratheon, in front of Jorah. Now they know. Jorah was spying on Dany.

Well, yes, but that was ages ago. Like, three whole seasons. And Barriston is all protective father "you'll never be alone with her again!" They're going to tell Daenerys. Right now. 

Daenerys is not happy. Jorah rightly points out that the document has clearly reached them because Tywin Lannister wants to tear them apart, which is obviously true, but Dany does have a point. It's not forged, it's real, and it's dated from the year they met. That was not a good year for Daenerys. Methinks she does not like knowing that the king was spying on her in that year using her best friend to do it. Because he told them that she was pregnant, and yeah, he helped her avoid a bunch of assassination attempts, but he's the one who caused them, sooooo...

This is the big one. He's her best friend. He was her best friend. She doesn't want to execute him, and she doesn't want him to stay. She doesn't want him anywhere near her. Which is understandable. She sends him back to his "masters" in King's Landing to collect his pardon. And here's the thing. I totally get why she is doing this. She has always believed that Jorah was in her corner, and it turns out that when he first met her he was just straight up lying and spying and being terrible. Does that invalidate all of the good he's done since then?

I think it's interesting that they show Dany here getting rid of her chief and most trusted advisor. I mean, I know it's a pretty valid reaction, albeit a manipulated one, but let's all remember the speech Tywin gave like five episodes ago when he was talking to Tommen: the best ruler is not a strong one or a conqueror or a selfless one or even a just one. The best rulers are wise, and wisdom comes from listening to those who are wiser than you. 

So, this is probably not a good move in the long run, is it? As a ruler, what Dany probably needs most is forgiveness. She needs to learn how to forgive people, because dang can she hold a grudge. But that's a hard thing for regular people to learn, not to mention warlords with armies and people and a raging hardon for justice.

Jorah leaves. It's sad.

Ramsay hands over the banner of whatever city that was to his father, Roose, to tell him that the battle is won. Roose is not super enthusiastic. But he does admit that Ramsay did a good job. The last of the Starks haven't been seen in ages (because Bran is beyond the Wall and Rickon is prone to disappearing until the plot needs him again and only the boys count for this, I guess), and the Ironborn are leaving the North in droves. It's theirs. They've won.

And in honor of that, Ramsay Snow has become Ramsay Bolton. He did such a good job that his dad had him legitimized. Since Roose Bolton is Warden of the North, that makes Ramsay Bolton his heir. Yay! Go psychopathic murder guy!

Man, this show totally gives you weird complexes about who to root for, doesn't it?

Back in the Eyrie, Sansa is mending her dress when Petyr comes to visit her. He wants to know why she helped him. And she's very clear. If they executed him, who knows what they would have done with her? Very practical. She knows what Petyr wants (her) and she knows enough to be totally sketched out by it.

Arya and the Hound approach the Eyrie and discuss the news that Joffrey is dead. On the one hand, it should make her happy because she really really hated Joffrey. On the other hand, she didn't get to kill him herself. Oh murder child. As the Hound points out, "Nothing makes you happy." Which is true.

They reach the gate, and the Hound announces himself and Arya. I mean, he has to be open about who Arya is, because he wants Lady Lysa to pay to ransom her. Except there's one tiny snag here: Lady Lysa is dead, remember? Crap. You know, Arya is very quickly running out of relatives who can pay to ransom her. Who's left? Jon Snow? The bastard brother at the Wall?

Arya reacts to this with the full breadth and width of her PTSD. She busts a gut laughing, because, well, isn't it just poetic? And then everyone there who isn't the Hound is terrified. As they should be.

Inside the building, Petyr tries to convince Robin that it's totally okay and he really can go outside. It's fine. The outdoors will not kill him. Figures that he would be agoraphobic after his mother spent literally his whole life indoctrinating him into thinking that the whole world wants to murder him. They don't really. He's not important enough.

But Petyr actually does have some okay advice: "Don't worry about your death. Worry about your life, as long as it lasts." Fair point. And then Sansa walks up, all decked out in a fancy dress and playing Petyr like a freaking fiddle. Man I love this chick.

We haven't had our dose of Tyrion's pity party so far today, so here's our moment. Tyrion is getting drunk in his cell with Jaime while he awaits his trial by combat. Oberyn Martell is fighting for Tyrion, Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) fighting for Cersei and the Crown. Hence this episode's title: The Mountain and the Viper. Oberyn is known as the Red Viper of Dorne.

Anyway, they have a conversation about their dim cousin who liked smashing beetles. It's a super long conversation and I'm sure there's some deep meaningful stuff behind it, but whatever. Mostly it felt like filler. The bells finally ring and it's time for the battle.

Tyrion comes up to where Oberyn is getting ready to fight and he is not impressed. I mean, it's both of their lives on the line, and Oberyn is kissing his girlfriend and drinking wine and wearing very light armor and no helmet! Not comforting at all. But Oberyn is confident. "Today is not the day I die."

For all his bravado, though, Oberyn is a little nervous. His girlfriend, Elia, much more so. They're sweet, and I like them, and I have a bad feeling about this. But it's probably fine. Right? I mean, Game of Thrones is well known for adhering to a romantic notion that the good guys win. Yeah. That could happen. It's not like this is the most relentlessly, ruthlessly realistic show ever when it comes to depictions of violence and political intrigue. Nope.

Oberyn's fighting tactic appears to be mostly yelling that the Mountain raped and murdered his sister (which he did), and then dodging the blows of a much bigger man. They're both skilled, but Oberyn is fighting out of rage, which is actually kind of a problem. It makes him a worse fighter. But for a minute it seems he's going to win. He gets the Mountain down, and the man is dying, but Oberyn won't let him die without confessing. He has to confess. And of course, that is Oberyn's downfall.

The Mountain sits up, punches the teeth out of Oberyn's head, and then crushes his head between his hands and it is super gross. Then the Mountain dies. Elia screams, and Tyrion watches in horror, as do we all.


Tyrion's battle is lost, even though the other champion died too, and Tyrion is sentenced to death. Also Elia is going to need so much therapy after this.

End of episode.

So, it would be very easy to go back and talk about hubris and how it clearly was the theme of this episode - not just with Oberyn, but also with Daenerys and Jorah, and with the Hound who is probably dying of infection, and so on - but that seems simple and reductivist. Instead, let's all just take a minute to be really really glad that court cases are no longer determined by battles to the death. 

Isn't that nice? I mean the court system in this country isn't perfect, and it has a lot (a LOT) of major issues that need reform, but it's not this bad. So, you know, yay!

And I'm sure next week will be a much more calm and peaceful and not depressing as all get out episode. Because we're nearing the end of the season. Which means...wait a minute. Crap.

At least next season we get to see all of Oberyn's daughters. So there is that.

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