A pawn goes tumbling down off the chessboard while a rook moves to protect a vulnerable piece.
“Mockingbird” is the 7th episode of this season and it brings many of the themes of this season to bear during its run. The moments of interaction are charged with revelations, with gains and losses that will shake Westeros but more importantly shape who characters will turn out to be in the future. Rather than an action-packed episode (that’ll be the one coming up after the Memorial Day weekend), this was an episode with fulfilling emotional moments.
Tyrion finds himself dealing with the aftershocks of his fateful decision to request a trial by combat. It is the ultimate gambit for our favorite dwarf. His life hangs in the balance. Seeing Tyrion and Jaime together to start the episode was an excellent start as the two of them shared their distaste for their father’s machinations. Tyrion knew full well his decision would result in Tywin losing the chance to have his eldest son take his place as heir to Casterly Rock. But Jaime is not who he once was, not the fighter he once was. Tyrion hopes his brother will serve as his champion but Jaime knows who Cersei will call as her champion.
Ser Gregor Clegane (good goddamn is that man a beast!), the Mountain who Rides, will serve as the champion for the crown. There is no more feared individual in Westeros than the Mountain, a man who wields a claymore (a two-handed greatsword) with only one hand. The propensity for violence and cruelty of Gregor has been established since the first season but we get a bit of him practicing with helpless men, probably condemned criminals. One could almost see the smug satisfaction radiating off of Cersei as she approaching the Mountain, certain in her victory.
Tyrion’s scene with Bronn was my second favorite of the episode. These two have been good company together, providing the audience with a perspective on Westeros’ politics and maneuverings since they paired up halfway through the 1st season. Bronn wants to help his friend, his employer, but Bronn is and always will be a sellsword. With the prospect of marrying into a small noble house (and arranging the murder of the eldest daughter), Bronn is in a position to ascend the political ladder in a way few sellswords could ever dream of accomplishing. Bronn knows better than most what Gregor is capable of and won’t risk his life. It was poignant to see how much Tyrion and Bronn have come to care for each other, probably more than either thought they ever would.
This leads to my favorite scene: when Oberyn visits a brow-beaten Tyrion in the middle of the night. Oberyn did not fall for Cersei’s act when they spoke about their daughters before the trial. The reason is that he sees her for what she truly is: a devious human being. Oberyn’s recollection of seeing the infant Tyrion, not some dreaded monstrosity but a simple, mewling infant, is touching because it reveals Oberyn’s respect for Tyrion. It also reveals that Cersei has hated her youngest brother since his birth took away her mother. There is more to her hatred of Tyrion but that will be revealed in time. For now, Tyrion has hope that he will live beyond this trial. The Red Viper is also a feared warrior, one of the best Dorne has ever produced, as Tyrion noted at the beginning of the season. The smile Peter Dinklage gives off when Oberyn volunteers to be his champion is beaming grin, a terrible weight lifted from the dwarf’s shoulders.
The other big scene is the death of Lysa Arryn, nee Baelish. Lysa is and has probably always been batshit insane, probably since she was a teenager. Lysa’s rage at Sansa is not entirely unjustified, especially when one sees their new husband (someone they’ve been pining after for decades) kissing a much younger, much more beautiful woman. The fact that said young woman is her niece does not matter in the slightest. Lysa was a pawn for Littlefinger, a way for him to remove Jon Arryn and sow the seeds of the rebellion against the Lannisters and all the other powerful houses in Westeros. By clearing away the Tullys, the Starks, the Lannisters, and the Baratheons, Littlefinger is able to ascend the ladder and take what he probably feels is proper compensation for life not living up to the fairy tales. Lysa death was a foregone conclusion. Having an unstable pawn on the board is too much chaos for Littlefinger to control. Lysa’s attempted murder of Sansa, a much more valuable pawn, just sped up the timetable.
The rest of the episode had some interesting scenes and some largely forgettable ones. The scenes at the Wall felt a little too throwaway. They simply rehashed the animosity between Thorne and Jon. Melisandre’s scene with Lady Selyse felt perfunctory but I’m not going to complain about seeing Carice Van Hoten in all her slinky glory. It’s shallow of me to say that but she is a damn good actress. It doesn’t hurt that she’s very easy on the eyes. Podrick and Brienne shared a quiet moment with Hot Pie, leading to their shift in adventure that will result in some interesting developments.
The moment between Arya and the Hound felt bittersweet, as the two of them encountered a dying farmer. Like Osha did for Maester Luwin back in the 2nd season, there was only one way for the farmer to go. A gift of mercy, a quick death, was all he could hope for. Arya and the Hound bonding has been a long time coming. They were antagonistic through much of last season and this season but they are both orphans in their own way. The Hound can be an unfeeling bastard but that’s not all he is. Their scene together with Arya stitching his wound reminds the audience that not everyone in this world is just one thing.