Death continues to march through Westeros, dancing its infamous jig. The Wildings march on the Wall, a trial ends in King’s Landing, Moat Caitlin falls, and the dance of death continues along with the tune of sorrow and grief. In medieval society this was referred to as The Danse Macabre, the dance all will participate in if they walk this earth. In Game of Thrones, this dance has been ongoing and its fourth year is about to draw to a close. Before it does though, the tune will play a few more notes.
The important moment of this episode is, of course, the titular fight between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell. Oberyn was established from the very first episode of this season as a man whose passion overrides his reason. A reasonable man, one not bent on vengeance, would have simply stuck the spear through the Mountain’s exposed head and been done with the battle. But Oberyn has waited almost twenty years to exact his revenge. Pedro Pascal’s performance as the Red Viper will certainly be missed. You can see the writhing tension in his body when he believes the Mountain has been felled before he can confess. Pascal brought his A-game for the final moments of the Viper.
The conversation between Jaime and Tyrion created a nice bookend for this moment. The two discuss a cousin of theirs, one who had suffered a head injury as an infant. The single-minded zeal this cousin showed with crushing beetles with a stone is a parallel to Oberyn, whose single-minded zeal caused him to forget that Tyrion’s life hung in the balance of this contest. The mantra of “You raped her”, “You murdered her”, “You murdered her children” had a similar rhythm as the “thump, thump, thump” of Orsin Lannister’s beetle smashing. A possible answer to Tyrion’s question of why may be that some people become so driven by the goal that it becomes all that they can see.
In the Vale, Petyr Baelish stands under suspicion of murdering his wife. We know that he did and he’s having a tough time convincing the members of the Arryn aristocracy of his innocence. Then in comes Sansa, who understands the precarious situation perfectly. Sophie Turner has really started to shine as Sansa as they’ve moved the character away from the bright-eyed girl who believed in charming princes and fairy tale weddings. Sansa chooses the devil she knows rather than rely on the kindness of people she doesn’t know. Seeing Sansa at the end, hair darkened to a deep brown, signaled to me that Alayne Stone has entered the scene. The lessons of her time in King’s Landing have finally taken hold in young Sansa.
Across the Narrow Sea, in Meereen, Ser Jorah’s past comes crashing into his present. The question of how the pardon found them in Meereen is not asked because the content of the letter is all that matters to Dany and Ser Barristen. It has become clear since the end of the 1st season that Jorah loves Dany deeply, far more than just a protector. Dany, for her part, is barely able to contain her rage at this discovery. Emilia Clarke hasn’t had much to do these past few episodes but she conveyed Dany’s emotions rather well in this scene. There was venom in her voice, thinly-veiled contempt in her face, and murderous rage in her eyes. Watching Jorah ride away, a lone warrior on his horse, seems rather sad to me. Like Jorah fell for Dany, Grey Worm has fallen for Missandei, Dany’s handmaiden. There is an air of nobility to the Unsullied commander, a realization that he may not be able to consummate the desire but his lack of parts doesn’t stop the desire. For her part, Missandei accepts Grey Worm, making them quite possibly the most functional relationship in Game of Thrones.
There were other nice moments in this episode. The attack on Mole’s Town by the Wildlings allowed the audience to see the Ygritte retains some of the humanity she showed Jon during their time together last season. Part of me wonders if she had not met Jon Snow would she have killed Gilly and Little Sam. As Jon and his brothers drink a cup of wine, they realize that quite soon they will most likely face death at the hands of an enormous army. I particularly loved Arya’s fit of laughing when Sandor and she found out Lady Arryn was dead. The comedy of the scene is apparent immediately. Sandor is always late to receive his money. The man’s sense of timing is astoundingly bad, at least for the last two seasons.
But this episode belongs to the Mountain and the Viper. Their duel brings Tyrion’s trial to a close. The Imp we all love faces execution for a crime he did not commit. Where this leaves us for the last two episodes is anyone’s guess.