Of all the horrifying moments in “Game of Thrones'” four season long run, the death of Oberyn Martell might have been the hardest to watch. The Red Wedding had its build up and, though the murders of Catelyn and Robb Stark were brutal, there’s nothing quite like the quick turn of the tide in the battle between the Mountain and the Red Viper, or the noise Oberyn’s skull made when it cracked between Gregor Clegane’s hands.
Even knowing the scene was coming, I screamed. How could you not? It’s those moments of harsh and painful brutality that make “Game of Thrones” the show fans have come to love. The loss of Oberyn Martell is not only the loss of one of the best characters the series has ever introduced, but also the loss of Tyrion Lannister. He is sentenced to die in the final moment of this episode. His innocence is not proven.
“The Mountain and the Viper” marks a dark turn for “Game of Thrones,” not just in King’s Landing but around the world. Here’s a look at what happened in Season 4, episode 8:
At the Eyrie
Beyond the King’s Landing drama, the Eyrie is the location of the second most significant events to take place in a very significant episode. Petyr Baelish is questioned by the Lords of the Vale about the death of Lysa Arryn, and Sansa is asked to come forward as witness.
If anyone needed any proof that Sansa is a very changed woman from the girl in Season 1, then this is it. She spins a new version of the truth, revealing her identity as Sansa but playing on the Lords’ knowledge of Lysa’s insanity and twisting that to create a believable story where Lysa would commit suicide. The Lords buy it, and Littlefinger is free — with a new appreciation for Sansa Stark.
Sansa literally transforms by the end of the episode. When she walks down the stairs to greet Baelish, she has dyed her hair darker to help hide her identity. Emotionally, she is a new woman as well. She found her strength and let it shine through in this episode. Sansa is Alayne now, but she is also the woman she always should have been. Sansa-haters to the left
Also at the Eyrie, Arya and the Hound actually arrive, but days too late. Arya’s laughter when she learns Lysa is dead echoes our own as the Hound’s plans are thwarted again.
In the North
It’s time to meet Ramsay Bolton, the trueborn son of Roose Bolton.
While Joffrey Baratheon was easy to hate because he was a stupid, evil character, Ramsay — despite his evilness — is actually a very smart person. He proves that when he sends Reek into Moat Cailin as Theon Greyjoy, and his plan to take the fortress works as intended.
It’s hard to watch Reek struggle with his identity as Theon, and when small cracks in his Theon persona start to appear when he is put under pressure. But he serves his purpose and Ramsay takes Moat Cailin, killing all the Ironborn there in the process. Then Roose makes him his heir, which is the only happy thing to happen in this entire episode.
A bit farther north, the Wildlings finally arrive at Mole’s Town and murder everyone there — except Gilly and baby Sam, of course. Ygritte, in one of her rare appearances in Season 4, has a moment of mercy for the mother and her child, and spares their lives. Fortunately all of Sam’s tears are for naught.
Jorah’s Season 1 betrayals of Daenerys Targaryen finally catch up to him in “The Mountain and the Viper.” It’s revealed that the missive Tywin Lannister sent to Meereen was to grant Jorah a pardon for his spying efforts, and of course the letter is served to Ser Barristan. Dany won’t even look at Jorah as she hears him confirm his betrayals, and then sends him away from her with penalty of death if he doesn’t comply. Sorry, Jorah.
In another, slightly happier storyline, “Game of Thrones” offers up another romance in the form of Missandei and Grey Worm. This offers a nice conclusion to the early season storyline where Daario assumes Grey Worm has feelings for Dany, but Grey Worm says he is mistaken. Hopefully this Missandei/Grey Worm romance carries over into Season 5.
In King’s Landing
Varys warned Oberyn that he shouldn’t let his passions get the better of him, but old vipers can’t learn new tricks. If fans were wondering what the purpose of Tyrion’s story about the beetles was, it was revealed by the end of the episode. Why was his simple cousin killing the beetles? Because sometimes life is cruel.
Life is cruel to “Game of Thrones” fans. The Red Viper seemed like the savior of so many things viewers hold dear: Justice, revenge and Tyrion. None of those things were saved in this episode, and the loss of Oberyn cuts deep because of it. Now Tyrion is sentenced to death, and it’s hard to see how he will escape with his life this time.
“The Mountain and the Viper” is one of the strongest “Game of Thrones” episodes to date, and that’s just the type of episode that the death of Oberyn Martell deserves. He shone brightly and brilliantly during his time on the show, and he will be deeply missed.
– Book readers are likely happy “Alayne’s” hair is now dark, but in “A Storm of Swords,” Sansa actually dyes her hair before she gets to the Eyrie. She also never reveals her true identity to any of the Lords of the Vale.
– The Hound and Arya never make it to the Eyrie on their journeys in the novels. But it’s hard to imagine anyone complaining about the scene, because Maisie Williams’ laugh made the whole thing worth it.
– Littlefinger’s line about dying “squatting over a chamber pot” is a really nice nod for an upcoming scene from the novels. Good word, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Ramsay to Theon: “Remember what you are and what you’re not.”
The Hound: “Poison’s a woman’s weapon. Men kill with steel.”
Arya: “I’d kill Joffrey with a chicken bone if I had to.”
Oberyn: “Today is not the day I die.”
Oberyn of fighting the Mountain: “Size does not matter when you are flat on your back.”
Tyrion: “Thank the gods.”