Game of Thrones Discussion – Season 4, Episode 8: Save Me!

 

sansa back stare

Salvation can come from unexpected quarters. It can also be offered under false pretenses. Sometimes we fail those whom we are duty bound to protect. And sometimes the very best efforts to save others just aren’t good enough.

Sweep those beetle carcasses away, pull up a chair, and enjoy a discussion of “The Mountain and the Viper” with three fans with very different perspectives: Laura Fletcher, a casual fan of the television and book series; Corrin Bennett-Kill, a hardcore fan of the book and TV series (she has read all the books four times!); and Cheryl Collins, a TV show watcher who has never read the book series.

Please join the discussion in comments!

Cheryl Collins
So, the theme this week seemed to me to be salvation and protection: some from unexpected quarters, some failed, some falsely promised — and some looming.

Corrin Bennett-Kill
I would lean more toward the idea of false or dashed hopes, although I don’t know where to classify Sansa and Littlefinger in that case.

Cheryl
In my mind, Sansa unexpectedly saved Littlefinger — a parallel with Ygritte keeping quiet about Gilly and her baby.

Corrin
We/I have spent the past several seasons bitching about Sansa’s lack of realism and awareness. But now that she seems to have awakened, I feel sorry for her and a little more worried for her future. She’s playing in the big leagues. Does she really understand what she’s doing?

Laura Fletcher
I agree on the themes you mentioned. Perhaps the thing uniting them is some focus on vows or promises? We certainly get that a lot on this show, so I’m not sure if it was a standout or if I’m fixated on Jorah and Oberyn. But back to Sansa!

Cheryl
That theme of promises and protection: the first scene is the attack on Mole’s Town, and then we see Jon and the band of Night’s Watchmen ruing that they could not protect the town or their comrades, Sam devastated he could not protect Gilly, and all weighed down by the fact that they cannot protect the Wall with 102 men.

sam closeup

Laura
I’m surprised we got as many storylines in this episode as we did, considering we could tell from the title that the battle was going to go down. That attack you mentioned, Cheryl, was just the first of at least three very violent scenes we got. Lots of bloodshed, and all of it unexpected, either because the attack was a surprise or the ferocity was way past the usual limits.

Corrin
I’m glad things are finally getting going at the Wall. I have to say the endless bitching of the Black Brothers has been getting on my last nerve. Less talky more fighty. A more morose group I’ve never seen.

Cheryl
And Ygritte is a bad ass! Yet, she saves Gilly and the baby.

Corrin
She’s a badass with a conscience. I wonder if she spared Gilly because of the baby or because she recognized her as a wildling?

Laura
I liked that it was up in the air. I’m not sure why Ygritte’s hand was stayed, but it seemed meaningful and rather touching. As blood dripped through the ceiling, sheesh!

Cheryl
Yes, what a detail.

Corrin
Of all the scenes of violence, that one detail had more impact on me than did much of the slaughter that preceded it. Show writers take note!

Cheryl
Right! It’s the suggestion of violence that’s so creepy.

So, let’s jump from the Wall down to that warm pool. (And Laura, I immediately thought of your comment from the last post about all the pools and baths in this show.) We find out that perhaps Grey Worm did not lose all of his “stones.”
Grey Worm

Corrin
It was odd. I’m not sure what all the focus on Grey Worm and Missendei is about. This is a complete departure from the books. Not a bad one, but are the writers just trying to keep us engaged in the happenings of Essos or is there some additional purpose at play?

Laura
Corrin, same reaction. They’re both fantastic secondary characters, but what does it all mean?

Cheryl
Interesting, because I don’t know what’s in the books. It seemed to me that Grey Worm is gaining his humanity, slowly, coming to the realization that he has feelings, is a man and not a programmed robot — in contrast to Theon, who has been totally reprogrammed.
theon_reek

The first shot of the episode is of two, ahem, long and cylindrical wind chimes. We then follow the Night’s Guard guys into the brothel, where there is much joking about penises. On reflection, it set the theme of the whole pillars/stones thing. And twins. Both Grey Worm and Theon have had real estate removed, but one is gaining his identity back after conditioning, and the other seems to be sliding further in the other direction.

Corrin
It feels like that relationship just got plunked down without any real effort to enmesh it with the rest of the story line. Your interpretation may be right, Cheryl.

Cheryl
And there was an emphasis with the Grey Worm–Missandei story of him not knowing his name, and needing his original name to gain his humanity.

Laura
Maybe it was also to cement the idea that Grey Worm isn’t interested in Daenerys? And with Jorah gone, what does that mean for Not-Fabio (aka Daario)?

Cheryl
Again, Ser Barristan was focused on protecting Dany, and Jorah of course failed in his role of “protecting” her.

Corrin
Poor Ser Friendzoned! I knew it was coming, but I still felt so badly for him. It was like watching someone kick a puppy.

Cheryl
Yes, I wondered what side he will end up fighting on. I have a feeling he’ll go in search of that sword of his father’s …

Laura
Jorah failed, but he didn’t really. He ended up saving Dany when no one else could, when that wine merchant was out to poison her. I know I’m a Jorah fangirl, and I knew there was no way he could stay, but still.

Corrin
I always thought if he had told her sooner, when he decided to stay with her rather than remain just a spy, that they would have weathered the betrayal. But waiting so long, deepening that relationship, made it all the worse.

Laura
When he’d just had his moment to shine the episode before, too. sigh I will miss that hot kilted man.

Corrin
That she couldn’t even look at him, was … heartbreaking.

Cheryl
And Grey Worm made a point of saying that Jorah had taught him the word “precious” … that made the fall even more poignant for me.

So from there we ride up to the Vale, where it seems some of Margaery’s lessons have taken root.

Corrin
That was quite a performance by Sansa. Holy Toledo! I wasn’t sure which way she was going to go, but our Sansa used the truth as skillfully as a surgeon!

Cheryl
Great point. Just enough truth to make it all so believable. And now Sansa and Littlefinger are co-conspirators.

Corrin
I think Sansa even managed to impress Littlefinger. A feat in and of itself.

Cheryl
It seems that Sansa’s long “imprisonment” has altered her as well. She revealed her identity when it suited her. She is all about survival now. Forget Stark “honor”— or apply it surgically as needed.

You can see Littlefinger’s thought bubble in that scene: “I may have underestimated this chick! What a pair we’ll make!”

Laura
And what about that tête-a-tête in her room after the trial?

Cheryl
When she tells him she knows what he wants, and offers the very tiniest smile: wowwee.

Corrin
Yep. Restraint. Keeping him off-balance. The Tyrells did indeed teach her well. Nice to see Sansa have some power. Too long a pawn.

Laura
Way too long. You could see her absorbing lessons back in King’s Landing, but instead of using some of the skills she was learning, she grew sullen and hopeless. Somehow, Lysa’s death kick-started something in her. Better late than never!

And then there was Arya laughing at news of her aunt’s death.

Corrin
Arya! She is awesome. Laughing at the Hound in his dashed hopes of getting rid of her.

Cheryl
Another non-Stark-reunion. Now what will he do with her?

Corrin
That is indeed the question, Cheryl.

Laura
I also saw it as Arya laughing at the whole fucked-up world. Of course they’re three days late.

Cheryl
And what about Petyr lecturing Robyn that it is time for him to man up and get out in the world? Robyn seems desperate for male guidance. Only to be interrupted by the literally sparkling Sansa, with her bazooms newly revealed, making Petyr BURN.
sparkling sansa

Corrin
I have my doubts as to whether Petyr would like Robyn to return from his trip.

Cheryl
Petyr is setting up Robyn just as Tywin is setting up Tommen.

Laura
And her feathery shoulders! So much bird imagery in this show that it can’t be a coincidence. Gorgeous costume, too.

Corrin
She looked like a woman. Not a girl.

Cheryl
Finally. She’s working with the only tool she has now.

Laura
Speaking of tools, how about that Ramsay Bolton? high fives self for incredibly douchey transition

Cheryl
Alfie Allen is brilliant, I thought, as half-Theon, half-Reek. I’ve always lauded his acting, but he really ramped it all up in this episode and the last.

Laura
I finally got some appreciation for his acting, really.

Cheryl
So the commander at the Moat senses something isn’t right about Theon, but he is quickly dispatched by one of his men, who buys Reek’s/Theon’s promise of safe passage, which he himself seemed to have believed. We see our first set of gouged eyeballs, and a false promise of protection.

Corrin
I think I had a problem with this episode because I kept waiting for the fight at the end. I expected it sooner and to last longer so all of the other scenes had me waving my hands saying, “moving on.” I was too impatient to appreciate the nuances.

Cheryl
That’s how I felt about that long discussion about the beetles. As Tyrion asks, “What is that all about?”

Laura
Yes, Cheryl! Plus I thought Peter Dinklage’s impressions of his cousin were just cruel.

Cheryl
Is that scene in the books?

Laura
Not to my memory. Was that story supposed to make us empathize with Tyrion more? Or be symbolic/thematic? All it made me was impatient and insulted by the jokes about lisps and intellectual disabilities. Frankly, I also agreed with Jaime that, well, it’s just beetles, dude.

Corrin
I read that scene a lot differently. It seemed … brotherly. A last moment of camaraderie. But regarding Tyrion’s story, I considered it more of an allegory to his own life. The incomprehensible nature of the people around him: a sister who wanted him dead, a father who hated him, an indifferent brother, and a world that looks at him in the same way he looked at his cousin, with confusion as to his existence.

Laura
Based on that I was hoping to get some empathy from Tyrion for the way his cousin was treated, and though he claimed some kind of empathy I think he didn’t really give any. The way he studied his cousin like a curiosity and mocked him, and made him a symbol for something else. … So, yeah, not my happiest Tyrion-fangirl (or Dinklage-fangirl) moment.

Corrin
In a way it was a parallel to the story Oberyn told about his first meeting of Tyrion as a baby. He wasn’t a monster, just a baby. But no one else could see Tyrion as anything else. And Tyrion has been as perplexed by that as he was about the beetles.

Cheryl
I too felt he was asking, aren’t we all just beating rocks against the ground, creating vast destruction, and isn’t it all the rest mindless time filler? (Kind of like Game of Thrones.) What’s it all for? Something to think about as he faces death, I suppose. He seemed to see some larger existential questions in all that beetle crushing — and he chose to let the one he picked up live. That was important, but why?

Laura
I suppose it’s crueler than I expect Tyrion to be, but then again, it’s a natural reaction to a world that sees him as a beetle at best.

Jaime staying with him until the last moment, as we could see by how late he retook his seat, was pretty poignant.

Corrin
Laura, if it were Jaime or Cersei talking about the cousin, I would agree with you. But as ruthless as Tyrion can be, he isn’t vicious.

Cheryl
Right, he was trying desperately to get in the mind, understand, his cousin.

Yet the bell tolled …

Corrin
And now the Viper and the Mountain. I kept thinking two things during the entire fight scene: 1) He’s monologuing! 2) Allo. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die (from “The Princess Bride”).

Cheryl
I have to say, I did not love the way this scene was shot.

Laura
It was awkward camera angles, I thought.

Cheryl
GoT does great with static scenes, but often not so great in scenes with movement, oddly. I wanted some close-up shots of both of them, but we did not get that until the end, sadly. Oberyn was playing to the crowd, and I supposed they shot it as though we were in the audience.

Laura
They must’ve used a lot of stunt-doubling for Oberyn. The only excuse I can think of for what you’re describing.

Cheryl
GoT really knows how to pull the rug under us. As book readers, you two knew what to expect, but I did not see that end coming. All the tropes were there — triumphal music, the nervous paramour watching — to make us expect a Rocky-like ending. But this is GoT.

Corrin
Even knowing what to expect, that ending was rough.

Cheryl
Expectations raised, then dashed … again.

Corrin
The actor who has been playing Oberyn is extremely charismatic. I wanted it to be different, just for his sake.

Laura
Agreed. I’d forgotten the head-crushing, which was in the book, but whoa is it more intense in person. (By the way, this was one of the three violent scenes. The other one we didn’t get into was the flayed man back at Moat Cailin, ew.)

Corrin
Then the reaction shots: Cersei triumphant, Jaime gut shot, and Tyrion … crumpled.

Cheryl
And where was Tommen, I wondered?

Laura
Good call on Tommen. I guess since Tywin was his stand-in for the trial, he didn’t attend? Plus, the knowledge that Oberyn had the fight in the bag and got all caught up in justice … there’s another theme we’ve seen before!

Cheryl
And hubris.

Fave moment: Pycelle getting the hook as he droned on before the fight. And Tywin signaling, “Cue music!”

Laura
So, any satisfaction hearing the Mountain admit what he did?

Corrin
No satisfaction. It was vengeful truth-telling. Telling Oberyn his quest ends here at my hands just like your sister’s life did.

Cheryl
Yes, the last thing he saw was his sister’s killer. And Tywin did not have to admit anything.

Laura
Plus, no one really doubted the Mountain did it. Oberyn only asked once (I think?) who gave the order to him, which was the more pertinent point. Though, we can all guess that one, too, can’t we?

Cheryl
Especially as he was pointing at Tywin. Not subtle. Moment of note: before the fight, Tyrion upbraided Oberyn for not wearing armor (there’s that thread again) and then says words to the effect of, “You could at least wear a helmet.” Always wear a helmet, young’uns.

Laura
I suppose this leaves us wondering what will happen in the season’s last two episodes. Tyrion keeps ending episodes on cliffhangers (seriously, how many episodes has Tyrion ended this season? at least three!), and the Wall is clearly in for some trouble.

Cheryl
And Episode 9 always seems to be where the action is.

Corrin
Yes, finally! The North.

Laura
And if next week is all-Wall, that leaves a LOT to be discussed in the finale!

So why did you think the beetle-crushing story was about? If you have thoughts on that or anything else, please share with us in comments!

 

Postscript

Did anyone else make a connection between these two?

Tormund Giantsbane bowe's dad

The fellow on the right is the dad of Bowe Bergdahl, the captured soldier in Afghanistan who was just released. Godspeed.

  1. I just have to note that as soon as Oberyn started twirling his little staff, my husband and I were both like, “Well, he bites it. Showoffs never win.” Not having read the books, I also did not see that level of ick in his death, but it does open up the possibility that the Hound will get to kill the Mountain. Or, even better (and I really hope this is the case), that Arya will.

    • Whose staff are you calling “little”?

      You were so right — showoffs just cannot win. GREAT notion that Arya will end up killing the Mountain.

  2. The beetle crushing story serves, in the end, as Tyrion’s testimony / proof that he is NOT an opportunistic killer … Tyron declines to squash the life out of the critter he held, instead choosing to gently return it to the ground … that scene was Tyrion’s true trial~ not the fight by proxy btwn the Mountain and Oberyn … Tyrion is innocent of Joffrey’s death.

    • I think this is a fascinating read, Sandra: the concept that allowing the helpless animal to live was his true test.

    • I love that interpretation. Do you think Tyrion might have been trying to read Joffrey’s head as well?

  3. The fight scene beautifully mirrored The Hound’s attempts to teach Arya that huge armoured guys who fight dirty will always win over prancing royalty. I loved his takedown of her beloved teacher in an earlier episode. “The best swordsman didn’t have a SWORD?” Arya is lucky she met him before she attempted to avenge her family. And can someone please nickname her “The Puppy”? It would be the best thing ever.

    I’m so happy for Sansa! I’ve always liked her character and hoped she’d get an opportunity to do something other than PTSD’d red-eyed gazing into the void. Was her black feathery dress symbolic of her allegiance to Littlefinger? Isn’t his sigil a mockingbird or something?

    I think both Stark girls have learned their strenghts and weaknesses in their respective zones (battlefield/court) in a beautiful way. Arya now knows that regardless of her swashbuckling skills, her size and strength doesn’t make her a tank. Sansa finally got to use her weeping skills, which she has had ample opportunity to practice over the years. Her crying/lying (or “crylying”) was skillful, and when that councilwoman got up to comfort her I was fistpumping the air furiously. Finally, Sansa got to do something that was her own idea, and it worked flawlessly. I saw her dress-reveal almost as a butterfly emerging.

    I agree with Corrin that Arya was laughing at the Hound. I’ve seen countless commenters who read it as Arya cracking and going insane. Their entire epic journey ends with a sad trombone for The Hound, who expected this to be the payday.

    I thought the beetle-monologue was Tyrion’s metaphor for all the wars and violence. No matter how clever and regal Tywin thinks he is, he is basically a simple-minded child cruelly smashing defenseless beetles with a rock (or a mountain) for no reason. And Tyrion wants no part of it. He also knows he would be a beetle in the cousin’s world. The reason he doesn’t empathize with the cousin is that Tyrion doesn’t see him as a disabled kid in a world of non-disableds, he sees a beetlesmasher in a world of beetles.

    Ygritte saving Gilly was very similar to a scene in Vikings where Ragnar saves a frightened child from Ragnar’s own merry marauding men. Seriously, PLEASE watch Vikings, it is fabulous and in many ways superior to GoT, and has way less neckbeardily written women.

    Poor Ser Fedorah! Pretty stupid of them all to not see the opportunity for some clever double-agenting. If he stayed, he could have been an asset, providing the other side with false information, and also ensuring that they don’t try to replace him. Dany is a great conqueror, but a horribly inept ruler (so far).

    I really want Tyrion and Sansa to rule together. It would make sense in every way. They have both suffered greatly at the hands of cruel rulers (or “cruelers”), and are pretty level-headed and intelligent.

    • Karl is kind of like our shadow contributor — you know, like in Great Britain, where they have the shadow “ministers” of the party out of power.

  4. Thanks Fernando, but I’m really more of a commenter than a contributor. I couldn’t possibly keep up with the fangirls in a discussion, being neither a native English speaker nor an academic.

  5. Aren’t you all professors of really esoteric things? Maybe that just is in my mind. I seem to have inadvertently constructed a fanfic about the Fangirls. What’s next, you’re gonna tell me y’all don’t have super powers?!

    But yes, I am the shadow minister for the opposition. Very well put! I’ll sit in the gallery and occasionally chime in with a “hear, hear” or “f’shame”, and occasionally I’ll deliver my shadow budget.