Game of Thrones Recap: Episode 4.08 “The Mountain and the Viper”

My apologies for such a late, and what may likely be a short, Game of Thrones post. But man, while this was a very well done episode, it was also a brutal, difficult episode to watch. I remembered the fight between Oberyn and Ser Gregor in the book, and I remembered its outcome. It was a disappointing result, mostly because it made me fear for Tyrion’s fate, but coming in the same book as the infamous Red Wedding, I think I may have been a little emotionally shellshocked already, and it didn’t have as much of an impact as it could have. I didn’t really care that much for Oberyn on the page; sure, I wanted him to win because Gregor is pure evil, but I think I even resented his careless arrogance a bit.

So, I was surprised that, all throughout the last two weeks, I was dreading this episode. I think it’s because the show did such a good job making Oberyn so darn likeable. We saw more of him on the screen, and Pedro Pascal’s performance was so vivid and full of life. Yes, he was arrogant, but he was charming, sarcastic, funny, and seemingly one of the few people on the continent that knew how to enjoy life and even laugh from time to time. And though both book and TV Oberyn were driven to seize some kind of justice for the murdered Elia and her children, it seemed like TV Oberyn was at least in some small way driven to defend Tyrion in order to prevent him from suffering injustice as well.

The story he told of his childhood, when he first met Tyrion, made me feel that the prince of Dorne felt deep empathy for Tyrion; empathy for his situation at the time, and empathy for the horrible life he’s had that was inflicted on him by his horribly broken family. I don’t recall if this monologue was in the Game of Thrones books or not, but I never quite felt like the book version cared quite so much. So I doubt I was the only book reader to wonder, fleetingly, if perhaps Oberyn would escape his grisly fate. Sadly, he didn’t, and actually watching his graphic death play out on screen made everything worse. I think, for the first time in the run of the show, I felt ground down by the tragedy. I felt hollowed out all night, and sad for days later.

It’s too bad, really, because this was a great episode packed with some great stuff: Sansa’s expertly handled political manipulation of the Lords of the Vale; Arya’s manic laughter; Gilly narrowly escaping the wilding attack; even Reek’s attempt to impersonate “Theon,” and Ramsay’s unexpected legitimization. But in the end, I don’t think I’ll be watching this Game of Thrones episode again for quite a while. It was just too much.