TV Review: “Game of Thrones” – “The Mountain and the Viper”

Written by Spencer Sterritt June 05, 2014

The Mountain and the Viper, Game of Thrones, Ellaria

People die on “Game of Thrones.” We know this, and it’s one of the reasons why everyone gets so involved with the show. It’s never the person you want to die either, except Joffery. This whole season has been building towards the titular battle in “The Mountain and the Viper,” and while it certainly doesn’t disappoint, it also does not overshadow the rest of the episode.

“The Mountain and the Viper” is a brutal episode, perhaps the most brutal of the season. Two settlements, Moat Cailin and Mole’s Town, are attacked before the climactic fight between The Mountain and Prince Oberyn. Several flayings and stabbings act as an extended intro to the trial by combat, which ends with Oberyn, after a brief victory, first lacking eyeballs and then a head. The most haunting image however, isn’t of the fan favorite prince lying in a huge pool of blood, it’s blood dripping down from the wood ceiling after the wildling attack in the North.

“Piles and piles of them, years and years of them, how many countless living crawling things smashed and dried out and returned to the dirt?”

Amongst all the bloodletting, “The Mountain and the Viper” also manages to be emotionally brutal as well as it wallows in the despair of death and betrayal. After the wildling attack at Mole’s Town Sam Tarly weeps away at Castle Black, pining for Gilly (who thankfully survives the attack). After Oberyn’s defeat Ellaria’s first scream really twists the knife of how nasty his defeat was. Emotionally however, the most brutal scene was across the sea, as Jorah was finally called to task for his spying on Daenerys way back in season one. His scene of punishment is wonderfully shot and framed in closeups that get tighter and tighter the angrier Daenerys gets before cutting to a long shot of the city and Jorah riding away that emphasizes just how alone he is now.

Sad Jorah, Game of Thrones

After spending several episodes wondering about questions of justice, and how it can be obtained, “The Mountain and the Viper” answers those questions by saying: there is no justice. If there was Prince Oberyn would still be alive. Tyrion has a lovely but unsubtle pre-combat scene with Jaime about how death is part of life, and it’s what people do. Death is always the end result of justice in Westeros, and it often gets in the way of what is right. Any talk of justice this season has just been false hope for the viewers, to heighten the aftermath of Oberyn’s defeat.

Game of Thrones, The Mountain and the Viper, Prince Oberyn

The fight between the mountain and Prince Oberyn is one of “Game of Thrones'” best fight scenes, and plays well with our knowledge of how these fights are supposed to go. The best moment in the episode happens before the fight though, and is a scene of relative humour. When Arya and the Hound reach the Vale, their destination for this season, the news of Lady Arryn’s passing dashes all of the Hound’s plans and Arya can’t help but laughing. Her ringing laugh peels out over the Vale at just how unfortunate their fate is.

“Laughing at another persons misery was the only thing that made me feel like everyone else.”

“Game of Thrones” is hardcore misery porn, wallowing in the success of traitors and rich assholes, while the good and just are cut down, stabbed, shot, and beheaded. It has gotten to the point where you just have to laugh at how miserable everything is, and Arya’s laugh keeps the show from becoming too serious, and turning into a parody of it’s own misery. Of course this happens before Oberyn dies, which is another shocking death designed almost exclusively to give the audience someone to like and sympathize with before they are brutally murdered.


Next weeks episode, the traditional “Game of Thrones” ninth episode, is sure to have some mammoth revelations, but this season will most likely always be defined by “The Mountain and the Viper.” Joffery’s death was unexpected, but he was a little shit, so the moment most likely won’t stick in people’s memories like the red wedding does. Prince Oberyn’s death was expected but still shocking, and bloody as all Hell, exactly the thing “Game of Thrones” watchers turn in for. Thankfully the episode was not one long 52 minute fight, and though many plots weren’t touched on here, they still moved forward at a good pace and set up for the season finale, after next weeks giant episode.

 My Rating: 8.5/10



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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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