The “Mockingbird” of Game of Thrones focuses on openings and closings: a conflict over a tunnel passage into Castle Black, an opening for vengeance, a new beginning for Daenerys, and an emotional opening up of the Hound. There is a hole in Tyrion’s line-up for a champion. And, once again, we see that Petyr – “Littlefinger” – Baelish is truly the master of the game.
There are some obvious historical allusions in this episode, including one to the mythology surrounding Richard III’s birth and, I believe, another to the peasant raids during the Hundred Years’ War. Robin Arryn’s fears may provide insight into the emotional landscape of some hereditary princes in the Middle Ages.
Tyrion Gains an Unexpected Ally
After hearing Shae’s testimony at his trial, Tyrion lost his cool – and now he may lose his head.
Tyrion’s rash choice of trial by combat has upset Jaime. (In Westeros, trial by combat is an option the accused can choose instead of a judicial trial, as described in this article.) Jaime tells Tyrion he has “thrown away his life” on a brilliant speech people will soon forget.
Perhaps, Tyrion is assuming that Jaime will stand for him as his champion. But, Jaime delivers the first blow. He can’t stand as Tyrion’s champion. His training with Bronn isn’t going well, and he can’t even beat a stable boy with his left hand.
All of Tyrion’s hopes now rest on Bronn, whom he assumes will stand for him for enough money.
The blows keep coming for poor Tyrion. Ser Gregoy “the Mountain” Clegane will stand for Cersei in Tyrion’s trial by combat. The Mountain — Sandor “the Hound” Clegane’s brother — is nearly eight feet tall, doesn’t feel pain, and is monstrously strong.
We get a quick reminder of just how lethal the Mountain can be in a quick scene when Cersei finds the giant of a knight training on hapless prisoners. The Mountain slices the scrawny ragged men down one-by-one, their guts spilling all over the sand. The message is clear: the Mountain is unbeatable.
After waiting for days, Bronn finally pays Tyrion a visit in his cell. The sellsword won’t give Tyrion what he had hoped.
Cersei has raised Bronn’s price. She is giving Bronn a titled wife – Lollys Stockworth — a prize he can’t claim if he fights the Mountain.
Bronn is hoping Tyrion can beat Cersei’s offer. But, Tyrion really has to make it worth Bronn’s while: fighting the freakishly strong Mountain is risking death: one misstep and he’s dead. To chance it, Bronn wants a bigger castle than the one he might get from his bride-to-be’s family.
Tyrion can’t beat Cersei’s offer. When Tyrion asks him to fight because for him because he is his friend, Bronn makes a good point. When has the high-born Tyrion ever risked his life for his hired hand?
As much as we may hate Bronn for it, he is being fair.
Later on, Prince Oberyn approaches Tyrion with an unusual offer: he will stand as champion for Tyrion.
Oberyn reveals that Cersei came to him on the pretext of inquiring about her daughter Myrcella: in reality, she tried to persuade Oberyn to condemn Tyrion.
When Tyrion bitterly informs Oberyn, Cersei has wanted Tyrion’s death for a long time. Oberyn already knows that and tells Tyrion a curious tale of when he visited Tyrion as a baby.
In an interesting parallel with the legends of Richard III’s birth, Oberyn had heard stories that Tywin’s newest son was a terrible monster –with claws for fingers even. (For centuries, rumors persisted that Richard III was born with hair, had a full set of teeth, and lingered in the womb for two years.) In actuality, neither Richard nor Tyrion were monstrous babies.
Oberyn then recalls Cersei’s seething hatred for the baby Tyrion, whom she blamed for killing her mother. She tortured Tyrion in the cradle and hoped he would die soon. As Oberyn wryly puts it, “It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters.”
Oberyn has come to visit Tyrion because he wants justice for his sister and her children – and he is willing to fight for it. Oberyn will be Tyrion’s champion.
An Opening at Castle Black
It’s snowing at Castle Black but that’s not the only threat in the air. Jon warns the Night’s Watch council that 100,000 men – and giants – are about to descend on the thinly protected Castle Black.
Jon urges the council to seal the tunnel gates with ice and rock. If not, the tunnel gates present ready access to Castle Black for the Mance Rayder’s army. The 4” thick cold-rolled steel bars on the gates of the tunnel entrance won’t withstand a giant’s might. The men of Castle Black cannot defend a siege against an army of 100,000 men.
Ser Alliser Thorne, the gruff master-at-arms who taught Jon and his fellow recruits to fight, scoffs at the idea the castle could fall. It had never been taken in thousands of years. Thorne sneers at Jon’s proposal. Thorne publicly challenges the leader of the Builders – the order responsible for the tunnel — not to agree with Jon. Falling in line, the Builder leader does not.
Thorne punishes Jon’s warning by putting Jon and Sam on night patrol at the top of the Wall until the next full moon.
The Wolf Girl and Her Beaten Hound
In what may be another homage to the Hundred Years’ War – and the savage effect of its peasant raids — Arya and the Hound come across a dying, possibly once prosperous, landowning peasant farmer. An invading army has burned his farm to the ground – and left the farmer with a lethal gut wound.
Despite his incredibly painful wound and his hopeless situation, the man has not taken his life yet. Perhaps, he doesn’t have the will or courage – when Arya asks him why not, he says “Habit.” In what may be a nod to Arya’s emerging nihilism, she replies, “Nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing.”
Compassionately, the Hound puts the suffering farmer out of his misery. “That’s where the heart is,” the Hound says as he stabs him. Could the brutalized Hound’s emotions finally be thawing?
The Hound’s kindness is not repaid. A bounty hunter jumps him and bites a chunk out of his neck. The Hound reflexively dispatches him. But he has a friend – a criminal who threatened to rape Arya en route to Harrenhal.
The would-be rapist tells the Hound that the Lannisters have put 100 silver stags on his head for killing their soldiers. But, the stupid oaf doesn’t appear to get that he is now truly in danger – from both of them.
As soon as Arya learns the man’s name, she adds him to her kill list. Swift as an arrow, Arya darts out her sword and impales the bounty hunter.
Later on, Arya wants to cauterize the Hound’s wound. Refusing, he shares the reason he is scared of fire, how his brother fried his face. The deepest scars are within though: not only did the brother inflict such cruelty – and the scars are far, far worse in the books – his father betrayed him. Rather than turn over the Mountain to authorities, his father concealed his crime: not only wouldn’t his father protect him, the Hound had to live with the monster who harmed him.
As their storyline progresses, both of their characters are changing. The Stark girls have unwittingly taught the Hound to feel again. In exchange, Arya is learning to survive without her family – and what better teacher in that than the man who never had one.
Daenerys Beds Daario
Daario Nasharis breaks into Daenerys’ private quarters through an open window to offer her wild flowers. He claims he is restless and wants more action – either on the streets or between the sheets.
Daenerys pours a silver goblet of wine and invites him to do what he does best – with her. Sadly, the scene ends far too soon.
DB Weiss comments in HBO’s “Inside Episode” that Dany came into her own – and came to control her destiny – by opening to her own sexuality with her first husband. Perhaps, tonight marks a departure for Dany: she is no longer the grieving widow martyring her personal desires for the sake of leadership.
The next morning Dany is in a great mode when she meets with Jorah – and unveils a ruthless scheme to squelch slavery. Jorah does not approve of her tryst – and approves even less of her ruthless plans to deal with the slavers of Yunkai. She has instructed Daario to round up thousands of the Wise Masters for execution. Jorah dissuades her by reminding her that if Ned Stark had been so harsh he would not be there.
Melisandre Seduces Selyse
Queen Selyse enters into Melisandre’s candlelit quarters as the Red Priestess is bathing. Melisandre pours a glowing cobalt blue potion in her bathwater – and begins to seduce Selyse.
If Selyse wasn’t so crazy, perhaps she would be more alert. Melisandre shows Selyse her many potions and explains their ability to cast illusions and confuse men’s minds.
Melisandre invites Selyse to look into the flames. The Red Priestess guides Selyse to divine the future through fire – or at least leads Selyse to believe she can.
Melisandre wants Selyse to bring her heretical little scale-faced daughter Shireen with them on their upcoming journey. Ominously, Melisandre tells Selyse “the Lord of Light” needs Shireen. Let’s hope he doesn’t need Shireen the way “he” needed Gendry.
Brienne & Pod Learn Some Crucial Information
Brienne and Pod learn some vital news when they stop at the Inn of the Crossroads to take a break from Pod’s burnt-to-a-crisp cuisine.
While savoring a delectable kidney pie, Brienne makes the mistake of complimenting the cook on it. It turns out the cook is Hot Pie, whom the Brotherhood Without Banners left at the Inn of the Crossroads (the Inn of the Kneeling Man in the books) – just before they sold Gendry to Melisandre.
Much to Brienne’s obvious annoyance, Hot Pie regales them with the finer points of cooking kidney pie. (It’s all about the gravy.) Brienne asks if he has seen a pretty red-haired girl named Sansa Stark.
The next day, as Pod and Brienne prepare to leave – and just after Pod ironically chastising Brienne for telling people they are looking for Sansa — Hot Pie reveals he has seen Arya. She is with the Hound. In fact, Hot Pie is hoping they will find her: he even baked her a second wolf biscuit.
The long-believed dead Arya is alive astounds Pod and Brienne.
Tyrion’s lessons in the Houses of Westeros might pay off for Pod. He suggests they go to the Vale since he that is Arya’s last living relative with money and that could be where the Hound might go to sell Arya.
An Opening at the Vale
Sansa is getting closer to discovering the truth about why Petyr killed Joffrey – and the reason has monstrous consequences for her. As a purifying snow coats the Vale, her voyage into truth begins.
Sansa is having a rare moment of joy – she is soothing her wounds by building a snow castle of Winterfell – when Little Lord Robin, the next husband waiting in the wings, arrives.
Channeling what may well be the fears of hereditary kings over the age, Robin echoes a sentiment likely at the heart of kings like Henry VIII’s behavior. Robin tells Sansa: he has to keep himself safe. (During the period after his mother and brother’s death, Henry VII kept his last heir locked away from the world to ensure no harm came to him — especially from rival claimants. This fear of nobility may have emerged later in life and manifested itself in Henry’s proclivity towards judicial homicide.) But, back to the episode.
Robin tells Sansa the instructions he presumably grew up hearing: “I have to keep myself safe. Because I’m the lord of the Vale and the Lord of the Vale is a very important person.”
People are a threat to the princeling. The moondoor protects him by showing anyone he chooses a quick and permanent exit.
Rather than being sympathetic to Sansa’s sadness over the destruction of Winterfell, Robin’s main preoccupation is with his own safety were he to ever to go there: “Does Winterfell have a moondoor?” Robin is upset that Winterfell does not have a moondoor because it means he can’t protect himself from the bad, scary people that he doesn’t like.
Note those last words. Anyone Robin doesn’t like will be “whooshed” through the moon door.
Winterfell is a scary place without a moondoor, so in an ironic bit of foreshadowing, Robin unsuccessfully tries to add a moondoor to a tower in Winterfell and, then in an incredibly destructive rage, smashes Sansa’s old home. What happens next will destroy her new home.
Furious, Sansa impulsively slaps Robin sharp on the face. After Robin storms off, Sansa realizes her impulse may cost her dearly. Joffrey would never forgive such an act.
Petyr comes upon her. He reassures Sansa he will prevent any repercussions from Lysa. Plus Robin has long needed such a slap from his own mother. (See my controversial princeling hypothesis.)
Petyr’s master scheme is unfolding perfectly for him. He now has an even more beautiful Catelyn reborn in his grasp, along with possibly Winterfell.
Why did Petyr kill Joffrey? Sansa demands an answer.
Petyr obliquely replies that he loved her mother more than she could ever know and wants to avenge her death. Petyr tells Sansa she might have been his child – and then he KISSES her. Vomit.
And, there’s our answer. Petyr has realized if he eliminated Sansa’s husband he could claim a Catelyn-reincarnated and the North in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately for her, Lysa’s worst fears were realized tonight. She spotted Petyr kissing Sansa. And, then she makes a fatal mistake.
Lysa summons Sansa to the moondoor. She loses it. How could her beloved Petyr favor this empty-headed child? Lysa calls Sansa a whore. Lysa forces holding Sansa’s head over the moondoor and makes her look at her potential fate on the rocks miles below if she doesn’t stay away from Petyr.
To save Sansa, Petyr swears on the gods he’ll banish the girl. After Lysa relents and releases her, Petyr consoles Lysa, as she sits on the bench surrounding the moon door. Trusting in her love completely, Lysa rises. Her back is now to the open moondoor with nothing in between her and the gaping opening.
As Lysa looks at Petyr, her eyes full of love, he tells her, “I have only loved one woman my entire life: YOUR SISTER.” And, then Petyr pushes Lysa out the moondoor.
Petyr has dealt with the obstacle that prevented him from remarrying – his bothersome wife. He may be only one little princeling away from having both Winterfell and the Vale.