The theme of “The Mountain and the Viper” is justice: justice delivered and justice perverted. The obvious struggle for justice is the trial by combat itself. But the struggle for justice is everywhere. Cersei struggles to find justice for her son’s death. Tywin doesn’t struggle nearly hard enough to deliver justice for Joffrey’s death. Instead, Tywin uses his son’s trial not to punish the real killer but possibly to eliminate a reminder of a betrayal from decades before.
As the crucified — a perhaps perverse form of Daenerys struggle to deliver justice — are finally taken down in Meereen, Daenerys delivers justice to one of her inner circle. And, last but not least, the greatest lords in the Vale descend on the Eyrie to try to get justice for Lysa’s death.
The most moving struggle for justice may be Prince Oberyn’s long quest to get justice for his long-dead sister who was raped and murdered in an act of war, Robert Baratheon’s coup. Perhaps, Oberyn’s quest is a symbolic tribute to all the women over the centuries who have been raped and murdered in times of war. Unfortunately, however, as Tyrion says earlier this season, “if you want Justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.”
The Wall: Mance Rayder’s Army Approaches
At the rowdy brothel Mole’s Town, people make joking references to songs associated with great injustices that we’ve seen: the Bear and the Maiden Fair and the Rains of Castamere. As Gilly fights with the brothel keeper, she hears the raiding Wildlings approach. Ygritte, the red-bearded Tormund, Magnar of the Thenn, and Mance Rayder’s other conscripts whirl into town slicing and spearing down the townspeople and setting thatched roofs ablaze.
Ygritte is the one to clear the brothel. She kills the annoying brothel keeper. Ygritte finds Gilly hiding in the corner behind a curtain, but Ygritte takes pity on her when she sees the baby. Ygritte warns Gilly to be silent and lets her live.
Jon and a few of the men of Night’s Watch drink and reflect on their likely fate. No doubt they will follow the fate of the massacred folks in Mole’s Town. Sam is devastated since he thinks that Gilly might have died in the massacre.
Night’s Watch men – 102 in total fighting men—worry they can’t stop the 100,000 man force that is barreling down on them. And, they are probably right.
Meeren/Daenerys: A letter that changes everything
Unsullied captain – Grey Worm’s attraction to Missandei appears to be growing. As the Unsullied and the women bathe in the pond, Grey Worm can’t take his eyes off the nude Missandei. She notices.
Later on, as Daenerys weaves a headband into her hair, Missandei expresses that she is troubled that Grey Worm was looking at her and admits he seemed interested – despite being a eunuch. But nobody knows if the Slavers took the “pillar and the stones.”
A little while later in the throne room, Grey Worm and Missandei are alone. He apologizes, fearing he frightened her. When Missandei tells him she was sorry he was castrated, Grey Worm replies he regrets nothing. If he’d never been cut, he would never have met Daenerys the great liberator, had such pride of place or met Missandei. His feelings clearly run deep for the beautiful linguist. Although Missandei and Grey Worm serve Daenerys, they are free so maybe they could be together if they wanted.
This romance is a larger theme about the nature of manhood. Jaime feels he is less of a man after the loss of his sword hand. Theon is emasculated by the loss of his “favorite toy.” Tyrion calls himself the “half-man.” Can anyone love these men? It’s not clear they can love themselves.
As the Unsullied finally remove the bodies of the crucified lords of Meereen, Ser Barristan receives a royal pardon Robert Baratheon signed for Ser Jorah – and this changes everything. Ser Barristan tells Ser Jorah that he knows he spied on her.
Later, at an audience with Daenerys, Jorah admits he spied on Daenerys. Daenerys won’t forgive him and orders him to leave Meereen by the end of the night or die.
With that perhaps rash act or inability to forgive, Daenerys loses her wisest and most trusted advisor. Jorah was the only one who had a moderating influence on her.
Ramsay Pleases His Father, While Theon Betrays His
The Ironborn hold Moat Cailin, and Lord Bolton needs control of it if he is ever to claim the North. Lord Bolton promised Ramsay forgiveness for castrating Theon and rendering him a useless hostage – if he captures Moat Cailin. And, there’s nothing Ramsay wants more than his father’s approval.
Ramsay’s scheme is to use Theon against his countrymen. Before Ramsay sends Theon into Moat Cailin dressed like a knight, he reminds Theon he is only role-playing. Theon is not reclaiming his role as Prince Theon; he will always be Reek, forever.
Theon is so broken that when he rides up to Moat Cailin carrying the white banner of peace, it is all he can do to say his name.
Moat Cailin has been under siege for some time. The garrison holding the castle have gone too long without food and water. Kenning, the garrison commander, can scarcely stand.
When Theon offers peace, Kenning’s good instincts warn him not to accept. Unfortunately, Kenning’s men stick a sword through his head and accept on his behalf.
Of course, Ramsay is not to be trusted. Once the ironborn accept the peace terms and open their gates, Ramsay’s army flay the ironborn alive.
After his victory, the devious Ramsay proudly presents Moat Cailin to his father, who is thrilled. Lord Bolton has had Ramsay Snow legitimated – he is now Ramsay Bolton and no longer a bastard. Lord Bolton provides him with the papers from King’s Landing to prove it.
Ramsay has finally won his father’s love and acceptance. Will this make the tortured and torture-inflicting Ramsay any kinder?
The Vale: The baby birds leave nest
Petyr Baelish meets with the council of great families of the Vale, who sneer at his low reputation. They remind him he is a money lender, whoremonger, and Lannister bootlicker. They suspect Petyr had a hand in Lady Arryn’s suicide given how soon it happened after she married Petyr. They want to speak to Sansa – or, rather, “Alayne” as Petyr calls her — whom they believe is Petyr Baelish’s niece.
Sansa testifies before the council. In a moment in which we all hold our breath, Sansa apologizes to Petyr saying she has to tell the truth. Will she finally get her chance at freedom? Sansa admits she is really Sansa Stark. And, then she weaves a very effective half-truth/ lie that effectively protects Petyr.
Baelish only gave her a “peck on the cheek.” Lysa was pathologically jealous and did try to hold Sansa over the moondoor, but then she killed herself.
And, so it is that Sansa saves Petyr. But the real question is why?
Afterward, as Petyr escorts the lords out, he preys on their heightened emotions (after Sansa’s harrowing story). Petyr is trying to rally the lords of the Vale around Lord Robyn and put him forward as a candidate for the Iron Throne. It’s unclear if they buy what he is selling, but they are clearly more receptive to him than before. As part of Petyr’s yet-to-be revealed plan, he sends the cowardly and unwillingly princeling Robyn out into the world to see his kingdom.
As this episode reveals, Sansa has changed, matured, and is becoming a shrewd operator. Petyr wants to know why Sansa helped him. She chose to gamble on the man she knew rather than strangers. She says she knows what Petyr Baelish wants. But, as see when Sansa later descends the stairs in an outfit Maleficent got would envy, it’s clear she knows how to make him think he will get it.
Arya and the Hound Arrive at the Vale
We only catch a brief glimpse of the beloved Arya this episode. As Arya and the Hound approach the Vale, they debate Joffrey’s death. Arya is sad that she didn’t get to kill Joffrey herself. The Hound is vexed Joffrey was killed by poison, a woman’s weapon.
When Arya learns after her huge journey that Lady Aryn died three days ago, all she can do is laugh. They are penniless, exhausted, hungry. Of course, their last chance is dead.
Bad mojo may be coming for the Hound who is growing on us. Somewhat ironically, the Hound’s bite wound is infected and he is walking slower. The gods are not on their side.
Before the trial Jaime and Tyrion convene in his cell to glug wine, wax philosophical, and ponder Tyrion’s fate. Tyrion believes his champion, Prince Oberyn, can’t beat the Mountain.
When finally the clock gongs the appointed hour, Jaime departs and wishes Tyrion luck: this may be the last he sees him.
At the combat arena, Tyrion finds Oberyn swilling wine with his paramour, Ellaria Sand. But, Ellaria freaks when she sees the Mountain “You’re going to fight that. He’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen.” And, she’s right to be afraid.
Prince Oberyn whirls around the arena, lithe as a dancer, and flips like an acrobat with his spear. He even shows off a little to please the crowd.
The entire time they fight Oberyn is thrilled: finally justice for his poor sister. Oberyn, a seasoned mercenary, is more than a match for the Mountain. And, this makes him cocky.
With a flying leap through the air, Oberyn spears the Mountain through the chest in what appears to be a death blow. Oberyn demands the Mountain not die yet and pulls the spear from his chest. “Who gave you the order?” Bent on justice, Oberyn circles the Mountain. But Oberyn walks too close. He isn’t paying attention.
The Mountain shoots out a massive gauntlet-clad hand and trips Oberyn. Oberyn falls. Quick as lightning, the Mountain pins Oberyn under him. The Mountain’s two massive thumbs plunge deep into Oberyn’s eyes. Blood gushes everywhere as he gouges out Oberyn’s eyes. The Mountain then squeezes Oberyn’s head so hard it explodes.
The gods have made their will known, as Tywin tells us. While Cersei smiles evilly down from the stands, Tywin sentences his son to death.