This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 7, “Mockingbird.” Enjoy!
Long ago, Ned Stark told his daughter Arya, “when the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives,” and in last night's “Mockingbird" episode, Game of Thrones explored variations on the theme of sibling relationships, and how families, of blood or of fellowship, stand or crumble. Oberyn’s lasting love for his murdered sister, Elia, and his passion for justice for her awful death made him volunteer to face a monster for Tyrion’s sake, while Lysa Arryn’s last jealousy of her murdered sister Catelyn led her to nearly kill Sansa and be murdered herself. Cersei’s lifelong hatred of Tyrion contrasted with Jaime’s lifelong protection of his little brother, and the love Jon Snow bears his half-sister Arya, exemplified in the sword he had made for her, was the reverse of the hatred between the Clegane brothers, which led Gregor to hold Sandor’s face to the fire for playing with his toys. And then there are the families of choice, built by fellowship in circumstances: Bronn’s friendship with Tyrion, built on liking and on gold was not strong enough to withstand his (quite understandable) fear of facing the Mountain in combat, while Arya’s friendship with Hot Pie led him to tell Brienne and Pod that Arya was still alive, information that very few people have.
In King’s Landing, the focus was on the imprisoned Tyrion, who received three visits—the first from his beloved brother Jaime, who chided Tyrion for upending Jaime’s deal with Tywin. Tyrion admits that it was Shae’s words that caused him to crumble, because he loved her and believed that she loved him (and on the show, I believe Shae loved Tyrion as well; I’m surprised that neither Jaime nor Tyrion figured out that perhaps Shae was being intimidated by Cersei and Tywin!) Jaime asks Tyrion why he’d risk his life for pride, which is a little rich coming from Jaime—arrogance is as much a Lannister family trait as blond hair (maybe more so considering how brown Jaime’s hair looks these days!)
Tyrion still believes that Jaime will be his champion, because—as we’ll learn later—Jaime has been Tyrion’s champion and protector for his entire life. That is, until Jaime reveals that he couldn’t beat an untrained stable boy with his left hand, and ifhe champions Tyrion, they will both die. Tyrion almost thinks it’s worth it to spite Tywin Lannister, but Jaime’s not so sure about that. (And since his goal is more “save Tyrion’s life” and less “spit in Tywin’s eye,” he has a point; if he were to champion Tyrion and die, then his death would be absolutely meaningless since Tyrion would also be executed.)
If Jaime couldn’t beat a stableboy left-handed, then he certainly can’t beat Cersei’s champion, Gregor Clegane, whose third incarnation is shown disembowelling hapless unarmed prisoners. (The actor has been recast twice so far, so if he didn’t look familiar, that’s why!) Cersei goes to visit Gregor during his morning routine, and seems fairly happy with her choice of combatant.
Tyrion’s next visitor is Bronn, who’s sporting some fancy new duds, and is on his way to the altar with the “dimwitted” Lollys Stokeworth who’s second in line for a castle. Our wicked sellsword’s come a long way, huh? Bronn regretfully declines to champion Tyrion, whom he likes. “I just like myself more.” Tyrion is remarkably forgiving of Bronn’s defection—far more so than he was of Shae’s. He was paying both Bronn and Shae for their companionship and services, but had far fewer illusions about Bronn's loyalty and affection. Still, after seeing Bronn, I’m surprised that Tyrion didn’t wonder whether Shae had received any similar carrots or sticks from Cersei as Bronn did and instantly leaped to the conclusion that she never loved him, while forgetting the cruel words he used to Shae to get her to leave King’s Landing.
Tyrion’s final visitor is Oberyn Martell, and their scene is the gem of this episode, not just because of Pedro Pascal’s brilliant delivery of this line: “It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters.” Oberyn tells Tyrion that Cersei approached him to sway him in Tyrion’s trial, and then relates an incident from when Tyrion was a baby. It seems Oberyn’s father brought Oberyn and Elia to Casterly Rock just after Tyrion was born. They were expecting to see a monster, with a tail between his legs, and instead, Cersei revealed a rather ordinary baby, before pulling Tyrion’s penis so hard Oberyn thought she would pull it off. Even then, Jaime was Tyrion’s protector, ordering Cersei to stop, but Cersei, who has always hated Tyrion for “killing” her mother said, “It doesn't matter, everyone says he will die soon. I hope they are right, he should not have lived this long." Poor Tyrion has always known that his sister hated him, but this is just confirmation that there is nothing he could ever have said or done that would have made a difference, and his face is absolutely heartbreaking in this scene. (In fact, I thought Peter Dinklage’s performance here was even better than his, for me, slightly over-the-top histrionics during his speech in the last episode. You can see the heartbreak and despair in Tyrion’s eyes while Oberyn is talking, mirrored by the heartbreak in Oberyn's eyes when he talks of his beloved sister.)
Luckily for Tyrion, Oberyn loved his sister Elia as much as Tyrion’s sister Cersei hated Tyrion! He has come to tell Tyrion that he will fight the Mountain on Tyrion’s behalf, because the Mountain was the man who murdered Elia’s children before he raped and murdered her. Jaime’s love and Bronn’s seemingly insatiable greed both ultimately failed Tyrion, but Oberyn’s desire for vengeance—which he calls justice—will be Tyrion’s salvation.
Meanwhile, in the Riverlands, Arya and the Hound continue their slow journey to Lysa Arryn in the Vale (although as we’ll learn later, Lysa would probably not give Sandor Clegane a penny for her despised sister’s daughter.) They come across a sacked village and a dying man and have a rather drawn-out conversation about being and nothingness before Sandor Clegane gets bored with this ontological rambling and puts the old man out of his misery with a quick stab to the heart. It’s not a moment too soon, because one of the zombies from The Walking Dead leaps on Sandor's back and bites his neck. Sandor fights the guy off, but loses a chunk of his neck in the process. This is a really good reason to wear full body armor at all times, by the way!
Biter’s companion introduces himself as Rorge, and Arya remembers the two of them from her King’s Landing Great Escape—they were locked up with Jaquen H’ghar as the three worst criminals. Based on how easily they’re subdued by a little girl and Sandor Clegane, I’m thinking that Biter and Rorge were in that cage as a result of clerical error. Arya stabs Rorge to the heart, just as Sandor showed her earlier, and then she and the Hound walk away.
Later, Arya sensibly points out to the Hound that unless he cauterizes the bite-wound on his neck, it’s going to fester. She’s right, but the Hound can’t stand to be near fire, and tells Arya the story of how his brother Gregor held his face down into open flames when they were children because Sandor had the temerity to play with Gregor’s toys. Even worse than the fact that his own brother mutilated him like that over something so trivial was the fact that Sandor’s father covered up the whole affair. With family like that, who needs enemies? Though Sandor, of course, has plenty of those as well. Arya tries to clean out the wound as best she can and helps Sandor stitch it up. Everyone who thinks this isn’t going to end well, raise your right hand! (Left hand if you’re Jaime Lannister.)
Also in the Riverlands, Brienne and Pod show up at the Only Inn in All of Westeros (seriously, this is where Sansa’s direwolf was killed, and where Tyrion was arrested, and where the Brotherhood without Banners captured Arya and Gendry and where they brought Sandor Clegane and ... you get the picture!) Pod and Brienne enjoy a delicious hot pie made by ... Hot Pie!! Yay! Nice to see that he’s still alive and eating well, because this is Westeros and you just never know—out of sight might be out of mind, or else hideously mutilated or killed.
Hot Pie shows up to see how they like the food and regales Brienne and Pod with his secrets for creating the best hot pies; eventually he asks what they’re doing in the Riverlands. Brienne blurts out that they’re looking for Sansa Stark. Hmmm, I’m not sure that’s a very good strategy and neither is Pod. Luckily, she blurted it out to Hot Pie, rather than to, say, a Lannister soldier or someone more interested in gold coins and less interested in baked goods. As Pod and Brienne are leaving, Hot Pie comes out and tells them that, while he’s never met Sansa Stark, he hung out with Arya for a while and that he last saw her with the Brotherhood without Banners and the Hound. He gives Brienne a really nice wolf-shaped loaf of bread for her to pass onto Arya when they find her. Awwww! Pod reckons Arya’s headed for the Eyrie, where her Aunt Lysa lives, while Brienne is puzzlingly unaware that Lysa Arryn is Catelyn Stark’s sister. (Hey, these aren’t Joe AveragePeasants we’re talking about here, but the highest lords of the realm, so why wouldn’t Brienne have at least some knowledge of their marriage alliances? Well, whatever ... it gives Pod a chance to show his quality.)
And now it’s time to take our tour of the periphery: In Meereen, Daario sneaks into Dany’s room to ask her for a favor. He says he has two talents, war and women, and he can’t exercise either of them in Meereen. Dany refuses his request to go kill people, and instead orders him to undress, which he does. Apparently she likes what she sees, because we cut away to the next morning, when Daario is leaving Dany’s chambers, jaunty and not buttoned up, and runs into Jorah Mormont. Daario can’t resist rubbing his Khaleesi sexytimes in a bit, and Lord Friendzone is understandably a bit jealous when he finally sees Dany, who’s wearing some kind of Meereenese lingerie and staring at a map.
Dany tells Jorah that she’s ordered Daario and his mercenaries to retake Yunkai from the masters, and then kill every master in the city to prevent them from taking power again and to show them they can’t treat human beings like beasts. Jorah points out that the slaughter Dany proposes is also treating men like beasts, and says that if Ned Stark had treated him as Dany proposes to treat the masters of Yunkai, he wouldn’t be around to offer Dany counsel. I’m pretty sure Ned was going to execute Jorah but he fled first, but Dany accepts Jorah’s interpretations and tells Jorah to pass along her changed orders to Daario, making sure that Daario knows it was Jorah’s advice that changed her mind. She also says that Hizdar zo Loraq, the young man who approached Dany to bury his crucified father last week, should go along as an ambassador to Yunkai, to let the masters there know that they can live—without slavery—in Dany’s new world, or die in their old one.
At Castle Black, everyone but Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne is pleased by the return of Jon and his group after their successful mission against the mutineers of Craster’s Keep. Thorne gets all pissy about Ghost, and orders him locked up. Later, at dinner, Jon proposes sealing the tunnels to the other side of the Wall in order to make sure Mance Rayder’s giants can’t get in, but Alliser Thorne pooh poohs the idea, primarily because it’s coming from Jon and he really dislikes Jon. In other words, the situation is basically exactly where we left it two or three episodes ago: Mance is still slouching towards the Wall (because he has to wait for Episode 9 and we’re still at episode 7); Alliser Thorne is still acting Lord Commander and full-time Lord Jerksauce; Janos Slynt is still a big slimy bag of slime; and Jon Snow is still hard done by.
At Dragonstone, Melisandre is using her vacation time to take a hot bath. I have to say that Carice van Houten is amazingly beautiful and Selyse Baratheon agrees because she kept staring and staring at Mel’s boobs. They’re very nice, of course, but primarily I think Selyse was realizing that a flaming sword and an iron throne aren’t the only things Stannis likes about Mel. Mel orders Selyse around much as Tywin ordered Mace Tyrell around last week, getting her to bring over some bath salts or something like that. She also shares that a lot of her “magic” is actually chemistry and clever illusions but since they are in service of the truth, she doesn’t feel bad about using them to get people on the path of righteousness and burning heretics. Selyse and Mel then discuss the fact that Shireen is needed on their upcoming trip, even though Selyse wanted to leave Shireen behind. Err, the last person Mel needed for something was Gendry and he ended up with leeches on his penis. I’m not liking this development.
And last of all, we visit the Eyrie, where Sansa is entranced by a recent snowfall in the courtyard of the palace. This scene is incredibly beautifully filmed—Sophie Turner looks like she stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting for a few minutes. Sansa sets about building a snow version of Winterfell, and politely welcomes Robin Arryn who turns up to check out her handiwork. Robin is quite taken with Sansa, promising that when they’re married he’ll let her make people she hates fly through the Moon Door. Hmmm, he sounds a lot like Joffrey except that he actually likes Sansa. For now. Robin accidentally knocks over one of Sansa’s Winterfell towers, and she yells at him, and then they have a very childlike argument about whose fault it was until Robin stomps all over the entire snow castle and then Sansa hauls off and slaps him.
Littlefinger, whose hobbies are sowing chaos and creepily stalking Sansa, has witnessed the whole thing, and Sansa apologizes to him for striking Robin. Then she asks Littlefinger why he killed Joffrey, and Littlefinger responds that he loved Sansa’s mother. “Given the opportunity, what do we do to those who hurt the ones we love?” Of course, Baelish has conveniently left out the whole bit where HE betrayed Sansa’s father. Littlefinger goes on to say that in another world, where strength and duty were second to love, Catelyn would have been his wife and Sansa his daughter. Sansa calls Petyr “Lord Baelish” and he responds by telling her to call him Petyr. And then he kisses her, which given the whole “you could have been my daughter” thing is just an extra dimension of creepy. Hot showers all around, please, for Sansa and for me! Unbeknownst to Sansa and Petyr, Lysa has witnessed the kiss, and considering that she was already sure Sansa and Petyr were sleeping together this can’t possibly be good.
Lysa summons Sansa to the throne room, where the Moon Door is wide open and starts to talk to her about how the bodies just fly apart when they land on the rocks below. When she mentions how sometimes the heads stay separate, with their blue eyes wide open, Sansa gets the picture. The picture of HER body that Aunt Lysa is now painting. Lysa calls Sansa a whore and pushes her down to her knees, and poor Sansa’s situation is as dire as dire can be, until Littlefinger shows up and talks his poor crazy wife down, saying that he’ll send Sansa away. Lysa lets go of Sansa who falls away, sick with relief, as Littlefinger comforts his wife by saying that he’s loved only one woman his whole life. Just as Lysa relaxes, Petyr draws back and hisses “your sister!” As the realization of his betrayal dawns on Lysa, he shoves her hard out the Moon Door. So now Sansa is all alone with Littlefinger, and I have a feeling they’ve got some ‘splaining to do to everyone ELSE in the Vale. But that, alas, will have to wait for two more weeks, because there’s no Game of Thrones on Memorial Day.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.