Jun 2 2014 9:25am

Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 8 Recap: Little Finger, Big Mountain

The Mountain and the viper in Game of Thrones Season 4 episode 8This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 8, “The Mountain and the Viper.” Enjoy!

We open in the Mole Town brothel, where Sam had sent Gilly and her baby to protect Gilly from the lascivious tendencies of the men at Castle Black. Instead, Gilly has to suffer the rudeness of one of the whores, whose claim to fame is an ability to burp music. (Maybe you just have to be really drunk to enjoy that.) She also experiences an attack by Tormund Giantsbane, Ygritte, the cannibal Thenns and assorted other Wildlings on their way to rendezvous with Mance Rayder, who is moving towards the Wall with all the speed and dedication of an especially languid tree sloth. Gilly hides out upstairs in the brothel while the Wildlings kill (and probably eat) the whores and their customers from the Night’s Watch. Her baby starts crying and thus she and little Sam are discovered by Ygritte, who, though happy to murder innocent villagers and their offspring somehow spares Gilly and her kid.

Meanwhile, at Castle Black the next day, Sam, Pyp, Grenn, Dolorous Edd and Jon are talking about the attack on Mole Town—Sam blames himself for putting Gilly in danger, while the others patiently suppress the urge to tell Sam to shut up and worry about the danger that they’re all in when Mance Rayder finally gets to the Wall. Edd reminds Sam that Gilly survived Craster, the horrendous journey with Sam shortly after giving birth and even a White Walker. So after that, a few cannibal wildlings should be a picnic for her. (I don’t mean that literally, though!) Sam seems comforted by this thought.

In Essos, Grey Worm and some of his fellow Unsullied are unwinding by doing cannonballs into the waters of a stream somewhere near Meereen. (It’s a little known fact that fearsome eunuch warriors like to frolic and even gambol in their free time.)

Over in another part of the stream, Missandei and some other handmaidens are doing the laundry naked. Surely Dany has enough money to give her handmaidens have more than one dress so they don’t have to strip to wash their clothes! But then Grey Worm wouldn’t get an eyeful of Missandei's admittedly stunning figure and keep looking long after politeness would dictate he stop.

Aftewards, Dany braids Missandei’s hair and they discuss whether the Unsullied have lost both the “pillar and the stones.” Hey, they should get together with Littlefinger, because he was always pretty interested in Varys’s stones! After her chat with Dany, Missandei wanders into the throne room, and walks up to the throne only to be interrupted by Grey Worm, who apologizes for staring at her boobs earlier. He hopes this won’t disrupt their language lessons, because they are “precious” to him. Apparently Grey Worm is also taking language lessons from Ser Jorah who taught him that word. Aww, I love these two kids, and I hope things work out for them. Missandei tells Grey Worm she’s glad he saw her, and responds “So am I.” That’s basically the last nice thing that happens in this episode, so enjoy.

Speaking of eunuchs, near Moat Cailin, Ramsay Snow preps Theon for his mission to get the Iron Born currently occupying the castle to surrender without a fight. (This is important because Ramsay’s father Roose Bolton can’t get his entire army back home to rule the North without conquering Moat Cailin.) Theon, who looks like a sad, much diminished version of himself, rides into the festering pit of disease and corpses, human and equine, that is Moat Cailin. Apparently, the Iron Born don’t even have the strength to bury their dead. Still, the commander of the garrison, Kenning, refuses to surrender, though he’s desperately ill. Theon starts to get freaked out and starts muttering about Reek (and once again, I have to mention that Alfie Allen is one of the most underrated actors on this show—his portrayal of Theon’s crumbling sanity is brilliant.) But Reek/Theon don’t need to get too stressed, because one of the other Ironborn buries an axe in Kenning’s skull, and then asks Theon if the Boltons will honor their promise to let the Ironborn go if they surrender Moat Cailin. Theon replies that Lord Bolton will treat them all as well as Theon himself has been treated. Uh oh! Say goodbye to your pillars and stones, boys!

Or more accurately, say goodbye to your skins and your lives. We close with Ramsay parading Theon in front of the flayed corpses of the men whom Theon betrayed at Ramsay’s behest. Later on, Ramsay meets up with his father Roose and gets his reward for the bloodless (on the part of Ramsay’s men, anyway) conquest of Moat Cailin. Roose hands Ramsay a decree officially legitimizing him and making him a Bolton; I’d say he’s a chip off the old block, what with the treachery and the flaying, but Roose still doesn’t seem particularly affectionate as they all ride off to Winterfell, where Roose will take up his position as Warden of the (Really Enormously Large) North.

At the Eyrie, Lysa Arryn’s vassals have met to figure out how she met the Grim Reaper in the last episode. They’re side-eying Petyr Baelish pretty hard, considering that he’s got foreign blood and also he’s a moneylender and a pimp and a bootlicker for Tywin Lannister. Although only two of these reasons are actually good ones to distrust Littlefinger, I congratulate Lord Royce on his astuteness in suspecting malfeasance on the part of the man who is the past, current and future winner of Westeros’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Skullduggery and Double-Dealing (despite stiff competition from Varys, Walder Frey and Roose Bolton.) Apparently Petyr’s story is that Lysa committed suicide, which Lady Waynwood, an elderly matriarch with a certain dessicated charm, finds rather unbelievable, considering that they all know how much Lysa doted on her son Robin.

Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones 4x08 captionNext up, the Lords (and Lady) of the Vale summon Sansa, Littlefinger’s “niece,” the only other witness to Lysa’s death. Littlefinger tries to get to Sansa before she can testify, but the Vale lords see right through his ploys. (Either they are a thousand times smarter than anyone in King’s Landing, or else the thin air of the high mountain top has given Littlefinger a major case of the stupids, because he doesn’t seem in this scene like he could plan his way out of a paper bag, let alone orchestrate the civil war between the Lannisters and Starks for which he’s largely responsible.)

Sansa arrives, and immediately confesses that she’s Sansa Stark; she exculpates Petyr by saying that everything he’s done, he’s done to protect her, and that she had no friends in King’s Landing other than Littlefinger. That’s actually true, (okay, maybe the Hound, but he took off without her) which is pretty horrifying to think about!  Sansa continues to use the truth to paint a very believable lie, ending with a description of the scene we—the audience—witnessed in which Littlefinger pushed Lysa to her death, only in Sansa’s retelling, Lysa jumped out the Moon Door because she feared Littlefinger didn’t love her any more. Whatever is making Littlefinger stupid is making Sansa a fantastic liar. I didn’ t know she had it in her! Sansa has Lord Royce and Lady Waynwood eating out of her hands by the end.

In fact, Lord Royce even apologizes to Littlefinger (privately) for being hard on him, and approves of Littlefinger’s proposal to make a man out of young Robin Arryn. No more breastfeeding for you, young man!! (He vaguely hints at making Robin king in place of the Lannisters, but I’m not sure even Littlefinger could tell you how that’s supposed to work out.) Anyway, everything ends with Littlefinger exonerated (seemingly), and with plans to remove Robin from the Eyrie and take him on a tour of the Vale so he can leave the nest.

Later, Littlefinger goes to thank Sansa for lying for him, and we realize that he didn’t feed her her story. I think even Littlefinger is a bit impressed, especially when Sansa reveals that she prefers the devil she knows to the unknown quantities that are Lord Royce, Lady Waynwood and their nameless third pal. He flashes Sansa some more creepy looks as she focuses on her sewing.

In the final scene at the Vale, “Uncle” Petyr reveals to Robin Arryn that they’re about to leave his home. I must say the kid doesn’t seem particularly broken up about the demise of the woman who gave him life and breastmilk until just a few days ago. A figure appears above Robin and Littlefinger, and is revealed to be Sansa, who has sewn herself a Maleficient costume and dyed her hair black overnight. Aww, Sandor Clegane’s little bird is all grown up!

If only Sandor knew...because he and Arya march right up to the very gates of the Vale. Arya complains that she’s sorry she missed watching Joffrey die, and scoffs that Sandor is being sexist when he says that poison is a woman’s weapon. For some unfathomable reason, Sandor reveals to the guards at the Bloody Gate that his traveling companion is none other than Arya Stark, believed by all and sundry to be dead. Apparently, the guards of the Vale are neither privy to Sansa’s revelation nor particularly bright because no one even seems to perk up at the entrance of yet another missing Stark girl. Instead, the guard at the gate offers his condolences on Lysa’s death and Arya just bursts out laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation. (Yes, Arya, it is rather absurd that no one is interested in your being alive!)

Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones 4.07In Meereen, Barristan Selmy supervises the deposition of 162 Great Masters from their respective crosses (I assume Hizdahr of the Loraxes has already taken down Papa Lorax from his!) A small child, who has to be one of Varys’s little birds, hands Barristan a parchment with a wax seal that is clearly from Westeros. Barristan reads the contents with great dismay, and goes to find Jorah who’s pondering a map of Westeros. Aww, I wish Dany had one of those topographical maps like Stannis has. Barristan approaches with the parchment, which is the promised pardon for Jorah from Robert Baratheon. Jorah asks if Barristan has already told Dany. Barristan says that he wanted to give Jorah the news “man to man” instead of going behind his back. No wonder this man failed at King’s Landing where everyone goes behind everyone's back, the better to stab them in that region! Jorah begs to be allowed a moment alone with Dany, but Barristan tells Jorah he’ll never be alone with her again.

Instead, Jorah is forced to have his inevitable confrontation with his Khaleesi in front of Missandei, Grey Worm and Barristan. Jorah keeps trying to explain himself and Dany focuses on the extent of his betrayal—especially on the fact that Robert and his Council knew she was pregnant with Drogo’s child because of what Jorah told Varys. She asks how Jorah could claim to love her and betray her secrets to the man who killed her father and stole her throne. She orders Jorah to leave Meereen, saying that if he were any other man, if they hadn’t been through all they went through together, he would be executed. Jorah takes her seriously and we see him riding away alone from Meereen, te place from which he’d hoped to return to Westeros a conqueror at Dany’s side. Instead, he’s alone, disgraced a second time and a broken man.

In King’s Landing, another disgraced (and soon to be broken man) at least has one companion—Jaime and Tyrion spend the last hours before Tyrion’s trial by combat together, discussing the absurdity of the very system that Tyrion is counting on to save his life. As Tyrion points out, it’s ridiculous to judge someone’s innocence or guilt by the skill at arms of a third party. Tyrion asks Jaime what the punishment for regicide is, and he and Jaime discuss that there are words for every kind of killing (except cousins, and Jaime should know!)

Then Tyrion and Jaime move onto an overly long story about Orson (really?), a Lannister cousin of theirs who was left mentally handicapped by being dropped on his head when he was a baby. As Gregor Clegane was to convicts in King’s Landing in the previous episode, so Orson was to beetles at Casterly Rock, slaughtering them in their hundreds and their thousands. Tyrion became obsessed with trying to figure out why his cousin had this hatred of beetles, but the truth is that there is no answer to the mindless cruelty of the world. (I think that’s the point this overly long scene was trying to make, but it might have also been showing the darker side of Tyrion that exists in the books and is nowhere to be seen on the TV show. When Jaime suggests that he expected Tyrion to be more sympathetic to their handicapped cousin, Tyrion says that laughing at Orson was the one time that he felt like he belonged with everyone else.)

And then it’s on to the long anticipated duel between Oberyn (aka the “Red Viper”) and Gregor Clegane, the “Mountain that Rides.” Oberyn oozes self-confidence and is all stylish and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with his spear, while Gregor is basically the Hulk, but larger, meaner and wearing body armor. Surprisingly, Oberyn, who’s flexible and fleet-footed starts to win the duel. As he slashes at Gregor’s legs, face and heart, Oberyn tells Gregor to confess that he raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister Elia and killed her children. Finally, Oberyn gets Gregor down by hamstringing him, and then stabbing him through the stomach with the full force of his weight. It looks like he’s won the duel so Tyrion will go free; Tyrion, Jaime and Ellaria look happy, while Cersei and Tywin look like they would like to cut a bitch. But Oberyn hasn’t gotten what he came for yet: he wants not just Gregor, but the name of the man who gave the order to kill Elia (though Tywin previously told Oberyn that he gave no orders regarding Princess Elia or her children.) He points up at Tywin and tells Gregor to say who gave the order.

Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones Season 4 episode 8Alas for Oberyn, he has committed the cardinal sin of overconfidence and his Inigo Montoya moment comes to a disastrous end, because Oberyn gets within reach of the Mountain’s seemingly lifeless arm. Gregor grabs Oberyn’s leg and pulls him down before holding Oberyn up in the air and punching him in the face with a mailed fist. Teeth and blood fly everywhere, before Gregor rolls over with Oberyn under him. He gouges out Oberyn’s eyes to the utter horror of ...well, everyone but Cersei and Tywin, I guess. As Oberyn screams, Gregor finally speaks. “Elia Martell. I killed her children, then I raped her! Then I smashed her head in—like this!” Somehow Gregor manages to crush Oberyn’s head between his hands. And that’s why you should always poke the psychopathic giants with a big pointy stick before you get too close. Ellaria screams, Tyrion looks like he’s about to faint, and Jaime looks nauseous. Meanwhile, Cersei smiles and Tywin, unperturbed by the carnage below, formally sentences Tyrion to death.


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.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I'm surprised I slept at all last night. What a horrible way to die. OBERYN!!!! I miss you already, man.
Regina Thorne
2. reginathorn
@redline_: I knew it was coming but ... I just really LIKED Oberyn on the show. (Never liked him that much in the books, so it was gory and awful, but mostly I was worried about TYRION in that fight :P)
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
@reginathorn -- You made me realize I didn't add that I'm also worried about how Tyrion's going to get out of this one. (Though I have to say I feel like if someone's pretty safe on this show, it's him, but then again, maybe I've just signed his death warrant. Martin is such a ticky one.) He and Sansa are my absolute favorites.

Interesting that Oberyn didn't come across as well in the books, 'cause yeah, the writers and actor did a great job with him in the show. I 110% supported his trying to avenge his family's deaths and in doing so save Tyrion from wrongful imprisonment. So naturally he died! (sadface)
Regina Thorne
4. reginathorn
@redline_ So one of the major themes of the books is how revenge almost always backfires in unexpectedly terrible ways. Remember how Mirri Maaz Duur tried to revenge herself on Khal Drogo, whose men essentially went Gregor Clegane on her entire village? (I mean, yes, Oberyn wanted to avenge his family's deaths and that's cool and all, but didn't MMD want to avenge the deaths of the boy whose life she'd saved, the women whose children she'd delivered, etc.? So I thought her quest was as "justified" as Oberyn's.) If Oberyn had been content to simply kill Gregor, he would have lived (and definitely spit in Tywin's eye what with making sure that Tyrion also lived by his victory!)

Re: Book Oberyn - a LOT of fans really love him but for me, in the books, he's a very one-dimensional character whose chief role is to introduce the Dorne angle to the story and to serve as a red herring for Tyrion's being set free. Pedro Pascal brought a lot of life to the role in a very short time - I didn't even love Show!Oberyn until his scenes with Cersei and Tyrion in the preceding episodes, to be honest. But those scenes just sold me on this guy and I will miss him.
5. AthenaNinlil
I knew it was coming but seeing it and after Pedro Pascal made the Red Viper so brillitantly, I was devastated!!!!!!

I love how Sansa is growing up, inthe books you see some ambition in her seep through.
6. stacymd2
Game of Thrones really knows how to rip my heart out. Oberyn will be missed. I wonder if Cersei's daughter will face repercussions for this--if she is affected at all.

I understand why Dany dismissed Jorah, but he was her best adviser and voice of reason. This will come back to bite her in the butt.

Sansa is comming into her own and I love it. Not sure if she will be able to handle Littlefinger in the long run.

I agree @Regina, AA's acting is greatly underrated. Great recap!
7. CindyS
Haven't read the books so:
I was gutted and still feel a bit sick by Oberyn's death - I just didn't see it coming - sure it was a possibility but I really thought he had killed the Mountain with the final thrust of his weapon so those last 20 seconds were definitely shocking. I know it wasn't the violence (as I'm sure I've seen worse) but the screams for sure - and his sister had been raped and killed by the Mountain and now he has died by the same person. It is just tragic and I have to say I enjoyed Oberyn and his view on life and his love for a woman who is clearly not going to be allowed to marry him. I think Cersei's daughter may pay the price of her mother's need for revenge.

(Just an aside - The Red Wedding for me wasn't as big a deal as I didn't really like Caitlyn or Robb so it was more admiration for a writer who could kill off a bunch of characters in one blow - this time I cared about the character and again I thought he had won, so I was definitely shocked)

A friend mentioned that the show was catching up to the last book pub so I was wondering if the transformation of Sansa was in the book version? Only because it doesn't feel right - she was weeping when her Aunt was scolding her the night before but now she can stand in front of elders and lie like a well seasoned pro?

And my heart broke of Jorah.
Megan Frampton
8. MFrampton
I got to see this last night (gah, had to wait!), and so of course I knew what was coming (having edited this recap!), but even so, I really loved the Red Viper and Mountain fight scene, with all of Oberyn's gymnastics. The Mountain was just...mountainous.
And I LOVED Sansa's moment, although I don't remember her being that cunning in the books. And the last scene with her descending the staircase, in that very mature, differently elegant gown--so gorgeous. I was reading about the costume design the other day, and now I can't stop noticing (as the headline says we will).
9. Daybreak
Great review! You bring such humor to it when at the end I was all eww! and worried about Tyrion.

But now I'm thinking of Maleficient costumes and pillars and stones! There is something horrifying and absurd about it all at once.

In the book did he crush his skull? That was quite an ending. Hulk Smash indeed.
10. BevQB
So Sansa says "I know what you want" then Littlefinger smiles. Next we see a transformed, "mature" Sansa. So does that mean she finally lost her virginity to Littlefinger? That's the way I interpreted it.
Heather Waters
11. HeatherWaters
@BevQB -- Oh, man, IS that what happened? Hadn't thought of that. Ughhhhh.
12. stacymd2
@BevQB: I didn't interpret the scene that way, but I hope that is not what happened.
Megan Frampton
13. MFrampton
GAH, I don't think so! I think Sansa figured out how to play him, that's the meaning of that look. I don't think she's going to give her virginity to anyone unless there's a very good reason for it (and Littlefinger is already in her debt, she doesn't need to), since that is what she was bartered so highly for as Ned Stark's daughter.
14. Daybreak
I agree. Sansa still has her virginity. But she is growing up and learning to use her beauty the way she used her innocence to spare Baelish. She knows she looks like Catelyn and I think she'll use that too.

I say good for her. I wonder (and this is my thought, not hers) if she married Robin in a few years and he died, would she hold the Eyrie?
Regina Thorne
15. reginathorn
@ AthenaNinlil - yeah, I knew it was coming too and honestly I was much less devastated FOR Oberyn in the books, more concerned for what his demise meant for Tyrion, but on the show Pedro Pascal really made me love a character I was neutral on in the books. Well, that and Indira Varma so totally sold Ellaria's love and pride in Oberyn turning into absolute mind-bending horror at what happened. Amazing stuff!

@stacymd2 - Oooh, yes, I think one of the points of the Cersei-Oberyn scene a couple of episodes ago was to remind us that Myrcella is in Dorne, more or less helpless at the hands of the Martells should they choose to harm her. Yikes!

@CindyS - No, the show is way ahead of the books if Sansa is, in fact, turning into a player of the "Game of Thrones." She doesn't reveal her identity to anyone in the books at this point, so I feel like book-readers got kind of spoiled for what's coming.

In the books, there is a singer in the throne room with Sansa and Littlefinger when Littlefinger pushes Lysa to her death and LF pins the murder on the singer, who's subsequently tortured into a confession of guilt. On the show, they went with the "suicide" story, but I have to say I find it hard to believe that Littlefinger, the mastermind who engineered a civil war and - with Olenna Tyrell - offed Joffrey without ever being suspected, didn't have ANY story for the Lords of the Vale who were sure to be suspicious of Lysa's "suicide." And I was honestly very disappointed that the "truthiness" Sansa gave the Lords of the Vale was all her idea. I don't buy her going from terrified cowering girl to ruthless manipulator in three days. (Not to mention man, the girl can sew like the wind, because she made herself that dress in three days apparently!)

@MFrampton - it still doesn't make sense to me that Littlefinger didn't have any hand in Sansa's story (or have any story to convince the Vale lords that he didn't kill Lysa Arryn). This is the guy who's so cunning and sneaky he can put one over on Tywin Lannister (who doesn't suspect him in Joffrey's death) and yet ... he has no alibi, no plausible deniability? And as much as I like seeing Sansa be all cool and collected, it did NOT ring true to me that she came up with her story all on her own without any coaching from Littlefinger who ... was just going to be executed for murder if she didn't speak up? Makes little sense! The gown was lovely, though Sansa has the superpower of incredibly speedy sewing if she made that in the evening since the "trial" by the lords of the Vale :P

@BevQB - no, I don't think Sansa slept with LF. Whatever he felt about Sansa/her mother, LF loves power (and LF) most of all - if she marries Robin Arryn, then he controls the heirs to Winterfell AND the Vale. I don't think he's the sort of guy to jeopardize that for a moment of passion.
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