Game of ThronesRecap

Game of Thrones: Season 4 Episode 7 – Mockingbird

This episode begins with the fallout from Tyrion’s rampage in court. Jaime has come to visit Tyrion in his cell in King’s Landing, and reminds him: ‘I’m the last friend you’ve got.’ If the great rivarly all along has been Starks versus Lannisters, the Starks are looking in much better shape. While the older generation are all gone, having lost their heads to prideful honour, the younger thrive, albeit in farflung reaches and bitterly steep learning curves. The Lannisters are crumbling, and yet have little in the way of a younger generation to continue their legacy. Tyrion admonishes Jaime for falling into Tywin’s plans, while driving a wedge further between the two brothers.

Bronn arrives, having not had much time lately to train Jaime at left-handed sword fighting, but is really only here as a manoeuvring piece for the plot. He won’t serve as Tyrion’s champion, and thus will not repeat their trick at the Eyrie in Season 1. Tyrion is without his retinue, his support, and effectively his family. He is jettisoned entirely from the motivations and machinations that kept him progressing as a character through the first three seasons.

It’s a bold move for his character, in that regardless of what happens in the coming episodes and seasons, we’ve basically witnessed the shedding of everything that made him what he is, even if that predominantly ran a line of rebelling against his father’s wishes. One can’t rebel if one is expelled. There is a larger destiny for Tyrion, and that lies beyond merely being the bastard Lannister. We the audience have always sensed this, even without realising it, but Tyrion himself is only now coming to terms with the fact that he is not who he used to be.

After last week’s vitriol at the court of King’s Landing, Tyrion this week is effectively dealing with the aftermath’s clarity. He has nothing left. To further emphasise this, Oberyn arrives by darkness, and explains how when he saw Tyrion as an infant he was greatly disappointed. Tyrion was not a monster, was not hideous and demonic, but was just a baby.

If everyone thought last week’s outburst in court was Emmy-calibre acting from Peter Dinklage, I suggest looking at his effort here in quiet restraint, as he listens to Oberyn’s tale. Oberyn is giving Tyrion a new life, a blank canvas. To Oberyn, Tyrion is not a monster, not a bastard, not a dwarf. He is just Tyrion. And Tyrion has no idea who that is anymore. Oberyn then announces he will fight for Tyrion, but also for justice, for his sister who was raped and murdered under Tywin’s orders.

This has been my favourite scene of the season so far. Quite magical.

Meanwhile, Cersei recruits Ser Gregor Clegane to fight as her champion in the case against Tyrion. The Mountain and the Hound’s brother. Just in case we weren’t up to speed (he’s also been recast).

The Hound, still in the Riverlands, is slowly reclaiming Sandor Clegane from the forgotten past of his childhood. As he accompanies Arya, he’s in effect wandering a knight’s quest, without realising it. Protect the (somewhat) innocent,  restore some sense of a moral code to those he passes – his arc is one of the more fascinating in the show ever since we heard Littlefinger regale Sansa at the tourney in Season 1 about how the Hound was physically and mentally scarred by Gregor when he was a boy.

But it’s not long before Arya gets to strike another name off her list, and she declares to a dying man that:

Nothing is just nothing.

The echoes with King’s Lear’s declaration that ‘nothing can come of nothing’ is hardly accidental, lending the series even more epic depth and psychological complexity by evoking another story about another fallen king whose lands are shattered and divided between the power-hungry and morally dubious children of the kingdom.

‘You’re learning,’ the Hound later remarks, though it seems Arya is only learning nihilism.

The moments with Arya and The Hound and later Brienne and Podrick on the Kingsroad are lessons in adaptation. Again they’re a case of either extrapolation or invention, as a means of taking a different journey to the same destination, though with a curious effect of cleaving the audience more closely to the story. Podrick’s partnership with Brienne is developed far beyond what it is in the books. Equally, Arya and the Hound are more unseen than seen. Hot Pie makes no further appearance after Arya leaves him in the book. But the constant involvement of minor characters in major plot points allows a more emotional contact with the story than if they were just other incidental characters cast for each episode.

Jon Snow has finally returned from Craster’s Keep to the Wall. It’s once again a power-struggle between the rightful leader – Jon – and those who currently run the Night’s Watch: Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. This scene is really just a touch-base, given that he was absent from the last episode, but will need to feature more heavily next week.

In Meereen, Daenerys is dealing with Daario, who is getting far more story time than any of Daenerys’ other suitors. Personally, I find this the least compelling aspect of her storyline, and I care little for jealous Jorah with his protestations of honour. This is a problematic corner of the books, and so far the story has handled a potentially tepid journey well. It will be intriguing to see how they shape her character through the remaining episodes this season.

At Dragonstone, it’s time to catch up with Melisandre and Selyse, Stannis’ neglected wife. Their discussion is just another moment to catch up on this also neglected part of the plot, where last we saw Stannis and Davos were furthering their interests in Braavos. Having received financial backing for their claim on the Iron Throne, Melisandre and Selyse are packing up to leave, though we are clearly not meant to know where to.

One feels we’ll see little of these characters until they are deposited in a part of the story that actually uses them effectively. Until now it’s been a question of patience, ever since Melisandre unleashed the demon on Renly in Season 2. Since then, other than the bit of byplay with the leeches and Gendry, they’ve had precious little to do but teach Davos how to read. In a season of concentrated focus where each character and plot strand has fed into a grander narrative, Dragonstone is still yet to find its place, though this somewhat reflects Stannis’ character and claim for the throne.

Winter has come to the Eyrie. It’s a nice touch, visually, symbolising once again the growing closer of the plot’s extremeties. As winter creeps further south in Westeros, so Jon Snow’s travails in the North edge closer to King’s Landing, as Daenerys simultaneously does from the east. All points converge. Or at least will, in two books’ time.

Regardless, this week’s endgame has Sansa has trading one madhouse for another, one insane heir for another. Joffrey has been replaced by Robin, though Sansa has now been around long enough to take control of the situation and start making demands of her own. She confronts Littlefinger about the poisoning of Joffrey, and he masterfully (dodgily) turns it around into a declaration of love first for Catelyn Stark, and then for Sansa herself.

Given Littlefinger’s ability to engineer conflict a thousand steps in advance, it’s a fair assumption to make that his clumsy seduction of Sansa is just further fuel to tip Lysa over the edge, mentally and literally. If it wasn’t apparent to anyone, his movements in the last few episodes – murdering Joffrey, stealing Sansa, marrying Lysa and claiming the Eyrie – are all evidence of his development into a major antagonist. Indeed, the title of the episode is after the sigil of his house, of which he is the only member. He has no claim for the throne whatsoever, according to the old rule, but has set about rewriting the rules to place himself a stone’s throw away from control.

This may still be all setup for season climaxes, but it’s thrilling to watch the spinning plates start to crash into one another. As the Lannisters crumble this season, much like the Starks did last season, a vaccuum emerges at the top. Littlefinger knows this, because he created it, and he desires only power. But what of the others? What of the Stark children, who probably have most claim to our sympathies?

Arya seeks vengeance but, as she discovered this episode, knows not where to find it, nor recognises it when it stumbles into her path. Sansa is clearly looking for an honest person, but now that Brienne is after Arya, her journey home is still far, far away. Above anything, she seems to need her family, in a nice twist on the beginning of a character who once sought only to leave her Stark origins behind. Jon wants what is right, though he is struggling to get anyone to listen to him. And Bran is off in pursuit of meaning, of answers, of the secrets that lie at the heart of the realm. Not one among them craves power, and have become the conscientious objectors of Game of Thrones.

Only three episodes to go, and for those who know what’s to come in the books, the journey is going to be fascinating to watch given the departures this season has taken from the source material. For all of us though, we know the wildlings will hit the Wall soon, and that Oberyn will fight the Mountain. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s game.

  • Valar Morghulis: Biter, by the Hound’s hand, and Rorge, by Arya’s. Also, the old man on the road, shown mercy by the Hound. The Mountain killed a few at the beginning, if only to re-establish the character. And finally Lysa Arryn, done in by her new husband and fellow conspirator. Seriously, the series has a big thing about marriage.
  • The CGI folk have obviously realised a way to show scale and credibility on their generated structures – particulary the pyramid of Meereen – which is by having birds flit by in and out of frame. Seriously, every major CGI shot, or stage shot at the pyramid, has birds flying around.
  • The reminders about Brienne’s oath to Catelyn were excellent, and timely. It is refreshing to see this slightly embellished plot take shape as a female knight and her male squire.
  • Nothing on Bran, second episode in a row now. None of Ramsay Snow and his bunch, who seem to have a one-on one-off type deal with the writers. The question now comes as to how much the show continues this division across episodes with only a handful to remain in the season. We might see some characters have their plots wrapped up before the finale, rather than hopping around madly just to fit everybody into the last hour we get until 2015.

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