As we head into the last few episodes of the fourth season, series creators/writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss lighten the mood a bit.
Let’s bitch it out…‘Mockingbird’ feels like a lighter, funnier episode of Game of Thrones than we’ve seen in some time. Of course, in this world that simply means that characters are now cracking a few more jokes than usual as they kill, sex and travel. It is still Westeros, after all.
There is no “show-stopper” scene this week a la Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) trial or Joffrey’s wedding. In the absence of a single momentous event, we get to touch base with a few people who have been absent. In some cases, returning to characters we haven’t seen in a while is a bit more perfunctory than truly engaging (Carice Van Houten’s Melisandre wants Lady Stannis to know that they really need to bring her daughter on their forthcoming trip; Kit Harrington’s Jon is still being condescended to at the Wall). In other cases it’s always lovely to spend time with beloved character combinations like Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Poderick (Daniel Portman). The fact that they have a humourous encounter with Arya’s (Maisie Williams) old friend, Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), and sneak in a plot development that requires charting a new course to the Aerie is just a bonus. Episodes like ‘Mockingbird’ – where we visit many characters, but only briefly – reinforces the fact that I like spending time with some characters more than others. For example, I could probably watch an entire episode of Tyrion receiving visitors in his filthy dungeon and still be happy, which is as much a testament to Dinklage as it is to the scripts that Benioff and Weiss are writing.
Visually it’s clear that Tyrion’s first two potential champions are not suited for the job. Jamie’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) false hand is presented as evidence of his non-suitability long before he admits that his remaining hand is of no use. Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) attire immediately announces his changed allegiance the moment he walks in the room; there’s very little need to hear of the marriage Cersei (Lena Headey) has arranged for him or his disinterest in risking his life for a friendship. Which leaves the final candidate: Oberyn of Dorne (Pedro Pascal), who is so clearly the man that Tyrion is looking for that it’s a wonder he wasn’t the imp’s first choice. Their conversation, about the hatred and love between siblings, is an underlying theme in ‘Mockingbird’, and it makes Oberyn’s speech about Cersei’s distasteful treatment of Tyrion as a child incredibly powerful. Dinklage says so much simply with little more than teared-filled eyes before Oberyn reminds him of the vendetta that brought him to King’s Landing in the first place. Just as Arya has her Death List, so too does Oberyn. Tyrion may not have the champion he thought he’d have in his brother or his close friend, but he does have a man who has as much to gain from the fight as him. Oberyn’s reassurance to Tyrion that he will begin crossing names off his list, starting with the Mountain, suggests next week’s trial by combat should be loads of fun.
There are a number of parallels this week between Oberyn & Tyrion and Arya and & the Hound (Rory McCann). Arya is becoming increasingly influenced by her traveling companion, mirroring his murder technique after witnessing it only moments before. It’s actually amusing to see the youngest Stark daughter murder a man so casually after learning his name. It’s also incredibly disturbing. Actress Maisie Williams mentioned at the start of the season that Arya’s journey this season is a dark one, and even when it is masked with black comedy like this, there is still genuine darkness in her tale. The tender moment she shares with the Hound as he reflects on the actions that led to his fear of fire – caused by his brother and covered-up by his father – eerily mirrors Tyrion’s black sheep status in the Lannister family. Arya may not be quite the champion to the Hound that Oberyn will hopefully be for Tyrion, but the fiesty Stark and the burnt warrior nonetheless remain a good match for each other and a genuine pleasure to watch.
- Less good for each other = Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Daario (Michiel Huisman). As predicted, the two act on their sexual attraction to each other, but Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) is clearly a better influence on her judgment. Daario is content to be her weapon against Yunkai, whereas Mormont cautions and advises how Dany can achieve her goals without succumbing to the same tactics that doomed the Slavers. Dany would do better to listen to her trusted advisor than the man with the (presumably) nice package.
- Side Note: Between this episode and the most recent episode of Orphan Black, it’s nice to see genre ladies taking control of their sexy-time. Even if it sometimes feels a wee bit rape-y (both Dany and Proto-Clone Rachel are women in positions of power over their partners), I’ll still support it since too often women + sex = frowny judgmental faces.
- Speaking of less positive sexual encounters: when will we get to celebrate eternally tormented Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)? This poor girl just can’t catch a break! Her cousin Robin is a total brat (kudos on that smackdown, Sansa), her guardian Baelish (Aidan Gillen) can’t decide if he’d rather have her as a daughter or a lover (barf) and her Aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) remains an unhinged, paranoid psychotic. With Baelish’s gentle shove, the latter no longer poses a problem, though I can’t help but wonder how the good people of the Aerie will react to the news that their Queen has splattered all over the rocks below the Moon Door? Guess we’ll find out next week!
- Dying man (to the Hound): “Can I have a drink? Dying is thirsty work”
- Brienne (to a verbose Hot Pie, when he mentions Arya): “So what happened to her? Quick version.”
- Tyrion (when Oberyn mentions spending time with a beautiful blond): “Do tell. They have every kind of filth down here except the kind I like.” Oberyn: “Your sister.” Tyrion: “Oh…”
- Oberyn (discussing Cersei): “It’s rare to meet a Lannister that shares my love for dead Lannisters.”
Did you find ‘Mockingbird’ funnier than most episodes of Game of Thrones? Did Tyrion’s reaction to Oberyn’s story about Cersei get to you? Is Arya’s dark story being masked by comedy? Could Sansa have worse luck? And did you care about Melisandre or Jon’s storylines this week? Sound off below.
Game of Thrones hits the pause button and returns in two weeks on Sunday, June 1 at 9pm EST on HBO. Thankfully it should be worth the wait since we’ll get to see the outcome of Tyrion’s trial by combat!