Welcome back, dear readers, to that weekly thing we do where we rewatch the most undeservedly acclaimed show on television by David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D), back when it was only mildly undeserving. This is why we cleverly named it The Wars to Come, since those of us around here know too well what happens when you say anything mildly negative about Game of Thrones on the internet. Last week, one scene thinly held together a weak episode, where this week, Kylie, Julia, Bo, and Jana examine “Mockingbird.”
Tyrion’s rousing trial by combat demand of the previous episode turns out to be not so straightforward. Jaime tells Tyrion he can’t fight for him—being a kingsguard notwithstanding—since he is not up to snuff with his left hand, and he knows Cersei is planning to name Gregor Clegane as her champion. This is indeed correct, as we’re shown Cersei visiting the Mountain practicing, which involves cutting down several poor men.
Tyrion next asks Bronn to be his champion, as before, though is surprised to see Bronn as a new lord. He is set to marry Lollys Stokeworth, and since her only sibling is “40 and barren” (and he also seems willing to stage an “accident” on that front), he’ll get Castle Stokeworth for himself. Tyrion promises that he’d be rewarded handsomely, but Bronn points out that Tyrion really won’t be able to give him more, and he’s not willing to risk his life against the Mountain when he’s already set.
With Tyrion out of options, he gets a surprise visit from Oberyn Martell, who tells him that he came to King’s Landing for justice. He knows Cersei is naming Gregor Clegane as her champion, the man who raped and murdered his sister and killed her children. He offers to serve as Tyrion’s champion.
Just outside King’s Landing on Dragonstone, Melisandre is taking a bath. Selyse comes in, and they discuss Mel’s potions, most of which she refers to as “tricks” to help non-believers along. Selyse talks about how she doesn’t want to bring Shireen with them north when they head out to meet Stannis, but Mel objects. She has Selyse look into her fire and says that the Lord has need of Shireen.
Meanwhile on the road to the Vale, Arya and Sandor find a dying man. Sandor explains to Arya where the heart is located, and gives the man the “gift” of mercy. He is then suddenly attacked by Rorge and Biter hoping to kill him for a bounty, the latter of which lives up to his name by tearing out a chunk of Sandor’s neck with his teeth before Sandor easily takes care of him. Arya recognizes Rorge as a man who was also in the cage with Jaqen H’gar, and quickly stabs him in the heart. Arya tries to burn away Sandor’s flesh to prevent infection, but he won’t let her, instead telling her about how his brother held his face to the fire when he was young. She then offers to clean out and dress his wounds.
Elsewhere on the road, Brienne and Pod reach the Inn at the Crossroads, where they come across a very chatty Hot Pie. Brienne asks about Sansa Stark, though Hot Pie doesn’t have an answer for her. The next morning, Pod cautions Brienne not to tell people that they’re searching for Sansa, though Hot Pie then finds them and tells them all about Arya Stark, the Brotherhood without Banners, and the Hound as their captive. Brienne and Pod decide Sandor likely made off with Arya, and would logically try to take her to the Vale since she has an aunt there. They choose the road that leads to the Eyrie.
At the Eyrie, Sansa sees fresh snow and decides to build a small snow castle in the shape of Winterfell. Robin sees this and talks to her about how they are to be wed and how he’ll let her pick people to “fly” out of their Moon Door. He then suggests that Winterfell should have one too, but when he goes to carve it out in the snow, he accidentally knocks over a tower. Sansa tells him he ruined it, and when he stubbornly insists that he didn’t, she slaps him. Littlefinger oversaw this, and approaches Sansa, telling her that he can take care of Robin telling Lysa about the slap. Sansa asks why he really killed Joffrey, and he takes that opportunity to tell her he cares about her and how she’s more beautiful than her mother was, before kissing her.
Unfortunately for Sansa, Lysa oversaw this. She calls Sansa into the High Hall. Sansa apologizes for slapping Robin, but Lysa quickly yells at her for kissing Petyr, while holding her over an open Moon Door and threatening her. Littlefinger interrupts this and has Lysa let Sansa go. Then he tells her she’s being silly—he only ever loved one woman: “your sister.” He shoves Lysa out of the Moon Door.
Up at the Wall, Jon and his brothers return from their successful mission to Craster’s, only for Thorne to force him to lock Ghost away.
Inside the hall, Jon tries to tell them that they need to flood and seal the tunnel, since they won’t be able to defend both that and the wall against Mance’s army. Thorne shuts this suggestion down.
Finally, over in Meereen, Daario finds his way into Dany’s chambers to tell her that he’s bored of patrolling the city, and wants to do what he’s good at: women and killing. Dany choses Option A, and they have sex. The next morning Jorah sees Daario leaving the chambers, and we find out that Dany also chose Option B. She plans to have the Second Sons retake Yunkai and kill all the masters there. Jorah argues against this, since he used to sell slaves, and now he’s had the opportunity to reform his ways. Dany agrees, saying she’ll send Hizdahr too with a message: ‘they can live in her new world or die in their old one.’ She also tells Jorah to let Daario know the new plans and to tell him that Jorah was the one who changed her mind.
Initial, quick reaction
Jana: I’m gone for one week and we go from the offensively bad to the annoyingly bad to the basically only boring. Like. The episode had about two moments that were actually kind of good, and the rest was just…boring. Wheel spinning. Stalling. We get it, there’s a battle coming in episode 9, why don’t we just take a break until then if there’s not much happening? Though I guess at least this one and the next one get to have an exciting end.
Julia: I was thinking the same thing. One thing actually happened this episode (the moon door) and the rest was, like…Jon coming home and Mel taking a bath. I suppose Tyrion getting a champion happened too, but it’s so dumb that he didn’t think to take care of that before demanding a trial by combat that I’m not going to count it.
Kylie: It was actually a strange effect, because I kept feeling like nothing was happening. But when you back up and look at the plot movement itself that’s not exactly accurate? Still, it was one of the draggiest pre-Season 6 episodes I can recall.
Bo: I was worried I wouldn’t have a highlight before the Oberyn scene (spoiler!). The whole episode just kind of happened. It was okay at best and never offensively bad. The Dany scene was a surprising one at the time. Overall I mostly only remember this episode for the influx of D&Disms that come from it.
Julia: So the one scene with Tyrion and Bronn in the cell was basically a dramatic reading of a book scene (in a slightly different context that I choose not to be pedantic about…) and that made me so excited that I have no choice but to consider it a highlight, even if poor Tanda Stokeworth got randomly Lady Blackmont’d.
If boredom made a lowlight I’d be spoiled for choice, but god did I ever hate the Sandor and Arya road trip stuff this time. It really made me question why they even bothered sending her to Braavos, since she was already talking people into suicide and casually murdering them long before she got there. And the Philosophy 101 was so… a moderately intelligent 14-year-old who just discovered Satre. I bet D&D really thought they were proving their prestige television cred here.
Kylie: Lady Blackmont’d is a fantastic term, since Mama Martell gets hit with it too—albeit indirectly. May I humbly submit:
It’s hard for me not to pick Oberyn’s visit to Tyrion as a highlight, even with Mama Martell’s consort doing the field trip organizations. It was actually like…motivated, and the emotions at play felt genuine and palpable. Yes, it opened with a brothel comment, but I can overlook it for the rest. Pity it didn’t happen prior to Tyrion declaring a trial by combat.
The lowlight is difficult to choose since I was bored to tears for most of it, but I think Jorah sort of both-sides-ing slavery (and changing Dany’s mind!) wins out. It was kind of playing off of last week, where apparently we’re supposed to feel bad that no one will think of the poor slavers. And then especially knowing where this all ends up (other than Hizdahr, the masters are never actually placated, never actually willing to try and reform or make a slave-free society work, and ultimately need to all be burned by her dragons), it makes the whole thing even worse.
Bo: When the Sansa snow castle scene started, I was ready to name it my highlight. Then Robin made a tiny mistake, Sansa jumped down his throat about it, and the feeling vanished. I knew the Oberyn/Tyrion scene would stick out as the obvious highlight and wanted something different to name.
In the interest of variety, I’ll say the Tyrion/Bronn scene was a really good one if you like their dynamic duo. I don’t, so…
My lowlight is either the silly shot of Lysa falling through the Moon Door or the way the opening Jaime/Tyrion scene completely obliterated the effectiveness of last week’s Jaime/Tywin scene by having Tyrion exposit about it. Why do that? WE ALREADY UNDERSTOOD WHAT HAPPENED.
Jana: Alright, if none of you are willing to name the snow castle scene, I’ll do it. Yes, the ensuing conflict with Robin was off, yes Sansa smacking him was extremely out of character and detrimental to basically everything, but still. Here I am. This is what I am about. Bite me.
(The sudden and unexpected appearance of someone resembling Oberyn Martell is a close second though.)
My lowlight is between Sandor getting to pour his entire backstory out at Arya—a dignity season one denied him when he should have done so to that other character that sort of mattered to his character development once, maybe, not sure, can’t recall—and the random appearance of Hot Pie.
Sure, it’s sort of consistent for him to exist and make pies at an inn, and if he’d just had a subdued cameo serving them the pie, that’d have been fine. That’d have been great. But expositing at a clearly annoyed very large person in armor he mistook for a knight about how to make the best pies? What even is class awareness? And to add insult to injury, Brienne needed to be told by him and by Pod that hey, maybe looking for the Stark girls where their last living relative is that isn’t held captive by the Freys might be a good idea!
Bo: I’m sure we can get into Brienne needing Hot Pie and Pod to tell her what to do later on, because it sure stuck out to me.
Quality of writing
Julia: They had the brains to use more book dialogue than they usually do, I guess.
Kylie: Except where they can’t. And truly, does anything stand out as a worse example of writing than Arya’s philosophy lesson?
Also, “Your sister.”
Bo: “Nothing is nothing” doesn’t even make sense within the exchange the two were having, let alone as any kind of intelligent theme or life lesson. I rewatched those 15 seconds about 5 times to try and understand what the hell that was supposed to mean. It’s so stupid.
Along with “if you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place” and “your sister,” this one was chock full of D&D quips.
Jana: Don’t forget “they can live in my new world or burn in their old one.” Dany was in prime trailer line mode this week.
Julia: I do think this might be the very last time they use the books as a scaffold to even remotely this extent. It was so weird to see Bronn not swearing every other word. But I guess this episode also proved to them that their own quips are so awesome they don’t need the book dialogue anymore.
I’m not sure whether to blame the writers or the director for the ridiculousness of the scene where Cersei is walking through guts to Gregor Clegane.
Bo: What was Gregor even doing? How was he training? Who were those people? It’s all so random.
Jana: I’m pretty sure that’s just how they have to feed him every day.
Kylie: This episode had a ton of trailer lines, now that I think about it. And shockingly, in context they never really work! “Let the priests argue over good and evil.” The only line that had a shot at working was Jorah’s, “It’s tempting to see your enemies as evil, all of them, but there’s good and evil on both sides in every war ever fought,” and in context, he’s trying to argue that slavers should all be shown mercy because he’s reformed from his own slave-selling ways for reasons that are totally not about his creepy obsession with Dany. Neato.
Boy, they can not write Dany’s plot ever.
Julia: And they’ve already settled into the pattern where thank the gods she has a man there to talk her out of her violent impulses.
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Bo: Is the theme “nothing is nothing,” since nothing much happened?
I really wanted to try here for once, because I’m terrible with episodic themes, but I have nothing.
Jana: I feel you on both of those counts. The only other connecting theme I can think of is people sitting and talking. And sometimes standing and talking. Or bathing and talking. But I don’t think that makes for much of a theme.
Julia: There might be something about “who your friends really are.” Tyrion is sure that Jaime and/or Bronn will help him, but in the end the only one to stand up for him is Oberyn. Arya and Sandor are becoming unlikely compatriots. Jon… finds out he has no friends in high places. (Sure.) Selyse is all, “you may be sleeping with my husband, but we’re still totes BFFs.” Dany sure is lucky to have a friend like Jorah! He’s so wise! And Sansa might be beginning to have her doubts about the creepy man, but at least he didn’t let her fall to her doom.
This is great.
Kylie: Also Robin seemed very into being a good husband to Sansa, before slap-gate. We’ll get into that, I’m sure.
Jon is a giant stretch to this theme, Julia, though I will add Hot Pie as an ally to Brienne and Pod to the list. I think it works about as well as “nothing is nothing.”
The Butterfly Effect
Kylie: Selyse’s defining characteristic has been a hatred of Shireen for a little while now. So…let’s have a scene that seeds her being totally chill with burning her daughter alive? Is that what that was?
Jana: I think so? I mean, I actually somewhat liked the scene with her and Mel, if only because it was a rare instance of mostly positive female interaction on this show. But they seeded sacrificing Shireen really hard here and that’s apparently Selyse’s reason to bring her along in the first place. So why the sudden change or heart next season? Oh, right, shock value.
Julia: The scene was obviously seeding something, and I don’t see what else it could have possibly been. Maybe the original plan was for Shireen to marry Ramsay or something. (Why the hell not.)
There might also be a butterfly effect with them choosing to make Arya a casual murderer.
Kylie: I think there’s an argument to be made about self-defense in this case though. I’m not saying Arya’s kills aren’t completely chopped up and mangled, but these two idiots just jumped Sandor. Of course, on this show it had to be framed about revenge for Rorge threatening Arya? Did that one guard who almost didn’t let her back into the Red Keep make the list too?
Bo: We can’t leave this section without discussing how the “powerful” women all get told what to do by the mens. Dany, of course, is told what to do by both Daario and Jorah, but even Brienne needs Hot Pie and Pod to tell her what to do. Women On Top!
Jana: Boy, that end of this episode sure was exciting, wasn’t it? So intense and dramatic! Almost like you could end a book with that! Too bad half of the punch has been taken out of it when Lysa just casually spilled all the secrets two episodes ago.
Kylie: That was such a strange call, especially since she did it in a room alone with Petyr. Also, didn’t they chop out half her confession in front of Sansa, which I’m guessing she’ll eventually piece together in the books? Not that it matters for Brittany Stark’s future.
Okay, should we talk about the Robin slap? Because it really made Sansa look like an asshole. He was being super nice to her, even talking about a somewhat co-equal rulership, and then just accidentally knocked down the smallest section of her dinky snow castle. I guess it was annoying that he didn’t apologize, but geeze. All she did in the books was rip up his doll, and that was when he purposely wrecked the whole thing (that was a bit bigger than 2 square feet).
Jana: I mean, I agree, though I will say that the slap felt less gratuitous than I remembered after he started kicking down the entire thing. What did feel off was Sansa’s initial reaction of “you’ve ruined it.” That’s not the attitude you’re going to rebuild Winterfell with, sweetheart. Which is the point of this scene, right? Or did they just include it here for the visual? They just included it for the visual, didn’t they?
Bo: They really did a number on her book character here. Sweetrobin is a real piece of trash in the books, but here he’s just a curious, slightly disturbing boy showing interest in Sansa’s home. Then she attacks him over an honest mistake. I went from 100-0 real quick during this scene. It was so gorgeous, how did they mess it up?
I can’t be the only one who thinks the Jaime/Tyrion scene was perfect setup for a Tysha reveal. Why did they cut the Tysha reveal???
Kylie: I remember as this season was airing pointing to that scene as proof that Tysha wasn’t going to be cut. What the hell was it doing there if these brothers are going to part on great terms? Do they just copy paste from the book without thinking it through?
Oh wait…yes. We named that the Checklist Effect.
We’re not going to get through this adaptation section without mentioning “Your sister,” right?
Bo: What were they thinking!?
Julia: That most people were casual viewers of the kind that call Dany “that hot dragon chick”? But I really think this problem could have been solved by just mentioning Cat a lot this episode. Which, you know, they kind of did.
Jana: They mentioned Cat a bunch this episode as well as back when they re-introduced Lysa, and just in general this season. Cat has actually been mentioned a lot, but hey, I guess “your sister” makes the blow more universally relatable?
And you are underestimating the casual viewers. Most viewers call Dany, and even name their kids, “Khaleesi.” Which is something the show is still leaning into at this point!
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: Well her scene was so…significant. I’m thinking this was Carol, since Cersei would probably be a little unhappy at getting blood all over dress?
Jana: Oh, right, that happened. I was too distracted by them apparently feeding Gregor a dozen random schmucks a day to keep him happy to notice her much.
Bo: Does Oberyn’s story count as Cersei, or just more of making an evil bitch out of Carol despite her actions?
Jana: I mean, the story of little Cersei is a direct book quote, except for the part where he mentions that his father took him…
Julia: I’m very surprised they passed up the opportunity to mention how excited Ellaria was about having a threesome with Cersei. But, yeah, if the story doesn’t involve Cersei clumsily offering Oberyn sex and just being sad about her Tyrion hate, then she’s definitely Carol.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Jana: Oh look, it’s Sandor telling his backstory to the wrong sister.
Julia: How about Hot Pie’s recap of Arya’s storyline for the first 2½ seasons? That was quality.
Jana: Hot Pie is really into the Weiseroff Twitter. See, that’s been consistent!
Bo: Hot Pie is legitimately the most informed character on the show. He knows more than Varys. His kidney pie must be really delicious.
Kylie: Bronn and Oberyn’s expository dialogue worked rather well, I thought. I wonder what the difference could be…
Bo: And then you have Tyrion feeling the need to recap the events of the previous episode in case Larry forgot. What a good brother.
Jana: It is Larry, you have to make certain allowances for the guy. He’s so befuddled!
How was the pacing?
Kylie: I have never felt time move more slowly, and I was still watching this one at 110% speed. How.
Julia: They had three scenes of Tyrion sitting and talking in his cell. Those were the best scenes in the episode, but still.
Bo: They should have ended A Storm of Swords around this point of the season and just dove into A Feast for Crows. Clearly stretching one book over two was a terrible idea.
Jana: I think it’s safe to say that this is where they should have started with 6-7 episodes per season. The previous seasons had some wheel spinning, too, but I don’t think we’ve ever just so blatantly waited around for something to happen as we have for the last five episodes.
Julia: This parts of this episode in King’s Landing are “preparing for the trial by combat,” using book scenes that all took place before the (non-combat) trial. It’s still an odd choice that Tyrion just went for this judicial route on a lark.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Bo: Meli-sans-bra didn’t have her choker on in the bath, yet she wasn’t an old woman. It’s almost as if Game of Thrones has terrible continuity!
Could it be more obvious that scene only existed to get Carice Van Houten naked? I mean, it’s not the worst goal in the world, but they couldn’t think of a better way?
Kylie: This is one of their more organic ways, to be honest. In season 5, she just randomly flashes Jon because boobs represent life, or something. She’s earned her nickname well.
Jana: The most gratuitous part was that the scene went from Daario dropping his pants to immediately showing Dany’s boobs. I mean, get it, Dany, and all that, but equating man-butt with a completely naked woman in a bath is a little misguided.
Kylie: 100% intentional, though. It hits rock bottom in Season 7 with the cut from Grey Worm going down on Missandei to this:
Want to talk about Daario? The power dynamics here are…not great. Though I guess it’s pretty clear they both wanted the sex with each other. And all Daario wants to do is fight and fuck!
Jana: I mean, that gives him a more understandable motivation than about half the cast. And you definitely got the impression he’s into the power dynamics, I’d say.
Julia: I agree, he made it quite clear he was into it. I guess the question is, can any relationship someone with that much power has with someone of a lower status ever really be consensual.
I suppose we can talk about Littlefinger and Lysa a bit here too. I don’t think they did much with this at all. As Jana said, all the secrets that were revealed were done so off-hand that it couldn’t have been significant to anyone or anything, and the focus seemed to be on Lysa as a crazy lady who was more an annoyance than anything.
Kylie: It also lost so much of the punch without the full contents of Lysa’s breakdown, including her implied forced abortion. This is a pretty tragic character in the book, albeit a very unhealthy one who does almost kill Sansa. Instead on the show, she’s almost played for laughs, down to her last minutes.
In memoriam… Peasant Philosopher, Rorge, Biter, Lysa, and whoever the Mountain was fighting
Bo: The Rorge and Biter scene was AWFUL. To recap: these two heartless, vicious killers had the jump on someone whose death would nab them a significant reward. Sandor had his back turned. They both had weapons. What is their plan of attack? Have one bite Sandor from behind while the other stands there and does literally nothing until a little girl stabs them.
Did they end up in the Black Cells out of stupidity?
Jana: I could use this to dig up the statistical data from my criminology class that said yes, actually, a significant portion of people who get caught committing crimes usually get caught because they’re not quite the sharpest tools in the shed. I’m going to refrain from that, though, and just agree that the entire scene was cartoonishly stupid. Also Arya killing Rorge was cartoonish in its comedic timing. Though kudos for the bite attack being probably the most effective jump scare of the show.
Julia: There was just something about how it was right after the old dude and Arya talking about nihilism together that made the whole thing hilarious.
Kylie: Are we supposed to feel anything for these people? Are we supposed to feel anything for anyone?
I think we already discussed why Lysa’s death lost a little impact, since her talking about everything she did for Littlefinger had already happened. But maybe we’re the only ones for whom nothing is truly nothing.
Let’s wrap it here and check in with our readers: what did you guys think? Did the Lysa moment live up to itself, understanding that on rewatch, some of that impact is always lost? Was Arya learning the gift of mercy good, actually?
We’re curious to hear your thoughts, and until next time, we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.