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Recap: 'Game of Thrones' Season 4, Episode 8, 'The Mountain And The Viper' Face Off

by Katie Walsh
June 2, 2014 8:12 AM
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We're back after a week off, and it's time to dive back into the wacky world of Westeros. There's another easter egg in the opening credits this week—Moat Cailin makes an appearance, the geography of the show growing with each episode. "The Mountain and the Viper," directed by Alex Graves (you might remember him from Joffrey's Purple Wedding), has promised us the trial by combat, the showdown and revenge we've been waiting for this whole season, and we're going to get it … right after all of these hideously boring monologues. The episode is a series of rather long, wordy, staid scenes bookended with bursts of bloody violence. A few of the monologues could stand to have been heavily edited, and time was checked during the show, a truly rare occurrence.  

Mole's Town
We open on the dark and damp streets of Mole's Town, and into Mole's Town's finest establishment, a brothel where the working girls burp the tune of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." This is where Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) dropped off Gilly (Hannah Murray) and baby Sam to "stay safe." It seems like the least safe place on earth, especially when Ygritte (Rose Leslie), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and their cannibal Wildling pals sweep in with a throat-slashing fervor. While nearly everyone in the tavern is skewered, stabbed, and otherwise dispatched, an empathetic Ygritte notices Gilly hiding with her baby and gives her only a "shhh" before leaving her as the lone survivor of this massacre. 

The Wall 
At the Wall, Samwell, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and friends are processing the news of the attack at Mole's Town, with Samwell blaming himself for what he assumes to be Gilly's death. His buds remind him that Gilly's survived Craster, The Wall, and a dang White Walker, so she's a resilient and clever girl—there's always a chance for her. They also realize that they are the logical next place for the Wildlings to attack in full force. Drink up boys, this could be your last. 

The Unsullied soldiers have stripped down to take a quick bath in a stream, where Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) catches a glimpse of a nude Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) going about her daily ablutions. She tells Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) about the encounter later, while the queen braids her hair (so that's how they always have such crazy up-dos, was wondering where they get the time for that). Daenerys seems confused that Grey Worm might have been in any way intrigued by her nude bod, cause they're castrated, right? Missandei insists that he was, and Daenerys ponders the gory details of the castration process. 

Later, in private, Grey Worm apologizes to Missandei for the encounter. He remembers nothing about his prior name, his castration, and though Missandei expresses sympathy for his tragic injury, Grey Worm understands that this event led him to be in the place where he is now, leading Khaleesi's army and falling in love with Missandei. He doesn't regret it, and Missandei doesn't regret that he saw her either. 

Elsewhere in Meereen, things are not so lovey dovey. Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) is supervising crucifixion disposal when he receives a message with the seal of the Hand of the King. Right quick he runs over to Ser Jorah Mormont's (Iain Glen) outdoor map office, and is like nyah, nyah check this out you terrible traitor. It's a royal pardon for Ser Mormont, signed by Robert Baratheon (terrible mail service there), which can only mean one thing! Uhh ... It means he spied on Khaleesi, which Selmy helpfully explains for us. Must be in the letter. He's all, "you'll never be alone with her again!" which is the worst thing ever for Mormont. When he goes to see Daenerys, she is PISSED, even though Mormont tries to argue that Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is just trying to drive them apart (a very good point). He confesses to being one of Varys' little birds, leaking all of her secrets, and she gets her scary eyes and tells him to pack his things and get out by nightfall or find his head thrown into Slaver's Bay. This fruitful relationship has seemingly come to a unforgivable end.

Moat Cailin
Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) has suited up his charge, Reek (Alfie Allen), in armor, and told him to go play "Theon Greyjoy" in order to take Moat Cailin from the Ironborn, as Ramsay's father, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) bid him. Ramsay uses a confusing metaphor about krakens and their strength in and out of water in order to make sure Reek keeps his Reek identity, and not get confused with this princely code-switching. 

Things are not going so hot at Moat Cailin! Lots of dead bodies being picked over by crows and the survivors are all beset with some terrible plague of facial sores and coughing up blood. The main dude is super sick, but he's not ready to surrender to to the Boltons at any time, even though the Boltons promise them safe passage to the shore. Well, if there's one thing the Ironborn hate, it's surrendering! Or at least this one guy. He calls Theon a whipped dog and a woman—which almost makes the nervous Theon lose his nerve and drop his act—before one of his guys puts an axe into his bald head. He wants to go home, y'all! 

Of course, in true Ramsay fashion, it's a bait and switch—he flays all the skin off the Ironborn. Some passage to safety! And what does this get him? Why the approval of Daddy Bolton! Who, as the new Warden of the North, decides Ramsay has done a great enough job conquering Moat Cailin (easiest task ever) to earn the last name Bolton. Oh happy day for Ramsay, no longer a bastard or a Snow. 

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  • Scott Micheal | June 6, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    Honestly the Prince dying at the end kinda of ruined it for me, I know this show is twisted but come on he was one of the best characters by far trying to avenge his sister not to mention the only person with his personality, very disappointing he died. I don't even wanna watch the next episode lol. So far this show has gruesomely murdered 2 of the best / heroic characters, Ned Stark & Prince Martell. I feel like the creators of this show really hated heroic people type people.

  • Lois | June 4, 2014 8:10 PMReply

    I don't normally go on these sites but I was looking for the fight scene since it was by far the most brutal and gory one I have seen and I wanted to see it again. In doing so I stumbled upon this one and read the recap. I must say the recaps are way off and the beetle scene is as someone already stated and wonderful brother/brother moment with many meanings and interpretations. The writer of this recap seems to only want visuals and not something you have to understand the deeper meaning of.
    The episode was great and there were no boring parts. It really makes you want to watch the next episode to see where it is going. Not to keep quoting someone else but pick up a book! Your mind makes the story come together.

  • ahmacrom | June 4, 2014 6:18 PMReply

    Some musings.....

    Tyrion's beetle speech was the question of chaos at play in the Westeros world. Explaining how he tried to save some from under his cousins rocks. What was the point of crushing insects when actual people die everyday, Jaime remarks. Also the rock imagery plays into the fury of The Mountain. Unpredictability. Forces of nature always win. Rocks and mountains crush beetles and heads !
    This contrasts with Grey Worm explaining how coincidence and everything is how it should be, for a reason.
    The vipers page was in a scene wiping his spears with a cloth covered or soaked with something?

  • Prithi | June 4, 2014 8:09 AMReply

    Y did Prince Martell had to die , what a tragic end

  • YourMomma | June 4, 2014 12:09 AMReply

    Boring? Are u insane? This was by far one of the best episodes yet! And the pardon was obviously sent by Tywin...

  • got got | June 3, 2014 8:26 PMReply

    Also, an 'easter egg' is something that is an inside joke or is hidden. Moat Cailin showing up in the title sequence this week is neither.

  • M'lyn | June 3, 2014 8:22 PMReply

    Well written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your recap of this episode. I look forward to reading more.

  • Cody n | June 3, 2014 8:11 PMReply

    Sorry but the beetle speech cannot be explained without ruining what is going to come in ep 10 (by the looks of ep .9's title)

    The beetle speech is not in the books, but the message is. I just don't understand how people who watch the show have not picked up a F!@#$% book yet.

  • CODY N | June 3, 2014 8:17 PM

    P.S... did you see his "teeth" when The Mountain was gouging his eyes out?

    I think if The Vipers body was twitching at the end shot I would have puked.
    As it was I still felt ill for hours after.

  • Gotfan | June 3, 2014 7:44 PMReply

    It's Alayne, not Elaine.

  • EZ Snow | June 3, 2014 6:32 PMReply

    To me, Tyrion's point was that the mountain is dumb and crushes people's skulls (like their idiot cousin used to crush beatels) to no apparent reason (connected to what we learned last episode about him barbiquing his brother's face).

  • Guillaume | June 3, 2014 6:28 PMReply

    Why do you guys refer to dialogue as monologue?

  • Nick | June 3, 2014 6:16 PMReply

    Hey guys. I can't seem to find anyone talking about this anywhere, but unless my ears deceived me, didn't Daenerys mispronounce Khal Drogo's name multiple times in the scene where she banishes Ser Jorah? She asks him multiple times if he shared intel on her "carrying Drago's child". Drago -- with an A -- rather than Drogo. I was like, what the what? How did no one catch this during filming?

  • To Nick | June 4, 2014 1:58 PM

    VERY interesting... I plan on going back and rewatching that part (love on-demand) just to see if it happened.

  • Stark | June 3, 2014 3:12 PMReply

    The point of the beetle monologue is Tyrion struggling to understand why there's so much suffering and cruelty in the world, and why even a simpleton would feel compelled to cause pain and death for no reason, as if it's just an innate part of human nature.

    To put it another way: it's like me reading these Game of Thrones recaps written by a brain injured simpleton, seeing them complain about how any bits where the characters talk are "booooring" and mindlessly regurgitate the events of the show we just watched with no insight or commentary, and wondering "why do they do it?" Hearing the horrible noise in my head of them typing out another terrible joke

  • GOT | June 3, 2014 5:40 PM


  • chris | June 3, 2014 1:35 AMReply

    Oberon's head=beetle? Perhaps it's that simple.

  • Taylor | June 2, 2014 6:18 PMReply

    I came here just for this: "If anyone can illuminate the point of this never-ending beetle crushing monologue, it would be much appreciated."

    I read the comment below, but still don't get it, unless the whole point is that it's just pointless. Tywin is going to crush Tyrion one way or the other -- there is no justice. Is that it?

    If so, or not, it was still a long, boring conversation that could have been much better written. No one's gonna win an Emmy for that.

  • christy | June 6, 2014 12:14 AM

    I thought hat scene illustrated the quality and depth of Tyrion's noble character. His own family is about to have him killed after framing him and bribing witnesses at his trial. As with his cousin and the beetles, rather than hating them, he wants to understand them and why they don't have human qualities such as empathy and respect for life.

  • Taylor | June 5, 2014 1:20 AM

    Thank you all for your replies. After reading them, and thinking about the scene again, it does make sense. It was an odd conversation, but I sometimes forget that they're in Westros and in a complete fantasy world (with gods and monsters and metaphors).

  • Steve | June 3, 2014 8:19 PM

    @Nandydrew It's not just you, episode was brilliant. I like this blog, but this reviewer is a poor writer. There's enough cliches in this summary to make your head spin, waiting for the other shoe to drop while they they take the ball down the court, I feel like it's a crying shame, they really are going balls to the walllllloh my god...shoot me.

  • NandyDrew | June 2, 2014 9:48 PM

    Also, I loved the episode... wasn't bored, but that's just me...

  • NandyDrew | June 2, 2014 9:46 PM

    I don't know if I'm writing something different, but I felt the scene meant that he tried to find the answers to his cousins actions & couldn't, he is experiencing the same situation now...why?

  • Mike | June 2, 2014 9:38 PM

    One more thing:

    He might die without ever knowing why his cousin crushed the beetles. I think that's a cool way to show someone facing their own death. Questions left unanswered.

  • Mike | June 2, 2014 9:32 PM

    While I was watching the scene I realized it was probably going on too long and I was waiting for the punchline much like the reviewer. Tyrion over-dramatized the story somewhat, as I'm sure he didn't dream of beetles every night, but I think the scene was meant to mean pretty much everything Steve said below. I say it's okay to over dramatize and ramble on about beetles if you're about to face potential death and want to make a point. I like how Tyrion mentions that he went to books, to intelligent people to try and understand a simpleton, as it should be more complex people who are harder to figure out, and yet here was a simpleton he couldn't understand. If he couldn't understand a simpleton how was he ever going to find answers? It's almost like he's been searching this whole life for answers and he's reaching out to his brother to solve a big one for him in potentially their last ever conversation.

  • Steve | June 2, 2014 8:13 PM


    Tyrion is contemplating his fate. It's his Alfie moment. Forget Tywin, he's just a beetle too after all. Tyrion's not making an objective statement.

    Are the gods cruel and malicious? Do they derive pleasure from tragedy? Or are they just dumb and ignorant of the pain they inflict, uncaring of the millions of carcasses in their wake? Do the Gods even exist? etc... Everyone tries to make meaning in their lives, but ultimately there's no answer to that question. It's an unknowable, and yet we ask again and again (Tyrion's obsession with knowing why his cousin does it). People define their lives around that question, build religions because of it, but ultimately it's the same answer. "I don't know."

    It's possible you were bored because the metaphor didn't hit. Being that it could be the last conversation they ever have, I found it insightful, funny, and extremely moving.

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  • Steve | June 2, 2014 3:54 PMReply

    A simpleton crushing beetles in reference to the Gods doling out justice is pretty self explanatory.

    To answer your question as to the punchline in Tyrion's monologue, Jamie has it. "I don't know." A bad show would have Tyrion asking Jamie "Why does it have to be this way?". A good show doesn't spell things out as easily, sometimes to the detriment of bloggers, apparently.

    Also, if Robin "doth protest too much about going outside", it would mean that Robin actually does want to go outside.

  • Steve | June 3, 2014 8:02 PM

    @Val Yeah, I really liked it because of that, there's not one answer. He's definitely contemplating the nature of cruelty, given his fate.

    Me saying it was 'self explanatory' is too narrow. I was more just annoyed that the writer was too lazy to spend one second thinking about why that scene was there and what it meant. Cheers.

  • val | June 2, 2014 11:01 PM

    What I took away from the beetle question was more that his cousin crushed the beetle, because he could, the same way his father and family crush and kill everything, because they can, and so far never have to answer to it, except may be for Geoffrey. Just my thoughts on it, I thought it was a touching moment between brothers. I mean, what do you talk about before you're going to die.

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  • anajalakd | June 2, 2014 2:24 PMReply


  • anajalakd | June 2, 2014 2:23 PMReply

    great episode

  • dc | June 2, 2014 2:15 PMReply

    great episode

  • James | June 2, 2014 12:19 PMReply

    It's been overall the most boring season. Nothing satisfying about the whole thing and we have way too many characters and plots going on to fully invest in any of them. I only watch it because I've spent so much time already and there's nothing else going on.
    Of all the new people I only care about is the unsullied.
    We're stuck with the least compelling survivors from the Stark family and I don't know if we're still supposed to care about them. I'm even bored about the lovely Arya just walking around FOREVER...

  • JPain | June 3, 2014 5:30 PM

    Yeah you're right.. I've read the books and they go downhill after the red wedding. There's no poetry in the writing and we aren't left with a clear protagonist. Unfortunately its been taken over by fanboys who think its a masterpiece but its definitely running out of steam no denying it.

  • smrtRthanU | June 2, 2014 3:32 PM

    You're an idiot.

    Obviously the whole idea of character development is lost on you. Doesn't surprise me you didn't read the books. I assume because there were no pictures in it, there was nothing 'satisfying' about it.

  • Rod | June 2, 2014 11:06 AMReply

    i thought the Scanners moment was quite dumb. the gore made it laughable. a few people i watched the episode with were laughing loudly at the absurdity, which took away from the gravitas of Tyrion's sentencing.

    however, i did enjoy the Lord Baelish and Sansa Stark sequences.

  • yer | June 2, 2014 10:06 AMReply

    The Mountain dies...but not there. He dies from poison on the viper's blade. A very slow and brutal death so ultimately Oberyn gets his revenge.

  • Kyle | June 2, 2014 9:09 AMReply

    Are you sure The Mountain died? Also, I'm pretty positive the story about the simple Lannister cousin that crushed beetles all day was a metaphor for George R.R. Martin.

  • Brad | June 2, 2014 8:23 AMReply

    "Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, please proceed straight to the top of the list of Goriest "Game of Thrones" Moments ... Tyrion cringes" He's not the only one after that joke.

  • Sammi | June 2, 2014 11:58 PM

    Lady Sansa is being taken under Lord Balishes wing. Even tho she isn't interested in being intimate with him the way he would like her to be. She is learning the tricks of the trade when it comes to deception. She will become a queen and rule until Danny takes over.
    Hopefully they become allies.

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