Published on May 21st, 2014 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones Review – Season 4 – Episode 7 “Mockingbird”
It’s lucky, really, that “Mockingbird”’s final 10 minutes are so eventful, as the previous 40 are, well… stately. This is not a criticism, and only in comparison with the previous roster of momentous events that has made up Season 4. It is a mark of mature storytelling, as well as gravity, that what goes up must come down. After last week’s battles, betrayals, and snarling, warranted histrionics, this episode deals with the repercussions of those disputes, and the larger theme of sibling rivalries. First to be dealt with is the fallout of Tyrion’s bravura declamation in “The Laws of Gods and Men”; this comes about in a markedly more sober fashion, now that his audiences are one-to-one. There is finally no escaping the isolation that has defined his entire life.
Season 4 has hit upon a winning formula of incremental emotional exfoliation of Tyrion, his facade of imperviousness being chipped away at one cruel scene at a time. The trial saw him raw and fueled by rage at a lifetime of injustice. Tonight there are very few layers left to scour, and the heat of his passion is cooling off, as his brother berates him for his outburst. Initially, it seems the old sardonic Tyrion still prevails; he attempts a gallow’s humour with Jaime. However, trying to appeal to the ‘spirit of adventure’ in a man who has lost his sword-hand and with it his whole identity is futile. The sadness in Jaime’s admission of weakness, and his reluctance to name Cersei’s champion is more than a neat narrative device. He is afraid of this adversary.
Gregor Clegane’s (re-)introduction is suitably gruesome, as we view his vast form impaling an unfortunate peasant on his giant broadsword. The rest of the scene positions the camera low, beneath this hulking brute – a frankly unnecessary tactic, since Clegane is now played by 6ft 9in Icelandic actor and strongman Hafthor Julius Bjornsson. Does his topless form imply an extra level of wanton brutality, a wild barbarian who needs no armour? Possibly. It seems more like an opportunity to show off the gains made in recasting The Mountain with someone truly worthy of the title. His recruitment as Cersei’s champion seems to be yet another short-sighted move on her part, given the vengeful Prince Oberyn’s presence in King’s Landing. It is, at best, arrogant as only a Lannister can be.
The contrast between one Clegane and another is drawn into sharp relief in the very next scene, an honest exchange between Sandor Clegane, Arya and a dying farmer. The younger Stark daughter seems to be searching for some meaning in all the death, and her speech on nothingness implys a growing nihilism that she is perhaps trying to quell. The Hound, who claims to revel in killing, prefers euthanasia on this occasion and takes no pleasure in the task, and while Arya remains a creature of cold vengeance, she is starting to absorb the Hound’s training, as their encounter with ‘Rouge’ shows. Clegane is imparting more than just technique though; they share an attitude, a desire for balance or ‘fairness’ in their killings. No bombastic shows of force, just “that’s where the heart is”. The Hound literally and figuratively takes off his armour in their later scene, and wears his painful family history on his sleeve, revealing to Arya his own tale of sibling torture and betrayal, one to be echoed later in Oberyn’s tale of Tywin’s monster child. The rivulet of understanding runs between them now, and Arya is able to show him compassion as he lets down his guard.
I’ll not linger on Jon Snow and the quibbling asshole Lord Commander, nor his shiny-pated lackey. Until the Wildling army descend, matters at the Night’s Watch are going to continue to frustrate, as we run into more of the same nonsensical narrative crowbarring that leave the defenders completely defenseless. If I have to listen to another old crow pulling Snow up on the “Steward” technicality, I’ll…continue to moan about it. Get on with it.
Tyrion and Bronn reach the inexorable conclusion of their “friendship”, and the practicalities of the situation dictate the outcome – it’s not personal. Of course, this doesn’t make Bronn’s decision to side with Cersei any less distressing, but at least he doesn’t have airs or make excuses; he just wants an easier life. How a man of his itinerant nature would take to being a Lord is anyone’s guess, though he seems happy enough to bring about his ascension in the usual bloody fashion – that’s his wheelhouse. If Bronn gets a bit maudlin toward the end, Jerome Flynn is careful not to overplay it. While his regret is evident, we must understand that as sorry as he is to let Tyrion down, he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Gold is gold, and castles are castles. He makes a fair point when he asks “when have you ever risked your life for me?”, and Tyrion is man enough to take it on the chin, even while his hope fails.
Across the seas, Daenerys shares an irritating scene with Daario Naharis, with his bloody wild flowers and courtship. Her regal annoyance is an affectation though, and just as their flirting grows tiresome, she fronts him out. Ok, fair enough, the woman has needs, and thank god we didn’t have to see them for once (perhaps due to Emilia Clarke’s purported new no-nudity clause? Good woman, finally!) It does serve some purpose when related to the following scene in Merreen with Ser Jorah, who she truly trusts and puts her faith in. After the smug bastard’s walk of shame line, “She’s in a good mood!”, Jorah’s feeling of displacement lead him to be more honest than ever with his Queen regarding her dealings with the slave masters. It is a little wearing that she seems to need to learn this lesson of mercy and temperance repeatedly, and that he must spell it out for her, particularly after the very evident problems her ruthlessness caused last week. Still, progress is made…
Service continues to be a theme, as Melissandre undertakes another thinly-veiled manipulation, this time with Stannis’ wife, the long-suffering but not overly sympathetic Selyse Baratheon, with talk of lies and duty. Most ominous is what role Shireen has to play in the Red Woman’s plots. As they stare into the brazier, shaped like a thorny crown, she appeals to Selyse’s faith, that the Lord needs her daughter. I doubt very much the unloving mother would stand in the witch’s way if it came to another bloody sacrifice either.
Brienne and Podrick make strides in their quest to save the Stark girls. A chance meeting with the delightfully named Hot Pie, leads to information on Arya’s whereabouts, as well as the perfect recipe for a really cracking kidney pie! (I will be getting a T-shirt bearing the legend, “You cannot give up on the gravy”) Even Brienne’s courtly patience is tested, to the point where she gives away far too much information to a stranger, just to get him to shut up. Pod is understandably wary, showing more savvy than he is usually credited with. The scenes are a welcome and rare slice of gentle comic relief – not too broad obviously, this is Westeros, land of the utterly doomed – but enough to balance out some of the coming darkness.
Into that darkness steps Prince Oberyn, flaming torch in hand. Martell sheds light on the defeated figure of Tyrion, slumped in the gloom of his cell, and settles in to tell him a story of a sister warped by grief to hatred. ‘Cause, you know, there’s no pick me up like undiscovered childhood traumas. There is definitely something of the dramatist to Oberyn, letting his tale of innocence and alarming cruelty unfold with careful deliberation. The pacing and drama does not serve his ego though, more his sense of justice – he wants Tyrion to fully understand his motives, and the strange balancing bond of kindness and retribution that they share. The whole scene is beautifully shot and acted by Pedro Pascal and Peter Dinklage, both bringing an emotional integrity to their characters that shines through their tears.
And so to the upsurge, the obligatory ratcheting of tension and impending calamity at our episode’s close; it wouldn’t be GoT without that water cooler moment. “Mockingbird”‘s are more tame and long-expected; nothing has a real shock factor, but the beats almost pack more punch for their inevitability. Sansa’s wonder at a fall of snow can’t last long, since no character is ever allowed more than 5 minutes grace in any one year period. Robyn’s childish chatter will descend into a demonic tantrum, and Sansa will make a duff move, because these behaviours sum up their characters. Littlefinger finally makes the move on his charge, after circling her like a hyena for 4 seasons. That their sickly kiss is witnessed by Lysa is no less staged than his ‘concern’ for Sansa as he talks his wife down in her furious jealousy.
The trials of his past, being the little one, and the defining moment of defeat at the hands of Catelyn’s suitor, Bran Stark, have shaped Petyr Baelish into the seething mass of blankness that stands before Sansa. His line, “In a better world, one where love could overcome strength and duty, you might have been my child” actually rings true, harks back to this loss, and how central it is to his identity. But he is a survivor and a pragmatist, and since he isn’t her father…
Even with his underbelly of monomania exposed, Baelish is still able to play the gullible Stark daughter, and she lets his kiss linger for a worryingly long time, swayed by the promise of a saviour, a vengeful ally. As she stumbles from one error to the next, she is forever the “good girl”, doing as she is told. “Come here, Sansa.” says the psychotic woman whose husband she just got off with, and she obeys! This obedience nearly wins her a trip through the Moon Door, and may still be her downfall. As it is, the long-drop fate is reserved for the murderously former Mrs Arryn, who, in another plodding step of the inevitable, has surely had this coming for a very long time. Beware a Mockingbird bearing truths – it can only spell your doom.
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