Game of Thrones "Mockingbird" Review: Pow! Straight to the Moon (Door)!
So I think I made a lot of enemies last week for saying that "The Laws of Gods and Men" was my least favorite episode of the season so far, and I think I'm going to make a lot more enemies by saying that "Mockingbird" was one of my favorites, if early comments about the episode being full of filler are any indication. I think I'm slowly figuring out what I like about Game of Thrones, and *gulp* it's often the soapier stuff. Of course, Game of Thrones' more melodramatic elements don't feature identical twins and eyepatches (at least until Beric Dondarrion returns), but they do involve familial lines, history, and revenge! And that's what most of what "Mockingbird" was about: sisters hating brothers, brothers hating brothers, brothers avenging sisters, sisters getting jealous of sisters, brothers not able to serve as champion for their brothers, and Daario's butt.
It all made for an hour where a longtime investment in the series paid off. The events of "Mockingbird" weren't always about the present, but how the present was affected by the past. There were so many callbacks to previous seasons and backstory that the episode felt quite rewarding, and the needle moved on so many important plots that I don't see how anyone could say it was boring. Not to mention the fact that no one visited the bank!
I've already seen "Mockingbird" called a "talky" episode, and that may be true, but the talking was GOOD. It illuminated many of Game of Thrones' characters in ways we've never seen before. And I'd gladly put the scenes at the Eyrie up against any of Game of Thrones' best, and in my book, they'd stand their ground. Don't mess this up like you did last week, Rotten Tomatoes, I'm certifying this episode extra fresh.
Grab a loaf of wolfbread and let's talk about what happened in "Mockingbird."
"It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters." —Oberyn Martell
Everything that happened in King's Landing this week revolved around setting up a fight, as if Cersei and Tyrion were two promoters getting Bum Fights 2 off the ground. And the advantages and disadvantages between the siblings that've existed all their lives—with Cersei having every privilege handed to her and Tyrion taking his lumps for being a dwarf—extended to the search for a champion. While Tyrion was withering away in a dingy cell asking anyone who visited to fight for him, Cersei walked out into the garden and demanded the services of a man who could eat Lou Ferrigno for breakfast: the Mountain! He was outside practicing fatalities on unfortunate human pincushions plucked from Flea Bottom, and immediately made it clear that he's pretty darned good at murdering guys who look like this:
But is that really something to be proud of? A strong breeze could've killed those wimps! They wouldn't've just been picked last in Dodgeball, they would've BEEN the ball! Does this even count as training for the Mountain? Does Vladimir Klitschko fight Girl Scouts before a heavyweight fight? Does LeBron James play one-on-one against a hamster before the NBA finals? Does Joey Chestnut eat cocktail weenies before the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating competition? What I'm saying is, I could handle these guys with a toothpick and some harsh words. And I don't mean to take anything away from the Mountain because he is a marvel among murderers, but his competition was basically Christian Bale from The Machinist.
At least the Mountain made the kills count, though. This disemboweling made me particularly happy:
So Cersei chose the Mountain as her champion; he's the most feared, brutal, and accomplished swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms (remember, this is a guy who decapitated his horse in Season 1 because it was checking out a mare during a joust). And Tyrion has... uhhh, Jaime? Nope, Jaime was like, "I can't kill him with seven hands, let alone one hand." Bronn? Nope, the man who defended Tyrion at the Eyrie has already pushed his luck enough, and now he has a bride on the horizon. But before we get to the surprise last guest, let me just say that Tyrion's conversations with both Jaime and Bronn were fantastic—"Mockingbird" was full of great conversations, and Jaime expressing his disappointment in Tyrion's decision and Bronn shrugging his shoulders to say, "I gotta do what's best for Bronn" were both wonderfully effective ways of making Tyrion's situation even more dire.
But Tyrion apparently still has knack for getting his ass saved at the last minute, as we saw when Oberyn "The Red Viper" Martell slithered into Tyrion's cell for a powwow about their mutual disdain for Cersei. I loved Oberyn's story about meeting Tyrion as a baby and how it painted Cersei as a horrible shrew even when she was a little girl. Seeing an opportunity to check two items off his to-do list at once, Oberyn volunteered to be Tyrion's champion as a means of avenging his sister's death and pissing off Cersei. And it's a good thing he did, too, because the next episode is titled "The Mountain and the Viper." Pedro Pascal has been amazing all season long as Oberyn, but this scene was his biggest highlight yet. Someone give this guy an award.
So it's the Mountain versus the Red Viper, probably. The Mountain can chop down scared ninnies who don't even weigh 100 pounds, and the Red Viper can swing a sword like no one else... in the sack. We know that Oberyn is supposed to be a great warrior who knows his poisons, and we know that the Mountain has killed more people than malaria. So we must ask...
"The pain was bad. The smell was worse." —The Hound
Arya and the Hound continued terrorizing the countryside in "Mockingbird," putting a man out of his misery even though I'm not sure he really asked for it. But he should have asked for it after Arya spouted off that angsty teenage philosophy that no one wanted to hear! "Nothing isn't better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing." When you're struggling through your dying breaths, the last thing you need to hear is an emo poem from an unflowered girl. The guy's "just kill me now" look said it all:
But it wasn't long before the Hound apparently got bored of what the old man had to say about equality and fairness in society, killing the old man dead and turning the death clock ahead by about five minutes. Bye, old man! I don't know why you were in this episode!
Then a couple bounty hunters came after the Hound, including one of Yoren's prisoners from way back in Season 2. I didn't catch his name at first, but Arya did (it's Rourge), and then she did this:
But the good chunk of Arya and the Hound's story this week wasn't the part where they killed people, it was the part where they sat down and talked. Yes, "Mockingbird" had its fair share of yapping, but it was good yapping, and the Hound gabbing about his brother the Mountain was one of those defining character moments that allowed us to really feel like we knew this guy. As Game of Thrones has progressed, I've alternated between "Good doggy!" and "Bad doggy!" with regard to the Hound; he's one of the show's most complex characters, a man who will save the day one week and ruin it the next. But his confession that his family abandoned him suddenly transforms him into one of the show's easiest-to-understand characters. The guy's a big softie, just like the rest of us. He's haunted by his brother shoving his face into a fire (a story Littlefinger told Sansa back in Season 1) and his dad lying about the incident to protect his brother. Growing up in a household like that might've turned you into a weird loner with a hermit's code, too.
The Hound's revelation was a moment of vulnerability for a character who's otherwise been so guarded that we can now see him in a different light. (That's why Jaime and the Hound are two of the show's best written characters; they're so multi-dimensional, and their backstories emphasize the importance of perspective.) Arya also has a new outlook on the Hound: The two have more in common than she'd like to admit with the broken families and the sibling rivalries, but the Hound's situation may have been even worse than her own. It's no wonder the Hound has taken Arya under his wing and is trying to teach her how to survive out in the world (awwww, "that's where the heart is"). He sympathizes with her. And now Arya sympathizes back.
"Very well, do what you do best." *pours wine* "Take off your clothes." —Daenerys Targaryen
After a hard day of freeing slaves and paying goat herders for the livestock that her dragons torched, even queens need a little sumpin'-sumpin' to relax. And Dany finally threw up her hands and agreed to make sweet love to Daario after the dashing rogue's persistence reached levels of breaking and entering. Let "Mockingbird" be a lesson to all you hopeless romantics out there: Stalking and boasting about your bedroom swagger is a natural aphrodisiac. Or maybe Dany just wanted to get it over with? There was some odd back-and-forth flirting from Khaleesi in this scene; it went from threatening to have him kicked out of her crib to drinking a glass of wine and playing dominatrix.
Daario? More like Derrierio, right? BUTT. SHOT. Daario swearing that his sword is all Dany's has a different meaning now, doesn't it? There's only one thing that could've made this scene better: a BOIIINNGGGGG sound effect. Sure, 2014 may officially be the Year of the McConaughey, but there's got to be another calendar out there calling it the Year of the Huisman. Michiel Huisman's on-screen conquests in the past year include Rayna James (Nashville's Connie Britton), Sarah Manning (Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany), and Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke)? (And let's not forget Treme's Lucia Micarelli before that.) Someone get this man a trophy and a bag of ice for his nethers.
Ser Jorah ran into Daario on his walk of shame ("She's in a good mood," Daario noted), and immediately expressed his
jealousy concern to Dany over Daario's trustworthiness. The conversation quickly turned to matters in Yunkai, as Daario was headed there to slaughter all the slave masters under orders from Dany. Jorah pleaded with Dany to show more mercy, and we heard the same debate all over again. I know it's not easy ruling an entire region, but Dany has been waffling on her policy ever since she took Meereen. Her gut tells her to kill and crucify anyone who's associated with the evils of slavery, but her advisers, and the occasional innocent victim, sometimes convince her to do otherwise. I'm just looking for some consistency from the Khaleesi, instead of this constant flip-flopping. And now she wants Jorah to make sure Daario knows that Jorah was the one who changed her mind. Is she setting up Jorah and Daario to compete for her? This woman is playing games all over the place. Also, sweet outfit, girl.
"We need to prepare." —Jon Snow
A quick stop at Castle Black revealed that arguing about the potency of Mance Rayder's oncoming Wildling army is like explaining the dangers of climate change to a dusty Republican senator. Without Lord Commander Mormont around to listen to reason, hard-headed Alliser Thorne put up his own dense wall of insulation, completely ignoring Jon's firsthand experience and logical foresight. The time that Jon spent embedded with Mance is still a sore spot for the Night's Watch, but you'd think that after proving himself again with the raid on Craster's Keep, Jon would get a little more respect. Nope. Alliser has it out for Jon, and all Jon received as thanks for his words of wisdom was Wall duty until the next full moon, which means he'll have to listen to Samwell gush about Gilly while freezing his butt off. The torture!
"It's only flesh, it needs what it needs." —Melisandre
Despite being an odd inclusion into the episode (this could have easily ended up in the deleted scenes portion of the DVD set), this scene was magnificently put together and showed us a lot more about a character than we initially thought. When I interviewed Carice van Outen before the season started, she remarked how excited she was for this scene with Selyse because we never get to see Melisandre in a scene with another woman. And it's totally true. When Melisandre is with men, she's either burning people at the stake, oozing undeniable sexuality to dominate, or oozing a shadow baby out of her hoo-ha.
But here with her gal pal Selyse, she's shockingly available. She still dominates her company, this time by hanging out in the nude comfortably and ostentatiously because she knows her sultriness and sexuality is her power over Stannis and, by extension, Selyse. But she speaks with Selyse casually—even making a joke (work on that punchline, Mel)—and plays off Selyse's steely faith to admit some truths. Melisandre may be the Red Priestess, but she's also a practitioner of parlor tricks to steer men to the Lord of Light. We never knew how much of Melisandre's show was legitimate magic, but now we know that at least part of it is just applying what she learned from her high-school alchemy class. All of a sudden, it makes a lot more sense why she was so impressed with Beric Dondarrion and his actual abilities given to him by the Lord of Light.
Melisandre's not entirely a fraud, she's just damn good at serving the Lord of Light. Whether it be convincing men about his power through firework displays or convincing Selyse to bring her daughter on their dangerous trip to the North, Melisandre knows exactly how to exploit her target's weaknesses in the name of her lord. But why does the Lord of Light need Shireen to go on their trip?
"Yes m'lady. No, m'lady." —Podrick Payne
Poor Pod! Being with Brienne is a bit of a drag after squiring for Tyrion, the man of earthly delights. He's not allowed to get drunk because Brienne is straightedge and her idea of luxury is spending a night at an inn. But it thanks to their "fancy" lodging this week that they crossed paths with Hot Pie (yay!), who delivered the most over-detailed George R.R. Martin-esque dialogue about the perfect kidney pie. And once they were out of earshot from potentially dangerous eavesdroppers, Hot Pie told Brienne and Pod that the last time he'd seen Arya, the Brotherhood Without Banners wanted to sell Arya to her family for ransom, and Pod figured out that Lysa was Arya's last living relative with money, so she's probably there. That's why Pod and Brienne make a good team; they really complement each other, with Brienne's sense of duty and Pod's knowledge adding up to something greater than the sum of their parts. #TrueDetectiveSeason2 right?
"Given the opportunity, what do we do to those who hurt those we love?" —Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
Awww yeah, all the Eyrie stuff in "Mockingbird" was awesome to the max. We actually saw Sansa experience a moment of happiness; she was totally free of worry as she built a snowcastle of Winterfell. Even Robin's developmentally stunted attitude with regard to criminal justice ("When I grow up I will be able to fly anybody who bothers me!") couldn't derail her feelings of joy, and all of a sudden a foreign object crept across her face, breaking the laws of gravity and shattered princess dreams. Yes, Sansa smiled!
Of course the smile was short-lived, because Robin knocked over one of Winterfell's towers, reminding Sansa that her home and family had been destroyed. Or rather, I assume that's how Sansa interpreted the kid's destruction of her handiwork, because she kind of flipped out and smacked him in the face. It was totally uncalled-for, but oh-so gratifying for us. Robin is a terror to everyone, a Joffrey without the class. So let's watch this slap on repeat for about three hours, and pay particular attention to Robin's face when he realizes what just happened.
Littlefinger came down with a pimp walk and a new accent ("His mom shoood haf done that a lawng time agooooooo.") and then all the uncomfortable tension that'd been building up between these two exploded when Littlefinger, a full two inches shorter than Sansa, close-talked about how Sansa was even more beautiful than her mother before planting a smooch on her. EEEEEEK! Creeeeeeepy! Is it important to note that Sansa did not pull away? Did Littlefinger time it just right so that Lysa would witness the kiss? Would it surprise anyone if Littlefinger engineered that moment on purpose? The guy is a master manipulator. This is Littlefinger's world, we're just living in it.
Lysa's chat with Sansa following the incident was the expected bout of kooky insanity, but also a very illuminating explanation of the intricacies of the Moon Door. Lysa talked about how they find bodies broken into pieces down below, and how sometimes they'll just find a head. What I want to know is, is it someone's job to go down there and confirm that the victims who take flight have perished? Do they go down there and clean things up? How would Lysa know how the bodies end up if someone wasn't on body-scraping duty? That seems like a pretty lousy job if you ask me. Not only do you get bits of bone and blood under your fingernails, but the walk to and fro the splash area must take hours. No thanks!
Littlefinger arrived just in time to save Sansa from becoming the next piece of splatter art down below the Moon Door, and he was able to calm Lysa down by reassuring her that he'd only ever loved one woman.
I'll let Arnie put the words in Littlefinger's mouth:
So good! Now that Lysa's out of the way, does Littlefinger remain Lord of the Vale, or does that honor transfer to Robin? Will Robin make like a bird and fly? Will Littlefinger take Sansa as his bride so he can grab a foothold in the North and have the next best thing to Catelyn Stark? Is Sansa now in a worse situation than she was before? Just an awesome punctuation mark on an awesome episode. I can't wait to see what happens next.
WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS
Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 4 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!
This week: The perfect combination of meaningful character-building discussions, sudsy shocks, and showy violence, "Mockingbird" was everything that Game of Thrones should be. The number-two slot might seem a little high to some viewers, but I've been waiting years to see Lysa get pushed out the Moon Door, and the scene did not disappoint one bit. Season 4 is charging full-steam ahead the finale approaches, and there are still plenty of awesome events coming. Get excited, people!
1. "The Lion and the Rose" (Episode 2)
2. "Mockingbird" (Episode 7)
3. "First of His Name" (Episode 5)
4. "Breaker of Chains" (Episode 3)
5. "Oathkeeper" (Episode 4)
6. "Two Swords" (Episode 1)
7. "The Laws of Gods and Men" (Episode 6)
NOTES FROM THE RAVENS
– The new Mountain is played by six-foot-nine-inch Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. "Icelandic strongman" and "played the Mountain on Game of Thrones" is one hell of a resumé. And holy Seven Gods, look at the size of that sword! It's like five Tyrions long!
– There's been some uproar from book readers over the alteration of Littlefinger's last line. In the novel, instead of "Your sister," he says "Only Cat," a line that is quintessential Littlefinger. I don't see the problem with changing his words as much as others. But if you must find a good argument for the change, this piece by Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson tackles it, and she says it's all about the keeping things thematic for television.
– Pretty cool last words: "I wish it were wine." Nice one, old man!
– Haha at Hot Pie for saying Brienne was dressed like a boy.
– Imagine how excited the actor who plays Rorge was to return to the show. "Hey mom! Game of Thrones asked me back!" And then he got stabbed by a little girl after 30 seconds of screen time.
– While Moon Door Janitor might be the worst job in Westeros, I'd gladly be the lackey who lights all of Melisandre's candles for bath time.
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