Spoilers from the fourth season of Game of Thrones can be found in the paragraphs below.
As the fourth season of HBO's wildly successful Game of Thrones hurtles toward its explosive conclusion, one of the biggest questions tugging at all of us is: Where will the show's rapidly dwindling cast of major players be by the time next spring rolls around? The show has reminded us time and again that the 'game of thrones' is a fickle, vicious beast, and that anyone's head could end up on the chopping block at any time, for any reason. Tonight's shocking episode, The Mountain and the Viper, reiterates this point in particularly cruel fashion, disposing of one of the show's most charming faces in the most horrifying way possible. After everything we've seen in this show, after every brutal moment we've experienced with these endearing characters, we can now safely say that the death scene in tonight's episode takes the cake as the most gruesome demise in the show to date.
It's finally time for Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) trial by combat, with Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) stepping in as his vengeful understudy. The Wildlings are approaching Castle Black, hell bent on capturing the legendary stronghold once and for all. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) discovers a former traitor in her midst, a bombshell that puts a major damper on her winning streak, over in Essos. Upon their arrival in the Vale, Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) are met with disappointing news, while Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) transforms Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) into his deceptive little apprentice. Oh yeah, and that bastard Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) finally earns the Bolton surname. That guy sucks.
As many hoped, The Mountain and the Viper turns out to be one of the most memorable episodes of the show, but not for the reason you'd expect. Yes, this week's addition contains one of the most incredible fight scenes in the show, but even more impressive than that is the humor. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proved themselves to be masters of tone and pacing, both of which were incredibly important this week. Adding hilarious dialogue in for some much needed (and much appreciated) levity turned out to be an incredibly wise decision. Because of its violent, temperamental nature, the show often runs the risk of becoming too reliant on shock value. Thankfully, The Mountain and the Viper fixes that issue by delivering some of the funniest moments in the show's history.
As much fun as tonight's entry is, it suffers from some disappointing setbacks. Now that Daenerys, the Unsullied, and her advisors have discouraged any kind of uprising in Meereen (and have basically conquered Essos), their role in the story has lost most of its appeal. The Mountain and the Viper spends far too much time on Daenerys, which wouldn't have been so dull if she still had interesting things to do. It was these long stretches of nothing that hurt the episode and detract from its entertainment value. We would have much rather seen more of Arya and the Hound, who have been put aside for most of the season.
Oberyn's battle with the Mountain closed a character arc that began as soon as the new season kicked off, and it did so in satisfying yet gruesome fashion. Next week, another major arc will come to an end as the Wildlings launch their assault on Castle Black and the hopelessly outnumbered brothers of the Night's Watch. Tune in to The Watchers on the Wall for what promises to be the most incredible action sequence the show has ever attempted to bring to the screen.
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