Episode 8 brought the series back to form after a hiatus. With affections blooming in Slavers Bay, the Bolton rise to power and a makeover for Sansa, critics almost universally highlighted the expert work of cast and crew for the fight scene, and the impact it had on the show and the characters within it.
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Gruesome even by the standards of today’s ultraviolent Prestige TV, the climax of “The Mountain and the Viper” proves the power of gore to do more than just gross people out…[Gregor Clegane] crushed more than just the Prince’s head and Tyrion’s hopes. He crushed the idea that justice through violence is possible. He shattered eggshell surface of civilization and left it a pulp on the ground.
Last night’s Game of Thrones was like a marathon of rug-pulling. Time after time, we saw the truth revealed — only to have it turned on its side somehow. There were so many slippery moments where the truth became the biggest lie, it was only fitting when we saw a confession turn deadly.
The the utter waste of one of the last human beings in Westeros or Essos capable of being in love with life and still believing in justice was worse for me for something that came before it…“The Mountain and the Viper” may end in bloody violence, but it is a meditation on the loves that both motivate such savagery and make it so weighty.
A- ; If man’s true nature is to kill, then there’s a fair amount of it in this episode…But there are also hints of tenderness and affection here, of the reasons that humanity might be more than its grim conclusions.
More book readers and Unsullied recaps, reviews and reactions under the cut
Game of Thrones is perhaps the most elaborate trick TV has ever created to get people to watch a show about talking while making them believe it’s a show about fighting. Yes, there is swordplay and spearplay, yes, there are dragons and occasional magic, yes, there are pyramids and castles with Moon doors, yes, there is sufficient violence that a man had an axe buried in his bald head and it was maybe, maybe the third grossest thing we saw tonight. Yet Game of Thrones is never more captivating than when it’s just one person talking to another person.
For once, the show has built in its own hype machine, setting up the trial by combat and building suspense for it over the past two episodes…As readers, we may have the benefit of knowing how the battle between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell ends, but at least our anticipation for seeing how the battle plays out onscreen is something that we can share with non-readers.
But then [Thrones] wallops you with an ending like last night’s and you realize that what GoT is about, probably more than anything else, is the visceral pleasure of a well-constructed narrative.
As further proof that author George R. R. Martin would have probably had Inigo Montoya fail and fall at the six-fingered hand of Count Ruben, Oberyn Martell got his head popped like a blood-filled balloon in “The Mountain and the Viper” – a truly excellent episode that provided some expert thrills and some epic “feels.”
When it comes to it, this episode is—in our estimation—the biggest letdown of the season. When you hype something up—when you declare it to contain one of the best things you’ve ever done—you must deliver to the expectations you create, and for us, it fell short.
It will be interesting to see where Sansa’s storyline goes from here, as well as where they take the expanded presence of the Boltons. Agree or otherwise with any critics this week?
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