Game of Thrones 4.08: “The Mountain and the Viper”

It’s time to start wrapping up storylines in this fourth season of Game of Thrones, and that process started with a crunch. To quote Ramsay Snow Bolton from last season, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

It’s true, George R.R. Martin might have taken a page out of the Bolton Book of Torture and figuratively flayed us, but this episode also could have been a lot worse. Gilly and her baby survived. Sansa has officially entered the game. And Arya finally had a reason to laugh (and boy, did she laugh). So yes, the end of “The Mountain and the Viper” might have left you feeling like one of the beetles that the simple-minded Orson Lannister was so fond of smashing, but the beetles’ savior eventually showed up in the form of a conveniently-placed kick from a horse. Orson and the beetles serve as a metaphor on many levels. On the grandest level, the gods are Orson, methodically squashing men for no obvious reason. In Tyrion’s point of view, Tywin and Cersei are Orson, relentlessly trying to end him, though he doesn’t deserve it. And on a meta level, George R.R. Martin is Orson, smashing and crunching all of our favorite characters without respite.

Riser of the Week: Sansa Stark

When I tell my friends that Sansa Stark is one of my absolute favorite characters and who I want to see on the Iron Throne, I’m almost always met with groans, boos, or confusion. “She betrayed Ned,” they’ll say. “She’s either crying, pouting, or sulking,” they’ll retort. “Arya is so much cooler,” they’ll yell. I have my responses loaded and ready to fire though. Ned never told Sansa that King’s Landing was a dangerous place; he only told Arya. Sansa’s 13-year-old head was filled with visions of royal balls, tourneys, and a gallant husband. Her betrayal of Ned was accidental and could have been avoided had Ned had the foresight to warn his other daughter. As for her crying, pouting, and sulking, put yourself in her place. She’s a hostage without a single person she can trust. And as for Arya, yes she’s more likely to win a fight between the two, but Arya is reckless and quite lucky to be alive. Sansa’s kill them with courtesy strategy is calculated with survival in mind.

But none of those counterarguments explain the real reason I think Sansa is headed for the throne. Sansa has spent time learning from some of the game’s biggest players: Ned, Tyrion, and Littlefinger. Now each of these players have clear flaws. Ned had permanent blinders, Tyrion doesn’t command respect, and Littlefinger is of low birth. But Ned commanded respect, Tyrion cared about the masses, and Littlefinger had eyes and ears everywhere. And Sansa already has the noble birth covered. If Sansa takes the best parts of her mentors and combines them, she’ll find herself better equipped than any other potential throne seeker. And last night was her coming out party. Welcome to the game, Sansa Stark, and here’s to winning, not dying.

Honorable Mention: Ramsay Bolton, new heir to the North.

Faller of the Week: Oberyn Martell

Oh, man. In a show saturated with likable and interesting characters, it speaks volumes that Pedro Pascal was able to so easily come aboard and make everybody fall in love with Oberyn Martell. Well, everybody but The Mountain that is. But if you’re looking for closure, there is some to be had. Oberyn’s character was fueled by revenge for his sister’s rape and murder. He knew The Mountain did it. And he’s quite sure Tywin Lannister gave the orders. But he needed to hear it. He needed everyone to know what happened. And the last thing that Oberyn Martell ever heard was the confession he had waited so long for. Yes, we’d all much rather have seen Oberyn scrap the monologue and go straight for the throat, but sometimes pride gets in the way. And so Oberyn falls. But the Martells will be back, and they’ll make it a point to do a better job than Oberyn at living up to their house words: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

Honorable Mention: Ser Jorah Mormont, for waiting a little too long to pronounce his love.

Backstory of the Week: The Boltons

Roose Bolton has been loose since Season 2, but I’m not sure if viewers truly understand what he’s been up to the whole time besides being the one to stab Robb Stark at the Red Wedding and pass on the Lannister’s regards. Roose and the Boltons should be despised by viewers much more than the Lannisters. Where the Lannisters have always been clear with their intentions, the Boltons are duplicitous back-(and front)-stabbers. Here’s a rundown of what Roose has been up to. You’ll hate him by the time I'm done.

Roose is introduced during Season 2 in the aftermath of Robb Stark’s Battle of Oxcross, where they won handily, taking many Lannister hostages. Roose suggests torturing the hostages, and Robb reminds him that flaying is outlawed despite the Bolton sigil being an actual flayed man, and the Bolton house words being Our Blades are Sharp. Later on in Season 2, Roose brings news to Catelyn and Robb that Theon Greyjoy has overtaken Winterfell and volunteers his son Ramsay to take it back.

In Season 3, Robb and his army arrive at Harrenhal, but news of Catelyn’s father’s death comes at the same time. Robb orders Roose to hold Harrenhal while he rides to Riverrun with Catelyn for the funeral. While holding Harrenhal, Roose orders his man Locke to find Jaime Lannister (who is heading south with Brienne at this point). Locke finds him, behands him, and brings him back to Roose at Harrenhal. Roose treats Jaime kindly and eventually sends him back to King’s Landing as a sign of good faith. Roose mentions to Jaime that he’s heading to the Twins for Edmure Tully’s wedding, and Jaime innocently tells him to send the Lannister’s regards.

Then at the Red Wedding, the treachery of Roose finally comes to light, when Catelyn discovers him wearing chainmail. A few minutes later, Robb’s army is lying dead and he’s stumbling towards Catelyn with a body full of arrows. Roose slithers up and stabs Robb in the stomach while telling him “The Lannisters send their regards.” The episode following the Red Wedding featured a scene between Roose and Walder Frey, where Roose confessed that his betrayal was a long time in the making, having planned it once the Lannisters had won the Battle of the Blackwater. He admits that it was his son, Ramsay, that burned Winterfell and put its people to death. He also clues us in that his son is torturing Theon Greyjoy. It’s also revealed that as a reward for his cooperation in dismantling the Starks he is named Warden of the North, Ned’s old title.

That brings us to Season 4. Roose and Ramsay finally reunite when Ramsay informs his father that Bran and Rickon Stark are not dead like so many people believe. Believing them to have fled to the Wall in search of Jon Snow, Roose orders Locke (yep, same guy that chopped Jaime’s hand off) to infiltrate the Night’s Watch and locate and kill Bran. Locke very nearly succeeds and is only thwarted after Bran wargs into Hodor and snaps Locke's neck. Roose knows that the emergence of a Stark would ruin his plans, as many of the northern lords would immediately pledge fealty to a Stark. Roose might not be a Stark, but as last night’s episode ended with Wintefell in the background, it’s clear that he plans on taking the Stark’s seat.

So next week, when the opening credits show Winterfell with Bolton banners, I’ll be repulsed. I only hope that now you are, too.

Object of Power: Scrolls

There were two major scenes dictated by a roll of parchment last night. The first was the banishment of Jorah Mormont. Sparked by the arrival of a royal pardon, the true nature of Jorah’s betrayal came to light. And although it’s pretty clear he stopped spying on her long ago, Dany was very nearly killed because of his deceit. For the past few weeks, Dany has been showing signs of The Mad King, and Jorah should consider himself lucky he didn’t become fish (or dragon) food.

The second parchment-driven scene featured Reek, pretending to be Theon Greyjoy, delivering a pardon to the Iron Islanders shacked up in Moat Caillin. (This castle was the gateway to the North and getting it back was paramount in Roose’s plan to rule.) Ramsay “promised” to allow the Ironborn safe passage to the Stony Shore. As we know, the only thing at the end of Ramsay promise is a blade, but as Moat Caillin fell to the Boltons, Ramsay traded in the surname Snow for Bolton.

Is there any area of the story you’d like explained further? Do you disagree with something? Let me know in the comments.

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.


  1. Clare 2e

    I finally got to this episode, and it was great. I enjoy getting to hear the whirlings of Tyrion’s active mind. I also enjoyed seeing Sansa emerge from the good dutiful girl into a player in her own right. I’ll miss Pedro Pascal (and he was also great playing Pike on The Mentalist this season). I do feel like we’re gaining momentum toward the end with awesome skull-crushing goodness.

  2. Veronica Gorton

    I just wanted to let you know Joe that you do an excellent job writing this column!! You’ve cleared up some things for me and made me think about others. I really look forward to reading your column after each episode and hearing all you have to offer on this great show! I haven’t read the books, I’ve just watched the show. So all the deaths came as a complete shock to me. I sure hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Ser Jorah. Even tho he started out spying on Dany, he did come to care for her a great deal and became a good man. I like him. He changed! Anyway, thanks again for your hard work, I love it!

  3. Joe Brosnan

    Thank you for the kind words, [b]Veronica[/b]! I love writing these articles and I’m glad you enjoy them too! I won’t ruin what happens with Ser Jorah (I’m a big fan of his too!), but I can guarantee these next two episodes will continue to shock you!

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