All anyone really wanted to see in last night's episode was the fight between Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) aka The Red Viper of Dorne and Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) aka The Mountain That Rides.
So, of course, this was saved until the final minutes of this week's Game of Thrones. The outcome didn't just mean life or death for Oberyn who's become one of the more compelling characters of late, but for the man he was championing: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).
As Cersei Lannister (Lena Headley) sat in the stands looking smug, her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Walda) looking worried and their father Tywin (Charles Dance) glowering as he drank from his wine cup, the fight was on.
Oberyn flew in glorious acrobatic movements, twirling his lance, dodging and darting around the stolid and deadly Gregor (brother to the Hound and his childhood torturer). The tension only got higher as Oberyn began chanting: "He raped her. He murdered her. He killed her children" -- referring to the death of his sister and her children ordered up by the Lannisters and carried out by Gregor.
Tyrion's champion strikes some telling blows and Gregor is down. Except instead of finishing him off, he demands to know who killed his sister. Curiousity, a desire for ultimate revenge, whatever; it was not a good tactic during a fight to the death.
Because Gregor rises up and in excruciating fashion, digs his thumbs into Oberyn's eyeballs, destroying them, and then essentially explodes his head in a wash of blood.
And Tywin immediately announces that the gods have spoken, and sentences Tyrion to death. It is hard -- though given GoT's propensity for killing off main characters -- to see how the show would continue without Dinklage, who had another wonderful scene last night before the duel as he was reminiscing about their cousin Orson who'd been dropped on his head as a baby and whose single pleasure growing up was crushing beetles.
Other highlights of the night:
The show starts with Gilly (Hannah Murray) being warned that her baby's crying in the awful place she's been tucked away in - Moles Town - but suddenly there's an even more direct threat. The Wildings descend and kill just about everyone but Ygritte (Rose Leslie) puts her finger to her lips when she finds Gilly hiding with her baby and lets her live.
The Night's Watch folks are still debating what should be done and Sam (John Bradley) first concludes Gilly must be dead but then accepts Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and others' claims that he doesn't know that for sure.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) takes a look at the naked Missandei the translator (Nathalie Emmanuel) who seems to return his interest. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) asks her in a little separate girl talk: "When the slavers castrated the boys, did they take all of it. The pillar and the stones? Haven't you ever wondered?" It seems she has.
That miserable psychotic creep Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) finally gets Bolton as his last name because Dad is so proud of all the killing and manipulating he's done. Ramsay dresses up Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) as his old self and Theon goes to negotiate a surrender promising everyone will live. And, of course, they do not. Head on a pike time.
Sansa (Sophie Turner) is getting her game on. She saves Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) by carrying on the lie that her aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) was suicidal and took her own way down (instead of being pushed by Littlefinger). But makes it clear that she's done so to save her own skin. Since if they'd order him killed, what would they do to her. Littlefinger engineers the departure of Robyn (Lino Facioli) from the tower and into the greater world, Sansa by his side.
Then the big betrayal is discovered. A piece of paper reveals that Jorah (Iain Glen) was spying on Daenerys from day one and as a result, but a royal pardon from Robert Baratheon. Amazingly she gives him a few hours to get out of town instead of having him killed.
Mini crescendo (before the big fight) of the night: Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) finally arrive at the Vale of Arryn to be told by a palace guard that Aunt Lysa is dead. This was the the Hound's last chance to sell Arya to a relative and she bursts out in laughter.
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