Last week, I quoted Longfellow in an effort to illustrate the fluctuations in quality Game of Thrones often presents its viewers on a week-to-week basis; a poetic re-appropriation in the purposes of critical evaluation. This week, with “Mockingbird” — the seventh episode of this tumultuous Fourth Season — David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven that no such juvenile attempt at literary posturing is necessary, as they have delivered as strong an installment as the series has ever seen. Brimming with a near deluge of rousing dramatic scenes, “Mockingbird” stands as a fitting cliffhanger of a transitional episode, causing (hopefully) everyone who watched to shake their fists in anger at the fact that HBO is having the season go on a brief hiatus for Memorial Day Weekend.
For Tyrion Lannister, the future is anything but bright. While his one-handed brother informs him that he cannot be his champion for the upcoming “tiral by combat” (following a quick, insensitive chiding for “falling in love with a whore”), Tyrion’s previous knight in sullied armor, Bronn, informs him that they’re still very much friends, but he’s come to kind of like this live he lives and doesn’t want The Mountain (who is briefly shown to live up to his name) to cut that short.
Meanwhile, The Hound and Arya Stark run into a wounded, dying man on the road. After a brief conversation about existence (this show can get achingly philosophical when it wants to), The Hound puts the poor man out of his misery with a quick stab. “That’s where the heart is. That’s how you kill a man,” the Hound instructs his “captive”, before being jumped from behind. Arya recognizes one of the attackers as a former prisoner with Jaqen H’gha — a man who promised to violate her in the most awful of ways. After adding him to her “list”, Arya swiftly stabs him in the heart, just as the Hound taught her to.“You’re learning,” he quips.
At Castle Black, Jon returns triumphant from his raid with Ghost in tow. Per usual, Alliser Thorne does everything in his power to try and make the young steward look like an imbecile. When Jon proposes sealing off the tunnel that runs under The Wall with ice in order to thwart the advancing Wildling army, Thorne shoots this down (not before mocking it, of course) because…tradition? It’s just further fuel to Jon Snow’s burning desire to cut Thorne’s head from his shoulders and punt it over the Wall.
In Meereen, Daario sneaks into the Mother of Dragons’ window, bearing flowers like a mumbling fifteen year-old kid with a crush. After pleading with his Queen to let him exercise his two talents (fucking and going to war, which seems like a narrow but useful skill set), Khaleesi asks to see his bald baby lizard. The next morning, after some swift counseling from Ser Jorah (“It’s tempting to see your enemies as evil, but there is good and evil on both sides of every war ever fought.”), the Breaker of Chains swiftly changes her mind about letting Daario cut down the Masters of Yunkai. Instead, she’s going to employ Jorah’s more diplomatic solution to ruling and even let her long time advisor take the credit for it.
The mystical realm of Dragonstone is revealed to be somewhat comprised of cheap parlor tricks, as Melisandre admits to Selyse that some of the magical mumbo jumbo she conjuours are merely illusions meant to entrance those she wants to see her own truths. It’s a sly bit of self-subversion before the Red Witch commands Selyse to leave little Shireen behind during their upcoming nautical campaign. Where could this naval fleet be heaed?
Podrick and Brienne continue on the road looking for Sansa Stark and run across one of Arya’s old pals, Hot Pie. After interrupting their meal with incessant babble about the fixing of pub fare, Brienne asks if he knows the whereabouts of Sansa Stark and Hot Pie suddenly goes quiet. As they saddle up to leave, Podrick suggests to Brienne that maybe they shouldn’t so loudly and publicly talk about the Starks in the middle of Lannister territory. No sooner does Hot Pie come out to tell them that while he doesn’t know Sansa, he knows Arya and tells of their journeys together. Arya Stark is alive? This is the first time this information has reached the ears of someone who would be willing and able to seek the young girl out.
When we return to the dungeons of King’s Landing, it is now Prince Oberyn who comes to visit Tyrion, bringing with him a rather poignant story about how the men first met. When he was a boy, Oberyn and his sister were taken to Casterly Rock. The big attraction on the trip was to see the new monster of a child born to Tywin Lannister. The tales were already mythic: huge head, tail, claws, a single red eye, the privates of both a boy and a girl (the latter of which Tyrion admits “would’ve saved him some trouble”). However, the reality was not nearly as exciting, as Tyrion was just another baby, no different than he. But it was a baby who caused his mother to die in childbirth, and Cersei has held that against the dwarf ever since. Now Oberyn has seen just how deeply Cersei’s scheming evil runs, and uses the oppuruntity to take some of his own vengeance for his sister. “I will be your champion,” the Prince says, triumphantly holding the dungeon’s torch out to Tyrion.
Finally — at the Vale, Petyr Baelish finally puts the moves on Sansa Stark. He kisses her (after seeing Sansa slap Lysa’s petulant little imp of a son) but his psycho bride spots the moment of forced intimacy. Lysa threatens to push Sansa over the Moon Door, describing how the bodies “break like eggs” when she sends the punished flying through. Thankfully, Petyr arrives and tells Lysa to let her go. He promises to send Sansa away. But once Lysa is in his arms, he tells her he only ever loved one woman — Lysa’s sister, Catelyn Stark. Petyr then pushes Lysa out the Moon Door.
The duplicity, the bombastic emotional appeals, the death — it all adds up to make “Mockingjay” possibly the best Episode we’ve seen yet this season. Every actor is completely throwing themselves into the moment, with director Alik Sakharov (who also helmed last week’s incredible installment) perfectly staging each dramatic moment as if it were an emotional swordfight. It’s going to be a seriously long two weeks to wait, as we’ve got some serious reveals to cover and at least one GIGANTIC battle to cap this fourth run of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic. Stay tuned.