Trigger warning: Please be aware that this recap contains descriptions of disturbing violence.
Well. That was a brutal episode. Lots to cover, so let’s jump straight in. In Mole’s Town, Gilly is trying to mind her own business when a tavern maid confronts her about the noise that baby Sam makes at night. They are interrupted by a full-blown Wildling incursion. The entire town is put to the torch but Gilly is spared by Ygritte. It is unclear whether it is because of the baby or because she recognises Gilly’s own Wildling genes, but whatever the reason, it is good to know that our favourite ginger still has a conscience.
News of the Wilding attack reaches the Wall and it would appear that they are not aware of Gilly’s survival. Sam laments sending her to her “death”, although Grenn, Pyp and Edd point out that she survived Craster and a White Walker, so she could have survived this. Jon Snow is too worried about the impending fight for the Wall to bother comforting Sam, a sign of how bad the situation must be, given how often in the past he is the first one to prop up our beloved Tarly. So much for hope.
Next up, in Meereen, we join Grey Worm as he makes eyes at a naked Missandei at a riverbank. A while later, as she talks with Daenerys, who wonders out loud whether a eunuch like Grey Worm can be attracted to women. It would seem so; later in the throne room, Grey Worm tells Missandei that he is grateful to be an Unsullied because, despite the cruelty, he was able to meet her. She is clearly touched and it looks like another relationship is about to bloom. This could be interesting, if for no other reason than it has to be different from the overtly sexual nature of other relationships on this show… for logistical reasons.
At Moat Cailin – a new location in the opening credits – Ramsay Snow and Theon, or rather “Reek, pretending to be Theon”, prepare to take the castle. The Greyjoy prince is visibly shaky, especially when the Ironborn captain inside the walls is less than enthusiastic about the terms of surrender. His role becomes moot when one of the other Ironborn kills the captain with a well-place axe to the head in exchange for safe passage back to the sea. Of course, the next shot is of a bunch of flayed sea-farers. Worryingly, this is only the second most disgusting thing this episode. Ramsay is later legitimised as a Bolton by Papa Roose as a reward.
This could be interesting, if for no other reason than it has to be different from the overtly sexual nature of other relationships on this show… for logistical reasons.
At the Eyrie, the nobles of the Vale are sceptical of Littlefinger and his assertion that Lysa killed herself especially given his Braavosi heritage. Small point, but it makes him a nice counter-balance to Varys’ Lysene blood. Things turn on their head when they bring in Sansa. She first reveals her true identity (!) before corroborating Littlefinger’s version by largely sticking to the truth but then altering a few details. Like her sister, she is clearly a fast learner.
Back in Meereen, Barristan Selmy is handed a scroll, the contents of which visibly bother him. It turns out that it is the royal pardon for Jorah by Robert Baratheon, all the way back from Season 1, in exchange for spying on the Targaryens. Dany is definitely not pleased. Even though Jorah points out that the timing of the note is probably a ploy by the Lannisters – which would account for how a wanted knight can cross the sea faster than a piece of parchment – he cannot deny its authenticity. Turning a deaf ear to his expressions of loyalty, and love, she exiles him.
In the Vale again, Littlefinger confronts Sansa about her unexpected save. Without looking up from her sewing, she calmly points out that he is a known quantity for her while the others are not. She has evidently evolved from being a piece to a player in At the gates to the Eyrie, the Hound and Arya announce their arrival without any
hesitation or deception – only to be told that Lysa is now dead too. Arya appreciates the irony of the whole thing and she bursts out laughing, an oddly satisfying moment
In the final Vale scene, Littlefinger convinces Robin Arryn to tour the entire region as its new Lord. Sansa, dripping in a feathered gown and new jet black tresses that would put Maleficent to shame, joins them. It would appear to be her last scene of the season.
Finally, the big set-piece at King’s Landing arrives. Tyrion and Jaime reminisce together in the former’s prison cell one more time. They discuss a now-deceased cousin of theirs who used to enjoy tormenting beetles. Tyrion notes how he never quite understood why the cousin liked to kill beetles. Perhaps he did it simply because he could, a chilling reflection of how Westeros seems to work.
The bells announcing the episode’s eponymous fight interrupt them and Tyrion solemnly walks to an amphitheatre-like arena. Despite his and Ellaria Sand’s concerns, Oberyn is cheerful and unafraid of the Mountain. Though he is clearly the smaller of the combatants, Oberyn is more agile. He darts and flips around his larger adversary and manages to pierce him with his spear several times while sustaining
only minor scrapes. All the while, he insists the Mountain confess to raping and killing his sister, Elia Martell.
After knocking down his opponent and stabbing him through the stomach, it looks like Oberyn has won, much to the delight of Tyrion, Ellaria and Jaime; and the dismay of Cersei. Unfortunately, he takes it too far, demanding the Mountain stay alive long enough to not only confess but also implicate a poker-faced Tywin for allegedly ordering his sister’s death. When he steps closer, the Mountain trips him before smashing his teeth out with one punch. What follows is the single most disturbing death scene in the history of the show, as a screaming Oberyn has his eyes gouged out and his head literally crushed by his opponent’s hands. A further
chilling detail is that the Mountain gleefully confesses to his crime while doing so.
With Ellaria’s heartbroken screams in the background, Tywin declares that Tyrion has been found guilty by the laws of trial by combat and the Imp is sentenced to death. With a season favourite brutally killed and a show favourite apparently soon to follow in his footsteps, the episode ends with much the same punch-in-the-gut
feeling as the Red Wedding.
Two episodes to go, and we are already devastated. Join us next week as things start to heat up at the Wall.