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Game of Thrones Review 4.07 - 'Mockingbird'
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.19.2014





[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen the May 18th episode of Game of Thrones.]

Mockingbirds are the actors of the avian world. They are best-known for their ability to mimic the calls of other birds, as well as the sounds of insects, amphibians and other creatures in the animal kingdom. They are manipulators, and that makes them a perfect symbol for Game of Thrones. We talk about the big and bloody moments: the Purple Wedding, the Red Wedding, the death of Ned Stark, the Battle of the Blackwater, the torture of Theon and so on. But each of these events are all the parapets of towers built on cunning, misdirection, manipulation and plotting. Sometimes those elements come interspersed across more eventful episodes, and sometimes--like in "Mockingbird"--the show takes its time to do some loom-weaving, so that all the patterns can be prepared to fall into place in the final episodes.

Manipulation was also the name of the game last week, and by large portion "Mockingbird" counts as an extension of that. We're dealing with the continued lessons that Daenerys is learning as she tries to rule three conquered city-states. Dany's attempts to do so while maintaining her convictions are admirable, and it is not difficult to see the point she is trying to make in her conversation with Jorah. It's that Targaryen arrogance and nobility: her way is just and right and people should see that. Of course, the fact that she's not entirely wrong doesn't change the fact that this is a flaw of hers; her inexperience and black and white nature is ill-suited for what she's trying to accomplish and she's chafing against the reason that her subordinates try to argue. However, she does listen to reason and she finds a compromise with Jorah, albeit one that sounds more like an ultimatum than a negotiation. Still, it's something and perhaps its progress.

Where Dany is getting more skilled, however, is in the way she works those subordinates. Let's face it; Daenerys is in a precarious spot. She's a young noble with a group of advisors who don't really get along with each other and an entire world of enemies. She has to keep her core group close and able to work with each other, but ultimately loyal to her. And how does she do this? She assures Daario's loyalty by taking him into her bed, and then Jorah's by listening to his reason and insisting that he tell Daario that Jorah was the one who changed her mind. This keeps then in equilibrium with each other and keeps them loyal to her by gratitude. One might also argue it's a smart little Machiavellian move because it keeps some tension between them, which makes it less likely that they will never team up to challenge her rule. Girl's more clever than she lets on.

Meanwhile, Tyrion is dealing with the aftermath of his rant at his trial, an awesome moment which appears to be biting him in the ass. Cersei is busy systematically ensuring his demise, as she enlists the Mountain (casting version 3.0, for the record) in acting as her champion. "Who am I fighting?" he asks, pausing just long enough from his slaughtering of people to spit the question out. "Does it matter?" responds Cersei.

And apparently not because soon we know that indeed, Gregor Clegane is Cersei's champion and that leaves Tyrion in deep trouble. Jamie (who is incensed that Tyrion blew up his deal) can't do it because he's not in fighting shape. Bron, we learn, has sold out and accepted a nobility spot in exchange for not helping Tyrion. That's a great little scene there between Peter Dinklage and Jerome Flynn; they always had a great dynamic and Tyrion's acceptance of Bron's pragmatism is both sensical and sad. He's not completely in the noose yet though, as Cersei's selection inspires help from an unlikely ally: Oberyn. This results in my favorite scene of the episode, with Pedro Pascal wreathed in the darkness of the cell as he talks about meeting Tyrion for the first time when the Imp was a child and then saying that he will be his champion.



Saddest bromance breakup ever.


Elsewhere in Westeros, the manipulation isn't done quite as much by the characters as it is the plot. The writers have their little chess game set up and they're moving all of the pieces into position. We see that in the way that our heroes run into a few characters from the past--specifically, Arya's past. First we have Brienne and Podrick, who are continuing on in their quest to find Sansa. Any time we can turn the camera to this buddy comedy/road trip storyline I'm a happy camper. The two have taken refuge at an inn for dinner and their scenes this week allow us to find more of the difference between them. Podrick has served in King's Landing under a Lannister and thinks appropriately to such; he is concerned about discretion and suspects that everyone might want to kill them. Brienne has no time for such foolishness and will be upfront and honest. I can almost hear the executioner's blade being sharpened now. It pays off though, as they run into Arya's old friend Hot Pie and upon hearing that the two are looking for Sansa, he tells them that Arya is alive. All the pieces are falling into place, especially as they turn toward the Eyrie where Sansa is.

The other characters from Arya's past are found by Arya herself, along with the Hound of course. We get a good character moment with the Hound's mercy killing of the wounded man. Straight through the heart, he tells Arya, and that comes in handy when the two are attacked by Arya's old "friends" Biter and Rorge. Biter...well, he bites Sandor before dying and Arya recognizes Rorge. The moment when Sandor basically facilitates Arya's murder of Rorge with a few words is a nice one, and it shows some level of bond growing between these two. Of course Arya still has him on her list, so it may not last, but in the meantime we get a scene where we learn Sandor's backstory, which both makes him more sympathetic and reminds us what a monster the Mountain is before his duel next episode.



Sadly, not a scene from the Game of Thrones/Walking Dead crossover episode.


And ah, yes...back to the Eyrie. Sansa Stark had a brief period where she could relax, so of course now she has to be terrorized again. The scenes that take place here are easily the best of the episode; the moment of bittersweet warmth on Sophie Turner's face when she sees the snow, reminding her of her home, is fantastic and the cinematography from Fabian Wagner (who also did "The Laws of Gods and Men") is stunning here. Sansa makes a snow castle, which is adorable, and gets a brief moment with her "intended" Robin. Robin is a creepy little kid, a Joffrey-in-training for sure. Lysa's smothering of him means that he has no perspective and thinks it's normal to have a Moon Door to make bad people fly. I know he's a kid, but I kinda hope he goes for that skydive without a parachute soon.

That whole thing falls apart when Robin carelessly knocks a snow tower over and Sansa acts like the teenager she is for a moment, which makes Robin throw a tantrum. The most satisfying moment of the episode occurs when Sansa smacks the little brat, an event witnessed by Baelish. Aidan Gillen plays this scene so cool...he wins us over when he says that Sansa just did something that Lysa should have done years ago, and yet there is no jarring transition when he turns it creepy. Sansa asks Petyr why he killed Joffrey and the answer is clear: vengeance for Catelyn. And that's when he says that Sansa could have been his daughter...just before kissing her. I know that they aged Sansa (and all the kids) up to make the situations they were in more acceptable, but this is just flat-out shudder-inducing. And Gillen's ability to flip his character around is fantastic, because we never break suspension of disbelief.

Unfortunately, Lysa witnessed it all and summons Sansa into the throne room, where the Moon Door is open. The lady of the Eyrie is clearly unhinged and nearly chucks Sansa down in before Baelish shows up and talks her out of it. And from that moment forward, you know that Lysa is doomed. Baelish has shown himself to be absolutely ruthless in protecting his goals and his desires. He will cut down anyone and everyone and Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Joffrey and so many others have fallen by his hand or his manipulations. We know Lysa means nothing to him outside of a tool he can wield, and that tool is threatening something he actually cares about. And thus, we aren't surprised when he shoves Lysa down to the very gruesome death she had just described to Sansa. Say g'night, Lady Arryn. Hopefully your wacked-out son joins you soon.



I'm sorry, but there is literally no way to make this not creepy.


Some Final Thoughts:

Jon Snow gets sidelined in the story this week, but the long and short of it is: he has good ideas and speaks his mind but those in power shut him down. See, he really is a Stark.

Our requisite extended nude scene was accomplished by putting Melisandre in a bath while she talked with Selyne about religion and her tricks to bring people to the truth, a scene that ended on a potentially ominous note for Stannis and Selyne's daughter. It will be an interesting test of their faith if Melisandre has something fatal planned for the girl.

Side note: Bron cleans up really well, don't you think?

Two episodes in a row with no rape, kudos Game of Thrones! Although I'm still a bit squicked out over Baelish and Sansa.


The 411: There's a lot of set-up in "Mockingbird" for payoff in the coming final episodes, but even the set-up is really enjoyable to watch. Every season of every show has those episodes where they need to transition toward the climactic final entries and no one does them quite like this series. This may not be the most strongly-remembered of the season three episodes but it is still a good one which promises some big things coming very shortly. I'm totally on Team Oberyn.
 
Final Score:  8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend





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