(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)
“Mockingbird” isn’t as well structured as all previous episodes of Season 4, but the episode named after House Baelish’s emblem marches along with considerably more assurance and smoothness than almost anything else found on television. There are several excellent moments here — enough to hold us over for two weeks (Game of Thrones is taking Memorial Day weekend off).
The best episodes of Game of Thrones are those that find a unifying theme and offer several interesting parallels between the many characters and story-lines we follow throughout all of Westeros. “Mockingbird” is the rare episode that lacks in this department. Perhaps the most pervasive theme of “Mockingbird” revolves around siblings, in this case, Jamie, Tyrion, and Cersei, as well as The Hound and The Mountain, along with Arya and Sansa, and finally Lysa and Catelyn Stark. That said, considering there are so many siblings in the GOT universe, this isn’t anything new. However, minus the unnecessary scene involving Melisandre, “Mockingbird” at least weaves this parallel delicately around a series of big moments setting up greater things to come.
We start off this week’s episode with the first of three great scenes involving Tyrion, who receives three visitors to his suite of squalor, Jaime, Bronn, and Oberyn. Each of these scenes is a series highlight, questioning who could be Tyrion’s defender now that Cersei has named The Mountain as the crown’s champion. Jaime’s scene with his brother is a prime example of how well the series is written and acted. Tyrion admits his weakness was falling in love with Shae, and that he couldn’t stand watching her testify against him. In the end, Tyrion also admits his actions were partly driven by the desire to deny his father of the deal he’d crafted with Jaime. Somehow Tywin’s plan backfired in the worst way possible as his two sons continue to let their father down (Tyrion won’t be exiled to the Wall, and Jaime won’t be Tywin’s heir after all). Tyrion and Jaime joking at the thought of Tywin seeing the family line ends with them in one single stroke is nothing short of brilliant. In spite of everything that has happened, Tyrion knows he can always count on his big brother Jaime for help… except for this one time. When Tyrion expresses the hope that Jaime will be his champion, the Kingslayer admits that without his right hand, he isn’t strong enough to walk away as the victor. And since he can’t do it, Tyrion is forced to turn to another man – Bronn.
“Mockingbird” features the main cast turning in their best performances
The second best scene of the episodes comes when Bronn finally stops by to visit Tyrion in his cell. As expected, Bronn’s loyalty is challenged as Cersei has apparently made him an offer he can’t refuse: The sellsword will be marrying the noblewoman Lollys Stokeworth. Like Shae, Bronn is someone whose company Tyrion paid for, and like Shae, Bronn can be bought. Unlike Shae, Bronn at least still values whatever relationship he and Tyrion shared. Tyrion promises that if Bronn will fight for him, and if he can defeat Ser Gregor, he will provide Bronn with a comfortable living in Winterfell. Bronn has fought for Tyrion once in the past, but the circumstances were different then. And so who can blame Bronn for turning his back on his friend. Not only is he offered a title and a castle (provided his sister-in-law will prematurely die), but as Bronn points out, the chances of him defeating The Mountain are slim. “It’s not that I don’t like you,” he tells his former Imp employer, “I just like myself more”. And so the two part ways, affably, with a stern handshake. It’s a bittersweet end to one of the show’s more interesting friendships, and for that, Bronn still earns this critic’s respect.
Of three tremendous scenes featuring Tyrion hosting visitors this week, the writers save the very best for last. His third and final visitor is the somewhat surprising Oberyn Martell, who begins lightheartedly in talking about the cunning nature of Cersei and the one and only thing they have in common; a shared enthusiasm to see some Lannisters die. The scene starts with two of the best actors simply exchanging quips, but takes an unexpected turn when the Dornishman tells the tale of how he first met Tyrion as a baby. “Your head was a bit large, your arms and legs were a bit small. No claws, no red eyes, no tail between your legs,” Oberyn recalls. “‘That’s no monster,” I told Cersei, “that’s just a baby.” Oberyn then reveals his true purpose for the visit. He came to King’s Landing to seek some measure of revenge against the man who killed his sister Elia and her children. That man is The Mountain, and so as fate will have it, Oberyn offers to be Tyrion’s champion against Ser Gregor Clegane. What sets Game of Thrones head over heels above most television programs is the superb acting by the entire cast. Of the long list of great actors, Peter Dinklage and Pedro Pascal are among the five best, and this is one of their best scenes. As great as Dinklage was a week ago in “The Laws of God and Men”, he may have outdone himself here. Dinklage is given a tougher task this week, having to express a wide range of emotions Tyrion is feeling (frustration, anger, heartbreak, humiliation), and all with little words. It’s a tour-de-force performance and one that is sure to help Dinklage come award season.
The wonderful, yet odd friendship between Arya and the Hound continues to be one of the best partnerships of the series. Hot Pie isn’t the only person from Arya’s past who resurfaces this week — Rorge and Biter make a brief appearance as well, attacking our favourite duo from behind, with Biter sinking his teeth into The Hound’s flesh. The scene culminates with The Hound snapping his neck and Arya sticking the needle right through the heart of Rorge. As the young Stark is growing stronger, and quite adept at killing people, The Hound is slowly showing signs of vulnerability. After the Hound is wounded, Arya suggests they use fire to cauterize the wound, but as we all know, The Hound is only afraid of one thing in life: fire. Just the sight of the flames approaching is too much for the great Sandor Clegane to handle, and just like that, Arya learns his weakness. Over four seasons, we have grown to like the Hound despite his sometimes cruel ways, and it helps to have an actor has talented as Rory McCann in the role. We’ve seen the fearsome younger son of the Clegane family show off his brute force and superior fighting skills, but we’ve never seen him drop his guard — until now. The scene in which he tells Arya his account of the childhood incident that left him scarred is just amazing to watch. We’ve heard a version of his story before, but it’s so much more powerful coming from the Hound himself.
“I didn’t steal it. I was just playing with it,” the Hound tells Arya. “The pain was bad. The smell was worse. But the worst thing was that it was my brother who did it. And my father, who protected him, told everyone my bedding caught fire.”
“Mockingbird” might not feature any game-changing moments such as the “Red Wedding,” or even the “Purple Wedding” nor does it offer the grand epic battles as seen in “Blackwater” – and while several people die, it doesn’t really feature the death of anyone of real substance. Yet, the three scenes featuring Tyrion, coupled with the moments spent with Arya and The Hound, is more than enough to rank “Mockingbird” as one of the show’s best installments yet. And for a show that likes to tease big moments to come, having a week off will certainly leave fans eagerly anticipating a showdown between Oberyn and The Mountain. I can’t wait.
– Ricky D
In case anyone has forgotten: The Mountain is the same guy who chopped a horse’s head off in season one.
Hot Pie sure has some serious baking skills.
Watching Cersei step over the blood and guts of dead men isn’t surprising.
“Nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing.” – Arya
Bronn jokes about his plan to murder his future sister-in-law for her fortune. Later in the episode, Littlefinger kills his wife Lysa for her fortune. Marriage is never a good idea in the world of Westeros, unless you are maybe dirt poor.
Ser Alliser, the acting commander at Castle Black, needs something more to do than just sit across Jon Snow as the head of the council and show his jealousy toward the Stark bastard.
“Oh, my sweet wife. My sweet, silly wife, I have only loved one woman”. – Littlefinger
It was great to see the return of Hot Pie.
I’ve never been a fan of Sansa Stark, and while both the actress and the character have has some moments to shine, most of her screentime is frustrating to watch.
Robin isn’t intentionally cruel like Joffrey, but he is cruel nevertheless, and a spoiled brat with no moral compass or empathy. Unfortunately, his character is one of the least interesting in the world of Westeros.
It was great to see Sansa finally fight back when slapping Robin. If only she would be more like Arya and fight for not just herself, but her family and her family name.
Up to this point, we’ve seen Littlefinger as a scheming mastermind whose one and only goal is to gain absolute power. Only until now, we’ve never seen him actually kill someone with his own two hands.
We also learn that the real reason Littlefinger killed Joffrey was to take revenge against the Lannisters for killing Catelyn Stark, his one and only true love.
Once we see Sansa standing over the Moon Door, it becomes evident that someone was going to fall through it. Fortunately for Sansa, it wasn’t her.
“The masters tear babies from their mother’s arms, they mutilate little boys by the thousands, they train little girls in the art of pleasuring old men, they treat men like beasts, as you said yourself.” – Dany
“Herding masters into pens and slaughtering them by thousands is also treating them like beasts. If you want them to know something else, you’ll have to show them.” – Jorah
One final observation: The scene between Dany and Daario implies a sex scene without a frame of female nudity— how refreshing for HBO. It’s also great to see a female character using sex as a weapon.