TV Review: “Mockingbird” Is A Solid Hour Of ‘Game Of Thrones’

As a member of the Smug Book Readers Club, there was plenty to be excited about during “Mockingbird,” last night’s strong installment of Game of Thrones.

“Mockingbird” functions as an episode that moves the characters and plot pieces into place for the final run of the season. Typically, these hours leave me a little empty, especially this season, adding non canon moments meant to develop characters before returning to the story as we know it. “Mockingbird” is executed strongly, drawing us in by watching these characters advance only by placing them in situations where they must let down their guard and speak truth about their needs and motivations. The lack of big action moments is never felt thanks to the strong character work and fine acting.

Cersei’s been a busy bee after Tyrion’s epic trial closing rant that ended in a demand for trial by conquest. For her champion, the queen regent calls in Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, reknown for his strength and thirst for violence, and infamous to the visiting Prince Oberyn. Tyrion’s search for a champion quickly loses hope. Jaime’s right hand is gone and his skills lacking in his left. Bronn’s ben paid off by Cersei with gold and the promises of land and titles, something Tyrion is in no position to match. Still, strength and money are no match for old fashioned revenge, which brings Oberyn to Tyrion’s cell with the promise to face The Mountain. Oberyn’s vow is the only one without a deeper connection to Tyrion. His desire to avenge the horrific actions of The Mountain on his sister and her children drives him to seek out the battle. Oberyn’s fighting for her, not Tyrion, which could be an obstacle or a benefit.

Truth may not set Tyrion free, but it’s in abundant supply in his cell. His intimate conversation with Jaime leaves virtually no stone unturned. Tyrion admits pleasure at shredding their father’s plans, pushes Jaime’s buttons with a frank list of his brother’s sins, and nearly hatches a Shakespearean plot where the two of them end the Lannister line for good. With Bronn, Tyrion almost balks at the sellsword’s lack of loyalty until Bronn asks why he should possess an atruistic motive when Tyrion never did. The two part respectfully, seeing each other more clearly. Oberyn brings with him the story of his and Tyrion’s first meeting, when the imp was only a baby. As he listens to the harsh details of his sister’s hatred of him, even as an infant, Tyrion looks on the verge of tears of despair. They quickly change to tears of hope as Oberyn stakes hiintention to face The Mountain.

A close second to Tyrion’s story is this week’s excellent check in with Arya and The Hound. I haven’t always loved their segments each week, but their moments in “Mockingbird” are stellar. I don’t think we’ve seen such humanity in The Hound as when he and Arya happen upon that wounded farmer. And now they also know that Joffrey’s dead and there’s a lofty bounty on Clegane’s head. Arya has an excellent badass moment, picking up the Hound’s training in killing. Their final minutes show a stronger bond developing that will be interesting to watch as they near the Vale.

No character expression this week can match Dany’s swagger afte she commands Daario to undress. She just leans back with that pimp goblet and soaks the sellsword in like that evening’s meal before sending him out on a mission to take down the newly installed slave masters. Jorah is predictably jealous, heading into her chambers the next morning with puppy dog eyes and pleas to reach out to the masters and slaves in a nonviolent way. He finaly sways her with his admission of indebtedness at Ned Stark’s grace.

There’s a strange moment with a bathing Melisandre and Stannis’ wife. The Red Lady walks her queen through her private store of potions that can elict any desired reaction, even religious ones. So is her “Lord of Light” stuff all an act? No way there’s a potion for giving birth to a shadow demon thing, so there’s something to all of Melisandre’s preachings. But is it spiritual? Magic?

“Mockingbird” concludes on the Vale. Sansa’s building a gorgeous replica of Winterfell in snow until Robert pops up, raving more about that damn Moon Door. There might be a plan for these two to marry, but when Robert knocks down all of Sansa’s work, she delivers a sweet slap across Robert’s face that even the spying Littlefinger admits was much deserved. But Petyr’s not the only one who knows how to spy, and as he forces a kiss on Sansa, he has no idea his new bride, Lysa, is looking on.

Lysa forces a confrontation with Sansa in the final minutes, holding her over the drop of the Moon Door before Littlefinger comes in Sansa’s rescue. He manages to talk Lysa into letting her niece go, taking his wife in his arms. But Petyr reminds us all he’s never to be trusted, as he confesses his love for only Cat and shoves Lysa out the hole. It’s such a “Holy crap!” moment that I love this show for.

As Game of Thrones races to this season’s finish line, there’s plenty of huge moments still to come. Having read four of the five books, I can’t theorize, but I’d love to hear where you think things are headed.

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