“Mockingbird” was probably the episode I was most looking forward to this season after “Oathkeeper,” and it didn’t disappoint, at least not in delivering the Sansa scenes that I was expecting. It’s also nice to have another episode where I don’t have to discuss any scenes of horrifying sexual violence, but “Mockingbird” isn’t without its flaws. Like many episodes in this season, this one contains some real greatness as well as some adaptational choices that are just plain strange.
Spoilers under the cut for this episode and for some book-related speculation and criticism.
The episode opens with Jaime berating Tyrion for disrupting his plan to save Tyrion’s life. The specter of Jaime’s rape of Cersei still taints all of these interactions for me, but I still find myself feeling invested in this relationship between brothers. Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have done probably their finest acting together this season, and this scene is sad and desperate and darkly humorous in turns. Tyrion’s belief in his brother’s abilities is so strong that he’s honestly shocked to learn that Jaime’s disability prevents him from standing as Tyrion’s champion in the upcoming trial by combat. Disappointed, Tyrion still has hope that Bronn will defend him in Jaime’s place, and he expects that Cersei will choose one of the Kingsguard as her representative. No such luck, however.
Cut to Cersei watching Gregor Clegane practicing his killing on some prisoners. The new actor playing the Mountain isn’t as terrifying to look at as season one’s Conan Stevens, but he’ll do. My favorite part of this scene was Cersei just casually stepping over the entrails on the ground. The shot looking upward at her and the Mountain, to exaggerate his size, actually felt a little too much to me, but I suppose it gets the point across.
Next, we visit the other Clegane brother, who is still traveling with Arya through the wartorn lands between the Twins and the Eyrie. They come upon a dying man, and we get to hear Arya’s thoughts on nothingness and the dying man’s thoughts on fairness. I love this whole scene so much, as it cuts straight to the meat of the main question posed by Arya and the Hound’s story so far this season. Why do we keep going when everything is so completely terrible and the world is so profoundly unjust? The answer, of course, is that where there’s life, there’s hope, but that mawkish sentiment is suggested here in the darkest of possible terms and is accompanied by the caveat that there are exceptions to that rule. When the Hound kills the dying man after giving him a drink of water, it’s an act of mercy and even kindness, but there’s no gentleness in it.
As Sandor stands, he’s attacked from behind by a man who bites his neck. He manages to break this man’s neck, and when he and Arya turn around, we recognize one of the men who was journeying north with Arya towards the Night’s Watch in season two. He informs the Hound that there’s a price on his head, but also brings news of Joffrey’s death. Arya remembers this guy, though, and tells Sandor that he threatened to rape her. The Hound asks, “Is he on your little list?” to which Arya replies, “He can’t be–I don’t know his name.” Sandor asks the guy his name (Rorge) and Arya promptly kills him.
At the Wall, Alliser Thorne is still busy being a dick to Jon Snow, threatening to have Ghost cooked for dinner if Jon doesn’t lock him up. Jon wants the tunnel through the Wall to be sealed shut, but he’s shut down. Thorne informs Jon that he and Sam will be watching the top of the Wall until the full moon, when they expect Mance Rayder’s army to show up.
I’m so incredibly disappointed with the Night’s Watch storyline this season. Things at the Wall are moving along at an absolutely glacial pace, and it seems at this point like they’re going to collapse the two Wildling attacks that happened in A Storm of Swords into a single enormous event. I’m still pissed that the only time we’ve seen Ygritte this season was when she was murdering peaceful villagers a few episodes ago, and now I’m pretty sure that the tragedy of her death (diminished as it will be by her lack of screen time and new hobby of killing farmers) is going to be upstaged by Stannis’s arrival at the Wall. We haven’t seen Mance at all this season, and Val and Dalla have never been introduced on the show. Instead, we got that ridiculous time-wasting adventure at Craster’s and cannibal Thenns. In the meantime, I pretty much can’t stand to even look at Jon Snow’s pouty face anymore, and judging by the episode titles and descriptions that are currently available, there’s going to be some contrived bullshit danger for Gilly in the next episode and we’re going to have to wait until episode nine before any of the book events for the Night’s Watch make it into this season.
And to add insult to injury, none of the changes made with regard to Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch this season make a lick of sense. The events at the Wall in the second half of A Storm of Swords are some of the best written action sequences in the whole series, and there’s a lot of great material there that they’ve just completely cut from the show. If the writers had kept to their sort of pattern where storylines appear in every other episode, it should have gone like this:
- Episode 1 or 2: Jon Snow returns and has to deal with Thorne and Slynt putting him on trial for his “desertion.”
- Episode 3 or 4: The first attack on the Wall, Jon leading the defense, Ygritte’s death.
- Episode 5 or 6: Jon trying to convince the Night’s Watch of the threat posed by Mance Rayder. Maybe a scene with Mance Rayder regrouping with Tormund or something, introducing a pregnant Dalla and her sister Val.
- Episode 7 or 8 or 9: The huge battle at the Wall, Stannis’s arrival.
- Episode 10: Jon’s earliest meetings with Stannis. Possibly the choosing of Jon as the new Lord Commander, although maybe leave that til season five in order to give more time to Sam’s role in these events.
Or something like that.
I’m definitely most upset about Ygritte right now, though. We’re through seven episodes of season four, and not only is she still alive, but we haven’t even seen her but for a couple of minutes back in episode two or three. Her death is a huge emotional moment, for Jon and for readers, but I feel like it’s not being set up that way for viewers of the show. It’s especially disappointing because Ygritte on the show is so much more real and relatable and lifelike than she was in the books, where we only see her through Jon’s point of view chapters. She deserves better than this.
Back in King’s Landing, Bronn finally arrives to speak with Tyrion, but the conversation doesn’t go how Tyrion expected. Bronn’s circumstances have improved markedly since we last saw him. He’s engaged to marry Lady Lollys Stokeworth, which puts him in the way of being a lord if Lollys’s older sister were to die, but he’s come to Tyrion anyway to see if Tyrion can offer him a better deal. Obviously Tyrion can’t, but he appeals to their friendship. Bronn points out, however, that Tyrion has never risked his life for Bronn. They part unhappily, but not in anger, and this scene continues the pattern of Tyrion’s scenes being the best-written and most moving ones of the season so far.
In Meereen, Daario has sneaked in through Daenerys’s bedroom window to bring her some flowers that he claims he swam a mile to get for her. Daenerys is upset about his invasion of her space, but she’s charmed in spite of herself. He’s come, however, to ask her to send him away to fight. His only two talents, he says, are war and women, and since the only woman he wants is Daenerys he wants her to send him to do what he does best. Instead, she tells him to take off his clothes.
I both loved and hated this scene. I loved that Daenerys remains dressed, drinking a glass of wine as she commands Daario to disrobe, but I kind of hate that all we get to see is his ass. On its surface, this scene feels like a flipping of the usual script on this show, where nude women are regularly draped over fully clothed men, but Daario’s nudity is never on display for us in the way that female nudity often is. We only see his backside briefly, and there’s not the normal salacious lingering that we see when the camera focuses on women’s bodies. The shot is short, and the lighting is set to highlight his body rather than expose it, so there’s almost none of the titillation that we experience when we see women’s bodies. It’s not that the scene lacks eroticism–he’s a beautiful man and desirable–it’s just that there’s a coyness to the filming of male nudity that doesn’t exist when we see female nudity on the show.
The very next shot seems to function as a sort of “no homo” aimed at male viewers as we find Melisandre in her bath and talking with Selyse Baratheon. Because obviously, we can’t show a hot dude without balancing it out with some tits. That said, I actually like this scene, as I like all scenes that feature Selyse, who I think is a fascinating character. Selyse has come to talk with Melisandre about Shireen. Stannis wants to bring Shireen north with them, but Selyse wants to leave her at Dragonstone. Melisandre tells Selyse about the tricks she uses to bring men to the Lord of Light, and she flatters Selyse by telling her that she doesn’t need tricks. Selyse looks into the flames as Melisandre tells her that Shireen must go north because their lord needs her.
The morning after Daenerys’s fun with Daario, Jorah comes to talk with her and meets Daario in the hallway. Jorah is all prepared to be upset with Daenerys until she tells him that she’s sent the Second Sons to take back Yunkai. Jorah is thrilled that Daario is leaving, but he’s skeptical of the plan, telling Daenerys that without her there to rule he thinks that the Masters of Yunkai will only retake the city again, to which Daenerys replies that she’s ordered Daario to execute all the Masters. Jorah convinces Daenerys to give the Masters a choice and hurries out to catch Daario before he leaves. I liked this scene until Daenerys’s smug smile at the end.
Elsewhere, Arya is trying to get the Hound to let her sear his wounds shut to prevent infection, but he won’t let her because he hates fire. We finally get to hear the story of how Sandor got his scars, and it’s sad. When he’s done, he lets Arya clean and sew the bites closed, but it’s a pretty nasty looking injury.
At an inn on the Kingsroad, Brienne and Pod have stopped for dinner and a good night’s rest. HOT PIE IS THEIR WAITER, and it’s probably my favorite thing about this whole episode. When Brienne compliments the kidney pie, Hot Pie takes it as an invitation to sit down and talk. When she tells him that they are looking for Sansa Stark, Hot Pie acts all weird and then exits the conversation, but the next morning he comes to see Brienne and Pod as they are preparing their horses and Podrick is pointing out that maybe they shouldn’t be telling folks that they are looking for Sansa. Hot Pie tells them that he doesn’t know anything about Sansa, but he’s seen Arya. Then he does the best thing he could possibly do and gives Brienne a wolf cake to give to Arya if they find her.
In one last Tyrion scene, Oberyn Martell has come to visit. As in the book, we get to hear Oberyn’s story about meeting baby Tyrion and how disappointing that was. Oberyn hates the Lannisters, but he wants justice for his sister and thinks that fighting the Mountain is the way to get it. Oberyn will be Tyrion’s champion in the trial by combat. Finally, a glimmer of hope for Tyrion, for whom nothing good has happened in a long time.
Finally, we get to the part I was most looking forward to. At the Eyrie, Sansa is building a snow Winterfell when Robin Arryn comes out to chat with her. He asks her about her home and then offers to help her add a moon door to her castle. When he knocks over a tower, she gets upset at him for ruining it. When Robin responds by stomping on the rest of it, Sansa slaps him, which sends him running away crying.
Littlefinger sees the slap, but approves rather than condemns Sansa for it. She asks him why he really killed Joffrey, and he gives her a line about punishing him for hurting someone that he loved (Sansa’s mother). Then he talks about how Sansa might have been his child in a better world, tells her that she’s more beautiful than her mother ever was, and kisses her. This is every bit as creepy as it was in the book, and of course (as in the book) Lysa sees the kiss but not the part where Sansa pushes Littlefinger away.
I actually really like the way this turned out on screen. They managed to make Littlefinger clearly a creep and a predator, but they also managed to capture the ambiguity of Sansa’s feelings about his advances. She’s not receptive, but before she pushes him away she’s also not exactly unreceptive, as if, after so long alone and unloved and physically isolated but also being a young girl of an age to be curious about exploring her sexuality, there’s some part of her that is a little bit intrigued enough to play this out for a little while. It’s a fine line to walk, because I wouldn’t want to see his actions come off as anything other than gross and predatory, but I think that this moment is an important one for Sansa because it marks the beginning of an evolution in the way she exists in this world. Cersei told her ages ago that a woman’s best weapon is between her legs, and while I don’t think we’ll see Sansa become a full blown femme fatale anytime soon, I think she’s starting to get an inkling of what that means for her.
When Lysa summons Sansa to the throne room, she’s already got the Moon Door open and ready. After a short, calm talk about what happens to people when they get thrown through the door, Lysa grabs Sansa by the hair and threatens to kill her. Fortunately, Littlefinger shows up in time to save Sansa, soothing Lysa before dropping the bombshell that the only woman he’s ever loved was Catelyn Stark and then pushing Lysa to her death. I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t use “Only Cat” as the line here, but this is almost made up for by a great shot of Sansa, who knows what he’s going to say before he says it. Her look is just priceless, and I can’t wait to see the rest of what happens at the Eyrie. I didn’t see Marillion, so I’m curious to see what story Littlefinger uses to cover up his murder of Lysa.