First off, let’s just get this out of the way: This has been the most consistently excellent season of "Game of Thrones" yet. Every episode has been strong, and the season has – somewhat amazingly – avoided the obvious issues with transforming a tremendously complex set of fantasy novels into a television show. (Earlier seasons, while also quite good, have at times gotten lost in the show’s endless maze of characters and incremental plot advancements.)
Second: Damn, that was a gruesome way to die.
"The Mountain and the Viper" ended with the Red Viper’s head smashed, the Mountain stabbed multiple times, and Tyrion Lannister sentenced to death. And that all happened in the last 10 minutes.
For those of you who experienced memory failure from Memorial Day weekend festivities, Tyrion’s life was on the life after his sister Cersei accused him of poisoning the boy-king Joffrey (which, of course, he didn’t do). Tyrion chose a trial by combat instead of a sham court trial (possibly a smart move). Cersei picked The Mountain to represent her (because he’s the scariest dude around) and Tyrion picked The Red Viper (because there was no one else and because he’s a badass but mainly because there was no one else).
Before the fight began, The Red Viper was doing a little drinking (which I endorse) and then displayed some fancy spear-work.
Surprisingly, he started winning (!). He stabbed The Mountain repeatedly and had him lying on his back with a spear in his chest. But instead of finishing him off, The Red Viper insisted the huge freak of a man confess to the murder of his sister.
“Say it! You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children,” Oberyn Martell insisted.
The Mountain, it turns out, did confess. But only after he grabbed Martell’s head, smashed in his eyes with his thumbs and crushed his skull. That was, um, painful to watch.
Tywin, Tyrion’s father, then sentenced his son to death – setting up episode nine, which has traditionally been the climax of the season. (Can’t wait!)
It was an episode that ended violently and began violently, with the wildling’s raiding Gilly’s whorehouse in the opening scene.
Ygritte was particularly brutal, but spared Gilly upon seeing her with the baby
At Castle Black, nearby, Jon Snow heard of the raid and surmised that Mance Rayder’s army must be close.
In Essos, Grey Worm and Missandei flirt after he sees her naked. But more importantly, Daenerys banishes Jorah Mormont after it’s discovered he was spying on her for Varys. (Mormont is now a true believer in Dany but this point is lost on her.)
“I do not want you in my city, dead or alive,” she says.
At Moat Cailin, Ramsay Snow convinces Theon Greyjoy to persuade men loyal to the Greyjoys to surrendor. Theon tells them they’ll be able to live, but Ramsay flays them anyway.
“Moat Cailin is yours father,” he tells Roose Bolton, who is warden of the north under Tywin Lannister.
Roose is so pleased with Ramsay, he makes him a proper Bolton who no longer has to use the bastard last name of Snow.
At the Vale of Arryn, Littlefinger is facing questioning from locals over Lysa’s death. Sansa comes to his aid and lies, saying her aunt committed suicide by jumping out of the Moon Door.
Outside, Arya and the Hound arrive, only to learn that Lysa is now dead. Having come so close to her family only to be met yet again with tragedy, all Arya can do is laugh.
Episode grade: A