(Note: to help clear up the discussion thread congestion, we’re publishing two Game of Thrones recaps this season, one for book readers and one for non-book readers. Doing it this way means those who have read A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows don’t have to begin every conversation with “SPOILER,” or those who haven’t won’t need to worry about learning something they shouldn’t.)
After watching the end credits of “The Mountain and the Viper” in a daze, I got up, and — without saying a word to my wife — went into the kitchen. The spaghetti and meatballs we ate earlier that evening had to be put into the fridge, and I needed to distract myself from the alternate ending of The Princess Bride I had just witnessed. I immediately regretted this decision when I started scooping the saucy red meat into a container — the slopping noise was a Foley artist’s wet dream for, oh, a Mountain of a man squeezing out someone’s eyeballs. And then I heard the POP of a caved-in skull all over again.
Here’s the way Mountain vs. Red Viper is written in the book:
“Elia of Dorne,” they all heard Ser Gregor say, when they were close enough to kiss. His deep voice boomed within the helm. “I killed her screaming whelp.” He thrust his free hand into Oberyn’s unprotected face, pushing steel fingers into his eyes. “Then I raped her.” Clegane slammed his fist into the Dornishman’s mouth, making splinters of his teeth. “Then I smashed her fucking head in. Like this.” As he drew back his huge fist, the blood on his gauntlet seemed to smoke in the cold dawn air. There was a sickening crunch. Ellaria Sand wailed in terror, and Tyrion’s breakfast came boiling back up. He found himself on his knees retching bacon and sausage and applecakes, and that double helping of fried eggs cooked up with onions and fiery Dornish peppers.
What makes that “sickening crunch” so memorably brutal is how unexpected it is. The Mountain is on the ground, unmoving, ready for one final blow from Oberyn. But Oberyn didn’t pick this fight for murder (or Tyrion) — he picked it for murder…and vengeance. He needs the Mountain to say those words he’s been waiting for years to hear, but they never come. And that silence is what killed him. Well, that, and his squished grape head. Peacocking Inigo Montoya, I mean, Oberyn tried to make sense of what should have been simple — KILL KILL KILL — but while everyone around him was demanding blood, he craved knowledge. That, I believe, is why he got along with Tyrion: they both tried (and failed) to make sense of death, Oberyn with Elia and Tyrion with slow-minded Orson’s ritualistic murdering of beetles. But death doesn’t make sense. It just is, and sometimes all you can do is laugh it off.
So long as you’re alive enough to do so, that is. RIPrince Oberyn. More thoughts after the jump.