We should have seen it coming.
From the moment he sauntered onto the screen, Oberyn Martell, the dashing, bisexual man-about-Dorne, was destined to capture our hearts – which, on Game of Thrones, also means his inevitable death was destined to break our hearts. Oberyn was one of the few characters on this show operating under any sort of value system, and in the trial by combat that ended this week’s episode, that’s what killed him. Truth and reconciliation delivered at spearpoint turned out to be no match for the raw strength of the Mountain’s hands. Or, as Cersei put it in the second season, “Power is power.”
Farewell, sweet prince. You will be missed.
A roundup of the other happenings in Westeros follows. Warning: major spoilers below!
The wildling raiders have entered Mole’s Town, murdering everyone they come across. Everyone except Gilly, that is – she’s spared by Ygritte while nursing her child. Is it wildling solidarity, or just a moment of sentimentality? Either way, the Night’s Watch is powerless to avenge the wanton destruction. They’ll have to wait for the arrival of Mance Rayder s army, which seems like it’s been two years in coming now.
Jorah’s season one plot line came back to bite him this week, as a letter from Westeros (presumably sent by Tywin a few weeks back) awarded him a full pardon in exchange for spying on Daenerys all those years ago. Dany’s never looked more regal than the moment she summons Jorah to the throne room to banish him from Meereen. “You have betrayed me,” she tells him, and for one scene at least, the mother of dragons is pure ice. Jorah rides out at sunset, in a long, sad shot that plays like something out of a Western. Is it time for Jorah to change his house sigil to a black hat?
The artist formerly known as Theon Greyjoy enters Moat Cailin under a flag of truce and manages (along with the assistance of a well-timed axe), to convince the Ironborn to surrender the castle. They do, and are immediately flayed for their troubles. Roose Bolton seems to have the North entirely under his control, which means it’s time for the erstwhile Ramsay Snow to take his papa’s last name. The whole thing seems very perfunctory until a chilling final shot: To cement his rule, Roose is going to move into Winterfell.
The lords of the Vale are interrogating Littlefinger over Lysa’s death, and they turn out to be a bunch of posh snobs. Still, though, they’re right not to trust him, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. They bring out Sansa to tell them what happened, and her speech is masterful, a subtle blend of truths and lies that’s so well-crafted it’s hard to say where the fiction begins. She reveals her true identity, and tells the lords that Lysa killed herself after misinterpreting Sansa’s chaste kiss from Littlefinger. Littlefinger is saved, and there’s nothing chaste about his smile. He asks Sansa why she did it. Her response: Better the crazy man you do know, than the noble one you don’t. There’s a pragmatism there, but as Littelfinger’s sly smile (as well as this week’s closing trial) make clear, even the most well-thought-out plan can backfire. One slip and you’re, in the words of the Mountain, just “some dead man.”