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The Mountain and the Viper: Game of Thrones Season 4
"I'd be a bloody fool if he didn't frighten me. He's freakish big and freakish strong, and quicker than you'd expect for a man of that size. Maybe I could take him, dance around until he's so tired of hacking at me, he dropped his sword, get him off his feet somehow. But one misstep *snaps fingers* and I'm dead." --Bronn
(This review might include spoilers)
In one corner you have an 8-feet tall, 400+ pound, strong man. On the other, you have a 5'11", slim one. If a fight were to start between them, most people would feel like Bronn in the above quote: afraid and with little-to-no-chance to win. But the fight does happen, and it is one of the climatic points of the fourth season of HBO's acclaimed show Game of Thrones; and the odds aren't in favor of the slim fighter, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), who chooses to fight against Sir Gregor Clegane, dubbed "The Mountain" for his strength and towering height (in reality, actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson stands at 6'9").
But other than in this fight, unfavorable odds has been one of the perennial themes in this show where the weak are usually at the mercy of the strong. But still, underdogs constantly surprise others with their courage, wisdom, or wits. From Tyrion Lannister's leadership and valiant defense of King's Landing at the end of Season 2, to Robb Stark's masterful victories over Tywin Lannister's armies from Seasons 1-3. It doesn't matter what their ultimate fate was, odds were never in their favor, and yet they chose to overcome them, and for brief moments succeeded.
The catalyst of the fourth season of Game of Thrones is the wedding of King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). During the wedding feast, Joffrey is poisoned and dies, and his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) ends up as the main suspect, accused by his own sister Cersei (Lena Headey), and eventually judged by his own father Tywin (Charles Dance). Odds aren't in Tyrion's favor, who knows that he's being framed and quickly realizes that the trial and his fate are fixed and manipulated by higher forces.
But that's not the only plot that unfolds through the season. Other notable subplots are the preparations of the Brothers of the Night's Watch against the impending attack of the Wildling army. Again, odds are a major theme here, as a middling army of about a hundred men has to prepare to fight against an army of hundreds of thousands. But in the face of those odds, bastard Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) rises to the occasion, assuming leadership when it's needed, despite the fact that some of the leaders of the Night's Watch don't want him to, or that most people never thought much of him.
Other characters that find themselves fighting the odds are:
- After their crushing defeat at Blackwater, aspiring Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his right-hand Davos (Liam Cunningham) regroup their army for a second attempt to claim the throne of King's Landing.
- With little choices in their favor, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) decides to take her prisoner/protegé Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to her aunt's castle in the Eyrie.
- After fleeing King's Landing, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) finds herself at the mercy of the cunning Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), as he takes her to the Eyrie to live with her aunt.
- Determined to find the meaning of the three-eyed raven, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) decides to go beyond the Wall, along with Jojen and Meera Reed.
Finally, another of the main subplots features aspiring Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) as she continues to build her army on her way to claim the throne of King's Landing. After apparently freeing the cities of Astapor and Yunkai, and settling in Meereen, she finds herself overwhelmed by the burdens of leadership as she tries to balance being a strong queen, with being just and merciful.
But the focus of most of the season is Tyrion. Falsely accused, imprisoned, with the whole machinery of the Kingdom and his family against him, the odds seem to be totally against him. This is highlighted during his trial, where he has to face the humiliation of the people, as well as the ultimate betrayal against him. After an impassionate speech at the end of his trial, Tyrion demands a trial by combat to decide his fate. Once again, the odds play against him, with his brother unable to fight for him, and his until-then-trusted bodyguard Bronn being bought by his sister. However, he finds an unlikely ally in Prince Oberyn Martell, who chooses to fight for him.
Martell had come to King's Landing for Joffrey's wedding. But in truth, his purpose was to seek revenge for the death of his sister and nephews at the hands of "The Mountain". So knowing that Cersei had chosen Clegane as her champion for the "trial", fighting for Tyrion provides Martell with a perfect chance to savor that revenge.
The fight between Clegane and Martell serves as one of the climatic points of the season, as his desire for justice and revenge, as well as the fate of fan-favorite Tyrion, clashes with the brute force of "The Mountain" in one of the most gruesome and shocking scenes I've seen on TV. Like the Viper, odds aren't always in our favor, but sometimes we can manage to fight against them, and maybe even overcome them. And sometimes, we let pride or a blind desire for revenge take the best of us, and we fall victim to the odds, even when we had the chance to beat them.
With no odds against it, Game of Thrones continues to impress and wow audiences, me included. A recent rewatch of the whole series just cemented how great this show is, and Season 4 is no exception. As has been the case all through its run, the show is anchored by great performances, a taut script, and flawless direction. Grade: A
Game of Thrones: Season 4 Trailer
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