With the battle for his punishment or freedom confirmed, the crown must find a champion to fight for their honour – for their lost king. Cersei (Lena Headey) doesn’t want her brother killed; she wants him obliterated, fragmented and decimated. In an ideal world, Tyrion would become an exceptionally bloody jigsaw puzzle for the lucky children in King’s Landing. Her selection is the monstrous presence that is ‘The Mountain’ (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) who is brought back to the screen in fantastically gruesome fashion. We see the hulk of a man slaying numerous prisoners; slashing through them and watching their intestines pour from their gut. Clearly he is a competitor only someone of remarkable bravery, brilliance or stupidity would be willing to stand against, and who in their right mind would want to stand for Tyrion; the dwarf who is believed to be a ‘Kingslayer’ just like his one-handed, incestuous elder brother?
The seemingly doomed Lannister sibling sets his sights on the ever-reliable Bronn (Jerome Flynn) – his best friend; his true champion. The swordsman won ‘The Imp’s’ honour at the Eyre beforehand and hopes are that he’ll take a place on the podium, but for the first time audiences see a reluctance. Why should Bronn risk his life for Tyrion? He has never reciprocated the favour, and no amount of gold or gratitude is worthy of a human life. With his humble Podrick out roaming for Lady Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), it seems he really is alone in the world.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and ‘The Hound’ (Rory McCann) are back in the frame this week and the young warrior is clearly picking up life and death lessons from her foul-mouthed scruff of a protector. She brings ‘Needle’ out to play in delicately brutal fashion and is starting to make dents in her hit-list. Viewers wouldn’t be wrong to expect seeing the noble Stark girl standing tall amongst a plethora of bodies in the coming episodes. Meanwhile in Meereen, Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) has finally cracked his beloved queen. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) reluctantly embraces his cheesy-smooth ways by bringing her wild flowers from which he swam to gather and even forgives his intrusion in her private quarters. Some kind of relationship was bound to develop between the pair, but it’s refreshing to see their sexual chemistry handled in a playful, almost embarrassing manner as opposed to the provocative and full-frontal nature usually applied by showrunners David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss.
For much of Mockingbird, it seems as though Tyrion’s luck has well and truly run out. He had his moment in the sun and watched the horror flood across the flapping heads alongside the Iron Throne, but all that remains now is a visit from Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal); the Martell who loathes the Lannisters yet sat on the Small Council at Tyrion’s trial. He retells a desperately horrible story about Tyrion’s birth and youth; how he was dubbed a ‘monster’ and that he sported claws, a tail, red eyes and even male and female genitalia. He furthers the verbal abuse by saying how disappointed he was when he actually saw the dwarf for the first time; he was no monster, just the freak that killed his mother in labour and the child who everyone sharing his family name despised. Watching Dinklage’s fractured, tarnished performance is draining – he bites and cracks false smiles as the tears stream across his scar-laden cheek; it’s truly wonderful acting and solidifies just how much he as a performer and indeed a character is relied on.
The sorrow is soon culled however as Oberyn reveals his wider plan; he may have snuggled in nicely in King’s Landing and have shaken the right hands, but he still arbores those who fly the maroon-drenched flag. The Lannisters destroyed his family; murdered and raped his sister and her children, and the lust for vengeance burns so deeply under his cool, sultry façade that many have seemingly forgotten. He may not always see eye-to-eye with the supposed killer of King Joffrey, but they bat for the same side. Oberyn is Tyrion’s champion and watching that fateful bout unfold will make Game of Thrones fans bounce with as much glee as a child in a sweetshop.
It wouldn’t be an episode of the show without a shock and that comes at the creepy hands of Lord Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Balish (Aiden Gillen) who finally reveals his reasoning behind saving Sansa. She reminds him of her mother; his one true love and after rather grimly stealing a kiss from Tyrion’s fleeing wife, he is forced to save her from plunging to her death via the Moon Door as the absolutely barking mad aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) hangs her in the balance after seeing the pair lock lips under the snow-soaked foliage. As he rushes to comfort his crazy bride, he tells her that their was only ever one woman for him – her sister – and sends her tumbling down the hatch.
With only three more episodes remaining, Season 4 seems far from over and certainly has many more tricks up its sleeve, with the biggest being just how Tyrion will repay his debt to an unlikely partner.