Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones Season 4 Ep 8 "The Mountain and the Viper" Review

Greg Tito | 2 Jun 2014 17:33
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Elsewhere in the very large North, Ramsay Snow sends Reek off to pretend to be Theon Greyjoy. Reek looks very nice in his armor emblazoned with a Kraken, but Ramsay makes the extremely apt analogy that sea monsters aren't very effective on land. "They have no bones," Snow says, with an uncanny grasp of the biology of the mollusk family. Reek doesn't have any bones either - he just does whatever his master tells him. He's to go to Moat Cailin, and convince the Ironborn left there from Yara's takeover to surrender. The men there are all dying from disease and starvation because Moat Cailin is in the swamps held by the so-called "frogmen" of House Reed, Jojen and Meera's people. They openly use poison, and guerrilla warfare tactics and have been harrying the Ironborn who have held the castle for months.

While those details are glossed over, it's clear the Ironborn garrison is reeling. There are sick men, dead men and horse corpses littering the castle. The leader makes a show of refusing to bend to the demands of the Boltons, and Reek's posturing as Theon starts to break down in a fit of the shivers. I'm seriously getting annoyed at Alvie Allen's acting choices, and his whole shaking thing is really the worst part of it. He couldn't come up with any other way to show his discomfort? It doesn't matter, because one of the Ironborn puts an axe into the leader's skull, and decides he'd rather go home and deal with being called a coward than die at the hands of the Boltons. Oh wait ... that didn't work out exactly as the coward planned. His face is the only part of his body Ramsay leaves the skin on.

"Got to keep up appearances," Snow says to Reek. "Flaying's a lost art." I guess Ramsay is the hipster of Westeros. "I was into flaying the skin off my enemies before it was cool."

Then in a complete reversal of The Lion King's imagery, the villain takes his son to the top of a hill and gives him everything. Roose Bolton and Ramsay Snow look at the land around them and the father tells him that their Kingdom is really fucking big. "Bigger than the other six kingdoms combined," he says. Bolton then surprises everyone and legitimizes his bastard son, making him the heir of the North. You know, if none of the Starks show back up.

This scene is great for so many reasons. If you ignore the past transgressions of both these characters, and the blue and red flag with a man hanging upside down on it, this could be a heroic, triumphant moment of redemption. The bastard son, who has lived in his father's keep for years, knowing that he'll never be good enough to rule, knowing that the common blood from his mother will prevent him from treating with nobles on an equal footing, is finally getting his due. Ramsay Snow is now Ramsay Bolton, the heir of Winterfell. Kind of nice, right? (Forgetting the cock-slicing, of course.)

Contrast all this with the treatment of Jon Snow by Eddard Stark. Snow was raised in his father's house. He was allowed to break bread with the Stark sons, but Catelyn Stark and even Ned to a certain degree, kept Jon at arm's length. He was never legitimized. He was never treated with respect, just shipped up to the Wall where they send the rapers, thieves and useless dregs of society. How would this story have been different had the Starks acted like Roose Bolton on the top of that hill in the North and given Jon Snow the legitimacy he craved?

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