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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Mountain and the Viper” (S4, E8)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Original Air Date: June 1st, 2014
Director: Alex Graves
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

It’s worse than you remember.

Which is really saying something, since this episode, featuring the trial by combat of Tyrion Lannister, remains one of the most memorable–and most gut-wrenching–in the entire history of Game of Thrones. But no matter how terrible your memories are of the fight between Oberyn Martell and Ser Gregor Clegane , it’s even worse than that.

(This was the first and only episode during this entire re-watch where I had to pause the show to get emotionally prepared for what was about to happen. It didn’t help.)


But while the gruesome death of the Red Viper (and just as sad: the final appearance by Pedro Pascal, who gave one of the best performances of the entire series) will always be the enduring legacy of this eighth episode of season four, the decision by Sansa to save Littlefinger has far greater ramifications as we head to the show’s end.

For the first time, Baelish has lost control. He now has to answer for the “suicide” of Lysa, which the noble houses of the Vale don’t readily accept. (Note: The man leading the questioning is Ser Yohn Royce, and his son, Waymar Royce, was the leading ranger of the Night’s Watch killed by White Walkers in the very first scene of the show.)

The council despises Baelish; that his sudden marriage and the death of his wife transpire all within a couple of days is nothing if not suspicious. In an attempt to learn the truth, they bring in his “niece,” and refuse to let him speak to her alone first. His fate is completely in the hands of “Alayne,” and there is nothing he can do about it.

Sansa then tells them the “truth”: that Baelish has been hiding her real identity to protect her, and that he was the only one looking out for her during her imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Lannisters. She then covers for his murder by saying her troubled aunt stepped through the Moon Door herself. Because of her heartfelt, tearful testimony, they not only end up apologizing to him, they start listening to his plans for the Vale.


Later, Baelish goes to ask Sansa why she did it.

“They would have thrown you through the Moon Door if they found you guilty.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“If they’d have executed you, what would they have done with me?”

It’s the most cunning decision Sansa has made to this point, putting her self interests above all else. Her naive dreams of chivalry and honor have been shattered, and she is finally playing the game, which means lying about the murder of her own aunt.

Baelish understands this was a matter of choosing the devil you know over the devil you don’t, but he wants to see if she knows who he is.


She says, “I know what you want,” and then gives him a look that is part seductive, part mysterious, but all powerful. He is beholden to her now as much as she is to him. That’s followed later by her going with… how should I say this?… a much more mature fashion style.


Considering Littlefinger gave her a passionate kiss last week, Sansa understands he isn’t just interested in protecting her, but in being with her. What she doesn’t understand in this moment (and still might not even after he and the Knights of the Vale came to her and Jon Snow’s rescue at the Battle of the Bastards) is that who she is matters more than what she is. It’s not about her being a young beauty, it’s about her (seemingly) being the key to the North.

This is a weird relationship, to put it mildly. He loved her mother, and already mentioned to her about how in a fairer world he would have been her father. But then he kissed her, and at the end of season six he told her how he sees himself on the Iron Throne with her next to her.


Baelish is the most calculating, underhanded man in the Seven Kingdoms, which is really saying something about his abilities. But when it comes to Sansa it’s never totally clear how much he really loves and cares about her personally, and how much he loves what she can do for him.

New King in the North Jon Snow looks like the major obstacle to Baelish’s master plan now, but Sansa and what she “knows” about Littlefinger could be the deciding factor in how successful Lord Baelish ends up being. If she sees Jon’s rise as a sleight to her, the offer of sitting beside Littlefinger could entice her to support him over her brother.

But if she decides that what Baelish really wants is power at any cost, and he doesn’t really care about her (she will never forget who married her off to Ramsay), she has the ability to end his climb once and for all. Sansa knows he had Joffrey killed, that he threw his wife through the Moon Door, and that he has been playing every side against the other the whole time, all so he can gain more influence and strength.

And he knows she has that power. If it turns out he doesn’t care about her, and if he decides she will never sit beside him anywhere, it would make her an even greater danger than Jon. And people who stand in the way of Littlefinger’s climb don’t live very long.


Sansa chose the devil she knew over the devil she didn’t, but that means she made an unholy alliance with a very dangerous man the day she saved Littlefinger’s life. And the cost of doing so could be greater than she ever realized. Unless she breaks it first.

What do you think of the relationship between Sansa and Baelish? How do you think it will impact the show’s end? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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