A black-haired Sansa, a disappointed Hound, and one of the most disturbing, gut-wrenching death cries I can remember hearing in contemporary televised fiction.
What you must remember is that I am learning about Game of Thrones from the show, episode to episode. I have NOT read the books, so for the amusement to those who have, I will make presumptions about future dealings and character fates - many of which I know will be dead wrong. All I ask is that nobody spoil anything about coming events for both myself and for others who are new to the story.
As with many episodes, there were many story lines with multiple characters and drama within, but the part of the episode I want to focus the most on is the final act - the battle between the Mountain and "The Red Viper" Oberyn Martell. This was a conflict that had both a personal agenda, and held the fate of Tyrion Lannister. After episode 7 and the scene between Oberyn and Tyrion in the prison cell, I found myself becoming very fond of both characters. Tyrion has always been a favorite, but we were finally able to see a very vulnerable side to him in a situation he could not wittily talk himself out of or simply walk away from. Oberyn, on the other hand, became one of my favorite characters in that one scene alone. I should have known to not let myself get attached....this is a George R.R. Martin story.
There were two thoughts in my mind going into the Trial by Combat: One, and the one that was set up via certain dialogue choices before the battle, was that Oberyn would be victorious and save who is arguably the main character of the show, as well as get the justice he was seeking. I also felt that he would use that spear to possibly impale Cersei or Tywin, just for good measure after felling the Mountain.
Two: what actually happened. The reason I'm an idiot in not initially thinking this would happen is because how the FUCK would Martin doom both a fan favorite character from this chapter of the story AND the main character of the entire season (and from the book, I'm also presuming). Then again, I look back on the other deaths he has incurred, and thinking more upon it this morning, I should never have been so surprised.
The battle was an odd moment for me because I became so invested in it. I can't remember a show where my hands sweat so much in anticipation. I had two weeks to rewatch episode 7 and love every word spoken from Oberyn's mouth; how much I wanted him to get his revenge and receive his justice, and how the story pumped up the drama to make us all think he was going to be that rare character that, for probably the first time in Game of Thrones history, actually saves the day and shows a light of hope at the end of at least one or two character's journeys.
Oberyn showed impressive moves, getting knocked around a bit, but then landed the first significant blow. OH!! He slices Clegane's calf muscle, and fells the giant (I was verbal at this moment, shouting a loud "Yes!" in response). Oberyn begins to declare why he took the fight, and demands the Mountain confess what he had done to his sister and her children many years before. Then he makes that flying move and impales the Mountain. For a moment there I was a bit hesitant, thinking the Mountain would stab his sword upward and catch Oberyn on the way in. Then the spear lands, and I cheer once again. All is safe, and all is well.
Then Oberyn pulls the spear out, and the moment becomes very personal. You can see the urgency on Tyrion's face, and the face of Oberyn's lover. They wonder why he hasn't finished the fight, but Oberyn wants the Mountain's last breaths to be in confession for his crimes.
Then, Oberyn was on his back. I remember not saying anything - not a "fuck" or a "damnit". Nothing. I have never been in shock before, but I imagine it is similar to the feeling I had in this moment. I was quiet, watching as the Mountain knocked Oberyn's teeth out of his head. "Maybe he will still be OK?" I was able to sneakily think. But...no. Heroes don't have missing teeth.
Then Clegane's thumbs start to press in on Oberyn's eyes, and that's when the screaming starts. My heart and stomach still hurt from that sound - the hero not just falling and failing in his success, but being decimated in return. Normally, you would be disappointed because you would say the man made a mistake out of pride. But Oberyn's dilemma was not a mistake out of pride, but out of a need for justice. The pain and suffering he had felt for much of his life out of his hate for the Lannisters started with this behemoth of a man who now sits upon him, confessing his crimes in a sick joy of personal reflection, making Oberyn's pain both immensely physical AND emotional. Oberyn got what he wanted, but was feeling first hand the excruciation of Hell confessing through the hands of a monster. And there wasn't a thing he could do but hear the words he so desperately wanted to hear but in the midst of his impending, and devastating, death.
After seeing his body lying there, his head exploded from the Mountain's death crush, I felt then not just the disappointment of that character's death, but the impending death of Tyrion. If the show plays out the way I think it will, again another two things could happen:
One: Much like the Ned Stark execution, Tyrion will be put on the stump, ready to be beheaded. We will be led to believe that at any moment, something or someone will come to his rescue. But, nobody will. And where this season will differ from the first is that we will have known that his death was coming for a little while now, where Ned Stark's was ultimately a surprise. This time around, we as the viewers have to stew at the thought of a Game of Thrones without Peter Dinklage, and where the show (and story on which it is based) will go from here.
Two: The show leads us to believe (and find some sort of comfort, like accepting a man's fate on death row) that Tyrion will be executed, but then some freak occurrence saves the day. I have a few theories (THIS will be entertaining for those of you who have read the books):
Tyrion's Possible Fates:
Theory #1 - Jaimie Lannister sacrifices himself for Tyrion, something I thought he would do initially by becoming his champion (which he did not).
Theory #2 - something to do with The Hound. The scene where he and Arya were talking on their way to the Eyrie had some snippets of dialogue that may portend to future dealings. Although the amount of time it would take for them (or the reasoning behind him returning) to reach King's Landing wouldn't work considering they will probably execute Tyrion almost immediately.
Theory #3 - some kind of deus ex machina in which Tyrion will be sneaking-off last second or transported in some way out of the harm of his sister's crooked smile.
Theory #4 - somehow the Others (or the White Walkers, whatever they are called) have made it to King's Landing, and their attack breaks off the execution. But, in the process, Tyrion is mistaken for a child and turned into a White Walker himself by that high priest-looking dude with the natty gray hair and white skin. And then internet memes will be made for "Zombie Dinklage".
Theory #5 - some kind of fuck-up with the fact that one of the trial's judges was a chosen champion AND was killed, making for some kind of hung jury/mistrial of a Westeros sort. In the process, a retrial will be made with a new judge coming in as a Tyrion sympathizer, and will prove that there was no way Tyrion could have poisoned Joffrey because of a "glove doesn't fit" inquiry.
Theory #6 - they just chop his fucking head off.
I literally can't stand this. I had trouble sleeping last night and YES I do get that much into this show. The writers and directors, working off of George R.R. Martin's material, have done such a wonderful job of building up anticipation and dramatic prose to only make the majority of it come crashing down before any of it can be resolved.
That is the genius of the show, and also the masochistic nature of the story - there are very little lights at the end of the big tunnel of darkness filled with blood and agonizing screams. And Oberyn's deathly wail was one of the worst things I have heard on the show. I rewatched his scene with Tyrion on episode 7 before watching his death again, and I must say that in all rules of drama and storytelling, this show (as well as the book, if the show is following it closely) breaks many grounds and will be something that could either change for the better of drama or ruin storytelling for the future.
Either way, I look forward to the final two episodes of the season with great anticipation and with a HUGE sense of loss and demise. This is conflicting in my mind because I have accepted the fate of a character, but there may be that chance, that little itty-bitty chance, that something/someone does come around and pulls Tyrion out of his execution. But, since Ned's execution and the Red Wedding, George R.R. Martin doesn't want us to have strong male leads to have faith and hope instilled upon. We are left at the agony of a realization of a murderer's vision of what fantasitical "Dark Ages"-like living is akin to, and the realization that Westeros may, in fact, be some realm of Hell.
R.I.P. Oberyn Martell, and may the gods be with Tyrion Lannister.