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Game of Thrones: Mockingbird by Donald McCarthy

We’ve talked before about changes the show has made that’ve been neutral or positive, but tonight we come to one that’s negative. In the books, Lysa Arryn’s death did not happen with only Sansa, Littlefinger, and her; there was also an additional character, a singer named Marillion. Marillion was interested in Sansa Stark, continuously harassing her, and Sansa rebuffed him again and again. When Lysa tried to kill Sansa, Marillion sang and played his harp so no one could hear Sansa singing. Still, Littlefinger arrived and killed Lysa, just like in the show, but he afterwards screamed, “Guards! The singer just killed my lady wife!” It’s a wonderful reversal and a great moment of instant plotting on Littlefinger’s part. I understand that the show has many characters to begin with and we don’t exactly need another scene of sexual harassment, but Lysa’s death lacked a punch and I think it’s the lack of Marllion that did it (Marillion did appear in the show in the first season, but had his tongue ripped out on the order of King Joffrey).

That and the pacing, that is. There are only two scenes in the Eyrie and they each follow one another, making it feel like we just got the cliff notes of what happened between Sansa, Littlefinger, and Lysa. It’s a pity, because I can’t help but feel another scene earlier on would’ve given the plot a little more weight as opposed to coming across as an afterthought. The episode clearly wants to end with an exclamation point, but events happen too suddenly and it just feels jarring. Granted, this isn’t helped by the fact that no director can make falling out of the hole in the floor look realistic, not even on this show’s budget.

This does bring up the question of what could be cut to make room for another scene at the Eyrie. The first scene that comes to mind is that one in which the Hound and Arya stumble across a dying man. It’s not necessary to the plot other than the last thirty seconds, but it’s a powerfully acted scene and thematically it fits well. For me, it was the highlight of tonight’s episode. Arya has seen so much death and has killed a fair bit, too, so it makes sense that she’d have an opinion on the “nothing” that comes after death. The dying man is afraid to let go, more comfortable being in pain than in walking into the unknown, a feeling the Hound doesn’t understand, or at least doesn’t want to admit he understands, but one Arya likely relates to. She saw her father die and she’s no doubt spent some time wondering what it felt like when he perished and whether he’s in a better place or no place at all. Arya seems to come to the conclusion that no place at all is the answer.

The Hound and Arya has been a fun subplot this season and in an episode where alliances are broken and forged it’s a nice twist to see Arya and the Hound connect a little. In the past, Arya has wanted the Hound’s death, and perhaps on some level she still does, but they’ve spent so much time together and she’s learned that his childhood was as hellish as hers that she can’t help but feel for him. It’s a nice moment, especially after we see Bronn break his relationship with Tyrion. Tyrion, rather naively, expected Bronn to come swinging in and rescue him from the wrath of the Mountain, but Bronn’s reaction is more along the lines of “Fuck that.” No one can blame him as the Mountain is a monster and likely more than capable of killing Bronn. This wouldn’t be at all similar to the trial by combat Bronn fought on Tyrion’s behalf back in season one and Bronn knows it. It’s a letdown to see Bronn turn his back on one of our most loveable protagonists, but can anyone really blame him?

Tonight’s episode hops around so much and just misses the mark of having a truly memorable conclusion that it’s easy, and somewhat accurate, to say this was one of Game of Thrones’ weaker efforts. Much of this comes from the trouble of adapting such a sprawling series- every once in a while we’re going to have an episode that covers a lot of middles of various chapters. Last season we had it with “Second Sons” and this season we have it with tonight’s episode. At times, the showrunners make a clear effort to have an episode that works as a narrative whole, one where the plots coincide at least thematically if not with character. From time to time that’s simply not possible and this is what happens with “Mockingbird.” There’s some fun scenes, but nothing that adds up to very much, just a promise of battles to come. This is why I struggle to point to a scene that could’ve been cut because they were all necessary, but just not as gripping as we are used to.

However, the end of the season is now nicely shaping up for us. Earlier on it was unclear where things were going (I knew, of course, but speaking from a television viewpoint) and what the main threads of the season were; now it’s clear the ending will focus heavily on Tyrion’s fate, a plot that has shot back to the top after last week and this week, and the battle at the Wall, a battle we are told the Night’s Watch is not accurately preparing for. Sadly, the latter comes in a weak scene where we see caricatures of pig-headed leaders thanks to Ser Alliser Thorne. Perhaps they could get away with this if Jon Snow, who we’re supposed to be rooting for in said scene, wasn’t so damn pigheaded himself. I’ve lamented before about the weakness of Jon’s plot in the show and tonight was no exception. At least we got a shot of the direwolf, eh?

I’ll see you guys in two weeks! HBO takes off for Memorial Day weekend which will leave us with a Game of Thrones sized hole in our hearts. Then we’ll have just three episodes to go before another season comes to an end.


Nudity watch: We see some man ass tonight thanks to Daenarys’ sudden hankering for some love and we get some Melisandre nudity when she’s taking a bath. Neither are too ridiculous although Melisandre’s goes on for a little long, but at least we get the Queen’s reaction to it.

Donald McCarthy is a teacher and writer. His fiction has appeared with KZine, Cover of Darkness, and The Washington Pastime. His non-fiction has been featured in The Progressive Populist, Screen Spy, and AOL Patch News. And here, too, but that was probably obvious. His twitter is @donaldtmccarthy and his website is