Latest Game of Thrones Episode: No Justice In Blood Feuds, Trial By Combat

Game of Thrones season 4 episode 8HBO Game of Thrones Youtube videoSpoilers for last night's Game of Thrones episode to follow.

"You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children."

Prince Oberyn says this over and over again, hoping to wring a confession out of his adversary, Ser Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane. For the audience, their duel is about saving Tyrion's life. But for Oberyn, the duel is about justice for his murdered sister.

By the end of the fight, Oberyn has died gruesomely, the Mountain is likely to follow him to the grave, and Tyrion has been sentenced to death as well. Was anyone avenged or redeemed amid the senseless violence? Was there any justice?

In a word: no.

While previous seasons of HBO's Game of Thrones primarily concerned political scheming and outright warfare, the fourth season's run of episodes has centered on the consequences of medieval brutality for regular folk. Viewers have watched main characters and side characters alike get murdered week after week. This is the end result of a world where noblemen fight over who has the purest bloodline, where religious fanatics burn their enemies to death, where the outcomes of trials are decided by the gods, and the best way to stay alive is to wield a "big fucking sword," in the words of the Hound.

Increasingly, the theme of the show seems to be contained somewhere in Tyrion's story to Jaime about their beetle-smashing cousin. Why did Orson kill hundreds of the little creatures? Why was that his life's calling? There was no reason for it. Perhaps more importantly, there was no way to stop it.

Consider Arya and the Hound's seemingly endless march across the bleak, war-ravaged countryside of Westeros. Everywhere they turn, they see people suffering, dying, failing to defend their homes and their meager possessions from roving hordes of bandits. Some of those bandits are even official forces of the Lannister government—there is no one left to oppose them, and they can do whatever they want. On their way to the Eyrie, Arya and the Hound learn that her Aunt Lysa is already dead. The entire journey—including the life-threatening wound the Hound received—has been for nothing. Arya, who has grown appreciably wiser about her circumstances, can't help but laugh.

Also wiser: Sansa Stark. She is learning how the game is played, and wisely chooses to lie on behalf of her current protector, Littlefinger. Westeros is full of dead Starks who always told the truth and did the right thing. It is fitting that the two remaining Starks with the best odds at survival—Sansa and Arya—have outgrown that tendency.

Is there any way forward, any way out of this world where people are just beetles waiting to be crushed? A quick line at Littlefinger's brief trial is telling. One of the judges, Yohn Royce, mentions that Littlefinger was well-suited to the position of Master of Coin, because it has "always been a grubby job; why not let a grubby man do it?" Royce, like the rest of the ruling elite of Westeros, holds financial matters in disdain. In their eyes, killing each other over blood feuds is an honorable pursuit—managing financial investments is not.

Daenerys, at least, seems sincere in her desire to build a different sort of world. She has abolished slavery. She has proclaimed an end to the brutalization of innocents. She has banished her closest friend and most trusted advisor for scheming and playing political games behind her back. Even so, the way she deals with her enemies—crucifixion—isn't really more humane than what the Boltons do. (Okay, maybe it's slightly more humane.) Ser Barristan watches as Daeny's soldiers take down the corpses of the crucified men. It is difficult to be sure what he is thinking—and we know that he remains optimistic about Daeny despite disapproving of some of her choices—but disappointment wouldn't be a surprise. It always ends the same way.

More on questions of power, the rule of law and market forces in the world of Game of Thrones here.

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  • WTF||

    Winter is coming.

  • ||

    The duel was fine, whatever. But what the fucking fuck are the fucking writers fucking thinking? Having Sansa reveal herself is the stupidest possible diversion from the books they could make. Do they not realize that the lords of the Vale would not openly harbor a presumed regicide? Fucking Christ.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    I also don't remember the books exploring the sex drive (or lack thereof) of castration victims, but hey, anything for an excuse to show Missy's rack, right?

  • SugarFree||

    And what with the whole "they are brother and sister and she's 9" in the books as well.

  • ||

    Martin mentions some of the Unsullied visiting whorehouses just to cuddle with the whores, so I actually don't have a huge problem with it. Plus, tits.

  • ||

    Of all the things to complain about, gratuitous nudity is not it.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    I'm the guy who sent a thank you letter to HBO for convincing the gorgeous Alexandra Daddario to disrobe for True Detective, so I'm not against it in principle or anything. GoT just takes it to such an absurd extreme though.

    Another recent example: I think the Red Woman might be the hottest (no pun intended) female character on the show, but that scene with her in the bathtub a couple weeks ago - what the hell was that?

  • ||

    Someone probably complained that the show was too white.

    So they had to make the black characters more interesting.

    Now someone will complain that the only major black character is a eunuch, and claim it's racist because it's all about white male sexual insecurity.

  • Tony||

    Why is it a big deal? Sansa/Petyr are like one scene away from being up-to-date. Revealing her identity was crucial to her deception in saving Petyr, none of which would have been necessary had Marillion been a character. Like most of the changes, this has seemed like a decent trade-off, all except for changing Petyr's last words to Lysa. I call bullshit on that.

  • Fluffy||

    OMG Tony posted without trolling

  • ||

    I know. GoT can make anyone play nice (temporarily).

    Wait, scratch that. Merkin would probably try to turn everything into a lesson on race.

  • Raston Bot||

    Yep, too soon. As long as Tywin's still alive, they'd send her head to Tommen.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    NO SPOILERS. But what an idiot.

  • ||

    I actually thought Sansa's revelation was extremely clever.

    She told enough of the truth to make it believable, and *just* enough of a lie to get little finger off the hook.

    The girl's learned how to lie well. Season them with a lot of truth.

  • R C Dean||

    Was anyone avenged or redeemed amid the senseless violence? Was there any justice?

    In a word: no.

    Slow down there. Assuming Clegane did, in fact, rape and murder, how is his death for committing these crimes not justice in at least some sense? It certainly seems that vengeance has been achieved, at a minimum.

  • ||

    Yohn Royce is not an idiot. He lived with Ed stark for years and I am pretty sure he can recognize a Tully when he sees one.

    He already knows who Sansa is.

  • Drake||

    Yep - At least the Mountain will be paying for his crimes. I wonder if they'll follow the book in his story line and keep him alive while the poison tortures him beyond sanity.

  • Raston Bot||

    There is Qyburn's character. If they included him, then maybe it's because they have plans for Sir Robert Strong.

  • ||

    As I noted the other day:

    Jon Snow has no dad. He is born of a virgin just like the saviors found in Zoroastrian prophesy.

    I also suspect that "The Prince that was Promised" and the Last hero/Azor Ahai are different people in prophesy.

    I think the Prince that was promised is probably Daenerys Targaryen...Rhaegar Targaryen probably thought he was which would explain why he "kidnapped" Lyanna Stark who was carrying Jon snow and he felt that by kidnapping her he would fulfill his role as the prince who was promised by protecting the the unborn Azor Ahai.

  • Sudden||

    Nuh uh. R+L=J

  • ||

    I've been promoting the "Jon Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark" theory for years and would actually be willing to put money on it. Not with you, though, you're a welcher.

  • some guy||

    That's easy money. It's the only thing that really makes sense given the story told by the Reeds to Bran and everything else we know about what led up to Robert's rebellion.

  • ||

    Yeah but I had it figured out after reading just book one. The clues are all there if you can see them. Reread book one again and you'll see.

  • some guy||

    Yeah, by the end of book one it was clear that Robert's love was unrequited and Ned's honor was perfect. From there the proper conclusion is possible, but not easy to draw.

  • ||

    I remember reading certain memories Ned was having about the night Lyanna died and it was pretty clear that she died in childbirth even though he never says that explicitly.

    Like I said, if you go back and read book one you'll reach parts where you go "duh, of course, it's so obvious now".

  • ||

    A virgin childbirth might cause a lot of bleeding....

  • ||

    It's flipping obvious when you put all the clues in the books together.

    Especially how Rhaegar named Lyanna the "Queen of Love and Beauty" at some tournament, and how Rhaegar was a nice studious guy who wasn't that into combat.

    Doesn't sound like a kiddnapper and rapist to me.

    Lyanna went with him willingly, and Ed Stark protected Jon's identity because he would have been killed as a member of the Targarean line.

  • ||

    Also, Lynanna died in childbirth. GRRM actually uses there phrase "bloody bed" and "bed of blood" twice: Once when talking about one of Caitlin's birth's and once when talking about Lyanna Stark on her deathbed.

  • Drake||

    The only problem I have - Jon burned the crap out of his hand tossing a lantern. Flames can't hurt a true dragon. (Or GRRM will just pretend that scene never happened)

  • ||

    That's a good point but remember that "proper" Targaryens are inbred, and Jon would not be a proper one. So he might not have flame-retardant skin like Dany.

  • Drake||

    Makes hanging around with Dragons kind of dangerous - poor QM.

  • some guy||

    Other Targaryens have burned themselves. One of them immolated himself trying to turn himself into a dragon or something. It isn't clear that "true" Targaryens are always immune to fire. Maybe something has to "wake it up".

  • Tony||

    GRRM: "TARGARYENS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO FIRE! The birth of Dany's dragons was unique, magical, wonderous, a miracle. She is called The Unburnt because she walked into the flames and lived. But her brother sure as hell wasn't immune to that molten gold."

  • Drake||

    There were several indications earlier - scalding baths, picking up the eggs while red-hot - that showed she could not be burnt.

  • Camisard||

    Except he took the Black and isn't eligible for royal/noble status regardless of his parentage. I'm sure he'll be pissed at dad/uncle when he discovers that.

    Of course you do realize that we're arguing about "facts" about a fictional character that the author hasn't committed to yet, and could change at any time he wishes.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    His oath to the black lasts until he dies...

  • ||

    Um Jon Snow is obviously the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targarean.

  • Scotticus Finch||

    I only read the books once, but is Jon Snow not dead? I'm sure he'll warg-hop into something, but still. Kind of seems like his parentage is moot.

  • ||

    Melissandra is around, isn't she?

  • ||

    So G RR martin is going to take a near identical cut and paste copy of Zoroastrianism and not make its prophesied savior born from a virgin?

    In literary terms that is not like putting a loaded gun on the counter and never using it...that is like putting an atom bomb on the counter and not using it.

    What the hell do you think the whole noise we have been reading 100s of pages about "bastards" for? flavor?

  • ||

    He's also repeated the "Dragon has three heads" theme several times. Which means Targaryens always have three children. Rhaegar only has two accounted for.

    But who the hell knows, maybe Rhaegar eloped with Lyanna and never had sex with her and then she just had a virgin birth in his castle, and Ed Stark felt the need to lie to cover up the fact.

  • Camisard||

    Or maybe Ned Stark banged his sister to produce Jon. That would explain him getting all self-righteous about Jaime and Cersei.

  • ||

    Is he supposed to have banged his sister before or after Rhaegar Targaryen "kidnapped and raped" her, setting off a multi-year war?

    Maybe Ned Stark joined Robert Baratheon's side because he wanted to have a guy-guy-girl threesome.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    The most important libertarian lesson from Game of Thrones is that prostitution is legal in Westeros, and it seems to work out OK. Except for that one whore who was given to Joffrey so he could test out his new crossbow.

    Increasingly, the theme of the show seems to be contained somewhere in Tyrion's story to Jaime about their beetle-smashing cousin.

    That scene was far too short. It should have been at least twice as long. /sarcasm

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Pretty much the only scenes outside Kings Lakding not a waste of time were the scenes with the Boltons. Ramsay being legitimized and given Winterfell as a keep is a pretty major development that sets things up for next season.

    Beyond that, the stuff at the Wall is insufferably boring, as are the scenes with Ser Jorah FriendZone and self-righteous Dany.

  • ||

    I was admittedly really, really stoned during the beetle speech, but I was sitting there going WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?

    At least to me, this episode was sort of saying "we don't give a shit about the books any more, so fuck you".

    At least the Oberyn/Clegane fight was pretty good. Should have been longer, to be honest.

  • ||

    The show really should have used more of Gregor. If they were going to spend 8 episodes too many on the 3rd book, why waste the opportunity to have a gigantic rapist psychopath laying waste to everything in his path?

  • ||

    If you're going to bother having a seven foot tall Icelandic strongman on your show, you should probably use him more before he gets poisoned to a slow death.

  • ||

    How I love Hafþór. FOK JAH!

  • some guy||

    "we don't give a shit about the books any more, so fuck you".

    Given that the show is rapidly catching up with the books and that Martin is going to die of a triple heart attack before finishing them, I think they should separate themselves as much as they can.

    Run the show off into a completely different story. Who cares? It'll still be better than whatever Martin's offspring manages to cobble together with Kevin J. Anderson.

  • ||

    The problem is that Martin is a far, far better writer than they are. Their deviations often suck, and do the opposite of things Martin did for a reason. Because he spent years thinking about it.

    That's the worst part of them deviating from the books. They're deviating from the best writer they have.

  • some guy||

    I thought Martin was a producer or something on the show. Is he not involved at all? I'd be surprised if these scripts don't have his approval.

  • ||

    Nope. He does not have final approval (I saw him speak at Town Hall a few years ago and he said this explicitly). He gets to write one episode per season and that's it. And you'll note that his episodes are usually one of the best, if not the best, of the season.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Maybe I should re-read books 4 and 5, because I found them a chore to get through the first time. Sure, I make jokes about the show deviating in a way that allows for more T&A, but after Feast and Dance I'm not buying this idea of GRRM as some kind of literary genius. Maybe the HBO folks are right to change some things.

  • ||

    Reread them, because I stalled hard on book 4 after it came out, but after going back to it having reread book 3 first, they were really quite good.

  • ||

    Book 4 is really good when paired with book 5. He made a mistake in separating the characters, and book 4 suffered for it, because Cersei is not an interesting enough character to carry an entire book.

  • Camisard||

    JRR Tolkien is one of the greatest writers of all time... but if Peter Jackson had followed the books, the LOTR movies would have been a disaster. What works in one medium doesn't necessarily work in another.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Run the show off into a completely different story. Who cares?"

    I've never read any of the books so I wouldn't know the difference anyway - or care.

    The whole thing is starting to drag in my opinion anyway, especially that long scene about mashing beetles.

    The best part of the show is always when Arya is knocking off the people on her "little list".

    As for running the show off into a different story, let's see now..

    When Gregor sticks his thumbs into Oberyn's eyes, Oberyn's body turns silver and transforms into the T-1000 liquid metal terminator from the 2nd Terminator movie. He morphs his arms into razor sharp swords and chops Gregor into a pile of scrap meat.

    Then several Predator alien hunters uncloak from their reflective camouflage and start wiping out all the Lannister guards.

    Finally the omnipotent alien Q from the Star Trek series appears and turns all of the Lanister family into potted plants. He then creates an exact replica of the 1,500 ship U.S. Navy Okinanwa invasion fleet offshore and all the battleships, cruisers and destroyers start bombarding Kings Landing with every gun they've got.

    That'll do for a start.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I don't know. From what I read in the article, it sounds to me like the most important libertarian lesson would be that governments set up around the glorification of the state and ruling class tend to produce a world where life is nasty, brutish and short and where the actual activities that yield long-term economic growth (finance comes to mind) tend to be made to languish.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It was stated outright by Littlefinger that giving a whore over to someone with Joffrey's proclivities was his standard procedure for retiring especially unprofitable girls. So no.

  • JW||

    "He started MONOLOGGING..."

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    So Reason is trolling FoE now? I'm assuming Welch will have the TI thread up any minute now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I will have my vengeance.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    It's a shame Prince Oberyn wasn't more headstrong.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    He'll never be the head of a major corporation.

  • Windypundit||

    My name is Oberyn Martell.

    You killed my sister.

    Prepare to AAAHH! OH GOD! MY EYES! MY EYES!

  • JEP||

    I just kept on thinking "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

  • ||

    How strong do you have to be to rip someones skull apart using the eye sockets for thumb holes?

  • Camisard||

    I'd think the outer edges of the eye sockets would break off before the entire skull cracked open. Maybe we need to see an experiment with the Lord Commander's braincase.

  • Sansos||

    I don't watch the show, so I don't know how the Boltons kill their victim but crucifixion is one of the worst ways to go, there are only a few execution styles that are worse, the one the Persians did with the honey and the boat, the blood eagle(which might not have exsited) and disembowlment which takes a good solid five hours to kill you.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    The Boltons flay their victims alive. (their house words are "Our Knives Are Sharp")

    So that is probably a worse way to go since the flayer purposefully removes as much skin as possible while keeping the victim alive.

  • Sansos||

    Ah thanks.

  • WTF||

    The Boltons flay their victims alive.

  • kibby||

    I didn't know I could love the Boltons any more than I already do -- but the idea of them, particularly Ramsay, practicing scaphism is my new favorite headcanon for them.

  • LynchPin1477||

    What's this Persian honey pot cruise thing? At work, so don't want to consult Google.

  • ||

    Think of it as an extended, gangrenous, smelly rape by insects.

  • ||

    Scaphism

    Wikipedia so it's safe for work.

  • Sansos||

    I'm so glad I've enlightened at least one person.

  • ||

    Burned at the stake I imagine is pretty bad.

  • Camisard||

    Brazen bull FTW

  • Raston Bot||

    Did Ramsay have the ironborn at Moat Cailin flayed? I have not seen ep.8 yet.

  • Drake||

    At least some of them.

  • Game of Thrones fan||

    So do they take the pillar as well as the stones? Why isn't this question answered?

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

  • ||

    FIRST he killed her children, THEN he raped her.
    Get it straight.

  • Camisard||

    I don't see it. GoT is a lesson of "if only the right people were in charge" more than anything else. The Starks and the Night's Watch are statist fantasies.

    The only thing libertarian about GoT is the Iron Bank of Braavos.

    You feel your blood gives you claim on our gold?... Across the Narrow Sea, your books are filled with words like "usurper" and "madman" and "blood right". Here, our books are filled with numbers. We prefer the stories they tell. More plain. Less open to interpretation.
  • Irish||

    Really? The Night's Watch is ludicrously corrupt and prone to insurrections. It's an army cobbled together out of rapists and criminals who attempt to defend Westeros from invasion by barbarians who often only seem slightly worse than the Night's Watch members.

    Night's Watch members took over a town north of the Wall and held the women there as sex slaves for weeks. I have trouble seeing how they're a statist fantasy.

    As for the Starks, it bears mentioning that they all get brutally murdered or otherwise harmed, except for the ones who completely do away with honor. Robb and Ned stayed honorable to the end, and it didn't much help. Jon Snow almost got killed by a drunken knife fighter who explicitly said Jon could never beat him because Snow was too honorable. The only reason Jon Snow was not killed is because a sex slave stabbed the knife fighter in the back. Meanwhile, Arya 'I'd kill Joffrey with a chicken bone' Stark is still alive, largely because of her willingness to forgo honor, and Sansa Stark is hitching her wagon to Littlefinger, probably the most amoral character in the show. Starks with flexible honor live, the rest of them die.

    I fail to see how either of those groups are statist fantasies given that one of them is constantly getting fucked over by their adherence to antiquated chivalry and the other has a large contingent of rapists in its midst.

  • Tony||

    one of them is constantly getting fucked over by their adherence to antiquated chivalry and the other has a large contingent of rapists in its midst.

    Well-put description of the American political parties.

  • ||

    I think House of Cards is more libertarian, but both have a delightfully unromantic view of politics.

  • angus||

    Dragons. Ice Zombies. Justice.

    Competing mythologies of the Game of Thrones.

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