[This is a review of Game of Thrones season 4, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS].
As the world of Game of Thrones becomes a larger and seemingly more diverse place, and as characters spread out, roaming great distances between locations worthy enough of being named and animated in the opening credits, it would seem that the spaces need to be joined by something, just to keep the series from becoming too disjointed. And so, as things progress, it becomes clear no matter how many miles are between this location or that, there is always a single driving notion that manages to unite them. Lately, that notion calls back to last season, when Petyr Baelish first mentioned the idea that “Chaos is a ladder,” and then essentially adopted it as his own personal axiom; something to go along with the black mockingbird from which the episode gets its title.
In that sense, ‘Mockingbird’ is Petyr Baelish’s episode, even though Aidan Gillen only appears in the final moments, to ostensibly prove his maxim by speaking the utter truth one moment – yes, Robin’s mother should have smacked the moon door lust out of him years ago – and then, like flipping a switch, throws whatever good standing his previous sentiment earned him to the wind, by stealing a kiss from young Sansa, seemingly knowing it would provide him with the opportunity to shove his new bride Lysa from the moon door her obnoxious, snow castle-stomping son was so obsessed with.
Now that’s not the move that a Stark would have made in their usually honor-bound way of acting in the world, but, then again, that may be why the Starks are an endangered species in Westeros. If anything, writers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff wisely used this episode to highlight the actions of Petyr Baelish because it was the moment in the season they wanted to illustrate that the world has seemingly been thrown into a state of imbalance, and how those who can manage chaos the way some can wield a sword are the first, and often times, the only ones who will survive, if not thrive.
Sure, the idea that the world is in utter disarray is a common one on the show, but every now and again it’s nice to see the writers demonstrate it, and then underline it as exquisitely as they did during the scene where Arya and the Hound come upon a dying man. The sight itself is nothing uncommon for Game of Thrones, but it is peppered with some of the best dialogue a consistently well-written show has seen in a while. It can be tricky to underline meaning the way Weiss and Benioff did, as the old, dying man talks about the way things used to be, and even explains to Arya why it is that he’s bothering to hold onto a life he knows is literally slipping through his fingers.
It is a poignant scene that segues into an even better one between Clegane and his young captive, but it plays out so memorably because, for a moment, it is just a conversation between three people. No one has a specific agenda –a rarity for this show. The three of them are just talking their way around the idea of death – which Arya sums up by saying it is no better or worse than anything; it’s just nothing. And then things briefly turn chaotic once more, until the order of the moment is restored when Arya slays a man who threatened her in the past. The interchange between the Hound and Arya is incredibly well done, as it points out their understanding of the other – which is seen again when Arya tends to the Hound’s wounds after he regales her with the tale of why his face is burned – but it also emphasizes what the dying man was saying about there being no balance anymore.
And certainly, from the perspective of an old dying man of seemingly little importance, that notion may ring true. It may even be strengthened when the last two people he sees are a child honing her skills as a killer with the man planning to ransom her off. As unbalanced and chaotic as it may outwardly seem, the unlikely duo of Arya and the Hound have somehow made it work.
In fact, a great deal of what makes the episode work so well comes from the small ways individuals make meaning of the chaos or imbalance around them (deliberately or otherwise). Melisandre asks her “queen” to fetch something for her while she bathes and then confesses her witchy potions are mostly tricks intended to deceive men and force them into thinking what she wants. Meanwhile, Jon Snow’s words of warning continue to go unheard at Castle Black. This again ties Jon’s thread in (thematically, at least) with Daenerys’ rule of Meereen, but it also works with what Petyr says to Sansa: “If you want to build a better home, first you must demolish the old one.” Jon could simply let Mance’s army do what needs to be done, and raze Castle Black, and, if he survives, Jon can build a better one.
Allowing others to do what needs to be done, or cannot be done by one person calls to mind Tyrion’s predicament, and his inability to find a champion who will take on the Mountain for him. After Jaime and Bronn prove unsuitable or unwilling to handle the task, Tyrion’s unlikely champion winds up being Oberyn Martell. And, in Game of Thrones fashion, Oberyn’s motives are driven not by a desire to see an innocent man go free, but by a need for vengeance, a need to bring a little order to the chaos of his life.
Game of Thrones will be back on Sunday June 1 with ‘The Mountain and the Viper’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:
Photos: Helen Sloan/HBO