‘Game of Thrones’ 4.08 Recap: “The Pillar and the Stones”

Did ‘Game of Thrones’ foreshadow the plot twist in this week’s episode a little too heavily a few weeks back? The scene played out much as I expected it to. I’m not sure whether I would classify that as a disappointment or not.

Do you remember the scene in Episode 5 where the Hound caught young Arya practicing the fancy swordplay that Syrio Forel had taught her? Unimpressed, the Hound ridiculed her dancing around, and demonstrated how useless all that prancing and elaborate footwork were in the face of brute strength and good armor. Even at the time, his lesson in this scene stood out as something that would come back around again.

New episode ‘The Mountain and the Viper’ climaxes with the trial by combat between the monstrous Gregor Clegane and Tyrion’s champion, Prince Oberyn of Dorne. Oberyn has wanted revenge against the Mountain for the murder of his sister, and enters the battle far too cocky. As he fleetly runs circles around the hulking Clegane, nipping away at him little by little, knocking his helmet off and slashing his leg, I knew where this was going. Oberyn eventually brings Clegane to his knees and stabs him in the chest, but holds back a killing blow until the Mountain confesses to his crimes. Tyrion allows himself a measure of hope. However, as I feared, the Mountain was playing possum. When Oberyn’s attention is distracted by the crowd, Clegane grabs his leg, drags him to the ground, and knocks all his teeth out with a sledgehammer punch. Then gleefully admitting to the atrocities that he’d been accused of, the Mountain crushes Oberyn’s head in his beastly hands, pulverizing his skull in a gruesome mess.

Oberyn’s lover Ellaria screams in horror. Tywin Lannister immediately stands and casts judgment, sentencing Tyrion to death. Needless to say, the Half-Man is in a whole lot of deep shit now.

Unclear (to me, at least) is whether the Mountain will survive this fight to walk away, or will succumb to his injuries and also die. If the Mountain dies, does Tyrion have a legal claim to challenge the outcome of the combat as a draw?

Everything Else

  • The Wildlings and cannibals ransack Mole’s Town, the village where Sam had left his girlfriend Gilly and her baby. Ygritte finds them hiding in a closet and lets them live. However, Sam assumes that they’re dead when news travels back to Castle Black.
  • Ramsay sends Reek undercover as his old self Theon Greyjoy to a castle still held by a garrison from the Iron Islands. Cut off from the rest of their army, the soldiers are sick and starving. Theon tells them that if they surrender to the Boltons, they will be let go to return home. When their leader refuses, another man kills him and takes the offer. Of course, Ramsay slaughters the men anyway. Having successfully reclaimed the castle, Ramsay is rewarded by his father, who names him an official Bolton (Ramsay is a bastard) and his son.
  • Baelish is made to answer to a trio of elders at the Vale, who have many questions about Lysa Arryn’s alleged suicide. They find the details of his story suspicious. Sansa (parading as his niece) is called to verify his story as a witness. She reveals her true identity. However, rather than rat Baelish out, she puts on quite a show about how he saved her from King’s Landing, and how Lysa leapt through the Moon Door in suicidal depression caused by unfounded jealousy. Sansa later tells Baelish that she did it because she knows what he wants (i.e. her), clearly implying that he can get her what she wants (a return to status). Bealish is impressed. Sansa may finally be smartening up.
  • The Hound and Arya arrive at the gates of the Vale, where they’re informed of Lysa’s death. Arya cannot help but break out laughing at the eve-escalating irony of her situation. Not shown is whether they’re allowed to enter the Vale or get turned away (probably the latter).
  • Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys’ translator Missandei catches Grey Worm peeping on her while she bathes. She and Daenerys wonder just how thorough his castration as a boy may have been. In a rather touching scene, Grey Worm apologizes to her and explains that he’s actually grateful for having been castrated, because if he hadn’t been, he never would have become an Unsullied, and fate never would have brought him to Daenerys and Missandei.
  • Meanwhile, Barristan Selmy receives a letter informing him that Jorah had been pardoned by Robert Baratheon for his role in spying on Daenerys. The letter was clearly sent by Tywin to divide them. Nevertheless, Daenerys is really pissed and exiles Jorah.

I must confess that I actually am a little disappointed in the Jorah storyline, which feels very contrived. The situation could have been cleared up if the characters would just talk to each other.

Otherwise, however, this is another good episode, even if Oberyn’s fate was perhaps too predictable.


  1. I don’t think there is any room for reason when it comes to Daenerys and Jorah. As far as she knows Jorah is the reason she lost Drogo, her baby, and the khalesar. Her love of all three if those was enough for her to kill him.
    As far as the trial by combat, I’m pretty sure they can’t have a draw. It is probably whoever dies first decides the ruling. That whole fight is exactly how I had imagined it. I didn’t pick up on the foreshadowing from the Hound because the dancing around that Oberyn does led to him besting the Mountain. It was his blind need for justice that got him killed. Stupid Oberyn. Still one of the best characters in the books.
    It’s awesome looking at the consequences of certain events in the series. What will come of the death of a beloved Dornish prince at the hand of the Lannisters? Exciting!
    Heck, if Bran had decided to practice archery instead of climbing that day this would have been a much more boring story! Haha.

  2. The Dany/Jorah ‘breakup’ was the only thing that surprised me this week (as a non-book reader). Both Sansa defending Baelish and the winner of the trial by combat were far, far too telegraphed and predictable. I’m loving this season, but this might have been their worst episode.

  3. Dan

    I feel in part that any “predictability” in this series is due to how past events in the show have proven to be very unpredictable. This show has me guessing the unexpected because, of the fact that it has played off of normal expectations of the genre. Instead of me thinking that justice and the good guy winning, I am now expecting this cliche to be squashed at any opportunity the show has.

    I still think this season is the best so far, I am just not looking forward to a long off season!

  4. Kyle

    The Jorah storyline is contrived because the show made changes previously which required a course correction to bring it back in line with the books. The castle held by the iron-born is Moat Cailin.

    The Arya scene is one of the few times that I’ve actually laughed out loud with the show.

    Episode 9 is entirely at the wall and should be great. I’m hoping it lives up to Blackwater from season two.

    • I’m hoping that the show’s success means they have a much bigger budget than they did with Blackwater! From the preview it looks to be so. Mammoths and giants, hooray!
      It’s been a while since I’ve read book 3, but I was worried that Jorah wasn’t going to be exiled because I remember it coming a lot sooner in the books. Glad they fit it in at least! Haha.

  5. eric hanes

    Even knowing much of the story lines from the book, I have learned that this show still strays enough from time to time to keep you surprised. And, even though the ending of this episode was jump-out-of-your-seat awesome, nothing can beat seeing Arya burst out laughing at the predicament (not in the book for sure)… that was one of my favorite scenes this season even though it was so quick.

    I too knew something had to come along and course correct the Jorah story line, but I was hoping it wouldn’t, I was hoping they would atleast hold out for a more stressful event when his spying was revealed. Instead it happened now when nothing much mattered, it might as well of happened much earlier, like in the book… this way definitely felt contrived.

    Most of the “roadtrip” story line with the Hound and Arya is new (aka not in the book) but I have welcomed that change and they have done a great job with that and given some character and story moments. The show is also doing a good job building up the characters of Tywin Lannister (whom I despise) and Jamie Lannister who play minor roles in the books.

    The worst character moments are the stupid meaningless exchanges with Missandei and Grey Worm and then any thing with Sam and Gilly… who freakin cares about these characters… I cringe every time I have to sit through scenes with them in it.

  6. Timcharger

    Josh: “Unclear (to me, at least) is whether the Mountain will survive this fight to walk away, or will succumb to his injuries and also die. If the Mountain dies, does Tyrion have a legal claim to challenge the outcome of the combat as a draw?”

    This tie scenario was also my reaction. And I felt cheated.

    With Oberyn’s cockiness, you knew he was going to fail. But we also know that Tyrion can’t die, too. Whose fate is tied to Oberyn. If it is a tie, I guess that works. But it’s not satisfying for me.

    And the Mountain’s confession, that was weak. We all believed that he did commit the horrible acts. The important question is whether Tywin Lannister ordered the Mountain to do it or not. And thus, that confession had no significance.

  7. Timcharger

    “Ygritte finds them hiding in a closet and lets them live.”

    I didn’t like this. Ygritte character is being wishy-washily written.
    Earlier (don’t know how many episodes ago) the Wildlings attacked
    other villages south of the Wall. And Ygritte killed plenty of mothers
    and fathers of young kids/babies. Guess the other mothers weren’t
    bigger characters like Gilly is.

    Either Gilly and her baby are going to be more important characters
    in the series, or Ygritte is being setup to appear as a “good gal” to
    get our sympathies for her upcoming death.

  8. Timcharger

    “Ramsay is rewarded by his father, who names him an official Bolton.”

    What?! It’s that easy? Roose just has to say so. I guess he handed Ramsey
    a document. Ramsey’s ID card now a new last name. Striked out: Snow.
    New last name: Bolton?


    This reminds me about the foolishness that Ned Stark went through to
    get a document signed by King Robert to have a “true heir” inherit the
    throne instead of Joffrey. And Cersei simple tore up that piece of paper.

    Piece of paper makes Ramsey a Bolton? Will the people under their rule
    or allies to House Bolton simply adopt Ramsey as the heir? The culture
    of the land and laws of Westeros aren’t going to be changed for bastards
    simply because Roose gave Ramsey a piece of paper.

    I can’t imagine that Ned Stark wouldn’t do the same for Jon Snow, if it
    were so easy.

    • Timcharger

      And the Greyjoy garrison WAS sick and starving.
      Didn’t seem like a very difficult task to reclaim
      Moat Caitlin. Not so difficult to be worth of a
      change to one’s birthright.

  9. Timcharger

    “Sansa may finally be smartening up.”

    I would like to think that. But I’m not too sure. In that scary,
    volatile situation with Lysa threatening to throw her to her
    death, Sansa may be helping Baelish because he helped to
    solve Sansa’s fear of her crazy aunt. I’m not convinced that
    she has long-term plans thought out.

    Also, revealing that she is a Stark may not have been most
    wise. Though the Starks and House Arryn had good history,
    Sansa must remember that most of realm suspect her for
    the death of King Joffrey, so the more people that know who
    she is, the greater her life is threatened. Plus, her connection
    to the House Arryn was her aunt, who is now dead. So she
    shouldn’t have any conviction that House Arryn would aid a
    Stark. The Lannisters have won or allied against all except the
    Greyjoys, so if House Arryn supports Sansa Stark, they will be
    taking on a big risk.

  10. Timcharger

    Josh: “I must confess that I actually am a little disappointed in the Jorah storyline, which feels very contrived. The situation could have been cleared up if the characters would just talk to each other.”

    Agree. Though the show did give some screen time to them talking it out.
    And that it wouldn’t be an easy bridge to cross. But given the strategy of
    King’s Landing current occupants, Daenerys should realize that this
    anonymous letter being sent must have an ulterior motive.

    And since Jorah isn’t dead, he must make a “surprising” return later in the


    And speaking of searching for ulterior motives, I am disappointed that none
    of the characters are really seeking the truth of Joffrey’s poisoning. Tyrion
    isn’t scheming (granted, it’s hard to do so behind bars). Jaime believes
    Tyrion isn’t guilty, but ISN’T seeking the real culprits. I think Tywin doesn’t
    really think Tyrion did it, but it doesn’t look like the head-brain of the
    Lannisters is pursuing the truth. And speaking of purveyors of information,
    Varys (who is motivated to realm stability) hasn’t had any screen time
    playing detective to the Joffrey murder. Varys is clearly the character with
    the most resources and motivation to discover the true murderer of the
    King. Maybe this happens later in the series, but with Tyrion’s trial by
    combat at hand, it seems like the detective work is slow or poorly written
    by the show.

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