[TV] Game of Thrones: Why Oberyn Vs. The Mountain Had to End That Way. A Look at last weeks episode (SPOILERS)
by Jeff Rodgers
First things first – for those who haven’t seen this past Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, it’s best to use that Back button and click yourself back to the main page. Stuff went down, and reading past here means you only have yourself to blame.
At this point, I’m assuming we have all already watched “The Mountain and the Viper” and seen The Mountain go full Gallagher on Oberyn Martell’s head (side note: holy crap). If you’ve been on the Internet at all this week there’s a good chance you know that reactions are rather strong. It’s clear that the fight is this year’s Red Wedding; just visit YouTube and you’ll find the constantly growing number of reaction videos being posted. They’re essentially the same – endless seas of faces, in an equal mixture of shock and disgust – but I can’t get enough of them. Being the dork that I am, I even called up my parents while they watched and made them put me on speaker so I could listen to them react (Dad: laughed. Mom: might have thrown up in her mouth). Some love it, while some have (yet again) sworn to never watch the show again. And on a certain level, I completely understand. Oberyn came seemingly from nowhere this season to instantly became a favorite of nearly everyone watching the show…and why wouldn’t he? With those dashing looks, that Inigo Montoya accent, and a backstory begging for revenge, how could you NOT root for the guy? Loving the character makes made complete sense, and so does every single disgusted reaction to the way he died. Many of the fans have questioned why the show made such a beloved character meet such a gruesome death. What they don’t realize is, that’s the point.
“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” – Ramsay Snow
Lysa Arryn: “You don’t fight with honor!”
Bronn: “He did.”
If you don’t like to read, those two quotes explain everything you need to know – not just about the fight, but about the show itself. Both the show and the books have repeatedly made it clear that those who believe in abstract concepts like “honor” and “righteousness” are blind to how the world really works, and those beliefs get them killed. Tyrion’s first trial by combat pitted Bronn against Sir Vardis Egan, and the second quote listed above goes to show the place honor has in a fight: the man without honor stands, while the honorable man is falling out the Moon Door. Everything Ned Stark did revolved around honor and justice, and what good did that do him? His son Robb is a bit more complicated – he agreed to wed any one of Walder Frey’s children. It’s clear Lord Frey didn’t care which one, he only cared about the power of having a queen for a daughter. When Robb slept with Talisa (or Jeyne Westerling, for the book readers), the smarter/better move would have been to keep her as his girl on the side, and still marry a Frey daughter. It would have kept them both alive, and he may very well have won the war. Instead he broke his word and married Talisa/Jeyne. It’s interesting because in a sense he sacrificed his honor, but only to preserve HER honor; in his eyes that was the more noble thing to do, and that sense of nobility was 100% what got him killed. In short, good people are basically the toilet that the rest of the world sits on. They’re flushed like sewage, while everyone else gets to stand up and walk away.
(Artist Recreation of the Fight)
Then you have Prince Oberyn – he (and by association, the land of Dorne) are basically the hippies of Westeros. Unlike the rest of the continent the Dornish don’t accept rape as a fact of life, and in fact are disgusted by it. Bastards are not thought of as being any lower born than trueborn children – Oberyn tells (I believe) Tywin as much, being in love with a bastard and having a few of his own. Noble birth makes little different to the people of Dorne, and you can bet Jon Snow would have given a body part or two to have been born on the other side of Kings Landing. It’s yet to be mentioned in the show, but the books emphasize that Dorne already has the equivalent of womens’ rights; in the rest of the world women cannot own land or inherit wealth, but Dorne officially recognizes women as complete equals to men. Hell, Oberyn even made what is easily the most convincing argument for bisexuality I have ever heard. By modern day standards, Dorne is easily the only part of Westeros that doesn’t deserve a U.N. war tribunal. And why was he so desperate to fight and kill The Mountain? He wanted justice for the rape and murder of his sister.
So it only makes sense that when the good and noble men of Westeros get horrible, gruesome deaths, the best and most noblest man must get the most horrible and gruesome death. And boy, did he. Had he simply gotten his head cut off, or had the camera cut away from the gore of his gouged eyes and smashed head, the effect would have been completely different. As viewers our reaction would have been nothing more than an unemotional “too bad he died, but what a cool fight!” We needed the full-on gore to shock us, so we could be horrified by what was done to this character too good for the world we live in.
My coworker next to me mentioned that he went into the episode thinking to himself, “come on, we need one for the good guys.” Unfortunately that’s not how this game is played. And if you think this has a happy ending…well, you know.