By now, you're probably well aware there wasn't a new episode of Game of Thrones last night. HBO opted to air Ryan Murphy (and Larry Kramer)'s The Normal Heart in the Memorial Day weekend slot instead. The extra wait isn't easy, especially for something so easily spoiled, but every heavyweight bout needs time to be promoted and it doesn't get much heavier than "The Mountain and the Viper." I'll be playing the part of Don King.
To be fair, the fight more than sells itself, especially after the incredible "I will be your champion" scene between Oberyn and Tyrion last week, but there is a lot of history worth refreshing before Ser Gregor Clegane and the Prince of Dorne fight to decide the imprisoned Lannister's fate. The main sequence of events that led to the trial by combat are pretty clear with Cersei blaming her younger brother for the death of beloved King Joffrey.
We all know Tyrion is innocent but that doesn't mean much when your sister is the Queen Regent and she does everything she can (appealing to Margaery's desire for the crown, Oberyn's relationship with his daughters and Tywin's sense of legacy) to ensure that the three judges are on her side. Of course, Tywin didn't need much persuading to begin with because, like his daughter, he's despised his dwarf son since the day he was born. Yes, Oberyn's story revealed this was a long-time coming.
Cersei's always wanted Tyrion dead because their mother died while giving birth. And, since the tale of Tywin's 'monster' was the talk of Westeros, I imagine the Lord of Casterly Rock felt the same way towards his newborn son. It's a heartbreaking reveal because, as Oberyn said, he was just a baby. And the importance of the (Red) Viper's history lesson doesn't end there, it's also the origin story of sorts of the hatred between House Martell and Lannister. Why were Oberyn and Elia visiting Casterly Rock in the first place? Marriage, of course.
The Dornish prince and princess travelled there in hopes that they would wed Tywin's twins and join the two powerful Houses. How powerful are the Martells? Well, Dorne was the only region of Westeros that didn't bend the knee to the Targaryen conquerors, hence their words, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken." You can see why Tywin might like the idea of that alliance and, besides, the Ladies of the Houses were close friends. However, by the time the trip occurred, Lady Joanna had died giving birth to Tyrion and the Lord of Casterly Rock refused both potential matches. He was going to make his daughter the Queen.
And because she was to be queen and already lived in King's Landing with her father, she convinced her brother/loverJaime to join the King's Guard. There goes the Lannister legacy with the 'unmatchable' baby Tyrion serving as a constant reminder. To make matters worse, the Mad King Aerys then chose Elia over Cersei as a wife for Prince Rhaegar. The Martells 'stole' the most coveted match in Westeros right from under Tywin's nose. Remember, he was Hand to the King at the time so he assumed that Aerys would pick his most trusted advisor's child to marry his sought after son. It was a slight that Lord Tywin would not forget.
Fast forward to Robert's Rebellion, Prince Rhaegar and Elia are married with two children and the former has left King's Landing to meet his foes on the field of battle. Robert kills Rhaegar and Tywin, no longer Hand of the King because of the aforementioned events, arrives at the Capital with 'reinforcements.' Once the gates are lifted, the Lannister troops show their true colors and sack the city. Knowing that Rhaegar's heirs would forever be a threat to the throne and looking for a little payback, Tywin orders Ser Gregor Clegane to take care of Elia and her children.
After last week's enlightening story about how The Mountain treats family, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that his way of 'taking care' of the royal family was especially brutal. He killed the kids with his bare hands and wrapped their little bodies in Lannister cloaks before raping Elia and splitting her in half with his great sword. This was Oberyn's sister, niece and nephew. And, of course, an act that the Viper would never forget. That's why he was the only one excited by Tyrion's request for a trial by combat. Cause and effect. Cersei then names Ser Gregor as her champion which brings the Mountain to King's Landing. To the Viper. Let's get ready to rumble!
The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with Episode 8, "The Mountain and the Viper," next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV series was adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.