With season five of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ fully underway, a look back at one of the standout emotional scenes from the previous season, featuring two of the series’ finest performances thus far…
Game of Thrones
Dir: Alik Sakharov
Original Air Date: 18 May 2014
For all the thrills and spills that occur during the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a single moment of quiet, chilling, altogether highly emotional conversation is what moved me the most. The penultimate sequence of e07, “Mockingbird”, sees Tyrion Lannister alone in his cell, contemplating his seemingly hopeless situation after the bad news that, having demanded a trial by combat in his quest for innocence verses a charge of regicide, his friend and associate, Bronn, will not fight on his behalf against the invincible Lannister warrior Ser Gregor Clegane, known as The Mountain. Thinking himself as good as dead, Tyrion receives a visit from the Red Viper, Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne, who has, shall we say, a rather prolonged beef with The Mountain…
Everything here is essentially perfect. The scene is a culmination of all the very best aspects of GoT as a whole, in terms of technicality (the lighting and score in particular), creativity, and execution. Elevating things still further is the tight, well-managed manner of transition from page to screen, a process that, while usually ideal, has sometimes inspired mixed feelings throughout the series amongst those who’ve read the books prior to viewing. Thankfully, that is not the case here. Indeed, while the order and general depiction of events differs from A Storm of Swords, the writing here is inspired, with David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss fine-tuning the dialogue with a deep, wonderfully condensed mix of exposition, character development, revelation, and wit.
The real standout of the piece however, is the performances. Peter Dinklage, alongside Chilean-born US television veteran Pedro Pascal – an inspired choice for Oberyn – turn in arguably two of the finest examples of acting during the series to date. As things build it’s a relatively staple portrayal of both characters, but gripping nonetheless as each edges toward the finale in a well-measured display of restraint before relief, matching that of the long-suffering words they speak. In particular, Pascal’s delivery of the line, “’that’s not a monster’, I told Cersei, ‘that’s just a baby’”, is so knowingly deliberate in displaying outward disappointment at the spectacle before him all those years before, but also so entrenched in subtle disgust at Cerci’s view point, that you can almost see the young Oberyn speaking it, such is the vividity with which he tells such a heart-breaking anecdote.
Dinklage picks up where he left off at the end of the previous episode directed by Alik Sakharov, who again takes the helm here, at which point his towering courtroom speech had viewers holding their collective breath. His reactions throughout are fantastic, forever intrinsically hardened in their demonstration of Tyrion’s rapidly racing, ever increasing range of negative emotions, churning in his conveyance of bitter, depressed, hopeless facial expressions, intercut with the character’s always spot-on penchant for sarcasm, even at his lowest ebb.
It’s the final minute or so however, when we all inevitably choke up a little. “And what about what I want?”, asks Oberyn, “…justice” – ah, shit is about to get real, as there’s no way in the light of the Seven that this isn’t leading somewhere epic, somewhere definitive. The reason why the design of the scene, the writing, and the portrayal of the characters works so well comes to the forefront with a vengeance here – quite literally. Oberyn carries on in spite of Tyrion’s continued pessimistic outlook, revealing that he is in the ideal location, indeed, the ideal situation for justice. At this point the score takes everything up, as both Tyrion and the swept-up, non-book reading audience begin to realise where Oberyn’s dark philosophical reminiscence might be going. Oberyn completes his long simmering reasoning with a tear in his eye as he remembers his murdered sister; before we cut to Tyrion, tense with disbelief, holding his breath, waiting for Oberyn to say the words… I will be your champion. Upon hearing them uttered, Dinklage’s response is masterful, his expression alone revealing the uncontainable outpouring of emotion, a simultaneous sense of relief, joy, and quiet hope, in a manner no words could possibly match.
One of the great moments of the series, such sterling performances from Dinklage and Pascal are truly worthy of two of the most interesting characters to come from George R. R. Martin’s word processor.