Every week, I will be reviewing the latest episode of “Game of Thrones,” informed by my reading of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels. My colleague David Malitz, who is new to the story, will be recapping the show on The Post’s Style Blog. This post discusses the events of “Mockingbird,” which aired on May 18.
Over four seasons, we have gotten to know the Hound (Rory McCann), the fearsome younger son of the Clegane family, as a terrifying fighter, a man who refuses the conventions of knighthood, and as the holder of a paradoxical code. We have seen him terrified of fire, furious at the brother who maimed him, and rough with the little girl he is holding for ransom (Maisie Williams). But we have never really seen him sad, not until this episode.
After being bitten, the Hound is badly wounded. In explaining to Arya Stark why he is afraid of the fire that could scar him but cleanse an infection, his mind meanders back this his childhood, and his brother Gregor’s insistence that Sandor stole his favorite toy.
“I didn’t steal it. I was just playing with it,” the Hound tells Arya, sounding shockingly young. “The pain was bad. The smell was worse. But the worst thing was that it was my brother who did it. And my father who protected him. Told everyone my bedding caught fire.”
The children on “Game of Thrones” have been robbed of their youth in any number of ways. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has been brutally sexually harassed before she can come to terms with her own sexuality. Her sister Arya watched their father executed, then embarked on a terribly dangerous subterfuge to stay alive. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was literally sold to a military leader to secure an alliance. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) had to become a king and a war leader before he learned to live independently.
But this week, the line between adulthood and childhood on “Game of Thrones” is blurred in the other direction, too. This is not the first generation of children in Westeros and elsewhere to experience horrible traumas. From the Vale to Meereen, grown-ups everywhere seem to be caught in their pain, and taking it out on everyone around them.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) confesses to his brother that he sabotaged the plea deal Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) set up for him because he could not resist sabotaging their father’s ambitions. He may be a man, and the stakes may be his life, but Tyrion is so scarred by Tywin Lannister’s (Charles Dance) contempt, that “it felt good to take that from him.”
It turns out that Tyrion’s salvation — or at least the renewal of his hope — lies in his childhood, too. Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), who burns with rage for his sister Elia, visits Tyrion in prison to remind the younger man that they met in Tyrion’s infancy. “Your head was a bit large, your arms and legs were a bit small. No claws, no red eyes, no tail between your legs,” Oberyn recalled. “‘That’s no monster,’ I told Cersei, ‘that’s just a baby.’ ‘He killed my mother,’ Cersei said.” The hatred between the Lannister siblings dates to childhood, but the same events first taught Oberyn not to trust Lannister versions of events. That suspicion, combined with Tywin’s atrocities, has at least won Tyrion a champion.
In Meereen, Dany has decided to indulge her rather adult urges, by taking Daario as her lover. But in matters of policy, she is still lashing out from her own sale, and the abuse her brother visited on her.
She tells Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) that she has decided to kill the slavers she previously let live because “The masters tear babies from their mother’s arms, they mutilate little boys by the thousands, they train little girls in the art of pleasuring old men, they treat men like beasts, as you said yourself.” Jorah tries to convince Dany that as she parents her people, she should act to correct them rather than to indulge them. “Herding masters into pens and slaughtering them by thousands is also treating them like beasts,” Jorah tells her. “If you want them to know something else, you’ll have to show them.”
Jorah just barely convinces Dany of the wisdom of his plan. She decides to send Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) to explain that “they can live in my new world, or they can die in their old one.” But Dany spent most of her life as a pawn in someone else’s stupid, entitled plans. Like a pawn, she was sacrificed in dreadful ways. Now that she is a queen, Dany cannot help but relish her freedom to move around the board, to be as deadly as she wishes. It is an understandable impulse, but one with potentially awful ends.
The consequences of living in childhood come to pass in the Eyrie. Sansa lands herself in terrible trouble when, feeling that she is safe, she decides to let herself act like a little girl again. When her intended, the spoiled little Lord of the Vale Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) crushes first the tower of Sansa’s snow replica of her lost home, and then stomps the whole castle to bit, Sansa slaps him. In comforting her, Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) gives into his own childhood fantasy of possessing Sansa’s mother, kissing her.
When her aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) witnesses the embrace, the scene that results is a toxic result of two lives lived in the past. Lysa, has wanted Petyr her entire life, fighting when her father had their child aborted, killing her husband on Petyr’s instructions, luring her own sister into a dangerous trap. She becomes hysterical, dragging Sansa to the Moon Door, confessing all of these past acts as proof of her devotion.
Sansa is only saved by a clever trick and an awful cruelty. Petyr slowly lures Lysa away from her dreadful intentions with sweet words, before landing two fatal blows.
“Oh, my sweet wife. My sweet, silly wife,” he tells Lysa, before telling her a terrible truth. “I have only loved one woman. Only one. My entire life. Your sister.” He may as well have killed her with those words, given how thoroughly Lysa has structured her life around the idea that Petyr truly loves her. And then Petyr kills her for real.
Given what we have seen of Sandor, Tyrion, Oberyn, and Dany, it may have been the kinder thing for him to do. Some scars are just too hard to live with.