It's Those Who Have Read the Books vs. Those Who Have Not.
Sure, many of us are familiar with this dilemma when it comes to movies, and we know that reading first often leads to disappointment with the inability of film to come to grips with the best set designer, casting director, and FX artist ever—imagination. There have also been many instances of books turned into television where the video version is enough out of alignment with paper that it's a completely different experience. Fans of Jackson Brody who tune into Case Histories, or Longmire who tune into, um, Longmire, know that plot, dialog, and tone overlap with the text only occasionally.
But with Game of Thrones, there's been pretty decent—though far from perfect-fidelity to the source material ... which means that Those Who Have Read face a whole different set of emotions from Those Who Have Not. It's anticipation vs. shock. It's dread vs. horror. It's ... well, it's time to go inside.
Lots of territory to cover. Up at the wall, we find that those pesky Wildlings are still raiding villages near Castle Black, which allows the only two female characters in the north who we know by name—Ygritte and Gilly—to momentarily come face to face. Ygritte, who still seems to be carving "you know nothing, Jon Snow" into every civilian south of the Wall, takes a break from killing long enough to let Gilly live. The response to the raiding among the men of the Night's Watch is another iteration of "we dare not go out and face them" which is probably true, but unsatisfying.
Way over to the Vale we go, where Littlefinger is defending himself against highly justified suspicion that he had something to do with Crazy Lysa's plummet through the Moon Door. For a delicious moment, Littlefinger's life is in Sansa's fingers, and it looks as if Lady Sansa might have decided to put paid to Petyr. However, as it turns out Stark Daughter #1 has actually been a pretty good student of lying-according-to-Littlefinger. She makes up a story and she makes it up quick, casting Littlefinger as a hero and saving him from taking a quick flight to the ground.
Afterwards, Sansa does a little alteration to some of Aunt Lyssa's wardrobe and comes swooping down the staircase in a gown that would do credit to Maleficent. It's clear that Sansa now thinks she has Littlefinger's number, and that her slender young charms are at the top of Petyr's want list. However, I'm willing to bet that...
Over in Meereen, it's time for Jorah Mormont to fess up: Way back at the beginning of his relationship with Daenerys, he got close to her only because he was playing spy for now long departed King Robert. Even the apparently insightful save that Mormont made when he prevented Dany from drinking poisoned wine, is a lot less insightful when he knew that Robert was sending agents her way. Though it's clear that Mormont long ago dropped the spying and fell (hard) for the Mother of Dragons, Dany is not in a forgiving mood. Poor Jorah is driven from the city, and pauses only long enough to give a wistful look from the outskirts of Meereen as he rides away.
While we're across the sea, we get one interesting scene between the noble leader of the Unsullied, Grey Worm, and Dany's beautiful adviser, Missandei. Where the show is going with this scene isn't quite clear, but there's an interesting implication here. People tend to think little about Grey Worm's personal goals because he, like all the Unsullied, is a eunuch. However, it's clear that his motivations aren't as limited as some of the others might believe.
And as it happens, we have another eunuch in this story. One in a prominent role back in King's Landing. One who, just last week, cast what appeared to be covetous glances toward the throne. Hmmm.
So ... speaking of King's Landing, let's get ready to rummmmmbbbbllleee!
This week the main event is just that: The mano-e-montaña face-off between Prince Oberyn Martell and Ser Gregor Clegane. The fight is technically to determine the guilt or innocence of Tyrion Lannister (yah!) in the death of King Joffrey Lannister (boo!). However, Oberyn has a very different motivation.
Oberyn's lady love, Ellaria Sand, is shocked to see the sheer size of the Mountain as the two prepare to fight, but the Prince of Dorne is undaunted. He can't wait to start jabbing at his massive opponent. Darting about the sand with speed, skill, and a style that just looks so damn cool, Oberyn seems more than a match for the human landform. The Red Viper lands several blows, quickly turning the Mountain into a volcano of frustration.
However, that doesn't mean the Mountain is not as dangerous as he is huge. As Bronn said when Tyrion was trying to talk the mercenary into playing Oberyn's role, you can dodge a lot of blows, but when facing someone like the giant Clegane, one stroke of his oversized sword is all it takes.
As the fight goes on, Oberyn absorbs considerable punishment, but he always gets back on his feet before the Mountain can land a decisive blow. And he never relents in his true cause—trying to get the Mountain to confess to the rape and murder of Oberyn's sister, Princess Elia Targaryen, and the murder of her children. Oberyn also wants the Mountain to point out Tywin Lannister as the person who ordered those murders.
Finally, with both Oberyn and the Mountain getting battered, the Prince is forced to put the massive knight down. Driving his spear into the Mountain's chest, Oberyn strides around the fallen man in a fury. Now it's his turn to be frustrated. He screams again and again at the Mountain to confess as he lies bleeding and apparently dead.
Only he's not dead. And what happens next ... let's just say that Ellaria wasn't the only one who screamed at the conclusion of the fight.
Tywin wastes no time in declaring his youngest son guilty and Tyrion is led off to prepare for his execution.
Now, back to that Those Who Read vs Those Who Didn't conflict. Those Who Didn't may be cheered to know that this week there were enough changes between the books and the show that the readers were also left gasping in shock. For the most part, the results of events stayed true, but whether it was Sansa's claiming her name in front of the Lords of the Vale or the details of the brawl in the arena, there were enough differences to keep everyone on edge. Which is a nice feeling—except for that pop-crunch sound. I could really, really have done without that pop-crunch sound.