You are a mean-spirited man, George R. R. Martin.
A vicious, callous, spiteful, petty, manipulative, vindictive, insensitive, possibly deranged, definitely homicidal piece of work.
You don't just "kill your darlings", oh no, you stick your thumbs in their precious peepers and make their heads explode like ripe pimples YOU BASTARD.
Oh, it's all my fault of course. My naivety, beaten and blunted time after time but still there, still holding on.
For example, I'm in China at the moment and responded to a conversation about a "dog market" with a chirpy "Oh, how lovely, that must be where everyone goes to buy new pets!" and then had to have it explained to me that no, that is not what happens at the dog market, so maybe don't eat that "beef".
I was going to theme this episode "Well, Everything Is Just F---ed Again" because well, everything is just f---ed again, but then a cooler head prevailed and I realised this episode was all about "The Truth": searching for it, never finding it, finding it surrounded by lies, uncovering it, discovering its cost.
Also, because the truth is George R. R. Martin has a stupid face and HBO has a stupider face.
Warning: STANDARD WARNING... but change last line to "... or we'll have your head popped like a water balloon."
Let's start with probably the only nice part of this episode - the blossoming romance between Missandei and Grey Worm.
Grey Worm gets his perve on.
In an altogether too-brief bathing scene, Grey Worm spies his lovely linguistics teacher as nude as a water nymph, the morning sunbeams bouncing off her smooth skin like so many pepped-up ravers. In what can only be described as a shocking move for Game of Thrones, Missandei then exhibits actual physical modesty, covering her body and prompting Grey Worm to slither under the water.
Danaerys doesn't think it means anything; after all, the Unsullied are lacking in certain attributes that are generally involved in taking a romance to the next level. But Missandei is adamant there's an attraction, which leads into a fascinating discussion about exactly what is involved in the creation of a eunuch.
Dany's euphemism of "The Pillar and the Stones" was genius, and certainly better than any of the GoT-themed ones I could come up with: the Three-Headed Dragon; the Khal and Khalasar; The Wall and Watchtowers; Varys' Lament.
Missandei tells Grey Worm she is sorry for what he suffered as a child, but Grey Worm replies that if he hadn't, the course of events that led him to meeting her wouldn't have been put in motion. Awww. When I finally write my Game of Thrones stand-up routine I'll probably put in a line at this point about "Well, all men get emasculated in a relationship anyway, he's just got it out of the way early, AM I RIGHT FELLAS?" but then I'd have to become a stand-up comedian and I just don't think I have enough self-hatred for that.
Besides, I heard that if you cut a worm in half it grows back, so maybe that's what could be going on there.
Meanwhile Dany's comfortable queenly Meereenly life is shaken by the revelation that Ser Jorah Mormont began his time with her as a spy for Robert Baratheon. There was some argy-bargy over the royal pardon clearing him of his past wrongdoings as a slave trader; it was dated years earlier and Ser Jorah doesn't claim it as a forgery, but he does believe it's a Lannister plot. Is that what Tywin meant in episode seven when he said some battles need to be fought with quills and letters?
The result is that for the first time, Dany, so often found staring up into Ser Jorah's eyes in gratitude for his wisdom, refuses to look directly at him. For him, it was the truth but his truth has now changed; he loves her unabashedly and has been loyal to her ever since her dragons hatched. But for Dany it's the opposite; built on lies, their relationship can contain no truth.
She gives him the royal GTFO, banishing him from Meereen and her service. What's to become of Jorah? Back to King's Landing as Dany says, or some other purpose?
The Wildlings have a purpose: kill, kill and kill again. In the latest of the border raids, the Molestown prostitutes receive quite the skewering, and not of the sort they were expecting.
Only Gilly picks up on what's going on - despite her confined existence at Craster's Keep, she's obviously picked up enough about Wildling warriors to know all hell is about to break loose. She grabs baby Sam and hides, but his cries draw the attention of Ygritte, terrifyingly beautiful in full avenging angel mode.
She discovers Gilly hiding, but the truth is not even she can kill a mother and babe in cold blood. Her one line of dialogue - "Shhh!" - is crucial plot-wise. Her mercy will get back to Jon Snow, and it will further complicate their relationship at a time when Jon needs to be able to kill any Wildling that crosses his path (or so I hope).
Sam Tarly is devastated by the thought that the Wildlings murdered Gilly and Sam; his Black Brothers try to reassure him that if anyone could survive it would be her. It's a nice platitude, and they seem to even believe it.
J-Sno and company are drowning their sorrows, not shirtless in a steambath, but with alcohol. Pffft. That's not going to help the senses when Mance Raydar strikes, but sometimes the pain of the truth needs dulling. How will 102 Night's Watchmen hold back the wildling tide?
Theon/Reek's time to shine has arrived, as Ramsay Snow has him pretend to be Theon again to go and claim Moat Cailin for House Bolton from the Iron Islanders who've been holding it for months.
The Kraken Kommander in charge of the besieged castle retains some pride, literally spitting blood at the idea of surrendering. Theon/Reek/Theon is on the verge of cracking up when the Kraken's head is cracked open, and his troops pledge to give up the castle in exchange for their lives.
But Ramsay Snow is as morally bankrupt as an adulterous cane toad who's quitting a lucrative high finance career to go into politics. He has them all flayed, then trots off to present his Daddy with the prize.
Roose Bolton, looking more grizzled with every episode, points out that with Bran Stark likely dead, the huge expanse of the North is now his. He then bestows legitimacy on his bastard son, christening him Ramsay Bolton. I know it had been coming, but it still pained me to see it. That cruel, twisted beast getting rewards for inflicting such pain and terror.
The whole host marches on, towards another castle in the distance - Winterfell? It looked like it, and it would make sense for Roose Bolton to claim the seat of the warden of the North but it looked a lot less smoke-and-fire damaged than last we saw it.
To the Eyrie, where Petyr Baelish (boo! hiss!) is explaining Lady Lysa's death away to a panel of Vale nobles as a suicide. He's not completely convincing, mainly because no matter what he does, everything about him is skin-crawlingly creepy.
Sansa is called before the panel to testify, and the whole process is like watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. She tells the truth about her captivity in King's Landing, her treatment at the hands of the Lannisters, her liberation at Littlefinger's hands and attracting the sudden hatred of her aunt.
And it's only because the truth of what happened to her is so horrific, so unrefutable, that she can begin weaving in lies, filter them through her tears, where they wash out as truths. Baelish only kissed her on the cheek; Lysa stepped through the Moon Door herself. All lies; yet all utterly compelling truth.
In a satisfying yet vaguely discomforting role reversal, Sansa puts herself in charge of Baelish's fate for the first time. Those eyes, looking at him, dropped the biggest truthbomb of all - "You now owe me, bitch" - it was beautifully played.
When Littlefinger questioned Sansa as to why she helped him, her slow, deliberate answers lead him to the realisation that her survival instinct has been so battle-hardened it has now become self-interest. "Better to gamble on the man you know than the strangers you don't", a strategem she could have picked up from Littlefinger's own "How to Be a Creepy Machiavellian Bastard" handbook.
Robin Arryn is packing it at the idea of being packed off to learn how to become a proper lord, but Baelish insists it's what he needs. And sure, I don't like violence against children, but I also can't get too much of a rage on for the inevitable well-placed knife that's surely bound for young Robin's throat.
The lords have also been spurred into action - for too long the Vale itself has been cocooned, but with the right leadership it could blossom. It's frankly a giant metaphor, which can only mean one thing: the rise of Sansa Stark, Uber-Bad-Ass-Take-No-Prisoners Lady of the Vale.
Speaking of metaphors, Tyrion spends his last moments before the trial by combat indulging in one of his own.
He and Jaime reminisce about their cousin Orson, left mentally disabled by a childhood accident, who spent his days crushing beetles in the garden. Tyrion tells his brother about his incessant quest to understand why Orson needed to smash so many tiny creatures, what the point was of all that destruction.
Of course the point is there is no point. It's no accident Orson chose beetles - a creature of which there is an endless supply, and therefore has no value. The families of Westeros, the armies of men, they all bully and crush and pound and destroy and keep doing it until they themselves are kicked to death by a mule.
Tyrion is about to find out if he's the crusher or the crushee.
Yes, it's time for The Big Fight, the one that's been coming ever since Oberyn Martell pitched his tent in a King's Landing whoredello.
The Prince of Dorne was confident enough, snogging his paramour Ellaria with vigour, swigging wine and dismissing Tyrion's concerns that his light leather garments weren't quite armour-y enough.
"Today is not the day I die," he says.
As an aside - was that Oberyn's favoured brothel boy polishing his, um, spear? And would it be possible that this expert in poisons would have dipped the, um, tip, in something deadly? It would give him certainty that the Mountain would die no matter what happened to him.
The fight itself was an exercise in the sublime versus the ridiculous: Oberyn with his balletic leaps and pirouettes, his sunspear turning steel circles in the glinting sunlight; while the Mountain clanked and clanged like a metal Golem.
Martell's speed and agility give him the upper hand, and his repeated mantra about his beloved sister Elia -"You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children" - gives a sense of righteousness to the whole proceedings.
There are grins of relief all around as Oberyn strikes a near-fatal blow. It seems like finally a good guy, a character just new this season but so awesome we feel like we've known him a lifetime, has finally achieved the just revenge we all desperately want.
"You can't die yet, you must confess". No, no, Inigo Montoya, you know the Mountain is guilty. Just finish him. You don't need a confession, you just need his blood.
"Who gave you the order?" he cries, distracting himself and pointing at Tywin Lannister, who remains stone-faced in his chair.
The Mountain sweeps Oberyn's feet out from under him, knocks his teeth out in a shower of blood and pins him to the ground. The Mountain may be dying but he is still strong enough to dispatch Oberyn in the same unimaginably sickening way he murdered Elia - popping his eyeballs with his thumbs and then squeezing the brains from his head.
My screams of despair and disbelief were pretty much the same as Ellaria's - I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it. Oberyn was a hero, and heroes don't die in one-on-one challenges with thoroughly evil villains.
But this is Game of Thrones, and heroes are flawed. Oberyn's flaw was to put so much store in the confession he forgot that this was not the day he was to die. And thus it became so.
And then, as a final insult, Tywin rises to pass the sentence of death on Tyrion, who has never looked more shocked.
Next week is the notorious episode nine, when traditionally Bad Things Happen. But how do they top this? If Oberyn was the character to kill this season, then surely that's done now? I mean, you can't kill Tyrion... can you?
YAY! Best Moments
Arya bursting out laughing after finally arriving at the Eyrie, only to be told her Aunt Lysa - who was going to pay for her freedom - had died just three days before. The girl really knows the right way to really freak out a bunch of soldier lackeys. It was a beautiful release, as Arya revelled in not only the irony of the situation, but the way in which it utterly messed up her captor the Hound's plans.
Please, please, PLEASE let Arya and Sansa reunite next episode. PLEASE. I need something beautiful to happen, and given that Jon Snow still refuses to get his abs out then it must be the sisters doing it for themselves.
Zing! Best Lines
"Come Reek - I'll be needing a bath."
Ramsay Snow celebrates his promotion with some wet work.
Oberyn: "Size does not matter when you are flat on your back."
Tyrion: "Thank the Gods."
While I am delighted that Sansa is finally becoming the Uber Bad Ass I always knew her to be, the sight of her in one of Angelina Jolie's Maleficient costumes gave me the willies.
My name is Natalie Bochenski. You killed my Inigo Montoya, George R.R. Martin. Prepare to die.*
*Not really, that's a bit over dramatic, but I am still very very cranky.