The end draws near, seemingly strong plans are unravelling, noble quests for redemption are faltering and the already grim outlook for the Forrester family is becoming ever darker as the season draws to a close. Game of Thrones has hit its narrative stride.
A Nest of Vipers is the shortest episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series yet, but it certainly packs a lot of story progression into the hour and a bit of playtime it provides. Telltale clearly knows the assumptions that comes with a penultimate episode in the television world of GoT: something staggering and/or awful has to happen. Telltale plays on that here, toying with you in every scene, ensuring you’ll be filled with dread in every scene as ominous sign after ominous sign sets up potential mortal peril for each of the Forresters. By the end, little is outright resolved, but an impact has been made and the concluding episode will have very clear paths to follow.
Head of the House Rodrik ended episode four in typical cliffhanger fashion confronting the downright heartless and cruel Ramsay Bolton and without going any further into the how and the why, there are consequences for Rodrik’s attempted rebellion. Those in House Forrester’s home of Ironrath have a particularly hard time in A Nest of Vipers. The misgivings about Rodrik’s leadership escalate and the treacherous betrayal that has been hinted at in the last few episodes finally comes to a head. The wolf is at the door in terms of the threat to the Family’s lifeblood and ultimately the family themselves.
Elsewhere, Gared Tuttle is used rather briefly, and apart from a plot device forcing his story back on track, it’s another forgettable appearance for the boys beyond The Wall. It does seem like events here will be of great importance in the final episode. It’s just that getting there is proving to be a bit of damp squib as Gared’s story arc blends evermore with Jon Snow’s.
Asher has the standout sections of this episode as this arc continues to improve greatly. Still seeking an army, he puts it all on the line in suitably cocky fashion by trying to recruit recently freed pit fighters to his cause. It’s the most thrilling part of A Nest of Vipers, full of action, sarcastic bantering and some actual character development for Asher. The way he and Gared started the series so differently in terms of personality and storytelling yet ended up heading in the opposite direction over time is fascinating. Especially when the parts with Rodrik and Mira (and to a lesser extent, Ethan) have been so consistent throughout. Still, Gared’s sections aren’t as bad now as Asher’s were before so the entire game has been lifted to greater heights overall since the huge disappointment that was episode two.
Finally, there’s Mira’s continuing adventures in King’s Landing. Like Gared, she takes a backseat to the Ironrath and Mereen plots of House Forrester and Asher, but she’s backed herself into a corner that is far more dreadful/interesting right now than Gared’s plotline. The price for her learning to compete in the deviousness that poisons the very heart of King’s Landing is severe. No matter which side she picks, it leads to the alienation and/or fury of somebody else. The cracks in her novice understanding of the political espionage that surrounds her are all the more apparent in A Nest of Vipers as she grasps desperately at any opportunity to save her family and its legacy. It makes for a brief, but tense encounter near the episode’s climax that doesn’t look like having a pleasant outcome.
Then there’s the actual climax; where something you sense was coming arrives, and thus comes a typical piece of Telltale storytelling that heightens the impact of the closing moments. It’s been a key strength of this series that Telltale’s moral dilemma machine is paired so perfectly with the horrifying brutality of Westeros and abundance of terrible people who can kill with mere words. Conversations have been consistently about putting your characters in their place and punishing them for the slightest mistakes, no matter how noble their intentions may be.
Each time you snatch a small victory, there is always someone or something to quash any short-lived joy you had. Those early concerns about a lack of impactful decisions to be made in the grand scheme of things prove to be inconsequential. It’s not about changing the established world, it’s about surviving it as best you can, and A Nest of Vipers shows just how hard that can be.