It’s the end! Woe! What are we to do now?
After an episode like Blackwater, I was pretty spot on about the finale being the episode to pick up the pieces. Parts of it were exciting, but it didn’t match the heart-stopping pace of the previous episode. My hunch about not returning to King’s Landing was wrong from the get-go, so shame on me. Maybe I’m too used to the stunts network TV pulls; drawing cheap cliffhangers is the go-to finale move!
Because there were so many things to resolve and introduce before the season closes, we practically zip to more places in a single episode than usual. I don’t want to wait until next year, so I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s just kibbles and bits flung carelessly into the open.
Tyrion awakes not quite the Quarterman, but Three Quarter-Faced. He screams for Podrick, and orders him to tell Varys and Bronn that he is very much alive. Throughout the scene, we get Pycelle basically going, “Nanny nanny poo poo!” at poor bedridden Tyrion, who learns that Stannis got pwned and that Papa Lannister kicked him off his own Hand post. The shitty chambers he’s in is where he’ll take permanent residence. To rub salt in the wound, Pycelle bitchslaps Tyrion by mocking him with a silver stag, revenge for when Tyrion banished him to the dungeons and cut his pretty white beard.
Sometimes I really love the way the show makes a point. We cut to the hooves of Tywin Lannister’s horse, taking a dump at the very doors of the Iron Throne’s chamber. Of course, it takes literal horse shit to prelude and signal the start of the metaphorical horse shit that’s about to go down in the room. I will forever remember this comparison.
Tywin returns to his rightful role of Hand of the King, doing all that is proper and following the standard operating procedure of kissing Joffrey’s ass. It’s clear that he thinks that it’s all, well, horse dung. But grandpa does it anyway, even if he has to humble himself in front of his cowardly, childish grandson. Doing what needs to be done. Bah, he can pull on Cersei’s or Tyrion’s puppet strings, no problem. As he exits on horseback, probably seething inside at having performed the Realm’s most humiliating and useless niceties, the mummer’s farce continues as Joffrey decides to grant Petyr Baelish the lands and riches of Harrenhal to him and his descendants for tying together Lannister and Tyrell, thereby saving his chicken ass. Baelish cracks a lame joke about needing to find himself some heirs and all in the hall laugh. Meh. Slime and slime makes more globules of despicable slime.
He also commends the bravery of Ser Loras Tyrell. Lending a hand to the king’s cause grants him a single wish from Joff. It should have been Loras telling him to come closer and then cutting his head off. This kid is alive way too long.
I find it particularly strange that there isn’t more contempt in Joffrey when regarding Loras; he had been serving one of the strongest opposing contenders to the Iron Throne, only conveniently jumping ship long after Renly’s death. And Joff strikes me as the type to be harsh and cocky about it, whereas now he seemed sort of genuine in his gratefulness, instead of making it a case of going-through-the-(horse-)motions.
Loras points out that his sister Margaery is still a maid, more obvious in his hurt over Renly’s death than she obviously is. I’m surprised that he isn’t relieved that Renly couldn’t get it up for anyone else. A bloodcurdling, slimy exchange of flowery flattery takes place between Joff and Margaery. They’re kind of perfect for each other, aren’t they? Natalie Dormand is really impressive at showing scheming eyes and playing an innocent suck up. Also, I have no idea why her wardrobe always consists of boob crushing, plunging neckline dresses. I have never seen any other woman in Highgarden (or the show, or any other woman who isn’t a prostitute for that matter) dress like that. It’s not terrible, but I suppose it has something to do with her constant need for adoration and admiration from everyone else.
Joff has a go at wearing a bit of honor but it fits him like Tyrion might fit the Mountain’s mail. He mentions his betrothal to Sansa, but Cersei quickly interjects with the help of Maester Pycelle, to render the promised union between Stark and Baratheon null. Every time they talk about Ned’s treasonous behaviour I really want to go rampant. It’s like a finger in the wound. Grr! Stop it!
All this while, Sansa tries to look forlorn as she is publicly being put aside. The hall murmurs the controversy of Joff’s decision to marry Margaery. But Sophie Turner is so good. When the meeting adjourns and she breaks out into the most child-like, excited smile, it’s like a beam of sunshine just tore itself through my body. Free of the beast at last! Also wonderful are the juxtaposing looks cast toward Sansa by the Tyrell siblings; Margaery’s like, “Step aside, ho,” and Loras is more of, “This is bullshit.”
But with a show like Game of Thrones, it doesn’t even take 20 seconds for us to enjoy the moment until Petyr Baelish, who’s giving off creepy, lecherous uncle vibes, rains on the parade. Joff’s not going to let Sansa go like that. And the worst thing? She has to choose again between staying in King’s Landing and getting out – via the new Lord of Harrenhal. Rock and a hard place doesn’t even cut it. He’s clearly projecting his un-reciprocated feelings from Cat onto her daughter. Yuk.
In Baelish’s whore house, the battered Ros nurses her bruises with salve. A cloaked man takes a seat on her bed, and as she begins her seduction routine, we realise that it’s Varys, who has something up his sleeve. Finally, Ros is going to have more purpose, now that the eunuch’s pulling out all the stops to top Littlefinger as the master manipulator in all the Realm. After discovering who he is with an empty ball-grab, Ros, understandably weary about her own safety, has all her fears and issues and sufferings laid bare by Varys, all in the effort to recruit her for his own purposes. I never really liked Ros as a character because she was basically filler, or the convenient Fleshlight standing around to be used for some crazy sexposition. While it did well to make Baelish ultra-contemptible, it did absolutely nothing for her. So thank you Varys, you are the lesser evil amongst Small Council leaders.
Presumably after news of Tyrion surviving reaches his ears, Varys immediately divulges that Ser Mandon Moore was hired by Cersei to chop Tyrion in half. Thanks to Pod, he’s still alive. He asks for Bronn to deliver four of his most loyal men, but sadly for Tyrion, Cersei has kicked the sellword out of his seat of power too. And his hill tribesmen have been paid off by Tywin. And Varys is not going to see him anymore.
Before departing, Varys gives Tyrion the credit he deserves for helping King’s Landing hold its walls. The eunuch takes his leave and allows the dwarf and Shae a moment of privy.
I have warmed up to Shae now, especially with the last episode. She is resplendent in every scene with Tyrion. This one is no different, as she displays both strength, reliability and tenderness, ignoring the terrible gash across his face (I winced as the bandage-removing liken itself to ripping off a bandaid). Shae looks at him without even flinching and is so genuine in skipping town with him, a boat to Pentos, perhaps, since Tyrion is rather terrible at hand-to-hand combat.
But he says he can’t. He wants to run with her, but he’s got a duty to be the support beams to the kingdom’s crazy rulers. He looks totally miserable. I feel a pinch of pity, a bit of warmth, when he recites all the things he’s good at because those are the only things he has that will keep him alive. Still, Shae refuses to leave him, which makes him burst into tears. There is touching viola singing in the background.
On the Road to Riverrun:
Brienne and Jamie are having a good meaningful chat about Brienne’s popularity with the boys back home. I love how Brienne doesn’t show a smidgen of being interested, and takes none of his Lannister bullshit. In fact, her deadpan responses are the best thing about her right now, because if not, we’ll be stuck with a very stubborn, very honorable woman, and we have enough of those types walking around Westeros. She is fiercely loyal to Catelyn Stark, so Jamie, better not run your mouth about it.
They stumble upon three hanging bodies of women who’ve bedded Lannister soldiers. Brienne wants to at least bury them, which Jamie advises against, but too late, three of the men responsible for stringing the corpses up return to the scene of their crime. They are sexist and annoying and obviously cruel, as one admits to giving two out of the three hanging girls quick deaths. What I love here is that our Maid of Tarth hints at being used to the bullying, yet it still hurts her every time. And we have a peek of the psychology of the character – she always reminds herself of the task at hand, never straying from it because of the distractions of others. She forces herself to determine her own worth on her own terms instead of letting others have the right to name her purpose or who she is as a person. Tough on the outside, really fragile on the inside.
The goons question Jamie and Brienne’s travelling itinerary and they play up the story very nicely until one of the men’s suspicions traps them. He recognizes the Kingslayer’s face from the Battle of the Green Forks (hinting that he’s a Northman). So he makes them say Jamie’s fake name at the same time. Instead, Brienne cuts down two of them quickly, and saves the painful, slow death for the nosiest, most cruel one. Even Jamie is visibly surprised, and nothing really suprises him anymore. She proceeds to take the corpses down to finally bury them.
In Stupid Robb’s Tent:
The Young Wolf’s dug himself a grave by marrying Talisa. And Catelyn is past mad. In fact, she’s just disappointed and the next step is lost on her. Walder Frey isn’t going to be happy that Robb broke his promise to wed his daughter. That guy has like 20 sons.
The problem I have with this scenario is that Talisa and Robb’s relationship is dull as a withered leaf of cabbage. It’s unconvincing. I feel unsatisfied that we’re not made to root for the only son of Ned who’s actually capable of avenging his death. If anything, it feels more like Catelyn’s story rather than Robb’s story, where she has to deal with a reckless son making mistakes of youth. This failure on Robb’s part makes me really sad, because 1)Talisa isn’t even interesting, 2)as previously mentioned, avenging Ned’s death is slipping away, 3)Catelyn has to deal with another mess again. To look at it in a deeper perspective, it should remind her of Ned more than anything – the one mistake he made (which made Jon Snow) ruined them forever, and she had to live with that for the rest of her life.
Mum rationalizes with Robb the importance of an arranged marriage and the role love plays in it. But obviously, Robb doesn’t want that. He knows what he wants and he’ll have it his way if it’s the last thing he does. He even has the cheek to ignore the meaning of his father’s death and use the setting of Jamie Lannister free against her. Ouch.
Much later, Robb takes his rebellion a step further by marrying Talisa in secret, in the weirwood. Good luck with the Freys.
By the Painted Table in Dragonstone:
Stannis Baratheon is mad. Very mad. Melisandre is asking herself what went wrong with her reading. She saw it in the flames, his victory, so why are they still standing here in defeat?
The losses he suffered now stand heavy on his shoulders. His faith in R’hllor is shaken. She makes a blase comment on war, and he takes offense – so much that he strangles her. “Where is your God now?” he demands.
“Inside you,” Melisandre replies. When she raises her hands in submission, it almost makes sense. Stannis regrets Renly’s death by her Shadow!baby, but she quickly quells the doubt and warns that it’s only just begun, and he’s going to turn his back on everything he once knew. “But it will all be worth it.”
Then she drags him over to a flame and makes him have a vision through it. No one sees anything, really. They are, however, convinced.
Many minutes are spent on Theon’s freak out. Maester Luwin doesn’t want to be here, especially with the knowledge that his favourites Bran and Rickon are still alive. The war horns are blasting through the walls of Winterfell, threatening an attack.
Boohoo, Theon. You’re feeling displaced because you were a hostage living comfortably within Winterfell walls instead of being a disappointment in Pyke with your father? Your father was a jerk. I guess this really stems from his inherent need to truly belong to somewhere he can call home. Luwin notices too, and advises him to run. He’s probably heard the story of how he’s the outcast more times than we viewers have.
He offers an alternative suggestion; join the Night’s Watch, where no one will give a shit what you did or where you came from, and you’ll have purpose. At this point, I feel a pang in my heart because a mention of joining the Night’s Watch reminded me of how Ned was supposed to join the Night’s Watch. Ugh. It hurts.
Luwin also hints that there are other ways to get out of Winterfell, if Theon were to take up his offer. As if speaking to a little boy, Luwin appeals to his sense of familiarity to get him to take the honorable route of redemption, but to no avail when Theon heads out and tries to inject some pep into the Ironborn troops.
They return the favour by knocking him out and dragging him away. Luwin tries to intercede but Dagmer Cleftjaw sticks his spear in the old man’s side. ):
Some time after, Osha and the boys creep their way back into the town, which has been razed to the ground by the Ironmen. The dead are strewn everywhere, with only the ashes and cinders of their home fluttering in the wind.
In the distance, Summer and Shaggydog are whimpering at the carnage. As they assess the damage, they find poor Maester Luwin, dying by the heart tree. This scene makes me extra sad. I’m such a weakling. There are two moments in the books when I shed a tear and this was one of them. It’s just so awful. Just a year ago he was testing Bran on his knowledge of the other cities of Westeros, and now he’s accepted his death and he’s trying to play it down in front of the kids. You can just tell how much he loves them like they were his own, always protecting them to the very last breath. I wish they could’ve taken his maester’s chain or something. I never want to forget Maester Luwin!
As Hodor leads them away, Luwin has a final moment with Osha. We learn that she’s grown attached to them too. Interesting, a wildling who’s not proud of her own people. He asks two things of her – protect the Stark boys with her life, and grant him a merciful, quick death. Thankfully, we are spared from seeing this, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
It’s just her and the boys now. They begin their trek to the Wall.
At the House of the Undying:
Dany, Jorah and Kovarro arrive at the foot of the House of the Undying. A place of strange magics, Danaerys proceeds to look for her dragons by finding the entrance to it, and along the way, Jorah loses her.
She’s actually already in the tower with the faint cry of her dragons drawing her to a particular direction with a torch in her hand. I think she’s slightly scared, but even alone, she puts on ever the brave front.
The first door she encounters leads her to an empty room with even more doors – by hearing her dragons’ cries she picks one on the right, entering the snowing chamber of the Red Keep. It looks as if the roof has been ravaged by war and weather, and the Iron Throne sits cold and daunting at the head of the hall. Is this a premonition?
Maybe, maybe not. We get a sense that the House of the Undying is shaping these rooms to appeal to Dany’s base desires of the heart. First it’s to rule the Seven Kingdoms as Queen of the Andals. A most real vision, so real she nearly touches the arm of her throne to prove its existence. But her dragons are calling for her, and she approaches the next temptation, which lies in a tent of animal skin in the midst of a blizzard.
Here she comes across Drogo and Rhaego, her never-born son. She knows that it’s all sorcery, but the sight of her chubby, adorable mixed baby is enough to make her sit and have the family moment she’s always wanted, if only for a little while.
Unfortunately, at the squeaking of dragons, the reality never leaves her; she repeats the words that Mirri Maz Dur cursed her with, “Until the sun sets in the east, and until the rivers run dry, and the mountains blow in the wind like leaves…” Dany never have them back, and she’ll never have a life like this again.
Out of the tent, she is back in the room with many doors. Her real children are chained to the centre stone of the chamber, where Pyat Pree traps her too, starting his doppelganger crap again. Apparently, all the magic of the world is alive now that the dragons have returned to the Realm. He means to keep her here forever.
Not so fast. As the warlock leans in for a closer look at the cutie pies, Dany utters, “Dracaris,” and Drogon lets loose a little jet of flame from its the fire-breathing pipes. Seems like skinny warlocks are highly flammable, probably thanks to his thousand year old robe. You’d think that he’d fireproof himself when he planned on kidnapping them. Amateur. Once the roast gets going, the other two dragon brothers follow suit and fry him alive. The chains crumble into dust, and Dany’s ego is mega-stroked. I am the mother of ALL dragons, it’s plainly written on her face.
We cut to Xaro sleeping soundly, next to… Doreah? An arakh steals away his key/pendant, which wakes the King of Qarth up instantly. Dany, Jorah and some of her Dothraki men are in tow. Doreah tries to explain her way out, but Dany won’t have any of it.
The pendant unlocks Xaro’s famed treasure room, only to find nothing in it. It doesn’t surprise her at all. She thanks him, and throws both her handmaid and the King into the empty vault and seals them inside. By way of apology, she then asks Jorah if all the wares in his house can buy her a vessel. “A small ship,” he replies with a smile. Now Dothraki can loot the entire place like they used to when they were on the great grass plains of Essos.
Danaerys is just happy that she’s with her dragons. She looks unstoppable.
On the outskirts of Harrenhal:
Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry see Jaquen H’gar standing atop a small bluff, watching them. Arya signals for them to wait.
Jaquen, slippery spy, finally meets with her. She’s curious about how he killed the guards and wants to know the trade secrets, but he’s not going to give it away that easily. She’s got to go with him to Braavos and learn, and of course this gets her excited because her ex-swordfighting teacher Syrio Forel made a super impression. Psh! Dancing master. Yeah, that’s something, but to be a Faceless Man, you got to be Da Bomb.
He goes through all the people on her hitlist as a carrot and tells her that she can offer them to the Red God (which might refer to R’hllor, I’m not sure). My hitlist for the show isn’t all that different, really. Arya declines his offer because she wants to find her family first, even Sansa. Even Sansa! Imagine that.
As a result, he gives her “a coin of great value”. It has no monetary worth, but when there comes a day that she needs it, she has to remember the words, “Valar morghulis.” With that, she asks him not to leave, but he’s already left his identity behind. No more Jaquen. He even alters his visage before saying goodbye, and now Arya’s on her own.
In the opposite direction of Castle Black (aka Nowhere):
In single file, the wildlings are marching prisoners Jon and Qhorin Halfhand to Mance Rayder, King Beyond the Wall. Ygritte is giving Jon tips on how to survive wildling life. Jon doesn’t care, he mocks her.
In a bid to make an even bigger scene so that Jon can “do what must be done”, Qhorin steals a blade and takes a swing at Jon’s face. The lead of the host tells the men holding Qhorin back to let them have at it, and Ygritte places the sword she’s holding next to Jon so he can defend himself. The scuffle escalates until Jon disarms him, sparing a moment’s hesitation – then shick, the blade of Jon’s sword goes through the Halfhand like a hot knife through butter. Before he dies, he murmurs to Jon quietly, “We are the watchers of the Wall.”
For those who have missed out on why Jon would kill his own Brother, this is part of Qhorin’s plan to integrate Jon with the wildlings, to gain and gather intel on their community, their leaders, and their knowledge. Conveniently, he used Jon’s inability to kill Ygritte as a sign of treachery to set things in motion so it would be easier for the wildlings to believe that Jon was more wildling than Watcher. And it works.
The leader slices his bindings apart and orders the rest to burn the corpse. Jon is now a free man, one of them. But he’s not happy. He just broke his oath. Now he’s just like all the other bastards in the Realm. Ygritte notices, but doesn’t say anything about it.
A little farther up and he’s at a spot that overlooks the entire expanse of wildling territory. It looks even bigger than Winterfell and King’s Landing combined.
Some Distance from the Fist of the First Men:
Grenn, Samwell and Dolorous Edd are picking up frozen poo that they can use for burning. Sam keeps talking about Gilly, and her admirable strength despite the nonsense she’s been through with Craster. Edd just says it’s most likely the fact that she’s the only girl to ever talk to him that’s making her attractive. Sam delivers a weak comeback, but all is cut short when a horn blast sounds in the frigid air.
Sam thinks it’s the signal for Qhorin Halfhand’s return, but another blast follows. Wildlings, Grenn points out, and draws his sword in preparation. The third blast, and the brothers dash for safety, leaving Sam behind.
A blizzard forms and snow blows harder than ever. Sam surveys his surroundings and notices shadows ahead. Third blast can only mean one thing – wights. He can’t run very far, so Sam decides to duck behind a rock and pray that they don’t find him.
The Others advance in droves with their greenish, pale skin and ice blue eyes. One in particular, rides atop a stallion with half its face hanging out, with an icicle sword. He spots Sam, but for some reason, ignores him as the distressed boy begins to weep. Why so pathetic?
With a shrill scream, the wight-on-a-horse gestures its host of hundreds (maybe even thousands) to advance towards the direction of the Wall, because when you’re north, where else can you go but down? Here we see that the whitewalkers are all dead wildlings and former Black Brothers united in death, and they’re coming in droves.
Westeros is so screwed!