Before we begin, let’s just take a second to say a proper farewell to what was unarguably an absolutely amazing season of Game of Thrones. I’m exceedingly interested to see how they’re going to top it next season, considering that spoilers? the fifth book, Dance With Dragons doesn’t actually include all the main characters. If memory serves, it only follows more spoilers? Tyrion, Jon and Arya. So far, HBO has done a really good job of following the main storyline of each book – except for one aspect which pissed me the hell off tonight, but more on that later – so it would be interesting to see if they continued with that recipe. If so, they’d have to deal with a ton of ticked off Dany fans if she isn’t included. Ok, on to the review.
The episode literally starts off as a continuation of last week’s episode. We find Jon entering Mance Rayder’s camp, alleging that he’d been sent to discuss terms. When Mance states that he’d misplaced his loyalty in Jon, Jon informs him that he’d always been loyal to his Night’s Watch Brothers. Jon does a good job of remaining calm, but he’s obviously jittery about being ambushed in enemy territory, to the effect that he even hesitates before accepting a drink that was offered to him. I smiled when Mance assured him that of all the ways he could kill Jon, poisoning him would be the last. They briefly discuss Ygritte, and the deaths of others on their respective sides, and raise a toast to their memories. The conversation quickly turns to business, with Jon demanding that the wildlings surrender and retreat. However, Mance calmly calls his bluff and reminds him of how badly outnumbered the Night’s Watch is, and that Castle Black could be conquered within a day. We find out that Mance is more interested in passing through the gates of Castle Black to escape the White Walkers than he is in defeating the Night’s Watch, and argues that if the wildlings are assured safe passage through, the Brothers of the Night’s Watch would be spared. One false move quickly heightens the tension in the room, when Mance realises that Jon only came to kill him. This tension is only diffused by the noise of attack outside, which Mance believes to have been ordered by Jon, though Jon reminds him that the Night’s Watch lack the numbers for such an attack. Outside, droves of horsed soldiers close in on the wildling camp, killing many of the resisting free folk, and it is revealed that it is actually an army led by Stannis, and the Mance is taken captive.
Over in King’s Landing, Cersei brings on the theatrics like the true drama queen regent that she is – ha ha, “queen regent”… get it? Ok, I’ll stop. Anyithoughtitwasfunny, fans and mourners of the Red Viper got a bit of grim vindication when the body of Ser Gregor (The Mountain) is revealed to be slowly and painfully decomposing by poison that had secretly been imbibed into Prince Oberyn’s spear tip. Though the man is clearly dying, Cersei grants Qyburn the permission to conduct his ruthless and unscrupulous experiments on him… all with the promise that Ser Gregor would not be weakened during the process. After pissing off Grand Maester Pycelle by allowing Qyburn full access to the Grand Maester’s own study, Cersei confronts her father about her arranged marriage to Loras Tyrell. They have the same song and dance that they always do – “I won’t do it”, “yes you will” – until the drama queen regent brings out the big guns and threatens to publicly reveal the fact that she and Jaime had, indeed, always been lovers, therefore making Tommen an illegitimate heir to the throne.
Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons. Holy hell! The announcement of her name is longer than the actual petitions of the royal subjects to whom her name is announced. So, for the sake of time and our patience, I’ll stick to calling her “Dany”. As we’ve been seeing almost all damn season, Dany is still dealing with the issues of her new subjects. Last night, we find her addressing an old man – though a former slave, he is far more educated and privileged than the average slave – who begs her for permission to be sold back into slavery. His argument is that, as a slave, he was respected and loved by the children in his household; however, as a free man, he is homeless, sneered at and beaten. Though Dany doesn’t like it at all, she understands that, as a free man, the man should be allowed to go wherever he pleases, so she grants him her leave to enter a contract with his old owner, under the condition that the contract does not last longer than a year. The man seems thrilled by the news, but Ser Barristan informs Dany that this decree will only bring back what she had stopped in the first place – the masters will once again own their slaves… they just won’t call them that.
If she thought that this man was going to be her toughest complaint of the day, her next visitor shot that thought to hell on a White Walker. In last week’s review, I’d hinted at the fact that this would be happening last night. Dany finally understands the dangers of having dragons as children. While they probably wouldn’t intentionally harm her, there can only be one Mother of Dragons… and the rest of us poor saps who aren’t, well it sucks for us. A weeping man comes to Dany, carrying something wrapped up completely, going on about “the Winged Shadow” sweeping down from the sky. He then lays his package down and reveals the horribly charred skeleton of a human child. Dany – no Joffrey, as we know by now – is distraught at the news and comes to the realisation that she cannot leave the dragons to roam on their own, and decides to lock them up in the catacombs – or at least, two of them, since Drogon’s location was unknown. This entire scene was just amazing, and it was heartbreaking watching Dany chain up the dragons and walk away while they screamed at her in confusion. Throughout this season, I think that “Queen” Daenerys has been stubborn and arrogant, and a little irritating, to be honest. This scene, however, brought us back to season one Dany, sweet, affectionate and maternal.
Things began getting sketchy for me after this. Let’s start with Arya, who is finally found by Brienne?? Although this scene played out amazingly on the show, it was so far off from the book, that I actually had a hard time wrapping my head around it. Though Brienne never finds Arya in the book, the show’s writers evidently thought that this should change for the series. Brienne attempts to persuade Arya to come with her but, after Arya demands why Brienne hadn’t protected her mother, Arya refuses, and Brienne and the Hound end up in a sword fight. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Brienne fight, so I think that a lot of people had forgotten that this is the same woman who had bested the great Loras Tyrell in order to become a member of Renly’s Kingsguard. She was definitely knocked about by the Mountain, but in the end, her skill won, and she was able to throw him off a precipice, where he lay broken and in pain. Thinking that Arya had flown, Brienne and Pod take off in pursuit, but Arya, who’d only hidden, came out when they left and went to the Mountain. It was obvious to us all – including the Mountain – that he was about to die, and he begged Arya to kill him quickly so he wouldn’t have to suffer. He went as far as invoking the memory of “the butcher’s boy”, and wishing that he’d raped Sansa back in King’s Landing. As much as he’d hoped that that would have driven Arya into a murderous rage, she merely stared at him silently for several moments, took his coin purse from him, and then left him to his prolonged and agonising death. The Mountain was not a good person, there’s no doubt about that. However, the truth remains that he’d done a great deal to protect both Sansa and Arya when he’d been around them, and his death was a bit bittersweet. Arya later finds passage to Braavos, but only after displaying the coin that Jaqen H’ghar had given to her, and reciting the now famous “valar morghulis”.
On to two deaths that were not bitter at all, but sweet in every way. Jaime, with the help of Varys, smuggles Tyrion out of his cell, and commands him to go down to the wharf, where a ship would be awaiting him. But, Tyrion being Tyrion, ignores the command – like we all knew he would – and goes in search of his father. When he enters his father’s quarters, he finds a naked woman sprawled on his bed, who sleepily calls out “Tywin? My Lion”. Oh, hell. That’s right, folks. Not only did this whore betray Tyrion in the courtroom, she was doing the all-out nasty with Tyrion’s own father. Well, I can’t imagine anything pissing off a man faster, and she and Tyrion get into a violent scuffle, before he puts out her lying lights by strangling her to death. Even more emotional now, he picks up a crossbow and confronts his father where he sits, on the toilet. Talk about having the upper hand. After arguing for a bit, Tywin, who was obviously confident that Tyrion would not have harmed him, goads his son by calling Shae a whore twice, despite Tyrion demanding that he didn’t. The word hard hardly escaped his lips the second time when Tyrion loosed an arrow straight into his torso. In shock and anger, Tywin states “You’re no son of mine!” But Tyrion calmly responds “I am your son. I’ve always been your son” and fires another arrow into his father. And just like that, the omnipotent Tywin Blazer dies while taking a dump in a toilet while a dead whore lies on his bed. This scene was magic from beginning to end, but my only criticism has less to do with an important but awful exchange between Jaime and Tyrion that was omitted. But it probably would have been too much for the viewers of the series, so I don’t mind so much that the writers didn’t include it.
Now, I’ve left the one scene that all but killed me for last! After what has seemed like Bran’s sole storyline for the past four seasons, he finally made it to the three-eyed crow, or “raven” as he called it last night. Their arrival was euphoric, but only short-lived, as they were soon ambushed by some creepy soldier skeletons, who were hellbent on killing them. I’m not even going to go into all the details. The only thing that matters is that Jojen Reed was killed. WHAT THE FUCK! This was such a completely unnecessary death, and so far off from the book, that I literally couldn’t focus on the rest of the episode after it happened. I know you guys are probably fed up of me comparing the books and show, but seriously, this one took the cake. I see no reason why this death was written in. Maybe the writers wanted shock value, but Tywin’s and Shae’s death could easily have provided that. Maybe Thomas Brodie-Sangster wasn’t able to return for the next season, but that’s the weakest excuse possible. Daario Naharis was cast twice, and the Mountain had three separate actors playing him, so HBO obviously has no issues recasting characters. I just… I’m so hacked off at this scene. And the thing is, I probably wouldn’t be so angry if the scene had been done well, but it just seems to me that it was intentionally carried out to make no goddamn sense at all. I mean, in one frame Jojen was completely upright, and in the very next frame – without ever showing how it happened – he was lying completely on his back, being stabbed by a mostly immobile skeleton. HBO really missed the mark on this one, and I’m disappointed beyond imagining.
All in all, though, it was a pretty good episode, as they all are. I’ve gotta say, though, considering how much hype was thrown around for this episode, lauding it as the best of the series so far, I really don’t think that I agree. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great episode, but HBO went so far as to only offer this episode up as an Emmy award contender for best writing because they figured that it was so great, and I can personally think of at least three other episodes that were better than this one. Non-readers of the books apparently agree with HBO, though, so I suppose that it’s just my bias talking. However, just like a ton of other readers, I’m really disappointed that possible spoilers? Lady Stoneheart wasn’t introduced like she should have been. I’ve seriously been looking forward to this all season. I’m guessing they’re leaving it for a big shocking reveal in the next season, but that only means that we have to wait longer for her, and I am NOT okay with that. Regardless, like every other living person on this planet, I’m going to be anxiously waiting for season 5 to come around.