*BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD* (Although, I’d bet that this will be the last time I’ll be doing that)
Cliffhangers, as a plot device in fiction has been around for quite some time in films and serialized media. From the Marvel canon to shows like True Blood, and even sitcoms like FRIENDS, it has been a trope that has been along for a long time, and has paid off and disappointed viewers equally and alike. Game of Thrones too has not been immune to this gimmick and it would seem that it had paid off (Remember Season 4 finale). And yet, like all great works of art, the creators of the show have often been found being indulgent with their works, often at the cost of narrative sense (Read: The Theon-Ramsey bromance in Season 3). So is the case in this week’s episode, ‘Mother’s Mercy’ as in an attempt to push in several cliffhangers, a few that mattered didn’t really register as it should have in this dark, gripping but not nearly-as-brilliant-as-last-year’s-finale episode.
Arya Stark finally found some action on her stint in Braavos as she finally struck Ser Meryn Trant off her list this week. And it was quite fun to see that pompous child-beater finally get what was coming for him. And yet, the savagery that she inflicted on him made it oh-so-clear that she isn’t as the Waif rightly said so, ready enough for the Game of faces and serve the Many-Faced God.
Even Jaqen thought so, and the ‘life pays for death’ bit he played with Arya actually worked on many levels, primarily on the cost of being ‘no one.’ Blinding Arya as a retributive measure makes sense, and makes her training even more interesting than it is considering that she is however limited by geographical constraints.
Sadly, the part of Westeros I was most excited about before this season turned out to be the lousiest of the lot. So lousy in fact, often I found Dorne to be actually taking down the good work done in the rest of the storylines across the continent. And, it didn’t help this week that the most action we got this week was the death of Myrcella at the hands of Ellaria Sand, who goes all Poison-Ivy on her (At least, Uma Thurman was prettier than Indira Verma). And most importantly, I didn’t care. Primarily because, I never knew this Myrcella or this Ellaria, or these Sand Snakes whose interests lie periodically between catfights, sexposition and lipstick. In fact, the only ‘real,’ albeit short and oddly-placed moment was between Jamie and Myrcella, where the latter revealed her knowledge of her parentage. The only persons I did care about were Jamie and Bronn, and they’re off in a land for a purpose God knows what.
As bummed as I was that they cut Arianne out of the show, I would have thought otherwise if they had revealed the larger Dornish conspiracy. Alas, no. After the damp squid down in the South, I won’t blame anyone who takes up the Greyjoy kraken.
Matters were relatively quiet across the Narrow Sea as the informal Small Council of the dragon-riding Queen struggled to handle the aftermath of the events in Daznak’s Pit. With Dany away, it was only wise to leave the leadership of the city to the next-best person, Tyrion (*cheering*) and it will be very interesting to see how he handles the Sons of Harpy, alongside the Unsullied who well, have not really been at the top of their job.
Speaking of Dany, her scene with her prodigal son was funnily reminiscent of Ash’s troubles with Charizard. And if last episode’s soaring spectacle wasn’t enough, the sight of Dany surrounded by the entire Khalasar certainly was a sight to relish. This is where Dany’s story ends in Martin’s DwD and so, it will be very interesting to see Dany testing the waters of the tribes that abandoned her.
Oh, and did I mention? Varys returns. Not that I hadn’t guessed, thank you but, to see him in Meereen alongside Tyrion is whoop-worthy. It was cruel to separate Dany and Tyrion after only 2 episodes. So, it’s good to find some solace in the Tyrion-Varys bromance.
It was only about time that paths would converge for Brienne of Tarth and Stannis Baratheon. And to have the Siege (Or rather, the lack of it) of Winterfell as foreplay to this encounter was always going to be exciting. However despite what I may have been expecting, I was sorely disappointed to see the battle never actually play out (Perhaps they did use up their entire budget). Apart from a birds-eye view of the Boltons outnumbering, outflanking and consuming Stannis’ army, we never actually get to see the battle which had so much of foreshadowing throughout this season (I for one, would’ve wanted the siege to be staged next season). Therefore, it was rather limp when Stannis and Brienne finally meet up in the woods. ‘Do your duty,’ he says. And so complies the swing of Oathkeeper, although the lack of any head tumbling makes me doubt an undoubtedly grim ending for a great character.
Inside Winterfell, Sansa finds help in the form of Theon (Finally growing some balls, metaphorical of course) as he pushes Ramsey’s mistress to her death. Straight out of the ‘Fake Arya’ storyline in DwD (Remember, Sansa lives on in the Eyrie as Alayne Stone in the books) as expected and yet, the pair of them jumping off the parapet didn’t have me cheering. The set-up and the scene itself, of Sansa attempting to flee and Theon cracking was too rushed to make an impact which is why the cliffhanger with which it ended didn’t satisfy me as it should have. That said, great work by Alfie Allen this season. Ramsey Bolton wouldn’t have been half as despicable if it hadn’t been for him.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Cersei’s walk of atonement was a major talking point even before the season began this year. But, as irredeemable as Cersei’s character has been, even her enemies would find her path to atonement far from palatable. Hair shorn and stripped naked, her walk from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep was both powerful and disturbing to look at (Although, I have half a mind to buy that ‘Shame’ soundtrack). She was found stripped of the very dignity she held so close to her, as the walk continued, being flung with curses, obscenity and yes, feces.
Of course, the trouble’s not over for Cersei as she awaits a trial by the Faith. But yes, the Mountain’s back (New high-heeled boots?) thanks to Maester Qyburn. And the look Cersei gave as he carried her off? Surely, vengeance can’t be far off. And will Ser Robert Strong *cough* The Mountain *cough* play a part in it? Probably. But, as with Frankenstein’s monster, who can say for sure.
“For the Watch.”
Book reader like yours truly had pretty much guessed how matters will go for Jon in the Season finale this year. But, nothing and I mean nothing, could ever prepare me for the gut-wrenching power of that final scene. In fact, knowing what will happen made it no easier for me to watch. Echoing Caesar’s Ides of March, the scene was the culmination of an almost-perfect storyline up at the Wall with Kit Harington finally showing signs of acting prowess in his role as A Song of Ice and Fire’s purest heroes.
Is he dead? In all probability, perhaps not. In Martin’s universe, Jon Snow, Dany and Tyrion seem to lie outside the realm of ‘anyone can die’ ethos. And with Melisandre fleeing back to the Wall, it would seem that Snow’s resurrection lies in her hands. However, considering the bad job she did for Stannis, I wouldn’t trust her. For all we know, Jon could wake up to be a wight or a White Walker *shudder*. I really hope Qyburn pays a visit to the Wall, soon.
Did I mention that Olly played Brutus’ part in the stabbing? For a moment there, I thought Jon would say ‘Et Tu, Olly?’
Random thought: Ghost has been MIA for most of the season. Pretty unlikely then that Jon may have somehow warged into the body of his direwolf.
So, that concludes all the action in the season finale of this year’s Game of Thrones. A pretty great episode with all the dramatic flair and tension that has characterized the show this season, even if it relied too much on the cliffhanger gimmick. Lots of talking points and loads more to look forward to in Season 6. Cersei’s trial, Dany’s re-union with her Khalasar and the fate of the Stark siblings, Jon, Arya and Sansa will certainly keep many fans invested in Season 6 next year (Damn you, Gregorian calendar). Additionally, the death of Myrcella offers an interesting spin to the matters in Dorne. Now, if only the producers could get some better characters to root for down there. Hopefully, I will not have to wait for Season 6 to see what happens to my ever-reducing list of favorite characters. If only Martin’s ‘Winds of Winter’ releases before that….
Thank You everyone who read these reviews. And now my watch has ended.
Until next year, Hodor!