Note: MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR spoilers ahead. DO NOT proceed if you haven’t watched the finale yet.
There is quite a bit to talk about this week after an all-around shocking Game of Thrones season finale. I hope you are not here hoping to find answers to the questions that you surely have, for I, nor anybody else, can give you those answers with any confidence. Whereas GOT finales are usually the calm after the storm, focused on tying up themes and letting us know where everybody is at heading into next season, “Mother’s Mercy” deviated from that formula, shrouding itself in mystery and being (overly) reliant on cliffhangers. Did Brienne actually kill Stannis? Did Theon and Sansa commit suicide to free themselves of Ramsay or did a snowbank break their fall? Which Dothraki tribe surrounded a hungry and alone Daenerys? Has Arya officially become “No One” or was her blinding punishment for getting ahead of herself in her training? What kind of experiments did Qyburn do on The Mountain? Where the hell is Margaery?
But, let’s start at the back of the episode with the discussion that is sure to captivate us geeks until next April; is Jon Snow officially dead and gone? In a surprising but very believable moment, the men of the Night’s Watch (including Ser Alliser and sweet little Olly) turn on Jon Snow and give him a good old-fashioned prison yard shanking. As Jon fell back and died slowly, the blood ran from his body across the snow and into focus of the camera (certainly adding to the flair that Jon possesses true King’s blood and Melisandre has shown up to revive him). It was truly heartbreaking when Olly joined in on the shanking; I half-expected Jon to mutter “Et tu”, but I suppose Shakespeare doesn’t exist in Westeros.
This is easily the most significant and shocking death since Ned Stark in season one, and there are plenty of parallels between each situation. Both Jon and Ned died doing what they thought was the right thing. They never wavered in their conviction or belief. In that sense, Jon was more liked Ned than any of his other children. But given all the fan theories and the fact that Jon has become the most important male character on the show this season, one must ask, is he coming back? It seems completely plausible to think that the reason Melisandre left Stannis’ camp and went to the Wall was because she had a vision and knows how important Jon is in her endgame. Remember, she’s openly stated that he has a role to play and we’ve seen that the Lord of Light is fully capable of reviving dead folk.
Searching production details for answers on this question will not help you. George R.R. Martin insists that “death is not permanent” in the novels, yet we’ve already seen the showrunners distance themselves from that idea (Catelyn Stark comes back briefly as Lady Stoneheart in the books, but not in the show). The producers and actor Kit Harrington have already done interviews saying that Jon is NOT coming back, but it’s hard to take them at their word. The reason I, personally, think Jon WON’T come back rests in the fact that it’d simply be impossible for the show to keep it a secret and that would sort of eliminate the whole point of the mystery. When they shoot season six, Kit Harrington is either going to be there or he isn’t, and we’ll know right then. And frankly, let’s say that Jon Snow does come back as a servant to the Lord of Light, doesn’t that mean that everything he’s done to this point is sort of meaningless from a character standpoint? I certainly hope that Jon is really dead. Then again, I basically cheered during the Red Wedding and my favorite character was Tywin Lannister so maybe I’m just fucked up.
Adding more fuel to the “Jon is coming back” camp is that last year when raises were publicized for certain actors, Kit Harrington was amongst them (along with Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage). He was given a significant raise for seasons five and six with an option for an even bigger one in season seven. None of this is set in stone and the producers have already blasted the media for false reporting in this regard, but it’s something to think about.
One more time, for old time’s sake. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
I’m not sure that Stannis has any reason to be surprised that half of his army left him. I’m no soldier, but I feel like watching a child burn to death probably wouldn’t get me all amped up to go kick some Bolton butt. His wife, Salyse, hung herself in what surpasses Dany’s husband from last week as the most meaningless death on the shows history. Rather than wait for Stannis to arrive, the Bolton’s met them in an open-field slaughter. I have no problem with the show skimping out on the battle this time around. There was too much to get through in this episode to spend twenty minutes on a battle with an obvious outcome. My complaint with this scene rests in how it ended.
Brienne finally got to Stannis in what is probably the shows most long-awaited interaction. Her killing Stannis would serve as a great piece of poetic justice, but are we sure she actually killed him? GOT almost always shows deaths, and they cut away as she swung the sword. Perhaps she had a change of heart, hit the tree, and will try to use Stannis in some way. While Stannis and Brienne don’t strike me as compatible running mates, I’d be frustrated if a death as major as Stannis’ was so easy. Herein lies my problem with this finale; it relies on cliffhangers to pique our interest. This is GOT. We, as an audience, are smart enough to not stand for that bullshit.
A similar tactic was used in Winterfell. Reek finally became Theon again and saved Sansa, but when they saw that the Bolton’s emerged victorious, they elected to jump off the very high wall rather than live under Ramsay’s perverted rule. Were they suicide buddies? Probably not. I doubt that the show would kill off two major characters so anti-climactically. But again, the way they filmed the scene feels like a cop out.
The whole Dorne storyline was all-around disappointing this season but at least something happened this week as Ellaria killed Myrcella Lannister via poison. Perhaps this is the breaking point that will start another war. I certainly hope so, because there’s no other reason to care about her death, to be frank. I did find the moment of Jaime confessing to be her father to be very well done. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is one of the finest actors on the show. It’s a testament to the power of his acting and strength of his character construction that he’s gone from being one of the most-hated to the most-loved characters despite being, literally, a backstabber and incestuous rapist. Only in GOT, right?
In Meereen, somehow, Tyrion, Jorah, Daario, and Missandei are still alive as if they didn’t end last week surrounded by an angry mob of Sons of the Harpy. TALK ABOUT A PLOT HOLE. Anyway, Jorah and Daario teamed up, heading out to go find their queen. They should make for funny travel companions next season. I’ve long been of the belief that Daario is one of the more interesting characters whom the show has never really explored. That figures to change in season six.
Meanwhile, in Dany’s absence, Tyrion will hang back and govern Meereen with the help of Missandei, Grey Worm, and VARYS (Varys!!!). Varys is not wrong in comparing the situation in Meereen to that of King’s Landing. Maybe our favorite “little person” is really the man for the job. It’ll at least give Tyrion an excuse to not hit the bottle like a Russian widow next season.
I’ll say a few words about Daenerys because I have to but I’d like to state for the record once again that she sucks. Her dragon was too hurt and tired to fly, so she wanders off and is surrounded by a mob of Dothraki. Things didn’t exactly end well last time Dany was with some Dothraki, and she was smart to toss her wedding ring to the ground (I will bet anyone $100 that Jorah and Dario find the ring next season). Perhaps, as a prisoner of this Dothraki tribe, Dany will actually have some interesting moments next season. Or maybe the dragons will just swoop in and save her, leaving a million plot holes behind, again.
And what about Arya? How awesome was the scene when she killed Meryn Trant? She disguised herself as one of the way-too-young prostitutes and then cut him up in a way that can only be described as brutal even by GOT standards. She stabbed him like five times, ripped out his eyeballs, and then slit his throat. If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime, I suppose. It’s hard to feel bad for Meryn Trant given that his sexual fetishes make both Joffrey and Ramsay seem tame.
I’m confused as to what happened with Arya when she returned to the House of White and Black. I’m fully aware that technically Jaqen doesn’t exist, but when Arya saw her face on the dead body and went blind, what was happening? Was she being punished? Or is that some sort of induction ceremony? I’m not well-versed in GOT mythology, so maybe some of you book readers and wiki scanners can clear this up for me. Regardless, I was happy to see that Arya finally got a little revenge and I expect big things from her moving forward. Maybe now that she’s blind they can do a crossover with Netflix and have her fight next to Daredevil (I’m only semi-joking. By the way, if you have Netflix and haven’t watched Daredevil yet, do it).
For me, the best moment in this episode, as in the one that felt the most fitting and fully realized given the themes of this season, was Cersei’s walk of atonement. Cersei has been so confident and unapologetic throughout the entire series that it was downright incredible to see her literally stripped down and broken. Knowing Cersei, and seeing the Zombie-Mountain at the end, it’s hard to believe that she has truly pledged herself to being “good”. She’ll get her revenge.
I just thought the whole scene was beautifully staged. The establishing shots we get as she marches through a mob of angry extras throwing things at her made the moment feel even more dramatic and bigger than it was. Lena Headey did so much with so few words. Her short hair and defeated look said it all (though, make note, a body double was used for many shots). I honestly thought the episode was going to end with this scene, and I would’ve been happy if it did.
The “GOT is sexist” crowd, a crowd I’m a part of, should be happy this week because…..DICKS!!!! WE ACTUALLY SAW DICKS TO COMPLIMENT THE VAGINAS AND BOOBS. I laughed when the random dudes flashed Cersei. Hell, I would’ve given anything to be one of the extras that hung dong in this episode. I would’ve paid HBO.
Final Verdict: Overall, the finale had some phenomenal moments and amped up the drama, though I have some serious gripes with the narrative changes the show has made, mostly relating to the Network-TV style reliance on cliffhangers. Regardless, “Mother’s Mercy” will have us talking about it until April, and isn’t that the whole point of a finale?
5 quick tidbits before I get into the SEASON 5 AWARDS:
- It’s a bit premature to rank the GOT seasons, but I’ll do it anyway. In order: 2, 5, 3, 1, 4.
- True Detective returns next week and I’m thinking about doing similar weekly recaps though I’m not sure the audience is there for it. But time is a flat circle, right?
- You nerds all have your theories and here’s mine: Hot Pie. The entire show is actually about Hot Pie. Or maybe Podrick’s ability to please prostitutes. I don’t know.
- If Kit Harrington is actually done as Jon Snow, expect him to headline blockbusters soon, and I don’t mean crap like Pompeii: 3D.
- I still think The Hound is alive.
- Bonus tidbit: I jammed up my finger pretty good playing ball last night and I’m sort of a puss so it hurts to type this. I would not do well in Westeros.
And now, THE SEASON 5 AWARDS!!!!
MVP: Whether he comes back or not, this award goes to Jon Snow. He finally became the man we all wanted him to be and the seasons most interesting moments all revolved around him. And even if he is dead, at least he got to have sex that one time.
LVP: I’ll go with Littlefinger only because he was absent for the most part and, five seasons in, has still given no indication to where he true allegiances rest. I get that’s his whole deal, but c’mon, it’s season five.
Best Moment: The battle at Hardhome is an easy choice here. No more words are necessary.
Worst Moment: I’m still pissed about Dany flying away on the dragon. It was another instance of a fantasy story using magic to cover up a plot hole. Are we sure J.K. Rowling didn’t write the episode?
Sixth Man of the Year: An award given to an under the radar character that has some great moments. This year it goes to Qyburn because his weird experiments are interesting and he’s still loyal to Cersei. He figures to be a major player moving forward.
Most Unnecessary Subplot: Good lord, does ANYBODY care about the Grey Worm-Missandei romance?????
That’s all I got for y’all. Thanks for following along this season. Until April…