Last week’s Red Wedding was such a tumultuous upheaval of an event for Game of Thrones, it seems that this week, with the season finale, the showrunners wanted to balance things out with perhaps one of the most subdued episodes in the show’s lifespan.
Game of Thrones tends to do this, positioning a rather eventual episode right before the finale (Ned Stark, Blackwater Bay), but even by past standards, this was a rather soft spoken farewell for the show, and is really just a bridge to a season we’ll now have to wait a year for.
The extended hour long episode had us traveling all over the map, and made sure we checked in with just about every major character before we bid them adieu for the year. Well, the ones that are still living.
We start in the immediate aftermath of the Red Wedding, and watch as Arya witnesses the sickening sight of her brother’s corpse with the head of his slain direwolf paraded through the streets. She takes off with the Hound, and some time later comes across a band of Freys bragging about how they sowed the beast’s head onto her brother.
New Halloween costume idea…
After she slays the braggart, we get perhaps the most chilling exchange of the show.
“Was that the first man you killed?”
“The first man…”
Arya’s making a list, and checking it twice. Valar Morghulis
King’s Landing is naturally celebrating the demise of Robb Stark and his army, with Joffrey practically tap dancing as he receives the news. But his mood soon turns sour when his uncle threatens him with death and Tywin tells his mother to put him to bed (“The king is tired“). In an episode that was constantly jumping around, Tyrion managed to have a few good scenes. This one, where his father explains the most selfless thing he ever did was to let him live, his banter with Sansa before she learns of Rob’s death, where it seems the two may indeed have a relationship someday, and his drinks with his sister, who reveals that her children are all she has to live for. Later, that’s proven untrue as her brother-lover Jaime finally wanders back into King’s Landing sans sword hand.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Varys attempting to break up with Shae for Tyrion. Was that really done at Tyrion’s request, or was Varys taking matters into his own hands? It seems like the former, and really, this incredibly awkward triangle does have to end sooner or later.
“What if I just get your handmaiden pregnant and you say it’s yours?”
It seems we’ll have to wait until next season for Joffrey’s wedding, which seems odd as it’s been planned for literally the past ten episodes. But structure-wise, I suppose it’s not really ideal to have two weddings right in a row.
Up north, we have a rare character plotline crossover as Bran and his escorts run into Sam and Gilly in some secret lost tunnel that goes under the wall. Bran must go north for reasons that are still unknown, but according to Jojen Reed, it’s the way they’ll be able to stop the White Walkers. Can Bran just warg himself into all of them and have them commit seppuku on dragonglass blades? Let’s hope so.
Jon Snow learns why you don’t break up with a wildling as Ygritte fills him full of arrows as a final parting gift. Those talon marks in his face look pretty rough, but I think I cringed the most when he arrived at Castle black, his back full of broken arrow shafts ,and then they flip him over onto them. Come on guys! You don’t need to be a maester to know that’s probably not the best move.
Stannis is now taking a keen interest in what’s happening up north, as his Lady of Light and Fire is eager to fight a war against cold and darkness. Davos does the noble thing by saving Gendry, much to the audience’s delight. That beach scene was unnervingly tense, as at any moment I was expecting a flaming arrow to light Gendry’s little rowboat on fire. If Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that that the good guys’ best laid plans don’t usually pan out too well.
“I, Stannis Baratheon, sentence you to die. Just kidding.”
At long last we finally learn that it’s Ramsay Bolton who has been the one torturing Theon all these weeks (months? it’s hard to tell). You may have been able to guess he was a Bolton this season as Theon has literally been strapped to their house’s sigil for ten weeks. Ramsay’s father, Roose, has just murdered Robb, and Ramsay himself is toying with Robb’s original betrayer, whom he’s now named “Reek.” Lord Greyjoy gets Theon’s dick in a box (“It’s a dick in a box!”), but he’s unmoved to do anything about it. But Theon’s sister Asha leaps into action and claims she’s going to rescue her little brother. Her motivational speech there where she’s assembling her crew felt a little out of place, considering we haven’t seen her in ages and it seemed like something out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but hey, all the best of luck to you, girl.
Finally, we close with Dany, still dramatically removed from the rest of the story. It’s like she’s in a completely different world, but I suppose her plotline will pay off eventually. The freed slaves of Yunkai come out to greet her, calling her “Mother” and making her crowdsurf. Really all of these plotlines converge in ways that are as close to happy endings as we’re going to get for a season finale, which for this show, is something of an anti-climax. There’s a real lack of immediate cliffhangers, other than the general “what’s going to happen next” mantra of the entire series.
It was a quiet finale, but I suppose it was somewhat necessary after last week. Still, it seemed more like an hour of tidying up rather than making too many significant steps forward, which is not how TV finales usually operate. Until next year, I suppose.
Book Discussion (Spoilers)
Not a whole lot to say this time around, but everyone who said Joffrey’s wedding wouldn’t be the finale were right. That’s simply too major of an event to be placed back to back with the Red Wedding. If I had to guess, it will be the season opener which will have everyone talking and saying things like “Game of Thrones is BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!”
Did Ramsay Bolton really send Balon Greyjoy Theon’s cock in the books? I can’t recall. I also was half expecting Balon to die this week, and when he does, I hope they make it a bit more clear than it was in the books. He was simply blown off a bridge, right? If they just show that happening, that’s going to be the most anticlimactic character death in the show’s history. Not that he’s really been around all that much. They really have downplayed the Ironborn a lot in general on the show, but perhaps that will change next season. And as I recall, Balon’s death wasn’t as cut and dry as all that, and there’s still some mystery as to whether it was intentional or not.
“Brother, you will live to molest me once more.”
I liked how they had Arya kill that Frey soldier with the coin trick she used in the books to kill a guard to escape from Harrenhall. But does that scene replace the one where she and the Hound butcher the Harrenhall men at the inn? I thought that was pretty late in the third book, and I don’t really know what Arya will be doing for most of next season. Perhaps I’m remembering timelines wrong.
The scene with Varys and Shae was interesting. They really make her a lot more attached to Tyrion in the show than she was in the books. When Tyrion got married in Storm of Swords, she was just like, “meh, we can still bang.” Then, when she eventually betrayed him, it wasn’t the most outlandish twist, as she’s just a whore. But here, they’re painting her as a much more devoted character. Is this faux break-up the start of her turning against him? I think they’re going to flesh out her character’s turn a lot more than they did in the book, which is a good thing.
Anyway, I understand completely why they broke this season in half, and I think that way they’re going to have both one hell of a season four, both at the beginning, and at the end.