At last, Game of Thrones closed out what is perhaps George RR Martin’s best book, A Storm of Swords in fitting fashion. It gave us the Red Wedding, The Viper vs. The Mountain, and now all the crazy events of this finale (with the show adding in one or two of its own).
Nearly every character was paid a visit in the ~65ish minute finale, where HBO finally let them go over time considering they didn’t have Veep or Silicon Valley attached to the tail end. We left Westeros in a dramatically different state than when we found it, and it’s clear everything will be heavily changed going forward.
We got the cap on the Night’s Watch battle that we probably should have seen last week, if we’d had more time. Jon goes to negotiate/try to assassinate Mance Rayder (really great to see him back on the show), but is interrupted by the thundering host of Stannis, riding in to save the day which would have totally been a wicked cool surprise had the goddamn “previously on” scenes not directly spelled it out for everyone ahead of time. Now the question becomes what Stannis will do with the Wall once he has it. If he’s truly after the Iron Throne, it’s probably not the best idea to waste men fighting Wildlings, giants and White Walkers, though Melisandre will probably convince him otherwise as it’s the Lord of Light’s mission to thaw the tundra, or something like that. I’m kind of sad that nearly all of Jon’s Night’s Watch friends are dead, which didn’t happen in the books, but I suppose Stannis, Davos and the Red Woman will keep him busy next season.
Speaking of show changes, we got an absolutely awesome Brienne/Hound fight that never happened in the books. Rather, the Hound just succumbs to his bite wound and is too sick to continue, so Arya leaves him. This was way better set up, not just because of the swordfight (which was brutal and fantastic), but how the Hound transforms in his final moment, essentially begging for death. I’m not sure if Arya spares him as a mercy, or a punishment. It’s hard to imagine given his current health status he survives, but this is Game of Thrones, and unless you see someone’s head on a pike, they may yet live to fight another day. The episode concludes with Arya calling in her iron coin favor to hitch a ride to Braavos, where hopefully she’ll become even better at killing people who deserve it.
Dany has one more throne scene that obviously requires five minutes of Missandi saying all her titles, but she discovers not only that some of her freed slaves want to be un-freed, but that her biggest dragon is starting to snack on local children. As punishment, she chains up the other two smaller dragons because she can’t find and/or control Drogon, though he’s the only one that’s causing mayhem. It’s like punishing your two younger kids because their older brother misbehaved; they’re probably going to resent you for it. Still, I grow a bit tired of Khaleesi the queen who is in way over her head, especially now that Jorah Mormont is gone. And, where is he, anyway?
Things got a little weird where Bran finally reached the giant Weirwood tree, only throw the show into full-on fantasy mode with warrior skeletons and fireball throwing mage children. That was a whole lot of crazy magic and insanity for a show that’s usually light on its fantasy aspects, and it almost felt a little awkward given how grounded in reality the show usually is (outside of exceptions like dragons, smoke assassins, etc). Now Bran has met an ancient being in a tree and the mythical Children of the Forest, and will enter some sort of super-warg training, I imagine. Oh, also Jojen died, which is sad, but on a show that kills people off all the time, I suppose it’s not a bad way to go to get stabbed by a magic skeleton. Can’t really do anything about that.
Obviously the biggest event of the night was near the end, with Jamie freeing Tyrion the way many predicted, because brotherly love trumps sisterly love (in some ways, at least). But rather than Tyrion leaving straight away, he climbs the Tower of the Hand to find Shae serving as Tywin’s new whore (whoops, probably shouldn’t say that word). What follows are two harrowing scenes where Tyrion strangle Shae, and then puts two crossbow bolts into Tywin as he sits on the crapper (insert joke about Lannister’s shitting gold). Tywin tries to convince Tyrion his execution was all a ruse, but Tyrion knows better, and the bolts start flying as soon as Tywin says the “w-word” too many times for his liking. You’ll recall the sad, sad story of how Tyrion lost his virginity two seasons ago, which explains why it’s a bit of a sore spot for him. Now he’s on one of Varys’ ships to…somewhere. It’s great that he’s alive and George RR Martin didn’t end up executing his most beloved character of all (which very well could have happened, knowing him), but I will miss him interacting with his batshit family all the same.
What did you think of the finale? Was Shae/Tywin’s death everything you hoped it could be and more?
Book Stuff (spoilers ahead, tag comments as such)
– I will miss The Hound, even its implied (very subtly) in the books that he lives. Regardless, he won’t have a major role again, at least not for a long while, if ever.
– It really was a great way to intersect plotlines by inventing that Brienne/Hound encounter. That was handled much better than the books, as was Arya’s departure. Well done, showrunners. Once again your edits improve on the source material.
– We didn’t see Sansa or Littlefinger today, and probably for good reason. They’re practically at the end of their book plotline already, so I’m really wondering how that will be handled next season. The same goes for Bran, as if I recall, he’s in that tree cave for a long damn time. And Brienne only has one interesting thing left to do, which to meet a certain someone…
– No Stoneheart?!? I was waiting for that to be the final scene before the credits, considering it’s the BEST FREAKING CLIFFHANGER/MINDF*** OF THE ENTIRE SERIES. I guess they want to have one hell of a season five premiere, maybe? Still, that seems like a pretty big missed opportunity.
– Let’s just kill Jojen then, I guess. I forgot he’s supposed to still be alive in the books. Is that the first time the show has killed someone outright before the books?
– Tyrion’s murder of Shae and Tywin was handled perfectly, and pretty much identical to the books, but what was different was that he and Jaime didn’t have a falling out beforehand. In Storm of Swords, an angry Tyrion actually tells Jaime he did murder Joffrey, which seems like a pretty significant thing to leave out. That said, I actually hated that he did that in the books, and this version went down better in my eyes.
– I guess this means that Coldhands is officially not showing up in the show, as if there was ever a perfect time to introduce him late, it would have been during the skeleton battle. This strikes me as exceedingly weird given what a big mystery that character is in the books, and how Bran’s plotline is boring enough where it certainly doesn’t need what little interesting aspects it has stripped out of it.
– So, will we see the Iron Islands/Dorne plotlines next year? I have to imagine we will, given the fact that the show needs all the material it can get to stall for time in order for Martin to get The Winds of Winter out. And I can’t imagine the show will do anything crazy like split the next two seasons up by character, which is what the books do. Now things get really interesting when it comes to the eternal show/book divide, as one has almost caught the other.