After what has been the most explosive yet badly-paced season to date, Game of Thrones reached its conclusion with a jam-packed episode. This time, they were able to make it work really well, a welcome sign that the slow mid-season was an anomaly rather than a new direction for the remaining seasons.
As has often been the case this year, we pick up right after the end of the last episode, with Jon Snow making his way into the Wildling camp. He crosses the battlefield on the other side of the Wall and we see how much damage was really done with the benefit of daylight. He is taken as a hostage to Mance Rayder’s tent where the two share uneasy toasts to the deceased Ygritte, Grenn and the giants. The two also discuss the relative strengths of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings with Mance pointing out that they only want the shelter of the Wall from the White Walkers.
Just as Jon is about to strike and kill the King Beyond the Wall, the encampment is surrounded by thousands of mounted soldiers and Mance, refusing to let his people suffer any more, surrenders. It turns out to be Stannis Baratheon and his troops, just in the nick of time. At the behest of Jon, Stannis agrees to spare Mance’s life.
This time, they were able to make it work really well, a welcome sign that the slow mid-season was an anomaly rather than a new direction for the remaining seasons.
At King’s Landing, the Mountain is still somehow alive, but it is clear that he has been poisoned by Oberyn’s spear. When Grand Maester Pycelle says he cannot be saved, Cersei dismisses him from his own laboratory – cue gasp – and gives Qyburn full control. She then confronts her father about her impending marriage to Loras Tyrell, refusing to go through with it.
When he starts on the whole Lannister family legacy shtick again, she shuts him up by admitting that her children were sired by her twin. For once, the indomitable Tywin Lannister is at a loss for words. Having seemingly gotten her own, spoiled way, Cersei happily tells Jaime of her confession and the two reaffirm their weird twincestuous love for each other. All together now. Ew.
In Meereen, Dany’s saviour sheen hits a road-bump when a former slave says that he preferred the comforts of captivity over the hardships of emancipation. She reluctantly admits that freedom means the freedom to choose as well, so she allows him to enter into a one-year contract to return to his former position.
Barristan points out that this could be problematic, if fair, but he is interrupted by a weeping farmer. It would seem that Dany’s unruly teenaged dragons have finally crossed the line by killing said farmer’s daughter. Heartbroken, the Mother of Dragons is forced to chain Viserion and Rhaegal (Drogon being MIA) in Meereen’s catacombs. It is a surprisingly touching scene given that two of the three characters were completely CGI.
Back at the Wall, the fallen Night’s Watch brothers are all burned in a gigantic pyre where Jon is eyed up by Melisandre. After being requested to do so by Tormund, he then takes Ygritte back over the Wall to cremate her in her home.
Even further North, Bran and co. have finally reached the great weirwood, although Jojen looks very weak. They are attacked by a bunch of reanimated corpses which Hodor (with Bran Warged in him), Summer and Meera are able to hold off for a bit, but they are clearly outnumbered. Jojen is stabbed multiple times and Meera is forced to slit his throat to end his suffering. It is a shame we did not see the siblings in more scenes; although clearly sad, the impact of his death seemed lessened because of this.
Luckily for the survivors, one of the Children of the Forest, long thought dead, is able to save them. She instantly combusts Jojen’s corpse to prevent his reanimation before leading the group to the safety of the weirwood. It is here that they finally meet the Three-Eyed Raven in human form who tells Bran that, although he will never walk again, he will now learn to fly.
It is a shame we did not see the siblings in more scenes; although clearly sad, the impact of his death seemed lessened because of this.
In the Riverlands, the misadventures of Brienne and Podrick continue as the two have their horses stolen. While trundling across the plains, they come across Arya. The two sword-wielding females bond over their shared interest until the Hound shows up. Deducing the Stark girl’s identity by her companion, Brienne offers to take her to safety. The Hound points out there is no safety left and distrusts Brienne because of her Lannister-funded armour. It would appear he has become close to Arya.
The two warriors face off – and the entire fandom groans at the impending loss of one more show favourite – in an exceptionally bloody fight. Where Oberyn vs. the Mountain was all flare, this is a grounded fist-fight, just with metal gloves. The Hound loses and is pushed off a cliff. Arya, having evaded the others, finds him there, mortally wounded. He pleads with her to end his life, but she just takes his silver and walks away. Simultaneously awesome AND cruel. Nice.
On the eve of his execution, Tyrion is rescued by Jaime who leads him through an underground chamber towards freedom. After a tight and warm embrace, the two separate – only for Tyrion to take a detour to the chambers of the Hand of the King. He shockingly finds Shae in his father’s bed and strangles her with her own necklace. You can tell that this has broken him even further than he thought.
Arming himself with Joffrey’s crossbow, he finally confronts Tywin, with the latter uncomfortably perched on a privy while trying to convince his son not to shoot. Unfortunately for him, he is not particularly kind with his descriptions of Shae and is rewarded with multiple bolts to his torso. Another ignominious passing in a season of major deaths, and it is arguably the most important one. Tyrion reaches the docks where Varys has arranged for him to be shipped to the Free Cities. When the bells signalling Tywin’s death ring out, the eunuch chooses to join the Imp. Smart move.
The final scene of the season is Arya trying to convince a sea captain in the Riverlands to take her to the Wall. When he refuses and says he is returning to Braavos, she hands him the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her way back when and utters “Valar Morghulis”. Replying “Valar Dohaeris”, the captain takes her on board and we now have three major characters on their way to Essos in the space of fifteen minutes.
And with that game-changer, our watch has ended. Thanks for joining the blog every week and happy viewing when Season 5 swings back round!