”It wasn’t for murder the Gods cursed the Rat Cook. Or for serving the king’s son in a pie. He killed a guest beneath his roof. That’s something the Gods cannot forgive.”
What's worse? Dealing with the events and aftermath of the 'Red Wedding' or knowing that it's going to be another long year before Game of Thrones returns? It's incredibly cliché to say this but winter is coming. Instead of dwelling on the off-season, however, back to the finale where "Mhysa" spent a lot of time showing the immediate and wide-spread effects of "The Rains of Castamere" as well as putting a button on various third season threads. And still, it was not without cliff-hangers. It's impressive how the final installment somehow managed to live up to the previous exceptional episodes and provide a more than fitting cap to the most fantastic and fantastical season of Game of Thrones yet. Actually, it reminded me of the stellar third season of another HBO drama with Boardwalk Empire's most recent run going from slow burn to all out chaos. Except GoT closed with a contemplative denouement, more in line with the show's typical season-structure where nine drops the hammer and the finale picks up the pieces. Oh, and that's if you can call an installment with humans hacked to pieces contemplative.
”Here comes the King of the North, King of the North, King of the North. Here comes the…”
Just to make sure the wounds hadn't healed (even a little bit) from the end of "The Rains of Castamere," David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to open the followup with a quick and nasty reminder sure to make everyone's hate (sadness) all too fresh. Roose Bolton, now Warden of the North, looks over the battlement of the Twins to see how his plot is unfolding below and I'm sure is quite happy to see several Stark banners ablaze as his men make short work of the surviving Northmen loyal to Robb. It's also the perfect time to trot out their trophy to celebrate the success of the Red Wedding and Arya is forced to watch her brother's and his wolf's mutilated corpses (known as GreyRobb WindStark) paraded around for Frey and Bolton entertainment. Her bannermen. The Hound does his best to get her out but the damage has once again been done. How much can one little girl take? This one? A fuck of a lot. Sorry, but she's awesome. And she proves it soon after, when the pair come across some gloating Freys who wish they'd seen a Braavosi iron coin before meeting Arya. Valar Morghulis. Meanwhile, back to Roose sharing the entire plan for the north with Walder Frey, who in turn spells out who was really behind the ill fated ceremony and what he gained for his part.
”Reek. My name is Reek.”
Riverrun. Except. Well. The Blackfish escaped and may have something to say about that, even with his stupid nephew in Walder's prison. Dammit Edmure! As for the North, well, Roose has had his bastard Ramsay up there taking care of business in his unique style for some time, finding an interesting way to remove those pesky Iron Born from their land. Yep. The 'Boy' who has been torturing Theon - sorry, Reek, my name is Reek - is Lord Bolton's son who was sent to take Winterfell back from the Greyjoy heir last season. There have been many clues - the horn, the St. Andrews cross, the Bolton sigil - but I'm sure just as many people missed as made the connection. Either way, poor Theon - shit, Reek, don't hurt me - won't be getting an easy way out and will continue to pay for his betrayal. Not that Ramsay Snow cares about the betrayal, he's in it for the fun. Hence, the sausage. He does raise an interesting question, do eunuchs get phantom limb? Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands, once again proves how detestable he is upon receiving, uh, word, of his son's situation by not only refusing to yield his gains but also piling insults on his castrated son. What. A. Dick. Good thing Yara is badass and compassionate, deciding to take a fast ship and a bunch of killers to bring her brother home.
”Roslin caught a fine fat trout. Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding. Walder Frey. Is that bad poetry or is it supposed to mean something?”
Ah. Brothers coming home. That was a minor bright spot in "Mhysa"... or was it? I mean, I was quite happy to see Jaime rewarded after his tough times but Cersei doesn't exactly deserve any prizes. Even if she did open up to Tyrion and try to rouse our sympathy. I'm getting ahead of myself but once again the screen is mesmerizing when it's shared by Peter Dinklage's Tyrion and Lena Headey's Cersei. Before their heart to heart or the one word reunion of the twin lovers, the events in King's Landing start rather light-heartedly with newlyweds Tyrion and Sansa sharing some warm banter. Shae's glare cools their exchange only a bit cause it's the age (innocence) gap between the married couple that sticks out the most. I'm also glad the writers opted to show Sansa's reaction to the bad news in a single shot without dialogue. She's devastated but been through it before and this time we aren't allowed to see her break down completely. Especially not in the presence of a Lannister. The sequence before, where Tyrion learns the news and of his great father's 'sacrifice,' was exceptionally well written, acted and directed. We're immediately reminded of Joff's sociopathy with Tyrion's remark about killing animals only to see the Boy King's madness escalate so far that Tywin has to reign him in. A lion's pride. All puns intended.
”Good. Let them remember what happens when they march on the South. All the Stark men are dead. Winterfell is a ruin…”
Joffrey is quite adept at making enemies, even his mother despises him, but I wouldn't want Tywin and Tyrion teaming up against me. The bit about sending the king to bed killed me. I suppose that team isn't really a threat worth worrying about since those two don't exactly see eye to eye and no, that's not a short joke. The two lions respect one another, however, it's hard to get past the fact that the father considers sparring his dwarf son's life paying the ultimate price for family. What. A. Dick. Tywin often has me nodding my head along to his sadistic yet undoubtedly intelligent perspective but there is no defending for that statement. Especially when delivered to Tyrion's face, a man who we've seen perform acts of great heroism and kindness. Perhaps it was that lovely talk with father that allowed for him to be so subdued during the exchange with his sister, a conversation that usually would come with its fair share of bile from both sides. Nope. They are lonely and largely defeated. Cersei trying to offer some advice on how to make Sansa happy, even if the child becomes a shit head, you'll still have the good memories. Not all relationships are meant to last. Varys tries to tell Shae the same, even offering her another life and explaining how vital Tyrion could be to the resurgence of the Realm but she's determined to hold on as long as there's love, complication or not.
”There’s no where safe any longer, you know that.”
The Stark boys have recently split with Osha taking Rickon off to House Umber while Bran, the Reeds, Hodor and Summer march north. The group decides to take shelter for the night in the Nightfort, one of the deserted Night's Watch castles, and Bran shares one of Old Nan's ghost stories that stresses the importance of guest rights. You hear that, Walder?! They're all woken from their slumber when Bran hears a muffled sound nearby but instead of the Rat Cook appearing, it's just Sam stumbling his way inside with Gilly not too far behind. Jojen tries to protect Bran's identity, however, Sam's not stupid and puts direwolf and direwolf together, also pledging to do anything he can to help Jon's brother. Including advising against going north of the Wall. After a persuasive argument still doesn't shake Bran's will, Sam shares some dragon-glass and a story about being the unlikely first man to kill a White Walker in centuries before helping the group through the secret door. It's a beautiful shot, with Summer silhouetted in the distance. One of my favorites of the season. It was also nice to have the touching bit between Sam and Bran, something to lighten spirits with all the depressing events, a hopeful feeling briefly continued when the former and Gilly arrive at Castle Black.
”There’s nothing north but death.”
Back at the main hold of the Night's Watch, Sam is quick to take Gilly and her baby to see Maester Aemon. Sam puts his foot in his mouth a few times and doesn't do the best job explaining the situation (although his point about protecting the realms of men, realms plural, was quite effective) but Aemon is patient, understanding and full of compassion. And it also doesn't take long for the blind man to spring into action after hearing news of the White Walkers gathering beyond the Wall. If spring into action means making Sam start writing a bunch of letters and having 44 crows prepped to fly. How lucky for a certain Onion Knight, but more on that in a minute, there's still the matter of Jon's return to the Night's Watch. Last week, the good bastard named Snow finally broke off from the wildlings which meant also breaking a few hearts in the process. Ygritte is able to catch up with him, since he stupidly stopped to clean the Eagle scratches on his pretty face, and Jon tries to explain why he did what he did only to have it fall on deaf ears. Deaf ears holding a bow and willing to shoot through her tears once again proving how little Jon knows. Still, we've seen her accuracy, was she really shooting to kill? Poor Ygritte. Must be harder with watery eyes. Jon manages to make it to Castle Black, three arrows and all, just in time for a nice reunion with Sam.
”This war of five kings means nothing. The true war lies to the North, my King. Death marches on the Wall. Only you can stop him.”
Another one of the more emotional sequences in the finale oddly enough takes place between two characters who don’t really know each other. Yet, the meeting of Davos and Gendry was still a reunion of sorts, just a couple guys from Fleabottom shooting the shit and marvelling at how far they’ve come. Davos also obviously sees some of his son in Gendry and won’t allow another one to fall victim to the Red Woman’s flames so he pleads with Stannis at their next meeting to spare the boy’s life. It’s his nephew after all. But the evidence on the other side though is pretty strong now, especially since the penis leech made short work of Robb Stark. If you believe in that voodoo. And by now, you should. That doesn’t mean using it is an honorable option, just the opposite. The Onion Knight saying ‘everything’ in response to Stannis asking what one boy is worth versus a kingdom hit me hard. He’s too noble to live in this world. Like I said, it was a good thing for Davos that Sam sent those ravens since the Night's Watch's bad news not only spared his life but also gives Stannis and Melisandre a new purpose. Melisandre is fascinating because she doesn't seem to care about personal issues, only the Lord of Light. Once she asks the fires, Davos is needed and they're all off to fight the Others. Good. Jon and the remaining brothers need all the help they can get.
”It is Old Ghiscari, Khalessi. It means mother.”
Well, maybe not. Jojen did say they were all pretty much useless. At least we have him, his older sister, Hodor, Summer and Bran. Oh, but also Dany and her dragons. Let's not forget them, especially if the coming war is between 'Ice and Fire.' Dany is busy on the other side of the world though and conquering Westeros seems to be the last thing on her mind at the moment with the whole slave-freeing business really taking off. I'm sure if she heard her kingdom was going to be overrun with White Walkers and their horde of wights, she might make more haste but who's going to be the one to tell her (and the slaves she's freeing) to stop liberating and make preparations for war? Nope. Our most uplifting moment of the season, and one of the most breathtaking sequences of the series (I still love the shot of Summer et al in the Nightfort but this was also a big wow), comes when the newly freed people of Yunkai come out to great their new Queen. She greets them with a heartfelt speech before sending her Dragons to the sky and joining her people in the desert as they chanted 'Mother!' A lovely way to end what has been an emotional year that saw many Game of Thrones characters perish. There is still hope. Valar Dohaeris.
”Deserve? Be careful with that. Start trying to work out who deserves what and you’ll spend the rest of your days weeping for each and every person in the world.”
HBO's Game of Thrones will return next spring with Season 4. The series stars, well, people that are likely to be killed off. Don't grow too attached.