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WARNING: This article is no less than a splash of SPOILER material for the tenth and final episode Game of Thrones’ Season 5, “Mother’s Mercy.” Those of you who missed the episode and look to stay “unsullied” should proceed with caution!
While Game of Thrones has never been shy about dishing out misery and misfortune to its main characters, Sunday’s Season 5 finale may have proven to be the most wantonly woeful single episode in the series’ history for just about everyone that matters. And yes, to put that statement into context, we do remember the unbridled butchery of the Red Wedding. Since the array of occurrences in this episode is nothing short of massive, let’s attempt to delve into the insanity.
Jon Snow? More like Jon Caesar
At the Wall, Jon Snow has a heart-to-heart talk with Samwell Tarly, who seems to be insistent that best way to continue pulling his weight with the Night’s Watch is to make the long trip to Oldtown and train to become a maester to replace the late Maester Aemon. Plus, this way, he may find somewhere to keep Gilly away from oncoming war with the dead. Jon reluctantly agrees and sees Sam and Gilly off to their journey.
Unfortunately, things start to unravel quickly from there. Davos continues to try and convince Jon Snow to use the Night’s Watch to help a cause he doesn’t know has been obliterated in one fell swoop. However, the arrival of Melisandre – who snuck out of the impending carnage at Winterfell – told Jon and Davos everything they needed to know. It was especially sad for Davos, when he realizes that even Shireen didn’t survive. (Of course, the manner in which she died had not yet been relayed.)
Yet, that would be far from the worst thing for the Night Watch’s new Lord Commander. Hit with news from little Olly that one of the wildlings in their garrison had news of Jon’s long-missing uncle Benjen Stark, Jon quickly goes out to hear this stunning testimony. However, it was all a horrible ruse from the Night’s Watch’s anti-Wildings camp, who, led by Alliser Thone, instigates a treacherously stabby coup d’etat, while all screaming “for the Watch!” Finally, the little boy who once saved Jon’s life delivers the Brutus-like unkindest cut of all, leaving Jon Snow on the ground, looking to sky, as a huge pool of blood forms underneath him.
With the betrayal of Jon Snow being the stunning final moment of the finale, it was an emphatic down note to a season that saw him and several other characters rise high only to fall abruptly. Thus, it appears that we’ll be spending the better part of a year furiously debating whether Jon Snow is truly dead, and whether or not we are destined to witness some supernatural “chosen one” style resurrection.
Stannis’ Flaming Heart Extinguishes
With the frozen army starting to thaw, the episode started out as auspiciously as possible for a man who had just burned his own daughter alive in a desperate sacrifice to some pyromaniac deity with a penchant for killing kings. However, as it turns out, the sellswords and other assorted roving mercenaries in his quickly-dwindling company weren’t exactly inspired with supreme confidence from a would-be king that would resort to such flaming fanaticism. Consequently, we learn that half of Stannis’ army deserted him, not long after he turned in his card that once made him a beloved badass.
From there, the slippery slope filled with northern snow continued Stannis’ misfortunes when his wife Selyse is found hanging from a tree; also clearly not feeling the warmth of the Lord of Light after witnessing what he had in store for her poor daughter, Shireen. However, the same stubbornness that inveigled Stannis to make a live pyre of his only child would take hold and, with half a freezing and starving army in tow, he decided to press on with his siege of the Bolton-controlled Winterfell. Unfortunately, the surprise arrival of the intended targets made it abundantly clear that this would be Stannis’ own frozen Waterloo.
Grievously wounded, with his entire army slaughtered, Stannis continued to fight on until the bitter end. Yet, that end would not come at the hands of a Bolton soldier, but a patiently-waiting Brienne of Tarth, who has come to claim the vengeance she vowed for the death of her king, Renly Baratheon, at the hands of Stannis ‘ and Melisandre’s shadowy assassin. Not one to mince words, Stannis openly confesses to the supernatural fratricide and clearly realizes the entirety of his folly from the beginning; he achieves a modicum of redemption when he tells Brienne, “go on, do your duty,” before she apparently does just that.
Cersei’s Naked Atonement
Deciding that it’s the only way to live and fight another day, Cersei agrees to confess her prurient infractions (at least the ones that are out of the bag) to the High Sparrow, thinking that it’s a quick road to a release from her dank cell. While it ultimately would be, it seems that the conditions for this bit of probation contained a key clause: pure public humiliation in the most egregious sense.
With her long blonde locks violently bobbed down to a sloppy shortness, Cersei is taken outside the Great Sept of Baelor to an awaiting public, ravenous for revenge. There, she is stripped naked and forced to make the longest walk of her life to the Red Keep. As if this birthday suit stroll wasn’t humiliating enough, the King’s Landing denizens are pelting her with debris, smearing her with a substance we can only guess is feces, while shouting insults like “whore” and “brother fucker.”
Bleeding from the feet, due to unforgiving streets, she makes her journey steadily, continuing to endure the abuse with uncharacteristic stoicism until she finally breaks down just as she arrives at her destination with her loyal man, Qyburn, waiting with a blanket in hand. However, also present is a giant, nay “Mountain” of a man, covered in armor, only revealing his pale complexion and dead eyes referred to as “the newest member of the Kingsguard.”
Arya Pays The Price For Not Being No One
Predictably enough, Arya’s murderous machinations to cross off one of the inaugural names on her deadly list gets carried out. However, she did so using Faceless Man skills that we were previously unaware she had learned. Meryn Trant, who seems to get his jollies beating young prostitutes, makes the fatal mistake of allowing himself to be alone with the one that just happened to be a vengeance-seeking Arya under a magic Faceless Man mask.
Perhaps deservedly, it’s a long, violent death for Trant as Arya gouges out both his eyes and pokes hole after hole in the corrupt Kingsguard, before revealing her true identity. After a quick slit of his throat, Arya returns the mask to the House of Black and White, thinking she had gotten away with the perfect crime. However, it seems that her overseers were onto her. In their eyes, Trant was not her life to take, which prompts the Jaquen H’ghar-looking mentor to seemingly commit suicide-by-poisoning to pay back the Many-Faced God for the life, much to Arya’s grief.
However, it turns out that the place has plenty of Jaquen H’ghar-looking mentors to go around as another one shows up and administers the consequences for Arya’s dalliance away from being “no one.” Her eyes get cloudy and suddenly, she’s left blind.
Mereen Gets A New Government, Daenerys Reunites With The Dothraki, Sansa Gets A Rise Out Of Reek and Jaime Gets A Daughter… Then Loses One
In Mereen, with Daenerys flown away to who knows where, Jorah, Daario and the gang are left leaderless. However, they don’t spend too long licking their wounds, as it is quickly decided that Jorah and Daario will go out and look for Daenerys, who was of course seen riding the back of Drogon, heading north. Tyrion, on the other hand, will remain in Mereen, running the day-to-day business behind the scenes with the known face of Missandei remaining behind to maintain the ruse that the Queen is still in control. However, while standing outside and reflecting upon his new responsibilities, Tyrion discovers that Varys has finally arrived in Mereen. With that, it seems that the embattled occupation may finally get mended with some political savvy.
Yet, for Daenerys, things aren’t quite as auspicious as her interim government. It seems that Drogon spirited her away to the middle of nowhere. Seriously wounded, it seems that her dragon won’t be making a connecting flight anytime soon. Wandering about and looking for food, Daenerys soon discovers that her location was especially problematic when she suddenly finds herself surrounded by the familiar sight of a legion Dothraki raiders. Based on the scowl on their faces, they don’t seem intent on calling her “Khaleesi.”
Back at Winterfell, Sansa shows us some interesting lock-picking skills, escaping her room in Winterfell. However, she runs into a crossbow-wielding Myranda, who’s looking for any excuse to put Sansa full of holes on anything besides the parts that Ramsey Bolton needs to make an heir. While Sansa shows that she has nothing left to fear, that doesn’t seem to budge Myranda, who is just about to plug away, when a nearby Reek goes all Darth Vader from Return of the Jedi, taking Ramsey’s sadistic mistress and sending her over a balcony to her death! It seems that Theon Greyjoy may finally be back.
Finally, Jaime and Bronn’s trip to Dorne finally comes at an end. With Jaime’s “niece” Myrcella Baratheon in tow, Prince Doran, the Sand Snakes and Ellaria send them off on a ship, notably with an awkward kiss on the lips from Ellaria to Myrcella. Onboard the ship, Jaime and Myrcella have an interesting heartfelt conversation where it is revealed that Myrcella knew of her true parentage for quite some time, which inspired an emotional hug between a daughter and her true father. But the family reunion didn’t last long, as Myrcella’s nose starts to bleed and she collapses and dies from Ellaria’s evidently poisoned kiss. That’s one way to start war. However, was Ellaria acting alone? Or was this always Prince Doran’s plan?
With that, another season of Game of Thrones is officially in the books. It’s been a wild ride for fans; especially for the book-reading ilk who continue to witness extraordinary deviations (or possible upcoming book spoilers) from the events that took place in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Clearly, with this finale ending on such a sour note for just about every front of the show, we are headed for some major cataclysms that could see the continents of Westeros and Esso headed for monumentally major changes. Bring on Season 6!