Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The End?

An unsettled and unsettling finale to Game Of Thrones' fifth season   And while it had its moments, I think "Mother's Mercy" was the weakest finale of any season yet.

It starts in Stannis's camp.  Last we saw him he was burning his daughter to get favorable weather.  Congratulations, Stan, you got it.  But at what cost?  After seeing what he did, his sellswords have deserted him, taking the horses (who knew sellswords were so sensitive?).  This to a force that's already had a high attrition rate.  Oh yeah, and his wife has hanged herself.  Even Melisdandre rides back to Castle Black for some reason.  But Stannis moves forward, as he must.

At the Wall, Jon is telling Sam the horrible things he's seen.  Why not tell everyone at Castle Black, Jon, since they're the guys who think your plans are stupid? Add in testimony from the Night's Watch you took with you and maybe the rest will listen.  Anyway, Sam wants to go to Oldtown, taking Gilly and child along. (I checked--it's on the other side of the continent.  A smart move with the White Walkers ready to invade.) There he'll study to be a maester, which makes sense--he's a reader, not a fighter. And it'll be nice to get a new setting. Next thing you know, Sam is leaving.  Better watch it Jon, you don't have too many friends left.

We see Stannis and what's left of his crew walking across the snow--a sorry spectacle.  And I might add not that satisfying, dramatically.  This is what's left of the large forces we saw swooping in against Mance Rayder in last year's finale?  We've spent the entire season waiting for a clash between Stannis and the Boltons, and all we'll get is an anticlimax?

Inside Winterfell they don't seem overly concerned. Meanwhile, a hooded Sansa breaks out of her room, using a corkscrew or something like that.  She manages to march to the high tower, presumably to light a candle and get Brienne's attention. (What can Brienne do if she does see it, anyway?)  Meanwhile, Pod--boy, we haven't seen him in a while--spots Stannis's troops on the march. He rushes to Brienne: "Hey, your sworn enemy is hear."  With comic timing, she walks away just before the light in the tower comes on.  Wasn't she standing there for like two or three months waiting for a signal?

Winterfell isn't waiting for a siege.  The huge Bolton army (who knew they had so many?) rushes out to Stannis's beleaguered troops and engulfs them.  Soon the Baratheon forces are slaughtered, and an injured Stannis gets to think about what he's done. Just then Brienne shows up and announces she's there to avenge Renly.  Stannis takes it like a man, but let's list everything disappointing about all this.

1)  As mentioned earlier, after waiting for a battle the entire season, this is a big nothing.  It's not just there's not enough action--we wanted to see a real struggle for control of Winterfell.  When Agamemnon killed his daughter, he then went on to fight a real war, only being killed when he returned home many years later.

2)  Up till now, as annoying as the Red Woman could be, her powers were true.  Now are we to believe everything she told Stannis is bull?  All those vision she and Stannis had were lies?

3) Brienne has been waiting a long time for revenge, but this is hardly worth it. She could have done nothing and he probably would have bled to death.  And she gets to walk in after the battle is over and just luckily run across the King?  Wouldn't the Bolton forces have been looking for him?  (By the way, we don't see the final blow, but I can't imagine Brienne would hold back.)

4)  First the Iron Bank backs King's Landing, which runs out of money and can't repay on time. So they lend a huge amount to Stannis to take the city and repay them. He didn't even come close. I'd say it's time for everyone to take their money out of this bank.

5)  Maybe it's too much to ask, but wasn't Littlefinger supposed to swoop in at some point, or will that be next season?

6)  We don't even get to have any revenge on Ramsay, who's idiotic plans have apparently worked. He even gets to kill a soldier who's just surrendered for good measure.

Anyway, we're back in Winterfell, and Sansa is out and about.  Myranda, aiming an arrow at her, isn't happy about this.  She explains Ramsay has plans for his bride. This is still a part of the story I don't get. I'm not saying Ramsay would be a pleasant fellow to be married to, but Sansa is a jewel--an actual Stark, the only living one as far as anyone knows, who confers legitimacy on the Boltons, so she should be treated well at all times.  Apparently, though, Ramsay just wants a baby or two and then the flaying, or whatever, can begin.

Finally, Theon/Reek has had enough. Now? I mean I'm glad he finally did something, but he's had plenty of chances already.  He tosses Myranda off the railing and she falls to her death (I think).  In for a penny, in for a pound, so now both Theon and Sansa must flee. (Why?  Can't Reek just stick around?  No one saw what he did.) They climb along the parapet and jump off together.  Do they survive? Land in a snowbank, or a hay bale?  Or is it a double suicide?  We'l have to wait a year to find out (though I assume they made it).  By the way, a lot of good Brienne did.  Let's look at her track record.  Sworn to Renly.  He died.  Sworn to Catelyn.  She died.  Sworn to Arya. Loses her.  Sworn to Sansa. She runs away, maybe dies, without the slightest help from Brienne. This is not a woman you want protecting you.

Next we see a guy. Is that Prince Doran?  No, it's Meryn Trant. And in case you don't remember what a jerk he is, he's whipping underage girls.  The third doesn't squeal, so he sends the other two away to work on her.  We know it's Arya. She shows her face, and it's not Arya, but we know it's Arya with another face.  She's ready to kill him, and we're ready, too. She jumps on him, stabbing his eyes, then doing a little more stabbing. A lot of revenging going on in this episode.  And this time we get to see it in all its gruesome glory.  She announces who she is and why she's killing him.  (It's not enough she and Brienne have to kill these guys, they've got to explain first.) Then she slits his throat as calmly as if she's giving him a shave.

Another named crossed off the list. But back at work, they won't be happy at her freelancing.  You'd think they'd make an exception for a guy like Trant, but apparently not.  Jaqen and the faceless gal who works there know all about it, of course. News travels fast--immediately at the House of Black and White, I think.  So a debt is owed. Looks like they're going to poison Arya, but do they dare to kill a beloved character?  No. Jaqen drinks it.  He dies and Arya is heartbroken. But it's not Jaqen, just a no one with countless faces.  The real Jaqen (?) appears and Arya goes blind.

This is not a satisfying plot point. Perhaps it's poetic justice, but we need Arya to move on. Losing her sight (temporarily? or some permanent Japanese killer sort of thing) is a drag--we've spent a whole season on Braavos, time for her to move on, back to Westeros and do what she does best.

At Dorne, Jaime, Bronne and Myrcella are saying their goodbyes at a pier.  If there's going to be any action in this storyline, not much time left.  On the ship, Myrcella tells Jaime she knows he's her dad and she's okay with it.  It's like the sitcom Alf. At first almost no one knew he was an alien, but by the end it seemed like more people knew than didn't. Same for Jaime + Cersei.  It's a touching scene.  Too touching. You know there's going to be trouble. Sure enough, Myrcella starts bleeding through the nose then dies...of a poisoned kiss from one of the Sand Snakes. Figures.  Couldn't anyone see this coming?  Anyway, revenge for Oberyn and a huge headache for everyone else.  As if Cersei didn't have enough trouble. (Speaking of which, we still haven't gotten to King's Landing, which we didn't see at all last week.)

In Meereen, Tyrion, Jorah and Daario sit on the steps of the castle (or whatever the place is called), apparently having escaped last week from the Great Pit. Dany is gone and they're forlorn.  Tyrion says "you love her" and seems to be addressing Daario as well--he already made the point about Jorah last week.  A still injured Grey Worm comes in with Missandei.  GW isn't happy about Jorah being there, but soon things are sorted out. Okay, fine, but what to do now?  Dany was last seen flying North, into the wilderness.  The Imp wants to help, but he doesn't have the chops.  So Daario and Mormont will go on an expedition to find her. Meanwhile, Tyrion will run things, with the help of Grey Worm, who has the respect of the people (well, at least the soldiers to keep them at bay) and Missandei, who has some experience at least at helping those in charge.

As Tyrion surveys his new city, who should walk up behind him but Varys (the actor was in the credits). Huh?  Wasn't Varys the sworn enemy of Dany?  Can he waltz right into the city?  I guess he does have a lot of connections.  Anyway, it looks like Tyrion now has a Hand.  But really, Dany was stuck here long enough, do we need more time in Meereen?

Now we cut to Dany on a grassy hillside.  She tells Drogon they must go, but when she tries to climb aboard, nothing doing. Drogon was willing to swoop in to save her, but now I guess he's tired. This cab is no longer in service.  She needs to get back to Meereen, but she also needs food, so she walks into the nearby valley.  Soon some horsemen surround her--look like Dothraki. It's old home week. (She takes off a ring--is that from Khal Drogo?  Couldn't tell.) I'm not sure how they'll react to her, or how she'll react to them.  And we don't find out--that's the end of her story this season. She usually gets happier finales.  (And is Drogon just too beat to swoop in one more time?--plenty of good meat surrounding her is he's hungry.)

We finally get to the inevitable--King's Landing.  Cersei still in her cell, and ready to deal.  She goes to the High Sparrow and confesses--it's the only way to get out.  She admits to sex with Lancel.  After all, they've got her dead to rights. She denies the other accusations, like incest, far more fiercely than she confessed to the sins.  So it's not the end, just the beginning--she still has to go on trial.  She asks just to see her son again--Mother's Mercy.

Sure she can.  All she has to do is have her hair shorn, her clothes ripped off, and walk through the citizenry, while shoeless on cobblestone, back to the Red Keep.  (At first I thought it was actually Lena Headey's full nudity, but it's probably some sort of CGI deal, since they avoid too much in the close-ups.)  It's an excruciating journey.  She's Marie Antoinette and the Little Folk throw things and shout imprecation during her journey.  She breaks down, though I'd think she'd be thinking on her walk about how she's going to torture the High Sparrow as soon as she can, and also the Septa following behind her ringing a bell and shouting "Shame!"  Or perhaps she's thinking We really should have built the church closer to the castle.

She finally gets inside the castle.  Qyburn immediately cloaks her, while Pycelle and Kevan watch, doing nothing. (What dicks.  They may hate her, but come on, she's the Queen Mother.)  The next surprise--Frankenknight marches out.  Apparently Qyburn has brought the Mountain back to life.  The enormous zombie (?) carries her off.  Next season look for some damage. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure how much she needs yet another soldier.  All Cersei needs to do is get that pantywaist Tommen in line and the Faith Militant better watch out.

Speaking of which, what about the Tyrells?  With all the concentration on Cersei, we have no idea if Margaery and Loras are still languishing in jail, or if Olenna has done anything.  For that matter, is Littlefinger still in town, or on the move?

Back at Castle Black, Davos is making a hopeless plea for help from Snow. But we know it's pointless even if the Lord Commander wanted to help.  Then the Red Woman rides in. Hmmm.  She doesn't say anything, but it's obvious by her presence that things haven't gone well.  Is she planning to hitch her ride to another horse?

Now Snow is sitting by candlelight, reading the latest ravens, when Olly marches in saying there's information about Uncle Benjen--they've been looking for him since season one!  He rushes out, but the audience wonders if something else isn't at hand.  Sure enough, there's a small band waiting for him, and a sign that says "Traitor." They stab him, saying "For the Watch." The coup de grace is delivered by Olly.  And Jon Snow's body is down, blood spreading beneath him.

So let's review.

In King's Landing, Cersei is at least back with Tommen and ready to plot revenge, but plenty of the townsfolk perhaps wouldn't mind a little Sharia law.  In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn have escaped, but peace doesn't seem likely since they're bringing back a beautiful corpse, not to mention in Trystane a useful hostage.  In Meereen, Tyrion is now overseeing the mess, while Daario and dying Jorah search for Dany, who's out in a meadow with the old gang.

In Braavos, Arya will continue her training (?), but without vision.  At Winterfell, Brienne has apparently avenged Renly, but missed Sansa.  Sansa and Theon are either dead, or running away on broken legs.  Roose and Ramsay are more in charge than ever, but they won't be happy they've lost their Stark. (Speaking of which, no Bran this year, or Rickon, but certainly we haven't seen the last of them.)

Above all, there's Castle Black.  Sam is gone, on his way to Oldtown, to read more books and have more sex.  But back at the Wall, Davos and the Red Woman seem to be stranded for now.  And the mutineers have taken over.

But what of Jon Snow?  Is he truly dead?  He sure seems to be, but can it be true?  He has a lot left to do.  He's the one who'll fight against the White Walkers.  We don't even know who his real mom is.  I still think he'll be back, no matter what the producers say. In fact, isn't Melisandre part of a religion that raises people from the dead?

Anyway, we've got to wait 2016 to find out.  Not the greatest ending, perhaps, but the season sure flew by.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

used up the battle budget at Hardhome.

Seems like they grabbed a sitcom writer for this episode. Specifically, the Sam/Jon scene, some of Daario's cracks in Meereen and of course the Tyrion/Varus reunion.

The whole episode seemed a bit rushed like everyone was tired from the last 2 weeks

2:01 AM, June 16, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

It was rushed because they had so much to wrap up--they should have let it be 90 minutes. But it was the plot, not the length, that was sometimes less than satisfying.

8:26 AM, June 16, 2015  
Blogger New England Guy said...

We are sort of caught up to the books although there are some characters from the books that haven't shown up in the show yet and I think they (well one or two them) still might. I really wonder what the The Winds of Winter* will be like now? Probably a sort of alt.history version of the HBO GOT world. No doubt very confusing.

* Not to be confused with the The Winter of the World- Book 2 in Ken Follett's Century trilogy which, despite its marketing, is a poorly-written sex novel interspersed with some carefully-researched and not-so-badly-written historic fiction set around World War II.

9:04 AM, June 16, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

As I've stated, I'm glad the TV show has caught up with the books. Previously, it was too easy for readers to drop spoilers.

The question now is will Martin come out with his latest before the next season. My guess is he won't. From what I understand, the books keep expanding the world, and are getting longer and more self-indulgent as he goes along, so he won't be able to rein it in and get it published by early 2016, as much as the fans wish he would. As for finishing the book series before the TV series, that seems all but impossible.

I think Martin should slash and burn. Take all the unnecessary plots of his books and kill everyone to concentrate on the main characters (i.e., the central hundred, not a thousand) to get to the end already.

9:33 AM, June 16, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not looking forward into the show's foray into happenings on the Iron Islands if the Dorne entry is any example. The show somehow made the Dorne story from the books both much shorter and even duller. BTW the "bad pussy" line was probably one of the worst lines I have ever heard on GOT

2:05 PM, June 16, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't see a dead body, that means they may still be alive. (In this show, they could also come back to life.)

Snow is probably dead, but wasn't fully dead when we last saw him.

Stannis was about to die, but we didn't see anything. Maybe someone stabbed Brienne in the back at the last second.

Sansa and Theon are definitely still alive. Nothing else would make sense.

I want to know how much more time Jorah has, and how many people will he infect first.

12:06 AM, June 17, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Fully dead? So this is basically The Princess Bride? (What would the male centric equivalent title be to "The Princess Bride"?)

Finally got around to watching "Married." I disagree with you, LAGuy. Not having sex is much funnier than having sex. And killing off the puppy named after the miscarried baby of your inchoate mistress? Now that's funny.

2:56 AM, June 17, 2015  
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