SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.
Note: Because it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight, the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.
Last week’s episode, “Blackwater,” left the finale with a lot to live up to. Setting aside how plain awesome it was, when you spend the entire penultimate episode on a battle in one location, it leaves a lot of story lines to wrap up, especially considering “Game of Thrones” has the largest cast of any show on television.
As a result, the running time of “Valar Morghulis” was extended by ten minutes. That’s still not a whole lot of time to cram so many conclusions and cliffhangers into. The show did an admirable job in its attempt, and in its defense, the last few chapters of “A Clash of Kings” were equally hectic and oversaturated.
Tyrion’s Fall from Grace
Tyrion knew when he came to King’s Landing that it was all temporary, he was only acting Hand of the King. If we didn’t like him so much, we’d sit back, chuckle, and say “oh how the mighty have fallen” (that’s pretty much what Grand Maester Pycelle did). Of course, we love Tyrion, and we know King’s Landing would be rubble without him. But as Varys points out, he will not get the credit he deserves.
The Imp’s fall from grace has already begun. He’s left disfigured after being attacked by Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard, and was moved from the Tower of the Hand to recover in a small, dank chamber in the Red Keep. Tyrion recognizes that Cersei must have ordered the assault, but with no way to prove it and his reign as Hand of the King over, there may not be much he can do about it.
However, Tyrion is still Tyrion, he refuses to run away with Shae because he intends to get his revenge somehow. “In the game of thrones you win or you die,” and Tyrion ain’t dead yet.
The Lion and the Rose, Sansa’s Future
Meanwhile, Tywin has been named Hand and Savior of the City. Of course, he didn’t do it alone. Without House Tyrell and the strength of Highgarden behind them, the Lannisters would have been crushed. As a reward, Margaery is betrothed to Joffrey.
The Lion and the Rose are allies now, but their alliance is tenuous at best. The Tyrells are not as stubbornly honorable as Ned Stark, they know exactly what they’re getting into. We already know Margaery realizes how the game is played, recall that when Renly died, she didn’t want to be “a queen,” she wanted to be “the queen.” If you think she’s something, just wait until you meet Grandma Olenna, also known as the Queen of Thorns (who I really hope is played by Maggie Smith).
Although they’re now on the same side, look for the Tyrells and Lannisters to be fierce competitors and conspirators in the capital. Think of the way Cersei and Tyrion clashed this season minus any concerns about kinslaying and the whole “no matter what I kind of sort of love you” thing.
With Margaery in the picture, Sansa is now free of any obligation to Joffrey, or so she thinks. We saw many times that “Game of Thrones” had perfected the art of the fade from smile to grimace, but Sansa’s walk out of the throne room might be the first time we’ve seen the reverse. Then, she’s back to tears in her eyes and “I’m not good enough for him” when Littlefinger calls to her.
For her part, Sansa’s finally figuring out how to play the game, although, as Lord Baelish points out, she’s not quite as good as she thinks, nor is she off the hook with the king. Luckily for her, Littlefinger offers to help get her home, supposedly because of how much she reminds him of Catelyn. Of course, he’s turned on a Stark before, so we’ll have to wait and see if Sansa’s lucky or “lucky.”
The Buddy Comedy Continues
Brienne and Jaime’s came across three whores killed because “they lay with lions.” It was really cool to see that while we root for the Starks and condemn the Lannisters, not every Stark soldier is as chivalrous as their lords. Both sides are made up of human beings, from the very top down to the lowliest soldier, and groups so large are bound to contain good, evil, and everything in between.
The fun times road trip continues as Jaime and Brienne make their way to King’s Landing. Will it be a classic “we’re so different, seeing your perspective has allowed me to learn so much about the world, others, and myself” scenario, or will they just rip each other’s heads off? Tune in next week, er, next year.
The King (and Queen?) in the North
We’re so often reminded on “Game of Thrones” that when power is inherited, it can fall into the wrong hands. This can be because the heir is young, cruel, or stupid, or a thousand other things. What’s more, such power in the hands of a youth tends to amplify those other traits (I’m looking at you Joffrey).
Likewise, even power falling to a deserving teenager like Robb Stark doesn’t make the powerful any less a teenager. Catelyn warns Robb not to go back on his marriage pact and that Walder Frey is not a man to cross. Robb discards her advice, and goes ahead with it anyway. We’ll have to wait and see what the consequences are.
A Northern army of 500 men led by Roose Bolton’s bastard surrounds Theon and the measly force of 20 that holds Winterfell. Alfie Allen has perfectly captured the way Theon is stuck between a rock and a hard place, or a kraken and a wolf. Maester Luwin points out that Theon is not the man hes pretending to be. Theon agrees, but says he’s come too far to pretend be anything else.
Dagmer and the rest of the Ironmen wait for Theon to give one hell of a speech before knocking him out. Remember Robb’s offer that any Ironborn who surrender will be allowed to go home so long as they hand Theon over? Well, it seems they’ve taken him up on it. But if that’s the case, if they surrendered and Robb’s allies took the castle, why was Winterfell razed to the ground? Yes, why indeed.
Remember when Doreah told Viserys that she’d “seen a man who could change his face the way other men change their clothes?” Well, it seems Jaqen H’ghar is one of those men, and we finally got a bit of an explanation as to why he’s such a badass. Jaqen is a Faceless Man of Braavos, a highly regarded group of assassins. He gave Arya an iron coin and told her if she ever wanted to learn their ways (so she could cross a few more names off her list), she need only give the coin to someone from Braavos and say “Valar Morghulis.” But what does that mean?
Beyond the Wall
A while back, Qhorin recognized that “one brother inside [Mance Rayder's] army is worth a thousand fighting against him.” As a result, he’s been working hard to make Jon out to be a traitor, to get the wildlings to accept him while ensuring that he never forgets what he really is. This week, we saw just how far Qhorin was willing to go to succeed in his mission. Jon would never have been truly accepted unless he did something spectacular, and killing his mentor, a man who’d been a great thorn in the side of the Free Folk for decades, was just the thing. Now Jon’s a wildling, or so it appears. Will he actually be converted or will he remain true to his vows? If it’s the latter, who in the Night’s Watch will believe that he was just a mole all along? After all, he just killed the one other brother in on the plot? Maybe all this doesn’t matter because…
Three horn blasts! That means White Walkers! Samwell is the only one who’s seen them so far, but you’ve got to imagine with an army like that they’ll be hard to miss. As a result, the Night’s Watch will finally know (or should know) what we have all along: that they’re wasting their time squabbling with wildlings, that the true enemy is out there, and they’re going to need every body they can get (there’s a space there because I mean “body” literally), regardless of which side of the Wall they reside on.
The House of the Undying
I could sit here and analyze Dany’s visions in the House of Undying, but even though they were different from the books I don’t think it’d be fair knowing what I do. Instead, lets focus on what’s important, on what we know happened to the last Targaryen after walking the warlocks’ gauntlet.
All season, Daenerys has been telling us shes going to “take what is [hers] with fire and blood.” Like, literally all season. She says that shit a lot, so often in fact that it makes me want to pull my hair out. Anyway, the irony of her catch phrase is that generally while she’s talking smack about “taking,” she’s asking to be given the throne, or at least given the tools to take it. As a result, I’ve often noted that the only thing that separates her from her brother, who was not-so-affectionately known as the “Beggar King,” is that she got lucky and birthed some dragons. It seems to me that the end result of Dany’s trip to the House of the Undying is basically equal to her opening a dictionary and looking up the word “take.” “Ooooh, that’s what it means? Wow, I’ve been doing this all wrong.” You’re goddamn right.
Dany entered the House for one reason, to rescue her dragons. The funny part is they ended up rescuing her. With the help of her visions, Dany finally understands that she is alone. She has no one and no one is going to give her anything for free. All she has is her dragons, all she is is her dragons. They really hit this point hard with the idea that she found Drogo, alive and well, as well as the son she never had, and chose to leave them for the dragons. She recognized that even though it was just a vision, she could’ve stayed there and lived that life, and it might have even made her happy. However, she also recognized that such a life wasn’t good enough, she wanted her dragons, she wants her throne, and now maybe, just maybe, she’s got the mental tools to take it.
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Tags: Arya Stark, Brienne, Catelyn Stark, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Dagmer Cleftjaw, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones blog, Grand Maester Pycelle, Jaime Lannister, Jaqen H'ghar, Joffrey Baratheon, Jon Snow, Littlefinger, Margery Tyrell, Nate Kreichman, Qhorin Halfhand, Robb Stark, Roose Bolton, Samwell Tarly, Sansa Stark, Shae, Talisa, Theon Greyjoy, Tyrion Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Varys