So… this episode was kind of anticlimactic, no? It felt more like a mid-season episode than a finale.
But there were some seriously amazing scenes, plus we got to see some characters who’ve been absent for a while. If there’s anyone who doesn’t love Asha Yara now then I don’t want to know about it.
But, of course, before we get to awesome characters doing awesome things, it’s back to the aftermath of the Red Wedding, because clearly this show has not caused us enough pain on that front. Roose Bolton looks on as the Frey soldiers massacre what’s left of Robb’s army. In the midst of all that carnage are Sandor and Arya, who are faced with a rather gruesome sight when Robb’s body is paraded in front of a cheering crowd. And I do mean only his body: His head’s been cut off and replaced with that of his direwolf. The question of all the book readers wondering whether the show would go there has now been answered.
Aside from being a nightmare-inducing scene, it was also heartbreaking. The Frey soldiers escort what used to be Robb around while chanting “King in the North! King in the North!,” and you can tell there’s a split second before Arya sees the product of their macabre craft hour when she thinks her brother might still be alive. In the words of Spock, I am emotionally compromised.
From there we zip over to King’s Landing, where Tyrion and Sansa are actually getting along. They talk about their mutual status as outcasts, and Sansa recommends a prank he can play on those who laugh at him. Sure, Tyrion and Shae exchange a glance that’s a bit tense, but all in all it looks like things are going well between the newlyweds.
Not, I want to stress, in a romantic sense. Tyrion’s in love with Shae and Sansa’s still really young and somewhat naive, on top of not showing any romantic interest in Tyrion. But it seems like Sansa is finding an ally in her husband and might even eventually come to trust him. Case in point: In talking about the prank, Sansa mentions that it’s one Arya used to play on her. In King’s Landing Sansa is regarded as coming from a family of traitors; her voluntarily mentioning her family to Tyrion—and doing it in a happy way, not an “oh but we Starks are all evil traitors, don’t kill me” sort of way—that’s huge.
But it all comes to naught, because then Podrick summons Tyrion to a small council meeting where it’s announced that Robb and Catelyn Stark are dead. Tyrion confronts Tywin with the fact that he was obviously behind the whole thing, to which Tywin responds: “Yeah? So?” By Tywin’s logic it’s better to use treacherous means to kill a few people than to have the war go on and on, killing thousands. He’s not in this to make friends, or even to do the “right” thing. He’s going to win the war to protect his house, and if Tyrion doesn’t like how he does it then big whoop. It makes sense, even if it is exceedingly cold. That’s Tywin in a nutshell, really.
Furthermore, now the Robb’s dead it falls to Sansa’s eventual son to be Warden of the North, so Tyrion had better get busy with the whole babymaking thing. Tyrion refuses. Tywin insists. Tyrion calls Tywin on his hypocrisy, noting that it’s easy for him to do what’s best for the family when he’s the one deciding what’s best for the family in the first place. He’s never had to do something for the family that was against his own personal desires.
Au contraire, says Tywin. The day you were born the only reason I didn’t kill you is because you’re a Lannister. But I wanted to. I really, really wanted to.
Well. That’s a conversation-ender.
Tyrion heads back to his and Sansa’s quarters, where he sees that Sansa already knows what happened. So much for the good feelings in their relationship, then. My hopes lasted for a scene.
One more thing about the small council scene deserves a mention, and that’s Joffrey. He’s positively gleeful that Robb and Catelyn are dead and says that he plans to serve Robb’s head to Sansa at his wedding feast. Tyrion goes off on him, saying that Sansa is no longer his to torment and that he’d better watch his back since Kings are dying like flies these days. That obviously upsets Joffrey, and he ends up flipping his lid at Tywin, saying his father (meaning Robert Baratheon, not Jaime) won thereal war against the Targaryens when all his grandfather did was cower inside Casterly Rock. Everyone’s “oh sh—” expressions after he says that are priceless. Especially Joffrey’s. Tywin literally sends the boy king to his room. Oh, Tywin. For all that you can be awful on a personal level, as a character you are magnificent.
Then we catch up with Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds, who are spending the night in the supposedly haunted Nightfort, one of the Nights Watch’s abandoned castles. Bran tells the Reeds the story of the Rat Cook, who was cursed by the gods for killing guests beneath his own roof, which is the one thing the gods simply can’t abide. From there we get a subtle cut to Walder Frey chatting with Roose Bolton, who’s Warden of the North until Sansa has a son. Roose tells Walder that Blackfish, Catelyn’s uncle, escaped, and then updates him on what happened with the sacking of Winterfell, namely that he sent his bastard son Ramsay to turn the Ironborn against Theon and then bring him back to the Starks. Of course he didn’t do that last part, what with not actually being loyal to the Starks and all. So how Ramsay has Theon all to himself.
And that’s who Theon’s mysterious torturer is: Ramsay Snow. Not gonna lie, I’m a bit sad that I can no longer refer to him as Barry. Ramsay’s having a bit of Ramsay-style fun with Theon, tricking him into thinking that he’s snacking on his dismembered penis (ewww) and giving him a new name: Reek. Twice Ramsay asks his captor what his name is and hits him when he responds “Theon Greyjoy.” The third time, though, he says Reek. Speaking of Greyjoys…
… Theon’s sister Yara has been absent all season, but when she shows up it’s with a bang. She and her father Balon have been sent a letter and a parcel by Ramsay, who demands that Balon order all his people out of the North. In the box is, you guessed it, Theon’s penis. If you don’t do what I say, Ramsay threatens, I’ll send you more parts of your son.
Balon refuses to do as Ramsay asks, and when Yara points out that that’s kind of an awful thing to do to his son, Balon responds that Theon’s not realllly his son anymore, is he? Because no penis. Man, Balon, that line was worthy of Joffrey. Balon may have abandoned Theon to the whims of a sadistic creep, but Yara sure as hell won’t. Defying her father’s orders, she announces her plans to take the fastest ship and 50 of the Iron Islands’ best killers to rescue her baby brother.
The shot of Yara BAMFing her way to the ship deserves some sort of ’80s rock classic in the background. Eye of the Tiger, maybe? Regardless. Three cheers for Yara. She may not have been in season three much, but when she was, damn did she ever make it count.
Back in the “haunted” castle Bran is happened upon, not by a ghost, but by Sam and Gilly. Sam, seeing Bran’s direwolf, realizes that he must be Jon’s brother and offers him a spot on his and Gilly’s mini-caravan back to Castle Black. Bran refuses, insisting that he continue north of the Wall. He’s scared by Sam and Gilly’s reports of the horrors that will await them there, but he’s not deterred. After all, south of the Wall isn’t safe either. Sam tells Bran and his companions the path they used through the Wall and gives them some dragonglass to defend themselves against the White Walkers. With that, they’re on their way.
Last week’s episode was absent any of our favorites (well, my favorites—I admit to being biased) on Dragonstone. Now Davos visits Gendry, who’s been locked up in the dungeon, and the two of them have a bit of a bonding session about being lowborns from Flea Bottom and over how creepy Melisandre is.
Back in King’s Landing Varys tries to bribe Shae to leave the city, though he explains it’s not actually bribery, it only looks like it because he’s giving her a ton of diamonds in exchange for her setting up house in some other country. But his purpose is much more noble, he argues: I know you two crazy kids love each other, but Tyrion can truly help Westeros, and he won’t be able to do that with you here. Shae refuses, insisting that if Tyrion wants her to leave he can ask her himself. *mic drop*
Then there’s my second favorite scene in the episode—the first is the Yara scene, because reasons. Sandor and Arya, riding through the forest, come across some of Walder Frey’s men joking about the Red Wedding. Arya doesn’t take too kindly to that, running away from Sandor to play the “innocent little girl wandering in the woods” card and ask the men for help. They refuse until she offers them a coin (Jaqen H’ghar’s Valar Morghulis coin, aw yeah), which she drops. When one of the men goes to retrieve it she stabs him, because you do not mess with Arya’s family. Sandor shows up and kills the rest of the men, then asks her where she got the knife, to which she responds: From you. And you thought Arya was badass before.
Back up North Ygritte catches up with Jon, who reaffirms his love for her and says that she won’t shoot him, because she loves him too. Hah, no. She shoots him three times, though he still gets away. If she wanted to kill him, she could’ve. Later in the episode he shows up, seriously injured but still alive, as Castle Black. Moment of silence for the Jon-Bran family reunion that could’ve been.
Sam’s having a better time of things, having successfully reached Castle Black with Gilly and her baby, whom Gilly has decided to name Sam. Oh, my heart. Maester Aemon has Sam write a letter to be sent to all of the rival Kings in Westeros. In that letter is a warning of what’s going on beyond the Wall and a call for help. One of those letters is received by Davos, who as Stannis’ newly literate Hand reads all his mail. Before he can read the letter in its entirety, though, the sound of bells summons him to Stannis’ throne room. Stannis and Melisandre have just found out that Robb is dead, which in turn makes Melisandre extra determined to sacrifice Gendry. Davos, playing the angel on Stannis’ shoulder to Melisandre’s demon, tries to convince Stannis not to go along with it, because effective or not dark magic is evil. Stannis is unconvinced: His enemies are causing harm to his realm, and if he has to sacrifice one person to achieve the power to stop them, he will.
Davos does the only thing he can: He sets Gendry (who doesn’t know how to swim) on a boat and tells him to haul ass to King’s Landing. Later, meeting with Stannis and Melisandre again, he fully admits to letting Gendry go and gets sentenced to death for his efforts. Not so fast, says Davos. You still need me to gather bannerman to your side and assemble your army, because we have a much bigger enemy than rival kings to face now. Turns out Davos has read the letter from the Night’s Watch. And, surprise, Melisandre agrees with him. Team Dragonstone’s game plan has changed: Stannis, with the help of Melisandre and Davos, are going to kick some icy White Walker behind.
(Side note: This is one of the things I love about Stannis. Many of Game of Thrones‘ other kings are fighting for power, or vengeance, or glory. Stannis is fighting for duty. After all, in his mind the kingdom is technically already his, which means it’s his job to protect it. Not to say he hasn’t done some awful things, but… look, I love him. Don’t question me on this.)
There’s a quick reunion scene between Jaime and Cersei, the latter of whom looks like she’s seen a ghost, and then we’re on to the last new Game of Thrones scene for ten months: Daenerys comes face to face with the (ex-)slaves from Yunkai, who celebrate her as their mother.
Seriously? I know all the big stuff happens in the penultimate episode, but the last scene of season two was Sam seeing the ice zombie army. And this season we get Daenerys crowdsurfing? It works with her storyline and character, but as the final shot of the season it just doesn’t fit. Plus, her being surrounded by a worshipful mass of people she’s saved who are decidedly, er, browner than her is really frakking weird. I’m not saying there’s malicious, racist intent or anything, and some of the slaves are probably just tanned white people. But as an image, I found it really offputting.
Anyway. This was kind of anticlimactic as a finale, but it had some good bits. Ten months, guys. We can make it.
Notes for book readers:
- There were some cliffhangers in this ep, but I’d rather have seen some higher-impact ones, like maybe [major book spoilers] the arrival of Lady Stoneheart. But we can’t have everything.
- So no Coldhands then? I thought after missing his mark in the last episode he might still show up in this one. Maybe he’ll be there waiting for Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds beyond the Wall, and it’s just Sam and Gilly who never meet him?
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