Winter Is Here

And so another year of sword swinging, murder and mild incoherence comes to a glorious end. I liked it.

HBO

Tis the finale of Game of Thrones! Spoilers all around, ladies and gents.

Before the finale our fab artist Jenny and I spent time considering just how many plots needed to be addressed in this 10th episode. We came up with roughly 15 — perhaps seven of which were major threads. I was pleasantly surprised with how many were remembered. Let’s see how they did.

The Major Crew

  1. Dany and the Dragons

Dany was less annoying than usual. Given her conveniently amicable breakup, I’d be surprised if we hear much from Mereen after this. It’s lovely to have her finally headed to Westeros — but I admit that I am mostly pleased that Tyrion will be back with people who weren’t trained out of bantering.1Tyrion’s speech to Dany was a credit to Dinklage. The writing was fine, but quite standard, and Dinklage sold it.  The Hand pin was a nice touch.

     2. Cersei’s Trial

AHAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

Right. So. Cersei blows all the Sparrows and Tyrells to the Seven Hells. The laughter above is not joyful laughter — more a laughter born of nihilism and the sort of “Go with it” mentality I need to enjoy this show. It was a waste of Margaery’s cleverness, but other than that I’m on board. Cersei has finally hit crazy. Good to know.

There is a sort of writing platitude to be had here: If you don’t know how to fix it, blow it up. The Sparrow’s plotline was problematic for plenty of reasons, and perhaps the better lesson is “don’t put yourself in a situation that makes blowing it all up into a desirable storytelling device”. Because it was desirable. The Sparrow had to go2 and with only two seasons left to go and an army of the dead to defeat, it’s time to trim down the candidates for the Iron Throne. Besides, I’m sure that Natalie Dormer has other things to do at this point. We know that Finn Jones does.

I wasn’t surprised that Cersei went here — in main because she’s been colluding with Qyburn all season. I wasn’t attached enough to the characters that ‘sploded to care all that much. But the tension that came from Margaery’s realization and the music were all well done. Tommen’s jump was prettily shot and tragic — if not emotionally crushing.

The best part about this — from a storytelling perspective — is that they now have a wonderful wedge to drive between Jaime3 and Cersei. And we all knew that had to happen for Jaime to continue on his redemptive arc.

     3. Jaime and the Freys

Let’s backtrack a bit to the Freys and Jaime. Jaime displays his usual lack of diplomacy. Good to see Bronn is still being Bronn. Could have used more of him this season.

Game of Thrones (the show) has lately been playing fast and loose with time and it was most egregious and irritating here (for me) this episode. When Jaime arrives at King’s Landing, there is still smoke over the sept. But the Tyrell/Dorne plot needs to have taken place with enough time for: the news to get to High Garden and Dorne, for the Dornish to invite Olenna to Dorne, and for Olenna to travel to Dorne. Which means — what? — there was no wind at all in King’s Landing for a couple weeks?

     4. Arya

Speaking of “Wait! How much time has passed?” When did Arya get to Westeros? And learn how to change her face? Yes, it’s satisfying for her to get to stab the elder Frey after feeding him his sons in a pie, but it’s fan service covering up weak storytelling.

If it was anything but the pie, I’d be annoyed. However — Jenny and the Ladies of Fire and Lunch have based much of their humor and whatnot on Freys eventually being baked into pie. I was so excited that Frey Pie made it into the show that I have no ire left for the poorly explained travel times and skills of Miss Arya Stark.

     5. Winterfell

Hmmm… Confrontation between Davos and Melisandre was fun.

I really, really, really wish they would let Jon and Sansa talk for more than 30 seconds. These two have usefully compatible skill sets and neither of them is dumb. They should have known the King in the North bit was a possibility and it would have been way more satisfying to have Sanse engineer Jon’s kingship rather than letting them literally ignore the problem of her being technically a Bolton and him being a Snow. Again with the timeline — these two have had days/weeks/months to get on the same page when it comes to their political plans and wants. Seems like they haven’t touched them.

Sansa has earned being savvy — yet once again, she’s a passive piece. Jon also has earned a touch of political acumen — but his election to King of the North is as passive as his being raised to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. And we saw how well that turned out.

This however is putting Jon, Cersei and Dany up as our contenders for the throne. We know Cersei is going to lose.

I’m all for more little Lyanna Mormont.

PS Where was Tormond?

     6. Bran

Was basically a flashback vehicle. This may now be his lot in life.

     7. Sam and Gilly

I am so sick of everyone being dicks. Sam walks in and politely says “I’m here from Castle Black to be a Maester.” And the academic who’s on front desk duty is a dick. He’s not curious about the Wall, he doesn’t ask for news, he has no common courtesy. People — ordinary people — are not automatically antagonistic. In fact, people tend to avoid confrontation where possible. So it’s just a bland bit of what — humor?

That said — the design for the Citadel is lovely and I’m glad Sam finally got where he was going. Even if it’s another example of travel time being wildly inconsistent.

 

The Minor Threads

  1. The Sand Snakes

I would have been fine with skipping Dorne. Nothing in Dorne has been good. Now there is the exception of Olenna Tyrell — her telling the Sand Snakes to shut it was satisfying.

To everyone who hasn’t read the books: The ridiculous, plotless waste of Doran Martell in the show is not how that runs in the books. In the books, Doran is brilliant. In the books, Doran gets the “Vengeance, Justice, Fire and Blood” line and earns every goddamn word of it. Giving it to his murderer — his poorly justified and badly written murderer — was a shitty stupid bit of story work. 

Whatever.

2. Varys

Glad he wasn’t forgotten in this episode and that he does, in fact, have a plan for Dany to win this thing.

     3. The Tower of Joy

Did anyone not know who Jon’s parents were?

Nice to have it finally confirmed. It’s an important gambit for letting more than one of our heroes survive the final battle. Don’t think they did a very good job of making the Lyanna/Rhaegar history clear for non-book people. Do think young Ned was well cast.

    4. Loras’ Trial

Turns out to be rather pointless, after all.

     5. Littlefinger and Sansa

The Littlefinger in the show is hard to deal with — he’s just so terribly obvious. And he has been in so little of this season that taking him as a serious contender for the Iron Throne is rather hard. In the books, he’s got great odds. In the show, the inevitability of his failure makes him dull. And professing love for Sansa, given that he sold her to Ramsay Bolton, is just rather nauseating.

 

The Unseen Threads

  1. Sir, My Lady & Squire

I wasn’t really expecting to see these two, but they are some of my favorites. I cheer for them. As stated above, glad Jaime has a reason to leave Cersei now. He and Brienne should just roadtrip to Tarth and ditch the rest of these monsters.

     2. Sir Greyscale

No word from Sir Jorah. Fairly certain that time where the greyscale is concerned will be as flexible as the show gets. Though with Dany out of Westeros, we may also have to being travel time so that Jorah can arrive heroically on the other side of the Narrow Sea.

     3. The Wall

Again, not really expecting this, but it would have been good to see how Edd was doing.

     4. The Ironborn

Can’t really count the brief shot of Theon, can we? Surprised we got nothing more from him and Yara. Less surprised that we got nothing from Euron Greyjoy. We’ll see if he ever ends up being relevant.

     5. The Hound

Disappointing not to see the Hound. We spent a lot of time getting him back into the show and it would have been nice to catch a glimpse of what he’s up to.

 

Other Thoughts:

I think I’m sounding rather curmudgeonly, when the truth is that I enjoyed this episode. I love watching Tyrion, Davos, and Lyanna Mormont. Much as I’m lukewarm on several of the main cast — this was a much better season than the last one. And we’re going into season seven with a relatively manageable cast and clear plot trajectories. I’m sure there will be plenty of murder and mayhem, and yes — I will have to give up on trying to make time make any sense at all. But I’m enjoying the show, and that’s a nice change from last season.

You can read my responses to the rest of the season here, here and here as well as my thoughts going into season 6 here. Cheers!

 

  1. There is more than the one joke to be had when it comes to Tyrion interacting with Missendei and Grey Worm. There is also actual character development to be had. Since, however, both seem unlikely… :-<
  2. I was betting on Varys showing up and knifing him.
  3. Jaime having been pushed to murder King Aerys when the king wanted to unleash wildfire on the city, there’s now a plausible reason for the Lannister twins to have a serious difference of opinion. In the books, Jaime and Cersei are already done with each other. Hoping we’ve arrived at that in the show too.