by Matthew Thompson
(Since we are more or less caught up to the books, I speculate about what will happen next a bit more than usual in this review. Rest assured it is only about stuff where I don’t know what happens next and I am only basing the speculation on things that have happened in the show.)
Game of Thrones had a lot to cover in this year’s finale. After “The Dance of Dragons,” I was left wondering what they’d be able to get done before the season wrapped up. I thought “Mother’s Mercy” got a surprising amount accomplished and largely left things in a good spot going into next season.
Of course, that depends on what you consider a good spot. Certainly Jon Snow isn’t left in one. It seems there were a lot of heartbroken fans over his death. I was certainly sad to see his brothers turn on him especially since I believe he was right in almost all of his decisions this year. But I never believed for a second we’d seen the last of Jon Snow. The show has gained a reputation for no one being safe in this world. It is probably true. Anyone could be gone by the time this all wraps up. I do think there are characters that are safe to make it to the end game though and Jon is one of them. He is arguably the series’ main character (which I felt was magnified by his stare down with the Night’s King a few weeks back; it was like they were saying, “These two are meeting at the end.”) and he is certainly the focal point at The Wall (Sam was even sent away this week leaving things more barren up there). On top of all this, it really doesn’t make sense from a narrative standpoint like some of the shocking deaths in the past in my opinion.
On the other hand, thinking he should be alive won’t do us much good with him lying there dead at the end of this episode. But it’s far from the first time a character has been resurrected on the show. There was Khal Drogo in Season 1. The wights being raised in the North over the years. And in this very episode, we saw the culmination of a season’s worth of teasing when Qyburn’s Franken-Mountain carried Cersei away after her walk. The most relevant one is Beric Dondarrion who a couple years ago was brought back to life by Thoros of Myr after a bad go of it with The Hound (and it apparently wasn’t the first time). Thoros was a Red Priest just like Melisandre who just happened to show back up at The Wall this past week (and if memory serves Thoros and Mel spoke about Beric’s ressurections back in Season 3). So Jon will die. If the history of the series is anything to go on, he will be changed in some way when he returns. But he will be back and no amount of effort by the showrunners or Kit to tell me otherwise will change my mind. Worry not Jon Snow fans, I’m positive he will play a large part in the final seasons of this show.
One thing that really surprised me about the finale was that we saw the battle between Stannis’s forces and those of the Boltons. Sometimes my predictions for this show are based on factors besides what should happen with the plot. It was pretty clear that Hardhome and Daznak’s Pit ate up a ton of this season’s budget. They simply didn’t have the money to do another big battle. Throw in how many other storylines this finale had to cover and I wrote off the idea that we’d see this particular conflict wrapped up. And of course I was wrong. Now they did skip the battle for the most part, but we still got those great overhead shots and the main point was made clear: the Boltons routed Stannis’s remaining troops.
The end finds an injured Stannis confronted by Brienne. This was foreshadowed early in the season when Brienne told Pod about her lust for revenge against Stannis for what he did to Renly. And Stannis’s death seemed inevitable after he burned Shireen. This week we saw the weather clear for him, but just about everything else went wrong. Selyse killed herself. Half his troops left. Melisandre bailed (she seemed more shaken than I expected by how things were going). And then he is seemingly killed by Brienne. To me, Stannis’s story felt rushed towards the finish here. So much time spent building to his march on Winterfell. Then he resorted to killing Shireen way too suddenly. And an episode later it is all over for him. I feel they could have paced this out better.
Though I did find it incredibly odd that they cut away when Brienne was killing Stannis. This show doesn’t shy away from violence. And I can’t think of a major character where they handled their death this way, but it’d be something I’d have to look into more. And then there are his last words to Brienne: “Go on, do your duty.” Could these have made Brienne realize it wasn’t her job to kill Stannis? If it turned out Stannis was still alive next year and Brienne had taken him as a prisoner, I wouldn’t be surprised. Unlike with Jon, I don’t feel confident either way on this one. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the way they shot it.
This only scratches the surface of what happened in “Mother’s Mercy.” The best scene was perhaps Cersei’s walk through the city. It was long and agonizing which really helped the audience feel her pain. Depending on your view of Cersei, maybe you even felt sympathy for her here. There was also Arya’s murder of Meryn Trant which was absolutely brutal and her losing her eyesight as a consequence felt like an appropriate cliffhanger to end on for now.
Unlike a lot of the storylines, the Meereen situation hit its climax in the previous episode. This week they focused more on setting up what these characters would be doing next season. Tyrion, Varys and Grey Worm will be hoping to rule Meereen in Dany’s place while Jorah and Daario will head out to try to find her. We are left in the dark on what the Khalasar will do with Dany (and for that matter how the hell a group of mounted riders of that size was able to sneak up on her), but I suspect she will bring them to her side next season before she makes her way to Westeros.
I suppose I need to check in with Sansa one last time for the season as well. I’ve never understood the placement of Sansa into this storyline and I’m still scratching my head about it. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with what happened with her and Theon this episode. And I’m happy they escaped. But looking back I don’t think they ever did anything interesting with Sansa here. Putting her in a situation so similar to one we’ve seen her in before didn’t make for compelling television. And I didn’t feel like they used the situation to grow her character in ways that made me look back and think the whole thing was worthwhile.
Oh and something did happen in Dorne. Unlike a couple of the other people I’ve been trying to keep alive in this post, I assume Myrcella is a goner. I don’t think I’ll know what to make of this until next year. I suppose it makes the whole Dornish ordeal feel like less of a waste, but it still seems like they missed an opportunity for developing Jaime’s character this season and giving us a better introduction to Doran assuming he plays a role in the story going forward. I did think the Jaime-Myrcella scene was pretty great though.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: I think Cersei’s walk was probably the most well done. It was one of those book to TV adaptations they absolutely nailed.
- Remember when we were all speculating what Sansa would do with that corkscrew? We thought it’d be plunged in one person or another’s neck (my money was on Miranda’s)? Well kudos to whoever had her using it as a lockpick…
- That bad pussy line from Tyene was some all-time awful dialogue. What were they thinking with that?
- “Hardhome” was definitely the best episode of the season and one of the show’s best. I think Jon’s story as a whole was the best of this season too.
- Sorry this review was so late this week. Just couldn’t make time for it until now. I’d also like to thank anyone who read, liked or commented on these reviews this year. I truly appreciate it. Hearing and discussing the show with all of you makes these reviews a lot more fun.
“Mother’s Mercy” had its work cut out for it putting a bow on this season, but I think it did a great job for the most part. While there were still quite a few cliffhangers, I think they are mostly the good kind: ones that leave you intrigued as to what will happen next. It has been a bumpy ride this season, but I think the last three episodes really got things back on track and delivered the type of quality television I expect from Game of Thrones. And that will do it for my coverage of Game of Thrones this season. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the finale in the comments below. Thanks for reading!