I loved everything about this season finale. In fact, it was probably the best finale Game of Thrones has produced in four seasons.
Although Daenerys received minimal screen-time, her storyline was very intriguing. Thrones has done a terrific job of highlighting how the obstacles she faces as Queen are not black and white, and this was never more apparent than with the revelation that some of the slaves she freed are not exactly happy. To complicate things even further, one of her dragons, Drogon, scorches an innocent young girl, pushing Dany to imprison Rhaegal and Viserion in Meereen’s catacombs. The achievement here is that Emilia Clarke (coupled with a gorgeous musical score) manages to break your heart in a sequence that basically has her acting against a green screen. How impressive is that?
Picking up where the penultimate episode left off, Jon meets with Mance Rayder in hopes of killing him off. Their negotiations are enormously compelling thanks to Jon’s turbulent history with the Wildlings, but they’re cut short by none other than Stannis and his forces who makes short work of Mance’s forces. It’s a welcome intervention, as integrating Stannis with the rest of the cast is a surefire way to refocus his narrative. I’m certainly optimistic now that he’s back in the thick of things.
Arya, oh Arya. What a magnificent journey this character has had. Everything came to a head in this finale as she finally crossed paths with Brienne. Not only was the warrior’s fight with The Hound absolutely brutal, it was heartbreaking to see Arya so completely scarred from her experiences and choosing to hide from the woman who swore an oath to her mother. As for The Hound, his final appearance was a magnificent one: he finally dies a slow death as Arya watches on and then heads off to Braavos using the coin that Jaqen H’ghar gave her (all the way back in the season two finale) God I love continuity,.
Now can we please praise Peter Dinklage for one hell of a performance? After Jaime frees him (yay brotherhood), he discovers Shae in Tywin’s bed and proceeds to strangle her (is it self defense?) and then shoot his father dead on the chamber pot. It’s a sensational scene because it completely demeans Tywin, a man who is so used to proper etiquette and always portraying himself in the most majestic and powerful light. Although I’ll miss Charles Dance quite a bit, it’s a beyond fitting development for Tyrion’s arc.
Finally, we’ve got Bran and the team reaching the Heart Tree and the Three-Eyed Raven. The thrilling part here is the kids getting attacked by the undead and getting saved by a mysterious Child of the Forest wielding some badass fireballs. Everything with a supernatural twist on Game of Thrones has been handled perfectly thus far, so I’m definitely game for whatever this storyline brings.
Bits & Beheadings
– How do you know that Mance is a genuinely good guy? He offers to drink for Ygritte after her death.
– So the giant that died in the penultimate episode was a King; I knew he must have been special!
– Dark comedy: the Wildling rushing to a strutting Stannis and casually getting sliced.
– I love how Jon reveals he’s Ned Stark’s son to Stannis and that immediately earns him some respect which he uses to spare Mance.
– It’s a small moment but Jon tells Stannis to burn the dead (because we all know what they’ll turn into).
– So how “changed” will The Mountain be after Qyburn is done with him? I love how useless Pycelle is as Cersei shushes him off like she always does.
– Even more awesome continuity: Cersei revealing that she almost poisoned her son.
– How satisfying was it to watch Cersei threaten her father with the truth about her and Jaime, before rushing to her brother and making love to him?
– I can’t say Jon burying Ygritte affected me that much.
– Jojen’s death was suitably effective with his sister Meera having to finish him off. In addition, the Child throws a fireball and blows up his deceased body (Jojen had previously said his death would involve fire).
– Badass moment with Bran warging and using Hodor to fight off the undead, and Summer saving Bran! That’s two episodes in a row with our Direwolves kicking ass!
– Interesting to note: the undead can’t enter The Three-Eyed Raven’s cave.
– Tremendously sweet moment with Brienne and Arya bonding over sword names and fighting in a man’s world.
– Bits from the Brienne-Hound fight that I loved: her kicking him in the bits and then him doing the same, her biting his ear off and spitting it out, and that beautiful shot of him flying off the cliff.
– Harsh moment with The Hound trying to egg Arya on to kill him on by bringing up the butcher’s boy and the fact that he should have raped poor Sansa. Yuck.
– Most heartwarming moment of the episode: Jaime hugging Tyrion and kissing him goodbye. I love their bond.
– The fact that Tyrion finally shoots Tywin after the latter says the word “whore” again.
– Tyrion is now on his way to Essos in a box with none other than Varys who decides to escape as well. Smart man.
– How gorgeous is the sight of the sea landscape as Arya approaches the boat and then sets sail? Predictably, the music is goosebump inducing. Valar Morghulis indeed.
Kings & Quips
Mance: One of our giants went into your tunnel and never came out again. Mag the Mighty.
Jon: He’s dead. He killed my friend, Grenn.
Mance: He was their king. The last of a blood line that stretches back before the First Men.
Jon: Grenn came from a farm.
Davos: This is Stannis Baratheon, the one true king of the Seven Kingdoms.
Mance: We’re not in the Seven Kingdoms and you’re not dressed for this weather.
Cersei: You can choose the creature that killed our mother to come into this world–
Jaime: Are you really mad enough to blame him for that? He didn’t decide to kill her. He was an infant.
Cersei: A disease doesn’t decide to kill you. All the same, you cut it out before it does.
Jaime: People will whisper, they’ll make their jokes.
Cersei: Let them. They’re all so small, I can’t even see them.
Tormund: You spent too much time with us, Jon Snow. You can never be a kneeler again.
Tormund: Do what?
John: Say farewell.
Tormund: The dead can’t hear us, boy.
Tormund: Did you love her? She loved you.
Jon: She told you?
Tormund: No. All she ever talked about was killing you. That’s how I know.
Three-eyed raven: You will never walk again. But you will fly.
Arya: Who taught you how to fight?
Brienne: My father.
Arya: Mine never wanted to. Said fighting was for boys.
Brienne: Mine said the same. But I kept fighting the boys anyway. Kept losing. Finally my father said, “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.”
Brienne: Come with me, Arya. I’ll take you to safety.
The Hound: Safety? Where the fuck’s that? Her aunt in the Eyrie’s dead. Her mother’s dead. Her father’s dead. Her brother’s dead. Winterfell is a pile of rubble. There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. If you don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.
The Hound: You still here? Big bitch saved you.
Arya: I don’t need saving. No, not you. You’re a real killer. With your water dancing and your Needle.
The Hound: I’d skin you alive for wine. Fuck water. Killed by a woman. I bet you like that. Go on, go after her. She’ll help you. Going it alone, you won’t last a day out there.
Arya: I’ll last longer than you.
One of Game of Thrones‘ finest hours ever. Exceptional television!