Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale "Mothers Mercy"

Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale, “Mother’s Mercy” Review

Game of Thrones just dropped a mic made of feels and pain on millions of people around the world.

WHEN YOU SPOIL THE GAME OF THRONES, YOU DIE! AND DIE AND DIE AND DIE! ON THE INSIDE! FOREVER! WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYY?!?!?!

 

It seems like Stannis gets what he wants when he wakes in the morning to find his path to Winterfell clear of snow. Melisandre fails at trying to tell Stannis sacrificing Shireen was worth it, coming off far too smug and not nearly sympathetic enough. Stannis only wants to ride forth and take Winterfell.

The Lord of Light may have smiled on Stannis Baratheon, but whatever other divine forces are out there are screwing him royally. One of his lieutenants tells him that half his host, the sellswords along with the horses have deserted. Melisandre looks horrified. Then another soldier comes forward, hesitant. But he leads Stannis to a crooked tree in the woods, from which his wife Selyse swings by a rope around her neck.

Stannis barely orders her to be cut down before his lieutenant tells him that Melisandre has ridden off.

And after all the setbacks, all the disadvantages, all the mistakes and losses, Stannis still decides to march on Winterfell. His middling host doesn’t even get the chance to mount a siege of the castle before a Bolton cavalry charge rides out to meet him.

It’s a slaughter. Even the certainty of crushing defeat doesn’t elicit more than a wry sneer from Stannis. He finds himself limping alone through the woods in the aftermath. Stannis the determinator slays two Bolton would-be Kingslayers before collapsing by a tree from his own wounds.

His subsequent moan even sounds more like frustration than pain. He spots another assailant.

“Bolton has women fighting for him?”

“I don’t fight for the Boltons.”

HOLY HELL BRIENNE!

It’s been four seasons coming, but she finally gets to confront the killer of the King she loved. Stannis certainly didn’t expect this. He admitted to Melisandre after the Battle of the Blackwater that murdering his own brother horrified him. I got the sense that some part of Stannis accepted his punishment in this manner for that particular crime, more so even than the fact that he couldn’t physically escape.

Brienne sentences Stannis to death for the murder of King Renly Baratheon. And Stannis’s final words are; “Go on, do your duty.”

“Do your duty.” That really was what Stannis was all about. His devotion to duty even goes so far as to accept an insurmountable death as the fulfillment of another’s duty. Brienne looks like she was a bit surprised by how Stannis accepted his death, almost like a relief.

I said in my previous review that I wanted Stannis to die, and the only way I could imagine it being worthwhile was if Brienne killed him to avenge Renly. Let me take this moment to appreciate the magnitude of this. Perhaps for once in the entire life of the show, Game of Thrones has given a viewer, somewhere out there, exactly what they wanted.

But, of course, this is Game of Thrones and it can never be that simple. Stannis died because of his duty tunnel vision and it really didn’t make his character more interesting by the end. He sacrificed Shireen and his entire family for nothing. He willingly marched into certain defeat. However, it was satisfying to see him meet his end because of his bad karma.

I still say Ramsay capturing Shireen and forcing Stannis to even consider compromising his reckless sense of duty by way of alliances or parleying would have been a more interesting way to go with his character. It’s funny. Stannis was the deus-ex-machina cavalry for the season 4 finale and just one full season later he gets no miraculous salvation for himself.

Ramsay is not as respectful as Brienne. He looks quite pleased with himself leaving a feast for crows in the snow.

Sansa meanwhile has taken the opportunity to break out of her room and call for help with a candle in the ruined tower. Unfortunately, Podrick’s news of Stannis approaching compels Brienne to abandon her watch of the tower just too early for her to catch sight of the signal. One has to wonder if Brienne lingered long enough to see Sansa’s candle what Brienne would have done.

Having sent her signal, Sansa tries to make it back to her room before any one catches her. Myranda is rather observant though, and as we’ve seen, pretty keen with that bow. She’s come to escort Sansa back to her chambers. But Sansa will not go back. She’d rather die than be Ramsay’s plaything anymore.

Myranda would have probably been disappointed without getting an excuse to maul Sansa. She won’t kill her, but she wants in on the mutilation before Ramsay is finished with Sansa. Theon intervenes.

He sends Myranda’s arrow off target then shoves her off the battlements and plummeting to her death.

The Bolton host is returning to the castle. Theon takes Sansa by the hand to the top of one of the Castle walls. It’s a pretty steep drop. I hope there’s enough snow on the ground to soften their landing. Good to see Theon finally help Sansa escape.

Meryn Trant sits in a private room in a brothel in Braavos, wringing his hands around a thin rod. A rod he uses for beating helpless girls. I was grateful this scene was only as long as it needed to be to show Meryn’s perversion and to make us suspect that Arya might be obscured under that face and hair. She gave Meryn Trant exactly what he deserved. It was almost as satisfying a kill as Polliver with Needle.

Arya returns to the Hall of Faces to set her disguise back in its place. But Jaqen and the Waif are waiting for her with stern looks.

“A girl has taken a life. The wrong life.”

Arya can’t even protest or defend herself when the Waif seizes her. Jaqen holds the same little vial in his hands, the “gift” of the Many Faced God.

“A debt is owed. And only death can pay for life.”

The Waif holds Arya’s mouth open, but Jaqen swallows the gift himself, collapsing immediately. Arya is horrorstruck. The Waif shows no sympathy.

“He was my friend.”

“Didn’t you hear him?” comes the Waif’s voice. “He was no one.”

Arya turns her head to see Jaqen standing where the Waif had been, in the exact same outfit.

“The Faces are for no one. You are still someone. And to someone, the faces are as good as poison.”

Arya frantically slips face after face off of the corpse of “no one at all,” until it is finally her face that stares up at the ceiling with empty eyes.

Poison that makes one go blind? It’s getting pretty freaky in the House of Black and White.

Prince Doran, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes have come to see Bronn, Jaime and Myrcella off on their voyage back to King’s Landing. A kiss from Ellaria to Myrcella? Really? Tyene gives Bronn an earlobe bite along with a very naughty whisper.

Jaime and Myrcella finally get to have a level talk in the ship’s cabin. Will Cersei like Trystane, Myrcella wonders? Jaime voices that Cersei doesn’t like anyone other than her children. Yeah, about that.

Jaime tries to start telling Myrcella the truth about her parentage, talking about Myrcella’s and Trystane’s fortunate arranged marriage. How people can’t control who they end up falling in love with.

Myrcella sees where this is going. She takes Jaime’s hand and admits that some part of her knew all along that Jaime was her real father. And she is glad. As Myrcella, his daughter, hugs him, Jaime looks happier than he’s ever been in his life, to finally be an acknowledged father. But of course, this is Game of Thrones, and no happy moment is preserved.

I knew as soon as Ellaria kissed Myrcella that this was going to happen. I knew Ellaria making nice with Jaime was BULL$#@%. She and the Sand Snakes watch Jaime’s ship sail away, knowing that their revenge must be transpiring even now. Ellaria has her Long Farewell antidote ready and a kerchief to wipe the blood and poisoned gloss from her lips.

I don’t know if Myrcella is definitely dead. It seems farfetched that any antidote will be available on the ship, but there are narrative reasons from the books that she might live.

Daario, Jorah and Tyrion catch their breath in the pyramid throne room with Daenerys conspicuously absent from her seat. Tyrion passes the time by making wry jabs, like he’s done throughout the season. Pointing out that Daario and Jorah aren’t fit consorts for a Queen might not be the best line to your only tenuous allies.

“Does he always talk so much?”

*NOD*

Grey Worm! You have been missed something fierce! Missandei catches Grey Worm up and Tyrion gets to try his Valyrian for probably the first time since schooling. Missandei corrects him.

Jorah wants to lead a search party for Daenerys as soon as possible. Tyrion agrees, but Jorah doesn’t want Tyrion along. They hash out their squabbles over who is Daenerys’s most valuable servant.

Surprise, surprise, Daario actually comes up with the soundest plan for finding Daenerys and keeping her rule in Meereen intact. Tyrion will stay to rule, with Missandei for diplomacy and Grey Worm to command the Unsullied once more. Sounds good to me.

Tyrion watches Jorah and Daario ride out from a balcony, looking quite at a loss for where to start.

“Hello old friend.” VARYS! You slippery spider!

Tyrion harkens back to Varys’s early talk about heroes and those who play vital parts for peace and get no credit for it. But we have to admit. Seeing the Tyrion and Varys duo govern a city again has got me excited.

Daenerys and Drogon have perched atop a mountain. D’awww, sleepy food-coma dragon is sleepy. Daenerys wants to return to Meereen and her people. She can hardly eat off the charred bones of Drogon’s kills and he’s not flying with her any time soon. With Drogon still licking his wounds from Daznak’s Pit, Daenerys goes off to find something to eat.

Don’t get too far from your dragon Daenerys. You might find yourself encircled by a….Holy Moly that’s a lot of Dothraki! Will they know/remember who Daenerys is? If they aren’t going to kill her there, I don’t think they mean to kill her, at least not immediately. I’m fairly certain we’re going to do the dropped Lorien Leaf routine with that ring Daenerys took off.

Cersei’s come to her breaking point. This time, when the septa asks her to confess, she complies and kneels before the High Sparrow.

Cersei is quite shaken, not as smooth in her act as she’s been before. She tries to come off as having found the light, praising the gods and flavoring her contrition with imagery of the Seven. The High Sparrow sees through most of it, insisting on substantive confessions.

Cersei admits to sleeping with Lancel. Her denial of her children being twincest bastards is adamant enough to satisfy the High Sparrow for now. But he still insists on a trial. And a walk of atonement before he lets her return to her son.

The septas rub Cersei bare and cut her golden Lannister waves so carelessly that she bleeds from her scalp. They march her in front of the sept of Baelor and announce her penitent submission to the eyes of Gods and Men.

Cersei’s walk to the Red Keep is long and harrowing and hard to watch. The scene needed to be long to get across just how humiliating and frightening it was for Cersei. The septa chanting “Shame, shame shame,” for all the commoners to hear, getting pelted with food and cursed and threatened. Cersei is probably, actually glad to have the poor fellows guarding her way from the people who accost her.

By the times Cersei reaches the Lannister and City guard of the Red Keep, she’s crying profusely and covered in muck, spit and blood. The High Sparrow got what he wanted. He stripped Cersei of all pride, gold and finery and laid when remained bare for all the city to see.

Kevan Lannister, Maester Pycelle and Qyburn are all waiting for Cersei inside. Qyburn tends to Cersei, along with WHAT THE #&@% IS THAT?

Taken a vow of silence until all the crown’s enemies are dead? Cersei looks like she’ll have plenty of enemies for Ser Robert Strong to dispatch.

Hats off to Lena Headey. That’s some of the best acting she’s done as Cersei in the entire show.

The massacre at Hardhome continues to haunt Jon, especially the humbling power of the Night’s King to raise the dead by the thousands. Sam suggests more dragonglass or Valyrian steel but they both know that there’s not nearly enough in the world, let alone available to them, to fend off the White Walkers.

Sam and Jon reminisce about their mutually unpopular careers in the Night’s Watch. Sam has an important favor to ask of Jon. He wants to travel to Old Town with Gilly and train to become a Maester at the Citadel. Gilly, her son and Sam aren’t safe at Castle Black and Castle Black needs a new Maester. Jon doesn’t want to lose his last and best friend in the Watch, but he agrees.

“You know at the Citadel they’ll make you swear off women, too.”

“Oh, they’ll bloody try.”

Oh Samwell, ha!

Jon looks quite lonely as Sam and Gilly ride off.

Davos arrives at Castle Black with Stannis’s request. Jon Snow insists that the Night’s Watch can’t help Stannis now and that the trying to get the Wildlings to help is hopeless. Davos is adamant to make a case for his King. That sinking feeling you have knowing that Davos is trying to rally forces for a dead king? This is what’s known as dramatic irony.

Melisandre rides through the gates of Castle Black, silent. She says nothing when Davos asks of Shireen, but her expression seems to confirm his worst fears. Melisandre has never looked so lost throughout the show.

What is Jon reading? Did Melisandre share news from the battle of Winterfell off screen?

Olly rushes in saying one of the Wildlings has news of Jon’s long lost uncle Benjen Stark. Jon is astounded. He heads outside to where the Wildling is being held, several brothers are there. There is no Wildling, no word of Benjen Stark. Only a post, with “traitor” painted across it. Horror dawns on Jon’s face. He turns back to a knife in his gut held by Alliser Thorne. “For the Watch.”

Where’s Ghost, goddammit?!

One by one the mutineers put a knife in Jon’s chest, all for the Watch. Jon collapses to his knees. Last to approach is Olly. The other watchmen, Alliser particularly, looked all to glad to cull the soft, traitorous Lord Snow. But little Olly is tearful. Olly, whom Jon wanted to be steward one day. Jon can barely croak a plea before Olly stabs Jon himself.

The mutineers leave Jon to bleed to death in the snow.

Credits. I can only imagine the shock of this scene to non-book readers.

The seeds have been there all season, but the moment itself was so sudden, so brutal!

I’ll come right out with it folks. I honestly could not decide whether I expected Game of Thrones to kill Jon Snow or not. The show is so much more visible than the books and Jon Snow is the biggest, longest running protagonist that the series has killed. The season has been hinting at mutiny in the Night’s Watch but I didn’t know if Game of Thrones would follow through all the way.

There’s a pretty popular theory that Jon Snow will survive this attack; fans expect Melisandre will resurrect him with the power of R’hllor, just as Thoros of Myr resurrected Beric Dondarrion. I share this expectation, for the books. With the show, I’m not so sure. Kit Harrington has been pretty adamant that he has been killed off for real, the showrunners have told him as much. But he has been so important and has so much potential in the overall arc of the story and is the biggest, nigh only, point-of-view character for events at the Wall and beyond.

Can Davos and Bran really carry the story in that part of the world? What is Sam going to do? I don’t know.

“Mother’s Mercy” is probably the biggest cliffhanger finale Game of Thrones has ever had. Sansa, Theon, Jaime, Arya, Margaery, Loras, Daenerys have all been left hanging. I suppose, after the triumphant season 4 finale, season 5 was bound to remind us that anyone can die, especially protagonists. But for the few teaser chapters released from Winds of Winter, book fans and show fans are basically on even footing now.

I’ll have more to say on the season over all later, but I’ll tell you this. Still hooked on the world and the story. Still full of characters I love watching and am seriously invested in. If we get to have two significantly different versions of this story, I say, all the more exciting! I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

 
 
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