The Mother is merciful – the Game of Thrones showrunners are not as they deliver the most blood soaked finale yet. From the first scene to the last, characters both major and minor meet their end – and there are plenty of twists from the books and from the show itself.
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!
In most seasons episode 9 had been the moment of truth, but season 4’s final three episodes were all equal, and in season 5 episodes 8 and 10 have been the best of the season. Think back to other episode 10’s – who died in previous finales? Khal Drogo, Quorin Halfhand, Tywin and Shae – some major players but never more than one or two per finale. Mother’s Mercy changes all this – it was the bloodiest finale i’ve seen since Spartacus ended, and it follows the 5th book in ending on several cliffhangers (i hope TV viewers don’t moan about this too much, book readers have waiting since 2011 for resolutions that haven’t come yet!). David’s Nutter’s direction gave it all a sense of awe and the showrunners delivered on one of book 5’s greatest moments – personally i think they’ve done a remarkable job this season (adapting two books which were definitely weaker than the first three and were far too long) – i haven’t been so relieved by an adaptation’s quality since Order of the Phoenix (my least favourite HP book) was made into a film which was both a massive improvement on the book and more surprisingly one of the best films in the Harry Potter series. But now time for the episode itself:
First off the moment everyone had been hoping for after last week’s episode – Arya murdering Meryn Trant in the most brutal way possible, after stabbing him repeatedly with her dagger and letting him bleed out while she gloated about getting rid of the first man on her ‘list’, before eventually slitting his throat. Jaqen doesn’t take this well however, claiming a life is owed to the many-faced god and committing suicide in front of Arya (a moment i did not see coming!) before Arya is unexpectedly struck blind as punishment (given the books story i doubt this is permanent, but it’s likely leading to a traumatic sixth season for Arya). The other Stark sister also has her problems, after attempting to alert Brienne and be rescued, Sansa is confronted by Myranda, Ramsay’s lover, who torments Sansa with the knowledge of what he will do to her. Sansa is unexpectedly saved by Theon/Reek, who knocks Myranda off the walls to her death, before leaping with Sansa off the battlements into the snow below to escape (do they survive? we’ll have to wait and see!).
Where’s Ramsay in all this? The battle with Stannis that’s where. Stannis has a rude awakening as his actions in the last episode come back to haunt him – while the Lord of Light has melted the snows, his sellswords have abandoned him and his wife, overcome with grief after Shireen’s death, has hung herself. Spurning Melisandre, Stannis takes whats left of his men and marches to Winterfell – only to be confronted by Bolton’s cavalry which outnumbers his infantry. The battle isn’t shown (presumably because all the money went on the Hardhome sequence!) but its clear Stannis is fighting a lost cause – and he gets a fitting (and surprising) exit though, as Brienne confronts him in the battle’s aftermath and reveals her loyalty to Renly – Stannis admits his murder and tells Brienne to ‘do her duty’ in a nod to the defining feature of Stannis’ character – duty above all else before Brienne kills him (offscreen though – this always makes me suspicious). Ramsay survives for another season (though Joffrey died in his fourth season and Ramsay’s next season is his fourth on the show – let’s hope there is a pattern here!).
The Dorne storyline finally gets some payoff as well – with Myrcella revealing to Jaime she knows about him and Cersei and even accepts it because she wants them to be happy – a touching moment between father and daughter (which given this is Game of Thrones should set alarm bells ringing!). Predictably this doesn’t last as it is revealed that Myrcella has been poisoned by Ellaria (with a poisoned farewell kiss no less!) who clearly faked her submission to Doran the previous week. Bronn and Tyene Sand also keep flirting – those two should so be a couple next season – though these events make that unlikely. Things are also up in the air in Meereen, with Tyrion taking control of the city while Jorah and Daario go to hunt for the missing Daenerys and Drogon. The sparring between Jorah, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Daario was amusing, and Varys unexpected return and conversation with Tyrion was a joy to watch. Daenerys situation isn’t so rosy however, as the wounded Drogon refused to carry her back to Meereen and then failed to appear when she was captured by a Dothraki army. Notice the number of cliffhangers here?
But now the big two moments from the episode: first, Cersei’s walk of punishment after she confesses her incest with Lancel (though denying that with Jaime, there will be a trial next season apparently). The high sparrow allows her to go back to Tommen and her uncle Kevan if she walks naked through the streets of king’s landing, after her head is shaved brutally by the Septas and her clothing torn from her. Cersei at first bears it stoically as all eyes turn on her and the crowd throw insults and various unpleasant items at her, but Lena Headey’s acting is spot on as Cersei breaks down mid-march among the taunts from the people. Is she broken for good? Who knows, but it is unlikely she’ll be that unscathed. Qyburn however has a consolation for her: he has finally resurrected the Mountain as a kind of silent Frankenstein’s monster, who will doubtless be a useful weapon for Cersei next season as she tries to wrestle power back from the Tyrrells and the Sparrows.
And finally: the ending at the wall. After sending Sam away to the citadel, to learn how to become a maester and hence better help the Night’s Watch, Jon and Davos are stunned when a broken looking Melisandre returns, bearing the news of Stannis and his family’s demise. Before Jon can work out what this means he gets betrayed by Alliser Thorne (Stannis’ warning not to keep your enemies close anyone?) and his steward Olly, who stab him along with other members of the Night’s Watch who feel betrayed by his decision to save the wildlings. Jon is only the third main character (out of Arya, Daenerys, Tyrion etc.) after Ned Stark and Robb to be killed off and making it the last scene of the season maximises it’s impact. Stark men really should stop making honourable decisions – it always blinds them to whats around them and gets them killed! Is he really dead? It looked pretty fatal, but i think Melisandre might just be his salvation (why else let her survive the battle?) As a book reader, i knew this was coming, but this is the last time that will happen now the show has caught up, and it was still traumatising nevertheless!
So, just to sum up, the cliffhangers include Brienne’s possible dispatching of Stannis, Sansa and Theon’s leap, Arya’s blindness, Myrcella’s death, The Mountain’s resurrection, Daenerys’ capture and Jon Snow’s apparent demise. It’s gonna be a hell of an opening episode in season 6 to resolve all of those!
Overall the best finale the show has delivered thus far and the second best episode of the season after Hardhome, its a great episode with an immense sting in its tail.
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Next Season: Who the f*** knows, i’ve run out of book knowledge to go on. More deaths, nudity and shock plot twists – and that’s exactly why we all love this show!