Watched: Episode 50 – June 14, 2015
Title: Mother’s Mercy
Summary: Grim but great
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Stannis – We start our series of thread wrap ups with Mr. Grim and and Grammar, Stannis. Things are thawing at Camp Snowbound, and Melisandre claims success in her murderous spells, but Stannis isn’t showing her any love. Still, he is a man on a mission and commands they march. But some officer informs him half the men have deserted and taken the horses with them. Another comes and leads him to the forest where they find his wife, the unlikeable Lady Selyse, who has hung herself. Obviously she isn’t as good at compartmentalization. He cuts her down but Melisandre is somehow realizing that she either misread the Lord of Light, or his divine brightness urgently wants her elsewhere, as she hops on a horse and gets out of town fast.
Later, Stannis’ ragtag remainder of an army marches up toward Winterfell. I guess it was right over the ridge as they supposedly had no food or horses. This is intercut rapidly with Brienne and Sansa’s threads, but I’ll leave the Love Luckless Stark’s for a second. But Pod notices the Stannis forces and runs to tell Brienne. They gather weapons.
Stannis orders up a siege, but he gets instead a big cavalry charge from the Boltons (presumably under the command of Ramsay). The horsemen surround and outflank his meager forces in a nice CGI maneuver and we are left with a few quick shots of this horrendous defeat. Oh, and in case we had any doubts that Ramsay was a sadistic scum, we see him torturing a few helpless Baratheon soldiers.
Stannis is fight off a few Bolton troops in the forest. He’s tough, so he kills them, but he takes a bad wound to the leg and slumps against a tree. Out of nowhere Brienne appears. Ready for revenge at last. She accuses him of using blood magic to kill his brother Renly, and Stannis, ever in character, admits it. Really this is just sad sad for Stannis. He’s made the most horrible sacrifice ever for what he wants, and it’s proved to be worse than useless. He’s done. When Brienne sentences him to death he almost welcomes it with another typical droll Stannis one-liner, “Go do you duty.” She swings the sword, but we are left without seeing the death itself. It’s enough to make us wonder.
This is all slightly advanced of the completely unclear bit in ADWD. Consistent though, even though Brienne has no part in the book version of those events. And it’s so grim and dark. Bad choices. And what the hell was the Red Lady’s game? Did she read things wrong? Or is this how she wanted to to play out?
Sansa – meanwhile has used the corkscrew (barrel tap or whatever) she snagged during Ramsay’s walk of horrors to pry open her door while Evil Bastard (literally) is away playing hide the sword in the back with Stannis. She sneaks all over the castle, avoiding looking anyone in the eye, takes note of the Broken Tower and climbs. But she runs afoul of Myranda, Reek, and a bad case of bow-pointed-at-face. Myranda is psyched, to get a little revenge in before taking her back to her room, and somehow this pushes Theon over the edge where watching Sansa get wife-raped does not. He knocks Myranda’s bow aside and tosses her down into the courtyard. She isn’t as lucky as Bran and there is a distinctly satisfying smack as she hits the pavement. He hauls Sansa up onto the battlements and they are confronted with a 50 foot drop to some snow below. The pair is desperate enough to leap for it. We can presume that because Theon and Jeyne Poole made it out in the books, so do they.
Arya – We watch Meryn Trant get ready for another evening of brothel fun. This time he has three young girls and a stick to hit them with. Not only does he hit women. Not only is he a total jerk. Not only does he like little girls, but he wants to hit them too. This is about 3 extra reasons to kill him off. The last girl doesn’t scream when hit, and when we see her face it’s not Arya. Trant punches her in the gut and she changes into Arya Faceless Man style and goes all Hannibal Lector on him. She stabs him in the eyes and jumps all over him. Not only is it pretty crazy but it does make sense as a way for a smallish woman to take down a big warrior like Trant. She torments him for a bit and tells his who she is, calling him no one. This of course isn’t by accident as clearly she isn’t no one herself, but still Arya Stark. Then, unlike with Oberyn and the Mountain, his luck is up and she slits his throat.
Back in the basement of the House of Black & White she slips the girl’s mask back on the rack. Jaqen and the waif are there, however. Uh oh, caught unmasked. Jaqen tells her that she killed the wrong man and that the Faceless God demands a death, threatens her with the poison, then takes it himself and dies. She crouches down and rips off his mask to find a pile of other faces, and finally her own. They the waif changes her face into Jaqen and continues chastising her. Arya’s sight melts away and she is left blind — and more or less where she is at the end of A Feast of Crows. We have reordered slightly but this is all consistent enough with her isolated storyline.
All and all an excellent sequence, and while dark, at least not as bleak as some of the other threads. The magic of the Faceless Men is a little confusing. Did Jaqen put the wait up to playing him for a bit? Is he a spirit that may possess any of them? How did Arya’s face, symbolic as it was, end up on the bottom of the face pile? She after all isn’t dead and didn’t pass through the mask masking process.
Jaime – is getting ready to depart for Kings Landing with Trystane and Princess Myrcella (way too many M girls: Melisandre, Missandei, Myrcella, Myranda, Margaery!). For some reason the whole gang is there, including Doran, Hotah, Ellaria, and the sand snakes. Ellaria gives the Princess a big smooch on the lips and they get on the boat. Then in a cabin below decks Jaime has a nice bonding scene with his daughter where he awkwardly tries to admit she is his daughter, but she already knows. It really is very well played on both sides and you feel for him finally connecting to his children he’s had to ignore… then it all goes bad and her nose starts to bleed and she slumps into his arms.
Back on the docks Ellaria, nose also bleeding, is swigging some of Tyrene’s antidote. So the whole bit with Bronn and the poison now makes some sense, as it existed only to explain the whole poison/antidote thing. No wonder it felt strange. And all in all a very sad tragic thread in the middle of a sad tragic episode. Myrcella, although we didn’t know her well, was so sunny that it’s all the more depressing.
Tyrion and crew – hang out in the throne room (boy do they love that set). We have to wonder who mopped up the Harpies too. This scene is a bit of a throw-a-way as Grey Worm comes in and they all haggle about who will go after Dany and who will stay. In the end, it’s decided that Jorah & Dario go, and Ty, Grey Worm, and Missandei will stay and “rule.” There is a great line from Dario though, calling Grey Worm the “toughest man with no balls he’s ever known.”
After, Tyrion surveys the city and Varys teleports in behind him. Obviously he offered sexual favors to the guards. They have a typical fun exchange in which it’s agreed that Varys will lend his little birds to the cause of ruling Meereen. Clearly Ty and Varys are taking over for Barristan’s boring chapters in ADWD (while Dany is away).
Dany – speaking of the great Queen, she’s hanging out in North Ireland with Drogon who is doing his best to rest up on a bed of bones on top of a cliff. She tries for awhile to roust him and get back in the saddle but he’s having none of it, so she sets off to find some food. Interestingly, the show decided to keep her clothes on (in the books Drogon roasts them off her back). Anyway, somehow she climbs down the steepest cliffs ever and reaches the valley where she meets, one, three, then about a thousand Dothraki. They swirl about her in a CGI horde better looking than the season 1 horde ever was. She drops a ring as a breadcrumb (presumably Jorah/Dario will find it next year) and is surrounded. Second monarch to be surrounded by cavalry this episode alone!
Cersei – kneels before the High Sparrow/Septon to confess her crimes in the big scene we’ve all been waiting all season for. She actually isn’t very contrite or convincing and only confesses to boinking Lancel’s skinny ass — with excuses all the way. She blames the incest “lie” on Stannis, which the Septon seems not to mind (the maybe late king is after all a Lord of Light worshipping infidel). Perhaps the Septon is a fairly political after all. He tells Cersei they’ll sort it out during her “trial” but she can visit with her son back at home after her “penance.” So here comes the real work for Lena, as she is stripped naked (body double) and has her head shaved. Outside, in front of the Sept, she is made to walk naked through the entire city to the Red Keep. Some Sparrows keep the ugly (literally and figuratively) crowd at bay, the annoying nun chants “shame shame” over again. They trudge through Dubrovnik, particularly spending a lot of time in that stair lined square right inside the uphill gate. It’s a hard walk and the show lingers on it. We have a lot of fake Lena full frontal (and back frontal) and she is pelted with dung and rotten food. Lena nails it. Cersei’s resolve slowly melts and crumbles until she nearly breaks and runs into the keep.
There, she meets the hard faces of uncle Kevan, Pycelle, etc. But Qyburn is there on her side. Not only does he have a blanket for her, but he has another gift: Mecha-Greggor or Franken-Greggor, or Ser Robert the Strong: the enormous silent (I like the vow of silence), rotting eyed, Kingsguard version of Greggor. Cersei gets that old nasty gleam back in her eye.
Given that the show has no access to Cersei’s inner monologue, this scene was extremely well done. As good as I could imagine.
Jon – has a final powwow with Sam, giving us a quick recap of the disaster from 2 weeks ago (Hard Home). He makes sure to point out that Longclaw is Valayrian steel, but that this still probably won’t be enough. Sam asks to be sent with Gilly and her baby to Old Town to study and be a Maester, skipping Bravos clearly, but getting him back on track with the books and setting us up for some Tarly action next season. I know that line about Old Town in the middle of the season meant something. And Sam’s reasons for leaving make sense enough (for him). Their chemistry is great as always, probably mostly because of Sam’s likability and acting chops. Jon knows they “did it” and they make some jokes about it. Like the Davos/Shireen convo this is setup as a sad farewell. Next, Sam and Gilly ride out of the gates because GOT loves to show people come and go — really people do it so much they kinda need too.
Much later, Davos shows up to pleads for help for the now probably dead Stannis. And after him the Red Lady shows too, which is all too convenient and Davos asks after the Queen and Princess. The silence he receives isn’t encouraging. We have to continue to wonder, what is her game? Why is she here? Is she on hand to raise someone who might soon be dead?
Speaking of which, Jon is having a hard time concentrating on his letters when Olly enters with news that Benjen Stark might still be alive. Sneaky, and very sneaky of the show to tease Benjen in the “previously on.” Straightforward guy that he is, Jon charges out Ned Stark style and runs into a crowd and Throne’s knife in his gut. They each say “For the Watch” as they stab him, Julius Caesar style. Olly puts the final blade in his heart. Sigh.
No sign of Ghost at all, not since he saved Sam and Gilly, so I think the Warging is off the table.
The Melisandre does the Dondarian on him option is still very much on the table. The producers and actor have gone to great lengths to declare him dead and gone. But the R+L=J breadcrumbs strewn liberally through this season seem really important. It just wouldn’t be like George (and even more so of D&B) to set that up for no purpose. So I have hope.
All in all, a awesome TV, but so dark. Hands down the darkest hour of GOT yet, even worse in some ways than the Red Wedding. The bodycount was high: Jon (probably), Stannis (maybe), Selyse (2 inches taller), Myrcella (likely), Myranda, Trant (good riddance), and the Waif. Even worse are the unsettled endings:
- Jon probably dead, wall has exactly 1 friendly face: Edd
- Stannis probably dead
- Margaery, not even mentioned
- Sansa/Reek in a snow drift
- Myrcella poisoned, war with Dorne up in the air
- Dany circled by hostile Dothraki
- Cersei/Kings Landing balance of power
- Bran, playing the tree
- Rickon AWOL
- Ramsay still alive!
So bleak it left me with that catharsis. But it was so well executed, and it’s rare that TV works this many emotional ups and downs. Sigh, the 9 month wait will be tough.
HBO’s official inside the episode videos: