(SPOILERS FOLLOW, but you’ve probably worked that out by now)
So, wow, everyone, we have a lot to talk about. Let’s start by just covering what’s happened over this finale. Cersei confessed to (some of) her crimes and was dragged through the streets naked and shorn by the high Sparrows followers, the Mountain’s back but he’s a mute zombie, Stannis lost and Brienne killed him, Arya killed Meryn and now she’s blind.
Theon pushed Ramsay’s other woman to her death then he and Sansa jumped (possibly) to theirs, Jamie admitted to Myrcella that he’s her father just in time for her to join the body count, Dany and Drogon have found the Dothrakhi, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm are set to run Mereen while Daario and Jorah head off to find Dany and Sam said goodbye to Jon before he headed off to the Citadel and Jon headed off to be stabbed by everyone, even Ollie (you should’ve listened to Maester Aemon and killed the boy, Jon). Phew, that took a lot out of me.
This was exactly how the finale should have been. It moved the pieces around for next series but also gave something of an insular wrap-up to a lot of this season’s internal arcs. In fact the only major players truly conspicuous by their absence were the Tyrells but with the High Sparrow, Tommen and the Lannisters still all around, I’m sure they’ll be back soon enough.
Not to sound like a broken record but the only storylines that for me didn’t work in this finale were Dorne and certain aspects of Winterfell. As glorious a moment as it was to have Reek gain some agency and become Theon again(?), this was at the expense of Sansa doing anything. When she came down those stairs in season four with her jet black hair I hoped we were entering a new era for her but man, does someone want to continue to drag her through the shit.
Her line about wanting to die while there was still some of her left was worryingly apt. I get the feeling that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her and if it isn’t, please someone just give the girl a break.
Dorne has been a waste of time. A long, tiring, unexciting waste of time. What have we actually achieved from a series long arc? Trystane is headed to the small council. We could have achieved this storyline by episode three and not halted much else. I mean the small council haven’t really played into much so he could have just been there, none of the rest of them have done much (well beyond Qyburn and zombie Mountain but that’s all been offscreen). The Sand Snakes had their eye for an eye vengeance, at the expense of one of the series’ worst written lines. The very minute Myrcella and Jamie are chatting on the boat having escaped from the place, everything improves immensely. It’s a dull patch in an otherwise fascinating season and one we might be set to explore next year but Weiss and Benioff have long enough now to work out what went wrong and change it.
In an episode full of great death scenes, my award for best goes to Arya and her assassination of Meryn Trant. Sure, writing one more off her list might have come at the sacrifice of her sight (and another person whose true face we might not have seen) but as a viewer, it was worth it. A well-staged, uncomfortably bloody but cathartically recompent scene that saw her destroy both eyes and his gut before going for the jugular; it was an incredible moment that brought Arya back to the nihilist psychopath that left the Hound to die this time last year. Throughout what has been easily the show’s weakest season, Arya’s storyline has continued to be a fascinating diversion as it has had very little impact on any other yet it has seemed the most focussed in what has been a relatively aimless series.
Let’s just cover all of the big deaths of this series in one go. I have to be honest, even with GoT having claimed his mother, father, brother and countless more ‘lead’ characters, I still assumed that Jon Snow and Danaerys were the only two characters that were death proof until this never-ending blood typhoon ends.
I think the one that I’m most disappointed about is Stannis, as it means that last week’s incredible scene of Stannis sacrificing his daughter could be interpreted as all for naught. But then, how many other characters have we seen perish before they could achieve their aims? From the moment that he was told half his army hand abandoned him (burning your daughter does that) and his wife had hanged herself (it does that too), we could see that this final episode was never going to end well.
The shots of the massive cavalry swarming the minuscule force of Stannis was appropriately emblematic of Stannis’ journey; he always seemed to consider the aim but was always too proud to admit when he fell short. I am firmly interested to see what this means next season for Davos and Melissandre and for the religion of the ‘fire gods’ in general. If nothing else, it proves that Brienne is the Han Solo of Westeros, showing that hokey religion is no match for a good broadsword.
There were some fun developments on the Dany end but mostly this was reaction to last episodes histrionics. I know that Noel wasn’t as impressed as I was but I’m sorry, it ended with Dany riding a dragon! She rode a fucking dragon! I don’t care if people wanted the effects to look smoother, the fact is that a woman was on the back of a dragon and we all saw that. As a man who still stands by Reign of Fire as one of the more underrated blockbuster spectacles of the 2000s, this excited me far too much. Also next series, Tyrion and Varys: backstabbing banter kings of Mereen. This is going to be fun.
And so we come to one of the best things that GoT has ever done: Cersei’s atonement for her sins. No one wanted to see a woman dragged through the streets naked and abused, not even one of the nominal ‘villains’ of the universe like Cersei but the way it was done was utterly heartwrenching. From what I understand, it was mainly to disguise a pregnancy but the focus on Lena Headey’s face as she was led to the street to the not quite rhythmic bell and shouts of ‘shame’ effectively kept the scene in Cersei’s point of view.
By not allowing us to break from her POV, it made it clear that this wasn’t them trying to shame the character but to show the character being shamed. As we end the fifth and begin the sixth season, the High Sparrow now appears as malevolent a force as any that have come before him and while his views are at times worringly puritanical, the thing that makes him most intriguing is that he isn’t a sadistic psycho child like Joffrey or Ramsey but a man fervent in his beliefs and how they can help the ‘innocent’ man Where this all goes could be very interesting indeed.
So we’re at the end of another season. It’s been a hard one to get through at times (can we please not discuss that episode again please) but overall, average Game of Thrones is still better than most other things on television and always capable of producing things like the last fifteen minutes of Hardhome or the moment where DANY RODE ON A FUCKING DRAGON! Amazingly in this series, for the first time the supernatural elements have begun to work making the white walkers feel like an actual threat and the dragons equally so. As long as the creators have learn from their mistakes and use the promise of this finale to make something great, next year we could truly be in for something special.