Don’t miss Regina Thorne’s recaps of “The North Remembers,” “The Night Lands,” “What Is Dead May Never Die,” “Garden of Bones,” “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” “The Old Gods and the New,” “A Man Without Honor,” “The Prince of Winterfell,” and last week’s penultimate Season 2 episode, “Blackwater.” All caught up? Good. Now, on to...
Game of Thrones Season 2 finale, episode 10, “Valar Morghulis":
After last week’s brilliant “Blackwater” episode, I was a bit worried that tonight’s season finale of Game of Thrones might be a letdown. There were so many stories to wrap up (or leave hanging off a cliff) and I wondered how, even with an extra-long episode, the creators could do them justice. I needn’t have worried at all because “Valar Morghulis” was a perfect bookend to “Blackwater.”
We open with a Tyrion’s eye view of the world. His face is heavily bandaged and he’s having post-traumatic flashbacks to the battle, still hearing the clash of weapons and screaming. As he returns to consciousness, he finds himself in a tiny, cramped room—a far cry from his former luxurious apartments. That’s because, as the newly ascendant Maester Pycelle tells Tyrion, he’s no longer the Hand of the King. Pycelle is definitely enjoying this moment of revenge against the man who humiliated him and sent him to the dungeons. As he leaves, Pycelle introduces the tip-jar to Westeros, flicking a coin at Tyrion “for your trouble.” Poor Tyrion looks despairingly at the ceiling because that’s the only tip he’s getting now that Tywin’s back in town.
At the entrance to the Iron Throneroom, Tywin’s lovely white horse makes a pithy comment on the rule of Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name, by dumping a pile of manure on the doorstep. Tywin is the first man to enter the throneroom on horseback since Ned Stark, and he walks his horse slowly past the massed crowds of people waiting to tell the Lannisters how loyal they are. He looks every an inch a King, far more than his petulant grandson ever could.
Joffrey proclaims his grandfather the savior of King’s Landing and Hand of the King, and Tywin and Cersei exchange meaningful glances. I think the hidden meaning of Tywin’s glance is “I’m going to open up a huge can of whupass on my grandson if he doesn’t start behaving himself” while the hidden meaning of Cersei’s glance is “I hope my father doesn’t blame me for any of this.” I can’t wait to see the Lannister family reunion that I hope will occur next season.
Next, Joffrey honors Littlefinger for his role in getting the Tyrells on board the Good Ship Defeat Stannis. Littlefinger is granted Harrenhal; if everyone’s gasps are anything to go by, Littlefinger apparently just won the Westeros Mega Millions.
Joffrey also credits Loras and the Tyrells with the defeat of Stannis, and tells to name whatever they ask of him in return. Loras asks for Joffrey’s hand in marriage to his sister Margaery, who is also present, wearing another of her air-conditioned outfits. Margaery manages to flatter Joffrey afar without bursting into uproarious laughter, so I can see she’ll do well in King’s Landing.
At this piont, Joffrey, Cersei and Maester Pycelle act out a hilarious clearly scripted scene in which Joffrey professes his unwillingness to break his vows to marry Sansa Stark, and Cersei and Pycelle assure him that the gods have no problem with this. (As Joffrey’s uncle/dad Jaime once said, if the gods are real and if they’re just, why does Joffrey even exist?) Unlike the last time Joffrey was supposed to follow a script (pardoning Ned Stark), Joffrey stays on message, saying hat he’s going to follow his heart—assuming he has one—and marry Margaery.
In the gallery, Sansa turns away to hide her relieved and happy smile, which lasts for about five seconds until Littlefinger teleports to her side to tell her how much she reminds him of her mother. He manages to crush Sansa’s relief at not having to marry King Psycho, First of his Name, by telling her that Joffrey isn’t “the sort of boy who gives away his toys.” In other words, Sansa can expect more beatings, and now that she’s “flowered,” the additional horrific threat of rape by Joffrey, all outside the confines of marriage. I bet the Hound’s offer of escape looks pretty good right now.
Littlefinger offers to bring Sansa home but she—unlike her father—doesn’t trust him even for a moment, and tells him that her home is King’s Landing. Littlefinger tells her that she’s the worst liar among all the liars in the city, but honestly, she’s not that bad. And I haven’t seen her spilling her guts to naked whores yet, so shut it, Littlefinger!
Speaking of whores, Ros is in her room at Littlefinger’s brothel, putting her game face on to cover the black eye she still wears from the beating a couple of episodes ago. She’s interrupted by a new client, who turns out to be Varys. Although Varys is treated to the obligatory sight of Ros’s breasts, he’s there to seduce her—away from Littlefinger’s service and into his. For once, probably through the magic of the Spider, I don’t find a Ros scene objectionable.
Speaking of objectionable, we rejoin Jaime Lannister and Brienne on their road-trip. They abandon their tiny boat and stretch their legs along the shore, Jaime still trying to rile Brienne up to the point where she makes a mistake. Brienne, bless her, stays calm until they come upon the bodies of three hanged women, with a sign that says “they lay with lions.” Jaime points out that the poor women probably did nothing more serious than serve the Lannisters meat and ale, with a quick kiss and a side-grope, which earned them a grisly death from the Stark forces whom Brienne serves. Brienne tells him that she serves Lady Catelyn alone, not “the Starks.”
Brienne begins to tie Jaime to a tree, like a particularly handsome (and filthy and annoying) dog, so she can bury the womens’ bodies. Her mission of compassion is interrupted by the arrival of three Northmen, who find the idea of Brienne the lady knight absolutely hilarious. Shut up, rude Northerners!!
They question who Brienne and Jaime are and where she’s taking him, and Brienne says Jaime’s a thief she’s bringing to justice at Riverrun. I love how Jaime jumps on her cue and invents a story of stealing a pig. It appears that they’ll depart unmolested, until one of the Northerners recognizes Jaime from the Battle of the Whispering Wood, where he was captured. Brienne and Jaime both scoff at the idea that she’s escorting the Kingslayer, but the Northern guy remains firm.
The soldier tells Brienne that he’ll count to three, and both Brienne and Jaime will need to provide the same name for Jaime. Brienne lets him start the count, shoves Jaime aside and takes on all three soldiers at once. She kills two of them quickly and leaves the third to a slow and agonizing death in repayment of the slow, agonizing death he gave one of the hanged women. Jaime is, for once, completely dumbstruck, though he recovers enough to point out that she’s just killed Stark men. She tells him again that she serves only Lady Catelyn to whom she swore she would bring Jaime to King’s Landing.
Speaking of Lady Catelyn, she is embroiled in conflict with her son Robb, who proclaims his love for Talisa the sassy surgeon. Catelyn reminds him that he swore an oath to the Freys to marry one of their daughters, and points out that she and Ned didn’t love each other when they married because they barely knew each other. She tells Robb that over the years of their marriage, their love grew and flourished. Robb doesn’t believe that this could happen with his Frey girl, and Catelyn asks if it’s because the girl won’t be beautiful. She tells Robb that he can’t break his oaths (as we saw with Joffrey’s throneroom farce, betrothals are considered to be holy oaths that require special dispensations to break); if he does this, his bannermen will have no qualms about betraying their own oaths to Robb.
That’s exactly the wrong thing to say to Robb, because he starts in again on how his mother betrayed him by letting Jaime Lannister go. (I’m still so frustrated that Catelyn hasn’t told Robb that his bannermen were planning to kill Jaime which would have meant the painful and certain death of his sister. Jaime was of no value to Robb as a hostage if he died, and Catelyn should have mentioned that to Robb. I can see why she didn’t when Karstark, the man who planned to kill Jaime, was standing right there, but she’s alone with her son and I don’t see why she doesn’t bring it up.)
On the one hand, I’m sure Talisa is much more beautiful than any random Frey daughter, but that’s what Kings (and great lords of Westeros) do—they suck it up, and marry the people they’re contracted to marry and keep sassy surgeons on the side as mistresses. They don’t marry the sassy surgeons because they’re upset with their mothers.
Speaking of mistresses, Stannis is having a heart-to-flaming-heart with Melisandre on Dragonstone. Apparently having lost 90% of his army at King’s Landing enabled him to return at a faster pace than he departed. Stannis accuses Melisandre and her ”visions“ of his victory of being lying liars who lie. For some reason, Melisandre doesn’t counter that it wasn’t her idea to stay behind, and I take a brief moment to mourn the lost opportunity of a Shadow Baby killing Joffrey. Stannis mournfully says that he murdered his brother for nothing. (I guess he would be less remorseful if he’d won the battle after all, but still, it’s good to hear that Stannis does feel some remorse.)
Melisandre tells him that they murdered Renly together, because it takes two to make a Shadow Baby. Stannis doesn’t like to share, whether we are talking about crowns or guilt, so he starts to choke her. Stannis and I are both waiting for Melisandre to unleash some magical powers on him, but instead, she tells Stannis that her god is in his heart. (The ”heart“ is that organ under your ribs that pumps blood through your veins, Stannis, in case you were wondering!) She tells Stannis that lots of other people are going to die, but that he will eventually triumph because he’s the warrior of light. Stannis likes what he’s hearing and Melisandre persuades him to look into the flames where he sees something that he likes. One of the things that I really enjoy about this show is how the actors are so great that they make me like characters I disliked intensely in the books (e.g. Stannis, Melisandre, Theon.)
Speaking of Theon, he’s brooding in a comfy chair in Winterfell, accompanied by the horn stylings of a member of the Dreadfort’s brass section. Maester Luwin comes into offer his counsel, which is for Theon to run away and join the Night’s Watch. Luwin, who has known Theon since he was a child, tells the poor confused idiot that he isn’t the man he’s pretending to be. In a heartbreaking moment of self-knowledge, Theon tells Luwin that he’s so far gone he either has to be that man or be nothing.
Somehow, despite all the awful things Theon has done, I still see in him the shadow of the little boy who was constantly told how lucky he was to be raised by the people who killed his brothers and humiliated his father. Even though the Starks certainly treated him better than, say, the Lannisters are treating Sansa, being a child in a strange place surrounded by the people who killed his family (again, the Greyjoys had it coming for their rebellion!) can’t ever have been easy, especially when, however well they treated him, he knew he’d never truly be Ned Stark’s son, or a part of the Stark family in a place where family is everything.
Theon emerges into the courtyard of Winterfell to rally his troops with a rousing speech about how they’ll all die but they’ll never be forgotten. It’s all very St. Crispin’s Day until the end, when Dagmer hits Theon on the head with a spear and the other Ironborn bundle him into a bag. Apparently they got wind of Robb’s offer to let all the Ironborn underlings go home if they gave up Winterfell and Theon. Luwin, who still feels some strange affection for the child he once knew, runs forward and is promptly speared by Dagmer.
In King’s Landing, Pod has apparently managed to locate Varys on Tyrion’s behalf. My favorite eunuch (and believe me, those are words I never thought I’d type) pops in to tell Tyrion all the bad news: first off, it was apparently Cersei who hired Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard to take Tyrion’s head off. Secondly, Bronn has lost his job as head of the City Watch (though knowing Bronn, I’m sure he won’t be unemployed for long). Thirdly, Tywin has sent Tyrion’s mountain men home. In short, Tyrion has no friends in King’s Landing besides Pod. And maybe Varys, if fictional spiders are ever truly friendly with anyone. (Okay, Charlotte and Wilbur, I grant you, but otherwise we’re talking Shelob and now my metaphors are running away with me.) Varys does bring Shae to Tyrion, though, demonstrating his friendliness.
Shae is awesome and fierce and will cut you if you look at her funny, but she needs a little work on her bedside manner; she demands to see Tyrion’s wound and rips the bandage of his face. Ouch! It’s a fairly bad scar, but unlike the books, Tyrion isn’t missing his nose, so to me this looks rather mild. Shae concurs, telling Tyrion to stop wallowing in self-pity about his ruined looks. Then she shifts gears, suggesting that the two of them run off to Pentos to get away from all the bad people in King’s Landing. (Magister Illyrio who gave Dany the dragon eggs and who plotted with Varys lives in Pentos. I’m just throwing that out there as yet another explanation for Shae’s mysterious past.)
Tyrion sadly tells Shae that the bad people are what he’s good at; he loves outwitting people who want to kill him and he wants to keep doing it. Although this is the lamest excuse for not fleeing King’s Landing since Sansa’s unspoken decision not to follow the Hound, I think Tyrion is still desperately looking for his father’s love and respect, because Tywin Lannister has that effect on people, especially his children who all seem to feel they’ve disappointed him. Tyrion is about to wish Shae a wistful goodbye when she tells him she’s staying with him, reminding him that “I am yours and you are mine.” Poor Tyrion just breaks down at the evidence that someone cares about him and holds Shae. Awww! I hope those two crazy kids make it work.
Meanwhile, the other crazy kids, Robb and Talisa, are engaged in an act of what I can only call utter stupidity. I guess Catelyn should have urged Robb to marry for love because then he might have kept the alliance with the Freys out of sheer perversity. Instead, he marries the Westerosi equivalent of Wallis Simpson; I guess “Winter is coming and I need a lovely girl to keep me warm under the covers” is the new Stark motto! I don’t think the show was trying to make Robb unsympathetic with his love story, but he just looks incredibly selfish to me for following his heart here and slapping his bannermen upside the head with the idea that their King and Lord doesn’t intend to keep the promises he makes them. Ned would be so disappointed!
(A brief aside: in the books, Robb, who is a teenaged boy, sleeps with a noble Westerosi girl because he’s just found out about the “deaths” of Bran and Rickon and is devastated. The girl is a virgin and her family are Tywin Lannister’s former bannermen, so to save the girl’s honor Robb sacrifices his own honor in keeping his promise to the Freys, but it’s not sold as some great love story, just as a boy trying to do the right thing, which is what we’d expect from the eldest Stark child. This Robb is gratifying his own desires with no thought to the political consequences of his actions and breaking his vows without any compelling reason to do so besides how beautiful Oona Chaplin is.)
In Qarth, another beautiful woman is finally off to recover her dragons. Dany, Kovarro and Ser Jorah approach the House of the Undying, which is more of a large Tower of the Undying, and which has no visible entrance. The three of them walk around the Tower, until Dany disappears from Jorah’s sight, leaving him to scream “KHALEESI!” If they ever do a Qarth Community Theater version of A Streetcar Named Desire, Jorah’s got a part for sure!
On the other side of the world, Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie trudge along a breathtakingly beautiful road. High up on a rock, Jaqen “A Man” H’ghar waits for Arya; as she tries to figure out a way to get up there, A Man turns up at her side. Apparently he’s been at the Baelish Teleportation Device, but that’s fine by me because A Man is always awesome.
Jaqen tells Arya he’s come to say goodbye, and offers her an apprentice assassin position as a Faceless Man in Braavos if she wants to take care of the other names on her list. Arya is seriously tempted, but then she remembers that she has to find her mother, her brother and, she belatedly adds, her sister. (I don’t see how she has to find Sansa, since she knows Sansa’s in King’s Landing, but we’ll let that slide.) The pack has to be reunited after all before winter comes.
A Man presents Arya with a coin, telling her that if she ever changes her mind about the assassination vacation, she just needs to find a Braavosi and say the words “valar morghulis!” to that person. Arya begs him to stay, and he tells her that Jaqen H’ghar was only a temporary identity; he turns away from Arya for a moment, and when he faces her again, he’s wearing a completely different and far less handsome visage. I do not like this bad magic! A Show should have found a way for A Man to keep being played by the amazing Tom Wlaschiha.
In Winterfell, Osha, Bran, Rickon and Hodor emerge from the crypts to find Winterfell destroyed, burnt to the ground either by the Ironmen or by the Bolton’s bastard. There’s no living humans in the castle besides these four; even Hodor looks upset at the devastation. The direwolves draw their attention to the Godswood, where Maester Luwin lies dying of a terrible wound to his side. I have been dreading this scene since we first met Maester Luwin last season, and I was half hoping that this was one of the changes from the books to the TV show but it was every bit as powerful and gut-wrenching as the scene in the book. Maester Luwin entrusts the children to Osha, telling her to take them North to the Wall, where Jon Snow will look after them. If only he knew! After he’s sent the children out of eyesight, Luwin asks Osha for the mercy of a quick death and I replenish my pile of Kleenex.
In Qarth, Dany wanders the dark halls of the House of the Undying, hearing the cries of small children or dragons. She opens one of the doors that ring the central hall, and walks into the throne room in King’s Landing, its roof open to the gentle, relentless snowfall. A frozen spider web hangs over the throne, and as Dany reaches to touch one of the swords, she hears the dragons cry again. She turns and walks through the gate of the Wall, out into the frozen waste beyond, where, behind a curtain of snow, she sees Khal Drogo’s tent. She’s drawn irresistibly to the place where she was once happy, and when she enters, she sees Drogo with the cutest baby ever (with the exception of my own, of course!), the child whose life ended so the dragons could be born.
There are so many ways to interpret this vision (including the idea that Snow will sit on the Iron Throne—though if Jon ever makes it there, it looks like he’ll be the King of Winter!). My own interpretation is that this is the future Dany would have had if Drogo hadn’t died; the snow that blankets King’s Landing and presumably all the lands of Westeros is what will come to pass without the fire of Dany’s dragons, whose cries interrupt her tender moment with her husband and lost child. Although it breaks her heart to turn away from Drogo and Rhaego, she goes back to her own destiny.
Dany finds her three dragons shackled to the table in the round room at the center of the tower. Pyat Pree emerges in duplicate (I guess the post-”Blackwater” budget didn’t extend to more than one copy) to tell her how much her dragon babies have missed her and how they have made the warlocks’ magic more powerful. He promises that now the dragons and Dany will be together forever, for a thousand years or more, prisoners in the House of the Undying. If that isn’t creepy enough, Dany finds herself shackled, her arms spread in a Christ-like pose. Pyat Pree has underestimated Dany, as others have done before him. She commands Drogon with the word “Dracarys!;” he produces a tiny smoke ring, but when Dany repeats the command, all three dragons spout gusts of flame that destroy Pyat Pree and melt the chains that bind themselves and their mother.
Fire is followed by ice; Qhorin Halfhand and Jon Snow stumble along amidst their Wildling captors, who are nicely bundled up in their sealskin hoods. Ygritte smacks at Jon with the flat of his sword, telling him that he’ll live only as long as Mance thinks he’s useful. I think she’s trying to be helpful and keep Jon alive, but she’d be a lot more helpful if she gave him a hood. He won’t be answering any questions if his ears fall off from frostbite, will he?
Finally, Jon’s story gets interesting again: Qhorin, who also wants to keep Jon alive as a spy in Mance’s camp, takes an opportunity to pick a fake quarrel with Jon, calling him a “traitor” and attacks him with a sword he’s grabbed from one of the wildlings. They duel, with Qhorin spitting insults at Jon to get him to fight properly. Qhorin may have half a hand, but he has a whole heart, and it belongs to the Night’s Watch; he gets Jon to kill him so Jon will have the wildling cred to survive an interrogation by Mance Rayder. Sure enough, Rattleshirt and his bone helmet are sufficiently impressed by Jon’s killing Qhorin that he cuts the ropes that bind Jon’s hands. Ygritte is pretty proud of Jon as well, and tells him that he’ll be famous among the Wildlings. I’m sure that’s just what Jon was hoping for. As they climb the last ridge, she points out Mance’s enormous camp at the bottom of a green valley that seems incongruous amongst all the snow-covered rock.
In Qarth, Xaro Xhoan Daxos is sleeping peacefully alongside Dany’s former slave Doreah. Apparently the King of Qarth has no need for security because Jorah steps up and snaps XXD’s amulet/key thingie off his neck with no warning. Doreah tries to make excuses for her betrayal, but Dany, who is carrying all three dragons, just snaps at her to “come!” Somehow, Dany has lined up some more Dothraki followers (I thought they were all dead); she appears to have a good 20 people fall into line behind her as they finally get to check out what XXD keeps in his famous vault. The answer is: absolutely nothing. It’s just a big old empty, walled-in room with no air supply and a very heavy door. It is, however, an excellent place to immure unwanted suitors and treacherous dragon-babysitters, which is precisely what Dany does. Once XXD and Doreah are left with their soon-to-be-depleted oxygen supply, Dany lets her Dothraki followers loot XXD’s mansion; the proceeds will pay for a ship out of Qarth, which now has no functioning government at all. Oops!
At the Fist of the First Men, Sam, Grenn and Edd are out gathering wood. Sam is boring the others with his crush on Craster’s wife/daughter Gilly when they hear a blast of the horn, which they assume means Jon and Qhorin are returning. In short succession, a second blast suggests that they may be facing Wildlings, and then, terrifyingly, there’s a third blast of the horn. The White Walkers are on the way, shapes emerging out of the snow. Grenn and Edd run for their lives, but poor Sam can’t keep up, and has to take refuge behind a rock. He watches in horror as the cast of The Walking Dead marches past him, wearing Wildling snowsuits and the black clothes of the Night’s Watch.
One of the terrifying night things is mounted on a slightly-flayed horse, and it turns its head and fixes Sam with its burning blue eyes, before moving along and doing nothing. In fact, none of the White Walkers and their zombie minions appear to be interested in Sam at all, even though he is hardly hidden and, as my close-captioning informs me, is actually whimpering in fear, which is the only sensible reaction to this sight. Maybe they are saving him for dessert.
The screen fades to black, leaving me for ten months of questions: how will Lord Frey react to Robb’s wedding? Who burned Winterfell? Will Jon finally sleep with Ygritte? Will Brienne finally punch Jaime in the mouth? Will Lord Tywin join the family pastime of slapping Joffrey? Where is the Hound? Will Hodor learn any other words? Can Jaqen H’ghar please get his old face back?
How about all of you? What’s your most pressing need to know for Game of Thrones, Season 3? Did you like the finale?
Regina Thorne is an avid reader, would-be writer, lover of old movies and TV shows with swords, togas and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which she’s re-reading one chapter at a time at mummersdragon.blogspot.com.