As with every Game of Thrones season finale, it always feels like a bit of a letdown after the events of the penultimate episode. That seemed true this season more than ever, as news of the "Red Wedding" begins to filter throughout Westeros.
After what was arguably the most powerful episode of the best season of GoT so far, last night's installment ("Mhysa") couldn't help but disappoint. Though the War of Five Kings would appear to be all but over, the finale was mostly about setting the stage for future confrontations, none of which we're going to see until next season, or possibly even the one after that. It was also about the meaning of family, and the lengths some will go in order to protect it.
So begins another nine months of loudly wondering when George R.R. Martin is going to finish The Winds of Winter.
Locations Highlighted in the Opening Titles (* =new): King's Landing, Dragonstone, The Twins, Winterfell, The Wall, Yunkai
Ser(s) Not Appearing In This Episode: Loras and Margaery Tyrell, Robb Stark (too soon?)
We pick up right where we left off, as the Hound (Rory McCann) makes his way out of the slaughter at the Twins with Arya (Maisie Williams), though not in time for her to avoid seeing what's happened to her brother. The Freys have removed Grey Wind's head and attached it to Robb's body, which for Arya is only the latest in an unending series of personal atrocities. Small wonder she takes the opportunity, later on, to perforate one of the Freys she hears boasting of committing the gruesome act. The Hound graciously butchers the other three dudes, and while we don't know exactly where the pair is heading, Arya's muttered "Valar morghulis" promises many more bodies to come.
Newlyweds Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) enjoy some bonding over plans to seek comical vengeance on those who snigger at him. It's cute, but doomed, as they're interrupted by a small council meeting to announce the news of Robb's death. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Tyrion go around again, but things go from awkward to "Oh no he di'nt" when Joffrey unfavorably compares Tywin's accomplishments in Robert's Rebellion to, well, his "father's." Alone with his son, Tywin offers a not-so surprising revelation that he wasn't exactly a proud papa of his stunted newborn, yet abstained from killing him out of love of family. Aw, that's sweet.
It probably won't happen, but Charles Dance needs to be nominated for an Emmy. He (metaphorically) kills in every scene he's in.
Team Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) makes it to the abandoned Nightfort, and to -- I don't know, lighten the mood some? -- he tells the legend of the Rat Cook, a story of betrayal and violating the sanctity of houseguests which has not-so allegorical connections to a certain Walder Frey.
Speaking of Frey (David Bradley), he and Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) conduct their after-action meeting. Frey gloats, Bolton broods, and the two discuss the disposition of Winterfell (Bolton has been named Warden of the North by Lord Tywin) and the fate of Theon Greyjoy, also confirming it *is* Bolton's bastard son Ramsay who's been torturing the young Ironborn, a fact which was probably apparent to anyone paying attention to all the "X"s around Ramsay's place.
Theon (Alfie Allen), short about 7 inches of manhood, understandably begs for death, Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) responds by giving him his new name: "Reek."
Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly arrive at the Nightfort via subterranean passageway, where he redeems his earlier actions by showing he has more of the dragonglass. Unable to convince Bran and company not to go north -- he gives some of the weapons to Hodor and Meera
Balon (Patrick Malahide) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) are also back, receiving a letter from Ramsay ordering the Ironborn out of the North. For extra oomph, he sends them Theon's "dick in a box" (that was too easy). Balon is all for abandoning him to his fate, but Yara instead takes a boat and 50 of the baddest ass mofos on the Iron Islands and sets off to seize the Dreadfort and free her brother. Aw, that actually *is* sweet.
On Dragonstone, Davos (Liam Cunningham) bonds with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) over shared squalid upbringings and their distaste for Melisandre. Inconvenient, since Stannis (Stephen Dillane) seems bent on sacrificing Gendry to the Lord of Light. Unhappy with this plan, Davos frees him. Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) is set to have the former smuggler charbroiled, but Davos has a trump card: Maester Aemon's note (see below). Melisandre is now convinced "the true war lies to the north." And boom, Davos' bacon is saved.
Back in King's Landing, Varys (Conleth Hill) tries to commiserate with Shae (Sibel Kekilli), who really needs to shit or get off the pot and decide if she's "just a whore" or if she's actually invested in Tyrion and/or Sansa, whom she claims she would "die for." More to the point, he wants her to leave. Varys fights for the realm, remember, and in his words, Tyrion is one of the only men alive who can make it better. She declines.
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Meanwhile, Cersei (Lena Headey) counsels Tyrion to get Sansa pregnant to "give her some happiness." He questions this line of reasoning, leading his sister to muse on the merits of parenthood, even to a kid like Joffrey ("You have children, how happy would you say you are?" is a line I probably laughed at too much for my wife's liking). And in an episode full or returns, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finally makes it back to King's Landing.
Jon and Ygritte have a, let's say, less than joyful reunion. Three arrows later, the lesson appears to be: never break up with a wildling. Jon still makes it back to Castle Black, but barely. Sam is reunited with Jon after bringing Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) up to speed on the white walkers. In turn, Aemon has Sam send ALL THE RAVENS (including the aforementioned one Davos shows to Stannis).
Finally, in Yunkai, the freed slaves are so happy they welcome Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) with cries of, "Mhysa," which is apparently the Ghiscari word for "mother." In an episode full of anticlimaxes, this one is the anticlimactic-est.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: Sansa never warmed to Tyrion; Frey and Bolton weren't exactly chummy; Yara didn't get a posse together to go get Theon; Sam and Gilly had ... help getting through the Wall under the Nightfort; the history of the name "Reek" is a bit more complex than depicted.