Wow. What do I even say? Here I was thinking that David Benioff and D. B. Weiss couldn’t top the finale to the first season, but they did. Boy, did they ever top it! The season two finale of Game of Thrones did a fantastic job of resolving a few lingering stories that have plagued us for a few episodes but, at the same time, we’ve had some massive cliffhangers thrown at us as well.
First, even though he didn’t open the episode, is Stannis. The weight of his defeat almost seemed to drive him mad alongside the guilt he finally expressed over killing Renly. You can really tell that he’s genuinely frustrated with Melisandre’s whole Lord of Light religion, and the way in which he strangled her and said something along the lines of “where is your god now?” was really incredible. He looked intent on killing her and, despite how much I root for Stannis, it really reminded me of just how big of a cold asshole he is. I’m very interested in seeing what he does next, because Stannis gives off the impression that he’s not one to admit defeat and become submissive. Melisandre told him that he didn’t lose the war… is she right?
Tyrion’s scenes felt a little underwhelming, but it was nice to see him alive and recovering. I was very pleased to see Varys being openly friendly to Tyrion, and the scene with Shae was really comforting. I enjoy seeing how close the two of them really seem to be. Shae handled everything quite well despite Tyrion’s doubts this episode. It’s unfortunate that Tyrion is now going back to the role of “the family freak” now that Tywin is in King’s Landing. Much like Sansa, I’m worried that his stay in King’s Landing is only going to get worse.
As for Sansa, I’m not sure what to think. Joffrey’s decision to marry Margaery Tyrell could be a blessing or a curse for Sansa. It was a nice touch to see her laughing in relief after Joffrey decided to cast aside his vow to marry her, and I also supported her in turning down Littlefinger’s offer to help get her home. Who in their right mind would accept an offer from that man? Would anyone really side with the man who was responsible for their father’s death? If Littlefinger had remained honest with Ned, we’d have a Stark ruling King’s Landing right now. I’m hoping that Sansa refused the offer just because it was Littlefinger making it, but she also turned down Sandor Clegane’s offer in the previous episode. She’s surely heard that Winterfell has fallen to the Greyjoys by now, so perhaps she knows that staying in King’s Landing is the better choice at the moment.
Varys was given a little more depth in this episode, which I enjoyed. When Joffrey appointed Littlefinger as Lord of Harrenhal, you could see the daggers shooting from Varys’ eyes. It was a look of pure contempt and disgust, a look that I don’t think we’ve ever seen on the face of Varys. The man was rightfully pissed off, and it’s clear that he wants to strike out at Littlefinger somehow after his meeting with Ros, the go-to whore for the writers to use in every situation that seems to require use of one of Littlefinger’s employees. I had a little chuckle when Ros stuck her hand between Varys’ legs only to be given a very matter of factly look from the man himself. I was a firm believer last year that Varys is one of the show’s biggest anti-heroes, but this season made me believe that he’s perhaps the biggest. His methods are questionable at times, but as Varys told poor Ned last year, he serves the realm itself – not whomever sits on the Iron Throne. The man is simply after what appears to be peace and unity, but the spiteful Varys seeking revenge against Littlefinger will probably be very interesting to watch next season.
Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie weren’t utilized very much this episode, but I still liked the sight of them wandering off together. I get a kick out of seeing Hot Pie tagging along, especially after his introduction last season made him look like he’d be a miniature antagonist in Arya’s story. Now he tags along with Arya and Gendry, almost feeling like the comic relief of the trio. Jaqen H’ghar’s appearance and subsequent face changing trick was pretty cool, and it raised a few pretty good questions with the most important one being just what is Jaqen? An illusionist? Shapeshifter? Something even more unbelievable? I’d like to know, but he appears to be exiting the show so we may have to wait a while to really know for sure.
Robb’s surely getting himself into loads of trouble. I can understand that he feels true love with Talisa and that the two of them really want to be together, but he’s definitely digging himself into a hole. Catelyn reminded him, yet again, that he is breaking the vow he made to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Given how jerkish Walder seemed to be when we met him in the first season, I don’t think he’ll take too kindly to Robb breaking the vow. The question is… how long will it take for Walder to find out, and what can he do about it? The people of Westeros take promises and vows very seriously, so I don’t know if Robb can put too much faith in being able to cross Frey’s bridge again.
Now, how about the conclusion to Daenerys’ Qarth adventures? I’ll admit that a lot of her scenes have been pretty hit or miss this year and her endless empty threats being made to everyone in the middle of the season were more than grating, but this episode redeemed her fully and made her into a lovable character once again. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate her. It’s just that her constant yelling at everyone in Qarth about laying waste to her enemies and taking “back” the Iron Throne, along with the episode or two where she was pretty dickish towards Jorah struck me the wrong way. The season finale righted every wrong and brought back the Daenerys I liked from before. It was very cool to see her reject every false illusion thrust at her by the creepy warlock Pyat Pree. It was cool to see her reject the Iron Throne and I was impressed with her ability to pull herself away from the illusions of Drogo and Rhaego so easily. And what was even better? The torching of Pyat Pree. The first season’s finale ended with an epic scene of the dragons being born, but I think that this finale’s dragon scene was even better. Those three little suckers breathed fire! We’re not just talking little squirts of flames, but actual breath of fire. Pyat Pree was noticeably shaken when he saw Drogon spit out a small smoky burst of fire, but he clearly didn’t expect a huge barrage from all three of the dragons! It’s not often that I’ll grin and cheer when I see a character burning to death, but Pyat Pree deserved it when he decided to chain Daenerys and the dragons up just so that the source of his magic would never leave him. What an evil little freak.
The final scenes with Daenerys were just as bittersweet. Discovering that her handmaiden Doreah was sleeping with Xaro Xhoan Daxos was a huge discovery. It was a flat out betrayal regardless of what Doreah pleaded. When Daenerys had Doreah and Xaro locked inside of Qarth’s surprisingly empty vault I was reminded that this small woman is not to be messed with. Just as the witch Mirri Maz Duur discovered last year, double crossing Daenerys Targaryen will result in death. Afterwards, Daenerys and her motley crew of Dothraki deserters were able to help themselves to looting and ransacking Xaro’s estate. When Daenerys held up a large golden cup and asked Jorah if it was enough to buy a ship, I couldn’t help but smile. Daenerys is still far away from Westeros so I can’t imagine her even managing to reach her homeland until at least season four, but she’s definitely making progress. No longer is she a poor woman leading a bunch of wanderers. Daenerys now has money. Lots of money. Look out, Essos.
As for Winterfell, well, seeing it smoking as a result of Bolton’s bastard son attacking it definitely hit home. It felt like that scene in a lot of movies where the good guy’s base of operations gets destroyed. Winterfell, a location that has played such a central role in the story, has been ransacked and left deserted. What was even more depressing was the demise of Maester Luwin. I really liked that guy because he was the sort of guy everyone would want as a grandfather. He was a gentle and caring old man who was exceptionally wise. Nodding to Osha that he wanted her to put him out of his misery was a truly saddening scene. The only other death in this show that made me feel as sad was Ned’s death. It’s always really somber when a truly good person kicks the bucket, and Luwin was perhaps the gentlest soul on the entire show. I’ve liked his character immensely since day one and I’m going to miss him for sure. Damn Theon’s men for causing Luwin’s downfall! I didn’t expect them stab the poor guy with a pole-arm, but I didn’t expect them to betray Theon either. I should have seen it coming though after Theon’s moment alone with Luwin in which he realized that he wasn’t the man he was basically pretending to be and that difficult circumstances drove him to do every wrong doing that he committed this season. Theon essentially admit that he made some grave mistakes, but those very mistakes made it impossible for him to go back. It was at this moment that he embraced his imminent death, and his motivational and uplifting speech that he delivered to his men almost made me forgive Theon for every terrible act that he was responsible for. Almost.
And now for the parts that I’ve been waiting to write about, the stories of Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly. With Jon, it was really surprising to see Qhorin Halfhand literally attack him! I know that Qhorin did it to help Jon, and I hope it’s clear to everyone else as well. Qhorin knew that he was a dead man regardless of what happened, but Jon still had a shot at being able to bring the head of Mance Rayder to Knight Commander Jeor Mormont. By outright branding Jon as a traitor and provoking the young steward turned ranger into actually killing him, Qhorin did more for Jon than he can imagine. When the Lord of Bones said “let it be known that this is the man who killed the Halfhand” I couldn’t help but want to give the distraught Jon Snow a fist bump. His ropes have been tied and he’s been given free reign. Way to go Jon, you’re in buddy! Jon’s final scene of looking down upon the Wildling capital with Ygritte was a great way to end his story for the season.
Now… Samwell Tarly, you poor bastard. When Sam and the other two stewards (their names escape me) heard one horn blow for rangers returning, I knew that wasn’t what it was for. When the second horn blow sounded, a smile crept on my face. I knew that it wasn’t going to be for wildlings attacking… and when the third horn blow sounded, my heart rate must have been through the roof. When Sam mentioned earlier in the season that three blasts are for white walkers, I thought to myself right then that we were being told very useful information and that it was definitely foreshadowing. Indeed it was! As Sam proved to be too slow to keep up with the other two stewards as they fled to rejoin the others, we were treated to the silhouettes of a few bodies in the distance. Sam knew what they were, and so did we. As the snow and wind picked up, the mood became extremely tense and almost horrifying due to the idea that Sam could have possibly been about to meet his demise. When the horde of White Walkers and wights finally reached him as he hid behind a snow covered rock… wow, just wow. When the White Walker looked straight down at Sam, I thought that he was done for. Fortunately for the lovable chap, the White Walker decided that Sam wasn’t worth their time and issued a cry for the wights behind him to march forward, leaving poor Sam there all by himself and surrounded by an army of undead that slowly crept past him… towards the Fist of the First Men.
We seriously have to wait another nine or ten months to find out what happens!? I don’t know if I can last that long! This was just such an awesome episode that had so much happening that it bears several rewatches this week alone. I didn’t even touch upon Tywin smugly accepting the role of King’s Hand or Jaime being impressed by Brienne murdering three Stark men in cold blood, but those were amazing scenes as well. Everything about this episode was stellar, and it was a fantastic end to a great season. This is how you conclude a season, everyone. The cliffhangers in last night’s finale will keep theorists busy for many months to come and, mark my words, the season three premiere will no doubt be a shockingly good episode with an all time high for the show’s ratings. I felt like the death of Ned Stark last season was the start to the season but with an army of undead marching on the Fist of the First Men? This is the real deal right here. Bring on season three, because it’s going to be a doozy.