9.9 this episode scored on IMDb! 9.9!! The highest rated Game of Thrones episode (on IMDb, anyway). Interestingly, this episode also featured a wide range of ‘show-only’ content. Which backs up my point that with the whole Dorne thing, book readers aren’t annoyed because it’s different: they are annoyed because it’s bad. Show-only folks feel the same. But this episode greatly restored my faith (which was never really dwindling, I swear) in the writers’ ability.
The book-to-show adaptations this week focused solely on Arya and Cersei’s stories. Cersei’s is pretty straight forward, continuing on from last week’s cliff-hanger. Arya’s, on the other hand, is slightly more convoluted and confusing. The question is, what is Arya actually doing? Well, it seems like she is training to become a Faceless Man, that’s for sure. To understand how to be another person, Arya must live the life of another person. Hence, she becomes the oyster seller. In the books, she talks the name Cat of the Canals – a nod to this can be seen during the scene when multiple cats cross her path. The ‘skinny man’ sat at the desk was essentially an insurance dealer (boo!) who had cheated a family out of their money. Arya has killed before, but for her own reasons, so it will be interesting to see how she deals with taking the life of someone who has done her no wrong.
Breaking away from the books, we are treated to a fantastic couple of scenes between the little Lion and the Dragon. As Tyrion has not yet met Daenerys in the books, this is all original stuff, save the “wheel” speech, which is said to another character. As Barristan is now sadly deceased, it appears that Tyrion will be taking his role (as advisor, anyway, not knight…though that would be good). Tyrion, obviously, knows the political scape of Westeros more than Dany, and doubts she would gain many supporters. However, the Martells were Targaryen supporters until the bitter end, after years of a love/hate relationship between the two. We still haven’t really seen the extent of the Martell’s power, as they tend to keep themselves to themselves…though I’m hoping more light will be shed on them in the final two episodes of the season.
Ok, time for the biggie. Beyond the Wall (which apparently has some sort of magic spell on it to stop Baby Sam from aging??) is a vast wasteland: the Lands of Always Winter. Very little is known about this area, save a few leagues from the Wall where rangers have explored. The Wildlings have scouted further, as far as Thenn, which is where the bald cannibal people from. Beyond that, however, it is largely uncharted, and the map just kind of fades off. Hardhome is a settlement situated on the east side of the Lands of Always Winter, geographically roughly the same distance north of the Wall as the Fist of the First Men (where the Night’s Watch set up camp in season 2). Hardhome has acted as a refuge for Free Folk all over. Leaderless, they have become shambles, and appear to be governed by a group of ‘elders’ representing each faction. We see the (brief) return of a character from season 2: Rattleshirt, or the Lord of Bones, before he is brutally bashed down by Tormund. This not only shows Tormund’s brutality, but also acts as a final nail in the coffin for another character: Mance. In the books, Melisandre puts a glamour spell on Mance, and disguises him as Rattleshirt, and vice versa. So, it’s actually Rattleshirt that dies on the pyre at Castle Black. Meanwhile, Mance goes incognito and heads south on a secret rescue mission. Book-readers may well have hoped that the same happened in the series, but, alas, it’s not to be.
The climactic scene gave us more information about the White Walkers than we have received in the books. Largely, this is due to the fact that this scene is show-only, and a lot of information on the White Walkers comes from gossip and Old Nan’s stories! Exciting times. Obviously, we still know very little about them – such as their motives, their intelligence, community etc. But it’s apparent they are a serious threat, which many Westerosi seem to poo-poo. Suddenly, the tribulations of King’s Landing seem irrelevant, now that we have seen the real enemy! It’s important to note that this isn’t just a ‘medieval Walking Dead zombie apocalypse’; this is full out war. These undead soldiers (known as Wights) are relentless and brutal, as opposed to your classic zombie which survives on instinct. No, these guys want to hurt you. And now we know how easily the White Walkers (also known as the Others in the books) resurrect their undead Wights. Just a simple ‘come at me, bro’ gesture and you’ve got yourself an army. We also got to see how they really do ‘bring the cold’, and the Wight’s sheer determination as they flung themselves off of a cliff in order to kill their prey. Another big reveal was the importance of Valyrian Steel. I think I have talked about this previously, but Valyrian Steel, as the name suggests, was originally forged by the Valyrians (see my post on episode 5 for information about them). It is said to be the strongest, sharpest metal around, and only a gifted few know the secrets of how to forge it. Known Valyrian Steel swords are few: Ned Stark’s massive sword, Ice, was melted down and presented to Joffrey on his wedding day, and to Jaime, who later passed it to Brienne as Oathkeeper. Samwell Tarly’s family also own one named Heartsbane. Littlefinger’s dagger that was used to try and assassinate Bran is also Valyrian Steel. To my knowledge, these are the only blades that have been mentioned in the books. There were many more, but they have been lost to time
This whole final scene was brilliantly shot, with some wonderful cinematography, and, in my eyes has made up for the awful Dorne scenes (especially choreography wise). And the sound; oh, the sound! I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the Watch react to Jon bringing bands of Wildlings and a Giant (whose name is Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, or Wun Wun for short, if you were interested) to the Wall. Also, I’m awfully suspicious about that hooded figure navigating Jon’s boat at the end. He didn’t even turn round! I was half expecting it to be some sort of disguised White Walker…or, and I had my fingers crossed for this, that we would hear a voice “Jon?” *Jon looks down* “Uncle Benjen?!” BLACKOUT!
Next week’s episode is titled The Dance of Dragons, which is an obvious allusion to the title of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Ramsay also mentioned how he would leave Stannis’ army as “a feast for the crows”, which is a nice little nod to the title of the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. Whether you think this season has been slow or not, it’s definitely apparent that it’s picking up now, with next week’s episode looking pretty darn epic, and episode ten will apparently “break the internet”…! Also, Oberyn died this time last year. Just saying.
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Happy Father’s Day, Tywin.
I bet I’m the first person on the internet to make that joke.
So, Game of Thrones is over for another year. What did we all think of the finale? Whilst I don’t think that it was Weiss and Benioff’s ‘masterpiece’, as they claimed it was, I did thoroughly enjoy the episode. Book fans have been simultaneously reeling from the lack of a certain scene, but actually I am kind of glad that it was omitted. Without spoiling anything, the scene that was expected is the epilogue of A Storm of Swords, which is book three in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It’s a major reveal – I will say no more than that – and would have made a great epilogue to the series. However, had they included it, there episode would have been too packed, I think. There was a lot going on, and a lot of twists and turns in various story arcs. Had this scene been included, I think that it would have taken away from the rest of the episode. Now, I just hope they include it early in season 5, as the longer they wait, the less impact it will have. But I’m not as angry about it being left out as I thought I was, and actually having the episode end with Arya sailing away was quite a nice way to finish the series.
A lot of events unfolded throughout the 65 minute episode, so I will try and cover as much as I can, ending with a note on where the characters all are at the moment.
I’ll start with a scene that was quite easily overlooked: Qyburn and the Mountain. I’m sure that a normal man would have died by the wounds that the Red Viper of Dorne inflicted…but the Mountain is not a normal man. It is revealed here that Oberyn used poison during his fight with Gregor Clegane in episode 8, and this is what is slowly killing him. Qyburn (who was once a maester, but was kicked out for ‘unorthodox’ practices) is the fellow that escorted Jaime and Brienne back to King’s Landing from Harrenhal at the end of season 3. He has been there since, and Cersei has taken quite an interest in him, it seems. Qyburn promises that, through his ‘unorthodox’ practices, he can save Gregor Clegane’s life, but he won’t be the same. As an interesting side note, Qyburn was first introduced in season 3 episode 1, when Robb arrives at Harrenhal after it had been pillaged. Pillaged by whom, you ask? Well, the very person that Qyburn is experimenting on.
Sticking in King’s Landing, Tywin had a very bad day. Firstly, his daughter tells him that his family is built up on incest, and then his youngest son shoots him whilst he is having a poo. Deary me. The most powerful man in the word…killed on the toilet. Here we see the Lannister’s real decline in power. With the patriarchal figurehead eliminated, what will happen to the family now? We already know that the gold mines in Casterly Rock have all but dried up, and the Tyrells are sneaking around, getting their mits into Tommen to manipulate him. Jaime remains in the Kingsguard, and as a result cannot father any children. Indeed, it seems that the Lannister line is all but drying up! Whilst I really enjoyed how Tyrion’s story was played out, I can’t help but be a little upset with some minor variations from the book – it is obvious that Tyrion is a favourite; not just a fan favourite, but Benioff and Weiss’ too. As a result, I think that they are, for lack of a better term, white washing him. In the books, Tyrion is a lot darker. For example (I think I mentioned this before), he once had a singer boiled into stew for threatening to reveal the truth about Shae. In the series, we sometimes see a darker side to him, but not to this extent. Anyway, my point is that Tyrion and Jaime’s departure in the series was on good terms, whereas in the books it is not, which both influences their characters drastically in the next installment. For those interested, this is how it plays out in the books (if not, skip ahead until after the nice picture).
****** SPOILERS KIND OF-ISH BUT NOT REALLY ****
Do you remember the story of Tysha, Tyrion’s first wife? Long story short, Tyrion lost his virginity to her, and then found out that she was a whore, hired by Jaime to help Tyrion become a man. In response, Tywin had his men rape her, and paid her afterwards. Skip forward to the present, and Jaime comes down to the cells to free Tyrion. He reveals the truth about Tysha: she wasn’t a whore; Tywin lied about it to break up up their un-(in his eyes) holy matrimony. Naturally, Tyrion is mega pissed off, and then proceeds to tells Jaime that he did kill Joffrey, and that Cersei has been having sexy time with Lancel (their cousin, in the first and second series), Osmund Kettleblack (a knight from the books) and “Moon-Boy, for all I know” (Moon-Boy is a court fool). The two part ways, peeved at each other – with Jaime questioning his incestuous relationship, which had been perfect up until now, let’s be honest. Anyway so Tyrion encounters Varys, who’s like “by the way, that’s Tywin’s room up there, jus’ sayin’.” Tyrion ventures up, finds Shae in Tywin’s bed as the show portrays (though he seems to be a lot angrier in the books and pretty much murders her in cold blood) before finding Tywin on the privy. The difference in the scene here is that series-Tyrion seems concerned and upset with Shae, whereas book-Tyrion is hung up on Tysha. He tells Tywin he knows the truth, and asks where Tysha is. Tywin replies “where do whores go?” before Tyrion thwangs him with the crossbow. Like Jaime, Tyrion has this line repeating in his head – “where do whores go?” – heavily influencing his character and the decisions he makes. So, I for one am very interested to see how their future stories play out!
Continuing on – so Tyrion finds Shae and kills her out in self-defence, anger, betrayal and sadness. I’m not sure what the weird “I’m sorry” was about, but the scene was very well done. He then finds Joffrey’s old reliable crossbow and hunts down Tywin, putting a big crossbow bolt shaped dent in the Lannister’s power. Varys, who is so awesome, then helps Tyrion escape. Varys is about to return to the castle, but then realises what an awful, silly place it is, and proceeds to boat trip with Tyrion. He doesn’t accompany the Imp in the books, but I’m looking forward to seeing more interactions between the two next season!
Ummm next we have Daenerys. Her exploits in the finale were pretty self-explanatory: Drogon, the largest and most fearsome of her three dragons, went and flamethrowered a young girl. Daenerys wisely finally realises that dragons are actually pretty dangerous, and, full of emotion, chains them up for the time being, which is probably going to end really well. Well, she chains two of them up – Viserion and Rhaegal. Drogon – the most dangerous muthafuzzer – is out hunting and hasn’t been seen for days…
In the North, viewers were treated to some brilliant exchanges between Jon Snow and Mance Rayder, before Stannis shows up and kicks arse. If you recall at the end of season 3, Melisandre tells Stannis that the “true fight is to the north”. So how did Stannis get to the Wall? Last we saw of him, he was in Braavos, which is to the east of Westeros in Essos. From there, Stannis could have sailed north along the Westeros coast and past the Wall, before docking and unloading his troops. But why is he there? Well, to quote George R. R. Martin, Stannis is realising that he shouldn’t become king to save Westeros, but should save Westeros to become king. It is important, however, to note that the Night’s Watch swear they will not align themselves to a specific family or take part in any wars besides their own. This is A Song of Ice and Fire, and it appears that Ice and Fire are indeed now meeting!
Further north, you may be rubbing your eyelids in confusion as to what is going on with Bran’s story. We know that he is trying to find the Three-Eyed Raven (Three-Eyed Crow in the books) from
his dreams, and he knowsthat it is something to do with a heart tree, which, as I mentioned before, were symbols of the Old Gods (Jon burnt Ygritte under one in this episode too). They arrive at the tree that Bran has seen in his dreams, are attacked by undead, and then rescued by a Lost Boy from Peter Pan. This character is called Leaf, and she is one of the Children of the Forest. Some quick background – the Children of the Forest, though childlike in appearance, are not children at all. They’re kind of like Halfling elfy things. The giants called them “little squirrel people”. They lived in Westeros eons ago, before the First Men settled. When the First Men settled, with their bronze weapons and what not, the Children’s weirwoods were all but burnt down, and what little of them remained went into hiding. That’s just a brief history – you can probably find out more online, as it is quite interesting, but beware, for the night is dark and full of spoilers. Leaf leads Bran, Hodor and Merra (but not Jojen as he is now super dead) to the Three-Eyed Raven, who appears to be a man caught in a tree. His depiction in the books is a lot cooler, but I imagine the CGI budget was pretty much spent at this point, what with all of Leaf’s fireballs, so I guess an old man in a tree will have to do. Suddenly, Bran’s story has become interesting again!
Holy Christmas is that it? Oh, no – Arya. Ok, so book-Brienne never meets Arya, and the fight between her and the Hound doesn’t happen – book-Sandor Clegane becomes weakened by a wound he suffered, then Arya leaves him to die – but this was much cooler, and a pretty bad arse fight scene. Arya has obviously become very suspicious of people, which is why her tone towards Brienne changes as soon as “Lannister” is mentioned. Despite that, she still resents the Hound for killing Mycha (the butcher’s boy), no matter how many whacky adventures they have had. Arya is now stone cold, and instead of giving the Hound the sweet, sweet release of death, she leaves him to die slowly and painfully. She arrives at a place known as the Salt Pans (hence all that salt you saw), searching for a vessel. She is lost and alone in the world, but still has one hope: the coin that Jaqen gave her at the end of series 2. “Give this to any man from Braavos and say ‘valar morghulis’”. And off she pops.
So, as it stands –
Bran and co. are beyond the Wall, sheltered from harm with the Three-Eyed Raven.
At the Wall we have Jon and the Night’s Watch, along with Stannis, Davos, Melisandre and Stannis’ men, whilst Tormund and Mance are being held prisoner.
Reek/Theon is at Winterfell, where the Boltons have made their new home.
Sansa (going by the name Alayne) and Littlefinger are in the Eyrie, preparing to depart on a tour of the Vale.
Ayra is boarding a boat to Braavos.
The Hound is left dying on a rock.
Brienne and Podrick are still in the Vale looking for Arya.
In King’s Landing, Tommen sits on the throne, surrounded by the Tyrells, much to Cersei’s dismay. Qyburn is experimenting on the Mountain, Jaime is still a member of the Kingsguard, Tywin is dead, and Tyrion and Varys are also boarding a boat to who-knows-where.
Across the Narrow Sea, Dany has chained up her dragons and realises that ruling ain’t that easy, whilst Jorah is moping out in the wilderness somewhere on horseback.
Oh, and somewhere in the Narrow Sea, poor Gendry is still probably figuring out how to row his boat.
I think that just about covers everyone? Apologies if I have missed anyone out.
If you’re feeling a big Game of Thrones shaped hole in your heart, I really do recommend you to read the books. At times, they are quite difficult, tedious, and a tad boring, but overall the story is fantastic and exciting, and gives you so much more depth than the series can. Start with the first book – A Game of Thrones – even if you have watched the series thus far, or else you will miss out. Plus, then you can join in the hundreds of theory discussions online, and, more importantly, gloat and act smug to non-book readers that you have read them…not that I do that, of course. Thank you for reading my episode follow-ups, and I hope that you found them helpful and enjoyed reading them, as I did writing them.