We’ve come to another season finale, and by now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the reactions.
In case you missed it and haven’t been able to get in front of a computer or DVR, here’s the recap.
Mother’s Mercy begins in Stannis’ camp where the ice has begun to melt. Melisandre believes it’s a blessing from the Lord of Light, and Stannis is ready to march on Winterfell. Ready to grasp his destiny, Stannis walks the camp only to be interrupted by one of his soldiers who brings bad news. Nearly half of the army has left in the night along with horses.
More bad news comes. “Speak up,” Stannis orders, “Can’t be worse than mutiny.”
Well, yes it can. Unable to cope with losing their daughter, Selyse has hung herself in the forest away from camp. Stannis orders her cut down, then he receives another bit of bad news — Melisandre was last seen riding out of camp on a horse. Undeterred, Stannis orders a march on Winterfell.
At Castle Black, Jon Snow talks with Samwell Tarley about the lost dragonglass. The discussion moves to Valyrian steel, and Jon laments, “The first Lord Commander in history to sacrifice the lives of sworn brothers to save the lives of wildlings.” Apparently, Jon’s feeling the pressure after returning home and seeing the various reactions of the Night’s Watch as the wildlings made it through camp. Jon remains strong, believing he made the right decision. Samwell, on the other hand, wants to be sent to Oldtown so he can become a maester. Sam knows his strength lies in research and knowledge, and he believes he can be a better resource. It will also get him, Gilly, and her baby to a safer place away from the conflicts. Jon agrees and sends him out immediately.
The scene goes back to Stannis who’s leading his men on Winterfell. Marching on foot, the ragtag army sees the castle in the distance.
Inside, Sansa uses the corkscrew she pocketed to sneak out of her room. The camp’s too busy preparing for war to stop her from roaming about. On the other side of the battlefield, Brienne of Tarth and her squire Podrick see Stannis’ army approaching. Brienne looks up at the tower, hoping to see a lit candle. She leaves moments before Sansa puts one in the window.
Timing seems to be the theme here — things are coming at the worst moment for everyone. When Stannis commands the army to begin digging trenches for a siege, a soldier looks out onto the battlefield and says, “There’s not going to be a siege, Your Grace.”
A rumble in the distance suggests horses are coming — a lot of them. A row of knights on horses — the knights of the Aerie courtesy of Littlefinger — storm the battlefield and encircle Stannis’ army as they defiantly hold up their swords and march to their deaths. It’s going to be a slaughter, and Sansa can only watch as the armies clash.
When the battle’s done, Stannis’ army is finished. Wounded, the head of the Baratheons manages to fight off two attackers before sustaining another wound to the leg. Not that Stannis will have to travel far — Brienne meets him as he bleeds out.
“You murdered him with blood magic?” she asks.
“I did,” Stannis confesses.
“In the name of Renly of House Baratheon, First of His Name, rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, I, Brienne of Tarth, sentence you to die.”
The sentence on Stannis is probably the last thing Stannis wants to hear, and not just because he’s just about to die. In one very loaded line, Brienne basically undercuts Stannis’ legacy — the one he killed his own daughter for — by pronouncing his guilt for the crime of regicide. In one fell swoop, Brienne disregards Stannis’ claim to the throne by invoking the name of her king, orders Stannis’ execution for treason, and unsheathes her blade — the aptly named Oathkeeper. When Stannis is given the chance for last words, all he can muster is a few pained expressions as he thinks of all the circumstances that led up to this.
“Go on, do your duty,” he tells her, and that’s the end of Stannis the Mannis.
Elsewhere, Ramsay Bolton cleans up, killing the wounded. He heads back to the castle as Sansa looks for an escape. She’s caught by Myranda, wielding a bow and arrow. Reek accompanies her and pleads for Sansa to return to her room.
“If I’m going to die, let it happen while there’s still some of me left,” Sansa says.
Myranda won’t have it. Instead, she suggests something worse than death could happen if Sansa doesn’t return to her chambers. Just as she looses her arrow, Reek grabs Myranda and tosses her over. She lands with thud after she goes head over heels over the railing. When the soldiers announce Ramsay has returned, Reek leads Sansa to the top of the castle wall. They look down wondering if the snow will break their fall. Holding hands, they make the jump.
In Braavos, Trant whips three young girls with a switch. The first girl screams as she’s hit, and so does the second. The third girl makes no sound despite being hit so hard the switch breaks. Trant orders the other two out, and the girl pulls back her hair and reveals her face. Trant punches her in the stomach, and the girl pulls something off her face. It’s Arya, and she’s got a knife. She pokes out Trants eyes, shoves a rag into his mouth, and stabs him in the chest several times, weakening him.
“You were the first person on my list, you know,” she tells him, “For killing Syrio Florel. Remember him? Probably not.”
Arya circles him and tells him she’s glad the Many-Faced God left him for her. Arya makes the murder incredibly painful for Trant, taking it nice and slow. After she slits his throat, she returns to the chamber of faces and returns the mask she wore to trick Trant.
“A girl has taken a life,” Jaqen says, accompanied by the Waif.
Jaqen accuses Arya of taking a life that was not hers to take, and tells her, “A debt is owed.” Jaqen opens up the poison vial, as the Waif holds her mouth open. But the vial isn’t meant for Arya — Jaqen drinks it and dies.
“Why are you crying?” the Waif asks as Arya rushes to the body.
“He was my friend,” Arya says through tears.
“No, he wasn’t. Didn’t you listen to him?” the Waif responds before her voice changes. “He was no one.” Arya turns to see Jaqen standing behind her in the Waif’s clothing and wonders who died. Jaqen tells Arya the faces are meant for those who are “no one,” and as she pulls the masks away one after another from the nameless one’s face, she comes to her own.
“And to someone, the faces are as good as poison,” he tells her as she looks upon her own face on the dead body.
“I can’t see,” Arya screams as her pupils lose color.
On a brightly lit pier, the Prince Doran Martell says goodbye to his son Trystane as he readies to disembark for King’s Landing his bride-to-be Myrcella Lannister. Ellaria Sand and her daughters are there, and Ellaria gives Myrcella a long kiss on the lips as she says goodbye. Bronn and Tyene also get to say their goodbyes, and he tells her he hopes she will visit.
On the boat, Uncle Jaime — spurred by Ellaria’s last speech — tries awkwardly to tell Myrcella that he’s her father, but the truth is she’s always known, and she’s glad. Father and daughter share a moment before it’s spoiled when blood pours out of her nose. She collapses while, back on the pier, Ellaria begins to feel the effects of the poison as well. Tyene hands her something to wipe the poisonous lipstick off, and Ellaria drinks from a vial hanging from her neck. They leave while the boat sails on.
From there, the scene shifts across the sea to Meereen where Jorah Mormont, Tyrion Lannister, and Daario Naharis wait anxiously in the Queen’s court. Tyrion tries to make conversation by pointing out neither Jorah or Daario are fit for the Queen.
“We always want the wrong woman,” he says.
Grey Worm enters with Missandei and points out that Jorah has been exiled. Missandei learns that Tyrion knows a little bit of Valyrian, and Grey Worm apologizes for not being available to help Danaerys.
Tyrion and Jorah think it’s best to find the Queen, but they both would rather see each other removed altogether. Jorah boasts he’s been Team Danaerys since before it was cool, and Tyrion mentions, “And she exiled you. Twice, I believe.”
“The second time thanks to you,” Jorah counters.
Daario interrupts and suggests they play to their strength — he and Jorah will go rescue the Queen while Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm take charge of the city.
Tyrion watches Daario and Jorah leave the city, like a young boy watching the others go out while he’s grounded. Thankfully, there’s a visitor — Varys, the Spider. Varys is a little hurt that Tyrion abandoned him a few cities back, but once they begin to converse, things are back to normal. Tyrion and Varys are a great complement to each other — one bluntly honest, the other restrained and calculating. To run the city, they’ll have to combine their powers, and I’m glad it’s happening.
North of Meereen, Danaerys is waiting for Drogon to take her back home. Surrounded by barbequed bones, Drogon would rather stay and heal his wounds, leaving Danaerys to venture out until she’s met by a Dothraki horseman. Danaerys realizes she’s not alone, and she slips a ring off her finger.
Hundreds if not thousands of Dothraki appear and surround her, and it’s not particularly clear if they recognize her at all — I would assume they do because why else would they be doing what they’re doing?
We won’t find out until next season because we’re back at King’s Landing. Cersei’s given another chance to confess, and this time, she’s taking it. After she admits she slept with her cousin Loras, the High Sparrow tells her she will stand trial for the other crimes. But for now, she will have to endure a walk of shame like no other walk of shame. Stripped naked, she’s forced to walk from the Sept to the royal keep as someone follows, repeating the word, “Shame,” and ringing a bell. The citizens become unruly, hurling insults and thrown objects. Cersei becomes injured, and her feet are bloodied by the time she returns to the keep where Qyburn introduces her to the reanimated Mountain, the man formerly known as Gregor Clegane.
“He has sworn that he will not speak until all of His Grace’s enemies are dead and evil has been driven from the realm,” Qyburn tells her as the undead Mountain carries her away.
The final scene begins with Jon arguing with Ser Davos at Castle Black. Davos wants Jon to send reinforcements, but Jon tells him the Wildlings won’t fight. When Melisandre enters, the discussions comes to a complete halt. Jon asks about Stannis, and Davos asks about Shireen. Melisandre says nothing, giving Davos one look that tells him all he needs to know.
Jon retires to his quarters and reads the messages sent by ravens. Olly enters and tells him a Wildling has information on Uncle Benjen’s whereabouts. Jon rushes out to meet the Wildling, and Alliser Thorne meets and him and brings him up to speed.
“Over there,” Alliser says, leading Jon to a group of men holding torches. Jon pushes his way through the crowd and find a wooden board with the word Traiter written on it. Seeing the deception for what it is, Jon turns and is immediately stabbed by Alliser.
“For the Watch,” he says.
The men take turns stabbing Jon and proclaiming, “For the Watch.” After a moment of silence, they part, and Olly comes forward. Jon sees the hurt and anger in Olly’s face before the young boy stabs Jon and says the words. The men disperse as Olly tearfully looks upon Jon’s body bleeding out into the snow.
And so ends the fifth season of Game of Thrones.
This was altogether a much better episode than the last with plenty of developments. The plots came to more meaningful and compelling twists, and the direction of the episode was sharp with the thematic elements hitting home. We have a lot of endings here, and though the death of Jon might be tragic for many — he was my second most favorite character — I doubt this will be the end of him.
If it is, I wouldn’t be surprised — Game of Thrones continues to surprise and will charge forward until the end with no regard for the popularity or notoriety of characters. This season seemed to move quickly for me in the sense that a lot of plotlines were vying for the spotlight, and a typical episode was zooming back and forth to capture all of the developments for the various characters who were split up.
It never approached overwhelming, though unfortunately, on the development side of things, season five was no season four — it was much more a slow boil as storylines pushed upwards and onwords until the final few episodes which contained most of the giant twists and turns. I have to say it worked — would Stannis’ downfall be as dramatic without all that momentum? Jon’s death feels much more weighted after spending a whole season with him trying to bring the Wildlings over. Though people aren’t happy with the dearth of happy endings, it’s something the series is known for and what draws a lot of fans to continue watching.
On the negative side of things, I wish this season would have been more consistent episode to episode. The Sand Snakes were a welcome addition to the season until they tried and failed to kidnap Myrcella — a poorly executed action sequence lacking drama and tension. The season finale proved Ellaria is still a viable character, and if the Sand Snakes return, I hope they’re more effective in their means.
I also hope there’s more action — this season seemed to rely almost solely on character interactions, drawing most of the conflicts out through dialogue. Action sequences break the monotony and give viewers an adrenaline rush that word-sparring can’t provide.
That said, it’s going to be a rough ten months before the season premiere of season six. See you then.
Game of Thrones
S05E10: Mother’s Mercy
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Lena Headey
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