Television

Published on June 15th, 2015 | by Bean

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale Episode 10 “Mother’s Mercy”

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BE WARNED! MASSIVE, EPIC SPOILERS!!!

Ohhhh, where to even smeggin’ start?! The vastness of events covered in Season 5 of Game of Thrones is brought into perspective visually, on repeated occasions throughout it’s finale. Characters stand tiny and cowed in great halls, walk miles through crowds of hate to be held aloft by monsters, wander lost in valleys, small armies succumb to enormous foes. I must admit, I felt similarly intimidated by the scope of this evening’s tale both as I watched it, and now as I attempt to make sense of and sum up the last hour of television.

The world George RR Martin has created which David Benioff and D.B.Weiss expand upon seems a place entirely built upon chaos. Since the close of the first season it has been clear that it’s object, to subvert the narrative expectations set up by popular heroic tales, requires a constant sense of imbalance and uncertainty to reign. This makes for uncomfortable viewing on a weekly basis, but the fight for balance in the chaos has always been the driving force. It’s themes; honour, justice, corruption, misrule, abuse of power, the rights of the mighty and the meek. These are universal in storytelling, and what gives Game of Thrones it’s teeth is it’s unwillingness to bend to the customary way we usually choose to tell those tales.

Ned Stark proved to us long ago that honour gets you beheaded, so don’t count on that. But honourable characters, though few and far between, do exist in this world, if not thrive. Brienne of Tarth, Jon Snow, perhaps Prince Doran, should we get to know him better. Daenerys is the champion of justice but finds the discharging of it more complex than can be accounted for. Deceit lies everywhere, and after five seasons one looks for it everywhere. You cannot trust a scene going well for any of it’s characters; the pendulum will swing back before too long, often before the scene is out.

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Littlefinger has the grasp of it; the ladder. The yin to his yang is Varys, who understands the necessity of the climb, but wishes to see others rule, and rule well. One of the first times we see Littlefinger in Season 1, he stands staring inscrutably at the Iron Throne; what is his desire? He sees the path through the pandemonium, but always for his own ends; whatever he may claim is best for the realm always furthers his own cause first. The only thing you can count on in Game of Thrones is the journey will be bloody, you will lose your heroes along the way and those who survive do so at great cost and with the probability of an extremely murky outcome.

And if that sounds like a downer, then buckle up! We begin the chillingly titled “Mother’s Mercy” by visiting Stannis at his camp north of Winterfell. The egregious acts perpetrated in his name the last time we saw him have gained the man…well, everything he deserves. Stephen Dillane has given many fine performances in his run on the show as the humourless, prideful wannabe-king, but watching his final inexorable slide to his doom is made truly grave by the steely gloom Dillane brings to the table. As his hand goes from dreadful to plain fucked – his daughter murdered, his wife unable to bear the burden of guilt, his mistress and advisor fled along with half his army and all the horses – Stannis goes to war grimly, only to find the Bolton’s have out-witted him by meeting him in the field, outnumbering him 20-1. Brienne, busy with honour rather than her actual mission of saving Sansa, does fulfil her oath and forces Stannis to face the enormity of his moral dissolution. And so ends the not-reign of the worst would-be king in Westeros.

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Sansa, ready to go to her death rather than endure one more second in Ramsey’s fetid company, finds herself pinioned by the deeply unpleasant and psychotic Myranda as she attempts to escape. As I chanted “Reek! Reek! REEK!” from my sofa, my prayers were answered and the arsehole-formerly-known-as-Theon finally finds his courage and pushes the nasty cow over the ramparts! Did I wish Sansa had done the deed herself? Of course. Perhaps the show has something to say about non-violent dissent, though I’m not sure this is the right crowd or mythos. What may become of Sansa and Theon, as they fling themselves over a much higher wall out of Winterfell, remains to be seen, but they are heading in the right direction, and for that small mercy, we must be grateful.

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Arya, always the quick study, proves she has made strides in her education of the Many-Faced God, but the subtleties of the consequences her actions reap is still lost on her (and me). She makes a bloody mess of Meryn Trant, though it feels much more like murder than assassination (if such a distinction can ever be made). This is partly the problem. Her vengeance still rules her, she longs for justice, but the MFG doesn’t work like that. The bait and switch of Jaqen’s apparent suicide is a nice insight into the labyrinthine workings of their cult, but as Arya’s sight fades, it feels like her transformation is only just beginning.

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The Mother’s Mercy of the title brings up the other ever-present themes of family and religion, raised in numerous ways throughout; be it the dogma-addled Selyse’s unhappy demise, Daenerys’ inability to bend Drogon to her will, or what Ellaria Sand will do to wreak misery upon Cersei. The conversation Jaime has with Myrcella is truly touching, handled with sensitivity by both Nicolaj Coster-Daenerys and Nell Tiger Free. Of course that couldn’t possibly end well, and just as I’m saying “Ah, Jaime’ll have to protect her from now on, that’ll be his redemption!” along comes a Sand Snake. Well done Doran, that’s what second chances gets you.

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Possibly the most gruelling scenes of the episode come at Cersei’s expense. What is this woman? The ‘atonement’ visited upon Cersei (because, let’s be honest, she did not yield to that willingly), is an excruciating torment. Of course it is. Never one to do things by halves, the show brings the Queen Regent to her knees, covers her in filth, walks her naked through the streets and the commoners she has looked down upon from on high all her life, all the while The Nun-Who-Is-Soon-To-Die-Bloodily tolling her frakking bell and intoning “Shame!”. Lena Headey gives a truly remarkable and nuanced performance, showing us Cersei shedding everything but the thinnest shred of her pride to get herself home to her son. Aaaaand now I’m rooting for Cersei! Ye gods, there will be blood.

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Her baby brother has managed to escape the fray at Meereen, along with Ser Jorah, Daario Naharis and Missandei.  After an amount of unnecessary bickering, and a lovely misuse of High Valyrian by Tyrion, Grey Worm appears and the team splits; one half to find their Queen and the other to have a bash at ruling the sacked and divided city. Feeling this was surely a duff move, my frown turned upside down at the arrival of VARYS! Oh, lovely, brilliant, special Varys, we love you. He gets a wicked little Han Solo moment with his sometime companion, and the whole prospect of Tyrion staying in Meereen starts to make sense, with or without Daenerys.

Game of Thrones

Meanwhile, the Mother of Dragons is having some issues getting a ride home, though it seems from her tone and attempts with Drogon that his wounds are not fatal, and he merely needs to rest and recuperate. The appearance of Daenerys’ Khalasar is both majestic and ambiguous. I’m erring on the side of hopeful (very probably an err, knowing Game of Thrones, which I simply never will), and that their staggering stampede is a welcome homecoming, not an angry mob. Fingers crossed?!

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But what is the point of crossing those fingers though, when we come to an ending like this one. Bleak barely covers it. Having already bid Samwell and family a sad farewell, Jon Snow finds himself a lonely Commander of the Night’s Watch. With no allies, Ser Davos and Melisandre shut away and in shock, and no Ghost to hand (only so many reprieves you can write for a dire wolf before that gets stale) Jon follows in his father’s footsteps to a fool’s doom. Duped in a most underhand way to think word of his Uncle Benjen has reached the Wall, what he finds is his own dreadful fate. And it truly is…sorry. The brothers he has fought tooth and nail to protect, and the office he assumed wearily to achieve this preservation become his horrible undoing.

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As Alliser Thorne and the uprisen brothers step up one by one, a cowardly mob cornering their leader so as to better wrap their denial round themselves, they stick the knife in. “For the Watch”. Really? The heart is reserved for Olly, a frightened but angry child, bitterly butchering the one person left who actually does care for him. Woe fills Kit Harrington’s eyes as the lad takes Snow’s life, a life given to service and robbed by his fellows, and another of Game of Thrones’ heroic leads falls prey to the whims of chaos. Where the story will go without it’s pure heart at The Wall is a mystery, and just as the next ten months are a chasm, so will Snow’s death leave a giant hole.

Game of Thrones

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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  • Jason Sparky Patrick

    Cool review Nina, 🙂 how do you think it will pan out? Could Jon be raised from the dead by the witch? Is Stannis dead or did Brienne miss and hit the tree? All seems left very open again! Let the theories commence!

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