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Game of Thrones – Finale Recap: This War of Five Kings Means Nothing

A subdued and nuanced Season 3 finale certainly set the stage as Game of Thrones heads into production for its next string of episodes chronicling the second half of George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords. Remember, we’re only midway through book three at this point. This show is doing its best to stay loyal to the books. The Red Wedding gave us our grand fireworks display during the penultimate episode prior to “Mhysa.” This week, during episode 10, we faced the calm before the storm… of swords. Yet, as Melisandre (Carice van Houten) put quite nicely,

This war of five kings means nothing.

At last, someone truly gets it!

One thing I’m consistently reminding myself of as I watch Game of Thrones is that the novel series of which this sensational HBO series is based off of is not called Game of Thrones, but rather, A Song of Ice and Fire. I play an interesting game of my own while viewing. Martin has spoken quite openly regarding the possibility of, well, dying before completing the series. Meaning, the crew behind HBO’s Game of Thrones knows exactly how this author wants his story to play out. They already have all of the answers, even if the final books have yet to be completed. Thus, I find myself picking apart the liberties the show takes in making changes or additions to the plotlines of our favorite Westerosi bunch. The Season 3 finale might not have felt so much like the explosive kind of season finale we’ve become accustomed to with regard to a show like Game of Thrones, but it felt quite like a cinematic feature film in exchange. In the end, we have to remind ourselves that we didn’t fall in love with the likes of Arya (Maisie Williams) because of her skilled “needlework,” or Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) because of his prowess as a “monster” on the battlefield, or Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) because she’s the “mhysa” of all bad-asses. Every single one of these characters has heart, for better or worse.

Here we go, my last recap and review of Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Valar morghulis, readers, but hopefully I get through the Episode 10 recap first.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

The North: Let’s just get this out of the way; this “Rat Cook” beast is the most heinous thing I’ve ever heard of. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his band of oddballs made their way to the Nightfort, an abandoned castle along The Wall. This dreary piece of rubble was said to be haunted by this Rat Cook creature, a former cook who fed an ancient king his own son, baked in a pie, before being transformed into a giant white rat by the gods. That’s what you get for mistreating your guests. Note to self: next time I barbecue, no people meat. Bran recalled the tale as Hodor (Kristian Nairn) gleefully shouted down a deep dark well.

Bran’s Westerosi version of a campfire ghost story had no one shaking, yet rumblings from the inner well in the middle of the night certainly had Jojen (Thomas Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) startled. Rising from the depths in his shaggy, and quite ratty, black cloak came Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) with Gilly (Hannah Murray) in tow. Sam had found his “Black Gate,” the secret portal through The Wall crafted and enchanted especially for members of The Night’s Watch. He’d also found Bran Stark. Clever Sam was tipped off by the snarling of direwolf Summer in the corner. After bonding over their mutual sense of brotherhood for Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sam and Gilly informed the crew of what they faced north of The Wall before bestowing them with dragonglass, the only known means of destroying white walkers. Is Bran truly the key to destroying the army of the frozen dead? Maybe he’ll someday grow strong enough to warp into the body of one of Dany’s dragons.

Once Sam and Gilly bid Bran and his team farewell, the two headed back to Castle Black, where Sam was quick to inform Maester Aemon of his encounters beyond The Wall before sending out countless ravens warning the world of Westeros their impending frosty doom.

Meanwhile, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) managed to catch up with Jon Snow, though I’m not sure how. Not that that’s too important. What was important was the sense of utter sorrow between the two. We all know the sinking pit that swallowed up Jon’s stomach at the sight of his former flame, the girl kissed by fire. There was no explaining anything to Ygritte, who’d raised her bow at first glance of Snow. Jon mounted his horse with the intention of tearfully riding away, but Ygritte is not your average scorned woman. The wildling fired not one but three arrows into Jon before he rode off into the distance, leaving her absolutely destroyed by heartbreak. Eventually, a down and out Jon barely made it back to Castle Black for a reunion with his long lost brother, Samwell.

See, I realize a moment like that reunion between friends isn’t exactly a “Ned Stark beheading” kind of a scene, or a “Khaleesi birthing dragons” kind of a shocker, but I was fine with a finale grounded in reuniting, rekindling, and of course, tearing apart. (Yes, I know that Ned wasn’t beheaded on the Season 1 finale.)

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HBO “Game of Thrones”

Dragonstone: They might not have had a relationship prior, but I appreciated the kinship between Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Davos (Liam Cunningham). Two boys from Flea Bottom harping on the good ole days full of bowls of brown and rivers of, for lack of a better word, sh*t. Gendry awaited his impeding death sentence, as Davos plotted to convince Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) to change his heart of stone. Davos might not be the most literate of heroes, but that isn’t to say that he’s cunning. There’s something about a man who’s loyal to the core that breeds a certain kind of intelligence that can’t be denied by a man of the law like Stannis. Melisandre, on the other hand, refused to budge. Had her leech burning really had something to do with Robb Stark’s death? Probably not, but that R’hllor is one tricky red god. Seriously, what is R’hllor’s endgame? Is he even a true god? Why can’t he just be some sort of supernatural being? He certainly seems to have some sort of magical abilities.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

While practicing his reading skills with little Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram), Davos stumbled upon a startling piece of information. It was enough to convince him to go above Stannis and free Gendry, for that matter. I have a certain soft spot for Gendry so watching him row off on that boat back to Flea Bottom gave me a sigh of relief. Stannis, needless to say, was livid. Davos had deliberately disobeyed his king, further alienating himself from Melisandre and The Lord of Light, and earning him a death sentence of his own. In a last ditch effort, Davos whipped out the scroll he’d read; the note from Samwell and The Night’s Watch warning of “winter.”  After burning the parchment, Melisandre had a sudden change of heart. R’hllor did indeed have a plan for Davos, who was eager to help Stannis unite the lords of the land to battle the white walkers beyond The Wall.

By the way, whoever staged that finale scene on Dragonstone did an excellent job. My screenshot doesn’t convey it well enough, but the lighting was incredible.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Theon: I was certain we were heading for a Hard Candy- esque fake-out for Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), but alas, that lunatic Ramsey Bolton, yes, Ramsey Bolton-Snow, truly removed Theon’s “favorite toy,” and we finally learned the identity of our favorite madman, the loon who’d made Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) look sane and kindhearted throughout the entirety of Season 3. In a quick conversation between Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and Walder Frey (David Bradley), Bolton explained that his crazy bastard was instructed by King Robb to release the Iron Born in exchange for Theon. He didn’t, obviously. He just kept Theon around for his own sadistic pleasure and subsequent use.

I’m not sure anyone out there is truly a Theon Greyjoy fan, but the removal of his manhood followed by the barrage of psychological torture brought down upon him by Ramsey was a lot to handle. Theon fought all he could to maintain some sort of pride before having everything, even his name, stripped away from him. The former son of King Balon Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy, had become nothing more than a slab of “meat”… named Reek.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Luckily for Theon, all is not lost. While his father had disowned his son long ago, dubbing him an honorary “wolf” among the Starks, his sister Yara had not. After receiving Theon’s “favorite part” from Ramsey, Yara gathered the toughest killers the Iron Islands had to offer, along with its fastest ship. Watch out, Ramsey. That is one scary woman when she’s angry, and she’s coming for you.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Arya: Firstly, I need to point out that both Maisie Williams and The Hound’s Rory McCann are fantastic actors. Episode 10 showcased some of their best work, although we only briefly encountered the dynamic wolf-hound duo. An actor’s best work on a show like Game of Thrones is in silence. It’s all in the eyes.

They certainly went there with the display of Robb Stark’s corpse, huh? As The Hound attempted to meander out of the devastation surrounding The Red Wedding, and the subsequent slaughter of Robb’s supporters, the Frey men marched out Robb’s headless body… with Grey Wind’s head sewn atop. Arya looked absolutely crushed. It was as though the death of her family had surpassed anger and sadness and had evolved into an exhausted state of seeing pure blood red. The Hound had a tiny glimmer of fatherhood in his eye. It all worked so well. Then, the pair rode off.

Of course, that wasn’t the very last we’d see of them. The gods work in mysterious ways, and the pair happened upon a group of Frey men in the forest, boasting about how they’d murdered Arya’s family. The mocking drove the rebellious Arya to act. The Hound let her slip from the saddle. She slowly made her way to the men’s campsite, pouting and begging for the warmth of their fire. Arya offered her Braavosi token before revisiting her favorite trap; dropping the coin. When the man who’d sewed Robb’s direwolf’s head onto his shoulders bent down to pick it up, she viciously stabbed him to death. The Hound then swept in to slaughter the rest like livestock before asking Arya to warn him next to she was about to steal his knife and try something crazy. I also appreciated that Arya lied about having never killed a man before. It was as though she refused to reveal herself as a hypocrite for having scolded The Hound for murdering her butcher-boy friend.

Arya retrieved her special coin before uttering the magic words.

Valar Morghulis.

With no free Starks left to run to, we know exactly where Arya is looking to head going into Season 4, don’t we?

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

King’s Landing: Poor Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) can’t ever have a pleasant moment without having it come coupled with a side of sheer terror or utter devastation. It was nice to see Tyrion and Sansa finding common ground while walking through the castle gardens. The two have a mutual hatred for, well, anyone deemed better off. Basically, for everyone period. Essentially, they’re both bastards now, aren’t they? We all remember Tyrion’s infamous “all dwarves are bastards” moment with Jon Snow during the series premiere, but Sansa, the daughter of the traitor, now joins him. I also enjoyed Sansa’s suggestion that they sew sheep dung into the mattresses of people they hate. I’ll have to use that one sometime.

Unfortunately, news of Robb’s assassination would soon reach King’s Landing, crushing any pro-Lannister sentiments from Sansa. Tyrion discovered the news during the small council meeting of the week. Joffrey, thanks for showing up! Of course he did. He had to gloat! Don’t hate me, but I love Joffrey Lannister Baratheon. Jack Gleeson is so on point as a young actor. Could you imagine Joffrey’s tantrums being delivered by another actor at this point? Tywin (Charles Dance) sent the obnoxious “king” to bed without his supper following the boy’s insisting that he serve Sansa her brother’s head during his wedding reception. Once the room cleared, Tyrion had a moment alone with his father where the two discussed family and war. Tywin had, of course, orchestrated the hit on Robb and Catelyn Stark. True; that was the quickest way to nip the war in the bud and shake The North into submission. Also true; Tywin tends to mistakenly interchange “family” and “family name.” There’s a difference between protecting one’s kin and protecting one’s legacy. At least, there is at times. Sometimes you can kill two direwolves with one roar. This was not a move to benefit his children, though, but rather, a move to protect their station in Westeros. Tywin’s one selfless moment in life?

I wanted to carry you into the sea and let the waves wash you away.

Yikes, Tyrion. Game of Thrones continuously gives us these moments between Tywin and Tyrion, and they always end the same way; however, we now know how this show works. Tyrion is being wound tighter and tighter. I assume that the look of complete despair on Sansa’s face in the following scene did nothing to help.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Meanwhile, Varys (Conleth Hill) met with Shae (Sibel Kikelli) to offer her a way out. In truth, she could never end up with a highborn like Tyrion Lannister, and her presence threatened Varys’ “friend’s” opportunity to help the realm. Varys offered Tyrion’s love a satchel of diamonds, pleading with her to leave King’s Landing forever. He knows how important Tyrion’s mind is. Shae refused. She loves Sansa to death, but she would not leave until Tyrion himself asked her to.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Anyone who’s been following my reviews knows that there’s no Game of Thrones moment I love more than a one-on-one chat between Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion. It’s as though when the crowd clears, the two can, just for a brief moment, appreciate one another. I won’t say that they ever truly love one another, but they have moments where they are family. Maybe they hate to love on another, as opposed to loving to hate, which is more common a sentiment. Cersei’s advice to Tyrion was in accordance with what their father had ordered from him; give Sansa a child. Sansa is, in the moment, living a loveless life, and while Cersei is not happy, she lives and breathes for her babies… even Joffrey, who was, apparently, a fantastic little child to behold. Inbreeding will nurture insanity, Cersei. Just ask the Targaryens.

Our time in King’s Landing closed with the return of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) with newfound companion Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) not far behind. His reunion with Cersei was nothing more than a deep silent glance and a loss of breath. We won’t know until Season 4 how Cersei truly receives his return, but we know she loves him. I was even convinced half of what she said while she harped on her love for Joffrey was for Jaime.

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Daenerys: Another great nuanced moment came at the start of our Season 3 finale’s final scene. Daenery’s Stormborn of House Targaryen, who has apparently racked up a virtual encyclopedia of titles, stood outside of the gates of Yunkai with her warriors and her people. I loved the look of unsettled and anxious fear in Emilia Clarke’s eyes as she awaited the arrival of the freed slaves. Would they welcome her with open arms or reject her as an unwanted conqueror?  Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) attempted to speak to the gargantuan crowd as they poured from the city to gaze upon Daenerys; however, The Khaleesi decided to speak for herself. Daenerys’ strongest suit lies her public speaking abilities. She knows how to make an entrance, look the part, and deliver. The entire season she’s been clad in royal blue amid a desert backdrop of dusty browns, like some sort of Westerosi angel sent to free the slaves from their shackles, but of course, she did not grant them freedom, as she pointed out. They would have to take it for themselves, and they did.

Mhysa! Mhysa! Mhysa!

HBO "Game of Thrones"

HBO “Game of Thrones”

Daenerys Stormborn sent her three original children flying above her newfound family before crowd surfing through her new people as a new proud mother. It’s good to see Daenery’s smiling again. I’m not sure we’ve seen her smile like that since the days of Khal Drogo.

 

What did you think of the Game of Thrones Season 3 finale, Episode 10, “Mhysa”? Did you find it anticlimactic or were you satisfied with great conversations and character building moments? Which was your favorite pairing of Season 3? After seeing Dany’s confidence swell as a queen, were you glad to see a bit of the old “I do not have a gentle heart” Dany back during the finale? Should Shae have taken the jewels and run?

Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of the Game of Thrones Season 3 finale, Episode 10, “Mhysa”!

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