by Mike Visconti:
***The following is a recap of the Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale, A Mother’s Mercy. Spoilers ahead, read at your own caution***
I don’t know who I’m more upset at right now. The showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creator of Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin or myself. We have known since season 1, when Ned Stark, the most honorable man in the realm, had his head chopped off by Joffrey Baratheon, that there is no happy endings in Thrones………ever. There is no one good heroic character in this series that we can root for. I am torn between directing my feelings of anger and resentment towards the people in charge of bringing this enthralling world to life on both words and the small TV screen, or myself for still being naïve enough to care about a heroic character to triumph all this evil being depicted in Thrones. The latest season of Game of Thrones left us with the likely winner of all of season 5, Jon Snow, former bastard of Winterfell, youngest Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and the best leader west of the Narrow Sea, to die by the hands of his own brothers. He was the best chance that we as an audience had to pull for. He made the tough decisions, he grew on us, episode by episode he showed us that there was hope for the North. For Westeros. For the entire Realm that will soon know of the unstoppable force that is slowly marching south. Winter is coming and the Night’s King will not stop or bow to no one. This series has shown us time and again, do not get attached to anyone. As Arya stark said in season 2, anyone can be killed. As the slogan of the show tells us, “Valar Morghulis”. All men must die.
This is a finale recap, so I will get onto the other plot lines, as they deserve much consideration. With a season that started very slowly, think the 2014 New England Patriots, it ramped up very much so in its final four episodes. I for one have been salivating for the crescendoing of story arcs to come to a head. We saw the episode open up to what we all thought, Stannis Baratheon’s hired guns had lost all faith and respect for him after he burned his daughter alive at the stake last week in hopes of boosting his chances in assuring a victory at Winterfell. Stannis quickly realized that his faith in Melisandre and the Lord of Light was downright foolish. His sell-swords fled, his queen of dark magic did the same. In the end, he was all alone; no Davos, no army, no family. He had lost everything that he put faith into. His decision to continue the march on Winterfell was as ill-fated as the one to leave Castle Black. It was a suicide mission and he knew it. But better to die fighting with honor than to be known as the king who retreats. But after last week, he had lost all honor and he knew it. So when Breanne of Tarth ran into him just outside Winterfell, he welcomed it, a death that he knew he deserved because he had nothing left for him in this life.
Next we see Ser Meryn Trant, the kingsguard who stuck down Syrio Forel, Ayra’s first combat teacher and one of the few left on her list that she must kill. He was in the middle of his disgusting act in a Braavosi brothel when it was revealed that Arya was one of the underage prostitutes in his room. She exacted her revenge in gory fashion, stabbing both eyes and repeatedly stabbing Trant just enough to wallow with satisfaction in his slow and painful death. Arya then returned to the House of Black and White where her thievery of a faceless-mask was discovered. She was then shown a lesson about lying to the Many-Faced-God. We had thought that her master had poisoned himself, only to find out it was just a face, and another face and another till Arya saw her own face lying there dead. I was a little confused about this scene and its meaning but it is safe to say that when Arya began to lose her sight, it seems permanent and her course as a many-faced assailant has begun. She now is no one and will have to be everyone.
After Daenerys had absconded with Drogon at the end of last week’s episode, the Meereen throne was left with her council to ponder the next move. Both Darrio and Jorah decided to pursue a mission to find their departed queen. Tyrion was left behind to manage what was left of a city on the brink of civil war. Even though he wished to join their mission, Tyrion was best suited for the job because of his experience as Hand of the King in Westeros. Peter Dinklage as always, left us with some humorous one-liners about his contribution in joining both Jorah and Darrio but the dwarf had to settle for the second best choice, despite his great skill of enamoring conversation and said drinking prowess. We see season six set up for a bro-adventure with two men who have fallen under Khaleesi’s spell. One only wonders when they start getting into the finer details of their relationship with the queen, can’t wait! Meanwhile, the Master of Whisperers, Varys, has found his way to Meereen. In a tongue and cheek exchange, Tyrion and Varys now know what the hierarchy of Meereen will be for the short-term future. And thank god, the more interaction that Tyrion and his said, “most trusted advisor” have going forward, the better. But what will become of Daeny in season six? Well she runs into the former ex-boyfriend, the Dothraki, while trying to find dinner for her and her favorite child. We see her ditch the ring of her short-lived second marriage. Will the Dothraki still honor her as their Khaleesi? Will she have to forge another marriage to gain another army? Will Dorgon come to her rescue again? I don’t know, but at least she is out of Meereen……for now.
This episode was titled, “A Mother’s Mercy”. With Cersei at the mercy of her own creation, these same words have been muttered throughout the final episodes, her freedom was dependent on her confession. And we witnessed it. And then we saw the measures of atonement that the High Sparrow and more importantly, the Gods demand. Complete humiliation. It wasn’t enough to cut her hair, which in these times, was a status symbol. They had her stripped of all clothing and made her march the streets of King’s Landing naked all the way to the Red Keep. And for some reason, King Tommen is nowhere to be found. His wife is imprisoned, his mother was too and now her humiliation must be made public and he has nothing to say? I mean his stupid little cat, Ser Pounce can only demand so many hours of the day right? For as a reviled character as Cersei has been through the duration of the show, even the most harden of hearts had to feel for her. In many ways her degradation in public harkened feelings of Jesus Christ’s own journey of the cross. And I’m not trying to compare the two, but it did make me think of it when we saw her bloody feet, the public unrest and she fell to one knee during the laborious journey. I must give her credit though, she weathered the most public of any humiliation she could’ve ever dreamt of and made it to the Red Keep. Perhaps it was the love of seeing her child again that gave her strength. Perhaps it was a tolerable punishment to endure, all the while plotting revenge on the people who wronged her. And we see that that the latter is likely the ensuing outcome. Raised from the dead is Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, who recovered from Oberyn’s Dornish poison (although it looks like Myrcella was not as fortunate). The Zombie-Mountain will take revenge on all the wrongs that the queen regent had to endure. It was a good run Faith Militant.
Earlier in the finale we saw Jon Snow talk to his best friend and confidant Sam about the massacre that he and his men suffered at the hands of the Night’s King and his army of dead at Hardhome. Sam expressed his desire to go to the Citadel to learn the ways of becoming a maester. It was a truthful exchange for the two brothers of the Nights Watch. And although I did not foresee what was coming, I knew that as Jon saw Sam ride off, it would be the last time the two would ever see each other. The final scene showed Jon being summoned to inquire about the whereabouts of his long since missing Watch brother and relative, Benjen Stark. In the words of Stars Wars, it was a trap. Jon came upon a cross that read traitor. His fate was sealed. Ser Alliser Throne, Jon nemesis throughout his time at Castle Black, shoved a knife into the Lord Commander’s stomach. And the remaining brothers of the Nights Watch followed suit. All to be capped off by Olly, the peasant boy who felt betrayed of Jon’s allegiance with the Wildlings. I was floored. This couldn’t be. If this season has been about anything, it has been about Jon. He became the youngest Lord Commander ever, besting out elder favorite Ser Alliser. He was innovative and brave in his attempt to join forces with the Wildlings for the greater good, even if it meant marching to sure death at Hardhome. He was every bit of Ned Stark, even though he bore the name of a bastard. He and Daenerys were perhaps the realm’s last chance at being the leaders worthy of the title. But now he lays on the frost filled ground, bleeding out, just as the chances of the Nights Watch, the North and the realm bleed out with the coming of winter and the long night.
I asked in the beginning of this post who I should be mad at for the demise of Jon Snow. I blame myself. As a consumer of Game of Thrones for five years now, I should know better. I should know better than to expect a rosy outcome. It’s too easy, too convenient. If George R.R. Martin has shown us anything, it is that his world is as cold and unforgiving as the North itself. Ned Stark, the Red Wedding, Oberyn and now Jon Snow. The people you yearn to root for, become attached to, never last. It is a world where Ramsey Bolten and Walder Frey still thrive but the heroes that are glorified and revered in the songs and fables of lore never have their day. Any good that you want to triumph is always snuffed out by the ones who hold the most power. I had visions of Jon becoming the lone surviving male Stark who would restore order in the North. Who would let his bravery and honor be his guide to uniting the entire Realm in a battle against the greatest threat to humanity in a generation. He saw firsthand the helplessness of his men against the Night’s King. Say what you want about the trials of Cersei and the Lannister name, the Bolten’s stronghold on Winterfell or Daenerys budding dynasty in the East. All that pales in comparison to what is coming. Will Ser Alliser honor the pact Jon made with the Wildlings? Someone is sure to tell him of the horror they experienced at Hardhome right? Will Daenerys and Tyrion cross the Narrow Sea to lay siege on King’s Landing? Does it even matter anymore? With Jon now gone, the Stark name is all but wiped off the map, only to be read about in the Citadel books like the great dynasty of Valyria. What I do know is this, “Valar Morghulis”, all men must die. And with Jon dead, the North’s and the Realm best chance just died with him.