AHHHH! Crazy finale time! And this is my last Game of Thrones review for the year so let's go all out. "Mother's Mercy" certainly isn't short of things to talk about and obviously, if you haven't seen it yet, go away. This is as spoiler-y as spoilers get. This one was directed and written by the same dream team as last episode, David Nutter and showrunners Dan/David, respectively. Realistically, except for George R. R. Martin (who isn't writing for Game of Thrones anymore, allegedly), no one but Dave and Dan, who know the inner workings inside and out, should be writing the finale. Our talented directed, Nutter, also doesn't disappointed.
What We Liked:
- Stannis marches to war with only half of his men, once the sellswords have abandoned him and taken his horses. Stannis, being the antithesis of a sellsword must push forward. The moment we remember that Ramsay is meeting him on the battlefield is twinged with terror and intrigue and, Stannis goes out swinging just like we'd expect him to. He's limping, and he's the same age as the two men in front of him combined, but he's going to keep swinging even when he's bleeding out. While last week, many of us felt that Stannis died spiritually when he allowed Shireen to die, this was a little bit of a saving grace before his body soon followed. He was anapologetic: he had no reason to explain himself to Brienne and he definitely wasn't going to beg, but I think that in some way, especially after Shireen and Selyse, he was happy to see death. (+10)
- It seems Brienne is the one to deliver the final blow to Stannis (though we do not see this and cannot yet confirm), and the late Renly Baratheon gets his justice. It's a vow that we've forgotten for quite a few seasons now, but it's nice to see that Brienne has held strong to this, and to remember that Renly is who Brienne is first and foremost loyal to. At least we got someone's happy ending in this episode! (+10),
- While Ramsay is out, Myranda and Reek find Sansa causing mischief outside of her room, but right before that she-devil can mutilate Sansa and continue to verbally abuse her, Reek pushes her to her death. Once-Again-Theon and Sansa jump off the Winterfell walls, presumably into some feet of snow (I doubt they are dead). I loved to hate the Myranda-Sansa dynamic because it was atypical of what was becoming the default "evil male sexually abuses female in some way", it was a more dynamic and human kind of evil, stemming from jealousy but no less immoral. I wasn't constantly rolling my eyes at Myranda, and this tirade, unlike many parts of Game of Thrones, made me truly uncomfortable. Myranda is somehow both so sadistic and so human, not some evil caricature, and the realness of her was terrifying. I was mostly relieved, but felt a slew of emotions when she plummeted to her death. That was quickly interrupted by my mixed feelings for Reek/Theon (again, mostly positive). It's a lot to chew on, but we receive it all very viscerally so that it's not overwhelming. (+15)
- Cersei confesses (kind of) to her sins and then does the walk of humility, naked and shaven, from the sept all the way back to the Red Keep, where she meets the newest Kingsguard, the silent and swollen Ser Robert Strong. This part felt drawn out in comparison to a lot of the rest of the episode, and I feel like it didn't live up to its potential-- I wasn't exactly sure why the scene had to cover the entire walk back to the Red Keep, either, including what felt like 10 minutes of straight profanity. That doesn't mean it doesn't hit some good points, though. Crying Cersei, with her feet bloodied, felt important for us to see, as well as how she differed from beginning to end. (+10)
- Jaime, Myrcella, Bronn, and Trystane sail away from Dorne. Right as Jaime and Myrcella have a kind-of-cute-kind-of-weird "I'm your incestual father" moment, Myrcella is poisoned and collapses. I actually enjoyed the Jaime-Myrcella conversation in this weird way, but this all felt rushed, like they really wanted it in the season finale to fit with the rest of the story arcs, so they put it in before it should've happened. (+5)
- Arya kills Meryn Trant in a brothel in the most brutal way we can imagine, and it's perfect. I took longer than I'd like to admit for me to realize that the last girl was Arya, but she leaps on her with such a ferocity that I have to applaud everyone involved. Arya also delivers this absolutely stellar line, which completely sums up her entire character: she reminds Meryn Trant of who she is, and then tells him that he's no one before slitting his throat. Arya is deeply grounded in her identity and killing Meryn was definitely also that. I can't sum up this line any better than that line. (+15)
- Arya is blinded by Jaqen for taking a life that doesn't belong to her. I like his little trick of pretending to kill himself: it's shocking but it actually makes sense, because it reveals that a) Arya is not ready to handle death and b) Arya is still attached to the notion of having friends, and the importance of keeping them alive. (+5)
- Daenerys is found by a Khalasar, so we may assume she is in the Dothraki sea, slightly east and much farther inland than Meereen. Drogon is close at hand, but seemingly a little lazy to go anywhere. This wasn't super special, but keeping us excited for the next season! (+5)
- Jon is stabbed by his brothers for making peace with the wildlings. The final perpetrator is Olly, as they each claim, "for the Watch." while doing so. We pan out with a shot of Jon Snow heavily bleeding out into the snow. I wish I had more to say about this, but it is what it is. It's heartbreaking and real and honestly I'm still processing what this means (Is he really dead? Will Melisandre bring him back? What is Ghost going to do about this?). More things to look forward to for next season, but if Jon really is dead.... we need a moment of silence for him. The final shot is an absolutely perfect one to wrap the season up with. It's foreboding and shocking, visually beautiful and heartwrenching. My heart truly goes out on this one. (+10)
- The naked woman confronting Cersei is also joined by a naked man which is a nice, weird step towards equality, because the age-old defense to gratuitous female nudity in fantasy media is, "it's a part of nature" but we very very rarely see male nudity. (+5)
- Jon and Sam have bro chats and conclude that Sam is gettin' it, and this is heartwarming in the fact that they just seem like regular guys-- almost like it's Kit and John talking and not Jon and Sam. (+5)
What We Didn't Like:
- Stannis finds that Selyse has hung herself in the wake of an unusually sudden wave of guilt, brought on by the death of Shireen in episode 9. It's predictable and out-of-the-blue at the same time. As the guard approached Stannis, I literally muttered under my breath, "Selyse hung herself". Lo and behold. But up until her little outburst in episode 9, Selyse would constantly propose to Stannis getting rid of Shireen and trying again for a male heir. Her character was a lazy plotpoint and a foil, not a character. (-5)
- The naked Cersei teetered between fanservice-y and purposeful, but wasn't deliberate enough to definitively be either. (-5)
- Varys magically arrives in Meereen to help Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei and I feel like this would have been a better thing to introduce in S6E1, instead of cramming it into the backend of the finale, maybe.
Ian Beattie (Meryn Trant) tweets Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel) and it's endearingly hilarious
@miltosyerolemou you're welcome you water dancing little git— Ian Beattie (@ianbeattie_ian) June 15, 2015
Another bonus: Kit Harington says he's been informed that he really is dead, and will not be returning, but this wouldn't be the first time an actor has leaked fake information to mislead the press regarding GoT deaths, so we'll see. Kit's name also appeared on the billing for Season 6 earlier in the year, unless something has changed since then.
This season has gotten better and worse. As a book reader, it has been both much more exciting and frustrating. Of course, Dan and David have their work cut out for them now that they're diverging from the books and there is allegedly some bad blood between them and GRRM. This season has been unbelievable in so many ways, both good and bad, and it's clear that Season 6 is going to be even more controversial.
Final Score: 85 (whoa and we finish off the season with a high score!)