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Look, I know last week was the Red Wedding, and after all that carnage and misery, it may seem that Game Of Thrones can never top itself again. Season one ended with Daenerys giving birth to her dragons. Season two ended with an army of white walkers. How do you match that, especially with the shockwaves of episode nine still reverberating through the internet? With that in mind, season three basically ended with, well, lots of people getting to where they’ve been plodding all year!
Jaime’s back in King’s Landing, lacking a paw but making cute eyes at Cersei. We know he’s a changed man, but can he stay that way now that he’s safely ensconced in the capital again, likely in Cersei’s warm grasp and under the cold eye of daddy Tywin? Will Brienne be able to exert her influence, or will she even be allowed in the court, considering she was an ally of Renly and then Catelyn’s? So many questions! We have no answers, only the briefest glimpse of Jaime in the closing minutes of the show.
A lot of “Mysha” went that way. A show that usually excises some of its characters from each episode just for storytelling purposes had to check in with every one of them, setting up the next season and giving us plenty to look forward to. But at the same time, it didn’t give us quite as much to just sit back and enjoy—the episode lacked a lot of serious plot movement or major twists and may have fans gnashing their teeth a little bit as they wait nine months for season four. The previous season finales have also had that quality, but they each ended on a barnstorming note. “Mysha,” not quite so much.
That’s not to say that the closing scene wasn’t lovely in its own regard. Daenerys liberates the people of Yunkai with nary a sword swung (although there was a fair bit of that last week), telling them to claim their own freedom and being greeted as “Mysha,” or “mother,” by a cavalcade of slaves who hold her aloft in a moving bit of crowdsurfing. It is to Game Of Thrones’ credit that this is the only time we see Daenerys in the episode, but the moment still works, because of what we’ve seen over the season.
So Jaime’s in King’s Landing, and Daenerys is in Yunkai, having freed the slaves. Jon is back at Castle Black for the first time since season one, along with a relieved Sam and Gilly. Stannis is making a move in that direction too. Bran is finally beyond the Wall. Arya, sadly, made it to Riverrun but has little to show for it except more mental trauma and an impulse control problem that’s only getting worse. We’ll cover all that in a second.
The immediate aftermath of the Red Wedding is difficult to watch. The carnage at the Stark camp is bad enough, but grisly details like the head of Robb’s wolf being sewn to his body? Man, George R. R. Martin, that is fucked up. It’s the appropriate backdrop for the Hound to have another heroic moment—he only really shines through at the darkest of times, when any humane action sticks out, even if it’s just him grimly riding through the chaos to protect Arya.
What to make of Arya’s vengeance on the Frey lackeys, stabbing one mercilessly as he boasts of his work desecrating Robb’s corpse? On the one hand, you give ‘em hell, Arya. On the other hand, it’s a bleak moment, meant to signify how far past rock bottom she’s gone with no family left to turn to. Even the Hound is surprised (mostly that she managed to spirit a knife away from him), but what’s really unsettling to watch is the little act she tries out before killing her prey, distracting him with a lost-little-girl routine that includes a dropped coin for misdirect and everything. It’s creepy stuff, but what of Arya next year? Does she just become the Hound’s murdering chum?
Sansa’s misery is more conventional (she’s more conventional after all) but also pretty tough to stomach, especially after her and Tyrion have a cute little moment at the top of the hour taking comfort in their shared outcast statuses. Tyrion’s relationship with her is one of the most unambiguous in the show—he wants to protect her, nothing more, but he’s doomed to let her down forever just by being a Lannister. There’s nothing he can do about that.
Still, it’s great to see him stick up for her at the small council meeting, which doubled as the funniest scene of the year—blackly funny, for sure, but funny nonetheless. In fact, this whole episode was quite funny, with some moments (like Balon and Yara inspecting Theon’s dick in a box) that had me laughing when they really shouldn’t have. It’s not like the content of the episode was any lighter—if anything, it was darker. But after the misery of last week, I was glad for the arch tone.
Tywin et al dealing with Joffrey’s awful glee was another great example. Joffrey plans to have Robb’s head delivered and served to Sansa at her wedding, a spectacularly evil bit of thinking even for him. Tyrion is outraged, but even Cersei and Tywin won’t hear of it, and if Joffrey’s utter lack of power has not already been underlined, Tywin’s frank conversation with his son afterward (“You just sent the most powerful man in Westeros to bed without his supper.” “You’re a fool if you think he’s the most powerful man in Westeros”) makes it perfectly clear. I always find these scenes thrilling to watch, because it’s just great to see Tywin speaking candidly, but as usual it devolves into making Tyrion feel miserable and unloved. Tywin says he resisted the urge to cast him into the sea, which makes him a good father, and with that, we add another chapter to the book “Epically Bad Parenting: The Lannister Way.”
Another bad parent? Roose Bolton. As I had guessed (and the show made painfully obvious) Theon’s torturer is also one of the Boltons, his bastard son Ramsay, who even the ice-blooded Roose will admit is not the most compassionate soul. Watching the steely Roose and the pantomime villain Walder Frey clean up after the Red Wedding was a joyous bit of boo-hiss villainy, but I still find it tough to stomach Ramsay’s cartoonish antics, even if sending Theon’s junk to Pyke was a devilishly cruel twist. Now Theon is called “Reek” and his spirit has been truly broken. Great. Can he come off the cross now? I’d like this storyline to go somewhere.
This is a show that generally likes to keep its characters apart, but I liked Bran and Sam running into each other and delighting in their shared memories of Jon, before separating—Sam goes back to the Wall where he belongs, safe with Maester Aemon writing letters, while Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor march into the great unknown, believing themselves the only ones able to stop the white walkers. It’s an exciting notion, but there’s clearly miles to go in that storyline, so it’s hard to greet it with anything more than a cheerful shrug.
I’m much more excited for Stannis’ next move, also aimed at the white walkers. For most of the episode, he’s plotting to burn Gendry alive as a sacrifice to the gods, pointing to Robb’s death as evidence of Melisandre’s witchery, but Davos (more and more the beating, honorable heart of the show, filling a void left by Ned) rescues the boy and manages to convince Stannis and Melisandre to cast their gaze north instead. The turnaround on this is … quick indeed. Davos is seconds from death, and two minutes later he’s right at Stannis’ side for the big push to the Wall. I assume this is a little less rushed in the books, but I’m willing to forgive it if it gets Stannis out of Dragonstone and back into the thick of things. He’s been licking his wounds too long, and with Robb out of the fight, the war is pretty much over. Time to play the long game, am I right?
Game Of Thrones is very much about the long game. We’re ending in the middle of a book, for crying out loud, and it’s not going to mess with that just to give us some fancy shocking ending. I, for one, can live with that. I’ll sit and bide my time and wait patiently for the next season to come, many months from now, with baited breath, as I always do. And so will all of you. Oh sure, we may complain that Daenerys’ dragons haven’t eaten Joffrey’s head yet, or that the white walkers seem to be moving south awfully slowly, but that’s fine. Crazy things will happen and we’re going to enjoy the heck out of them. We just have to kill time until then.
- “Anyone named Desmond Crakehall must be a pervert.” “I heard you’re a pervert.” “I’m the imp, I must maintain a certain standard.”
- Everyone going quiet and staring at Tywin at the small council: funniest moment of the night.
- The Blackfish escaped! Thank the lord! Looking forward to him showing up again.
- Ramsay has probably been my least favorite character of the season, but he ate that sausage with delicious villainous glee.
- Shae, for crying out loud, Tyrion’s not trying to send you away! Varys is! If you’re so smart, take those diamonds and get out of there! Yeesh.
- Davos gives Gendry rowboat advice. “Do you know how to swim?” “No.” “Don’t fall out.”