Well, after last week's horrible trauma, which I'm not sure everyone has gotten over, "Game of Thrones" returns with a final episode of the third season, "Mhysa," that lets us lick our wounds and offers some uplifting moments to temper all that violence and nihilism (don't worry, there's still plenty of violence and nihilism too). And we even get a few small moments of justice and a tiny bit of revenge on the part of one of the Starks. As for tying up loose ends, I didn't have high hopes for this episode's ability to draw all of its many disparate story lines to satisfying close, but, as directed by David Nutter, this episode addresses most of our characters and brings them to a place of certainty, at least, until the next season.
Episode 10 picks up right where 9 left off, as Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) strides from the banquet hall to look out over the slaughter of the Stark army by the Frey men. The Hound/Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) snags a Frey banner as a disguise as he takes Arya (Maisie Williams) out of the Frey, um, fray. They don't get out there quick enough for her not to see her bother Robb's (Richard Madden) headless corpse paraded about on horseback with a wolf's head attached... somehow... to his body. Poor girl, witness to WAY too many headless bodies of father figures in her life. Let's hope the Hound keeps his!
Later, when they are on the trail, they come upon some Frey men making camp and laughing about her mother and brother's deaths, getting into icky details about just what difficulties one might have attaching a wolf's head to a man's body. Arya slips off the horse and approaches the camp, making like a sweet innocent looking to get some warmth. She offers a coin, and when the Frey man reaches for it, she swiftly and brutally shanks the dude in the neck. The Hound fights off the other three, and simply asks her to give him a heads up the next time she plans to off someone, and then sits down to eat the camp food. Arya clenches the coin and whispers "Valar Morghulis," which means "all men must die" in Valyrian.
Meanwhile, Tyrion's drowning his lady sorrows in wine (what else is new?) with Podrick (Daniel Portman), when Cersei crashes the party and shoos Pod with an icy "leave." She and Tyrion do their weird sibling hate-bonding thing, and she declares she's not going to marry Loras. She also tells Tyrion to give Sansa a child so that she can be happy (it's not the worst idea anyone's ever had), and Tyrion, using her as an example, questions just how happy children can make a person (imagine if Joffrey was your child, shudder). Still, Cersei speaks to how powerful it is to have that bond with her children, that Joffrey was a happy baby, all she had, and that not even Joffrey can take that away from her (though he will certainly do his darndest!). Tyrion again questions the "Lannisters against the world" policy that seems to be their family motto, and while Cersei seems at peace with the idea of constant war, as long as they are on top.
Later, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Colster-Waldau) slips into the gates of King's Landing with his new BFF/possible GF Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). You don't just deal with hand amputations and bear battles and not come out of that at least a little bonded, right? In a truly bizarre, dialogue-less scene, Cersei is aimlessly looking at a seashell (the hard life of a Queen Regent) in her chambers when Jaime slips in the door and whispers her name. They both sort of share meaningful looks for thirty seconds and that's it. Moving on!
In the North
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) have set off on their Beyond the Wall (BTW) adventure. They decide to hole up in the Nightfort, where Bran tells them spooky stories about a cannibalistic cook who was turned into a giant white rat that eats its young because it killed a guest, which the gods cannot forgive. So, stay tuned for something really bad to happen to Walder Frey. In the middle of the night, they hear noises from the well, and who should pop up but Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray). Sam instantly recognizes Bran as Jon's brother because of the direwolf and Hodor (amazing). Bran asks him to take him BTW, but Samwell is like HELL NO, because he is the smartest person on this show. They warn of the death that lies BTW, and try to convine Bran to go to Castle Black to find Jon. Bran just shrugs and is like "I HAVE to do this, bro." So, Samwell hooks him up with those White Walker-killing daggers, which we find out are
dragons claws obsidian and also I am so glad he still has them. The little bunch sets off to the swelling and mildly cheesey strings of the theme song, and we all hope they aren't an instant White Walker snack.
Sam and Gilly make their way to Castle Black and manage to convince the Maester that Sam didn't break his vows and make a baby with this lady. He recites the oath and the Maester believes him because ok. There are bigger things to deal with! Sending out ravens to everyone to tell them that the White Walkers are coming!
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is not having the greatest of days. As he tries to wash his eagle claw facial gashes (no! Not his face!), his spurned ex, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) sneaks up and draws an arrow on him. He tries to tell her "it's not you, it's me babe, I love you but I have to go," and you know what, she rightfully looses not one but three arrows into him as he scrambles on his horse and rides away. Hell hath no fury like a Wildling scorned.
He manages to make it back alive to Castle Black, much to the relief of all the audience members who would not be able to deal with another death and of a character so beloved as J.S. He recognizes Pip and Sam (what is this, LOTR?) before they hustle him inside.
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) befriends Baratheon bastard Gendry (Joe Dempsie) down in the dungeon of Dragonstone Island, for better or for worse. They share a common background, coming from Fleabottom, and Davos shares some of his troubles with the young lad (dead son, half a hand, crazy boss possessed by a priestess... the usual). Gendry is refreshingly honest in admitting to being taken in by Melisandre (Carice van Houten) because he wanted to get laid, and you know "big words, no clothes," the most tried and true of all seduction methods.
Later, Davos is practicing his reading with Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram), and while she offers him her book about the old Valyrians, he focuses on the messages from the ravens, now that he's Hand Of The king (well this one at least). He rushes down with the news of the White Walkers, only to find a triumphant Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre, believing that Robb's death was a result of their weird leech barbecue they had with Gendry's blood. They believe that their faith in the Lord of Light has been rewarded, and Stannis declares he will unite the seven kingdoms with whatever arms he has, including magic and sacrificing young bastards like Gendry.
Because Davos believes this to be so completely wrong and evil, he decides to let Gendry go, shoving him off into the sea in a row boat, despite his inability to swim or never having been in a boat. And then, because he always does the right thing, he tells them he let him go. Stannis sentences him to death, at which point Davos uses his trump card, pulling out the White Walker warning from the Night's Watch. Melisandre burns the scroll and declares now the real war is in the North. She commands Stannis to save Davos, because he's going to need him, but not before she tosses off some serious shade (no one cuts side eye like Lady Melisandre).
Finally we get to check in with abolitionist Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her newly conquered city of Yunkai. She and her crew are standing at the gates, waiting to see what happened with the slaves. They slowly come streaming out and just stare at her for awhile. She tells them she cannot grant them their freedom because it is not hers to give, it is theirs to take. The crowd starts to call out to her "mhysa!" meaning mother, and she walks into the crowd where they pick her up and put her on their shoulders like she's just made the winning basket and she crowdsurfs like it's Lollapalooza '96. It's kind of weird that the show decides to rely on the slightly racist, definitely cliche stereotype of hordes of adoring brown slaves worshipping their white liberator, but it's a moment of true humanity and jubilation, and one for Khaleesi to be rewarded and revel in the success that has come from her sticking so rigidly to her principals and beliefs. With the deaths of Robb and Catelyn last week signaling the show's willingness to not always let the good guys win or even live all the time, this moment is one that says, maybe, just maybe nobility can prevail. For a moment in time at least.
What'd you think of the finale? What are the major differences from the books and how did that affect things?
Thanks so much for reading and sticking with my recaps this season, and being such great fact checkers (I need all the help I can get). You are all appreciated!