Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No "Mercy" in the GAME OF THRONES

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Fans of GAME OF THRONES are used to bloodbaths, but rarely has a season finale on the show been as bloody as what HBO aired last night. In “Mother’s Mercy,” at least two characters who are still alive in the books meet their fate, and one of the most central figures lies bleeding to death. With a number of other cliffhangers and disturbing moments, season five ends with far less sense of closure than most past years have.

The biggest thing in “Mother’s Mercy” is Jon Snow (Kit Harington) being stabbed a la Caesar, with Olly (Brenock O’Connor) providing the “E tu Brute” moment. It makes sense for this band of unruly thugs to betray Jon, who is making wise but unpopular decisions, not realizing how vulnerable this will leave them. I’m surprised to see Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) participate, as he seems more honorable than most, but what happens to Jon is not unexpected, the most noble in GAME OF THRONEs always paying a steep price from people who aren’t smart enough to understand.

I don’t think Jon Snow is dead. Too much has been made over the mystery of his parentage for him to go now, without any resolution. Were Jon dead, then it wouldn’t matter who his mother or father are, and so the series has wasted time bringing them up repeatedly and allowing viewers to speculate over it. It’s possible the writers were misleading in the past by doing so, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

If I’m wrong and Jon does perish, there are two possibilities that might keep him around. One, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) could bring him back. We’ve already seen one who worships the Lord of Light do so, so it would not be unprecedented, though it would surely remove the importance of Jon’s parentage because he wouldn’t fully be Jon any more. Two, Jon could awake as a White Walker, giving us a peek into that world more fully. That would be interesting, but again, negate the affect his parentage would have, and so I find both possibilities intriguing but unlikely.

Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is probably dead. As much as it sucks to see Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) kill a defenseless, wounded man, she sees it as her duty to execute him for his unforgiveable crimes, so her actions make sense. It’s a lackluster end to the stubborn, would-be king, but one that feels deserved after the events of last week. I won’t be sad to see Stannis go.

This leaves the Boltons as the unchallenged leaders of the North. Even with Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) unrealistically jumping off a wall into a not-nearly-high enough snowbank and escaping, there isn’t an army to challenge the Boltons’ claim on Winterfell. Sansa has already been married to Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) and the marriage consummated, so she personally doesn’t need to be there for Ramsay to claim ruling rights. A White Walker invasion may be the best one can hope for to wipe out those nasty Boltons.

Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is likely dead, too, her heartbreaking death in her father’s arms finally proving the danger that Ellaria (Indira Varma) and the Sand Snakes pose. They have basically declared war on King’s Landing, defying their own leader to do so.

Not only is Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in no position to turn around and exact revenge, much as he might want to, but King’s Landing isn’t ready to respond either, their own leadership sorely lacking. Cersei (Lena Headey) loses any little respect the people have for her during her naked walk of shame (another Emmy-worthy performance from Headey, who just had her best season yet), and King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is helpless to even control the faithful in his own city, let alone make outside war. It is likely Myrcella’s death will go unchallenged, possibly emboldening Dorne to make a larger play, assuming Ellaria dispatches her king as readily as she does Myrcella, a distinct possibility.

“Mother’s Mercy” leaves the Seven Kingdoms riper for invaders than ever. Except, who will invade them? Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is no position to do so, away from her people, surrounded by Dothraki. She’d have to get Mereen under control first, anyway.

Thankfully, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) are reunited in Mereen. If anyone can fix the issues that place is going through, it’s them, both cunning and resourceful. By the time Daenerys gets home, her army might be ready to go. Which would make sense, since there are a mere two seasons of GAME OF THRONES left, and given the geographical distances and multitude of players, it takes awhile for anything significant to happen on the show.

We’re much closer to the end than the beginning, and it feels like it. Practically everyone with power has been removed from it, and those squabbling over the scraps are not holding onto their positions very solidly. The stage has been set for someone to come through and finally reunite the land, as well as save it from the White Walkers. I can’t wait to see how that will play out. In the meantime, the journey to get to that big ending is an entertaining one, and with episodes like “Mother’s Mercy,” which surprise and impress, I’m certainly not complaining about taking time to get there.

Except for how angry I am that the show has departed from the book series so dramatically after four years of sticking pretty close to it. That’s annoying, as is that this episode likely spoils a couple of deaths from the upcoming sixth book. But taken on its own, the show remains terrific.

GAME OF THORONES is already working on season six, so it will return next year to HBO.

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