Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 10: Mother's Mercy

The North

Killing princesses causes a thaw! Is that it – clear pathways? You’d think a princess would be worth a few fireballs or a phoenix or something? Stannis is pouty and grim – well grimmer than usual. For added problem, half of his men have deserted – freezing your balls off all winter then watching your fanatic king burn his own daughter to death is apparently damaging for morale. And Selyse, his wife, has committed suicide.

Stannis is not having the best day.

The remnants of his army march on, on foot. At Winterfell they are spotted by Pod who hurries to tell Brienne (remember Brienne hates Stannis). Brienne seems more focused on him now – which means she doesn’t see the distress signal that Sansa finally raises.

Stannis prepares for siege – and the Boltons ride out against him. And they seem to vastly out number him – you really should have bargained more out of your sacrificed princess. Stannis’s forces appear to be destroyed and a wounded Stannis cannot stand as he lays against a tree – and Brienne finds him. Stannis admits to murdering his brother with blood magic and Brienne sentences him to death – he tells her to do his duty and she appears to kill him

Just as Ramsay finishes off the straggling remnants of Stannis’s forces.

Back in the castle Sansa tries to leave and I stopped by Theon and Myranda – Myranda says nasty things about Ramsay torturing Sansa and points a bow at her so Theon throws her off the wall. No I’m not even going to try to drag this out, ever since the Sansa rape scene we knew Theon was on the path to redemption, I’m not going to even pretend this is a surprise. They run and jump off the wall.


Time for a farewell and the Sandsnakes continually to be horrendously underused as Jaime takes Mycella home with Trystane. And Jaime decides to awkwardly tell his big secret to his daughter/niece but she totally knows he’s her daddy/uncle and is super happy about it. Then she bleeds to death from her nostrils

Did I mention that Ellaria kissed Mycella goodbye? And is now on the dockside taking the antidote.


Tyrion decides to comment on Jorah and Daario pining after Daenerys, Grey Worm rises from his sick bed to glare at Jorah but Missendei speaks up for her – and Tyrion (of course Tyrion speaks Valyrian). They all wonder where Daenerys has gone and they need to find her with much bickering. They plan to send people out after Daenerys while Tyrion (with his brains) and Grey Worm (as both Unsullied and a legend) will stay and keep the peace and Missendei (known for being Daenery’s greatest confidant). So that means Jorah and Daario riding out.

And Varys also arrives in Meeren. Of course he’s found Tyrion. Just when Tyrion needs an awesome spy master who shows up to basically say “I can totally own Meeren”. And he probably can.

Daenerys is out in the wilderness and tries to convince her dragon to take her home. Drogon is not a fan and his behaviour also makes me think dragons are part cat. She walks off herself and is found by Dorthraki – she leaves one of her jewels on the ground to be found.

Kings Landing

Cersei is still being tormented into confessing – and finally does so. She confesses to sleeping with Lancel – but only Lancel. She is still going to be tried for the sin of incest with her brother. He also agrees to let her go to the Red Keep – but only after her “atonement” – to be stripped, her hair shorn and forced to walk naked through the streets of the city with a Septa chanting “shame” in her wake and the crowd pelting her and screaming at her until she reaches the keep, bruised, bloodied and crying. Inside she is greeted by her Maester – and what looks like and undead Ser Gregor - the Mountain that rides.

The Wall

John the pouty is super despairing that the army of cold zombies will overwhelm the Seven Kingdoms and the only thing that works against them are Dragonglass (which they left behind) and Valyerian steel (of which there is very little left). Personally I’m going add “dragons” as another likely anti-whitewalker weapon. Also, everyone hates him except Sam – but Sam wants to go to the Citadel and become a Maester both for his own education and to get Gilly out of the danger of the Wall.

Jon agrees and they leave.

Davos arrives at Castle Black to try and convince Jon to send troops to help Stannis when Mellisandre arrives to let her silence tell them what happened to Stannis et al.

Jon mopes in his chamber when Olly comes with news to lead him outside to where a circle of Nights Watch stand with Ser Alliser – who stabs Jon along with the rest of the brothers – and Olly as well. He definitely knows nothing now. Jon dies.


Arya is picked as one of Meryn’s girls – and when he gets off on beating her and the other girls, Arya is able to surprise him and stab him in the eyes, repeatedly. And the chest. She happily tells him he was the first on her list before telling him that she is Arya Stark – and he is No-One and nothing before slitting his throat.

She takes back the face she wore to the Temple of Faces. But Jaqen Hagaar and his assistant are not pleased with her – she wasn’t supposed to kill Meryn. Only death can pay for life – and Jaqen drinks poison. Arya weeps over his body. The assistant asks why she is crying – he was no-one – and then the assistant becomes Jaqen. At this point you just declare them creepy and confusing and run Arya. Multiple faces on the body resolve into her own – with Jaqen telling her she is still “someone” – and the faces are poison to her. Arya becomes blind.  

Arya was satisfactorily brutal to Meryn and I think it was one of those times when brutal violence served a narrative purpose. This is how far Arya has come, how she has transformed – how deadly and vicious she can be.

Well it just goes to show, Game of Thrones is really a show where anyone can die. I always thought Jon the Pouty would be spared – I’m impressed and a little shocked that they went there.

Of course, doesn’t this mean the show just… out killed George R R Martin himself? That’s got to be a challenge for him to raise the stakes. And with him dead – and Stannis dead – and Daenerys off playing with the Dorthraki we end up with the whole world pretty much without hope which I think is the ending lesson of this season – it’s all screwed, the zombies are coming and it’s all falling apart.

I find Stannis’s storyline the most dull – it appears to have ended to anticlimactically. All that struggle and fighting basically coming to an end because he decided to throw out logistics, tactics, common sense and the ability to count to try and charge through knee deep snow against a castle while out number several times over. What was the plan here? Pray hard enough and hope it works out? Was that it? Was that the plan from the start?

The sad thing is I can’t think of any other storylines that were more interesting or even more intelligent. Cersei arms the faith militant which is ridiculous. Ellaria tries to start a war, which is ridiculous and fairly pointless. Jaime and Brienne generally run around and do stuff – about the only vaguely compelling storyline was Jon trying to prepare for the worse and Daenerys watching Meeren crumble around her. Arya could be interesting but she’s so utterly divorced from everything as to virtually not be there. Not one of the best seasons in terms of plot or intelligence, to be honest.

As to the depicton of marginalised characters…. It has not been good.

Let us start with the utter complete trainwreck that is the depiction of women this season – awful even by Game of Thrones standards. Firstly, the only shred of positive is Arya. Daenerys has had her own struggle which has been good on other levels of showing that just conquering a nation isn’t sufficient to hold it, understand it or control it and she’s certainly had some character growth but a lot of her storyline this season has been one of defeat.

But Olenna and Margaery were largely absent and helpless. Sansa, teasing with an attempt to show her growth then falls into a terrible pit of awfulness. Cersei embraces her own self destruction, Melisandre goes down in flames and while Missendei gets close to Daenerys, she doesn’t actually do anything. Brienne wanders around looking for someone to save only to have everyone not really care. There’s no powerful, effective women in this season

But there is a lot of rape. A lot of pointless, gratuitous, nauseating rape – and are we shocked that Theon has taken that rape scene and run down the redemption road? We have Cersei, slut shamed, sexualised, abused and sexually humiliated. There’s the Sand Snakes, characters with awesome potential – who do nothing except the youngest one be ridiculously sexual
To Bronn for no reason and launch rather flailing plots to murder Myrcella (I think this had far more potential actually following the book plot and putting Myrcella on the throne, since Dorne doesn’t recognise male primogeniture so, by Dornish law, Myrcella is monarch rather than Tommen. That would have been awesome rather than the dull non-effort we were saved). I say again, it’s a trainwreck.

For POC, Grey Worm spent a goodly part of the season missing, the Unsullied spent most of their time dying in the streets and Missendie, while raised in name to being Daenerys’s closest confident, could have had a lot more scenes showing that. Other than that we have a legion of sinister Meerenese (who have, at least, stopped worshipping her) and even Hizadahr was presented as a threat despite not really showing it. There was little attempt to raise up or make significant any POC, they were just a kind of nameless mass, a force more than people. I did like the whole storyline of Daenerys learning the truth about ruling and how little she knew and how complicated it was – those definitely were good plot lines. But the underlying implication of this is that Daenerys is practicing ruling on these brown folks before going for the real goal.

And there’s the depiction of gay Loras – whose entire character has just been summed up in that line. Heir to a great house? One of Westeros’s most skilled and successful knights? Nope – gay Loras, that is all he can be – hardly appearing and constantly referred to in grossly homophobic and utterly unnecessary terms. A whole homophobia plot line was dropped by a moral authority set up to help the common people and single him out without any real condemnation or presentation of their homophobic bigotry as wrong – and even that wasn’t about him, it was a backdoor means to get at Margaery and then lead into Cersei’s storyline. Homophobia and his character was thrown in as a sideline distraction to advance straight people’s stories

Even Tyrion was more setting himself up for awesome than being awesome here.