The third season of ‘Game of Thrones’ drew to a close on Sunday. With just ten episodes each, these seasons are far too short! As one of our readers speculated last week (and which is consistent with prior seasons), the finale mostly dealt with fallout from the startling events of the previous week, without any earth-shattering surprises of its own. Even so, it’s a pretty good close-out for the year.
A lot happens in the episode, called ‘Mhysa’, most of which is set-up for next season’s storylines.
- As the remains of the Stark army are slaughtered before her, Arya sees Robb’s decapitated body dragged through the castle courtyard, with his direwolf’s head stitched on top. This girl has not had a happy childhood. She and the Hound slip away in the chaos. The next day, they come across a small camp of Frey soldiers, one of whom brags to the others about being responsible for putting the wolf head on Robb’s body. Arya hops off their horse and approaches the man, pretending to be a beggar, then tricks him into coming close and stabs him to death with a dagger she’d lifted from the Hound. The Hound has to clean up the rest of the soldiers. This is Arya’s first (intentional) kill. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
- Their new marriage still unconsummated, Tyrion and Sansa appear to be getting along pretty well. That is, until Sansa receives the news of Robb’s death. Naturally, she isn’t too happy to be married to a Lannister now. The cold-hearted Tywin, unconcerned with such trifling matters as feelings, orders Tyrion to impregnate the girl immediately and produce an heir. He delivers a speech about the importance of putting family ahead of personal whims. When Tyrion asks him when he’s ever done anything for the family that didn’t also coincide with his own desires, Tywin cruelly tells him that he wanted to drown Tyrion at birth, but refrained only because it was important that the Lannisters have another son. Ouch.
- King Joffrey is positively giddy at the news of Robb’s death. At a meeting of the Small Council, he announces his intention to have Robb’s head served to Sansa for dinner. Tyrion tells him off, a potentially treasonous move. Fed up with the stupid brat, Tywin shows Joffrey who’s really in charge by ordering his grandson to bed without supper. Tywin also acknowledges to Tyrion that he paid Walder Frey to assassinate the Starks. Tyrion considers this a dishonorable way to win the war, but Tywin is much more practical about the matter.
- Bran Stark tells his friends the Reeds the legend of the “Rat Cook,” who was punished by the gods for the crime of killing a guest beneath his roof. This is an obvious metaphor for what Walder Frey has done. Later, they cross paths with Sam and Gilly en route to Castle Black. Bran insists on continuing his journey beyond the Wall, even after Sam warns him about the White Walkers. Sam then tells him about the Dragonglass dagger, and reveals that he’s been carrying a whole stash of them. He gives some to Bran and company as their groups split up again and go their separate ways.
- We finally learn the identity of the stranger who’s been torturing Theon Greyjoy. He’s Ramsay Snow, bastard son of Lord Bolton (the former Stark bannerman who switched sides and released Jaime Lannister – we’re told in this episode that Tywin has appointed Bolton to be Warden of the North now that Robb is dead). Ramsay was ordered to hold Theon as a political prisoner, but he happens to be quite off his nut, hence all the mind games he’s been playing. It’s confirmed that Ramsay went through with castrating Theon. In fact, he taunts Theon by eating a pork sausage in front of him. When Theon begs for death, Ramsay beats him some more and renames him “Reek.”
- Theon’s father Balon Greyjoy receives a package from Lord Bolton with Theon’s dismembered… well, member… in it. A note warns him to withdraw his army or he will receive additional pieces of his son. Balon is indifferent to the situation. Theon was already a disappointment to him, and if the boy’s no longer capable of producing an heir, he’s no use at all. Fed up, Theon’s sister Yara commandeers their navy’s fastest ship and 50 best men to set off on a rescue mission. However, something makes me suspect that she’s pretty disappointed that she’ll never get the chance to screw her brother. That seems like the sort of thing she’d want to do.
- Davos befriends Gendry, the bastard child of Robert Baratheon who’s being held prisoner by Stannis and Melisandre. They bond a little over their common origins in Fleabottom. Davos tries to talk Stannis into releasing the boy, but Stannis still intends to sacrifice him to the God of Light. Melisandre claims that the spell she cast using Gendry’s blood was responsible for Robb Stark’s ill fortune. Unsuccessful at talking sense to Stannis, Davos helps Gendry escape and puts him on a rowboat in the direction of King’s Landing. Stannis is furious that Davos would betray him again. He orders the Onion Knight put to death, but has a change of heart after Davos reveals the news he’d received via raven from Castle Black. (More on this shortly.)
- Varys attempts to bribe Shae into leaving King’s Landing because she is a “complication” for Tyrion’s destiny. Shae turns down his money.
- Cercei tells Tyrion that she has no intention of marrying Loras. How she plans to get out of this is not yet clear.
- Ygritte catches up with the fleeing Jon Snow, and she’s really pissed that he betrayed their army and ran off without her. Snow tells her that he loves her and asks her to run away with him. He’s tired and just wants to go home. She shoots him with an arrow…
twicethree times. He barely manages to hop onto his horse and escape. Hell hath no fury, and all that…
- Sam and Gilly arrive at Castle Black and inform blind Maester Aemon about the White Walkers and what happened north of the Wall. Aemon agrees to grant Gilly sanctuary. When he asks, she says that her baby’s name is Sam. Awww… A short time later, Jon Snow arrives as well, half dead.
- Jamie Lannister finally makes his not-so-triumphant return to King’s Landing, where he’s mistaken for a peasant. His reunion with Cersei is also less enthusiastic than he may have hoped. She looks horrified at his missing hand.
- Maester Aemon puts Sam’s information about the impending White Walker invasion into writing and spreads the news to all corners of the kingdom on every raven left at Castle Black. It was one copy of this message that caused Stannis to change his mind about Davos. He instantly realizes that his quest for the crown has been a petty distraction when, “The true war lies to the north.” He now has a new mission and a new purpose, to unite all the kingdoms against the White Walkers.
- Finally, on the other side of the world, Daenerys awaits the doors of Yunkai to open. She isn’t sure whether the people there will embrace her as a liberator or fear her as a conqueror. After a considerable delay, thousands of slaves stream out and shower her with cries of “mhysa!”, their word for “mother.” Once again, Daenerys is beloved and her army grows stronger.
The episode is clearly a dénouement, not a climax, which is fitting given the show’s literary origins and structure. However, over the years, viewers have been conditioned to expect big climactic events in finale episodes. On that mark, I can see some portion of the audience being disappointed that the episode doesn’t try to top the previous week (as if anything could). Then again, given the internet freak-out that followed the Red Wedding, people like that probably abandoned the show already – and good riddance to them.
My only disappointment is that seasons of this show aren’t nearly long enough. Do we really need to wait a whole year to find out what happens next?