I’m finding it difficult to remember why I watch Game of Thrones. This season finale was so bleak, so unbelievably bleak. I know the show is supposed to kick us in the head with bleakness – it keeps us on the edge with the any-character-can-die shtick – but come on.
Okay, so some major characters may not be dead, but they didn’t get away with anything, did they? And what hope is there for the next series? Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) getting her revenge with the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson)? Sam (John Bradley) becoming a Maester?
The episode tied up a few stories, but left so many unanswered questions. Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) arc came to an end of sorts, when he led himself into a battle he definitely wouldn’t win. Stannis was the last character for whom I had any respect – I forgot he used a smoke monster to kill his brother – but I lost that last week when he burnt his daughter to death. The look on his face when he knew Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) was about to kill him was very good, and showed his true character: a man obsessed with duty. If Stannis is alive, and let’s face it, he may well have survived, then maybe he’ll find some redemption. However, that would almost certainly mean Brienne of Tarth is dead.
Winterfell will continue under the Boltons’ leadership. At least Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) escaped. They had to throw themselves off a wall to get out because no-one came to protect Sansa, not even Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), who’s supposed to be the Warden of the North.
To further tie things up, we saw Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) leaving Dorne to return home with his daughter. He finally admits to her that he’s her father, and looks thoroughly pleased when she appreciates his honesty.
Jaime Lannister has developed from a self-obsessed man, obsessed with glory – and his sister – to a character we kind of like. He’s entertaining, charming, and doesn’t take life too seriously – forgetting the weirdly implanted rape scene in season four, if you can. This is before his daughter is poisoned in front of him, because two seconds of happiness is all anyone’s allowed in Game of Thrones.
The faceless girl became the eyeless girl, but will this allow her to become a many-faced woman? Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) crossed off one name on her kill list, but then she was killed herself. Or was she? And how do those faces actually work? I thought they were magic, but are they simply the masks from Mission Impossible?
Finally, the three biggest moments in the episode.
Following her confession, Cersei Lannister is paraded through the streets of King’s Landing, stark naked, while religious zealots shout ‘Shame’ at her over and over again. This scene is harrowing, but it does show Cersei’s willpower, and her thirst for revenge – no doubt she’ll be able to exact it next season.
Daenerys Targarian (Emilia Clarke) and her band of three men are far more interesting to me. Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) moments are always a highlight, and hopefully he’ll beat the odds and maintain order in Meereen, showing everyone just how clever he is. Also, I’ve missed Varys (Conleth Hill), who pops up at the end. Unlike Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), Varys always has the good of the Seven Kingdoms at heart, and his lack of manhood seems to quell his lust for absolute power.
The final shot of Daenerys, surrounded by the Dothraki horde, means we can look forward to some more battles, and possibly the development of a new story angle, in Slaver’s Bay.
Now the last scene, the controversial one, the moment we all stood up and shouted ‘What the absolute fuck?’
After saving thousands of Wildlings, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was never going to be popular with the Watch, but I had the feeling, as many did, that he would find a way through it. He, Tyrion and Daenerys seemed to be the central three characters, the untouchables, and there was something comforting about that. But then it happened. And not with a bang, not battling the army of undead, but with a whimper. Murdered by his own men, in the dark.
It wasn’t so much that it was a shock – I’m used to being shocked by Game of Thrones; it wasn’t as though Jon Snow was my favourite character and killing him off offended me in someway; it was the fact that we witnessed the death of the last sensible, sane human being in the Seven Kingdoms, a man desperately trying to protect the realm from the marching army of ice zombies.
This season’s finale, more than most, has lacked any semblance of hope. I know we shouldn’t expect too much joy, but there’s something nice about watching a TV show without your favourite characters being killed off for shock value.
At the end of last season, Jon Snow had some success at the wall, Arya cast off the shackles of her old life to go and explore the world, and Sansa found her strength, leaving with Petyr Baelish to regain power in the north. Now look at them. One’s dead, another’s blind, and the third has been tortured, forced to flee by jumping off a wall at Winterfell.
Can Game of Thrones turn this around? Or will they kill off more characters and carry on turning the people we like into bastards? Will there even be anyone left to sit on the Iron Throne?
I hope Pod (Daniel Portman) survives. And Bronn (Jerome Flynn). I like Bronn.