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The season finale of the latest season of Game of Thrones takes place, accordingly, in the direct aftermath of the Red Wedding last week. Though obviously not as emotionally charged as last week’s episode, there was still a ton to admire at play. All throughout the seven kingdoms, characters are either stunned and horrified (Sansa, Tyrion) or gleeful (Joffrey) or downright cold after the death of Robb Stark (Tywin, Roose, Walder). It is revealed that Tywin Lannister played a role in the massacre, which was given away essentially with Roose Bolton’s words last week. There are more happenings than just the fallout of the wedding, however. Samwell, Gilly, and Jon Snow finally make it back to Castle Black, and Daenerys continues to gather her strength in the free cities.
After Robb’s death, Roose is made warden of the north for his efforts in the devious plot. He tells Frey of how his bastard son, Ramsey Snow, captured and burned Winterfell after making a deal with the Iron Born, who hand over Theon Greyjoy. The scene with Roose and Walder is magnificent, containing just the right amount of exposition, and Michael McElhatton is excellent as Roose, challenging Charles Dance’s portrayal of Tywin for the title of most cunning cold-hearted bastard. Ramsey has been the one torturing Theon all season long. Ramsey sends warning to Balon, Theon’s father, to end his feeble attack on the north once and for all and he will release his son. Balon refuses, but his daughter steps in and decides to rescue her brother, saving this plot to continue next season.
Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Arya Stark and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane continue their weird journey, and come across a small group of Frey’s bannermen. Arya stabs one in the neck for retaliation against her brother’s murder, and Clegane slaughters the rest of them, surprised at Arya’s actions. Arya looks at her Braavosi coin, uttering the phrase “Valar Morghulis” that she learned from Jaqen last season. It appears she will head towards Braavos in the next season. Where The Hound ends up is anyone’s guess, but his story has run its course at this point. Though I love Rory McCann’s portrayal of Clegane, he may be one of the expendable characters the show chooses to ignore from here on out, and that would probably be beneficial.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion grows a bit closer to Sansa, but still has consummated the marriage, much to Tywin’s anger and frustration. He learns that his son with Sansa will become new warden of the north when he comes of age. Tyrion continues to insult Joffrey, who becomes enraged. Tywin sends Joffrey away and ends their meeting. Shae is later confronted by Lord Varys, who asks her to leave Westeros before she ends up getting Tyrion killed. She refuses to leave. Tyrion meets with queen regent Cersei, and the two of them discuss their “Joffrey problem.” Later, Jaime returns in a low-key scene, and his meeting with Cersei was either sweet or bittersweet. The episode doesn’t quite linger on it long enough for me to be sure.
In the north, Samwell and Gilly run across Bran Stark and company, and Sam realizes Bran must be Jon Snow’s brother. Sam tells them the white walkers have a weakness for dragon glass, and offers them the glass weapons he found north of the wall. This was another great economical way to move two separate plot threads forward with a minimum of exposition and screen time. The show is getting better at doing this. Samwell eventually reaches Castle Black, and tells Maester Aemon of the impending threat north of the wall. Aemon has Sam send out ravens to all the lords of Westeros, imploring them to head to the wall and prepare for battle. A wounded and exhausted Jon Snow finally reaches the castle as well, and is welcomed by Sam. I’m glad that Snow is finally back at the castle, but I have to feel that his entire story this season was a bit of a waste, especially where it concerns Mance Rayder, who I had high hopes for as a character (we essentially spent one episode with him – I mean, we got more Podrick Payne than we did Mance).
At Dragonstone, Gendry is barely hanging on for dear life. He makes friends with Ser Davos, who recounts to him the story of his low birth and how he became a knight in the service to King Stannis. Stannis still plans on having Gendry executed for purposes of conjuring a spell, and when Davos can’t convince Stannis to let the boy, who is his nephew, go free Davos then takes it upon himself to free Gendry. For this crime, Stannis orders Davos to be hanged. But Maester Aemon’s scroll from the north changes Stannis’ mind, and he plans to head to Castle Black with his old friend Davos to eliminate the impending white walker threat. Davos and Stannis are two characters who were also given criminally low amounts of screen time this season, and I hope the two of them are featured more next year, as Liam Cunningham and Stephen Dillane are excellent in their roles.
The season closes out with Daenerys waiting for the former slaves of Yunkai to join her. She offers them their freedom, and they return in kind. The now freed slaves of Yunkai hoist Daenerys up over their heads, treating her as a goddess and chanting “Mhysa!” over and over again, a word that means “mother” in their language. Daenerys has once again “conquered” a group of people, continuing to gather her strength to eventually reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros and giving we the audience a much needed glimmer of hope. This was a brilliantly done scene, and the color contrast and sound design really stood out to me. Overall, season three of Game of Thrones contained a ton of exposition and character building, but it was almost always compelling viewing. Now that pieces are in their general places, season four next year should be even better.