Writers: David Benioff and DB Weiss
Director: Alan Taylor
The One Where: Dany takes on the warlocks, Tyrion recovers from battle and Sam has the fright of his life.
Verdict: Are you depressed? Feeling an overwhelming sense of loss? Don’t worry, we all are. It’s a natural part of the Game Of Thrones grieving process, but we can all get through this if we pull together. Let’s not kid ourselves though, it’s going to be tough.
The sophomore run TV’s finest fantasy show has been a triumph in every conceivable way. Grander in scale, more brutal and bloody than ever before and confidently weaving the huge number of narrative threads together to form a coherent and dazzling whole, it’s been breathtaking.
It looked like “Valar Morghulis” was going to have a tough job topping the spectacular “Blackwater”, but in the event was perhaps even more satisfying than last week’s battle for King’s Landing. Take Tyrion’s story for example; the hero of the Blackwater, the Imp should have been covered in glory. Instead, he’s been stripped of his title, thrown into a tiny backroom and left to rot. Tyrion’s story has been one of triumph this season, but with Tywin and Cersei in charge, the future doesn’t look quite so rosy. Bronn is no longer commander of the Gold Cloaks, his vicious tribesmen have been sent home, and his face is a painful looking mess.
Really, all that Tyrion has left are his wits and Shae. His relationship with the bolshy lady of the night has been the romantic highlight of the season, both more complex and emotionally engaging than Robb Stark’s affair with Talisa. Of course, we all love Peter Dinklage and he’s been reliably wonderful throughout this season, but Sibel Kekilli has been more than a match for him. Shae has grown from little more than a pretty face in the first season to a smart and surprisingly tough player of the game, fearless and resourceful when she needs to be. When she asked Tyrion to run away with her, you couldn’t help but wish he’d said yes; King’s Landing is looking like a dangerous place for the pair of them to stay.
The game has changed completely at the capital with the arrival of Tywin (astride his incredibly nervous horse) and the Tyrell host, the Lannisters looking to strengthen their position as quickly as possible. We’ll be seeing more of the Tyrells next season, another powerful family with an eye on the Iron Throne, and it should provide plenty of political fireworks. Margaery is shameless, ambitious and absolutely dedicated to the pursuit of power, like a younger Cersei minus the incestuous leanings. A woman with experience of the world who has already married – and buried – one king, she should prove more than a match for Joffrey.
All of this is pretty terrible news for Sansa, whose position looks more untenable by the minute. No longer betrothed to the king, she’s now little more than a hostage, and a naïve one at that. Handily, she’s got Littlefinger on her side, although at this stage it’s anyone’s guess what the new lord of Harranhal wants.
One thing is for certain, he still cares for Cat, and she could certainly do with his help now. Betraying Robb’s trust by releasing the Kingslayer has had consequences even she couldn’t have envisaged, her son now refusing to heed her advice. Robb’s decision to marry Talisa - despite his promise to the Freys - is going to have some serious repercussions next season, and the King In The North is looking to be standing on increasingly shaky ground. Robb’s arc has been one of the least gripping of the season, mainly revolving around his plodding romantic entanglements and shouting in tents. Hopefully season three will hold a little more excitement in store for the Stark pretender.
Things are already going in that direction for Jaime and Brienne. The Kingslayer continues to throw his acidic putdowns around the place with an arrogance only a Lannister could truly muster, but it’s Brienne who is stealing these scenes. The tense stand-off with the Stark soldiers was enthralling, her reaction enough to make you cheer at the screen. Gwendoline Christie has made a big impression this season, and not just because of her towering size. Somehow both vulnerable and tough as nails, awkward and graceful, she inhabits two worlds with impressive skill, a triumphant three dimensional portrayal of an unconventional character.
After a heavy defeat last week, we only got a glimpse of Stannis this week, but what a glimpse. He can’t decide whether to strangle or shag Melisandre, but there’s no denying the allure of the Red Woman’s words. Her predictions for Stannis’s future are fascinating, hinting that he has one hell of a journey ahead of him. Quite how he’ll recover his strength and become the man his fire priestess believes him to be is sure to be a key plot line next season, and after seeing him charge the walls of King’s Landing last week, I wouldn’t put anything past him.
It would seem that Theon Greyjoy’s war is over, however. Alfie Allen has been superb all season, form which reached its apex this week. Considering how far Theon has fallen from grace, you’d have thought it would be fun to watch him reap what he’d sewn, but that was far from the case. He also gave easily the best rousing speech of the season, making Dagmar’s betrayal hurt all the more. Those Iron Islanders really are a bunch of utter bastards, and Theon’s fate is sure to be anything other than pleasant.
After all, Maester Luwin’s wasn’t, and he hadn’t done anything wrong except get in the way of an Iron Island spear. His talk with Bran and Rickon in the Godswood was a powerful moment charged with eye-moistening emotion, while the sight of the two younger Starks heading north as Winterfell burned behind them was one of the saddest sights of the entire season.
Over in Qarth, Daenerys proved herself every inch the Targaryen, her brush with the warlocks proving that Game Of Thrones is as adept at making magic work on screen as it is anything else. Her stroll through the House Of The Undying was fascinating, from the shattered throne room at King’s Landing (could it have been destroyed by dragon fire?) to her heartbreaking reunion with Drogo, reminding us just how far she’s come. Dany’s arc has been a little slow-moving, but this final episode made up for all that; her ruthless and cruel method of dealing with Xaro and Doreah was pure Targaryen. Both Dany and her dragons are growing into a force to be reckoned with, and I doubt the old gods or the new will be able to stop her when she finally reaches Westeros.
Saying that, who knows if there will even be a Westeros but the time she gets there? The cold winds have well and truly risen north of the wall, and the dead are coming. The army of snow-zombies led by screeching white walkers was a sight to behold (beat that The Walking Dead, where are your zombie horses huh?), although why they didn’t kill Sam made little sense. Still, can you imagine that lot attacking the wall? Suddenly, “Blackwater” looks like little more than a warm up for a war on a totally different scale.
As Jon discovered, the white walkers aren’t the only threat lurking in the deep north. The King Beyond The Wall’s army looks formidable, and now Jon is heading right into the heart of it. His fight with the Halfhand was perhaps not signposted clearly enough for some, but the old ranger’s intentions are clear enough now. Jon’s new role as a double agent in the midst of the wildling forces, not to mention the attentions of Ygritte, should make the future damned interesting for Ned’s wayward bastard. Now the wait for next season begins – it’s going to be a long one.
Best line: Qhorin: “We are the watchers on the wall.”