And now our watch has ended.
Let's just get this out of the way: I'm peeved that this episode did not end the same way the book A Storm of Swords ended. Last year, I thought maybe Season 3 would've ended with the ASOS epilogue, but no. I thought FOR SURE this season would end with the Big Reveal that finished off the third book, but still no. All we got was Arya, on a boat, rocking her nautical-themed pashmina afghan.
Also, just to stay in complain mode for a few seconds, I thought the whole Stannis-saves-the-day story would've been better served if it had come at the end of last week's episode. "The Watchers on the Wall" clocked in a full nine minutes short of an hour. I'm not sure why we couldn't have gotten the whole Mance Rayder chat, subsequent battle, and "Holy shit what is this army coming to save the day?" stuff in the ninth episode, which was completely focused on the events at the Wall. The way it played out in this episode, an episode that was full of climaxes, Stannis showing up just felt like a big pile of meh.
But what about the episode? You want to know about the deaths, and there were several, two I was expecting, one came as a surprise, and one life hangs in the balance.
SURPRISE: Jojen's dead! Bran's story has probably been best served by the show, by being told in a visual medium. His story on the page has always read too confusing, too meta for me. I often found myself tuning out during the Bran chapters. But playing out on screen, his story makes a lot more sense. He's a wolf, he's Bran, he's Hodor. He's smart, he is kind, he is important. There's talk of visions and three-eyed ravens and people growing into trees. Oh, and children. The Children. The mythical youngsters that live beyond the Wall and whom Bran's nanny used to tell tale of back at Winterfell.
Tonight we met the Children. One of them, a little girl, saved most of Bran's group from certain death-by-wight (the special effects on those skeleton creatures were great, by the way), but she couldn't save Jojen. He done got himself stabbed. In the book, Jojen is weak and his sister has to carry him, but he's alive. On the show, just like Grenn before him, Jojen is dead. It's not like he was going to survive in the books much longer anyway probably. Love, Actually? More like Death, Actually.
Now Bran's groupies consist of only Hodor, Meera, and Summer, but he's found himself in a subterranean tunnel surrounded by tree roots and a dude who identifies himself as the Three-Eyed Raven...and more. He has thousands of eyes and he's been watching Bran and Jojen and the rest for years and blah blah blah. I'm not convinced that I care yet.
NOT A SURPRISE: Tywin and Shae are dead, too! This was, of course, the big WHAT? moment toward the end of A Storm of Swords (before the real WHAT? moment of the epilogue). After the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding and Oberyn and Ygritte, it seemed as if we'd had enough death for one book. But ha, no. Jaime helps Tyrion escape (with an assist from Varys), and on his way out, T-Dawg takes a detour to the Tower of the Hand, where he finds Shae all nekkid in Tywin's bed. Understandably peeved at his ex-lover and his father, who has always made his distaste for whores known, Tyrion decides that he Just Can't Take it Anymore, so he strangles Shae and shoots his shit-taking father in the chest with a crossbow. As we do.
Tyrion is intercepted by Varys, who shoves T in a box and loads him onto a ship. Varys considers going back to the castle; but recognizing that he is screwed seven ways 'til Sunday for helping Tyrion escape, he also hops on board the ship, leaving Jaime to deal with the aftermath.
NOT A SURPRISE BUT STILL MAYBE NOT A DEATH: The Hound's life hangs in the balance. He's as good as dead when Arya leaves him, but since we don't see him actually dead, I'm inclined to believe he's still alive (same way whenever George R.R. Martin ends a POV character's chapter with a "death," that character is never really dead). I loved the departure from the book here. In the book, Sandor Clegane is injured in a fight with Polliver and the Tickler, before Arya leaves him begging for mercy. It's much more powerful that he winds up in a duel with Brienne of Tarth instead, for many reasons:
- Brienne is awesome and we love her. But we also love the Hound. This was a high-intensity fight, especially for people who haven't read the books. We didn't want either of these folks to die.
- The Hound fighting a girl is poetic. He's been making fun of Arya and her water dancing and her Needle all season. That he's bested by a lady with a sword is a lovely thing.
- It gives Arya even more agency over her own life. She could've chosen to stick with the Hound. She could've chosen to go with Brienne and press her luck. But instead she makes the decision to go it alone. The buddy system hasn't worked out so well for her. Everyone she cares about dies, so it's time for her to stop caring about anyone.
- Missing from the Jon Snow storyline: Dalla, Mance Rayder's wife. In the books, she was in the tent, giving birth to the Prince Beyond the Wall. Some have wondered if this storyline might be cut. Perhaps this was our answer?
- RIP Grenn, Mag, and Ygritte. We hardly knew ye. Seriously. We hardly did.
- I loved Jon's conversation with Stannis about Ned Stark's honor. Yes, Ned would've taken Mance as prisoner, because Ned Stark always did the right and honorable thing, but he also got his head cut off because of it. Is Ned Stark really the dude we want to be emulating? He always did the "right" thing, but did he always do the smart thing? I don't think so.
- Cersei and her new pseudo-maester Qyburn are in the process of creating a Super Mountain. So that won't be problematic for anyone.
- Now that Tywin's dead, Cersei probably won't have to marry Loras, right? (Of course she won't, because her being engaged to Loras was completely fabricated for the TV show anyway.)
- I'm wondering where Jaime and Cersei's relationship will go now that he helped Tyrion escape, which also ended in their jackass father getting dead. On the one hand, Joffrey's "murderer" is on the loose. On the other hand, no more having to marry Loras and leave Tommen.
- Dany was in this episode for a mercifully brief scene. She has taken to treating her dragons like Mama Fratelli treated Sloth in The Goonies.
- Bran's getting a little way too comfortable warging into Hodor these days. #freehodor
- After seeing Arya and Brienne together, I wish Arya had just gone with her and Pod. Now that would've been an awesome trio.
- I'm still shipping the Hound and Sansa (#sansdor4EVA). But don't worry; I feel icky about it.
What did you think of this episode and the season as a whole?
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