But then again with the lack of that epilogue and somehow rushed big scene of Tyrion the glory, the 'holy shit', the 'oh, that was awesome' talk is reserved for the sequence which I feared won't get the love it deserves after it wasn't featured in episode 9 ending. For the sequence I have waited months for. For the sequence that finally makes people say 'Ok, Stannis is awesome'.
Another thing is that there is one thing in this whole God forsaken world that tames my anger.
And it's scruffy Stephen Dillane being badass and saving the day.
But before we get to that - the episode opens where the last one ended. Jon Snow is going on his big Ninja/James Bond let's assassinate Mance adventure. He walks into woods in some pretty awesomely shot sequence and he is captured by the wildlings. He tells Mance he wants to negotiate.
They go into the tent and talk a little, they also raise a toast to dearly departed Ygritte. Mance tells Jon he knows how weak the forces on the Wall are and that he will attack them again. Suddenly the trumpets are heard outside and my heart is about to fly from my chest.
Jon and Mance go outside. Nobody knows what the fuck is happening. We see amazing aerial shots and close shots of a massive army of riders approaching, that were easily more epic than this whole damn battle episode last week. That was the most epic thing I've seen on Thrones to date. The riders carry banners..banners of a stag and burning heart...
The army crashes into wildlings from two sides in an awesome aerial shot again, as the camera spins around confused Jon. The riders cut through wildlings and suddenly out of the smoke, as the music reaches the climax and - as I have reached mine - it is Stannis who emerges. Not just Stannis. Stannis on a horse. Stannis in an armor.Stannis with an almighty scruff going on.
Oh I prayed night and day for you to return, my King!
That was the sequence I was so pissed off about for not being featured in last episode. Especially that it was an opening to this one - it seems to me this could have easily been placed in last episode as a triumphant ending for Stannis at last.
I'm also stunned people didn't see it coming. I'm so glad. The element of surprise is huge here - I would have liked we got an explanation scene about what happened and what was his decision making process with Stannis famous, awesome and unintentionally hilarious 'If it wasn't for my Hand I might have not come at all' line, but there is still time for that next season, I guess.
Anyways, Stannis, who hauled ass to the Wall so bad to rescue the realm from the wildling foe (which earns him a name 'The King who still cared" in the books) and didn't even have the time to shave (inhuman fangirl noises) arrives looking like a freaking GQ model with Davos on one side and massive army on another - though it's still need to be pointed out that it's less than 100,000 men which wildlings had - he simply beat them because HE IS SO GOOD and his men fight fiercely for him. And so the Dragonstone and Wall storylines are merged.
Stannis and Davos get off their horses - in, I kid you not, synchronized move, and begin approaching Jon and Mance. Some random dude runs towards Stannis to hurt him but Stannis' rider just kills him. Stannis keeps walking unmoved and unimpressed. Oh, how I love you.
Davos introduces Stannis and Mance tells him that this isn't his land and he is underdressed for the weather. Can you believe he actually suggested Stannis should have more clothes on?
Stannis the Mannis asks Mance if he is the leader of wildlings and basically insists he kneels as he should surrender. Mance refuses. Stannis says he is not here to slaughter beaten dogs (I giggled like a lunatic while crying with joy, it's been 5 goddamn weeks since I saw him). Then attention goes to Jon, while Harington gets mad props from me for, you know, not exploding from being in his presence.
When asked what's the man of the Night's Watch is doing there Jon explains he came to negotiate. Davos throws his usual 'this is Stannis Baratheon the king' line and Jon says he knows who he is. He tells him he is Jon Snow, Ned Stark's son. He tells Stannis that his father died for him.
Stannis' eyes flicker and he tells Jon that his father was an honorable man. He asks Jon what would his father do with Mance and Jon says his father would show mercy and imprison him. Stannis agrees. Jon also tells Stannis to burn the dead.
And so one my favorite things in the books - Stannis and Jon bitchfest on the wall begins. Even if Stannis didn't kill anything in this scene and there was no chant (in the book Stannis' men chant his name), man did I love it. My number one scene in the show right now. Did you see how happy my King was? That he has his sass and confidence back on? Oh, yeeees.
Meanwhile, in King's Landing Pycelle and Qyburn argue how to treat The Mountain who has been poisoned, as Oberyn's spear was dipped in one, ensuring that even if Oberyn lost Mountain goes down too.
Pycelle leaves as Qyburn stats suggestion some weird ass stuff but Cersei stays. Qyburn suggests he is gonna do some controversial things but Cersei is game for that, sensing this dude is a psycho so she is finally getting a new best friend. Qyburn will do something that will make Mountain not only alive but also stronger. And so the set up for his gross experiments in season 5 is completed.
In the next scene which was a first major WTF of the episode for us book readers Cersei is talking to Tywin telling him that she will not marry ser Loras and she will not leave Tommen all by himself so that Margaery could have him. In a moment that never happened in the books Cersei tells Tywin that she has been sleeping with Jaime and Tywin goes to his happy place so that he wouldn't hear it.
Then in yet another risky and somewhat blasphemous scene Cersei goes to Jaime and seduces him. And Jaime, who at this point is supposed to be an honorable guy basically throws the White Book off the table and bangs her on that table. I don't what's going on and I don't want to know. But Lena Headey was fantastic.
In Meereen, Dany is having some more chats with her people. A man comes over telling her it was better for him when he was a a slave.Dany allows him to write a contract with his master and Barristan warns her it's a dangerous precedent. Another man comes over and reveals to her that Drogon killed his child - he unveils a cloth and there it is, human skeleton.
Daenerys is devastated. Apparently Drogon fled (correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't he part of that scene in the books and that's when he escaped?). Daenerys decides to lead her other two dragons to the catacombs. As they eat, in a wonderful change from the book where it was random Unsullied who did the deed, Daenerys herself puts chains on her children.
She turns and starts walking away as they roar in fear and heartbreak. That was a truly moving and saddening scene. I felt a I was watching some cute puppies being abandoned. I know I was complaining about Emilia Clarke a lot this year, and rightfully so, but this was really great acting from her. She conveyed a horrible heartbreak she felt, her, the Breaker of Chains, over imprisoning her own children.
Ramin Djawadi's wonderful track Breaker of Chains accompanied the scene and it was really powerful. I'm glad the show didn't try to stick to the pattern of having Dany's scenes near the end of the finale, though given what our final scene was this year this wouldn't be so bad.
At the Wall a funeral is held for those who have fallen. Stannis is there,
Maester Targaryen delivers a lovely speech about Wallers who died protecting the realm and people who will not even know their names. Jon sets the fire to the dead and we see that Melisandre is staring at him, clearly having found another one she likes to ride to salvation.
Jon visits Tormund who is now a prisoner. We find out Stannis ordered everyone to get help with the wounds and injuries, even the wildlings. Tormund tells Jon to bury Ygritte in the real North.
In a beautiful scene Jon does just that. We see a gorgeous shot of Ygritte's body and Jon throwing a torch on the pyre and walking away with tears in his eyes. Again, let me just say - Kit Harington was truly wonderful this whole season.
Now to the part of the episode where 1. thought I dropped acid 2. thought I'm actually hallucinating because my brain overheated when I saw Stannis, we arrive to Bran's storyline. Bran, Hodor, Summer, Meera and Jojen reach the mysterious tree we saw in Bran's vision. Suddenly, and I'm serious here, Pirates of the Caribbean looking skeletons rise from the snow and attack them.
I didn't know what the fuck was going on. I think in the books the characters are attacked by wights, like the ones in the very first scene of the series but what was happening here was just...madness.
Bran warges Hodor and he fights them off while Meera is really badass trying to fight them off sick Jojen. Summer wrecks havoc too. Unfortunately one of them stabs Jojen. Now this was a real WTF moment as Jojen may or may not be dead in the books and what was done (or not) to him in the books is very disturbing so it seems like an opportunity wasted at killing cute Love Actually kid like that.
Anyways, The Children of he Forest appear. It's a different species, kinda like humans but not really like them. They were described as smaller than men with nut-brown skin, dappled like a deer's with paler spots. They had large ears that could hear things that no man could hear.They usually had large eyes, great golden cat's eyes. They have vertical, slit-like pupils;. A few had green or red eyes; these had the gift of greensight and were known as greenseers.Their hands had only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails.
So imagine my surprise when they showed up, actually sorry, just one showed up and it's basically a regular child. But it gets worse. Leaf, as this is what this child is called leads them into a cave. And then Bran finally meets the dude who followed him around in the form of three-eyed raven - Bloodraven.
They hyped Bloodraven and Children of the Forest so much and man, was that underwhelming. A pale child and an old dude who looks like he was climbing the tree and got stuck in that. Anyways, there will be more visions in Bran's future. Raven tells Bran that he will never be able to walk...but he will fly.
Then it turns out the Hound and Arya just left the Gate of the Eyrie after finding out Lysa is dead. Brienne and Podrick run into Arya. Brienne and Arya have a short nice scene together where they talk about swords and their fathers teaching them how to fight. The Hound shows up and Podrick recognizes him.
Brienne tells Arya that she pledged to her mother she will keep her safe. She asks her to go with her. The Hound sees Brienne's sword and tthinks she is paid off by Lannisters. A crazy fight scene between Brienne and The Hound occurs.
That is something that never happened in the books. Brienne is truly invincible isn't she? There is no one who can beat her. After they fight for a while Brienne bites off Hound's ear and throws him off the cliff. When she finds Podrick it turns out that Arya escaped.
I'm torn on this scene - on one hand I always wanted two badass ladies Arya and Brienne to meet. But I wanted for them to stay together. Also it's now a bit odd that Brienne was face to face with two of Catelyn's daughters (she didn't meet any of them in the books so far) and just allowed them to run away. But the scene was really very well made and it was shot and choreographed in a fantastic way.
We find out Arya is merely hiding. She finds mortally injured Hound. He asks her to give him the gift of mercy, kill him to end his suffering. Arya is silent. He then starts to provoke her, saying things to get her mad and kill him but Arya walks away.
This is one of the reasons I don't really like Arya - I don't understand her. She sometimes seems more evil than she should be. The Hound took care of her and she abandoned him for no reason. And about Brienne - Arya could have joined her mother's knight, someone you can see from the first sight is a good person and she just run away.
We move to King's Landing. Jaime visits Tyrion and let's him out of his cell. He tells him that Varys is waiting for him to help him board the ship. The two hug and Jaime kisses Tyrion cheek. As lovely as it was in the show, there is something major that was changed but first I'll recap the scenes and then talk about changes.
Tyrion decides to take a little detour and ends up in the Tower of the Hand. He approaches the bed and sees there is a woman lying on it. As he walks closer and closer the woman moves and awakes, clearly joyful and well rested and says 'Tywin...my lion'. It's his love, his Shae who is clearly fucking his own father.
Tyrion gives her shocked, heartbroken, angry look. Shae grabs the knife, Tyrion jumps on top of her and twists a chain around her neck and begins strangling her. We are treated to fantastic shot from the far. Tyrion kills her and says 'sorry' in a detached, manic kind of way.
Tyrion notices a crossbow on the wall. He takes it and makes his way to the privy, where he finds his father. Tyrion, clearly in a shock, is set on killing Tywin. Tywin doesn't seem to appreciate the danger very much but unlike in the book he is kind to Tyrion. In a puzzling development Tyrion tells him he loved Shae and Tywin calls her a whore, causing Tyrion to shoot his own father and kill him.
Now, I think the scenes played well. As a fan fiction inspired by book events which really didn't need no changing. The key here? Tyrion's wife. Tysha. I'd understand not including any mentions about her if she wasn't mentioned in the show at all - but who can forget Tyrion's story about a whore whom he married which was later forced by Tywin to service entire garrison of Lannister men as Tyrion was forced to watch - again forced by Tywin, as a punishment for him marrying her? She was also mentioned in season 3 and referenced to by mere looks between Lannister brothers in season 4.
The thing is that Tysha is the catalyst for all three scenes - with Jaime, with Shae and with Tywin. In Jaime scene, in the book Jaime reveals his lie - Tywin forced Jaime to tell Tyrion Tysha was a whore, in reality she was just some girl that loved Tyrion that Tywin deemed unworthy of being married to a Lannister. Heartbroken Tyrion cuts all the ties with Jaime after he releases him from his cell, yelling that he did kill Joffrey and that Jaime is a fool who doesn't see what a whore Cersei is.
His entire relationship with Shae is basically possible because his emotional scars because of Tysha. That's why he is so hurt by Shae. The show made a puzzling decision of having them be in love but then having Shae do what she did in the books, where she was just a lying whore trying to survive. I was really hoping the show will shed some light on how and when did she started sleeping with Tywin.
There is a rumour in the books that one of the Hands build a special tunnel to smuggle whores in. People suspect it's Tywin. I suppose the whole point is that he was a hypocrite - who hated his son for indulging himself but he himself did that too. There are also some psychological implications of basically making your son's whore your own.
The Shae murder is essentially the same in the show except they had Shae go for a knife which is causing quite an outrage as in the books what Tyrion did was straight up murder and here she was going to fight back. Yes, the white washing of Tyrion is going on, but it never bothered me as I thought Dinklage completely nailed the darkness in his character in his scenes this episode.
And finally Tywin. In the book Tyrion asks Tywin about Tysha. He asks him what happened with her. Tywin responds he sent her away, Tyrion asks where and Tywin uses his iconic line, the final straw that causes Tyrion to kill him - 'Wherever whores go". In the book the trigger is not Shae, some lying slut, it's the woman Tyrion loved, his first love who loved him back and who suffered because of his father. The biggest symbol of his father's oppression on his life and his disapproval of Tyrion's every step and every breath.
As much as I liked the way the scenes played out I just don't understand why they would change that. Do showrunners really have so little faith in non book readers? A line of dialogue in a scene with Tywin and Jaime would refresh their memory as for who Tysha was. Another thing - and that is something that was left out of the scene - when Tywin gets shot he gets shot above groin and the impact causes his bowels to loosen and his shit goes everywhere.
Tyrion's last thought in the chapter is 'in the end Lord Tywin Lannister didn't shit gold".
Tyrion leaves his dead father and finds Varys who locks him in a crate that gets taken to a ship. In a change from book events Varys takes one last look at the Red Keep and decides to go with Tyrion.
Before I discuss the last scene - I always tought Charles Dance was the best chosen actor for the part. He WAS Tywin Lannister. It's amazing that he made this man seem admirable, when essentially Tywin was a mass murderer and war criminal. Who can forget his fatherly scenes with Arya in season 2, his delightful banter with lady Olenna or the way he always commanded the scene.
We ended the finale with Arya boarding the ship to Braavos. While it was not as bad as the last year's finale ending, it was still a disappointment. While I understand that including the epilogue of book 3 would be a shock so big all the other scenes in the episode would pale in comparison, not to throw a dynamite that will get people insanely hyped for next season is just a mistake especially since it was the best moment for that scene.
MASSIVE BOOK SPOILERS Lady Stoneheart. It's the single biggest plot twist in the books. Not only was she foreshadowed a great deal over the last two years - this year lady Catelyn was mentioned in 8 out of 10 episodes - but her character is connected to Jaime and Brienne in what seems to be a plot that could not be changed.
So far the excuses I've seen are - 1. She is not important in the books - how can she not be? Do we really think Martin would bring someone back from the dead if they weren't important 2. Having her resurrection cheapens Jon's inevitable resurrection - if she is merely pushed in time because of reason 3. that will be two resurrections closer to each other than they would be if she was featured now 3. there are not enough shocks for next season and they are saving her - problem is that 2 years after RW is just too long. Not to mention all the Unsullied that will continue to get spoiled.
As usual the director Alex Graves cannot seem to shut up and gives his opinions - not only is Graves, misinformed reducing her to a 'zombie' but also he just comes off straight up disrespectful towards all of us book readers who have been waiting to see her. It seems more and more evident to me that D&D seem to be writing for themselves - not for book readers and certainly not with respect for book readers.
While as scarce as his scenes were I did thought Stannis' scenes were major improvement this year but crap like this - trolling book readers with hints and then not showing the scene actually hurts the show (I'm convinced had they have her as final scene, the show would top 10mln with next year premiere), hurts he narrative and just makes D&D look like mad douche bags who don't seem to comprehend that people have certain expectations. Graves trying to turn the blame around on those who had expectations while him and show runners themselves hyped the episode to infinity deserves as hard of a kick in the balls as Brienne served to the Hound. END OF SPOILERS
Overall, I still consider season 1 to be my favorite and I don't think it's a coincidence that it is, since it followed the book so faithfully. While this episode and The Mountain and the Viper along with Mockingbird were wonderful and season 4 had a number of great sequences the straying from the books is catching up to the show.
Benioff and Weiss are not Martin, their bias and their insistence their way is the better way to show the events is slowly making everyone disappointed. I think they need to think really long about the flaws of the show because if they took the best book and turned it into anything less than best season (and season 3 and 4 are not on par with for example season 1 consistency), what on Earth will they do next year?
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