So the bad news is, Game of Thrones is officially on hiatus until next spring. The other really bad news is that you probably won't sleep until then, because the episode's final sequence, which finally revealed the gathering numbers of White Walker zombies descending upon Westeros, was absolutely petrifying. Kudos to showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for ending the season on yet another visually haunting high note that will keep people talking for months, and kudos to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) for just showing up. But more on that later.
Tonight's finale did a great job of setting the stage for a sure to be dynamic season three, without relying on cheap cliffhangers or sex and death just for the sake of sex and death. We know where most of our characters will be headed when the action resumes, and in Thrones' case, that's even better than wondering what the hell happened to so-and-so when he got into that fight with what's-his-face. In other words, the episode did a great job of wrapping up the season's plethora of plot lines, while simultaneously opening up newer, deadlier paths to explore. God, I'm excited. Let's break it down by character so we don't get a headache.
Theon's end was interesting, as it diverted so far from A Clash of Kings that I really have no idea where it could possibly be going. Also, his final scene with Maester Luwin revealed a level of tragic self-awareness that we've never seen from book-Theon, making his pathetic "defeat" almost sympathetic. All in all — I liked it!
As promised, Robb Stark's men arrived at Winterfell, where they patiently waited outside for the usurper to surrender — if "patiently waiting" means blowing a horn repeatedly to annoy Theon half to death until he met them outside. Unfortunately he never got there, because his own men knocked him out cold after he made his best attempt at a motivational battle speech in Winterfell's yard. They dragged him away to God-knows-where, but the most important thing I took from Theon's scenes was this: TV Theon is fully aware of the fact that he messed up — that he is now the bad guy. He explained to Luwin that having to hear how lucky you are for being a kindly-treated lifelong prisoner is maddening, and it's even worse when you finally return home to your true family and they ridicule and practically disown you. He knew he had done the wrong thing by deserting Robb, but he also knew that it was too late to hope for any redemption. "I've come too far to pretend to be anything else," he said. Theon's next chapter is a mystery even for readers at this point, and I'm very excited to see what sort of man emerges in season three.
We didn't have to wait very long to find out who gave Tyrion that nasty face-cut during the battle at Blackwater: It was Ser Mandon Moore, a now-deceased knight who was most definitely in Cersei's employ. Tyrion woke up to find a much different King's Landing than the one he fell asleep in: Order seemed to be restored, but he was no longer a part of it. Grand Maester Pycelle — the one that Tyrion put in jail earlier this season — gleefully informed Tyrion that Tywin had won the battle, and was now officially the Hand of the King. Bronn had been fired from the city watch, and the rest of Tyrion's allies had been promptly dispersed — even Varys couldn't risk their friendship anymore. Shae suggested an escape to Pentos where they could "eat, drink, f**k, live," but Tyrion insisted that his place was in King's Landing, where all of the devious action was.
This recent shift in power was bad for Tyrion, but probably even worse for Sansa: Because Tywin had won the battle with the help of his new allegiance with the powerful Tyrell family, Joffrey would now wed Margaery instead of Sansa. At first, Sansa seemed to be elated by this news. Who wouldn't be? But then Petyr Baelish, the man responsible for brokering the Tyrell deal, hit her with an unfortunate truth bomb. "He'll still enjoy beating you," he said. "And now that you're a woman, he'll be able to enjoy you in other ways as well. Joffrey is not the sort of boy who gives away his toys." Ay yi yi! Things are never good for Sansa. Baelish said that he would help Sansa escape to honor his lifelong love for her mother, but Sansa insisted that her home was in King's Landing. Smart.
Elsewhere, Varys approached the eternally suffering whore Ros with a proposition that we didn't actually get to hear. All we got was this: "Littlefinger looks at you and sees a collection of profitable holes. I see a potential partner." Varys was seething when Littlefinger was offered Harrenhal as a gift for brokering the Tyrell deal, so I would safely bet that Varys has a nasty plan up his sleeve for next season. Don't doubt the spider.
These two didn't get very far on their journey to King's Landing, but we did get to see some impressed looks on the Kingslayer's face when Brienne took out three Stark men who had viciously murdered then displayed three tavern wenches who had "serviced" their Lannister opponents. "I don't serve the Starks," Brienne explained. "I serve Lady Catelyn." Jaime had been taunting-slash-jokingly threatening to rape Brienne before this deadly interaction, but it's becoming more and more clear that Jaime Lannister has never met a person like Brienne of Tarth in his entire cray-cray life. Let's look forward to more of them next spring.
Against Catelyn's wishes, Robb and Talisa are now mawwwied — and that's pretty much all that happened in Camp Stark tonight. It was a small ceremony (seriously, I didn't see anyone there), and the couple seemed to be very much in love. Catelyn again warned Robb that the Frey family wouldn't take kindly to this massive diss, but young love is usually pretty stupid. Good luck, you crazy kids!
Speaking of hot and heavy couples, Stannis won the Matthew Fox award for violence against women in this week's episode. He safely made it back to Dragonstone after his crushing defeat at Blackwater (no word on Davos), but he was pretty miffed at Melisandre and her Lord of Light for leading him astray. He finally expressed some remorse for murdering Renly, but Melisandre insisted that they both carried that load, and that it would all be well worth it in the end. He started to strangle her to see if her Lord of Light would come through and save her, but let go when it seemed that her death was the far more likely outcome. Melisandre is terrible, but still — not cool, Stannis.
After her near-death experience, Melisandre had Stannis look into the flames so that he could clearly see his eventual victory. Apparently he did, and order was quickly restored over in crazy-town.
Jaqen H'ghar made good on his promise: When we met up with Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie, they had already escaped Harrenhal and were making their way through the forrest. Jaqen found them right away, and told Arya that the rest of the names on her death list — Cersei, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, The Hound, Bran, that one kid that was mean to her that one time, Talisa who she hadn't even met — could be scratched off if she went with him to Braavos to learn to be a "Faceless Man". I don't think that I was the only one screaming, "GO, ARYA!" But, alas, it was not yet meant to be: Arya still wanted to find the remaining members of her family. Jaqen gave her a coin, and told her to say the following words to any man from the city of Braavos if she wanted to find him again: "Valar Morghulis." They said their goodbyes, then Jaqen magically changed his face into one that was much less attractive. Pity. Well, at least we know how he got away with all of those murders.
With Winterfell burnt to the ground by Theon's men, the little Starks needed a plan, stat. Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and their direwolves ran into a dying Maester Luwin (Who was stabbed defending Theon! Of all things!) near the wreckage, and he brought up a very good point: Everything south of Winterfell was a war-torn mess, so they should probably go north to the Wall to crash with Jon. The boys walked away, and Osha put Luwin out of his misery at his own request. Sad.
If Bran and co. were aware of Jon's current predicament, they might not be so eager to head up north to join him. If you recall, the famed ranger Qhorin Halfhand told Snow that one ranger in a wildling camp was worth 1,000 fighting against them, so Jon's latest assignment was to act as a turncloak. Qhorin made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Jon's success — as they approached the "King Beyond the Wall" Mance Rayder's camp, Qhorin made a feigned attempt on Jon's life to further convince the silly-looking Lord of Bones that the bastard was on their side. When Qhorin hit Jon where it hurt — he insulted his family — the angered Snow had no choice but to fight back and kill him. (Aside: This, much like Theon's departure, also went much differently in the books. Qhorin asked Jon to kill him, leading to an agonizing decision that aged the bastard ten years in five minutes. That version was tougher, but this one saved a lot of time on the production schedule.) Bones promptly let his former prisoner walk free, but not before announcing that they would have to burn Qhorin so his corpse wouldn't come running after them. "You can tell Mance that's the man who killed Qhorin Halfhand," Ygritte said proudly. She cannot WAIT to have sex with Jon next year. Jon and his new friends looked down from the top of a cliff, where thousands upon thousands of wildlings had gathered with Mance.
Finally it was time to enter the House of the Undying, where the manorexic warlock Pyat Pree had been keeping Dany's dragons. She came upon a number of doors, the first of which revealed a snowy, post-apocalyptic version of King's Landing's throne room. She looked but didn't touch, then entered the next room, which contained the giant gate in the middle of the Wall. This must have been even more confusing for Dany than it was for us, as she has still physically never been to any of these places. Anyway, beyond the Wall there was a tent, and inside that tent there was... Khal freakin' Drogo!
Drogo held his and Dany's roughly one-year-old son in this vision — a vision that Dany knew was a trick from Pree, but it was still great to see her get some closure out of that horrible situation. "If this is a dream I will kill the man who tries to wake me," dream-Drogo said. Sigh. It would have been nice to see these two raise the stallion that would mount the world, but that was never going to be Dany's journey. She turned away from the romantic vision, then came to the room that housed Pree and her dragons. Pree explained that the rebirth of the dragons had led to the rebirth of his power, then chained Dany to the middle of the room. She gave one single command — "dracarys" — and her dragons spit-fired Pree into a pile of nothing. Yikes. My fellow readers must have been similarly shocked, as the dragons' powers are unleashed much, much later in the books. That particular sequence is shocking, horrifying, and ultimately very earned. Admittedly, I was worried about Dany's scenes this season — her journey is pretty boring until book five. I get that the producers needed to amp up her storyline, but I really hope that the thing I'm talking about still happens. Just trust me on this one.
When all was said and done, Dany, Jorah and co. returned to Xaro's house to find him in bed with her former trusted slave, Doreah. They locked the traitors in Xaro's vault, which just-so-happened to be completely empty. All of that drivel about combining forces to take over Westeros was just a big, fat lie. Dany thanked Xaro for teaching her a valuable lesson — don't trust rich people — then robbed him so she could buy a boat to get the hell out of there.
Okay, this is where things went from regular insane to absolutely batsh*t crazy. None of this happened in the books, so I was just as shocked and horrified as the rest of you. Sam and his brothers heard the Night's Watch horn blown three times: One blow is for a ranger returning, two is for wildlings, and three is for White Walkers, or, in other words, three is for "Get the f**k out of there." The rest of the men dispersed, but Sam was too fat to keep up. He hid as best he could, as an army of walking dead that was ten times scarier than any army from the show The Walking Dead marched by, seemingly oblivious to his presence. One of them stared straight into Sam's eyes/the camera, and very possibly my soul. It was petrifying. He was riding a zombie horse.
So, there you have it. For two years in a row, Game of Thrones ended with a haunting CGI image that will captivate and torture viewers just enough to make the wait for another season incredibly painful. It's been a pleasure.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: HBO]