In ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale, a Breakdown in Storytelling

15 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Bloodshed galore in shocking season finale.

You wouldn’t have thought that a show based on a beloved series of books, with hundreds of pages of existing story to work from — a “mythology” that is an actual mythology — would become the “Lost” of its television generation.A queen is cruelly debased and a hero falls dead in the snow on “Mother’s Mercy” (Episode 50), the Season 5 finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Queen Mother Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) bitterly laments her fate after being imprisoned by the Sparrows, religious zealots holding sway at King’s Landing.

How about that part where a character you were absolutely sure was crucial to the ultimate resolution of the show—the small matter of a battle between “fire” and “ice”—just got mercilessly snuffed out before your eyes and then the credits rolled? Cersei confesses to acts of adultery but vehemently denies having borne children through an incestuous relationship with her twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). “Your trial will separate the truths from the falsehoods,” the High Sparrow says before granting Cersei’s request for “just one drop of Mother’s mercy.” She’s allowed to rejoin her son Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), the boy king “reigning” over the Seven Kingdoms.

First by the doomed Ygritte (Rose Leslie), then by the spurned Melisandre (Carice von Houten) to a man who stupidly thought they were speaking of love (or sex) when instead they were offering advice on policy. There were plenty of signs: Sam assuring Olly that Jon Snow always comes back, Olly’s glares, the fact that heroic characters on Game of Thrones always meet untimely ends. Take a deep breath and be calm, though, because there are many compelling reasons why Jon Snow can’t stay dead, no matter what the actor who plays him might tell you. Martin, has been assailed most loudly this season by two groups: those who accuse it of a predilection for depicting violence against women, and those who think that it’s departing too drastically from the letter and spirit of Mr.

She’s stripped naked and paraded through a jeering crowd of commoners during a long “walk of atonement.” Unbeknownst to Cersei, her beloved daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) has just died of poisoning while sailing from Dorne to King’s Landing with her fiance Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian) and father Jaime. The assassin was Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who put poison on her lips before kissing Myrcella goodbye in an act of vengeance against hated House Lannister.

But Jon’s apparent death (that was a very long shot of blood on snow, and with Melisandre now in Castle Black, you never know) capped a season in which even rape/infanticide controversy couldn’t disguise one hard truth: Some of these people have just got to go. Harington had often complained that he wasn’t allowed to cut his hair while he was on the show, so the new look seemed a sure sign that he would not be returning for season six.

Martin offered some cryptic consolation: “If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s that death is not necessarily permanent.” Could Jon Snow have survived his stabbing? In northern Westeros, wannabe king Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) stubbornly continues to march on House Bolton at Winterfell, even though his wife Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) has just committed suicide.

For a few very simple reasons: Any scene without Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams or a dragon is never quite as good as any scene with them (though Jonathan Pryce narrowed the gap considerably.) Writers D.B. After two or three seasons of coherent and satisfying action, the show is spinning in place, stalling for time as it crawls toward an ending that will be more disappointing the longer it’s delayed.

With half his army deserted and all the horses gone, Stannis still believes he will achieve victory because he sacrificed his only daughter, gentle Shireen (Kerry Ingram), in a barbaric ritual honoring the Lord of Light. Last year, Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) posted a photo with Pedro Psacal that hinted at Prince Oberyn’s fate two months before the head-crushing episode actually aired.

The Hound, Ser Barristan Selmy, and even Stannis Baratheon) or the death is played up to great emotional effect (see Ned Stark, The Red Wedding victims, Joffrey Baratheon, and the Red Viper). So is it any wonder that this year’s season finale left many of its main characters dead, probably dead, possibly dead, wishing for death or about to rain holy hell on her enemies? If the R+L=J theory—that Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna—is correct, he’s got dragon blood coursing through his veins.

Melisandre also utters a prophecy in the books that may apply here: “Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again.” It’s unclear whether she’s talking about Jon, but a Stark would make sense. In the novels, Daenerys Targaryen’s trippy visit to the House of the Undying in Qarth presents her with a handful of prophecies, the most tantalizing of which is that “the Dragon has three heads.” Is one of those heads Jon Targaryen-Stark?

Dead, if the world has any meaning: Stannis Bratheon (Stephen Dillane), who killed his brother, his daughter and thousands of Westeros citizens to win the Iron Throne. But the pattern has been similar, and the escalating series of shocks in the season finale was a prime example of substituting sensation for imagination, busyness for drama.

Not content to kill off a mid-major character, the episode moved on to whipping girls, putting a major female character through an excruciatingly long, nude walk of shame and, in its closing seconds, assassinating a fan favorite who was one of the few wholly sympathetic figures in the show. Though the episode was written and shot months ago, several of its scenes almost seemed to be taunting those who have criticized the show’s treatment of its fictional women this season. As for Sansa’s younger sister Arya (Maisie Williams), she fails to obey Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), her mentor with the Faceless Men assassins’ guild. Last seen jumping off the wall of Winterfell, into what we can only hope is a large and cushy snowdrift because that is no way for either of them to die. Her humiliation will surely be a motivating factor in future events, and while on the surface she was being chastened for political and religious reasons, viewers understood that she was really being punished for her long history of heartlessness, stretching back to her complicity in the execution of Ned Stark in Season 1.

If Jon does have Targaryen blood, he might be able to survive or even be resurrected by fire, much like Daenerys was unharmed by fire during the birth of her dragons in season one. There has also been a dramatic logic, of sorts, to the sexual brutalization of the lost princess Sansa Stark by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton, which began midway through the season and has been the focus of the most heated criticism. Neither dead nor shamed but suddenly surrounded by Dothraki warriors: Whether Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is now imperiled or empowered, we must wait almost a year to discover. An objection may be justified, but the more logical protest would be against the show’s thin, utilitarian characterizations and the increasingly tone-deaf nature of its formerly tolerable mix of full-metal medieval-fantasy violence and soap-opera sentimentality. More irritating than any problematic plot point, though, is the obviousness of the balancing act the show tries to pull off — there may not be a moral compass, but there’s a definite moral calculus.

Remember also that just prior to Jon’s death, we saw Melisandre, the Red Woman, sneaking back into camp at Castle Black after having failed Stannis Baratheon in nearly every way possible. Bring back Bran and find Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer), tell us Sansa is alive, Arya isn’t blind and Brienne has fulfilled at least one of her oaths. So, a theory: Melisandre resurrects Jon, the only one with the ability to rally the wildlings, reclaim Winterfell from Roose Bolton, and prepare the North for the coming war against the white walkers. But Jon was branded a traitor for this heroic deed. “For the Watch,” second-in-command Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) exclaims as he stabs Jon in the stomach. “For the Watch,” other men echo, as Jon bleeds to death. If you’re not swayed by the narrative logic alone, though, consider this: prophecies hint that Azor Ahai might not be one person—not Stannis, not even Daenerys.

It might be the “three-headed dragon.” This story is not done with Jon Snow’s head just yet. (If you still don’t like this theory, remember that Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, is nearby, and Jon has previously demonstrated some version of his brother Bran’s “warg” powers—the ability to inhabit other creatures’ bodies and see through their eyes. The death of Stannis Baratheon, surprised by Ramsay on the field of battle and then, in a heavily paradoxical twist, executed by Brienne of Tarth as part of an unrelated vendetta, at least had a little poignancy. The usurping Boltons are still in Winterfell; Sansa is still on the run; Arya is still hiding in Braavos; the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen and the sly dwarf, Tyrion, are still marooned in Essos; the Lannisters still occupy the castle in King’s Landing.

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