|Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houton) HBO
Much like cable dramas past and present, Game of Thrones presents its penultimate episode of each season as the main climax and its finale as a reprieve from the all the dramatic fireworks. After the horrific events of last week’s “The Rains of Castamere”, the events featured in “Mhysa” felt like small potatoes in comparison. Fans who were expecting a big, dramatic finale were probably disappointed by the lack of major events. A lesser show would have tried to top the madness of last week’s ending with dramatic confrontations and a teasing cliffhanger, but Game of Thrones is not a typical story. There’s a reason the show spends much of its time with characters talking to each other for long periods of time. Through these dialogues, there is complex character development that is rare of big fantasy dramas of this nature. “Mhysa” also continues the trend of previewing what’s to come for the show. It seems that the White Walkers will become a bigger threat than the deadly game of thrones the characters have been playing since the first season. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. There were still some intriguing developments, especially with the dysfunctional Lannisters and the Stannis/Melisandre/Davos relationship.
At the Twins
The aftermath of the Red Wedding massacre was perhaps the only way to open up the finale. The show wisely forsakes dialogue for powerful imagery of the carnage, culminating with direwolf Grey Wind’s head affixed to Robb’s beheaded corpse. It is pure brutality, and Arya sees it all in full view. When she later hears a few men discussing the act on the side of the road, she sneaks up behind the boastful man and violently stabs him to death. When the Hound asks her if that was the first man she killed, Maisie Williams gives an interesting line delivery when she says, “The first man.” It’s unclear whether or not she means this is the first MAN, as in the first adult male or if she means it’s the FIRST of many men she will eventually kill. I tend to think she means the latter, which is a good preview of things to come. She is a girl embittered by the atrocities she’s experienced and she’s ready to avenge the murder of her family. When she tells the Hound in “The Rains of Castamere” that one day she’ll put a sword through his eye and out the back of his skull, she really means it. She’s not just a kid boasting to give the appearance of confidence, she is absolutely ready to fight her many enemies, and I can’t wait to see her do it.
In the North
We get another convergence of storylines as Bran and company meet Sam and Gilly in a Nightfort castle. Sam recognizes Bran from Jon Snow’s stories about his direwolf and of Hodor, and the group forms an allegiance. Bran repeats over and over that he has to go north of the Wall, which Sam tells him it’s a very unwise decision, as anyone would. I understand he wants to find “the three-eyed crow from his dreams!!!” but the way he’s coming across he sounds like one of those petulant kids that gets hung up on one thing and won’t take no for an answer. Granted, Bran will likely be of great use in the coming fight against the White Walkers, considering his warg powers, but it’s hard to root for this kid. He may be one of the only Starks left but at the same time I wouldn’t mind if he took the season off next year. As Sam leads Bran and company through the secret passageway into the Wall near the end of the episode, I honestly can’t say that I care about his fate. I’m happy he’s finally in a new location after a full season of just walking and resting, walking and resting. Hopefully he’ll get more interesting with an increased focus on the battle against the White Walkers.
Later, Sam meets with Aemon of the Night’s Watch to discuss the looming threat of the White Walkers. Aemon determines that they have officially become a bigger threat than ever before and sends out ravens to every major region. After three seasons, these characters who have been so caught up in attaining the Iron Throne are about to face a much more dangerous opponent that none of them are prepared for. This is a great scene in that it really previews the events to come as the series goes forward.
Somewhere close by, Jon Snow stops to get a drink of water before a scorned Ygrette confronts him. She gets to say one last “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” before shooting him with three arrows. My first reaction: “They did not just kill another Stark, did they?” By the episode’s end we still don’t know the fate of Jon Snow after he collapses off his horse but it would be poor storytelling for him to just be dead when season 4 picks up. Either way, I think Ygrette was definitely in the right to fire back after he betrayed her, even if tears were streaming down her face while she attacked him. Rose Leslie was a charismatic presence on the show for the past few seasons and I would hate to see her exit now that she’s separated from Jon Snow.
On the Iron Islands
I’m not going to bother delving into Theon’s poor excuse for storyline, which proved in this episode how much of a waste he was this season. Instead, I’ll focus on what may be a compelling story arc from his sister Yara. Lord Balon Greyjoy and Yara get a letter from Ramsay Snow, Theon’s torturer, telling the Greyjoys to withdraw their troops in the North in order to give Ramsay free access. In addition to the letter is Theon’s dismembered dick in a box (You can’t deny the writers weren’t thinking about the famed SNL digital short when they wrote this). Yara then proceeds to travel by ship to capture her brother from Ramsay’s clutches. I assume this will be covered next season, which may breathe new life into Theon’s storyline, but it could also very well be wasted screentime we could spend elsewhere.
In King’s Landing
Much of the good parts of this episode come from the interactions at King’s Landing, especially with the Lannisters. Tyrion and Sansa are adjusting to married life by bonding over avenging their enemies. Sansa’s insistence that “sheep-shift” meant sheep dung was a good bit of humor to show how sheltered she’s been her whole life. It’s also a bit of dramatic irony, since her light-hearted spirit means that she hasn’t yet heard about the murders of her mother and brother. Later in the episode, the show proves how powerful it can be just through silence, as Sansa looks from the window to Tyrion with such a look of sorrow that it’s immediately apparent that she was told the bad news.
The small council meeting with the Lannister clan is one of the best scenes of the episode, showing what the power dynamic has become. Tyrion makes another offhand comment threatening Joffrey’s power, who predictably throws a hissy fit. When Joffrey proclaims that he is “THE KING!”, Tywin boldly claims that anyone who has to say he’s the king is no king. He then dismisses Joffrey, humiliating him by telling him to go to bed in front of the entire council. As the council clears out, Tywin and Tyrion have a conversation about power and loyalty. Tywin asserts that power does not come from wearing a crown, as seen by his own domination of Westeros through his army. Charles Dance is one of my favorite actors on the show because of the way his voice and his presence command every scene without fault. When he admits to Tyrion that he wanted to send him down the river after he was born but didn’t because Tyrion was still a Lannister, there is a brief moment of humanity in his voice. I wouldn’t exactly call the moment a heart-to-heart, especially since it involves a father telling his son that he wanted nothing to do with him from the day he was born, but it’s probably as good as Tyrion’s going to get from his father. The relationship between Tywin and Tyrion is fascinating to watch and seems like it’s leading to Tyrion taking some sort of revenge on his cold-hearted father. I can’t wait to see how this story progresses next season.
Elsewhere, Varys tries to get Shae to leave King’s Landing by offering her vast riches. Varys claims that her departure will result in less distraction on Tyrion’s part, allowing him to focus on making the city a better place. In her prideful way, she refuses the offer and continues to stick around. Shae has been a bit of a useless character throughout the season, rarely making any impact on anyone’s lives so I wouldn’t miss her if she chose to leave, but in a way I’m glad she’s still there, if only to provide Tyrion with some modicum of happiness.
Another great Lannister scene involves Tyrion and Cersei simply talking about children. Cersei admits to Tyrion that she truly loved Joffrey once, and that even though he’s become a monster, he’s still her monster. She urges that Tyrion give Sansa a child in order to make the poor girl feel fulfilled about something in her already terrible life. Cersei gets a bad rap by fans but I like that they’ve humanized her over the course of this season, showing that her fierceness is only borne out of protection for her family. I also couldn’t help but feel a sense of happiness during Cersei’s reunion with Jaime. It’s the mark of a good drama that the incestuous love between Jaime and Cersei isn’t made to look all that creepy. They’ve both been so unhappy for so long that it’s good for them to find each other at last.
With his newfound skills in reading, Davos reads a note from the Night’s Watch about the White Walkers. Before he can tell Stannis, the elder Baratheon tells him that Robb Stark is dead, which he and Melisandre attribute to the burning of the leeches. Stannis is so caught up in the delusions of Melisandre that he is blind to any logical propositions set before him, especially by Davos. Stannis and Melisandre tell Davos that they are going to kill Gendry, but Davos decide to play the long con. He withholds the information about the White Walkers until after he has allowed Gendry to escape Dragonstone, freeing himself from being executed as well. Davos is a total badass in this episode, and I would love to see more of him in the coming season. Melisandre reads the note from the Night Watch, proceeds to stare into the fire and proclaims that the entire war for the Iron Throne is now useless. As I suspected, Melisandre seems to be making up her visions from the Lord of Light as she goes along, but it ends up saving Davos in the end. Stannis appoints Davos to be his commander in the fight against the White Walkers, upon Melisandre’s orders. I thought this would be a significant (though not exactly exciting) way to end the third season, especially since it sets up what should be the new conflict for season 4. But there’s one more scene from someone we haven’t heard from yet . . .
Across the Narrow Sea
. . . and that person is the other looming threat that our characters haven’t taken seriously. Daenerys Targaryen has spent the entirety of season 3 building her army as well as her loyal followers. The sequence at the end of “And Now His Watch Is Ended” is one of the most victorious moments I’ve ever seen on television as she frees the Unsullied from their slave-masters. The Unsullied became her army, but she didn’t have a group of loyal followers, aside from Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan and Daario. After sacking the city of Yunkai last episode, Daenerys prepares for the slaves of the city to come and greet her. After Missandei tells them that they owe their freedom to her, Daenerys interrupts and explains that only they can take their freedom back. This seems to inspire the freed slaves, as they begin to chant “Mhysa” over and over, which translates to “Mother”. She walks into the crowd as they look upon her as if she is a messiah figure and raise her up in joy. The scene, and subsequently the season, ends with a beautiful aerial shot of the enormous crowd as Daenerys’ dragons soar through the sky. As I say after each episode, Daenerys is not someone to be trifled with. I’m not sure where she is geographically compared to Westeros but she should be close to traveling over the Narrow Sea to take back the Iron Throne.
I’m starting to see some preliminary details about the endgame here. Granted, we’re not even halfway through the saga yet, but it seems like Daenerys dragons will help in defeating the White Walkers, which should lead to her gaining the trust of the people. That seems like a natural ending to a fantasy saga like this, but I know George R. R. Martin never goes the predictable route. After all, this is the same story that killed its main character before the end of the first book and just killed off two of its biggest characters. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing where the show goes from here and how the storylines will start to really intersect. Season 3 of Game of Thrones was easily its best yet and I’m guessing it’s because they only covered half of the third book. This allowed the show to take its time and develop its characters in organic ways. Some of the best parts of the season were developed over several episodes, such as Jaime and Brienne’s oddball relationship, Robb’s tragic fall from grace and Daenerys’ rise to power. Since season 4 will be adapting the second half of book 3, we should be getting to the biggest developments in the saga thus far. Many have complained that this season finale feels incomplete in comparison to the previous two, but you have to consider that this is only the first half of these story arcs. Taken as a whole, I’m sure the entirety of season 3 and 4 will be 20 episodes of epic television that has a compelling beginning, middle and end. Spring 2014 cannot come soon enough.
MVP: Lena Headey
SEASON GRADE: A-
SEASON MVP: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
AWARDS POTENTIAL for GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 3
TAPE A: “Walk of Punishment” & “And Now His Watch Is Ended”
TAPE B: “Kissed by Fire” & “Second Sons”
TAPE C: “The Rains of Castamere” & “Mhysa”
|Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Kissed by Fire”)
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage (“Second Sons”)
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Emilia Clarke (“And Now His Watch is Ended”)
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Michelle Fairley (“The Rains of Castamere”)
Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Diana Rigg (“And Now His Watch is Ended”)
Directing for a Drama Series: Alex Graves (“And Now His Watch is Ended”)
Directing for a Drama Series: David Nutter (“The Rains of Castamere”)
Writing for a Drama Series: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (“The Rains of Castamere”)