Could the Game Of Thrones Season 2 finale live up to the spectacle of “Blackwater,” or would it sink under the weight of its own fantastical notions?
- The finale did a good job at bringing together disparate elements, the major players and storylines were well serviced and woven together pretty well. After the adrenaline rush of ‘Blackwater’, this episode could easily have been a lackluster affair, but it moved the players into interesting places and cracked open a couple of mythology eggs.
- The special effects were, by and large, fantastic, helping to sell the major set-pieces. Particularly the ‘Dany Dreamatorium’ and White Walker scenes.
- Danys journey to the House of the Undying gets particular mention because I felt her character needed a big victory, not only for the practical reason of acquiring a ship, but to validate her ultimate strength.
- One of the important aspects of a fantasy serial, particularly one with ice-cold zombies and fire-breathing dragons, is that you believe the motivations of the characters and their convictions. I’m happy to say that the season’s most boundary-stretching episode didn’t have me chocking with incredulity — because it could have.
- The re-emergence of the White Walkers. An important piece of Thrones mythology that opened the series, it’s great to see some real follow up almost two chapters later. I feel the episode needed that ‘stamp’ at the end, something big and ominous to provide a hook for season 3 — and what better way to do this than the foreboding encroachment of those Walkers?
- While much improved in this episode, the show still loses something by not being able to better service all of its characters. It’s a bit of a catch-22, however, as the ensemble/converging storylines are one of my favorite elements.
- The warlock was defeated pretty easily, which obviously emphasises Dany’s power, but I would have liked him to have been a real threat after all the hullabaloo.
- As great as the final scene with the White Walkers was, I couldn’t believe that Samwell would sooner curl up behind a rock than get his sprint on. Those Walkers weren’t exactly moving at the speed of light. Perhaps the snow would have gotten the better of him, but his rock antics seemed contrived to give us a good POV look at the Walker elder. Not that I’m complaining about that awesomeness, but perhaps Sam could have twisted his ankle instead?
There was so much to enjoy about this episode, aside from a few contrivances, I can’t recall a single dud scene and found myself especially enjoying the moment between Theon and Maester Luwin where the latter offers him a way out beyond the wall; a chance to head back down the path of fate and choice. Theon became strangely sympathetic in these moments, this the man who for all intents and purposes had Rickon and Bran lynched and burned (not necessarily in that order). But it was a nice moment where his pain and conflict flickered into light. Followed up by the rather inspirational rallying of his 20 men, before they knocked him out, for some as yet unknown reason.
There were other great scenes too, like Varys telling the demoted hand of the King Tyrion that they are still friends, and just as significantly, that there will be a few who will remember his heroism during the Battle of Blackwater. Tyrion’s tender moment with Shae was also important, as I’ve always felt that relationship sort of snuck up on me – this episode gave it real grounding and took them to another level.
Maester Luwin’s death was perhaps the most touching moment of the episode, while it was great to see the strength and compassion of Brienne. She’s quite an ordinary character, simple even, but she has incredible honor in complex times. Jaime’s reaction to her sword-play, cruelty and integrity was also notable — he didn’t respect her up until those moments. I’m intrigued to see what happens to them both next season.
The other standout moments, for me, were Arya parting ways with Jaqen, who gives her a mysterious coin (his version of the Bat symbol) inscribed with “valar morghulis”, before changing his face; and Dany finally coming of age. I say ‘finally’, in truth, her journey this season has been one of the most simple (Find ship, get dragons stolen, “bring me ma dragons!”, buuuuuurn Warlock buuuuuurn!, grab gold for ship), and frustrating. But in the end it worked out. I enjoyed the dreamscape and Drogo’s brief return. He didn’t seem to know whether he was coming or going, which made it feel all the more surreal. Her conviction to leave in order to save her dragons further served to highlight that Drogo was always a facilitator for her journey, just as Viserys was.
That Dany was ultimately saved by her baby dragons gave her journey a nice symmetry and underscored the threat they pose to anyone sitting on that Iron Throne. Young Dany has had to do a lot of boasting this season — much of it I’m sure she truly believed after what happened at the end of the first season, but some of it was what Varys would call; ‘a shadow on the wall’ — however, her drive and conviction has reaped its rewards. Not only has she grown, not only have her dragons levelled-up, but she now has the means to buy “a small ship” — a small dot on the map, but a large step towards the Iron Throne.
And of course, the White Walkers are marching inwards, a metaphor themselves for the reemergence of magic in this political melting pot. The fact that most of the players don’t take the likes of Dany and her dragons seriously, and aren’t even aware of the White Walkers/Others is what makes Season 3 a really intriguing prospect.
“What is dead may never die,” indeed.
9/10 Seriable Stars