Game of Thrones 5.10: Mother’s Mercy

Subtitle: basically everyone is lost

In Winterfell: Good news! we didn’t have to wait long for Stannis’s comeuppance. Even better news: it starts with half his army deserting because he burned his daughter. There is hope for humanity in Westeros! Sure they mostly leave for self-preservation, but isn’t that true of political statements generally?

Speaking of political statements it’s revealed Selyse killed herself which is I guess the most political thing women are allowed to do here. And speaking of self-preservation, Melisandre also bolts — so much for faith, trust was lost long ago, and there definitely isn’t anyone who believes in fairies in this place.

Knowing he’s lost, Stannis presses on. The part of his army that isn’t dead, fled, or turned, rally and I find it super depressing. Luckily we don’t witness their last stand, just the aftermath: Ramsay spearing people as they crawl away and Stannis surveying the remains of his kingship propped up against a Northern tree because he can no longer walk. I’d feel bad for him if he wasn’t the actual worst.

In one of those twists of fate that only happen in high fantasy soap opera, Brienne is the one who finds Stannis and she is able to, finally, successfully cross off a to-do and make good on a promise. As Kingsguard to Stannis’s slain brother Renly, Brienne sentences Stannis to death and draws back to slice off his head. In case you are worried, he is definitely dead, it would just be “too gratuitous” to show the old white guy get gutted by a lady (mmm’kay).

Meanwhile, Sansa finally lights the candle in the tower to signal Brienne to storm the castle. Meanwhile meaning at the exact same time, which is TRAGIC because Brienne abandons the post she has held for nearly all of this season JUST as the candle starts to glow. Sansa waits and watches for a while but eventually concludes that the battle outside the walls is probably occupying her secret rescue team…but also her captors so she decides to save herself.

Myranda pops up like a cockroach with a crossbow (it’s actually a standard bow but I’m a fan of alliteration) and Reek (not Theon) in tow. Myranda helpfully explains to us all how Sansa is still the most precious and special pawn in Westeros — with some spectacularly misogynistic verbal assault added in for giggles — but Sansa is like ‘Girl I have stared down better sadists than you and I’m officially Over It All’ and before Myranda can mount her rebuttal Theon (not Reek) pushes her off the battlement to her doom.

And then, because they know they are the characters most likely to be tortured again and again and again, they jump off the other side. While both are prepared to die because life is awful all the time, I don’t think either is trying to commit suicide. They are attempting to escape and I’m secure in the belief they will survive the fall because a) Bran did in the first episode of the series, Starks are resilient and b) they are the characters most likely to be tortured again and again and again, so they can’t die. Also c) it’s confirmed by the showrunners.

In Mereen: Good news! Team Dany got out of the fighting pit alive. Now they have to decide what to do without their Queen. The discussion goes as well as you might imagine with Daario and Jorah bickering, Tyrion whining, Grey Worm angsting, and Missandei silently fuming and/or crying that she is stuck with the men.

Daario shocks everyone (or at least me) by coming up with a rational plan: he and Jorah will track the runaway dragon queen while the others take over ruling the city. Tyrion has the knowledge and experience, Grey Worm has the army, and Missandei will be a great prop queen until they get their real one back. He actually calls her out as Dany’s best friend and advisor and it is pretty wonderful and I hope she gets to stay as ruler of the southlands when Dany finally returns to Westeros.

Varys reappears just in time to help Tyrion with his new charge and I’m pretty pleased with everything going on in this storyline. Unlike Jon Arryn or Ned Stark, Tyrion was a successful Hand of the King, and unlike Tywin, he was also a compassionate one who protected innocents instead of murdering them. And as bored as I am with Jorah’s and Daario’s moon eye posturing, I enjoy their banter and look forward to their road trip. I think I also ship it a little. Sorry not sorry.

Daenerys, meanwhile, has landed in what looks like Scotland but is apparently the Dothraki Sea. Drogon is disinterested in returning to Mereen, or hunting any food for his mom, so she takes off down the hill to find something herself. And instead finds a Khalasar. She drops her ring into the grass so Daario and Jorah can stumble upon it and divine its secrets in order to be led to her prison next season.

Jaime, Myrcella, Trystane, and Bronn say their goodbyes in Dorne. Bronn and Tyene are weird and gross one more time. Jaime and Doran are bizarrely, and you get the feeling tragically, reasonable one more time. And Myrcella is kissed full on the lips by the woman who spent the entire season trying to kill her because that’s how things go in this strange little city state. On the boat back to King’s Landing, Jaime and Myrcella share a terribly sweet scene about sweetly terrible secrets wherein Myrcella accepts him as her father with kindness and love and a tight embrace. And then she starts to bleed from her nose and dies in his arms exactly the way Joffrey died in Cersei’s and he and I cry forever.

In King’s Landing, Cersei agrees to own up to some crimes in order to get out of jail and await trial in the Keep. She confesses to having sex with her cousin Lancel, but not her brother Jaime, or her part in the late King Robert’s death. The High Starling forgives that one sin, but she still has to go through the Walk of Shame to show real repentance. Her hair is cut short and she must walk naked through the streets while the Septa rings a bell and says “Shame” over and over and over. The city turns out to see a hated Lannister brought down to their level and the crowd yells insults, throws food and feces, pushes and shoves and flings their own nakedness at her. Cersei endures it all. She is a lioness of Casterly Rock and she will not cringe for them!

Finally reaching the Keep, Cersei is rewarded with a new-old champion to win her freedom: the Mountain has been ‘revived’ by Dr. Frankensteine Qyburn. Fire returns to Cersei’s eyes.

At the Wall, Jon Snow loses his last friend, Sam, to ambition and love. Sam asks leave to take Gilly and baby Sam to the Citadel – the biggest library in the world! – and become a Maester. Jon’s good heart lets him go.

Unaware it’s a lost cause in every sense, Davos shows up to plead Stannis’s case but Melisandre appears with the silent news that Stannis, and Princess Shireen, are dead. She does not tell them she personally killed the princess and I’d look forward to Davos finding out and turning the wrath of the gods on her except, like Sansa, I’m way over death and torture.

That night Olly appears at Jon’s door with the news that his uncle Benjen Stark has reappeared. Jon rushes down the stairs and straight into the trap Thorne, Olly, and a good portion of the Watch have set for him: a cross marked ‘Traitor’ and a procession of stabbings. Olly the Angry, who has been projecting his desire to murder Jon Snow for the past eight episodes, deals the final blow and Jon falls to the ground, his blood spilling out onto the snow. His last word is “Olly” and I don’t recall ever hating a fictional character as much as I do that kid. WHERE IS GHOST.

If Jon is as really dead as the press junket want us to believe (I don’t), this whole story and especially this season make no sense. Jon’s part is too intricate, too connected, to be dropped. Who is his mother, and if it doesn’t matter, why is it a secret? Why does Melisandre show up at Castle Black if it’s only to watch Jon die (and she should seriously rethink her faith if she abandoned one king just to watch another die, too)? The Night King was as interested in Jon as Melisandre is, shouldn’t that mean something? Plus is anyone still on the side of the Night’s Watch when they’ve mutinied twice now against people who just want to do their actual job of protecting the kingdom and keeping peace in the North? I for one am super duper NOT “for the Watch”. And again, WHERE IS GHOST.

And I know that Game of Thrones ‘likes’ to kill off all your favorites but there comes a point when we have to ask Who is left? House Baratheon has been decimated. House Lannister is eating itself. House Stark is in hiding, scattered across the world. House Tyrell is imprisoned. House Greyjoy is MIA. House Martell is trapped in the weakest and most nonsensical plotline. And five seasons later, House Targaryen is exactly where she was episode one of season one. Where is any of this going and who am I supposed to care about? The answer I’m left with in the series is: no one.

Which brings us to Arya. As I suspected last week she uses the guise of a young girl to get into Ser Meryn’s bedroom where she finally exacts her revenge on the name at the top of her list. It is bloody and frightening. She doesn’t just kill him, she tackles him to the ground, stabs his eyes out, tells him who she is and why she’d doing it in detail and finally slits his throat with a blank stare of justice. When she returns the face to the vault Jaqen and the Waif appear to hold her accountable. She took a life she wasn’t assigned to take and thus a life must be given in return. So Jaqen swallows poison and falls lifeless to the floor. But, wait, now the Waif is Jaqen and Jaqen is a succession of faces ending with Arya’s…and then she goes blind.

Arya is punished for still being Arya. “No One” is the only one allowed to win.

And now the long march to season six begins.

Winning: No One.
Dead: Ser Meryn. Seleyse Baratheon. Stannis Baratheon. Myrcella Baratheon. Myranda Snow. Jon Snow.

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