TV Show Review

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy [HBO]

Kit Harington Mothers Mercy Game of Thrones

HBO’s Game of Thrones Mother’s Mercy TV Show ReviewGame of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 10: Mothers Mercy brought several main character’s season long arcs to a close, striking a typically “Game of Thrones-ian” balance of closure for season 5 and rabid anticipation heading into  season 6.

Stannis, Stannis, Stannis (Stephen Dillane). What is there left to say about the would be king of The Seven Kingdoms? We already knew that he was out of the running for the Westerosi father of the year award, but the unfortunate string of events he endured in this episode showed him there is always a lower emotional rung to sink to. There was a bit of dark comedic timing in the way the soldiers reported increasingly dire circumstances to Stannis that was reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch. Melisandre (Carice von Houten) abandoning Stannis’s camp faster than Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) blew out of Meereen on Drogon last week provided my final chuckle of the episode.

I’ve written this countless times and I have to bring it up again as the season brings closure to several major character arcs. Game of Thrones destroys characters unwilling to compromise their ideology. Stannis embodies this concept because he whole-heartedly believed that he was the Kingdom’s savior. Stannis’s faith allowed him to justify bulldozing his way through every obstacle in his path without moral compromise. The most extreme example being his willingness to murder Shireen in order to guarantee victory against the Boltons.

Bravo to HBO and Game of Thrones for once again for bringing cinematic visuals to television. Watching Stannis draw his sword as a sea of the Bolton’s men flanked his dwindled army looked like a scene out of Braveheart and was dig your fingernails into your armrest intense. Sadly, the moment was short lived as  we were soon reminded of the constraints of a television budget. The episode followed that fantastic shot by fast forwarding to the end of the battle after the decimation of Stannis’s army.

It is unlikely that Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) killed Stannis. The old Brienne and her rigid belief system would have slaughtered Stannis in Renly’s name without hesitation. Over this last season, Brienne has shown that she is willing to make moral compromises in order to attain her goals. By keeping Stannis alive (for now), Brienne has a useful asset that will aid her in her vow to protect the Stark girls. Another reason that Stannis is unlikely to be dead is that Game of Thrones is not shy about displays of brutality. If a major character like Stannis were to meet their demise, the camera would not cut away. Game of Thrones flaunts its gaudy murder’s in the audience’s faces with the revelry of a sex-starved peacock during mating season.

It was fortuitous for Sansa (Sophie Turner) that her breakout coincided with the siege of Winterfell. I understand that Game of Thrones is a show with many moving parts, and it takes a great deal of narrative Tetris to get all the separate pieces to line up. Yet, these frequent coincidences always make the show’s vast world seem small. While I’m nit-picking – how silly is it to have Brienne atop a hill day and night, keeping watch for Sansa’s candle? I understand that the Westerosi version of Skype is tethering parchments to raven’s legs, but standing outside staring at a window for days (Weeks?) seems Reek (Alfie Allen)-level crazy.

While Arya (Maisie Williams) was schlepping clams and manicuring corpse’s nails by day, was she taking faceless man correspondence courses by night? If Arya graduated to the next level of her assassin training, the audience wasn’t invited to the ceremony. It was a fantastic moment to see Arya shock Meryn (Ian Beattie) with a face change before uncoiling into a frenzied attack. The audience tunes into Game of Thrones for its unexpected twists and turns, and it is often thrilling when a surprise can leave viewers stunned. In this instance, Arya’s new-found ability to face change feels like the show cheated. We spent weeks watching Arya’s repetitive story-line without any progress. Following Arya as she advanced her training behind Jaqen’s (Tom Wlaschiha) back would have made for more compelling storytelling than the floor sweeping, clam selling, and truth or lie slap fights we sat through for 10 episodes. In the end, we did see a victimized character take control of her destiny and make steps toward becoming a power player in the game of thrones.

As the meaningful players in Dorne gathered to say their goodbyes on the docks, it appeared that the Lannisters and Martells upgraded from blood feud to frenemy status. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) admitting to Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) that he is her father is a huge moment for his character. Jamie has evolved from a callous, snide remarking man that honoured nothing but his love for his sister. Jaime put his life on the line to rescue Myrcella, embraced fatherhood and came to terms with being Jaime first and a Lannister second. It isn’t a coincidence that Jaime is riding an emotional high as he shares the truth with his daughter while Cersei (Lena Headey) was withering away in a cell. Cersei’s shaming and persecution is penance for keeping secrets and clinging to her Lannister identity.

Game of Thrones slowly kneads optimism out of its viewers the way a baker’s rolling pin flattens lumpy dough. As soon as Myrcella told Jaime she was glad that he was her father, the emotionally calloused amongst the audience knew something bad was on the horizon. However, no one could have anticipated the show would take such a drastic turn in the very same scene. Ellaria’s (Indira Varma) poison took effect only a few scant moments after Myrcella professed her acceptance of her father. It felt as though Game of Thrones ripped the smile from my face, filed my teeth down to razors in the style of the cannibalistic Thenns, and used my own jagged white smile to cut out my sentimental heart.

Back in Meereen, the episode continued addressing the season’s major theme of legacy versus merit. With Daenerys missing, the stewardship of the city fell upon Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). Amidst the confusion, Tyrion, Jorah (Ian Glen) and Daario (Michiel Huisman) squabbled over each other’s right to hold their position in service of Daenerys. Each of the three men had already proved himself an asset and recently showed a willingness to sacrifice their lives for Daenerys. However, the men refused to trust each other, citing examples from Tyrion, Darrio and Jorah’s past: Tryion is a Lannister, Daario is a sell-sword and Jorah is a known traitor. In the world of Game of Thrones, what have you done for me lately doesn’t apply to characters that cannot escape the shadow cast by their dark legacies.

For the duration of the season, the characters on the show have wrestled with their notions of reputation and legacy. Tyrion for example, is a Lannister in name only. Tyrion protected Sansa from Joffrey, is on his sister’s hit list and wants nothing more than to bring down House Lannister. And yet, those in Meereen see Tyrion first and foremost as a Lannister. The intensity of Myrcella’s love for Trystane (Toby Sebastion) flummoxed Jaime given how long their houses have remained at odds. Arya cannot become no one because she is beholden to avenging the tragedy of her old life as a Stark. Season five offered many examples of characters beholden to or trying to defy legacies, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) being the greatest example.

This season, Jon Snow put his pragmatism on display in front of world that clings to rigid ideals. When Jon agreed to let the wildlings travel into the south, he brokered a truce that encompassed several thousand years of bloodshed. As the Wight army moved south, it was only a matter of time before they devoured the Wildlings north of the wall, and in the process, increased the size of their own forces. Allowing Wildlings to remain north of the wall would only hasten the destruction of Westeros. Jon had the right idea, but he did not do the right thing.

Much like Daenerys in Meereen, Jon attempted to make major changes which the people under his stewardship couldn’t handle. Jon had integrity and common sense, but lacked tact. Jon played chess in a world that wipes there ass with checkerboards. In the end, punishment rained down on Jon for being a forward thinker. Common sense could not prevail when there was 8000 years of bad blood to account for. The men of The Night’s Watch adhere to an ideal that will be their demise; their world will be destroyed because they won’t make peace with their enemies.

Is Jon Snow dead? There are many reasons to believe that Jon’s luxurious locks will continue blowing in the north’s frigid breeze next season. The show loves punishing its viewers, so a Jon Snow death would be definitive and horrific (more so than what we saw). Jon slowly bled out in a manner similar to Grey Worm after the Sons of the Harpy ambush. Had Jon truly met his bitter end, the show wouldn’t offer up a sliver of ambiguity. Also, the season spent time playing up the theory Jon is of Targaryan lineage, meaning his body may be flowing with kings blood. Even if it is not, there is a certain red robed, blood fetishist with questionable witching powers lurking in Castle Black. Could Melisandre’s blood magic restore Jon even if he bleeds out?

Mother’s Mercy brings Game of Thrones fifth season to a gratifying close. As characters and plots from Kings Landing all the way  to Meereen finally began to feel connected, season five invigorated the series with a new sense of purpose. The impending White Walker invasion combined with Daenery’s vow to destroy the Westerosian monarchy’s reign, give the audience an understanding of the stories endgame. Season five is a pivotal season, not just for taking great strides in distancing itself from the book narratively, it also tightened the focus of the series thematically. Fans can now shift their hateful gazes away from individuals like Cersei and Ramsay, towards the destruction of the pernicious ruling class (and The Night’s King’s zombie army!).

NOTES:

Stannis never struck me as the passive aggressive type, but he was throwing Melisandre some major “tude”, literally giving her the cold shoulder.

The odds of the fall off of the wall at Winterfell killing Sansa are .000001%. The show would not spend a whole season torturing Sansa only to have her die unceremoniously off camera.

At first it looked like Drogon was hurt, but then I saw that nest of half-eaten man bones he was laying in and realized that he was in a post-thanksgiving dinner style sleep-haze (Itis).

Now that Game of Thrones is finished for the year, what series will be home to a Sunday a night collection of “C-bombs” and flaccid penises? True Detective perhaps?

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to www.zone-six.net

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