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Game of Thrones



Episode 10 - Valar Morghulis

8 June 2012

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Robb breaks his vow and married Talisa. Brienne refuses to break hers and kills Stark men in order to keep Jamie safe. Stannis returns to rant at Melissandre but she soothes him with promises of future glory. Tyrion is relieved of his duties as Hand as Tywin takes the position. Joffrey is delighted to break his betrothal to Sansa and accept the proposal from Margaery Tyrell. Little Finger takes control of Harrenhal but promises to help Sansa escape. Shae is determined to stay by Tyrion’s side. Varys asks Ros to work for him. Jaqen offers to take Arya home with him but she insists on journeying north. He gives her a coin, changes his face and leaves. Theon gives a speech inspiring his men to die for him but they tie him up, kill Maester Luwin and burn Winterfell. Daenerys is taken prisoner at the House of the Undying but her dragons burn her way to freedom. Qhorin forces Jon to kill him while Sam is left alone as an army of zombies led by White Walkers approaches the Fist of the First Men.

The Good: Tyrion’s plight was pretty moving as he finds himself at the bottom of the heap once more. He is saddened to lose his position, realise that Cersei tried to kill him and now bear an ugly scar. Shae stands by him though insisting that she loves him. His facial expressions throughout his two scenes were tremendous as he realises that he may be poorer in most ways but with Shae’s love he is richer in one respect.

The scene in front of the Iron Throne as Joffrey dealt with the fallout of the Battle of the Blackwater was very enjoyable. I thought the added layer of theatre was terrific as the Lannister’s pretended that decisions were being made ad hoc and weren’t entirely pre-arranged. So Margaery (and her inappropriate outfit) becomes Joffrey’s betrothed and Little Finger is given Harrenhal. Poor Sansa temporarily thinks this will end her suffering only for Little Finger to both set her straight and offer a dubious hand of friendship. I also thought it was telling that Tywin sat on his horse above even Joffrey while his horse took a dump. It seemed like he wanted no one to believe the fiction of hierarchy which the ceremony was carefully crafting.

Brienne’s chance to show off her fighting skills in front of Jamie was a well written scene. You knew what was coming but I particularly liked the way the man found a way to uncover their lies by asking them both to come up with a fake name for Jamie at the same time. She then sliced them up, men loyal to the Stark’s, neatly demonstrating what Jamie said about the problem with conflicting oaths. They had of course brutally killed some girls which also reminded us that there are no good guys in these wars. Just people.

Robb’s decision to wed Talisa feels a bit rushed but if the story continues to explore the moral dilemmas of Westeros then I like it. Similarly I really enjoyed seeing Theon trapped between two terrible fates and refusing the honourable third option of fleeing to the Wall. The use of the North Men’s horn outside was a brilliant idea. It was a constant reminder of the reality of the siege while also framing the conversation neatly. Theon then gave a tremendous speech rallying his men to fight to their deaths (far better than Tyrion’s from last week). The only thing missing was any reason why the Iron Islanders would choose death over flight and thankfully they bopped him on the head to put an end to that idea.

The embezzlement of Daenerys’ into the House of the Undying was a lovely bit of filming as Ser Jorah lost sight of her for a second and she was gone. The two visions she then experiences were exceptional in both cinematography and thematic effect. A Song of Ice and Fire makes it clear which two supernatural entities are heading for a showdown one day and with all the talk of a long winter coming these two locations felt perfect. First we see the Iron Throne room covered in snow with its ceiling smashed or burnt away. Then she walks through the Wall again drenched in thick snow and finds Kahl Drogo in a tent with her unborn child. The idea that she was seeing the life she lost and the sacrifices she had made was a powerful image.

I liked the choice to show us Ygritte tapping Jon on the head with a sword. It was a very plausible bit of playground behaviour to demonstrate her growing feelings for him. I also smiled at Sam’s babbling about how amazing Gilly is. The third blast for White Walkers and the sight of dark silhouettes in the snow was terrific. Sam’s terror at their approach was spot on and the zombies looked as good as you would expect, the dead horse was a nice touch.

The Bad: Of course the Walkers were always going to be more terrifying the longer we didn’t see them. The sight of one was a disappointment. The special effects were fine but what we were left with looked like a zombie Thor with strangely neutral blue eyes. The fact that it let Sam be was also a poor choice. I know the show began with a man being spared but this felt too much like “Blackwater” where characters we care about are given a free pass from consequence.

I don’t know what Stannis saw in those flames but considering Melissandre just told him that he will have to betray everything he holds dear to get it I’m not sure it’s worth it. I assume Davos is dead which means Stannis has lost his remaining connection to normal human emotions. It’s going to be difficult to care about a story which is so driven by the supernatural.

The Unknown: The moment when Jon killed Qhorin felt quite emotive though I’m not sure the story really told us whether Jon did it out of anger, necessity or a real understanding that this was the moment he became a spy. I wasn’t pleased to see his bonds cut as if he had earned the trust of the Wildlings by simply defending himself. I hope next season we see Mance Rayder and his men suitably suspicious of a boy raised by Ned Stark.

I was once more confused by the logic of what went on at Winterfell. The Iron Islanders were surrounded but presumably knew of the offer to escape unharmed if they handed over Theon. Instead of making this transaction peacefully though they set fire to Winterfell. Are we supposed to assume that the five hundred men couldn’t stop them in the ensuing confusion? Surely by burning the city they would only anger men who had promised not to harm them? I assume therefore they’ve taken Theon with them in an escape reminiscent of Stannis’ flight from King’s Landing. Also why did the boys need to flee if friendly troops were surrounding their home? These thoughts distracted me from the death of Maester Luwin who died the kind of poignantly pointless death that we could have used last episode.

I have complined all season that Jaqen felt like a plot device designed to keep Arya out of danger and he rather confirmed that suspicion by changing his face. It was a very cool moment on its own but I would almost be more intrigued if Arya agreed to leave with him and return one day to kill Joffrey when he least suspected it.

Of course the same is true for Daenerys’ entire story this season. Like the Warlocks, Xaro turned out to be a fraud. I appreciated the logic of the Warlock, that the dragons brought him more power so he had to keep her captive. However the whole Qarth story feels like something of a delay tactic to keep Dany from Westeros a little longer.

I was surprised to see Tywin not come to see Tyrion at all. I hope Tyrion’s time as Hand and Cersei’s assassination attempt are addressed in full next season.

With Little Finger twice aiding the Lannisters in their pursuit of power it would be easy to see Varys as a good man at this point. However I assume nothing is that simple and presumably nothing good is ever coming Ros’ way.

I assume the Hound is off to the Wall after Sansa turned down his offer?

Best Moment: Emotionally it was Tyrion but memorably perhaps it was Daenerys’ vision of the snow.

Conclusion: Season Two of Game of Thrones has been a success. The ratings have stayed solid and the fan base seems as engaged as ever. I felt there was plenty of emotion and intrigue and I really do look forward to future seasons.

However, as well as the story was executed, the story itself was lacking. Understandably my critique of “Blackwater” was reduced by some to me simply asking for character deaths. That wasn’t my problem though. My issue is with the lack of consequence within the story. Perhaps after this finale some will see more clearly what I mean.

We ended Season One with Dany birthing her dragons, Jon heading north of the wall, Robb and Tywin at war, Arya on the run and Sansa trapped. Those situations have barely changed. If you add Stannis’ story barely changing, Tyrion insisting that he wants to stay and continue to match wits with those who hate him and Theon being dragged home then you have almost no characters who have gone through transformative change despite the epic battles we’ve seen being fought. The longer that goes on the weaker the stories will feel.

Two seasons feels more than enough to suck me in, now I need to see change come to Westeros.



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  • Just listened to this podcast. Great job Robin & Roberto! Lots to mull over until next season! I thought this episode was one of the weaker ones but was surprised the vault Dany opened was empty and was disappointed not enough carnage was to be had. I love Samwell as a character but thought he should have died at the end of that episode. That would have been a brutal blow for the audience but a smart way to end the season. Robb did rush marrying Talisa and that will have massive consequences next season I suspect. My favourite moment of this finale oddly was Brienne and Jamie. I like the fact that Jamie moves forward respecting her as a warrior. He doesn't respect anything so this poses an interesting dynamic between the two of them. Thanks again! Great season of analysis!

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Kindah, 08/06/2012 8:35am (6 years ago)

  • Thanks for the comment Charlie. I'm afraid you just missed the podcast but thanks for all your contributions this season...

    Posted by The TV Critic, 08/06/2012 1:20am (6 years ago)

  • ' What is dead may never die, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!'

    hearing Theons speech almost made lunge for my own blade, trusty pizza-cutter, and join him in his last stand...almost! Greyjoy is an idiot and a legend!
    his speech was my favorite part of this episode because it made me laugh and i think its best not to take this show too seriously if you really want to enjoy it.
    i understand your concerns about consequence for characters in terms of dying and i'm afraid now i have read the books i think you are in for a MAJOR disappointment if the show follows the books closely ask Roberto to tell you in an un-spoiler fashion if he can.
    also in one of your podcasts and in a comment by one of your listeners on this very episode have basically found the big secret of Game of Thrones! all the clues are right in front of you and should be obvious which makes it all the more clever.
    i can't say i can't wait for the next season because i can since there are better shows returning in the autumn.
    thanks for the forum and the podcast and thanks to your other listeners for commenting on the show its always been interesting and i hope theon doesn't have to go through the next season with that filthy rag on his head!
    what is dead may never die! yaaaaaaaaaaaah

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Charlis, 08/06/2012 12:42am (6 years ago)

  • It's hard to really talk about this episode with comparing it to the books, and thus spoiling them. So I'll just say that while it might have felt a bit clunky at times, it succeeded as a season finale and capped off a pretty fantastic season. I think this show is always going to suffer from trying to cover dozens of characters in a 10 episode season, but I think that the writers have done about as good of a job as we can reasonably ask.

    As I'm sure you've heard the House of the Undying was a pretty drastic change from the book, for as a TV show I think it really worked well and it was great seeing Drogo again.

    Anybody notice that there was (Jon) snow on top of the iron throne in Dany's vision?

    That last show with the White Walkers very exciting and I can't wait for this show to start back up.

    Nice job this season Robin and Roberto. This was a really fun podcast to listen to. I hope you guys collaborate on something else soon. Take care.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Aaron, 07/06/2012 4:42am (6 years ago)

  • Hi Dave, I really wasn't talking about you specifically. Nor did I intend that to sound like a dig.

    The general reaction to my review made me feel like I hadn't explained my critique well enough.

    I keep trying to get across that for me "Blackwater" was superb execution of a flawed story. I couldn't give a higher score to something which left me unsatisfied, despite how amazing it looked.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 06/06/2012 11:28am (6 years ago)

  • "Understandably my critique of “Blackwater” was reduced by some to me simply asking for character deaths."

    I guess you're talking about me. I should have added there will be consequences in the result of Blackwater, but I don't want to go in the specifics because of spoilers, but there definitely will be consequences. There's a reason why many people considers the third book to be the best out of the lot so far.

    This episode wasn't as good as the Blackwater episode. Jon killing Qhorin scene was especially disappointing compared to the books. The show didn't give enough time to Halfhand and Jon together. He was suppose to be a mentor to Jon, before he was killed, in fact, he insist of Jon to kill him if they were captured by the wildlings. Also, the way Theon went down was also better on the books and same with Dany's scenes. Anyway with twenty episodes given to do A Storm of Swords, they have practically no excuse to screw it up.

    Posted by Dave, 06/06/2012 11:03am (6 years ago)

  • Hello Robin and Roberto
    Thanks for a wonderful season podcast of the Game of Thrones. It added to the pleasure of watching the show greatly.
    This was an underwhelming season finale for me. It felt more like an anticlimax after the explosion that was Blackwater. While there were some stunning set pieces, like the amazing Daenerys vision sequence, it felt mostly like an extended next season preview. While I enjoyed watching some parts, most of the time I felt my mind disengaging from the story.
    One thing the season finale shows is the scope of this story. It is truly epic in proportion and it gave me pause when reading the books. Folks, it only expands from here. It was also why I was surprised when I heard the series was being produced by HBO. If this is pulled off to its conclusion, it will be one of the most ambitious in television history. I hope it is a success and I will be watching every step of the way.
    As always thanks for the forum

    Viewer score: 62 / 100

    Posted by Kayode from Baltimore, 06/06/2012 4:57am (6 years ago)

  • Overall a fine concluding episode, but still felt to me more like the middle of the season. Tyrion's fall from grace was stellar (except for Shae), Breanne's cameo & Theon's demise were personal highlights, but much of the rest felt too time compressed. The house of the undying was beautifully filmed (the bombed out cathedral felt like WWII stock footage) but shortchanged a very complex story. The prompt torching of the warlock priest made it feel like he put 5 minutes into master planning for eternal power. Jon Snow's skewering of the Half Hand seemed incredible violent for a boy who was troubled by hitting Sam during training and couldn't kill Ygrette. I thought the zombie swarm was a bit cliché and the "cold hands" character looked like he belonged in a Disney animation. The dark, cold eyed characters from the first episode were much more frightening. My biggest gripe is with the burning of Winterfell. Where was the siege army? Presumably the Northmen took the castle, but if so why would Bran and Rickon need to flee North? It just makes no tactical sense that they could escape the fort, find the maester still alive and not run into another sole. Interesting foreshadowing for next season, but I can't think of any real finale worthy cliff hangers. Thanks for a great season of casts.

    Viewer score: 64 / 100

    Posted by dbates, 05/06/2012 2:41pm (6 years ago)

  • A satisfying season finale with a truly epic ending. I had problems with Jon and Quorin's fight being somewhat flat, compared to how it plays out in the book anyway. Loved Theon and Stannis mulling over all the crap they've pulled. Great to see Drogo again. All the Dany scenes this week were really good. Shae and Tyion was a relationship I hadn't really invested in till this episode. All their scenes were highly charged and well acted.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Paul, 05/06/2012 1:00am (6 years ago)

  • I should use Matt's comment as a p.s. for my review :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 04/06/2012 11:56pm (6 years ago)

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