Let's get something straight: Game of Thrones likes to end its seasons confidently, but not splashily. The show elicits most of its "oohs" and "ahhs" and the "THEY DID WHAT?"s and "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU GEORGE R.R. MARTIN!!!"s in its penultimate episodes, and spends its finales preparing you for what's ahead. But even knowing that going in, the Season 3 finale, "Mhysa" lacked that single nod to fans to keep us all happy between seasons. I don't know about you, but Dany crowdsurfing on a bunch of poor people didn't hit me in the same way that an army of White Walkers or a naked lady covered in ash and dragons did in Seasons 2 and 1, respectively.
Those who were looking for some Stark payback after the tragedies of the Red Wedding got very little of it, because neither we nor the show's characters have suffered enough, apparently. In fact, in the Facebook-free world of Westeros, we only got to see a few people react to the kingdom-changing news, while others remained blissfully unaware.
But where "Mhysa" did stand tall was in its attempt to provide the Game of Thrones version of a happy ending. Don't get me wrong, every character in this story—and especially the orphaned, innocent children—is doomed to live a life of suffering and pain while the scheming highborns sip wine in castles, because we are collectively George R.R. Martin's punching bag. But several characters experienced pretty substantial victories in "Mhysa," even if they weren't ideal. Dany conquered a city and adopted a bunch of new "children" (all of whom need a bath ASAP), Bran and his gang finally made it past the Wall (right into the teeth of the White Walkers), Jon returned to Castle Black (and even brought a few arrows!), Theon's penis returned home to the Iron Islands (at least it needed a box of respectable size), Davos put his reading lessons to good use (though he had to be saved by his BFF's wench girlfriend), and 95 percent of Jaime reunited with his sister-lover (though Cersei didn't exactly jump out of her chair in excitement). Hey, it's a step in the right direction after the slaughter of a bunch of your favorite characters in a matter of minutes! (Kidding, Catelyn was no one's favorite character.)
So with this season closed, let's shake some sausage and discuss what happened in the finale.
"The next time you're going to do something like that, tell me first!" —The Hound
Just in case you forgot, "Mhysa" began with a slap in the face by reminding everyone just how badly the Starks got f*cked over. Not gonna lie, when Roose Bolton appeared on the screen I stood up, booed, and threw rotten tomatoes at the TV. A week later and I still experience feelings of murderous rage at the sight of his ugly mug. Can't we be done with this pain, Game of Thrones? Remember when you used to show us direwolf puppies? Now we're watching members of the Stark clan die in droves. Oh, and Greywind's head on Robb Stark's body? Sure why not? Yeah, we needed to see that. Poor Arya didn't, though, so of course she got a front row seat for it!
But that was all set-up for one of the best scenes in the episode. Arya has always been our avatar in this world, reacting and responding with the kind of off-the-cuff emotion that we feel as viewers. And while eavesdropping on a braggart from Frey's camp as he performed a hilarious impression of Catelyn watching her eldest son die and then boasting about the Frankenstein'd man-wolf creation he claimed to've helped create, Arya played the sweet young hungry girl, lured the Frey guy into a false sense of security, and then adorably stabbed the man in the carotid artery. Can Arya get any better? Nope, she can't. You know those characters in movies and TV who you shout at, egging them on to do something vicious and cruel because your emotions are running so high that you just need to see blood RIGHT NOW? That was Arya in this scene, and for once, a character listened. And remember those sorta happy endings I mentioned above? This was Arya's, shanking a nobody just because it felt good.
It was a good half-plan on her part, but a little shortsighted when it came to the other three dudes. Thankfully, the Hound did his thing and took care of the other goons, but come on, that was pretty rude on Arya's part. Anyway, the Starks and the Freys are even now, right?
"Is that bad poetry, or is that supposed to mean something?" —Tyrion Lannister
Apparently Lady Sansa is easily won over: All you have to do to win her affection is not rape her on her wedding day! Sansa and Tyrion were getting along swimmingly and boy howdy was that a relief. For all the flack Sansa gets for being a prissy princess, sometimes she's an absolute doll. And yes, her suggestion to prank those who guffawed at Tyrion's wedding circus by sewing sheep shit into their mattresses qualified as one of those times. Sansa is a back-and-forth characters who you can't firmly take a stance on because she's all over the place; she'll do something like lie about Nymeria and Joffrey's assault on Micah, but then she'll earn our sympathy because she's a willful captive in this game of thrones, and then she'll win us over with talk of a bed full of dung. Wasn't it great to see Sansa smile for once, and wasn't it great to see that Tyrion's kindness clearly had something to do with it? This marriage is destined for great things!
Or maybe not. Word of Robb's death ravened its way into King's Landing, and no one was happier than Joffrey, King of the Inbreds. Joff planned to serve Robb's head to Sansa at his own wedding feast, which would be worse than unflavored oatmeal but slightly better than an Edible Arrangement. What I liked about this Small Council scene was how everyone turned on Joffrey together, throwing him into a tantrum. Tywin even said the king was grumpy because he was tired, and recommended that Joff catch a nap and drink some sleepytime juice. These are the kinds of things you say about a toddler, and maybe not even to a toddler's face—yet here were Tywin and Cersei and Tyrion talking to Joffrey as if he needed a diaper change. It was so great! Game of Thrones has done fantastic things with the dynamic between Joffrey and the rest of his family, straddling the line between making him mightily powerful and merely petulant, and this scene laid everything out perfectly. The crazy thing is that Joffrey could have Tyrion's tongue ripped out at a moment's notice, but he won't do that because he knows that his place in the family supersedes his place in the kingdom. But what will happen when Joffrey goes through his full-on teenage rebellious phase? It'll be Mad King Round Two, and that's why Tywin has to get as much done now, while he still can. Fun, entertaining stuff. And maybe we should talk about a new show starring Jack Gleeson and Charles Dance as mismatched roommates, because they're great together.
Also of note: Tyrion's passionate defense of Sansa. It was borderline romantic! With Sansa warming up to Tyrion and Tyrion staunchly defending his child bride in the face of the angry boy-king, maybe their marriage can actually work! Except for the fact that Tyrion's family slaughtered Sansa's parents. Shame on me, for a second I almost forgot we were talking about Game of Thrones, where "Stark" is just another word for "ill-fated." All that positive progress for Sansa wiped away by news from the Twins.
Varys tried to pull more strings by asking Shae to leave King's Landing exchanged for some major compensation (I'd pitch in for that Kickstarter, let me tell you). Varys wants her out because she's a distraction to Tyrion, and Tyrion is the realm's last hope. Shae suspected that it was Tyrion who wanted her gone, which could be true but I don't think actually is. Also, I have to call sheepshit on Shae's claim that she loves Sansa and would kill for her. I just don't see it. But that's partly because I really despise Shae—I think she's a terrible character who just whines all the time—so I'll jump at the chance to poop on her. And thus I can't be trusted for an unbiased opinion on anything Shae-related; if she pulled me out of a burning building I'd do all I could to shove her back in.
Finally, before we leave King's Landing I suppose I should also mention the anti-climactic reunion between Jaime and Cersei. Is it me or should a reunion between two great character/siblings/lovers in a season finale not end with them just staring at each other? Maybe I was over-anticipating this. Now I have to wait nine months to hear her say, "What happened to your hand?"
"We didn't build 500 miles of ice wall 700 feet high to keep out men." —Samwell Tarley
You can easily argue that at the moment, nothing else on Game of Thrones matters more than Samwell's story. The White Walkers, they be a-coming! And who woulda thunk that the fat kid we used to throw rocks at would be the key to informing the world of the threat and teaching everyone how to defend themselves?
But first, he had to send Bran on his way north of the Wall—with a stash of White Walker B-Gone a.k.a. Dragonglass—after another one of Bran's miraculous meetups with other characters from the books. Admittedly, Bran's storyline went back to being boring after last week's explosion of entertainment when he mind-controlled some direwolves. Doesn't this show have more important things to do than tell us ghost stories about the haunted spirit of a chef? Yes, we were reminded of the Westerosi policy of "No killing guests under your own roof, the Gods don't forgive that" along with a sweet cut to Walder Frey, but besides that one fitting transition, some details are probably best left to the books. Especially if the show is going to choose mundane chatter over the book-exclusive secret-word ceremony that Sam had to perform to get Bran through the Wall. Unless the Rat Cook is real, then never mind I said that.
Jon, meanwhile, ran into his ex—and boy, was it awkward. Oopsie! He had to admit to Ygritte's face that he'd been lying all along about leaving the crows, but he was telling the truth about his love for her. "I do know some things. I know I love you," he said, which I will totally be using word for word the next time I apologize to my wife. That's got to be awfully confusing for a girl. Am I the only one who wondered why he didn't do the classic "Come with meeeee!" thing? Normally I'm adverse to that sort of trope, but this is Ygritte we're talking about! The further Jon gets from her, the less likely it is that we'll get to hang out with her. What is the show going to do, follow Ygritte around with her wildling friends? I don't think so. At least throw the option out there, Jon. You don't tell someone you love them and then "Smell you later!" in the same sentence. Grab her, throw her over your shoulder, and then make love to her on top of the horse all the way back to Castle Black. That's how you get it done. You know nothing, Jon Snow! Instead, you took home a few keepsake arrows. (Did any of you non-book-readers have mini heart attacks when she shot him? Could you imagine if Robb and Jon died in back-to-back episodes? Ladies would be throwing themselves off bridges.)
Back at Castle Black, Samwell gave Maester Aemon (the best of all Maesters) the download on the WW situation and delivered a fine speech about who the real threat is, saying that all thawed men deserve to be protected. Though it may seem innocuous, this should end up being one of the most important scenes of the series. Aemon's response was to send the whole flock of ravens to every lord and lady in the kingdom, to beg for their attention and help in stopping the White Walkers. All the ravens? That's a big commitment! That's like using up all your cell phone minutes at once, that's how important it is! Now Game of Thrones will potentially see its focus shift from battling for a chair to stopping a horde of blue-eyed, dead-man-shaped moving popsicles. And it's all because of porky Sam.
"See, Ser Davos? You've been saved by that fire god you like to mock. You're his army now." —Stannis Baratheon
One problem Game of Thrones faced this season was figuring out how to make Stannis relevant again, and that wasn't going to happen without some sort of miraculous intervention. And before that could take place, the Gendry-Melisandre sidebar had to be resolved. I'm not sure the "Melisandre wants Gendry's juice to cast spells" thing worked as well as David Benioff and D.B. Weiss hoped it would (as far as I know it wasn't part of the book, but perhaps someone else can correct me... maybe you, @seven_hells?), and just as it was getting somewhat interesting, it was concluded by Davos sending Gendry away on a tiny boat. Yes, Melisandre could continue to hunt for him with the fire gods guiding her, but Melisandre searching for Gendry again would be the show repeating itself, and that's something Game of Thrones does not need unless it's just stalling until Martin finishes the books. As of now it's goodbye to Gendry and that storyline, and we've been left wondering what the point really was beside casting a hex on Robb, Joffrey, and Balon. It was probably just to keep Stannis in the picture somehow, I guess?
ANYWAY, that's not important. What's important is that Dragonstone got some sun! Did you see that? It wasn't just darkness and grey skies! Never thought I'd see the day. Oh, also important was that Stannis received Aemon's cry for help through Davos, and even Melisandre was like, "Screw the chair and those five bickering kings! This is the real war! Death marches on the Wall, only you can stop them." Whether that's Mel seeing an opportunity for Stannis to get back into the limelight by saving the kingdom, or whether she actually believes it's the right thing to do is a different question. But either way, P-whipped Stannis is going to do what she says and kick some White Walker butt... and standing at his side will be Davos, who went from being meat on the chopping block to commander of Stannis's army in about 30 seconds. I don't know about you, but this has me EXCITED. Fire shall meet ice!
mother taught me not to throw stones at cripples. But my father told me to aim
for their heads." —Ramsay Snow
As expected by the book-readers in the crowd, the mystery "boy" who was torturing Theon was Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton's bastard... emphasis on the bastard. His sausage snacking and talk of phantom limbs while Theon hung there dick-less was about as mean as it gets, and I loved it. Ramsay's a total knob, but he's an entertaining knob and Iwan Rheon is killing it in the role.
All of Theon's appearances in Season 3 could have been summarized in a 30-second clip and you'd still think it went on too long, but things finally opened up with a special delivery to Balon Greyjoy. I think the Lonely Island dudes and Justin Timberlake did a song about this? "Leave the north now, or more boxes will follow with more Theon. XOXOXO, Ramsay," the note said. Balon didn't care because Theon no longer had the pen with which he was supposed to write down the next generation of the Greyjoy line, but
Asha Yara did, and immediately began assembling a fleet to take down Bolton HQ at the Dreadfort. And you know what? I think right about now we all wouldn't mind seeing Yara run down Roose Bolton and all his spawn and introduce them to the Drowned God with a few lungfuls of brine. Anyway, more set-up for Season 4 between two very minor characters that is suddenly very interesting! Maybe Yara can stop at the Twins and kill a few hundred Freys while she's at it?
"Mhysa!!!" —a bunch of dirty people
I wish I could be a little more positive about Dany's final scene, but when the most exciting part of it was the number of extras/copy-and-paste CGI the show managed to wrangle together in one spot, I just can't say it left the same awesome taste in my mouth that Dany emerging from a fire naked with dragons or Sam looking at an army of undead soldiers and other creepy crawlies did. This was the scene we're supposed to live with until next April (probably), and it was a bunch of freed slaves hoisting Dany up like she'd just pitched a Little League no-hitter. And don't they say anything other than "Mhysa?" Are they a bunch of Jar-Jar Binks impersonators?
Dear readers, don't hate me for this, but that ending was the cheesiest thing this very mature series has done since we first met the Stark children goofing off in the pilot. And the chanting music that went with it? No thanks! I experienced a range of emotions during the scene, and "enjoyment" was not one of them. Visually striking? Sure. But it was also a little tangential to the "a bunch of White Walkers are coming to murder everyone!" revelation that preceded it, and that seemed to unite people and places together. I love Dany, really I do. She's a sweetheart. But this was not the high-oomph ending I had hoped for.
week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 3 from best to worst. But
remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the
This week: No one expected the Season 3 finale to top "The Rains of Castamere," right? "Mhysa" opened up a lot of good possibilities for Game of Thrones Season 4. There will be plenty of in-fighting within Westeros and lots of battles near the Wall, and Dany's presence will grow stronger and stronger in the South. But "Mhysa" itself didn't stand out from the rest of Season 3 on its own. That's not a diss; Season 3 was a fantastic 10 hours overall, but I'm still perplexed as where to place this hour of it. It wasn't a top-five episode, but it wasn't a bottom three. Somewhere in the second half, I'd guess. I know I liked "Second Sons" more, so let's plop it right behind that.
1. "The Rains of Castamere" (Episode 9)
The Red Wedding. But also Bran warged his way into Hodor and Ghost, Yunkai fell, and Arya almost made it to the wedding.
2. "And Now His Watch Is Ended" (Episode 4)
Jaime vomited horse pee-pee, Varys crafted a plot to derail Littlefinger's plan to marry Sansa, the Brotherhood Without Banners brought the Hound to trial, Dany got her army with a little trickery, and anarchy took over the Night's Watch.
3. "Walk of Punishment" (Episode 3)
Dany concocted a plan to buy the Unsullied from their slave master and offered a dragon as payment. Jaime and Brienne found out that being untrue will cost them a lot more than their honor. Tyrion got a new job as Master of Coin, Catelyn attended her father's funeral, Hot Pie said goodbye to Arya, and Jon was headed to the Wall.
4. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" (Episode 7)
Jon and Ygritte looked at a windmill, Dany brought her dragons to Yunkai and laid down some terms, Robb learned that he's going to be a father, and Jaime Lannister became Brienne's knight in shining armor. George R.R. Martin wrote this one.
5. "Kissed By Fire" (Episode 5)
Themes of loyalty and oaths were explored with the help of Bryan Cogman's excellent script, creating an episode unlike most. Jon and Ygritte went hot-tubbing in a cave, Jaime and Brienne went hot-tubbing in custody, and Stannis's dead babies went hot-tubbing in jars.
6. "Second Sons" (Episode 8)
Tyrion and Sansa got married in one of the Seven Kingdoms' most awkward unions, Dany and Daario showed each other what they have to offer, and Gendry got sucked on by Melisandre's leeches.
7. "Mhysa" (Episode 10)
Everyone took the next step in their journeys as Bran went beyond the Wall, Jon returned to Castle Black a few arrows richer, Samwell warned the kingdom of the White Walkers, and Dany got to crowdsurf over a bunch of bums.
8. "Valar Dohaeris" (Episode 1)
The season premiere found Tyrion wondering why he wasn't getting dap for saving King's Landing, Jon getting pledged into the Wildling fraternity, Davos pissing off his friend's girlfriend, and Dany shopping for an army.
9. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" (Episode 2)
We saw Arya, Jaime, and Bran for the first time in this season. But the most exciting parts of the episode were the introductions of the Queen of Thorns, Thoros of Myr, and the Reed super siblings. And we may as well mention that Joffrey got a boner from imagining Margaery killing things, that pervert.
10. "The Climb" (Episode 6)
and Ygritte climbed a big ice cube, and Tywin got his way with the
King's Landing marriages. Sansa cried, Edmure was betrothed to one of
Walder Frey's daughters, and Gendry was taken away from Melisandre.
NOTES FROM THE RAVENS
– Did you notice the ladies swooning when Pod walked by? That man swings the most effective sword in all of Westeros!
– The best line of the night went to Tyrion, who immediately corrected his own grammar: "Who? Whom?" More talky corrections with Gilly and Sam: "MAY-ster" not "Ma-ster." Have I been saying "MY-ster" this whole time? Can I pretend that's the American pronunciation?
– Aghhhh! Ygritte makes the saddest of sad faces! That poor woman! But even through sadness, she's a hell of a shot.
– So Samwell saw the army of White Walkers at the end of Season 2, but he—the lardo who can barely handle a mile-long hike–beat them all back to the Wall with plenty of time to spare? Are the White Walkers stopping at every souvenir shop along the way or something?
– Once again, Pycelle proves himself the kingdom's best suckup.
– "Hodor" echoes!
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom