Aidan Gillen, Alfie Allen, Alliser Thorne, Arya Stark, Benjen Stark, Beric Dondarrion, Braavos, Bran Stark, Brenock O'Connor, Carice van Houten, Cersei Lannister, Conleth Hill, Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen, Dean-Charles Chapman, Dorne, Dothraki, Dragons, Drogon, Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, Grey Worm, Gwendoline Christie, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, Iain Glen, Ian Beattie, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Iwan Rheon, Jacob Anderson, Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow, Jonathan Pryce, Jorah Mormont, Joseph Mawle, Kerry Ingram, King's Landing, Kit Harington, Lady Stoneheart, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Meereen, Melisandre, Meryn Trant, Michiel Huisman, Missandei, Mother's Mercy, Myrcella Baratheon, Nathalie Emmanuel, Nell Tiger Free, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Olly, Peter Dinklage, Ramsay Bolton, Richard Dormer, Richard Madden, Robb Stark, Sansa Stark, Shireen Baratheon, Sky, Sophie Turner, Stannis Baratheon, Stephen Dillane, Television, The High Sparrow, The Mountain, The Night's King, The Night's Watch, The Wall, Theon Greyjoy, Tommen Baratheon, TV, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, Westeros, White Walkers, Winterfell
This review contains spoilers for the episode and the series.
The “Game of Thrones” season five finale was really disappointing. Lots happened, with plenty of cliffhangers to keep fans guessing, but because the showrunners were so intent on leaving things open-ended each storyline felt insignificant. Characters died, but the show can’t surprise us like it used to, and the big name casualties like Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) don’t really feel gone. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but the way that those scenes were handled left their deaths feeling less permanent than say Robb Stark’s (Richard Madden) at the Red Wedding. The episode ended up ruining the story arcs that were enjoyable across the course of the season, and although it did a good job of capturing my interest in Dorne and Braavos, it just didn’t live up to expectations. Too many storylines needed resolving, too much had to happen, and in the end everything felt extremely rushed.
The season began at a meandering pace, as character arcs were set up in an excruciatingly slow fashion. This strategic positioning took up far too much of the season’s time, meaning that the final episode collapsed under its own weight as too many of the character’s storylines required satisfying endings. None of the storylines were afforded enough time to develop over the course of the season or in this episode, so when they concluded they felt hollow. Never before have I felt so disconnected to the fates of Jon Snow, Arya (Maisie Williams), or Sansa (Sophie Turner), characters who I previously loved as though they were a part of my own social circle.
As we flittered around Westeros I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at the fact that we didn’t spend a prolonged period of time with any one character. The longest continuous stretch of time spent with a single character was in King’s Landing, as we watched Cersei’s (Lena Headey) humiliation at the hands of The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). We looked on as Cersei transitioned from a proud Queen to a snivelling peasant, which demonstrated just how quickly the tide can change on “Game of Thrones”.
However, that scene itself wasn’t particularly entertaining. Cersei is an arrogant and hateful antagonist and the source of a lot of pain for fans of the series, so it was impossible to care about her torment in this episode. I wasn’t able to empathise with her because a part of me knows that she deserves everything she gets, but I was also unable to revel in her suffering because her punishment came in such a vile and rotten form. As a result, the scene was dull and took any sense of urgency away from the episode. I enjoyed seeing The Mountain (Hafthór Júlíus Björnsson) back on the show as a zombie-like servant to Cersei, but apart from that I found King’s Landing to be a dull destination in “Mother’s Mercy”.
The storylines that have really impressed me over the course of this season finished in infuriatingly anti-climactic ways. Stannis, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), and Jon Snow all found themselves in dire straits, but by the time the credits rolled we had no idea where their stories were going, or if they’d even make it to season six. Stannis is presumed dead but we didn’t see his body, Jon is in a similar predicament but Melisandre is at The Wall, and Daenerys is right back where she started, at the mercy of a Dothraki horde, with a dragon that may as well still be in its egg at her side!
I would expect Stannis to be dead, because Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) did swing her sword directly at his head, but you never know on this show. We’ve seen Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) die and be resurrected as a result of magic, so we could see something similar given what happened to Shireen (Kerry Ingram) last week. I’d like to think that Stannis isn’t gone, because he had a decent arc this year and I thought Stephen Dillane was doing a really good job. It seems a shame that his life should end so abruptly after he finally got interesting, but that does happen a lot on “Game of Thrones”.
Brienne got her revenge on Stannis, which should’ve been enjoyable to watch, but she didn’t take enough satisfaction in the moment to excite me. It was a lacklustre scene that should’ve had a lot more impact. The point of Stannis’ defeat was to show that he isn’t a saviour on the show – he isn’t going to save the world from the White Walkers – but because of how clear they tried to make that (by making his defeat emphatic) the scene shattered the positives of his story over the course of the season.
The fact that Brienne missed Sansa’s candle seems quite significant to me, because she isn’t going to know that Sansa escaped Winterfell in the commotion; as far as she’s concerned the situation hasn’t changed, so her role is going to largely stay the same. I’m still holding out for a Lady Stoneheart appearance, because Brienne is culpable if anything bad happens to Sansa now, and it seems like she’s just going to be wandering around in the North for the foreseeable future.
Moving on to Sansa’s escape… I didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she’s escaped Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) torment and that she’ll be doing something different next year, but I thought her scenes were quite poor. Sansa picked a lock (where did she learnt that?), then she was saved by Theon’s (Alfie Allen) bravery, which didn’t make a lot of sense because he’s had ample opportunity to help her in the past from equally tragic circumstances, and finally she jumped a life-threatening distance into a pile of snow. It was all incredibly convenient and frustrated me greatly – it could’ve happened in a much better way.
Where Sansa will go is exciting – she could go to find Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), but she doesn’t really know where he is, or she could go to The Wall because she knows about Jon. Another possibility is that Theon could take her to his family, but I don’t know why she’d agree to that given what she knows about Theon’s family and how he acted the last time he returned home. My money is on The Wall, but I’m open to suggestions.
Events in Dorne and Braavos were more exciting this week than they have been in the past, as Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) met what is likely to be her end, and Arya lost her sight. I loved Arya’s mutilation of Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) and I also thought that the effects were great when faces were being changed. However, the fact that Arya’s story this season has been so slow meant that I didn’t actually care about her misfortune in the Hall of Faces. All I want is for Arya to move on and cross names off her list, which for now seems pretty unlikely.
My least favourite moments in the episode revolved around Daenerys and Meereen, as Daenerys’ allies miraculously survived the aftermath of their Queen’s escape and argued about how they should proceed. My advice would’ve been to get the hell outta Dodge, but instead Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Varys (Conleth Hill) will be ruling over Meereen whilst Jorah (Iain Glen) and Daario (Michiel Huisman) go in search of Daenerys. With this set up in place I’m very apprehensive about these arcs moving forward. I don’t care about Meereen and I’m not interested in the Jorah and Daario dynamic – there’ve been better double acts before and I presume that most of their scenes will be a series of fights in which they try to one-up one another to prove their love for Daenerys. Why should I care about that?
There are a couple of theories going around about Varys and his role in Meereen, with some people believing that he could be The Harpy. That would certainly spice things up a bit, but I don’t know why he’d have lied to Tyrion about his motives if that is the case. Tyrion wouldn’t have argued if Varys had told him that he wanted to oust Daenerys, so I don’t think these theories are true.
Finally, the big moment of season five came and went, as the Night’s Watch lost its commander in an act of mutiny. I thought this scene was alright, and it would’ve been a shock for casual viewers, but for me it was too obvious that it was coming. I’ve been cautious of Olly (Brenock O’Connor) all season and Alliser (Owen Teale) was clearly up to something, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. I liked that Alliser used Benjen (Joseph Mawle) as the ploy by which to get Jon out in the open, but apart from that I thought the scene lacked a bit of impact. I wanted the scene to be a bit more brutal, and Brenock O’Connor’s acting when he dealt the final blow was a bit weak.
I don’t think that Jon is gone, and I’m certainly not alone on that front, but I’m not sure exactly how his resurrection will occur. He’s dead, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that – no one is going to stop him succumbing to his wounds. Still, with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) at The Wall it seems as though there’s a return on the cards. She needs a new champion for The Lord of Light, and if she knows about his parentage he might be the perfect candidate – this is cool, but it makes the entirety of Stannis’ story feel like a device to get exposition across for Jon’s future role.
Another possibility is that he’ll be resurrected by The Night’s King – that would certainly give us an inside look at the White Walkers – but whether or not that would work remains to be seen. The next book is called “The Winds of Winter” though, so clearly the White Walkers will play a big part in the narrative. Having Jon on the side of the Walkers would be incredible, so I wouldn’t mind, and it would also make it a lot easier for the showrunners to have The Wall brought down.
Although I enjoy speculating about the future of the series, and this episode did open the floor up to such a discussion, it didn’t resolve anything and felt anticlimactic. All in all, “Mother’s Mercy” was a bland and frustrating “Game of Thrones” finale, capping off a season that has failed to live up to my high expectations. There were cliffhangers and character deaths galore, but nothing was properly concluded and many of the character’s fates were left up in the air, leaving me with a very sour taste in my mouth.