Game of Thrones: ‘Valar Morghulis’ recap and review

After last week’s outstanding episode, ‘Blackwater’ pulled focus towards King’s Landing so fully and efficiently that it was inevitable that this week’s finale was going to contain a lot of place setting.  Not only do they have to deal with the fallout of the battle, but they also need to check in with each and every one of the other storylines and set them on the path they are going to be on in season three.  As a result, this episode feels a bit like those from early in the season: compelling, but overstuffed.

Let’s get Dany out of the way first, since her storyline was the one I found to be the most tedious this season.  After weeks and weeks of that creepy wizard harping on about the House of the Undying, Dany goes there to get her dragons back.  In the books, this scene is a bizarre fever-dream of visions and prophecies, which would have been very difficult to pull off in the show.  What we got instead was a few odd visions, all of which I actually enjoyed quite a bit.  Seeing the throne room in King’s Landing covered in snow was a nice reminder that yes, Winter is still coming, and seeing Dany on the other side of the wall was a cool way to tie the two most separate and disjointed stories together for a moment.  Encountering Khal Drogo, (with their child, no less) was a great way to provide an emotional anchor for Dany, and it was heartbreaking to watch her make the choice to leave them.  Then the wizard tried to capture her, so she had her dragons set her on fire, which was awesome.

After she escapes from the House, she finds Xaro, and locks him in his (empty!) vault that he is so proud of.  It was nice to see Dany reinvigorated and on top after a season of wandering around whining.  I have full faith that her stuff in season three is going to be a lot more fun.

My other favorite scene of the episode was Jaime and Brienne on the road, where they encounter some Stark men that recognize Jaime.  Angry at them for having murdered women, Brienne shows no mercy, cutting them down brutally and angrily.  It’s clear that Jaime is now having to reevaluate his opinion of Brienne, which is going to be a lot of fun to watch as they continue their journey across the kingdom in season three.  Of all the coming storylines, this is probably the one I’m the most excited for, because it’s just so much goddamn fun.

Arya gets a quick moment with Jaqen where he reveals that he can change her face, and it’s very clear that she really really wants to learn to do that.  Besides that, there's not a whole lot going on with the most badass little girl ever.

Her sister, however, has received some wonderful news that quickly goes sour.  After putting on a whole dog-and-pony show about how he could never betray his vow to marry Sansa (in order to marry Margaery Tyrell, who is both hot and smart), Pycelle finds him a loophole, and our little bird is suddenly free of her promise.  The smile she gives as she walks away was both delightful and heartbreaking, as Littlefinger immediately showed up and ruined the moment, pointing out that while she no longer has to marry Joffrey, he’ll continue to torment her.  Then he compares her to her mother, which coming from him, is creepy beyond all belief.  

Off in some tiny, damp room, Tyrion isn’t doing much better.  Tywin has been declared saviour of the city and Hand of the King.  Tyrion, for all his trouble, gets no credit, no glory, and a nice big scar across his face.  And to top it all off, he has to confront the fact that his sister is now actively trying to kill him, having had Mandon Moore slice and dice him during the confusion of the battle.  

The nice thing about this scene is that everything Tyrion has left shows up to make him feel better.  He’s got Pod, his trusty squire, Varys, his manipulative rival/buddy, (who says they can’t hang out as much, which is a shame) and Shae, his lovely and fierce lover-whore.  The scene between him and Shae was heartbreaking and really hammered home the fact that she’s most of what he has left, but still not enough for him to abandon the Game he has grown to love.  It’s been a blast watching Tyrion be on top all season, and I think that it’ll be just as interesting to see him struggle next season.  The show is yet to throw a challenge at Dinklage that he hasn’t conquered, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

I’m not going to talk about the scene with Ros, because it was a scene with Ros.

Also, Robb and his sexy nurse friend got married.  It was a sweet moment, and wonderfully foreboding for both the characters and the audience.  There’s no way that Walder Frey is going to be even remotely okay with this.

Over in Winterfell, a whole lot went down.  Theon decides not to flee, but to face the Stark men outside his walls.  He gives a rousing, glorious speech, only to be knocked out by his own men so they can ‘go home.’  It was a hilarious moment, made even funnier by the fact that the speech was really really good.  I felt roused.  And then Maester Luwin got stabbed, and it turned to sadness.  Poor old guy.  

Then things get confusing.  Bran, Osha, Rickon, and Hodor come out of hiding to find Winterfell burned to the ground with no indication of who did so. Was it the Iron Islanders as they left?  Was it the Stark men for some reason or another?  It looks like we’re going to have to wait until next season to find out.  Our ragged group find Master Luwin by the Weirwood, where he tells them that they have to go North to Jon.  This scene was wonderfully acted by the guy that plays Luwin, who I’m very sad to see go, despite how much of an emotional punch his death gave the episode.   And then, with nothing but a ‘hodor,’ they’re off to the Wall.

Speaking of the wall, Qhorin makes good on his whispered promise from two weeks ago, goading Jon into battling him.  I like the way that the show doesn’t make an effort to remind you of Qhorin’s plan, instead letting us wonder if Jon is actually giving into his anger.  Either way, it works.  He runs Qhorin through, which Rattleshirt decides is good enough for him, and he cuts everyone’s favorite bastard free.  And now, feisty red-headed wildling at his side, Jon’s off to meet Mance Rayder.  God, I hope the casting for him is good.  After all this buildup, he’s gotta be the biggest badass ever.

And that covers everything but the last scene, which was so wonderfully, beautifully unsettling.  Sam and his friends hear first one horn, then two, then three, and everyone knows what three means: White Walkers.  Sam falls, and his friends take off without him, leaving him to cower behind a rock.  First, wight after wight comes into view, monstrous dessicated corpses, shambling past with the firm knowledge that the only thing that can make this show even more awesome is a larger number of zombies.  And then we see him:  a White Walker, who turns, makes eye contact with Sam, and then shrieks as his army of the undead marches on.

The design on the Walker was great, and I like the choice to end the season with him.  Season one ended with dragons, so it feels like the right choice to close out season two on the other big supernatural aspect of the show.  As we go into hiatus, it's a reminder that this world is not our own, and it is full of scary things that want to kill our fat best friend Sam.

So there you have it!  The end of another season of Game of Thrones, and one that I feel made some marked improvements over season one.  There are some things I like more about the first season, but on the whole, you can feel the show growing more and more confident in its storytelling, which I expect to continue as it goes into season three.  Plus, this was the season that gave us ‘Blackwater,’ which was just so cool I can’t stand it.

star rating

Reader’s Corner (BOOK SPOILERS):

  • The way things are going with Tyrion and Shae right now, the end of Storm of Swords is gonna be devastating when they get to it.
  • It’s weird that they’re keeping Rickon with Bran and Osha.  I know that they’re planning to introduce Meera and Jojen next season, so do you think they will have Osha and Rickon go their separate ways then?
  • Who burned down Winterfell?  Was it Dagmer?  Was it Ramsay?  Is Dagmer Ramsay?  So many questions!  Also, I can’t wait to meet the bastard of Bolton.  I wonder what capacity Theon is gonna be around in next season.
  • I was nervous that Jaime was gonna lose an appendage there.  Looks like we have that to look forward to next season.