Game of Thrones S5 E10
'Mother’s Mercy' - Recap by Nikole Gunn
The producers of Game of Thrones had to pull something out of the bag to wrap up season five. After all, we had the rise of the White Walkers in episode 8 and the double whammy of Stannis killing his daughter and Dany saved by her dragons in episode 9. What could they throw at us in the season finale?
Plenty as it turns out.
There were a lot of loose ends to tie up that would still leave us enough story line to set up season six. If you’re familiar with the books of George RR Martin, it’s obvious that some storylines have been truncated, pushed back, brought forward or expanded.
It explains a lot about the season five finale; Mother’s Mercy. There were some elements that were expected, anticipated even, while others were a complete surprise. There were also enough cliffhangers to see us through till next year.
We kick off in the snowy north, where there appears to be a slight thawing in the icy conditions. That’s enough to send Melisandre scurrying to Stannis, claiming its proof that the Lord of Light will make good on his promises.
Before he can revel in that knowledge, Officer Number One approaches the King with some bad news. Possibly in light of the sacrifice of his daughter, half the army has slipped away in the night.
Then up comes Officer Number Two who has even graver news. He leads the King to a tree, where his wife is hanging by a rope. But Stannis has no time or inclination to mourn her death. Instead, he orders his army into action and they march on Winterfell.
Still, in the wild north and Jon is sharing a beer with Samwell, describing the White Walker attack on Hardhome. He rather glumly notes that he’s the First Lord Commander to sacrifice the lives of his own brothers to save the lives of Wildlings and asks Sam “How does it feel to be friends with the most hated man in Castle Black”
It’s at this point that Sam drops his bombshell. He wants Jon’s permission to leave for Old Town, taking Gilly and baby Sam with him. He argues it’s the only way he can protect both of them.
He also coyly hints that he and Gilly are more than ‘just friends’. It’s not as though Jon can criticise him and he agrees to let his only friend leave him. “I’m glad the end of the world is working out for someone”.
Back at Winterfell, Sansa plucks up the courage to leave her chamber to light a candle in the tallest tower as directed by Brienne. Unfortunately, Brienne misses the signal, distracted by the arrival of Stannis and his army, who’ve come to besiege Winterfell.
But rather than a siege, Stannis is confronted with the Bolton Army in attack mode. They’re encircled and slaughtered with the survivors picked off one by one. Brienne finds Stannis; wounded and bleeding profusely.
No, the Boltons don’t hire women to fight their fights. She was a member of Renly’s King’s Guard. A look of resignation crosses Stannis’ face as Brienne tells him:
“I was there when he was murdered by a shadow with your face. You murdered him with blood magic”?
“I did. Go on, do your duty”
Brienne then passes judgement on Stannis and lifts her sword and brings it down.
Cliffhanger number one: Does Brienne really execute Stannis? Could they really kill off one of the main players for the Iron Throne? Maybe.
We then cut away to Ramsay happily slaughtering the few survivors of the battle of Winterfell, while Sansa finds herself held at arrow-point by his ‘companion’ Myranda. With Reek by her side, she takes great delight in spelling out Sansa’s fate once she churns out a few sons.
It’s at this point that Reeks finds his inner-Theon and pushes Myranda off the edge. He then takes Sansa by the hand and they leap off the parapet and land in the snow.
Cliffhanger number two: Can Sansa and Theon survive this leap of faith? With the Boltons victorious in the battle with Stannis, is there anywhere safe for them in the North?
With their fate left hanging, we return to Braavos where Ser Meryn Trant is enjoying himself in a Braavosi brothel, beating very young girls for his perverse pleasure.
Except one of the young girls takes her beating without flinching. He watches in horror as she pulls her blond hair away from her face and we see that it’s Arya. She’s obviously learned the tricks of the Faceless Man.
Feral-like, she stabs him repeatedly in the face and chest, informing him that she is Arya Stark and he was the first name on her list for killing her teacher of the ‘Water Dance’, Syrio Florel.
She returns to the House of Black and White, putting back the face that she ‘borrowed’ to kill Ser Meryn. But is confronted by Jaqen H’ghar.
“A girl has taken a life. The wrong life. That life wasn’t yours to take. Now a debt is owed”.
With that he drinks a poison that he’d held out to Arya. She breaks down when she realised her friend is lying dead at her feet. But is he?
It’s not Jaqen; it was a trick, which Arya realises as she rips face after face after face from the body before her, until she’s left staring down at her own. (Why am I reminded of that scene from Empire Strikes Back?)
She screams out, when she realises she can no longer see. She’s been left blinded as punishment for taking a life that wasn’t hers to take.
Cliffhanger number three: What happens to Arya in Braavos? Is she permanently blinded? Will she become an assassin-for-hire for the faceless God? Will she ever be just Arya again?
We then return to Dorne where Jaime is about to set sail for King’s Landing with his daughter/niece and her betrothed. Myrcella is given a Kiss of Peace by Ellaria to apologise for trying to have her killed.
On board the boat, Jaime tries to have a father-daughter discussion with Myrcella. Literally a ‘father-daughter’ conversation, but she already knows WHO he is to her.
“I know what you’re tying to say. I know about you and mother. And I’m glad that you are my father”
As they hug, blood begins to stream from her nose as Jaime watches on helplessly. Back on shore, blood oozes from the nose of Ellaria before she calmly drinks from a vial and walks away with her Sand Snakes.
No!!! She’s gone against her Prince and has poisoned Myrcella in revenge for the death of her lover Prince Oberyn at the hands (literally) of Gregor Clegane.
Cliffhanger number four. Didn’t Prince Dorne warn that seeking revenge would trigger a war with King’s Landing and the Lannisters? Has Myrcella been killed off in season five?
Another member of the Lannister clan is faring somewhat better in Meereen. Daenerys is nowhere to be found. She’s flown north on the back of her dragon.
In her throne room, they debate who will go find her. Tyrion displays an aptitude for the old language of Valyria and it’s decided he should stay in Meereen with Missandei and Grey Worm, while Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis begin their quest for Dany.
As Tyrion watches them leave Meereen, the Master of Whispers, Varys, joins him who asks:
“What man can control a grand old city choking on violence, corruption and deceit? Who could possibly have any experience managing such an ungainly beast”?
We’re looking at you, Tyrion.
Cliff hanger number five: Will Tyrion have better luck in running Meereen than he did in King’s Landing? Can he restore order to chaotic city? Will this be the making of Tyrion?
Meantime, Drogon has flown Dany away from the danger of Meereen. As Dany heads off to forage food, she encounters hundreds of what appears to be Dothraki horsemen. They spiral around her in a scene reminiscent of the season 3 finale “Mhysa”.
Cliffhanger number six: What does that mean for Dany and her ambition to sit on the Iron Throne? Will Ser Jorah and Daario find her? Are the Dothraki friend or foe?
We return to King’s Landing and the inspiration for the episode’s title; Mother’s Mercy. Cersei has come to a decision. She will confess. She will seek absolution. She ‘wants to be clean again’.
She seeks the Mother’s Mercy, but it will mean confessing all her sins. However, this is Cersei we’re talking about and she doesn’t admit to everything.
Yes, she slept with her cousin, but denies an incestuous relationship with Jaime and blames Stannis for spreading falsehoods to better his claim to the Iron Throne.
But her ordeal is far from over and she is forced to make the ultimate ‘walk of shame’ through the streets of King’s Landing; naked and with her hair shorn.
As a zealot walks behind her, ringing a bell and intoning ‘shame, shame, shame’, Cersei is pelted with food, rubbish and faeces. She’s abused for being a whore and a fornicator. She eventually arrives at the Red Keep, where a Frankenstein-esque resurrected Gregor Clegane carries her to safety.
Thus far, episode 10 has been without a true OMG moment. Stannis may or may not be dead, Cersei has survived a traumatic walk to redemption, but that’s not what caused the Internet to explode.
We return to Castle Black, where Jon sits brooding over a pile of messages. In runs Ollie, who tells him one of the Wildlings has news of his long-lost uncle, Benjen Stark.
But it’s not what he thinks. Members of the Night’s Watch are standing in front of a sign that reads ‘Traitor’. They turn on Jon and one-by-one, they stab him, repeating the phrase ‘For the Watch’. Even Ollie sinks the knife in; revenge for offering protection to the Wildlings.
They walk away as Jon lies there unblinking, as a pool of blood spreads around him. But is he dead? Jon Snow can’t be dead, surely?
It could prove to be the ultimate cliffhanger and not even the book reader is sure of his fate. This occurred in the last Jon chapter 2011’s A Dance With Dragons.
We have 10 months to discuss and dissect events of season five. Maybe by the time season six airs, we will have had the next book published. Or maybe George RR Martin has given the producers enough of the storyline to answer these questions for us.
On the whole, season five has been excellent. But it has also been highly controversial and not just for moving storylines around or creating new situations.
The show’s depiction of violence against women, particularly Sansa’s wedding night rape has attracted a lot of criticism and justifiably so.
Game of Thrones runs into trouble when it strays too far from the books. Perhaps in season six, executive producers David Benioff and D B Weiss will avoid the temptation of messing with the story.
We shall see.