We knew something grim might take place in Braavos and fans of the book might attest to how shocking this was. Arya’s obsession with righting the wrongs committed against her family went too far. She disguised herself using the skills gained in the House of Black and White to assassinate Meryn Trant in particularly brutal fashion – stabbing out his eyes and slitting his throat – before returning her mask to the hall of the Many Faced God. It’s here that she is confronted by Jaqen H’Ghar. Her master is disappointed with her for disobeying him and takes his own life – but does he? He shows her that her quest has poisoned her and takes her sight as penance. Bleak Moment: One.
In the North, Stannis begins assault Winterfell. Only everything is against him; half his forces have fled and they’ve taken all the remaining quota of horses. His army is hardly a squadron as they commence their battle but almost all are immediately struck down. We pick the action up in the aftermath as Stannis staggers through the woods before being held to account by Brienne of Tarth. She strikes him down – or does she? Weirdly, Game of Thrones chooses not to show us Stannis’ death which would suggest that she may have spared him. What I think was a masterstroke of this season was humanizing and then showing Stannis’ utter conviction in the quest to become king. It was a rare karmic moment of the show to portray his downfall as an event that may have been just what he deserved. Bleak Moment: Two.
The eldest two Lannisters dive in with the next two Bleak Moments as both are raised up before coming crashing down. Jamie takes Myrcella with him on a ship back to Kings Landing. Whilst on the sea, he bears all to his daughter – his newfound heroism also bringing with it a refreshing openness and need to be loved by the character – and she responds accordingly. It’s an incredibly touching scene and one that is full of hope until Myrcella shows signs of the same poisoning that almost took Bronn from us. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have access to the same antidote as the sellsword and suffers a swift death.
Cersei confesses her sins to the High Sparrow and is led to believe that she will be freed until her trail. However, there is a cost; she must strip bare in front of the Seven, both figuratively and literally. After a brutal scene of scrubbing and shaving, Cersei is paraded naked through the streets of the capital, assaulted and abused by the common folk. It’s hard to pinpoint a moment in the last five years where I’ve genuinely felt for the character but this was definitely that moment. She falls into the arms of the resurrected Mountain (Franken-Mountain looks awesome by the way!) with the promise that those who have humiliated her will be made to pay dearly. Bleak Moments: Three and Four.
Don’t be fooled though – it wasn’t all bad tidings. Theon managed to break free of Ramsey’s spell and came good in protecting Sansa. The two escape over the walls of Winterfell but I doubt either will be able to walk in next season’s opener – that was quite a drop! Also, in Meereen, Tyrion is tasked with uniting and running the city in the absence of Daenerys. He’s also reunited with Varys and their exchanges are as amusing as expected. The Mother of Dragons has been taken to a strange land by Drogon (who stubbornly licks his wounds and refuses to commit to her bidding – at least for the moment) that may actually have brought her full circle. Leaving the dragon leads her to a plain where she is quickly surrounded by a Dothraki horde but it’s unknown how accepting the new Khal will be of her.
Of course, the season had to finish on a cliffhanger. Jon is brought news that a Wildling has news of the whereabouts of his Uncle Benjen. Racing to the gates, he reaches a wooden cross marked with the word ‘TRAITOR.’ The Brothers of the Nights Watch has established a coup, led by Alistair Thorne, to overthrow the Lord Commander. They take turns in stabbing him before the final, murderous blow is dealt by Olly. It’s a harrowing moment that sees Jon fall in the snow and bleed out. Even with the arrival of Lady Melisandre at Castle Black, we’re left with no inclination that there will be any way of saving one of Game of Thrones strongest and beloved characters. Bleak Moment: Five.
If anything, Mother’s Mercy seemed to have too much going on. From the start of season five, the tension has been building to a resounding crescendo – one more obvious than previous seasons – but a lot of the finale seemed shoehorned in. I would’ve loved to have seen more of the battle outside the walls of Winterfell and Cersei’s walk of shame, while long in terms of a scene for the show, seemed like it could have done with more attention both before and after the event. After building up Dany’s glorious escape in the previous episode, she was afforded little screen time and this appeared to mute what had gone before.
Don’t get me wrong, the finale was thrilling but the level of despair and tension was almost too much at times. I appreciate that this is Game of Thrones and very few characters have a happy ending but surely someone can catch a break for once? The plotting and characterization is still head and shoulders above the rest of syndicated television but please, show runners, allow someone a happy ending in season six!
(YouTube clip courtesy of GameofThrones)