WARNING: There are spoilers in this article.
Returning to the Castle Black, Jon Snow looks haunted – he must be after seeing the majority of those he set out to rescue massacred by the undead army of the White Walkers – as he leads the Wildlings to ‘safety.’ It’s hardly going to be an easy journey for the Lord Commander as he must inspire very little faith in those he has brought south of the Wall and now has to regain the trust of the Watch who feel betrayed. I still think the giants are one of the most incredible and convincing effects in Game of Thrones so far and seeing Snow’s massive Wildling asset stroll through the gates of Castle Black was a truly awesome sight.
Far across the sea in Braavos, Arya sets out on her mission to slaughter the merchant at the docks. She seems pretty assured in her mission to begin with but falters at the sight of Meryn Trant – the sinister Kingsguard who slaughtered her mentor in Kings Landing – as he accompanies Lord Tyrell to visit the Iron Bank. This unsettles her rigid training as Trant is one of the targets on her ‘list’ and his arrival upsets all her training in the House of Black and White. As she pursues him through the Braavosi underworld, we get a glimpse into the character’s more terrible machinations - he likes young girls - making us loath him even more (although this likely means that within the world of A Song of Ice and Fire he’ll live a long and happy life). There’s an ominous feeling that Jaqen H’Ghar knows Arya has deviated from her mission – whether he will come to her aide may be another matter.
Speaking of terrible, terrible actions, going back to the North lent us a scene of almost unspeakable tragedy. Make no bones about it, Game of Thrones managed to extinguish one of its brightest lights in this episode – which is ironic when the sacrifice as a whole was in the name of the Lord of Light. Stannis really managed to endear me to him over recent weeks, particularly concerning his interactions with Shireen. Now he’s never been the easiest man to warm to – his cold and harsh demeanor as craggy as the rocks of Dragonstone – but he convinced us that nothing would, or could, harm the bond he felt towards his daughter. An attack on his camp by Ramsey Bolton leaves his troops scattered and Ser Davos advises a retreat. Being proud and unrelenting, Stannis (in a bizarre moment of clarity – or perhaps as a distraction) sends the Onion Knight on a supply run. While his counselor is aware, Stannis conspires to sacrifice Shireen with Melisandre in order to secure his victory. Almost to the end, the scene is painful to watch, especially with the hope that he’ll show some remorse and change his mind. Unfortunately, that is not to be the case and Stannis proves, once and for all, that he’ll no longer be eligible for the Father of the Year award I so hoped he’d be presented with by the end of the series…
As dutiful fathers go, Jaime Lannister brokers a deal with Prince Doran (once again captivating to watch by Alexander Siddig) to ensure his daughter can return to Kings Landing. In a moment of levity this episode, Bronn also manages to secure his freedom – with a punch to the face.
If you thought things were going well for the Lannister men at the moment, you’d be mistaken. Daenerys opens the fighting pits in Meereen (kudos to the effects department in realizing the first of two incredible effects in the final act by creating an immense coliseum in which the gladiators duel worthy of Hollywood). She is confronted by a grueling battle in which is appears Ser Jorah may finally bow out. In an even more dramatic turn, he looks to have marked his love for death, throwing a spear into the royal box, but it quickly becomes apparent that he has revealed a plot by the Sons of the Harpy to rise up against the Mother of Dragons. The arena descends into chaos, threatening to bring about an end to Tyrion, Dany and her most trusted and loyal before the dramatic entry of a character we’ve been longing to see for five years come to the fore – Drogon swoops in to save the day.
Easily, the most satisfying ending to an episode of Game of Thrones yet (even if Daenerys seems a little closer to her dragon than we imagined – I suppose he is the living embodiment of her Khal after all…), it remains to be seen how the series will close. However, with the two previous episodes having such stellar conclusions, who knows where the finale will leave us?
(YouTube clip courtesy of GameofThrones)