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Recap: Game of Thrones, Episode 2.10, “Valar Morghulis”

It’s the last episode in this season of Game of Thrones – and it fills every second of its hour-long running time with awesomeness. And some zombies, dragons, and wolves…

KING’S LANDING

In a piece of political choreography worthy of the Moscow Ballet, Tywin is proclaimed Hand, Littlefinger gets Harrenhal, and Joffrey breaks up with Sansa (sob!) to betroth himself to Margaery Tyrell, at the ostensible request of L’Oras. Loras needs to get better at lying, as those words stuck in his throat a little too much.  When we first met Tywin Lannister, he was butchering a stag, which was an easy visual metaphor to figure out; now his horse is shitting in the throne room, and I confess myself confused. The King shits and the Hand wipes, but who wipes the Hand’s horse’s arse? How is Joffrey going to react to his take-no-shit grandfather taking over – are there more Joffrey-slaps in store? Please say yes.

Margaery smiling, with Littlefinger in the background
By “beauty and grace,” you mean “cleavage”, right?

Littlefinger makes Sansa an escape offer that she refuses, just as she refused the Hound, and he warns her to be careful: just because she is no longer engaged to Joffrey doesn’t mean she is free of his abuse, or free to leave:

Joffrey’s not the type of boy to give away his toys… We’re all liars here, but every one of us better than you.

Why do you think Sansa refused two separate offers to leave King’s Landing; better the devil you know?

Tyrion has survived the battle, but now he has to endure Pycelle’s smarmy victory and deal with the knowledge that it was Cersei who tried to have him killed. Plus, thanks to Cersei and Tywin, his main sources of physical support (Bronn and the hill tribesmen) have been stripped away. The only people left to him are Podrick and Shae, and Shae is sick of King’s Landing and wants to run away to Pentos where they can “Eat, drink, fuck, live!” – but Tyrion refuses. Despite how badly he’s treated in Westeros, he wants to stay because he’s good at playing the Game – better, he must think, than the people who are currently beating him at it. Shae cuts through his bullshit self-pity, declares her commitment to him, and says she will stay, too.

Close-up of Tyrion's face with bandages removed
This is the best my hair has ever looked

Given Cersei’s now all-out hatred of Tyrion, I wasn’t sure if Ros’s escape would be guaranteed: but here she is, back at work, black eye and all. And oh, look, Varys has come for a visit, and he has a proposition for her that certainly seems tempting in some ways:

Littlefinger looks at you and sees a collection of profitable holes. I see a potential partner.

Will Ros double-cross her employer, the one who failed to protect her from abuse and imprisonment? And what is the secret that Varys implies Littlefinger is hiding? He never seems to shut up about his crush on Catelyn Stark, and he’s just publically stated his need to procure some sons and grandsons…

DRAGONSTONE

Oh, Stannis. How I hate you. First you murder one of the only likeable candidates for the throne, and then you try to strangle the woman you blame for making you do it.

Stannis: I murdered my brother.
Melisandre:
We murdered him. Share the weight with me. 
Stannis:
He wasn’t your brother.

Melisandre is unperturbed. She tells Stannis he’ll do worse, and in the end, it’ll all be worth it, because the Iron Throne will be his. When he still doesn’t believe her, she shows him what she sees in the flames…

 

WINTERFELL

The 500 men led by Lord Bolton’s son are outside the gates of Winterfell, and the sound of their horns is really getting on Theon’s wick. Along with the prospect of imminent death, of course, given that he’s outnumbered 25 to 1 and there’s been no rescue from Yara or his father. Maester Luwin urges him to escape: to use the secret tunnels under Winterfell, go to the Wall, and take the black.

Luwin: You are not the man you’re pretending to be. Not yet.
Theon:
You may be right. I’ve gone too far to pretend to be anything else.

You can see Theon is torn: but in the end, his fear – of Jon Snow’s revenge – and his pride won’t let him go. Theon was so desparate to be what his family thought he should be, that he can’t be himself any more. Without the Starks or the Greyjoys, he has no idea who to be.

He makes a stirring speech to the Ironborn who are left, talking about death and glory and everlasting fame… it’s an interesting echo of Tyrion’s speech last week, but Tyrion is a much better judge of character than Theon is: Tyrion went for self-interest, and Theon emphasises posterity. The Ironborn aren’t interested in that; they’re interested in survival. Dagmar knocks Theon out with a spear, they hood him, and drag him away, presumably to the Boltons. Oh yeah, and Dagmar stabs Luwin when he tries to interfere.

Theon yells and punches his chest
What is dead may never die, but it can be knocked unconscious.

Wait what? Yeah. Luwin dies. But not before he says goodbye to Bran and Rickon, who emerged from the crypts to find Winterfell burned and snow drifting across the ruins. The godswood, though, is untouched, and it’s there that Luwin says his goodbyes:

I pulled you into the world, both of you, and I’ve seen both your faces nearly every day since, and for that I consider myself very lucky.

and gives his last bit of advice: he tells Osha to take the boys north, to the Wall, where Jon will keep them safe (em, slight flaw in that plan…). He also asks for a last favour from Osha, who gives him a quick death.

Luwin stretches out his hand towards Bran
I can’t even joke about this. I cried.

So Osha, Hodor, the Stark boys, and their wolves leave a desolated Winterfell behind. Did the Ironborn burn it, or the Boltons? And why?

 

SOMEWHERE(S) IN THE MIDDLE OF WESTEROS

Two events in King’s Landing are echoed in Robb’s life this week. Shae’s declaration of love and commitment to Tyrion is repeated by the words of Robb and Talisa’s secret, Romeo & Juliet-style marriage ceremony, and though Joffrey obtains an easy, public way out of his betrothal, Robb doesn’t, even though he is warned by his mother that the consequences – from both the Freys and his army as a whole – could be dire:

Treat your oaths recklessly and your people will do the same.

But Robb isn’t listening to Catelyn any more. +1 king point to Joffrey, -1 to Robb.

Someone who is taking Catelyn’s orders seriously, though, is Brienne, and she’s not averse to killing a few Starks (including a Ned lookalike) to do it, which means Jaime is finally able to see her considerable fighting prowess. Maybe he’ll shut up about her sex life now? I love that she cares enough about the three anonymous women that were killed to (a) risk her safety and Jaime’s to bury them, and (b) avenge their deaths, right down to the precision of “two quick deaths”;  I have to give points also to the Ned lookalike for the genius move of asking Brienne and Jaime to say his name at the same time. That’s one I’ll save for future reference.

Brienne and Jaime look at each other
Do I look like a Bob to you?

 

Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie escaped Harrenhal, but Jaqen is following them. He offers to take Arya with him to Braavos, but her loyalty to her family is stronger than her desires for revenge and self-actualisation. He then gives her a get-out-of-Westeros-free card, in the form of a coin and a password, which she can use to get to Braavos and become a Faceless Man, like him. A what? Then he changes into a different person and walks away. Is it shallow that my first reaction – after typing FUCK YEAH JAQEN in giant letters – was to be annoyed that this means we won’t get to see hot Tom Wlaschiha any more? Non-book readers: what went through your mind when Jaqen changed into a totally different effing person? 

Jaqen holds a coin towards Arya
Now don’t spend it all in the one shop

 

QARTH

Dany finally goes to the House of the Undying to get her dragons back. She brings Kovarro and Jorah with her, but she is the only one who can find the door. She enters alone, and wanders through visions: of the throne room in King’s Landing, destroyed and covered in snow (not unlike the present-day Winterfell); of the waste outside the Wall, and finally”¦

Drogo holds his and Dany's baby son, Rhaego
There’s really nothing like a muscly topless man holding a plump, delicious baby to give a girl a quick one-two punch to the ovaries

I was not expecting that. Both Dany and Drogo realise that it’s magic, or a dream, or something unreal… but unlike Drogo, who doesn’t care about reality:

These are questions for wise men with skinny arms… If this is a dream, I will kill the man who tries to wake me.

Dany can’t ignore it, or the cries of her dragons. She doesn’t hold her son, nor kiss Drogo: it’s a testament to her strength of character that despite the temptation, she doesn’t want to stay in this dream world. She knows Drogo and Rhaego are dead: she wants her dragons, and she wants Westeros. She declares her eternal love for Drogo, and walks away from him and their son.

And she definitely gets her dragons back in style: her teaching them to breathe fire on their food a few episodes back was not just a party trick, but also handy for destroying Pyat Pree, and escaping the House of the Undying. The visual effects work on the dragons is getting better all the time: I can’t wait to see them all growed up.

The three chained dragons look up at the camera
Oh hai. We can haz freedom?

Back at Xaro’s house, Dany, her dragons, and the remains of her khalasar give Xaro and Doreah a rude awakening. They open his vault, find it empty, and lock them both inside. Doreah’s betrayal didn’t surprise me at all: she’s not Dothraki and she disappeared at the same time as the dragons were stolen; it seemed obvious that she had been involved somehow. Dany might have the gentle heart that Jorah keeps saying she does, but with Mirri last season and now Doreah and Xaro, she’s demonstrated that she can be absolutely, implacably cruel to those who betray her: Jorah must be quaking in his well-worn armor. The khalasar steal everything that can be stolen from Xaro’s house, and head off to find a boat to sail to Westeros.

 

THE FAR NORTH

As the wildlings get to within a day of Mance Rayder’s camp, and Ygritte and Jon bicker:

Never swung a sword before, have you? You look like a baby with a rattle.

Qhorin seizes his last chance to put his plan into action and attacks Jon, making it look like he doesn’t trust Jon not to spill Night’s Watch plans to Mance Rayder. Jon fights him off without a sword, but the Lord of Bones wants to see them really fight, so Ygritte throws a sword to Jon, and after a brief fight, he kills Qhorin, whose last words are to remind Jon of his Night’s Watch oath. Qhorin’s death is taken as proof that Jon is now on the wildlings’ side, and the Lord of Bones cuts his bonds, just in time for him to see the vast wildling camp ahead. How convincing will Jon be when Mance Rayder questions him? And was he ever really on board with Qhorin’s plan in the first place?

Jon stabs Qhorin straight through his torso as the wildlings look on
That sword in the darkness is pretty sharp, eh

 

Back at the Fist of the First Men, Edd, Grenn, and Sam are out collecting fuel, which Edd is not enjoying:

People shouldn’t live anywhere you need to burn shit to keep warm.

when they hear a horn blast. At first they think it’s Jon’s party returning… then a wildling attack… but on the third blast, they realise it’s the White Walkers, and make a run for it. Sam falls behind, so he gets the full close up of half-decayed bodies of the wights, shuffling slowly towards the Fist… and our first full-on Nazgûl-esque look at a White Walker, complete with ice spear and dead horse:

Close up of a White Walker with his ice spear
What you lookin’ at?

After two whole seasons of getting by on creepy, shadowy shots of blue-eyed people, we finally learn what the White Walkers look like.

So, what did you think of this episode, and the season as a whole? Two things jumped out at me this week: firstly, in these final episodes, nearly all our characters either find or refuse escapes from their current situations. Sansa, Tyrion, Theon, and Arya are all offered ways out that they don’t or can’t take: even Cersei had an escape plan, albeit a terrible one. Ros has a decision to make about her way out; the younger Starks get out of Winterfell; and Robb finds a way out of a marriage he never wanted – but what will the consequences be? Dany makes her own way out of Qarth, and Jon gets a way out of captivity – but not one he chose.

Secondly, the last season ended with the birth of Dany’s dragons, and this season ends with the White Walkers, underlining one major difference between them: Season Two has had a hell of a lot more supernatural elements than before, with Bran’s dreams, Melisandre’s visions and murders, Jaqen’s transformation, zombies, and even more magical dragon fun in Qarth. I wonder how this is going to play out next season: how all these magical elements interact and further our view of the Game of Thrones world. If Pyat Pree told Dany her dragons were making his magic stronger than before, how much stronger can it get? This episode beginning with dynastic in-fighting in King’s Landing and ending with HOLY SHIT ZOMBIES in the far north contextualises the biggest conflict in this world: the real war in Westeros is not about Lannisters versus Starks/Baratheons/Targaryens, and it’s not about the Kingdoms versus the Wildlings; it’s about Humans versus Things That Are Not Human.

Spoilers note: anything from the first and second books and TV series is fair game. Mention of future plot points and/or characters from the rest of the ASoIaF book series is a spoiler: please use these tags, with the *s removed, to talk about them: [*spoiler*] <blah blah> [*/spoiler*].

Screencaps c/o me.

34 replies on “Recap: Game of Thrones, Episode 2.10, “Valar Morghulis””

I didn’t like the look of the White Walker, too cartoonish and Harryhausenesque. Too much detail. And I was somehow under the impression this battle took place in the dark anyway?

Other than that, a good episode and it’s horrible to have to wait so long for more. Also, getting worried that at this rate, the kids will start growing too old for their parts in the coming seasons. Bran growing way beyond early-teen size might make things look odd. Speaking of growing, Robb has grown rather dull, but I guess I thought the same about book Robb, so…

Very impressed with Lethal Brienne though. Even if she seems too unguarded around Jaime at times. I mean, even with his hands cuffed, it’s still fucking Jaime Lannister, not happy at all about being a prisoner. It’s a bad idea to just let him stand there behind your back while you’re busy pulling a boat ashore, etc.

And sorry to see Jaqen go. As a minor character in such a large, well-cast series, he still managed to  have a big impact on screen. However,[spoiler]I’m not buying the wishful thinking that Jaqen = Syrio Forel at all. GRRM is anything but precious about killing his characters off, I have no doubt that Syrio was hacked into pieces and Jaqen is someone else entirely. It would be neat if he resurfaced eventually though. [/spoiler]

Lethal Brienne shocked me a little, since I remember from the book that

[spoiler] she hadn’t actually killed a person until the 4th book![/spoiler]

I loved the fact that after she did that, it was the first time Jamie Lannister had EVER looked intimidated. As he probably should be, because she just downed three armed men in the blink of an eye. Holy crap, Brienne is awesome.

Conveniently enough, I had forgotten all about that spoilery bit! I think it was strategically right to show what she’s capable of, but I hope they take care to preserve the “innocent underneath” aspect of Brienne too from now on.

It’s fantastic that the actors work so well together. [spoiler]Jaime and Brienne’s strange relationship might be one of my favourites in the book, it’s unexpected and they both end up growing because of it.

I guess Jaime’s not getting his head shaved on TV, is he?[/spoiler]

But to do that, they would have had to film in winter in Iceland in the dark? I’m not saying they can’t or won’t do it, but I don’t object to daylight there at all. It made sense, they don’t have to slavishly stick to book details.

Re: Jaqen [spoiler] yeah, I agree. It would be nice and neat, but I somehow doubt it [/spoiler]

I want an entire show about the Adventures of Jamie & Brienne. I would donate money to help pay for it. Not a lot, because I’m poor, but still.  It’s the thought that counts.

[spoiler] I really got the feeling during the last book that there was a love interest growing there, too.  Maybe I’m just a romantic at heart. :-) [/spoiler].

As I said before, this episode made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I was so fucking excited when I saw the Arya scene come up, because I knew what was going to happen, and that was by far one of my favorite scenes from that book.

It’s also a testimony to Alfie Allen’s acting skills that I now feel really really bad for Theon. Not bad in the “you’re a good person and shitty things happened to you” way, because he’s still a terrible person. But rather, Theon is a person who never really found his path. Yes, his personality played a big role, but had he not been cyclically accepted into the Stark family and pushed away, would he have still gone so far astray? He lost all the things that were keeping him grounded. He made the wrong choices. And now he’s paying for them. And so, I feel really bad for him.

This amazes me. I fucking hated Theon in the books. I fucking hated him in season 1. But now when I see him, all I can think is “poor Theon.”

Ditto on Theon. He has depth, now, and while I still think he’s a tool I can see why. I also think, had he known that Jon Snow wasn’t at Castle Black at the time, he would have tried to go to the Wall, which makes it more poignant somehow.

[spoiler] the upcoming Reek stuff is going to be even worse/better with Alfie Allen doing it. [/spoiler]

[spoiler]Oh god(s) the Reek stuff. I haven’t even read the 5th book yet, just some synopses on the Wiki, and the idea of having to watch that gives me the chills.[/spoiler]

That look on Theon’s face when he turns down the option to run…it just about broke my heart. I wonder what could have been done, given the situation, to have made him not go so far astray.

+1 on Theon. He could easily have been reduced to just a minor hate figure in the adaptation, but they’ve managed to sum the mess he is up possibly better than the books do. Sure he’s still a total tool, but a well-rounded, fleshed-out, motivated and human kind of tool.

With finally having a proper stream I just realized how gorgeous this series is. It’s so colourful and crispy clean and if Westeros wouldn’t be such a dangerous place right now, I’d wish for a television with a screen you can step into.

I was much less thrilled and enthusiastic about this season. Some character changes I didn’t like (when did Robb turn from young hero to bland? Where’s Cat’s steel spine?) and no balance in how many screen-time some (not-so-main) characters. And really, did Dany had to repeat herself every other episode? Why wasn’t The House of the Undying more trippy? Why is Littlefinger shooting his mouth of instead of being the most sly bastard around?
On the other hand, I love love love Brienne and I’m aching for more Jaime’/Brienne. Same with Cersei/Sansa, you can see how the actress (Sophie?) has grown into the part. And Theon? Boy Allen can act, praise the Seven.

It is beautifully done – and the locations, especially Iceland and Northern Ireland, look absolutely fantastic. [spoiler] I really really want them to show Balon’s death, and I’d love them to do it at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in NI [/spoiler].

I do think Robb’s storyline suffered a bit this season – party due to time constraints, and partly because after the first few episodes his war just… stalled. The action moved towards Winterfell and King’s Landing, and the Northern Army is just kinda hanging out in the middle, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for someone to come fight them.

I can definitely see why they didn’t do the House of the Undying as in the books (grossness and future casting issues, for one thing) but I did miss seeing at least a few Undying. On the plus side, I loved that they brought Drogo back, just once.

I think that Jaqen might be a character where they stray from the book so they can bring the actor back. This is an example of wishful thinking on my part.

This episode raised a lot of questions, which I am posting here in the hope that someone can answer some of them/theorize.

Did we ever see the head of Arya’s dancing master on a pike?

Why didn’t the White Walker kill Sam? Is it because he seems so harmless?

What was the significance of the empty vault? I mean, besides the fact that Doxos was a big faker.

Why is Sansa staying? Does she have an end game or does she truly expect to be rescued?

I’ll answer what I can without being spoilery – some of these questions don’t apply to the books anyway.

Did we ever see the head of Arya’s dancing master on a pike?

We did not.

Why didn’t the White Walker kill Sam? Is it because he seems so harmless?

Debatable, I think. There was a look of scorn on his frosty face that implied Sam wasn’t worth the trouble, though.

What was the significance of the empty vault?

I think it’s meant to again illustrate the corruption/dishonesty of Qarth. And also, story-wise, it wouldn’t be exciting to get a vault full of money now – that might make her journey to Westeros a little too easy.

Why is Sansa staying?

It’s really hard to say. I don’t know. I think she thinks her odds of survival are better with people around – utter bastards as most of them are – than just with Sandor or just with Littlefinger. She’s always toed the ‘proper’ line, which has kept her safe so far.

My take on Sansa — she’s been fucked over so hard now and really seen the treachery in King’s Landing, she literally can’t trust anyone. If I were in her shoes, every offer of help, every chance to escape, would look like a trap. A trick to get her to stumble so the Lannisters could punish her more. I wouldn’t believe a word that was coming out of any of their mouths. And if they did screw her over, she pretty much can’t defend herself. She can’t fight, she’s not a good liar, and she can’t disappear into the city. She’s uniquely hobbled by her upbringing.

I think if she saw an opportunity for herself to get out, she might run for it. But she’s not in a place to do it on someone else’s word.

When Jaqen changed his face, my husband blurted out: “Oh my god! Is he Arya’s dancing master? We never saw him die, did we? Please tell me that’s who he is.”

I’ve read the books, and I said, “Huh…I never considered that possibility.” Thinking on it, though, that would be AWESOME.

I thought about the dancing master possibility, but the one thing I wasn’t sure about was the physique. I seem to recall Arya’s dancing master being quite short, which made him all the more awesome when he successfully defended her using a wooden practice sword.

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