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Revenge is a complicated thing, as we saw in “Mother’s Mercy,” the season five finale of Game of Thrones. It can result in the death of particularly horrific individuals, but it can also mean the death of those who don’t quite deserve it. It can strike down those willing to rape and murder, and it can result in the death of those whose only error is in who they decide to trust. While “Mother’s Mercy” did give us the chance to cheer at the death of one truly horrific man (and the presumed death of a man whose own desire for power resulted in his moral destruction), it also presented us with the death of one of the show’s last truly good men.
Starting off with the death of the truly evil, I was less thrilled to see Ser Meryn Trant killed at Arya’s hands that I thought I would be. That’s not to say I wasn’t glad the world was rid of such an awful person, because I certainly was. But seeing Arya’s joy in his death was a bit troubling. Yes, she is training to become a Faceless Man, an assassin who kills who she must. But as a Faceless Man, she will not seek revenge. She will follow orders and kill as commanded. As much as I would love to see Arya embark on a Kill Bill-style journey through Westeros, that’s not the path she has chosen to walk. We know she isn’t ready to leave Arya behind (she kept Needle safe, after all), but I assume forced blindness isn’t the only thing Jaqen H’ghar can unleash on her as punishment. Arya has always been someone who acts first and thinks about the consequences later (much like Ned Stark, and as we have seen of late, Jon Snow). She has, so far, escaped any dire consequences for her actions. But now it’s time to pay the piper.
Speaking of paying a price for one’s actions, looks like Stannis got what he deserved (while I’m fairly certain Brienne did, in fact, kill him, Game of Thrones has conditioned me not to believe it until I see his dead, headless body). Stannis’s journey this season has caused a great deal of debate, as it should, as the show had Stannis committing some pretty horrific acts to serve his desire for power. Last week, Stannis firmly chose power at any cost over his family and his soul (if you don’t believe that Stannis was already damned for his past actions on the show). And it turns out that burning your daughter alive is a step too far in the blood soaked world of Westeros, as his actions led to half of his army deserting him on the eve of battle. It was also too much for the Lord of Light’s most ardent supporter, as Selyse hanged herself in the aftermath. And just to complete Stannis’s loss of everyone and everything, even Melisandre doesn’t want to stick around and face certain defeat.
There is a narrative with Stannis that could paint him as a man who had the greatest of intentions, but who followed the wrong person and it lead to his downfall. But that would simplify the role Stannis had in bringing about his own downfall. In a world where dragons and armies of zombies exist, I’m not sure I can fault Stannis for relying on a woman with strange magical tendencies to help guarantee success. But with each instance of his reliance on the Lord of Light, Stannis moved closer and closer to a line that cannot be crossed without severe consequences. And the murder of Shireen was over that line. Having Brienne exact her revenge on Stannis for the death of Renly was fitting, if a bit late. Renly has been dead for so long on the show that it is hard to really muster up much joy in Brienne avenging his death. But, considering the atrocity Stannis committed last week, I’m perfectly happy with having someone with a distinct moral compass (one of the very few left on the show) take on the duty of executioner.
The death of Jon Snow is likely the one death everyone will be talking about today, and for a long while into the months ahead as we wait with bated breath for season six. And, for once, book readers and non alike will be all wondering the exact same thing: is that it for Jon? It is certainly it for his book journey, so it will be nice (as a book reader myself) to fully speculate away with all fans on this topic. But the death of Jon is a tough pill to swallow, even when you have been waiting to see it on screen for years. Sure, the show really telegraphed it with Olly sending Jon death glares for weeks, but having the rest of The Watch team up with their smallest brother (and have little Olly deliver the death blow) was hard to watch. And all because The Watch just doesn’t understand that Jon has made the right choice. Yes, they all have major reasons to distrust the Wildings (particularly Olly), and it’s hard to believe there is a massive army of the undead waiting across the sea (I know I wouldn’t believe it if someone told me the same thing). But man, it’s hard to see yet another noble person (and another Stark at that) struck down for doing the right thing.
Now, Jon’s death is traumatic, if you believe that this is the last we’ll see of him. And I believe, 100%, that Jon Snow will be back in the land of the living at some point next year (no matter what Kit Harington, D.B. Weiss, or David Benioff say). Just to be clear, I have no future knowledge of this storyline, and this is merely speculation, but I think Melisandre will bring Jon back from the dead. If you remember, way back in season three, we were introduced to Thoros of Myr (a priest for the Lord of Light) and Beric Dondarrion. Do you remember what Thoros could do? He could raise the dead (specifically Beric, who was an excellent fighter but seemed to get killed quite a bit in battle). And remember who rode into Castle Black late in the episode? Yup, here we clearly have a case of Chekhov’s Red Priestess. If a Red Priestess rides into Castle Black in act one, she has to raise a Stark from the dead by act three. I will be shocked if Jon isn’t back in the land of the living some time in season six.
Season five was really great. I wasn’t the biggest fan of season four, so to see the show really come out of the gate fighting in five was a great relief. We were given one of, if not the, greatest episode of the series’ run with “Hardhome.” And we saw the vast majority of characters reach the final end of their book storylines, putting the show’s audience on even footing in terms of story points. It was a delightful, if sad, season. And I cannot wait to see what happens in season six. See you next April.
— I didn’t really touch on Cersei’s storyline, as I think it really speaks for itself. I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be to see Cersei take her walk of shame (part of that likely had to do with some of the wonky CGI body double imaging in the scene, as Lena Headey was too pregnant to film the scene herself at that time). But still, excellent work from Headey in conveying Cersei’s humiliation laced with her desire to remain strong.
— Likewise, Dany’s storyline was really no more than a season ending tag, with Dany running into a Dothraki khalasar. While Dany’s time with Khal Drogo and his khalasar was a stable time in her life, there is no telling whether or not this khalasar will even know who she is- or if they know, whether or not that is a good thing. I fear some rough times might be a head for the Mother of Dragons, particularly since the show focused so much on her dropping that ring.
— Looks like next season will bring us two new buddy shows: Theon and Sansa escaping Ramsay, and Jorah and Daario teaming up to find Dany. I presume the latter will be much more fun than the former.
— Tyrion and Varys running Meereen. I’m totally on board.
— Sucks to be Jaime. Your daughter tells you how glad she is to be your daughter, and then succumbs to Sand Snake poison. I can’t imagine Cersei will take lightly to this. I suspect Dorne might get a bit more interesting next season (at least we can hope, since it was pretty awful this past season).
— And, perhaps the episode’s coolest moment: Zombie Mountain! We have a Zombie Mountain!