Game of Thrones: “Mother’s Mercy” Season 5 Finale Review

Game of Thrones didn’t need to try so hard to get us to watch season six. At this point, we’re in. “Mother’s Mercy” was excessively vague. Cliffhanger after cliffhanger was thrown at us with so little resolution for the season’s storylines. The show’s past finales have been above this, especially last year’s “The Children,” one of the finest hours Thrones has ever produced.

Yet here we are, a season that ends with Jon Snow seemingly dead, Brienne maybe killing Stannis, Theon and Sansa escaping or committing suicide, and whatever was happening to Arya.

Let’s start with the big one. After sending Sam south with Gillie (I swear, season six better not give us their travels in full), Jon is lured out in the middle of the night by Olly. He finds his brothers waiting by a post marked “traitor.” Then they all take turns stabbing him. If Jon is dead, it feels like a big middle finger. We’re pretty late in the game now, and he died separated from a lot of other main characters. This isn’t the same as Ned’s death, which escalated a war, or the Red Wedding, which had reverberations throughout the entire world. This is a beloved character dying at the hands of C-list characters and writers looking to deliver their next shock.

That said, Melisandre did show up at Castle Black and she’s previously spoke of a prophecy that could very well fit Jon. Either way, ending the episode on such an unclear note is, well, cheap. I long for the impact of Daenerys emerging unharmed from the fire with her three dragons. Hell, I’d even take Arya staring off at sea to begin a new chapter.

It would sting less if the season’s other storylines finished on reassuring note. The portion of the episode devoted to Winterfell was mostly excellent. Stannis loses his wife, Melisandre, and half his army. He deserves it. But this new mad king marches on anyway. When he gets to Winterfell, it’s not even a siege. The Bolton’s army quickly dispatches of what’s left of House Baratheon. However, in a wonderfully rewarding moment, it’s not Ramsay who dispatches of him. Instead, Brienne shows up and sentences him to death for killing Renly Baratheon. If only the show didn’t cut as she swung her sword.

The show has never shied away from showing gore, so why not show Stannis dying? If he’s not dead, it’s a cheap moment. If he is, some finality to at least one departure in this episode full of people’s fates in question would have been nice. It’s the closest we get, but more would have been nice. It feels right for Stannis to die here, so hopefully that sticks.

Then there was everything with Sansa and Theon. Sansa finally gets a moment to light the candle in the tower, but she gets caught by one of Ramsay’s pets and Theon. But finally (FINALLY!), Theon puts up a fight against his imprisonment. He kills Ramsay’s muse, and he and Sansa jump from from the city wall to, you guessed it, some unknown fate. Ugh.

One of the only deaths in this episode that was clearly final was Meryn Trant’s, at the hand of a vengeful and totally awesome Arya. The scene was executed incredibly well, with her using the faceless techniques to dispatch of someone on her list. Her mentor finds out though, and he says another life must be taken to pay for that one before drinking some poison. Then some really weird stuff happens and Arya might be blind now. No closure. Were the writers afraid of losing ratings for next year’s premiere or something?

The season’s other plot lines are refreshingly closed. Daenery’s ended for the most part last week, but the loose ends tied and the new journey beginning were more what the finale should have been. Drogon lands with her in Dothraki country, meanwhile Jorah and Daario are looking for her while Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei left to rule Meereen. It’s frustrating that they’re all so separated, especially after season five did such a great job reining characters in. But at least it feels like a chapter closed.

The ending in King’s Landing was thankfully much more rewarding in it’s own very disturbing way. Cersei’s long walk of shame was pretty tough to watch (but will hopefully earn Lena Headey a much-deserved Emmy nom). The stripping of her power is complete. Like it or not, the High Sparrow rules King’s Landing now. Cersei deserved to lose her power, making this one of the only storylines of the season to truly have an ending.

Truthfully, the only other was the problematic Dorne plot. As Jaime leaves with Myrcella and Bronn, Ellaria kisses the young Lannister, which leads to her Myrcella dying by poison only minutes later. Ellaria drinks the antidote and gets her revenge on Cersei. Also of note, however, was Jaime’s lovely speech to his daughter about who we love. Game of Thrones may be weirdly advocating for incest, but it is an emotional speech that reminds us of all the reasons we like Jaime.

All in all, this is easily Thrones‘ worst finale. There are too many questions left unanswered as opposed to the hopeful wrapping of stories we’ve gotten in past seasons. It’s frustrating for such a strong series to succumb to network drama tropes. Theon, Arya, and Brienne’s big moments would have landed harder had their stories not seemingly cut short. They also would have made the big cliffhanger with Jon a little more impactful. Instead, it was just, and I’ve used this word a lot, frustrating. On the upside, we’re officially past the point where books are being adapted. In many ways, “Mother’s Mercy” is the end of an era for all Game of Thrones viewers. No longer do book readers have spoilers to hang over everyone else’s heads. We’re all equals now, which should make for some really fun season six viewing parties. Hopefully we’ll all be a little less frustrated at them. Grade: C

By Matt Dougherty

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