1. Where were we when the final episode of Season 3 of Game of Thrones began? Oh yes. Still crying hysterically, and shaking.
2. The finale picks up outside the castle of Walder Frey (David Bradley), as the traitor Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) surveys the slaughter of the Stark contingent.
This episode (titled “Mhysa”) was directed by David Nutter, as was the Red Wedding (which was called “The Rains of Castamere,” but let’s be real, it’s THE RED WEDDING EPISODE). As with the previous seasons of Game of Thrones, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss knocked viewers down with the ninth episode, and then used the finale to wrap up some loose ends and set the table for the next season. Yet, a lot happens in “Mhysa,” as you will see below. And from a visual standpoint, Nutter frames both the big canvass scenes and the smaller, pivotal conversations beautifully. Starting with this image above.
3. So yes, Lannister-affiliated jerks are killing all of the Stark faithful.
4. In the previous episode, Arya (Maisie Williams), still kidnapped by the Hound (Rory McCann), was on the verge of reuniting with her mother and brother. But then they were killed.
And now she has to see Robb’s decapitated body paraded around with Grey Wind’s head stitched on it.
5. Arya is so sad. Look at her little face!
6. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are beginning to get along.
Here, they share a moment of good-natured plotting against people who make fun of Tyrion. Sansa suggests some prank involving sheep shit (!!). But at the end of this scene, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) comes to fetch Tyrion for an emergency meeting of the king’s small council.
7. Where Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) looks like this —
Always a terrible sign. Tyrion is told that Robb and Catelyn have been killed at Chez Frey. Or, as Joffrey puts it, “Robb Stark is dead! And his bitch mother.”
8. And then Joffrey looks like this — when he’s told he can’t serve Robb’s head to Sansa at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).
“No. She’s no longer yours to torment,” says Tyrion. “Everyone is mine to torment,” says Joffrey.
9. Tyrion then threatens Joffrey: “Kings are dying like flies.” Joffrey looks like this!
10. And then, finally, here’s how Joffrey looks when Tywin sends him to his room like he’s a 4-year-old.
I’M NOT TIRED!
11. Everyone else leaves the meeting, but Tywin (Charles Dance) tells Tyrion to stay. Tywin declares victory in the war. “All the Stark men are dead,” he says.
The Tywin-Tyrion dynamic is a fascinating one. Tywin shows disdain for all of his children, but Tyrion is the most despised — and yet he recognizes that Tyrion has a brilliant, strategic mind, and seems to yearn to talk with him sometimes. But their conversations never end well, and this one is no different: Tywin tells Tyrion that on the day he was born, Tywin nearly drowned him in the ocean. Oh well! Tyrion goes to tell Sansa about her mother and brother.
12. Too late.
13. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the Reeds (Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ellie Kendrick), and Hodor (Kristian Nairn), trying to get north of the Wall, take shelter in the Nightfort, an abandoned castle of the Night’s Watch.
Here is Hodor, Hodor-ing in the Nightfort. (Did you see that Nairn came out publicly recently? “I’ve never hidden my sexuality from anyone, my whole life in fact, and I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it in an interview,” he told WinterIsComing.net. I love it. Hodor!)
14. Around the campfire, Bran tells a story that has no real relevance to their situation, but sets up the idea that “guest rites” are not to be violated — as in, Don’t kill your guests, because it will come back to bite you.
15. Cut to: Walder Frey.
There’s a lot of exposition in this scene between Lord Walder and Roose Bolton. It’s always funny on a TV show when one character says to another, What happened with that?, which is what Walder does here, asking Roose about why the siege of Winterfell became such a disaster. But that all leads to Roose talking about Theon (Alfie Allen), and how his bastard, Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), has been charged with holding Theon, but isn’t controllable.
16. And that’s when we find out who’s been torturing Theon all season long.
This guy. Ramsay Snow, the bastard of Bolton. (Readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire knew this all along, but the show kept the identity of Theon’s tormentor secret.)
17. Theon is in a sad state. He’s been castrated, which gives Ramsay’s sausage meal a special resonance. (It’s just pork, Ramsay makes clear.)
18. Ramsay, who is a monster, begins calling Theon “Reek” — because he smells bad! — which begins the erasure of Theon’s identity as a person.
Here, Theon begs Ramsay to kill him.
19. Up in the Nightfort (it’s dark up there! sorry!), Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her baby appear, scaring Bran & Co.
Sam recognizes Bran as Jon’s brother. Or more precisely, he recognizes Summer as a direwolf, which leads him to realize Bran is Bran. Sam and Gilly try to convince this motley crew to come to Castle Black, where they are heading. Bran tells Sam he has to go north to try to stop the White Walkers. Sam reacts with appropriate incredulity to that pronouncement.
20. Meanwhile, in their first and only Season 3 appearance, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and Yara (Gemma Whelan) open up a package from Ramsay, and find — I thought I could make a “package” joke, but I can’t. It’s Theon’s penis.
Balon disavows Theon now that he can’t sire any children, but Yara delivers a big speech about going to rescue him. The fact that this is their only scene in the third season gives me hope that Benioff and Weiss will relegate the stories of the Ironborn to where I feel is their proper place. (A place of absence.)
21. Sam and Gilly show Bran, the Reeds, and Hodor the way through the Wall.
Sam also gives them dragonglass, and tells them how to use it.
22. Off they go.
23. Davos (Liam Cunningham) goes to the imprisoned Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who is skeptical of him. Davos convinces him he’s from the slums of King’s Landing, just like Gendry.
This scene is not important.
24. Varys (Conleth Hill) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) talk. Varys tells Shae she’s making Tyrion a better person, but she’s endangering him (as well as herself).
He gives her jewels, and tells her he can have a ship take her to Pentos or somewhere across the sea — wherever she wants. Away from Tyrion. (I love a scene like this in which the dialogue illustrates the cultural differences in the world Martin has created. The books do a lot of it.)
25. Shae doesn’t want the jewels, doesn’t want to leave, and thinks Tyrion sent Varys.
She’s mad. “If he wants me to leave, he can tell me himself.”
26. Tyrion is drinking. Cersei (Lena Headey) comes in. She admits that Joffrey is a psycho. They have a civil, sad conversation about their various burdens.
27. Arya and the Hound come across drunk guys bragging about their Red Wedding antics.
28. Arya kills this one.
This is why I laugh (and am troubled) when I read stories about new parents flocking to the name “Arya.” You guys! She really likes killing people! (She has plenty of reasons why — but really, you want your kid to be named Arya?)
29. We’re reminded of the coin that the assassin Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) gave Arya.
“Valar Morghulis,” she says, which is what Jaqen told her to say should she ever want to go to Braavos, where he is from. This is important in the books, and I imagine we’re seeing the coin because it will be here, too.
30. Having broken away from the wildlings, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), on his way back to Castle Black, is confronted by Ygritte (Rose Leslie).
He tells her, “I know you won’t hurt me.” Ygritte gets to say her mantra: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” He says, “I do know some things: I know I love you, I know you love me.”
31. She shoots him with arrows. But he manages to get on his horse and ride away.
32. She is sad.
33. Now back at Castle Black, Sam and Gilly and her totally silent baby appear before Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan).
They tell him everything that happened north of the Wall, and Sam argues that Gilly needs to stay at Castle Black, even though women aren’t allowed there. Maester Aemon agrees.
34. Maester Aemon tells Sam to fire up a quill (that is not exactly what he says) so they can begin telling everyone in the kingdom that shit is going down north of the Wall (Maester Aemon does not use those precise words).
35. Davos, who is being taught to read by Stannis’ daughter (Kerry Ingram), finds Sam’s letter in the slush pile, and he is alarmed. (He will be the only person in Westeros actually to care).
36. Davos goes to talk to Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) to implore them once again to stop doing evil, creepy supernatural things to try to get Stannis onto the Iron Throne.
In this case, he argues, they shouldn’t kill Gendry for his King Robert-y blood. Stannis disagrees. “The boy must die.”
37. So Davos frees Gendry and sends him off on a boat.
38. Jon Snow, full of arrows, pulls up to Castle Black. He is alive and handsome. He and Sam have a moment.
39. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and Qyburn (Anton Lesser) get to King’s Landing, finally.
Do you follow Lena Headey on Twitter, by the way? She is so funny and strange — and not at all like you might expect.
41. Davos is in trouble for freeing Gendry. Stannis sentences him to death. Davos says, Oh yeah? There are supernatural things happening north of the Wall!
42. Melisandre says, Yep, Davos is right. Keep him alive. Never mind. Stannis says you can live.
43. Having sacked Yunkai for no reason anyone can remember, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) addresses a bunch of freed slaves.
44. Here they come to listen to her.
45. Dany tells them they do not owe her their freedom.
46. They all start shouting “Mhysa!” which means “mother.” They love her.
47. Dany then tells the dragons to fly away. Why? I don’t know, but I like anything dragon-y.
48. Dany crowdsurfs the people of color. I should mention an Enya song begins playing at some point here.
This final scene was troubling. Dany’s conquests are more shaded in the books, with parallels to the mire of the real-life wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, even in a fully realized written form, her plot drags: She basically gets stuck, and can’t get to where she really should be (heading back to Westeros to reclaim her crown, which is the only usurping she should really be doing) because she has no clear mission. These meanderings really bring the Dany character down, which is such a shame — she ends up being a good character in search of a story that’s not terrible. Until deep in the fifth book, she is still looking. The imagery in this scene, which caps a shattering, expert third season, struck me as so atypical of Game of Thrones. It’s emotionally simple. And it’s not merely depicting colonialism, but enacting it. I will remain hopeful that Benioff and Weiss can fix the Dany storyline going forward, but this did worry me. Also: Enya.