<Spoiler Warning: Game of Thrones (S03E10, “Mhysa”) is reviewed and details are discussed at length below. Do not read if you intend to watch the episode and have not yet done so.>
I’m beginning to sense a pattern. With last week’s bloody “Rains of Castamere” episode, Benioff and Weiss have given us three straight seasons wherein the pivotal, game-changing episode has appeared in the penultimate, ninth position. While a lot of series tend to end their season with a cliff-hanger, often with a bold To Be Continued splashed across the screen, the minds behind GoT have eschewed this pattern, giving their loyal audience a chance to decompress and process events while spending some time with characters they love (those that are left, that is) before saying farewell for another hiatus. This may be due to the nature of HBO hiatuses, where audiences must wait upwards of nine months for the next season to begin; if we were given a TBC, we might not remember enough of what came before to tune in again. And really, by its very nature, GoT is a whole bunch of To Be Continueds every single week.
Last week’s focus on only a few stories necessitated that there was a lot more coverage this week, largely because we needed to have good markers for where the characters would be positioned going into Season Four. There were twenty-three separate scenes, although a few were multi-location shots following a single character through several encounters.
The episode begins with the camera following Roose Bolton as he climbs onto a rampart at The Twins, a good vantage from which to watch the slaughter of Stark bannermen. The Hound and Arya (now conscious after he rang her bell last week) ride into view, and manage to escape when the Hound grabs a Frey banner and rides through the melee. This is not, however, before a group chanting, “King of the North” come into view, leading Robb’s body strung up on a horse – his head replaced by Grey Wind’s, a nasty play on his nickname, the Young Wolf. We see Arya and Clegane a while later, when they are passing by a small group of Freys regaling each other about their roles in the Red Wedding. Arya offers them a coin – Jaqar’s coin – and she stabs one of the Frey men to death, with Clegane taking out the rest. He asks her to let him know next time she plans something like this, and she whispers under her breath, holding the coin in bloody hand, “Valar morghulis.” She is shaping up to be one of the most interesting characters in the coming season, should her promise continue to grow. Roose Bolton also has a second short scene later with Walder Frey, and his contempt for the old lord is barely concealed – Frey doesn’t seem to realize he is nothing more than a tool to those that are wiser, stronger, or more ruthless than he. Most importantly, he reveals that his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, is working for him in the north, and that he has Theon – this has been one of the bigger ongoing mysteries for fans of the series who have not read the book, so it was a nice minor reveal. Now there is a name, and a motivation, to put to the face of this man who has a propensity for cutting bits and pieces off of his prisoner.
Related to this, in the West (on the Iron Isles), we have a brief scene with Lord Balon Greyjoy. He and his daughter Yara have received a present from Ramsay. It is, as he says in the note which accompanies it, Theon’s favourite toy. With Theon’s manhood sitting on the table before him, Balon declares that he has no further interest in his son. Yara, however, tells her father that she is going to go rescue her brother, taking his fastest ship and the fifty most dangerous men in the Isles. This should make for an interesting arc in Season Four.
Welcome returns were made by Tyrion and the King’s Landing crew, with most major characters making an appearance. Sansa seems to be almost starting to enjoy time with her new husband, coming up with a nasty little practical joke to help Tyrion get even with some young aristocrats who laugh at him. However, this moment of levity is tempered by Shea’s long face as she follows behind them. Varys the Spider shows an almost human side, trying to convince Shea to do something that goes against her heart – she refuses him, which sets up a series of interesting events from the books that will most likely be coming next season. It was especially revealing to hear Varys’s feelings about Tyrion – am I starting to like the Spider now too? Tyrion again confronts Joffrey during a meeting of the Small Council, and Tywin dismisses the petulant little twerp. Tywin’s best line: Joffrey says, “I am the king!” to which Tywin replies, “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king,’ is no true king.” Joffrey then insults his grandfather and shows a complete lack of understanding of how the world works. Man, I hate this kid – and I feel badly for Jack Gleeson. He plays “hateful little twerp” so well, that I don’t see him getting past this character easily in the future, somewhat like Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) from the Harry Potter films. At the meeting the Red Wedding is discussed, Tywin has advice for Tyrion, and Tyrion feels he must then go and tell Sansa what has happened. Someone has beaten him to it, however, as she is already in tears staring out a window when he arrives. Wisely, he retires. He later meets with Cersei, where she recommends having children in order to make Sansa happy, and he points out that she is not particularly happy with hers. His best line comes when he asks when it will end, and she tells him when there are no more enemies to deal with. He says, “Every time we deal with an enemy, we create two more.” Wise words indeed, and an astute political commentary in general. The last King’s Landing plot point is the return of Jaime Lannister. He and Brienne enter the gates, and he goes to Cersei – she is overcome, and we leave them to their – ahem – tender embraces.
In the North, the first scene is Ramsay Snow eating a sausage, as poor Theon Greyjoy looks on. Much phallic humour ensues, although it is pretty obvious that only one of them find the jokes amusing. The scene ends with Ramsay renaming his new pet Reek, and forcing Theon to say it as well. Theon has indeed fallen low. We also get an interesting encounter at The Night Fort. Bran and company are holing up there for the night, hoping to find a way over, through, or around the Wall. Bran tells a pretty good ghost story before they all settle, so of course, there are loud moanings and bumps in the night. Turns out it’s Sam and Gilly coming up through a well, having used the secret sally port throught the Wall Sam told us about last week. Sam, being the smart man he is, recognises Bran due to his disability and his dire wolf, and he tells them all about the dragon glass and what it does to White Walkers. He gives Hodor a knife, and several arrow heads to Meera. He then tells them that, owing his life to Jon, he will help Jon’s kin in any way he can. Bran asks for help through the wall, and we see he, Meera and Jojen, and of course Hodor heading off into the stark cold light of dawn at the base of the Wall. Sam and Gilly continue to Castle Black, where Maester Eamon reminds Sam of his oath – and Sam reminds Eamon that their vows include all men – he points out that the Wall wasn’t built “to keep out men.” Eamon, practical, gets down to business, getting Sam to begin writing letters to the Lords of Westeros – it is time to call them to arms. A little later we see Jon, having escaped from the wildlings, resting at a small pool drinking. He hears a bow being pulled, and turns to see one very angry redhead. He tells Ygritte that he loves her, and that she loves him, but that he must go home now, home being the Night’s Watch. He says, “You’d never hurt me,” just before she looses three arrows into him. She’s pretty damned good with that bow, so I’m thinking that she doesn’t, in fact, want to kill him – she could have easily done that with one shot. No, she wants him instead to feel some of the pain she is going through due to his betrayal – the look of abject, dismal sadness on her face states this as clear as day. Jon makes it to Castle Black just as he passes out from loss of blood, and his last sight is of Sam coming outside to help him.
At the Dragonstone, we see Ser Davos continuing to learn how to read, and forming a common link or two with Gendry, who now languishes in Stannis’s dungeon awaiting his fate. Davos argues against killing him, pointing out quite rightly that if Melisandre claims R’hllor was behind the Red Wedding, and this due to the amount of blood a leech can hold, then surely they need not sacrifice Gendry. Melisandre’s hate for Davos seethes just below the surface, but Stannis is oblivious and power-mad. He determines to put the boy to death. Davos releases Gendry and gives him a boat. Stannis’s reaction is to sentence Davos to death, but he finds an odd ally – Melisandre tells Stannis that he still needs the Onion Knight, so for now his life is spared.
The episode ends back in Yunkai. I was surprised that this didn’t happen until the last three minutes of the episode, because the title, “Mhysa,” is a word meaning “mother” – a name connected with Daenerys. I had assumed that much of tonight’s focus would be on her. However, by ending on Dany’s story, it does suggest where the show runners intend to take Season Four.
This was, as expected, something of a sigh as opposed to the sharply indrawn breaths of surprise that was last week’s episode. It tied together several stories nicely, gave good time to three important subplots, while giving us a little Arya/the Hound and bringing Jaime and Brienne back (although only in cameo form). It sets up next season quite well; it looks like Stannis may turn his attention toward the Wall, that Dany will grow her army in preparation for her return to Westeros, that the new improved Jaime version 2.0 might have some influence on his increasingly out of control sister and son/nephew, that Tyrion will continue to be absolutely awesome despite his rather odd accent, that Jon – reunited with his brothers of the Night’s Watch – may get working on defending the land, and that Arya, now blooded, may get to utter “Valar morghulis” a few more times.
Steve’s Grade: B+
A good follow-up to a very difficult episode, foreshadowing interesting plot developments to come in Season Four. Now if only we didn’t have to wait nine months…