Written by Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs & Luke Kalamar
Mother’s Mercy Plot:
After sacrificing his daughter to the Lord of Light, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) quickly loses whatever good fortune he hoped to attain. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) use the chaos brought upon by war to take control of their lives. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) finds justice. Arya (Maisie Williams) gets her revenge, but it comes at a cost. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tries to fill the void left by Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) leaving while the Mother of Dragons has an unexpected encounter. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) learns to never trust a viper. Cersei (Lena Headey) atones for her sins. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is betrayed.
Luke Kalamar: Well Kimberlee. Another season has come and gone for one of the most ridiculous shows on television. We have so many cliffhangers here, I feel like a rock climber in Yosemite National Park.
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs: Yes and that’s somewhat unusual since this show typically ends with a contemplative tying of loose-ends, not cliffhangers. Yet many of the season’s storylines left us unsure of where we’re headed next season. Let’s address the biggest one first, the Night’s Watch mutiny of Jon Snow.
LK: That was easily one of the biggest parts of A Dance With Dragons and it translated to the show beautifully. It’s appropriate that none of the people who did this were actually at Hardhome, so they’re just super blinded by their own past. He also looks very dead too, and David Benioff and D.B. Weiss repeatedly mentioned the death of Jon Snow in the after episode feature. But clearly, Melisandre being back at Castle Black is no coincidence with this happening, and we’ve seen what the Lord of Light can do…
KRF: Ever since reading A Dance With Dragons back in 2011, I’ve been convinced that Jon isn’t really dead. George R.R. Martin has pulled fake outs before and personally, I feel that Jon is way too integral to the story to not figure into the end game. My personal beliefs aside, however, Benioff and Weiss’s decision to so neatly ship Melisandre back to the wall also supports that theory and her sudden abandonment of Stannis – and his subsequent Macbethean downfall – was another deviation from the books that worked really well.
LK: Oh I absolutely believe this Jon situation won’t stick in the slightest. He’s way too important to the story and we still have the small matter of his parentage to cover. Honestly, I can easily draw a parallel between this and what happened to the Human Torch a few years back in the Fantastic Four comics. He actually died. Repeatedly. But they always brought him back to life. Even if Jon really is dead, he’s not staying dead.
As for Stannis, not showcasing the battle was a smart move. This episode had a lot to cover and spending it on an obvious massacre wouldn’t have worked. The real story is his downfall and Brienne finally facing him in the battlefield. Let’s be real here though. We didn’t actually see Stannis die. Something tells me Brienne spared him.
KRF: Stannis’s death is one I’m fairly confident is actual, despite that too-cute cut to Ramsay Snow executing one of Stannis’ soldiers. Brienne doesn’t play and Stannis, having already lost everything, was resigned to his fate, confessing his sins (another theme for the evening) and telling Brienne to “do her duty.” Even before learning the bulk of his forces defected (something I predicted last week based on their horrified faces during the sacrifice of Shireen), Stannis was broken and defeated, as evidenced by the cold manner in which he shrugged of Melisandre’s words of encouragement – winning the war no longer meant a thing, since he had already lost his family and his soul in the process.
LK: After the shit he pulled last week, there’s no one I wanted dead more than Stannis. I was hoping Ramsay would go down too but it was not this day. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see if Stannis’s perfectly trimmed beard and trademarked glare will come back for more.
I do know one thing though. Theon Greyjoy is back, and him and Sansa are running to the hills. Hear that Kimberlee? That’s the sound of cheering.
KRF: Yes, Theon finally said goodbye to Reek (and also “Bye, Felicia,” when he shoved that creep Miranda off the wall) and, in a bit of an echo to last week’s Daenerys/Jorah reunion, regained Sansa’s trust as the two leapt into the snow and away from the horrid Boltons. It was a nice payoff to a storyline that felt stagnant at times this year and I’m relieved to see both Sansa and Theon finally move beyond the world of constant torture they’ve been mired in for the past few seasons. Here’s hoping season six sees the two of them (and especially Sansa, who seemed poised to develop some real agency and cunning) carve out a place for themselves that doesn’t involve their constant victimization.
LK: They honestly may. Something has to give at some point right? They’re both obviously on the same side and don’t have ulterior motives like the Lannisters or Littlefinger. For the first time since the very beginning, Sansa and Theon have the perfect opportunity to finally take control of their lives. Provided they can escape Ramsay of course, but Brienne is close so this is absolutely possible.
KRF: That ill-timed candle was such a tease, but I do prefer Sansa setting out on her own than relying on another protector. I think it’s fair to say that Sansa will be calling the shots on this journey, not The Lord formerly known as Reek.
Much like Theon, Arya’s also reclaimed her identity this week, bringing her storyline to a very satisfying close. Daring to defy Jaqen and the Many-Faced God she claims to serve, Arya takes the face of the sick peasant girl who died at the House of the Black and White a few weeks back and takes brutal, delicious revenge on the odious Meryn Trant. Seeing the blinded, mortally wounded brute weep for his life was a delicious bit of schadenfreude, even if Arya had to later pay for her transgressions.
LK: Arya and Jon both learned the hard way what happens when you try and break what certain people devoutly believe as law. The Many-Faced God and Jaqen clearly have a strict code that Arya, always the rebellious one, felt she could skirt around. That’s what happens when you’re blinded by revenge, even if that gave us one of Maisie Williams’s best and most brutal scenes. Now she’s literally blind too which will be an very interesting trial for her. Maybe this will be one of those “You can see better without your eyes” Daredevil situations.
The same can be said about Cersei. Talk about getting your comeuppance! Freely sleeping with family members and conspiring to get many others killed, all coming to light. “Mother’s Mercy” saw Cersei get absolutely ruined.
KRF: I loved the staging and pacing of Cersei’s walk of atonement, as it seemed to go on forever, effectively putting the viewer into her shame and pain. (Also, I love how the moment was scored to “The Rains of Castamere,” just like Tywin’s death scene last season – the Lannister fight song providing an ironic soundtrack to their comeuppances.) Of course, the haughty Queen Regent maintains her relative composure until her face is hidden from the jeering commoners, not breaking down until right before she enters the Red Keep. (The smug, satisfied smirk Pycelle gives her upon entrance was a delight, too.) Things immediately look up for Cersei when Qyburn’s secret experiment is revealed as a new, silent and massive champion for her cause. Unfortunately, Cersei’s still unaware of what’s transpired with Jaime and Myrcella on the way home from Dorne.
LK: Myrcella’s death was a legitimate shock and probably the most exciting ending an average Dorne storyline could have received. Clearly the Martell’s, or Ellaria at least, have no interest in maintaining peace. Poor Jaime too! This was the only time one of his children actually recognized him as their father. It was easily one of the sweetest moments on this show. Yet this is Game of Thrones, and so of course the poor girl dies of poison. One of my earlier reviews pegged this as happening to Jaime, and I was close by predicting a Lannister!
KRF: It’s yet another deviation from the source material (as Myrcella is still very much alive in the books), but likely an inevitable one if Maggy the Frog’s prophecy which opened the season is to be believed. It was also an interesting choice to have Jaime clue in Myrcella to her true parentage – another event that doesn’t happen in the novels and is reminiscent of Cersei’s spiteful confession to Tywin last season. When the Lannisters tell their secrets, it’s essentially a kiss of death (in this case, quite literally thanks to Ellaria).
Meanwhile, in Meereen, Tyrion is finally – though reluctantly – thrown into the leadership role he’s been born to play when Daario and Jorah seat him as the defacto ruler while they set out to find Daenerys. I cannot wait to see Tyrion call the shots next season (with the help of Grey Worm, Missandei, and – thankfully – Varys) and it’s going to be interesting to see him in a straight-up leadership position, rather than as an advisor to an inbred, sociopathic boy king.
LK: One has to question how much he’s willing to do though. Tyrion knows how to lead but he has absolutely no ties to Meereen. All he wants to do is bring Dany over to Westeros. Once she returns you can bet he’ll leave Meereen for his home. Provided he doesn’t completely revolutionize the city and turn them into the best allies imaginable. Tyrion has the verbal equivalent of Valyrian steel.
Speaking of Dany, the return of the Khalasar came as quite a surprise (if you haven’t read the books). Looks like she’s their prisoner now and it’ll be up to Daario and Jorah to save her. I guess they’re the Essos version of Jaime and Bronn. We won’t know until next year because this was one of those plots that primarily exists to set up what’s next. Not wrap up what we already saw.
KRF: Much like Jon Snow, Dany’s storyline is true to A Dance With Dragons and ends on that cliffhanger here. But again, with Drogon nearby and Jorah and Daario en route, I’m not too worried about Dany’s well-being. More and more, Daenerys is proving herself to be very much the queen she purports to be and though Drogon might need to lick his wounds for a while, she’s finally learning to harness the terrible power at her fingertips.
Overall, Dany’s storyline was the best it’s been in recent years, though I’m surprised the grey scale element didn’t come into play in the finale, since it was so built up this season. I think that fact can be attributed to the pacing problems that plagued the season as a whole.
LK: Pacing was definitely this season’s biggest downfall. Take a look at this finale! Instead of having some stories conclude last week and finishing the rest here, every character was in focus last night. Sam is probably the best example of this. His very brief part in “Mother’s Mercy” had him leaving for Oldtown to become a Maester after Aemon’s death. This journey happened much earlier in the books however. They just couldn’t fit this in sooner and now it’s becoming a sixth season story, though I expect they’ll cut the entire journey out. Everything that would have happened then already happened at Castle Black.
KRF: I think Benioff and Weiss’ choice to touch in with everyone might not have felt so rushed if many of these storylines weren’t given short shrift throughout the season. I can’t remember the last time we saw Brienne and Pod before this week and Margaery, Loras, and Olenna have been missing in action for weeks, as well as Tommen and Littlefinger. There are a lot of loose ends still untied at the end of season five which is unusual for this show, but also due in part to the fact that we’re now totally caught up with the source material and the playing field between newbies and book readers has finally been leveled. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
LK: If “Hardhome” was any indication, I’m very excited for exploring untouched material. Clearly Benioff and Weiss know exactly what they’re doing. Despite the loose ends, season five was mostly a success, which just goes to prove that when this show isn’t at its best, it’s still pretty great.
KRF: Agreed. There were some misfires this season (the entire Dorne subplot, the overly cavalier portrayal of Sansa’s rape and her ongoing torture at the hands of yet another psychopath) but season five also featured some of the series’ greatest moments, including the stunning massacre at Hardhome and its long-promised arrival of Winter, and last week’s ambush in the fighting pits and Daenerys’ glorious escape on dragonback. Overall, I’d give “Mother’s Mercy” a 9 out of 10 and an overall season grade of 8.5.Given that I’m now in the same boat as non-book readers, I’m more eager than ever to see what’s coming next year.
LK: I’m right there with you. Like apparently all my reviews, I’d give this episode a solid 9 out of 10, and make that my overall rating for the season as well. “Hardhome” was definitely the best episode I’ve seen all series and the last two episodes were great. A few bumps for sure, but nothing this juggernaut of a show can’t handle. Bring on season six, it’s bound to be nuts with White Walkers on our doorstep.
KRF: And dragon fire raining down from the sky. Until next spring!