The third season of Game of Thrones did not end in Ice or Fire … but so what?
Each week, readers Bob and Ivey discuss ‘Game of Thrones’ from the perspective of those who have read the books. This week we discuss the the third season finale. Spoilerphobes beware!
The third season of Game of Thrones has sadly come to a close. If you’ve been following the pattern that the first couple seasons have created, you might have been wondering why the finale didn’t end on a “Big Shocking Moment™.” While we won’t argue with you on that point, that doesn’t change the fact that “Mysha” did have its share of of great moments instead of shocking ones.
In this week’s Beyond the Wall, Bob and Ivey will take a look back at the finale, focusing more on what the episode got right. But first, our weekly reminder: Beyond the Wall is a column intended for those who have already read the books that Game of Thrones is based on. So unless you were wondering where a certain gentleman in serious need of a pair of mittens was, then this post is probably not for you.
Bob: Another season in the books. They go by too damned fast. That’s what getting used to the ridiculously overbloated 22-24 episode seasons of network television will do to you, I guess. I think we were all expecting a less eventful finale after the heart stomping affair that was the Red Wedding, and it’s just what we got in “Mhysa.”
Before I get to nitpicking, I have to say that it was a great episode. The writers did a nice job finding a stopping point for most of the characters and a lot of pieces were moved into place to get season four off to a quick start. My one complaint, however, is the ending of the episode. There was nothing wrong with the scene of Dany being embraced and lifted up by the slaves that she freed in Yunkai, but compared to the endings that we saw in seasons one and two it was incredibly lackluster. From what I can tell most non-book readers were pleased enough, but for those of us who do know what’s coming next, we’re having trouble looking past the could-have-beens.
I was expecting something to get us excited for next season, like the birth of dragons, or army of the dead that we had seen in previous finales. I, for one, was fully expecting to see Zombie Cat rise from the dead (giving a double meaning to the episode title). It wasn’t the only option though: Balon’s death, wildlings advancing on the wall, or even an appearance by Cold Hands could have made for a jaw dropping final moment.
Ivey: You’ve hit my only disappointment with the episode. In the first two finales, “Fire and Blood” and “Valar Morghulis,” Game of Thrones has created the expectation that the last minutes of a particular season will blow you away. We’ve discussed the reasons why unCat would have been a great option, but there were as many downsides. Balon Greyjoy’s death or Cold Hands could have been decent alternatives … but anything would have been more fitting that what we saw. Oddly, I might have missed the Frey’s dumping Cat’s body into the river more than potential reveal of UnCat.
But I don’t want to focus on the negativity; I’m sure we’ll take some time over the next few weeks to work through all of that. I want to talk about what the finale did right. Surprisingly, I’m going to point first to the character I’ve admitted was one of my least favorites from the books: Davos Seaworth. I’ve talked about how Liam Cunningham’s performance has been winning me over, and this week might have sealed the deal. His stolen moments bonding with both Gendry and Shireen were great, but it was the back and forth — lifted directly from the books I believe — between he and Stannis that stood out:
Stannis: “What is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”
We often talk about how Game of Thrones isn’t about defining characters as good or evil, but I think in this moment, the idea of good, moral action may have defined two characters.
Bob: Where does that leave poor Mel?
Yes, Davos was one of the bright spots of the episode, but I can’t help but turn my attention to Joffrey’s little hissy fit in the small council chamber. We had to go a whole season without seeing someone slap him across the face, so it was nice that the writers gave us something even better in the finale. As easy as it is to hate Tywin, seeing him interact with the true evil on the show is something of a joy to behold. It’s even better than when Tyrion gets in his face.
I also enjoyed seeing a couple other villains come into their own. I thought Michael McElhatton did a fantastic job of portraying Roose Bolton off the leash. No longer is he hiding quietly behind Robb. I appreciated that McElhatton gave us a completely different look of Bolton in this episode. Of course, there was also the shocking reveal that the psychopath torturing Theon is his bastard son. I’m wondering how many non-book readers said to themselves: “oh yeah, I remember him saying something about sending his bastard to Winterfell.”
Ivey: I hate to go all “Oh, you sweet summer child” on people, but it blew me away the amount of show-watchers that didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that Theon’s torturer was Roose’s bastard — or at least a agent of the Bolton household — what with the considerable number of clues dropped all season long.
And Roose was great but the actor playing Ramsay Snow, Iwan Rheon, has got to be some of the absolutely best casting work this show has done. Where his story goes, and how he evolves into the biggest non-dead evil in all of Westeros, will be a joy to watch.
But like you say, the current owner of that title did provide some great hijinks. Between Joffrey’s unbridled joy to the Red Wedding — and his grandfather’s reaction — and the wonderful scene they shared a couple of episodes back, it’s almost a disappointment that Joffrey Baratheon isn’t long for this world.
Bob: The other moment that stood out to me was Arya revisiting her time with Jaqen H’ghar and his coin. It should be disturbing to watch young girl repeatedly stab a grown man with a knife. Only on Game of Thrones can that represent one of the highlights of an episode. It certainly wasn’t a lot of revenge for the Starks, but it was something, and I think we all needed something. Aside from the brief catharsis, though, it was awesome hearing Arya whisper those words: Valar Morghulis. With just about all of her family dead there is nothing stopping her now from following Jaqen and accepting her destiny!
Ivey: Arya’s storyline is one of the darker, more complicated ones in the entire series, and I think the show has done a wonderful job at pulling us into that. You’re right, it’s not often that audiences can find it in themselves to cheer on a pre-teen stabbing a man to death … but we did, and the show earned that moment. Another big surprise for me was that through the talent of Sophie Turner and Peter Dinklage, I was able to believe — if only for a moment — that a marriage between Tyrion and Sansa could work.
So, despite the last couple minutes, there was a great deal to like about Game of Thrones’ third season finale. Just because the season is complete doesn’t mean Beyond the Wall is going anywhere. It will probably take a couple more posts to breakdown the season as a whole … and by then it might be time for some season four casting announcements. And if there’s anything great going on at San Diego Comic Con that is Game of Thrones related, Keith — who has newly finished the A Song of Ice and Fire series and might join us from time to time — and I will make sure you keep informed.