Season Finale: Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis”

“Valar Morghulis”

June 3rd, 2012

“You’re not the man you’re pretending to be. Not yet.”

Last season, Game of Thrones ended its penultimate episode with a shocking moment. With the swing of a sword, Eddard Stark was dead, and the ecosystem of the series had changed forever. The finale, “Fire and Blood” was largely left to pick up the narrative pieces that were left behind, selling viewers on a show without its lead. As a result, last season’s finale became about journeys forward: Tyrion’s journey as the King’s Hand, Robb’s journey as King in the North, Dany’s journey as the Mother of Dragons, Arya’s journey back north with Yoren, Bran’s journey as the Lord of Winterfell, and Jon Snow’s journey beyond the Wall with the Night’s Watch.

By comparison, “Valar Morghulis” has a greater burden to resolve ongoing storylines, with more of the season’s climax left to be explored given the contained explosiveness of last week’s “Blackwater.” While any simplistic analysis of the season’s narrative would identify the battle in Blackwater Bay as the season’s climax, the disjointed nature of the various journeys means that each character has been headed towards their own climaxes which were promptly delayed by last week’s events. Dany is still looking for her dragons, Jon is still a captive of the Wildlings, Arya is on the run from Harrenhal, and Bran remains hidden in his own home as Theon reigns over Winterfell. And these are only the storylines that we could identify most cleanly, as we could also consider Jaime and Brienne’s journey, or Robb’s relationship with Talisa, or any number of other threads that “Valar Morghulis” is expected to contend with.

For the most part, however, “Valar Morghulis” follows the example of last year’s finale, largely focusing on pivoting towards future storylines. This is not to say that it is anti-climactic, with Dany’s storyline in particular reaching a strong conclusion and the final moments of the episode delivering the equivalent thrill to last season’s reveal of Dany walking out of the fire with her dragons around her. Indeed, both episodes also spent a lot of time with characters taking stock of what has happened, settling on a course for the future, and then largely disappearing as other storylines took over.

The difference, though, is that there is something more substantial to take stock of. These characters are all older, mostly wiser, and each more clearly placed on a particular path. If last season’s finale was designed to solidify that these characters are not simply meant to live normal lives, consigned to a life at the heart of this conflict whether or not they choose that life, “Valar Morghulis” was about how that experience has changed them, and how the beginnings of their journey will prepare them for what’s to come.

It may be the same structure, in other words, but the result is a stronger finale, and a good burst of momentum into a third season.

Dany notes when attempting to enter the House of the Undying that it seems to be a riddle: you can’t enter a house, after all, if you can’t find the door. On some level, the House becomes the metaphor for her time in Qarth – more than an actual location of importance to her journey, it’s a brief stop along the road, a riddle she has to solve before moving onto the next path. It’s a lesson about the duplicity of men who desire power, and about the meaning of power in an age where power is about appearance more than the gold locked away in a vault. Dany realizes that she has become a piece on someone else’s chess board, a toy to be used by the warlocks whose magic is emboldened by her dragons, and then she realizes that their desire to give her everything she wants (whether it’s the gold to sail across the Narrow Sea or a dreamworld in which her sun and stars Khal Drogo and her son are alive and well) is all an illusion. Qarth almost becomes the equivalent of a mirage, a false end to a journey that is just beginning.

One could say the same for Tyrion in King’s Landing, who wakes up with a scar across his face and his entire life torn away from him. His father has ridden into King’s Landing and stolen away his title and his glory, his efforts in the Battle of Blackwater Bay lost in the history books as compared with his father’s heroics. Tyrion had built a life for himself, with people around him he trusted (like Bronn) and people he loved (like Shae), and all it took was his father’s return to rip all of that away from him. Tyrion loved that life, as much as he hated parts of it, and to find himself disfigured makes him feel as alone as he felt previously. It’s a heartbreaking scene for Tyrion, as he presumes that all is lost: he refuses to believe Shae would remain by his side, believing that any happiness he achieved before would be wiped away like the whore bride his father stole away from him all those years ago. While Shae remains, the rest of his life (and the power that came with it) is in shambles, the small man once again confined to the small quarters.

In both cases, power is something easily manipulated, something found in performance. Just look at the stage show that Cersei organizes in order to allow for Joffrey to throw Sansa to the curb and accept Margaery as his bride. It’s a brilliant sequence because of what it tells us about the participants. Littlefinger is all too eager to play whatever fealty he can, with Maester Pycelle equally excited to be returned to a position of power (as he lorded over Tyrion beforehand). Cersei, meanwhile, doesn’t even bother to hide the machination of it all, almost throwing it in Sansa’s face, while Joffrey is all too smug in playing the honorable boy before eventually “following his heart” in the matter. Loras, meanwhile, clearly wants nothing to do with any of it, uncomfortable with the charade, while Margaery’s smile is real, and genuine, and reflective of her thirst for power. Tywin has no interest in sticking around for the nitty gritty, content to earn his honor and then waltz away, but by the time the scene is done the business he oversaw with Littlefinger is done: the Tyrells and Lannisters are to be wed, and their hold on the crown becomes that much more secure as a result.

And yet would any of that matter if the White Walkers north of The Wall were to descend on King’s Landing? Or if Dany’s dragons were to fly across the Narrow Sea to rain fire down on the Red Keep? Or if Melisandre were to birth an army of Shadow Babies to break slip through the Mud Gate? The merging of the two households changes the power dynamics of Westeros, but in the grand scheme of things more troops does nothing to stop the larger threats we see as viewers. Our perspective of power is found in the realm of magic, with those who wield extraordinary forces that require something more than an elaborate stage show, and the question now is how the humans who we have come to relate with are going to be able to battle or harness that power themselves.

The answer from Benioff and Weiss thus far, as it was in the books, is “not yet.” Dany may be able to get her dragons to burn some chains, but they remain too small to fight any sort of war, or bring her the power she needs to make it across the Narrow Sea. Perhaps only Stannis truly sits in a position to command such forces, reaffirmed in his beliefs in the Lord of Light after seeing something in the flames at Melisandre’s urging, but what he intends to do with it beyond achieving the same power everyone else craves is less clear. Other characters, meanwhile, are making choices that reflect a different world than the one we see elsewhere, a world where it still matters whether you piss off Walder Frey by marrying someone other than the daughter to whom you’re betrothed.

This may make events like Robb’s marriage feel insignificant, but I’d argue it better emphasizes a theme that we’ve been dealing with since Ned’s death. Ned wasn’t trying to play this game: he was simply trying to do the right thing, to live honorably and to follow his gut. However, he got caught up in a world where that wasn’t valued, where that held no power or sway over others who played by different rules, and now we find a character like Robb in a similar position. His rejection is more childish, following his heart more than his head, but it’s also personal. Just as Arya gives up a chance at a higher power to find her family, Robb risks losing an allegiance to follow his heart, as that’s what still means something to him. He has not yet reached the stage where he’s willing to consign himself to the higher orders of power at stake, not yet willing to lose everything of himself in an effort to win a war part of him didn’t want to fight in the first place.

For Jon Snow, meanwhile, he’s forced to follow through. Not only is it his duty, but it’s also his survival at stake. While Robb sits comfortably in the River Lands, Jon is North of the Wall in dangerous territory, among people who would see him dead. The show suffered in later episodes to provide any kind of structure for Jon, but the cold wastelands of Iceland provided a stunning setting which on some level filled in everything we needed to know. Jon is in a harsh situation that requires him to turn himself over, which here literally means killing the Halfhand (at his command) to ingratiate himself with his captors. While the rushed nature of the story kept it from feeling like a true climax, seemingly just a final step before we finally meet the “King beyond The Wall,” it plays well as a twisted turnaround of his early, failed execution. While he couldn’t kill Ygritte for the Night’s Watch as a test of his oath, he could kill one of his own brothers when it was a matter of life and death.

I could go on with further thematic parallels, but I think we’ve reached the point where we have to contend with two particular problems with “Valar Morghulis.” The first is that I don’t think it really did anything to solve any of the earlier problems with a few of its storylines: Jon and Dany ran out of things to do fairly early on, and both stories lost momentum as a result. I’d argue that the resolution offered here was effective as dramatic television, but I don’t know if it really did anything to bulk up those narratives to allow the character moments to resonate. They become part of the thematic connections I’ve mentioned, but there was a bit too much narrative burden present within those storylines that never quite gets realized. Dany’s dream in the House of the Undying is a big and evocative sequence, and nicely foregrounds her character in ways the storyline as a whole did not, so at least that offered a resonant moment to tie together some loose ends. Jon, by comparison, got nothing of the sort, with his actions largely serving a plot function rather than a character one. Ultimately, I don’t think it damages the finale as a springboard into next season or necessarily as a bookend on the season as a whole, but it’s a question mark that remains for next season.

The other issue at hand is the other countless number of question marks that remain given the number of changes made to the story as compared to the books. I saw some rumblings on Twitter about this, and I have to be completely and totally honest: I simply don’t care about the comparison anymore. When I started writing these reviews, someone asked why I wasn’t offering more of a book reader perspective: that wasn’t something that any critic was doing at the time, and was certainly a niche I could have filled. However, I resisted it, both because I didn’t want to exclude any potential readership (keeping spoilers at a minimum to allow non-readers to participate) and because I didn’t consider myself an expert on the books. I am a fan of the books, perhaps, but I don’t have the emotional connection necessary to really draw out the comparison to its fullest potential.

However, the longer we’ve gone into the series the more of this kind of analysis we’ve seen in comment sections and in reviews, and I have to say that I have no interest in it. I can tell when the show makes changes, but I never have any sort of reaction to it, good or bad. I understand why people might be more concerned, but on a personal level it seems strange to be judging a long-form adaptation based on a single change in a single episode. While broader questions of whether the show is doing justice to the books is the kind of personal reflection that is an inevitable and valuable part of subjective viewing practices, focusing on minute details regarding an adaptation-in-progress is not something I find productive or satisfying. This is not to devalue those who feel differently, as I believe there is a place for that kind of criticism, but rather to say that I know there were changes, and I know they’re going to affect where the story goes from here, but my response is not concern or even uncertainty so much as curiosity. I’m interested more than invested, intrigued more than incensed, and so whatever impact “Valar Morghulis” has on the show’s future is fine by me so long as I continue to think the show works as a whole.

Season two worked. I don’t know if I’d place it above the first season, but “Valar Morghulis” did a very fine job of transitioning from one stage of this journey to another. Arya was never going to stay at Harrenhal with Tywin forever, just as Dany was never going to stay in Qarth, but she left Harrenhal a slightly different person. In a long-form narrative like this one, the goal for each season is about moving everything one step closer to where it’s heading, and I’ll warn you up front that Martin is not particular fond of endings. Journeys will rarely end in Game of Thrones, and thus the goal becomes achieving a cumulative development which affects the characters we care about and the stakes we’ve come to take as our own. By nature of how much more time we’ve spent with the characters, those stakes are stronger now than they were last season, which is why a similarly structured finale is allowed to resonate more clearly. This is still a messy narrative with too many threads to successfully follow, but there’s power in this sort of deep breath finale: as storylines reach a point of transition, it’s time for everyone to stop, look at where they are, and then plot their next step forward. While only time will tell whether Benioff and Weiss have charted out any missteps among the characters, with at least one more season (and likely a few more) to correct any path that might prove disadvantageous initially, “Valar Morghulis” never feels tentative or halting in its movements – it was strong, just like the season it concludes.

I’m open to the idea that this itself was just a performance, a show of strength and power which underneath reveals underlying tensions. However, for now I’ll simply admit that I enjoyed the show, and would ultimately value that entertainment over any underlying concerns which may appear over time.

Cultural Observations

  • My favorite little moment in the episode: Tywin’s horse taking a shit before entering the Throne Room. There’s a deeper thematic reason I appreciate the detail, but I also liked how it emphasized the theatre of the performance: while the horse is a sparkling symbol of power when Tywin rides into the hall, it’s an animal that defecates on the floor outside of the doors.
  • My second favorite moment: Theon’s second-in-command explaining his delayed attack on Theon by suggesting that “It was a good speech – didn’t want to interrupt.”
  • Without spoiling anything, Brienne and Jaime’s road trip never built to any of its potential climaxes: there’s no danger in the situation they end with, instead allowing Brienne’s attack on the Stark men who nearly identify Jaime to deepen the dynamic between them. A smart choice, I thought.
  • While this was one of the most substantial collections of the entire cast in one episode in a while, there were still some key players missing: curious to see how/if the show picks them up next season.
  • Interesting choice to shift to a more heavily CGI White Walker as compared with the prologue. I guess I’m not entirely shocked, as they have a bit more control over it that way, but it did create a bit of dissonance for me. Still, though, the effect of the undead walking towards them was quite chilling, if you’ll excuse the pun.
  • Maester Luwin’s death was the largest emotional beat in the hour, and I thought it was well done: the show has done a nice job with characters like Syrio, Yoren, and Luwin in terms of their relationships with the Stark children before their deaths, and seeing their passing through the eyes of babes (as it were) has worked well for the show.
  • While I continue to welcome any readers to comment below (although I’d appreciate you tagging spoilers for non-readers), I’m particularly interested in how non-readers responded to the season, given that we’re getting closer to the deep end as far as the narrative is concerned.
  • And thanks to all of you for reading – these are some of my most trafficked reviews I’ve ever written (and the only ones I’m writing here at Cultural Learnings currently), and I value the discourse they offer as I watch through the show from one perspective and y’all bring thousands more. Looking forward to Season Three!
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31 Comments

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31 responses to “Season Finale: Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis”

  1. j

    Agreed somewhat:

    As a TV Show, it works. I find numerous changes throughout the season, and even in this episode, to be pointless and silly, with certain characters moving from honorable to just being stupid (Robb), but as an independent TV Show, it DOES work.

    As a TV Show, my only complaint with this episode is that the Sacking of Winterfell is extremely unclear. Who set it aflame exactly? Why would Luwin fear they come back? The whole thing is just confusing and makes no sense in the show except to get Bran headed North. (The same is not true in the book).

    • j

      EDIT: Since I can’t seem to edit – scratch that, I have one other major problem:

      The Frey thing. No one seems to mention in the show, not Robb or EVEN CATELYN, that Frey brought thousands of swords to Robb’s Cause. Once again, they treat it as if Robb would simply be angering a minor lord who has no real use. So if Robb does lose thousands of men next season as a result of this next season, then….it’s an omission that makes no sense.

      As a TV Show, for now it works. But well, they’re very much headed in uncharted directions next season. I have no idea how they can pull it off.

      • Nagga's Kin

        Actually, Catelyn did mention to Robb that Walder Frey was committing his forces to the cause as part of the betrothal deal in season 1. She didn’t say how many, but that bridge is a highly defensible structure. He wouldn’t need thousands to defend it. Hundreds, perhaps.

    • Daniel J. Linehan

      I think it was “confusing” only in the sense that it was being deliberately left mysterious, so that when [SPOILER] shows up next season, there’s more of an ambiguity about him. I imagine that what happened to Winterfell is still more or less the same as in the books.

      Also, I don’t see how Robb was stupider in the show than he was in the books. It’s a stupid decision no matter how you put it.

      • j

        SPOILERS:
        In the books, Robb marries Jeyne out of HONOR – He Immaturely takes her after conquest of the Crag and marries her out of his father’s honor. Strategically it’s a stupid decision, but it’s one made out of honor and one that is very believable.

        In the show, Robb marries Jeyne in DISHONOR, out of pure stupidity. Also, no one can say that any of their meetings/talk actually seemed like it was either A. believable romance or B. like they ever should have met more than once in the first place.

        The plot serves entirely to give Robb something to do in ACOK while keeping him on course for ASOS, but makes the character look like an idiot (or well, will, in retrospect).

        • Daniel J. Linehan

          I’m confused. You just said that Robb’s decision to marry Jeyne in the books was (strategically) idiotic. So why does this make him look like more of an idiot? Because it’s not honorable? Honor doesn’t make anybody wiser, as Ned Stark’s headless corpse could surely demonstrate.

          • j

            Put it this way. Ned Stark’s actions are idiotic. But they don’t feel that as much because they’re caused by his devotion to honor.

            The same for Robb in the books – his actions are strategically stupid yes, but they make sense by his moral code. His stupidity is JUSTIFIED by his honor.

            Here, there’s no justification. He’s just stupid.

        • Nagga's Kin

          Seen through our modern eyes, rushing to marry Talisa in secret made no sense, especially given the inevitable tensions with Walder Frey. However, virginity was a prerequisite for women on the medieval marriage market, especially for highborn ladies. In a nutshell: you break it, she’s yours. If they’d simply given Robb a couple of lines, e.g. “Walder Frey will be a problem, but you know I must do this. I have already made her mine.” to Catelyn, it would have been much clearer that his rash actions had in fact cornered him into a moral dilemma. His feelings for Talisa clearly influenced how he resolved that. However, dilemmas are something people are supposed to visibly wrestle with for a while. There wasn’t enough screen time for that, so IMHO, Robb’s conversation with Catelyn and the wedding scene both belonged in season 3 episode 1.

          Instead, we could have had a short sequence featuring Roose Bolton: He reads a raven message stating that Tywin’s reserves were heading south to KL. He rushes into Robb’s tent to find his king talking (unintelligibly) to Talisa. Roose apologizes for the interruption, asserting there was an urgent military matter. Robb angrily tells him the war is just going to have to wait and kicks him out (yet again). Outside, Roose instructs his squire to send this cryptic message to his bastard son: “You have my blessing.”

  2. Daniel J. Linehan

    I feel like the scenes at the House of the Undying show the foolishness of tracking what’s been changed from the books and what hasn’t. That was almost entirely new material, but it sold the grandeur and the melancholy and the mystery of George R. R. Martin’s world better than almost anything else in the show to date. It doesn’t matter in the end that the house looked totally different, that all of the prophecies and visions from A Clash of Kings were excised, et cetera, et cetera. The essence of the series was there.

  3. Good review as always.

    The last two episodes gave us some seriously epic television. Sigh, now we wait again. And it’s a shame they had to squeeze so hard to get this story into only ten episodes. Still, they really tried really hard. For having 11 plot threads to wrap up, this was a pretty amazing hour. My full review here. I suspect that the sometimes failure to emotionally resonate with important scenes (like Jon’s killing of the Halfhand this episode) has something to do with the number of threads and intense compression. Each gets only the minimum time needed to sell it, and far too much comes in between.

    • j

      Uh, Compression didn’t stop the Halfhand thing from resonating. It was removing all of Halfhand’s precapture interactions with Jon from the show in favor of Ygritte flirting.

      Let’s be fair here.

      • That’s compression. The writers presumably felt it more necessary to build Ygritte’s relationship with Jon given she was continuing on — and it is important — but Jon only got a handful of scenes. They compressed the hell out of his whole storyline, which was fantastic in the books.

        With Dany on the other hand, they actually expanded in a relative fashion as her book 2 storyline is weak. And Theon got a big expansion, but his sections cover much of what were Bran sections in the books too.

        Now, we should have dropped Ros and used that time to bolster some of the better characters. Like what was up with that long Ros and Littlefinger exchange early in the season?

        • j

          It’s not compression, it’s a subtraction and addition. Ygritte HAS no real relationship with Jon in Book 2 (She has all of two scenes, neither of which takes up much time). The whole chasing after her thing was brand new and weak compared to additional time with the Halfhand, plus raises the question of why QHORIN WOULD LEAVE JON OUT THERE ALONE TO BEGIN WITH!?

          and yes, this episodes’ worst failure was the setting up for More Ros. Good god.

  4. It’s seems they are going far and far from the books indeed, and while it doesn’t anger me, as it does some people, it does makes me sad some time, for the very selfish reason that I wanted to see some of the things I read on the page, on the screen. The House of the Undying for example, I love that sequence, and even though I understand why they totally changed it, I still would’ve loved to see it. When I see the wall, all I could thing about was “Where’s the blue flower?”, but alas, it was not to be.

    The only thing that I don’t quite get, is why in the show, they prevented Robb and Cat to find out about the boys. It was such an emotional moment, and it made so much more sense as a catalyst. Also, now it’s been so long that it all happened, that it will feel really weird when they finally find out. If they even find out at this point.

    I’m also really curious what they will do with Talisa and those white walkers going forward. The Talisa thing doesn’t bother me because Jeyne was never really a character, but the White Walkers things raised my eyebrows a little bit.

    SPOILERS from here on now.

    I don’t remember the books exactly, and I do know that Sam ends up killing a White Walker, but not an army of Wights . So either they are totally changing it, which would only bother me because we actually haven’t had a full scale battle in the books, and I feel that would be way too much deviation. Or they are just have a small scale battle with the Night’s Watch, and then it would just be cheap teasing for the tv show viewers. Of course, maybe it will be something else, who knows at this point?

    • worldsgreatestsquid

      SPOILERS for the situation you mention:
      Sam killing the Other happens later, when they are running from the undead army.

  5. Chris

    I have never read the books but love the TV show more from reading excerpts from chapters of the books. The Blackwater scene of Tywin and the Terrills riding in with Renleys armor would have been missed if I hadn’t researched it. After the show my first question was why did they burn Winterfell. Wikipedia in most cases has the answer and it makes sense to me. The review above was great as well.

  6. belinda

    I was worried about how stuffed the finale was going to be after 2×9, so that additional 10 mins was a godsend and provided the extra and vital time needed so the episode didn’t feel stuffed.

    I still have issues with Jon and Dany’s arcs for the season, as mentioned, there was simply way too much dragging around and delaying of their progression in the second half of the season. I’m pleased with the finale so on the one hand, I get why they had to drag it out, but on the other hand, I wonder if they could’ve paced the earlier developing pieces differently so the resolution of Jon and Dany’s sl in the finale wouldn’t feel as deliberately delayed as it did especially in that second half of the season where it’s obvious they’re buying their time so those resolutions would all happen in the finale and not say, 2×8.

    Spoilerish (but not really)
    I’m also not pleased with how they dealt with the faux murders Bran and Rickon, because I have no idea as to whether anyone outside of winterfell actually knows they’re (faux) dead. In 2×8, I feel like I’ve missed a scene where Cat and Robb found out (which would’ve provided a much needed explanation to their actions), and in this episode Arya tells Jaqan that she needs to find her mother and brother (singular), and also her sister, but no mention of Bran/Rickon (though I don’t know whether it’s because she thinks they’re fine and dandy in Winterfell, or because she already thinks they’re dead and thus she won’t find them). But yeah. I still don’t understand why they took the agency away from Cat and Robb as characters. It’s sort of like they’ve shifted the Jaime/Brienne SL into S2 – understandable, otherwise S2 would have featured no Jaime at all – but forgot to do it with the faux murders (and thus Cat/Robb lost their agency for their actions).

    But otherwise, I liked the finale and the season as a whole. There are still pacing issues like there was in S1, but the story and list of characters and locales have only gotten more dense (and will continue to) than S1, so with that logic, they’re actually doing a better job this season, which is a good sign. Even though it also means that this issue probably won’t ever go away even if they continue to improve. The show changed/shifted things they needed to from the books, for a multitude of reasonable reasons, and I think the changes worked mostly for the show. (Mostly it’s neither better or worse, the books and the show were both effective and did justice to the same story given the medium they occupy).

    p.s. what they did with Theon’s arc for the season was very effective and efficient, and I liked his scene with Luwin and his speech scene a lot. Luwin made me shed tears, that was excellent.

  7. worldsgreatestsquid

    Despite having read the books, and actually enjoying them, I appreciate that the show is deviating from them more and more. A lot of events and characters become more emotionally resonant on screen, and while the show has a different way of juggling fantasy tropes than the books – and certainly works better in some cases than in others – they so far manage to keep a lot of these balls in the air in a satisfactory way.

    The narrative structure of the books is fascinating, but at the same time, often frustrating, and I’m glad that the show is taking full advantage of being able to provide characters like Varys, Shae, Margaery, or Talisa with actual depth. The story, in the end, is still concerned with the struggle over Westeros, both on a more worldly power scale, and a possible mystical, “dragons vs ice demons vs fire gods” scale, and if they give us different people than the books to focus on in some cases, it only makes for a richer world.

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  9. Julius Galacki

    I discovered your reviews last week and I have to say, I find it the only one worth reading because of the careful way you analyze the show, acknowledge the books but keep away from both spoilers and useless umbrage about various changes. I like how you go deeper into thematic aspects of the show, as well as the structural ones. While I’ve sometimes already reached the same (or perhaps different conclusions), you have a knack for crystalizing my own similar but more vague thought and feelings about the subject – so kudos to you for your cogency.

    As for myself, in the last two seasons, I’ve tried to read the books just ahead or just behind the episodes because I find the choices the TV writers have made to be quite fascinating. (Of course, this season the follow along reading method hasn’t worked as well because there is a lot more jumping around, re-ordering of scenes and either more invented characters and scenes or more use of moments from the latter books.) I see that the books and series each have their inherent strengths and flaws… sometimes I like one a bit more than the other.

    Overall I’ve been very satisfied with this season. The first 8 episodes were essentially the emotional set-up for the last 2 episodes. I would second all of the positive things you mentioned including the horse moment and my own emotional pain I felt watching another good man, Luwin, die which was only magnified by the boys’ reactions. Of this final episode, I was bothered somewhat by 2 things and disappointed only 1. Dany’s victory over the wizard with dragon fire seemed so easy when previously the wizard was very good about presenting multiple illusions of himself thus ineffectiveness of various swordsmen trying to strike him. So why now was he such an easy target? I also felt that Jon’s killing of the Halfhand wasn’t explored emotionally. I saw no ramifications of it on Jon’s face. Since the script couldn’t let him express such verbally, it was all up to the actor and he wasn’t up to the task. But most of all, I hated the illogic of a zombie army just marching past Sam. There’s no reason in the world they wouldn’t kill him. This was a similar flaw in the prologue scene in episode 1 last year.

    Clearly, it’s a TV convention – they want to show us the White Walkers and undead and need a witness to justify it. (I assume the books handle this revelation differently.) Also, I found the fakeness of the Whitewalker CGI and heavy make-up less than effective. The mystery and dread created by the quick cuts and flashes of something not quite identifiable was far scary than these hoary zombie cliches’ and theme park mannikin monsters. The only thing truly creepy was the sound the White Walker made.

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  11. AAAutin

    As always, terrific analysis. Thanks for the great read.

    Now, to honor your request for non-reader feedback: I found this season to be far more compelling than the last. The multi-perspective narrative (especially sans proper protagonist) gave a complexity to the world, while the tension and chaos of war brought with it a momentum pushing toward mania–in contrast to the slow-build-toward-crippling-sorrow pacing of the first season. Also, just in terms of pure televisual craft–score, cinematography, effects, editing, etc.–the second season took a big step up.

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  13. Hey Mcnut. Nice job on not loosing any “readers”.

    For your information: The problem isnt if there are any changes in adaptation from the book to the screen. There has to be, for many reasons.

    The problem is in quality of those changes.
    You can stick your head into the sand however deep you want but it does not change a single fact about how bad, cheap and nonsensical they are, at all.

    Here is my Extra Emotionally Engaging Review of this episode:

  14. - First scene, taken stright from the books. Seems good but then turns into shit.
    Tywin Lannister gets one fucking line, gets the badge and then turns and goes away while no one pays any attention to him at all.

    - Robb marries whoever. For some kind of “love” is it? What love exactly? Love for amputations? A piece of ass? Stupid, cheap – no logic at all. (as is the whole deal with so called Talysa of which this is just a continuation)

    - Arya gets found by Jaqen in the middle of nowhere. Great. So fantastic. Jaqen splurts nonsense that doesnt make sense in the context of the story of tv crap. Like offering info on faceless men so that audience knows there is something called FACELESS MEN and then offers her a coin and invites her to go with him….. Face changing is stupid.

    - Jaime is afraid of three random soldiers so he acts like he isnt Jaime Lannister. Great. Veeeery logical. Brienne character changed into a badass killer. (btw this was the only half acceptable scene in the context of this shit adaptation – in this complete shit episode)

    - Stannis strangles Melisandre. What the fing…f? She convinces him with… what? How…Who? WHAT THE FUUUUUCK?

    - Theon… gets knocked out for laughs? And then… how exactly do those Ironborn go out of the castle? I guess all those northerners waiting outside just let them go, right? While they carry knocked out Theon? IS THAT RIGHT? Why are those Ironborn carrying Theon at all?
    And then… why is Winterfell burned at all? Who was fighting?

    - Daenerys… my fucking god… none of it makes any fucking sense. If Warlocks could do such feats of magic they would rule the world let alone Qarth.
    She comes to that stupid tower with only two people, walks around, disappears the two morons dont even wander what happened. Its like all understandable to them amirite? Then suddenly she storms the Xaros palace with more warriors then she had when she entered Qarth.
    What about those that got killed before? Why is her girl servant with Xaro? where are Xaro soldiers or bodyguards? He is a “king” of Qarth EEEHHH?
    By the fucking way… she burned only one warlock and suddenly thats it? While in episodes before it didnt matter which one you killed out of all “clones”. Ah i see… she got the right one EH?

    - Sam hides behind a rock, a Whitewalker looks at him and then does nothing and zombies just walk by…

    ergo:
    Extra Emotionally Engaging Review

    see the rest at:

    http://smilingknight.imgur.com/

  15. Chard

    As a non-book reader, I have to say the one thing that stuck out in this episode – and the series as a whole, really, is Qarth. It just feels so totally empty. How can it be that King’s Landing is brim-full of deep and interesting characters, while Qarth feels like an empty shell of a city by comparison. The 13 are dead, and now the two usurpers are too, and that leaves… well, anyone? A total political vacuum, it would seem. I understand that the plot is busy enough as it is without adding MORE, but it had the effect of making Dany’s Series2 storyline seem weak and token.

    Just my tuppenceworth…

    • The SmilingKnight

      The thirteen dead and two usurpers dead also actually leaves Daenerys as the Queen of Qarth.

      hahahaha…. what a butterfly eh?

      Dont worry, it wont be even mentioned in the next season, she will just leave after stealing more stuff from her own city…. after all… what could she do with whole Qarth? EEHHH?

  16. Pingback: Game of Thrones Season 2 Review « thevisionaryfilmfanatic

  17. Pingback: Game of Thrones: Valar Morghulis Recap & Review « TV Reviews

  18. My God. Is it weird that I had tears in my eyes reading this? Thank you for writing a passionate yet objective and honest view of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read the books. I love what Martin did with the stories. I also enjoyed how the writers of the show transposed this story for the screen, and I truly appreciate that effort. I’ve been reading too many book-vs-show critiques, this is just a breath of fresh air.

  19. Pingback: Catch Up on Game of Thrones Season Two | Tired and Bored With Myself

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