And so we come to the end of this series, a somewhat momentous television occasion overall. I doubt many people have ever hated a character / villain so thoroughly as Joffrey, and I am certain there has never been a television event like the Red Wedding. This has been a masterful series overall, in spite of the very rough start.
I think the mistakes of series 2 were not repeated in series 3, insofar as this one has set up the next series very well. Series 2 did delight a little too much in the Battle for Blackwater, almost reveling in it and its other climaxes during its episode 10, whereas episode 10 of Series 3 has introduced some new plots already.
The main theme for this episode was family, and it was for family that an interesting subplot and deviation from the book was initiated. Theon Greyjoy continues to be tortured at the hands of Ramsay Bolton – the Bastard’s name being officially confirmed by Roose in a prior scene where he and Frey mock Robb and all the Lords they have seen fallen – and is mocked for losing his manhood in a particularly creepy and funny scene. Theon is given a new name, Reek, and Balon and Asha Greyjoy are given his lost member as part of a set of demands from Bolton’s bastard: leave the North’s lands, now Roose Bolton’s lands, or else more of Theon will be sent.
This was a new thing on me and Asha’s reaction when her father chooses to leave him to his fate was entirely understandable, particularly as she is a true Greyjoy: she gathers fifty strong men and vows to free Theon from Ramsay Bolton’s clutches. I’ll be fascinated to see where they’re going with this in season 4.
For poor Arya, though, there is no-one capable of riding to her aid or trying to save her. She and the Hound narrowly escape from the ensuing slaughter at the Red Wedding by way of a Frey flag and venture away, anywhere. Thankfully, Arya is spared the sight of Robb’s corpse being paraded around with his dire wolf’s head attached to it, though she clearly is told about it: she reacts with anger and incredibly cold hatred when she hears some Frey men discussing the death of her brother and child, pretending to be weak and innocent to get a man who claimed to do some of the amateur taxidermy himself and then stabbing him ruthlessly over and over. It is the first man she has ever killed, and she whispers Valar Morghulis over his corpse once the Hound has killed his friends.
The other Stark girl, Sansa, was beginning to warm to her new husband slightly as the two bonded over being mocked. Naturally, this ended once news of Robb and Catelyn’s deaths. Tyrion learns about this at a Small Council meeting, during which an overexcited Joffrey earns another death threat from the Imp. Full of power and joy, Joffrey even insults Tywin, which ends with the young King being sent to bed early. Afterwards, Tywin orders Tyrion to rape his wife and put a child in her, cement their claim over the North. Tyrion refuses and claims that Tywin only does what is best for him, not for his family as he claims: Tywin responds that letting Tyrion live the day he was born was such a thing, because he was a Lannister.
We touch point with all of the Stark children in this episode. Bran and his band take refuge in one of the Night Watch’s castles, one in which the infamous Rat Cook fed a King’s son to him in a pie. That spooks the party a little, meaning that when a dark cloaked figure climbs wheezing from an indoor well, they react with panic, holding them at knifepoint… only to find that it’s Samwell Tarly and Gilly, who have ventured beneath the Wall. Sam tries to convince Bran to not go North but he must, as he and the Crannogmen believe the only way that the White Walkers will be defeated is if they follow the Three-Eyed Raven. Sam hands him the dragonglass weapons he holds and they walk away, into the furious North.
The furious North finds Jon Snow as well, in the form of Ygritte. He asks for her forgiveness, telling her he loves her but that he is a Brother of the Night’s Watch and had to stay his hand. Ygritte is a Wildling though and she peppers him with arrows, grievously wounding him but not so much that he doesn’t get away on his horse. She weeps as he goes, utterly hurt. Jon eventually finds his way to Castle Black, where Samwell has already returned and reported his adventures to Maester Aemon, the man in charge with Lord Mormont now dead. It is made clear again that the Brothers are a family, that they have no other ties, but Aemon allows Gilly to stay. He also sends a note out to every Lord and Lady in Westeros, warning them of the coming dangers from the North.
As it turns out, this letter saves Ser Davos Seaworth’s life. Still opposed to Gendry being sacrificed, he gets to know the young boy and shares details with Stannis, hoping to make him see Gendry as a real person. He and Gendry have a lot in common, having both grown up in the slums of King’s Landing, and that cements his desire to save the boy even further. Stannis is unmoved, though, convinced that he must use every means in his possession to win his war. Much like Tywin, he is willing to do anything to get what he wants. Ser Davos cannot abide this and frees Gendry, gives him a boat and food enough to get to King’s Landing. As he does not deny his crime, Stannis has no choice but to condemn Ser Davos to death… but Ser Davos knew this would be the case, and also knew how his religious King and the Red Woman would react, so he showed Maester Aemon’s letter to them, proved that there was a greater war to fight. On Melisandre’s advice, Ser Davos is spared and Stannis vows to fight the real war, knowing that the War of the Five Kings is not the real threat to Westeros.
This was a brilliant episode, I thought. It didn’t have the punch of the previous one but it had wit and charm. We saw an excellent scene with Varys trying to convince Shae to leave for Tyrion’s good, despite the fact that she loves him. Shae refuses, even though she knows Tyrion cannot be with her, showing real character for her and showing more of Varys’ means and methods. We also see Jaime finally return to King’s Landing and get a brief scene with him meeting Cersei, who herself shared a scene on motherhood with a roaringly drunk Tyrion. A family, bound in blood and fated to fight and create more and more enemies, are finally reunited.
And then we end with the title of the episode, as Daenerys shows that Tywin and Stannis are wrong, that there is another way to gain power and to further the cause of your family: to expand it, to accept people who need you and care for them. She releases the Yunkai who she has conquered and killed the Good Masters of, proclaiming that they owe no-one their freedom. They react by crying out Mysha – ‘Mother’ – and embracing her. As her children fly around the great, open skies and her army stand ready, she is held aloft by the free people of Yunkai.
Thus we end, interested in Season 4. Another year has passed and so much has happened. But thought the Starks are destroyed and scattered, their motto holds true: Winter Is Coming.