Game of Thrones – Valar Morghulis (Filthsposition)
Another year, another Game of Thrones finale. Forgive this one being WAYYYYY too long, it is the finale after all. Try to cut me some slack and read/discuss.
I’ll start with the worst of it-
I’ve come to the conclusion that the show was simply not accessible enough this year to those who haven’t read the source material. The clarity of storytelling wasn’t always sharp enough. Sure, some of those viewers might be able to work everything out, though I don’t think it’s purely an intelligence issue as to who can and who can’t.
For instance, I strongly believe that my parents are reasonably intelligent people, but I needed to clarify many things for them this season. An example would be that they thought Stannis was captured by Lannister troops at the end of last week’s episode, not realizing that he was instead dragged to safety by his own men. So when Stannis showed up back in Dragonstone this week, they later asked me to explain. I think that was a pretty common issue among viewers.
Also, when Jon was fighting Qhorin Halfhand in the finale, they both assumed that the two were pretending and would then turn on their captors. When Jon killed Qhorin, they suspected he had slipped into a rage upon hearing Qhorin insult Jon’s Mother, and had retaliated without thinking. When they came to me for clarification after they watched the episode, I had to explain that no, it was all a plan to send Jon undercover. This was a less common misconception among viewers, but it still raises the larger issue. I personally believe that the show should be clear enough for my parents to understand pretty much everything without my help. Knowledge of the books should give added depth, but it shouldn’t be bordering on being a necessity the way it sometimes was this year.
The way the Battle of Winterfell was done was absolutely terrible. It made NO SENSE why the kids didn’t go to the Stark soldiers for protection, or why Winterfell was on fire. Those answers may be coming later, but there was no reason to delay them. The book was very upfront with all of that information (and I will explain it if you guys don’t want to wait a year to understand this finale), and rightly so. The show didn’t even need to show the battle in order to clarify this stuff. They could easily have had the dying Maester Luwin explain things to the children. Very very bad accessibility and clarity of storytelling right there. The show will need to cut that sort of shit out next year.
Not onto the rest-
Everything in King’s Landing worked wonders for me. Pycelle gloating over Tyrion was a nice callback. Same with Varys being back to scheming against his old rival Littlefinger. It looks like Ros will finally have some downright interesting material next season, the seed for which grew organically out of what she suffered this year. Margaery’s proposal to Joffrey was a good follow-up to her “I want to be THE Queen” line earlier. Her proposal will have an interesting impact on several characters next year. Tyrion’s relationship with Shae finally felt fully convincing in this episode. Littlefinger inheriting Harrenhal after all was a good callback. All of these things were addressing desires and dynamics between characters that were hinted at earlier in the season/series. I really appreciated all of these mini-payoffs, and did not have faith that the show would deliver them. The fact that it was done, and all in a clear, efficient manner was much appreciated. It did a great job of making this season feel just a little less disjointed for me, while also clarifying some things for next season well in advance. Nice stuff. So yeah, a BIG thumbs up for the King’s Landing scenes from me.
Robb getting married to Talisa was okay. All of the stuff with Robb this year was a bit dull, but it will directly set up some amazing twists and turns in the next season. While his scenes should have been more engaging in the moment, at least we have only the payoff to look forward to now. The show suffered in general this year from some overly slow pacing, with episodes being more about setting up future seasons then delivering a great experience in and of themselves. While this is a questionable approach, hopefully it will at least fulfill it’s desired function of allowing for some amazing episodes further down the line.
I liked the Stannis/ Melisandre scene. I thought it could’ve used stronger music, and the violence there could have had a bit of a stronger impact. But I still like those two performers, and I liked the idea that maybe in the show Stannis isn’t quite done as a threat yet. It is nice to see when they make bold changes from the books.
The scenes with Theon were absolutely fantastic. Right up to and including when he got knocked out, which was a great gag. However, the show’s failure to delve a bit more into what exactly happened to him and Winterfell after that was truly terrible. Just a massive, massive miscalculation which somewhat sullied all the great work done with Theon in the episode up to that point. However, Maester Luwin’s death was well-done. As said before, he could and should have explained to the audience via dialogue what had occurred to Theon and to Winterfell, but I was still emotionally moved by his death. I liked the character. There was an amazing shot of Winterfell burning as Bran and friends walked away. That moment was also accompanied by what I call the “Sad Bran music” (which had previously been used over the final scene and closing credits of Episode 8- “The Prince of Winterfell”). I think that “Sad Bran Music” is a truly brilliant, haunting piece of music, I really must try to find it on the internet. Bottom line- The Winterfell material was massively hurt by the showrunner’s nonsensical refusal to provide necessary information, but I still found some elements to really love there.
Dany’s scenes were also acceptable. The House of the Undying was much weirder in the books- A much longer bout of mayhem with Dany going through room after room of increasingly bizarre hallucinations. It reminded me more of Twin Peaks and Tarsem Singh’s “The Cell”. The show took a much less theatrical route and instead conjured up a re-appearance of Khal Drogo. While I had hoped for more hallucinatory insanity, what they did offer was a nice enough suprise and was pretty well-done. The “Warlock Dean Pelton” arc was pretty muddled right through the season, but they at least wrapped it up in acceptable form.
What I thought was even better were the scenes with Dany after she left the House of the Undying. Those scenes stole the episode for me. Dany locking Doreah and Xaro in the vault- What a haunting, badass scene! The moments after with Dany walking down a hallway with her dragons, while the men looted everything in the background was AWESOME. The misc-en-scene was perfect, and a lot of that stuff nailed a very “finale-ish” feel for me. The line “Will this buy me a ship?” “A small ship”, with a mixture of great music and acting and cinematography, successfully created more anticipation in me for Daenery’s storyline next season. This is quite an achievement after how flawed her storyline was for most of this season.
The scene with Arya and Jaqen was reasonably cool. Arya’s storyline in Season 2 was massively different from how it was in the book. Half of the changes were really nice, half of them were really really misguided. Same goes for Daenerys. I think comparing and contrasting the very different ways that the show and the book approached this chapter of the saga is highly fascinating, particularly in relation to those two characters. I’d highly recommend that you guys read the books because “A Clash of Kings” and “Game of Thrones- Season 2” are really quite different experiences (I’ve described a LOT of the differences in these reviews, but still haven’t touched even half of them). And I’m sure the differences will only increase dramatically with every passing year from here on out.
The scene with Jaime and Brienne was fantastic. Their continued adventures were a highlight from the books, and I can’t wait to see how the show handles them next season.
And of course the closing scene with the White Walkers was f*cking fantastic.
Oh, and I just because I have to say this in every review- The opening credits sequence, as always, was f*cking great.
Overall, I thought this was a very good episode, hindered only by a few big issues with accessibility and clarity of storytelling that I detailed earlier. This season was certainly not as good as I’d hoped, not as good as the book it was based on, and not as good as the first season of the show. However “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis” mostly won back a lot of goodwill for me. Due to the diminished quality of the season, I won’t find the hiatus anywhere near as excruciating this time around. However, despite the many flaws, I would still call this a good show. It’s just not a great one anymore. It’s still by far the one I most enjoy talking about (as you all have surely noticed). And maybe one day it will reclaim it’s former greatness. Even if not, I will be here year after year, providing obscenely overlong reviews for those who care to read them.
Here are my star ratings and episode rankings for the season-
1. Episode Six- The Old Gods and the New (9.5/10- F*cking LOVED IT)
2. Episode Two- The Night Lands (9/10- Mostly brilliant, aside from some over-the-top sexposition)
3. Episode Three- What is Dead May Never Die (9/10- A brilliant episode)
4. Episode Ten- Valar Morgulis (8.5/10- Mostly very satisfying, may have been a star higher if the massive Winterfell issues had been fixed)
5. Episode Nine- Blackwater- (8.5/10- Mostly top notch, may also have been a star higher if the woeful final five minutes were much improved).
6. Episode Eight- The Prince of Winterfell (7.5/10- A much disliked episode by many, but I found a lot to enjoy in it)
7. Episode Four- The Garden of Bones (7/10- I had some issues with this one, but there was still enough awesomeness. SHADOW BABY!)
8. Episode Seven- The Man Without Honour (6/10- Aside from an amazing Jaime Lannister speech, this ep fell flat for me)
9. Episode Five- The Ghost of Harrenal (5/10- Renly’s death was mishandled, and this was a dull, dull episode)
10. Episode One- The North Remembers (5/10- A recent rewatch proved this to be a pretty dull episode for me).
I’d recommend everyone read the first two books over the hiatus. The first one is mostly the same as the TV show. The second one is rather different and should prove a very interesting read for you.
Cya next April for Season 3, folks!