by Belle Burr
This season was full of meandering pointlessness with moments of insanity, let’s start with the storyline that started out with the most promise and fell apart the quickest:
Due to the continuing fallout of the death of His Royal Hotness Prince Oberyn Martell, Jaime is quickly dispatched to Dorne by Cersei in an attempt to rescue Myrcella, after Cersei receives a very real threat from the Sand Snakes.
This leads to the Jaime and Bronn roadshow wherein Bronn hilariously throws shade at Jaime’s obfuscating w/r/t Myrcella’s parentage:
When they arrive they immediately run afoul of, well, everything and end up in a violent kerfuffle with the Sand Snakes that ends with everyone in prison and Prince Doran wishing his brother kept it in his damn pants more.
Myrcella is hilariously on point throughout all of this due to
a: her genuinely being in love with Trystane,
b: over Cersei and her ‘plans’ and
c: knowing that Jaime is her actual father and having little to no effs to give about that information.
Meanwhile the Sand Snakes, the one thing that a majority of the shows fans were looking forward to that wasn’t Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen related, turned into a giant wasted opportunity: poor acting, boring plot, no actual personalities and boobs for no reason all led to a huge fail for the show that dragged down everyone involved.
Not even the legendary hotness and acting of Alexander Siddig and Indira Varma could save this mess which ends with Myrcella dead by Poison Ivying, Trystane in serious danger because his aunt and cousins’ are short sighted lunatics and Prince Doran looking ineffectual as a ruler on multiple counts and on the verge of war.
Here’s hoping that this storyline will be tightened up in the future and these amazing actors aren’t wasted going forward.
Once again a storyline started with so much promise: Arya! Assassins! Jaqen H’ghar! that petered out into boring-ness and time wasting.
On the one hand showing Arya’s training is essential, she can’t suddenly turn into Elektra with nothing to back it, on the other hand there had to be some way to do this that didn’t feel quite so repetitive and boring.
It’s not until Meryn Trant enters the scene that this storyline picks up with Arya going into full hunter mode that we haven’t seen since she murdered Polliver, using Trant’s rapey proclivities against him:
All we really learned from this storyline is that the Many Faced God gives no effs, All Men Die Mothereffers, and that Cersei, the Freys and the Boltons should’ve done a better job murdering the Stark children because they have all gone a little insane in the ensuing years and every single one of them is honed in on their arses, rightfully, as the reason behind everything horrible that has happened in their lives.
Speaking of Stark children: Sansa. Poor, poor Sansa.
Now don’t get me wrong: Sansa Stark is a boss. She is a survivor and always has been and has managed to do so while still retaining the proper young lady we first saw, remembering to behave with class and grace no matter what horrible situation she’s placed in however…
This season has been nothing but missteps with this character and only Sophie Turner’s acting has kept this from being a total loss. Nothing about this character has actually been about the character at any point and that’s a huge waste.
Sansa desperately needs agency and has had none, at some point the writers need to have Sansa take control of her own destiny and stop letting the men in her life make her decisions.
Instead of her figuring out that Littlefinger is the one truly behind all that’s happened to her family, and using his obsession with her against him, (something that was strongly hinted as being the next step for the character last season) she’s once again used by him as a pawn in his overall power play: getting sold off like so much meat to Roose Bolton to help solidify his power in the North while simultaneously scaring the living hell out of Cersei who knows that if anyone has a grudge to hold against her personally it’s Sansa Stark.
Even her rape at the hands of her ‘husband’ Ramsay Bolton wasn’t about her, it was about Theon/Reek’s pain and Ramsay’s sadism.
At this point there’s little to no hope that this character will be anything but a victim and that’s just sad.
Yes, intervention is coming in the form of Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne and the show is trying to rebuild Theon into an actual person, which he hasn’t been since halfway through season one, but that may not be enough for me to invest in Sansa any longer. Her victimhood is boring, predictable and tiring.
As for the other major drama happening at Winterfell, this was the year that Stannis Baratheon was built up only to be torn down in a major way.
When Cersei Lannister comes across as mother of the year compared to you, your parenting has failed.
From his stubborn insistence that Mance Rayder kneel to him, his bizarre obsession with Jon Snow, his ignoring of Davos in favor of walking red flag Melisandre and his unforgivable murder of his adorable daughter Shireen, Stannis has been on one long march towards an inevitable downfall and his utter defeat at the hands of the Boltons and beheading at the end of Brienne’s sword feels justified.
This entire season Stannis has pushed forward, hell bent on what he ‘deserves’, ignoring potential alliances, burning bridges, and children, left and right and in the end it was for nothing, something I think the character realizes about halfway through this year but is too stubborn to admit.
Stannis knows the throne isn’t his. It’s strongly hinted at that he suspects that Jon Snow is more than Ned Stark’s bastard, he knows that Daenerys is out there and coming closer and he knows that Winter is Here yet he keeps pushing forward come hell or highwater because, well, he’s committed at this point, as he says to Davos, ‘There is no going back’.
His inability to change course or compromise is in stark contrast to the leadership of Daenerys and Jon, all of whom faced severe leadership crisis this year and only one of whom appears to survive.
But we’ll get to that later.
For now let’s head to King’s Landing
Cersei, Cersei, Cersei.
The season starts with young Cersei receiving the prophecy that will govern her every moment from that point on:
Cersei: Will I wed the Prince?
Maggy the Frog: No. You will wed the king
Cersei: I will be queen though?
Maggy: Queen you shall be . . . until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.
Cersei: Will the king and I have children?
Maggy: Oh, aye. Twenty for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds.
From this moment on Cersei is doomed.
Why? Because, as in all good tragedy, she is the architect of her own downfall.
Every step the character has taken: her vicious cruelty to Tyrion when they were children, the plotting of Robert’s death, her role in the murder of Ned Stark and her relationship with Jaime have all led to her literal Walk of Shame this season
Her paranoia and pettiness with regards to Margaery were the final nail in the coffin that she’s been building since Season One.
Cersei is a character who always thinks that the rules don’t apply to her. And up until this year she’s been right. Her looks, her name, her money and her position have all protected her from actual consequences to her actions. She’s a smug snake: clever but not smart and it’s her inability to think beyond her current situation and desires, to see others as equal to her and deserving of respect for being human beings that does her in.
Cersei doesn’t truly love anyone but Cersei. Her children are the only things she cares for that aren’t her and even that is wrapped up in the fact that each of them is a facet of her: Joffrey’s ruthlessness, Myrcella’s beauty and Tommen’s love of life are all parts of her and so make it easy for her to care for and protect them.
Which is why she cannot understand the bond that the Tyrells have, how they would fight for each other and love each other no matter what or why the people of King’s Landing on an instinctual level react to that. To her it’s a foreign concept, something to be used against them but that is truly incomprehensible in and of itself.
So she sets the High Sparrow plan in motion and it truly never occurs to her that Oleanna would not take her grandchildren being threatened lightly. Even without knowing that this woman is the one behind the murder of Joffrey, Cersei’s inability to read a room, a mistake she later repeats with the High Sparrow, to read the very real danger she’s in, due to her own smug sense of self importance makes her blind to the fact that Oleanna Tyrell is not effing around.
Oleanna gives her the chance, twice, to fix the damage she’s wrought and Cersei, so secure in her place in the world, ignores both chances.
And then a lifetime of pettiness and cruelty come down on her head.
And it’s only the beginning. Sure Qyburn, the Doctor Frankenstein of the Seven Kingdoms, has resurrected the Mountain and she has a new champion but the blood is in the water now, or rather the streets of King’s Landing. The sharks will begin circling and the frenzy will begin.
The start of the frenzy has already begun in a way with Cersei’s unending and unjustified hatred of her little brother Tyrion. Her hounding of him, and insistence that he is the one responsible for the murder of Joffrey has lead to him doing the unthinkable: allying with Daenerys Targaryen and becoming for all intents and purposes the Queen’s Hand.
Tyrion began this season slow, with a death sentence hanging over his head and no more effs to give after his farce of a trial last year, his subsequent escape and his murder of his father and lover have left him broken. Everyone he’s ever cared about is dead or unreachable to him and he’s pretty much given up on life. Not even Varys’ real talk is getting through to him in any way. He’s over it.
And then he meets a man with a plan: Jorah Mormont. Jorah’s kidnapping of Tyrion and their subsequent boat trip of doom reignite the Tyrion we all know and love. Our schemer is back, all it took were some stone men, a slave auction and a real live dragon to wake him up and remind him that if he’s anything he’s a survivor.
Meeting Dany cements this as despite himself he’s impressed by her and likewise she with him. And now, not through his name or by default but his own cleverness, intelligence, wisdom and wit he’s in a position of power that isn’t threatened by daddy coming home. Will it be hard? Hell yes. The Sons of the Harpy are still out there and unlike the courtiers of King’s Landing they will literally stab you in the back, or the front, they’re not picky. But he’s got something he never truly had before, a group of people at his back who trust him and want him to succeed.
Daenerys is another character who started this season rough. Ensconced in Meereen as Queen she nevertheless has no idea how to actually rule.
Her initial inability to compromise leads to a full on rebellion against her that puts not only her but all those around her in danger and leads to her failing in the role that really does define her as a character: Mhysa.
Daenerys fails her actual children: locking Viserion and Rhaegal up, somewhere she cannot keep an eye on them and where others could bring them to harm, which directly leads to Drogon running away, untrained and angry, from the one person who is supposed to be able to love and control him.
She fails her metaphorical children in how she handles pretty much everything with the former slaves of Meereen because as usual she has no actual plan. She freed the slaves. Great, but how do they incorporate into society? How do you ease the former masters into the transition so that they begin to truly see these people as just that: people?
Dany doesn’t think things through and while she is learning it’s because she’s constantly reacting to situations and people instead of making them react to her that she keeps failing and gives the Sons of the Harpy the time to seed terror and dissension throughout Meereen. They kill Selmy, one of the few people who not only kindly but firmly called her on her bullshit but who actually knew her family and saw them for what they were, good and bad.
They grievously injure Grey Worm, in that same attack, putting her Queensguard at a huge disadvantage and sidelining him for most of the season and then there’s the attack in the stadium.
While in the end it turns into a victory for Dany it’s a pyrrhic one due to it having little to nothing to do with Dany, once again, actually having a plan. It’s Drogon and Jorah who are the big heroes, the former sweeping in to save his Mhysa from imminent death and the latter’s epic stalking coming in handy as he’s the one to see that a Sons of the Harpy assassin is in play.
The season ends with Dany back with the people who truly made her a queen, the Khalasar, after Drogon pulls a Tardis and takes Dany where she needs to be, not where she wants to go, and her future uncertain.
If she survives and wins back the loyalty of the Khalasar she has some hard decisions to make going forward: does she stay in Meereen and try to fix the epic mess she and the Sons of the Harpy have made or does she call it a loss, take the former slaves, take the dragons, take her court and roll out, burning Meereen to the ground in the process and heading on to King’s Landing?
Because in the end King’s Landing is where she must go, if for no other reason than the Night Is Dark And Full of Terrors.
Jon Snow has had a really crappy year.
As a character he’s become even more beloved due to being the one person on the entire show who is actually doing what they’re supposed to: protecting the people and preparing for the horrible things to come.
And much like his ‘father’ Ned Stark before him, it gets him killed.
Jon starts the season getting the unwanted attention of Melisandre when Stannis and crew roll into Castle Black.
Then getting elected Lord Commander. A role that he absolutely does not want but absolutely should have: The Night’s Watch is very set in its ways, its leaders relying on the fact that Winter hasn’t come in a long time so they can keep on doing the same things they always have and life will move on as it’s always done.
Jon Snow on the other hand isn’t burdened by thousands of years of history. He’s burdened by the very real and very personal threat of the White Walkers in general and the Night’s King in particular:
And so Jon does what any sensible leader would do under the circumstances, if the circumstances included intelligent ice zombies who can turn anyone and anything they touch, dead or alive, into thralls: he tries to get every living being he can on the other side of that damn wall and tries to warn everyone who will listen that Winter is Here. And it’s terrifying.
Unfortunately for Jon, who throughout the season has had multiple opportunities to roll out of Castle Black a much wealthier and respected man than when he rolled in, and has put his personal feelings aside regarding all Frey, Lannister, Bolton and Greyjoy matters due to the whole Zombie Apocalypse, no one else is dealing with the situation at hand.
The Night’s Watch is full of people who can only see one foot in front of them or who are consumed with all they’ve left behind and so Jon Snow ends the season dead at the hands of his ‘brothers’ who cannot deal with his alliance with the Wildlings, and haven’t actually done battle with any of the White Walkers so don’t know or respect the very real danger they’re in.
They brand Jon a traitor when he’s in fact the most loyal of them all and they don’t think through the immediate consequences of his murder in any way: they have a castle full of Wildlings and men who fought by Jon’s side at Hardhome. And those people are utterly loyal to Jon and only Jon. Explaining why they murdered the one man who actually tried to save everyone is going to be a little hard to put it mildly.
And going forward? They’ve unknowingly severed the link to the only person who has the one thing, dragons, that is impervious to the White Walkers: Daenerys.
Jon is the only character who is organically connected to Daenerys, even if you don’t think the R+L=J theory is true, due to his friendship with Tyrion, who is now the Queen’s Hand. And who values loyalty and goodness highly due to having seen so little of it in his life. But Tyrion has seen it consistently in every Stark child he’s encountered and to find out that the very men who were supposed to be loyal to and protect Jon in fact murdered him isn’t going to make Tyrion inclined to be of help to them or convince Dany to be either.
Final grade for this season: 3 White Walkers out of 5 !!