“Mother’s Mercy” Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 10

Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy

Mother's Mercy

Mother's Mercy

Series: Game of Thrones Season 5

5 Stars

Coder Credit

In the immortal, stunned words of Samwell Tarly: “oh my…” Season Five came to a fairly spectacular end this week with “Mother’s Mercy,” though there was nothing very merciful about any of the episode’s grim happenings. The final shot of Jon Snow bleeding out on the, er, snow, is perhaps the bleakest ending to a season that the series has ever had. Typically, Game of Thrones’ shocking, unexpected deaths occur in the ninth episode of the season: Eddard was beheaded in “Baelor,” the ninth episode of Season One; The Red Wedding occurred in “The Rains of Castamere,” the ninth episode of Season Three. Presumably the reason for this pattern to give viewers a chance to angrily vent at Twitter (@redweddingtears is still hilarious two years later) and swear off the show forever before calming down and coming back to suckle at the teat of Westeros for episode ten like the crazed misery-junkies they are. This year, however, the showrunners saved the “best” for last, and now we all get to agonize for a year before Season Six arrives to soothe our withdrawal shakes.

Last week I made a few predictions about how I thought many of the plot threads in Season Five would play out in the finale. Well, now that the big beautiful madam has stopped crooning, let’s see how I did! Also, since the season ended with an uncharacteristic number of cliffhangers, I’ll offer some new predictions that we can check in a year’s time for the first virtual water cooler of Season Six.

What Happened: Stannis had the most serious case of the Mondays in history, Theon and Sansa (hopefully) learned to fly while Myranda did not.

Was Matt Right? Not even close (though I got some details right). I predicted that Petyr Baelish would arrive at Winterfell with the Knights of the Vale and help Stannis’ decimated army defeat the Boltons. I also predicted that Theon would help Sansa escape and that she would kill Ramsay with the tool she slipped into her cloak in “Hardhome.” I also offered the long-term prediction that Shireen’s murder would be the final nail in the coffin of Davos’ loyalty to Stannis, and that the Onion knight would eventually kill his former master. Almost none of my immediate predictions came true, and my long-term one now can’t, since Stannis (almost certainly) wound up being executed by Brienne.

Reaction: I’m okay with how this turned out, for the most part. I feel like, with Shireen’s murder, the showrunners were reminding us that Stannis is an evil, evil man. Just because we hated the Boltons more, we looked to Stannis as some kind of “good guy.” I think Benioff and Weiss wanted to throw that in our faces and force us to re-evaluate our own judgments of characters. We really shouldn’t have been looking to the impending battle at Winterfell as something for which we should be “picking sides,” because Stannis and the Boltons are both horrible and neither should merit our sympathy. I also feel like this ending to Stannis’ story is much stronger, from a dramatic perspective. He became so consumed with claiming the Iron Throne that he wantonly sacrificed (literally) everything that made him human. He very quickly loses everything of value to him: Selyse hangs herself, Melisandre abandons him, most of his troops desert, and his puny force is routed at Winterfell. That Brienne should be the one to find him on the battlefield is fitting: the very first thing we saw Stannis do in Season Two was murder his brother Renly, and here Brienne delivers justice for that first transgression.

Matt’s New Prediction: Brienne and Podrick find Sansa and Theon (who somehow miraculously survive their leap off the walls of Winterfell) and take them North to find Bran and Rickon. Baelish arrives at Winterfell with the Knights of the Vale and coerces the Boltons into forming an alliance against Cersei.

What Happened:The Dorne subplot gets as exciting as it can possibly get; is still unbelievably boring

Was Matt Right?Well, my prediction on this one was entirely a joke because I was too bored to care what happens in Dorne. I did make a pretty good on-the-fly prediction, though: the very second that Ellaria kissed Myrcella on the lips, I knew the young lass was doomed. Lo and behold, she dead (and so, it appears, is Doran).

Reaction: This actually seemed like a cheap cop-out designed to drum up melodrama with Jaime and Cersei. The scene in “The Dance of Dragons” in which Ellaria tearfully submitted to Doran’s authority was actually quite powerful because I believed it was genuine. I believed that this woman, whose schemes had failed so spectacularly, was truly fearful of death, and so was willing to swallow her pride and bend the knee the avoid being executed, even though it meant abandoning her principles. It made her so human, it was brilliant. The scene in the finale undoes all of that with a wink, and that’s fine, I guess, but it’s so damned predictable it actually makes the Dorne plot even more boring. I actually wanted to see Myrcella and Trystane become fixtures in King’s Landing because that wasn’t what I had expected would happen. Instead, Benioff and Weiss did exactly what we all thought they would do, and it serves as a fittingly dumb capstone to a terrible subplot that we can all hopefully forget.

Matt’s New Prediction: With Doran dead, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes attempt to take control of Dorne. Trystane raises supporters in King’s Landing and crushes them (come on, the rightful heir against a bunch of illegitimate children who were never in line for the throne to begin with? No way does Ellaria actually manage to drum up enough support to resist an immediate military ass-kicking). When Jaime returns to King’s Landing only to report that the daughter he was supposed to save was murdered on their way home, he and Cersei split for good. She, in typical Cersei fashion, tries to orchestrate his murder (she’s already tried to kill her other brother, so why not?).

What Happened:Cersei validates once and for all the notion that Game of Thrones is allabout the creepy oversexualization of women.

Was Matt Right?I didn’t actually make any predictions about Cersei’s arc last week. I kind of thought she would probably confess to the lesser evil of boinking her cousin to try to gain brownie points, but I could never have predicted the ridiculous naked walk through the streets of King’s Landing that the High Sparrow very rapily calls “the Mother’s mercy.”

Reaction: To all those thirsty 4Chan trilby-wearing gentlemen who are no doubt “valiantly” defending this scene: sorry bros, this was dumb. And transparently gratuitous. Sure, subjecting Cersei to intense public humiliation is something that she personally would very much hate, since so much of her identity is founded entirely on her appearance and status within society. But why does she have to be naked? I mean, the High Sparrow and his fanatic goons are not real big on nudity, so why would making someone walk around naked in public be an appropriate atonement for sexual “sins?” But to be fair, if we accept the thin premise that this punishment makes sense, the scene is executed with startling gravitas. I mean, this is quite literally slut-shaming: the crowd shouts “slut” at Cersei while the dour septa behind her rings a bell and chants “shame!” There is nothing figurative about this scene whatsoever. And that kind of makes it both harder to watch, and even more striking. At the same time, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Cersei, because she is still the worst person in the series by far. Even seeing her subjected to something like this, distasteful as it is, does not arouse one iota of pity.

Matt’s New Prediction: Tommen grows a spine and brings the Kingsguard down on the High Sparrow. Cersei tries to regain control of the Small Council and is rebuffed, everyone having finally had enough of her shit. Ironically, her time in prison has made her less arrogant and stupid, but no one cares.

What Happened: Arya does her best impression of Michael Madsen in Resevoir Dogs.

Was Matt Right>100% right: I predicted that Arya would murder Trant, and that she would do it in a particularly brutal and horrifying way that would make us reconsider whether we’re really stoked about her becoming a heartless killing machine.

Reaction: This one was so easy it barely counts. I feel like Arya’s struggle throughout this season with becoming “No One” mirrors the audience’s struggle with the character. We like Arya. We want her to be a vengeance-seeking badass, but we also want her to still be Arya Stark, because Arya Stark actually cares about some things. As interesting as Jaqen and the Waif are (or more correctly, “No One” and “No One”), I don’t want to see Arya give up her personality and humanity just to be able to fit in at the House of Black and White. We all want her to gain some amazing killing skills and put those to work killing very specific people in Westeros that we all hate. I feel like she’s on pace to successfully become “No One” and integrate into the Faceless Men, but if that happens, will her story even be compelling anymore? If she stops being Arya Stark, why should we even care anymore?

Matt’s New Prediction: Arya kills a bunch of people like a good “No One” and gets her sight back, eventually discarding Needle for good and abandoning her former identity entirely. It’s sad, but I think this is where the show is leading us. Personally, what I want to see happen is for Arya to do enough good works for the Many Faced God until she can see again, then grab Needle and head back to Westeros to kill the rest of the people on her list, embracing the fact that her identity as Arya Stark, and the rage that entails, is what gives her power.

What Happened:Dany arrives at a family reunion, Jorah keeps winning despite not doing much this episode.

Was Matt Right>Yep (well, with one caveat)! I predicted that Dany would wind up back in Dothraki territory. I wasn’t 100% correct as to where, because I did say Drogon would take her back to the giant temple the Khalasar visited in Season Two. But I think I was right enough to actually be right.

Reaction:There isn’t much to react to here, since all that really happened is that Jorah and Daario take off to find Dany, and Dany gets surrounded by a big giant whirlpool of horses.

Matt’s New Prediction:Jorah and Daario will find Dany, and it will turn out that the Dothraki have a folk cure for Greyscale that will heal Jorah before the disease wrecks his mind. Dany will return to her roots, convince a new Khalasar to follow her, and utterly ruin the day of every Son of the Harpy upon returning to Meereen.

What Happened: Jon Snow’s case of the Mondays comes close to matching Stannis’.

Was Matt Right:I didn’t make a prediction about the Wall, because not much happened there in “The Dance of Dragons,” and I didn’t expect there would be much going in the finale. I figured that “Hardhome” was the climax of the Night’s Watch story for this season. Boy was I wrong about that.

Reaction: DAAAAAAAAAAAMN. I don’t even know what to say here. I mean, sure, this is Game of Thrones, where theoretically no one is “too important” to the narrative to avoid death. But come on, Jon has been a main cast member since episode one of Season One! This is as shocking as if Dany had suddenly been killed off! Granted, Jon has never had the same air of manifest destiny around him that she has, so maybe he really was expendable to the larger story. But all the same, this is not what I would have predicted at all. Of course, just as with Stannis, there is some room for doubt as to whether Jon is actually dead. I think of the two, Stannis is almost certainly actually dead. If anyone’s going to make a miraculous recovery from multiple stab wounds to the vital organs, it’s Jon Snow. That being said, the shot of him bleeding to death was pretty convincing, and I think he will actually begin Season Six dead. Whether he stays that way is up for debate, however. The show made a point of demonstrating way back in Season Two that priests of the Red God can bring people back from the dead (remember Thoros of Myr and Berric Dondarion?). And oh snap, who just happened to arrive at Castle Black mere hours before Jon is murdered? Which brings us to my new predictions…

Matt’s New Prediction: Melisandre realizes that Jon is a royal bastard (the son of Eddard’s sister Lyanna by either Robert Baratheon, her intended husband, or by Rhaegar Targaeryan, her rapist), uses his own blood to resurrect him, and then makes him her new pet project à la Stannis. Having nowhere else to go, Jon leaves the Wall with Melisandre and Davos, and begins pursuing his own claim to the Iron Throne as a way to get armies back up North to fight the White Walkers. I think this makes a lot of sense. Melisandre and Davos both arrived back at Castle Black right before Jon was killed. With most of the Night’s Watch having played a hand in murdering him, it’s not like Jon can stick around and regain his title as Lord Commander. My guess is that he’ll leave with the Red Witch and Davos, since they’re really the only two people he can be reasonably sure do not want to murder him (though I think eventually he and Davos will kick her to the curb because god damn she is evil and wily).

Matthew Malott

Matthew Malott

Matt was raised by a pack of unusually sophisticated wild turkeys in the urban jungle of South Detroit (which sounds way cooler than Windsor, Ontario). Having been accepted into their ranks, he learned about the finer things in life such as music, board games, and biting the ever-loving crap out of pilgrims (the natural enemy of turkeys). When not avoiding deadly Thanksgiving cyborg hit squads, Matt read lots of classic science fiction and obsessively watched The X-Files. After Gillian Anderson awakened his budding pubescent hormones, Matt--now officially a man--reluctantly bid farewell to his turkey family and spent several years making a living in the renowned doughnut mines of Katmandu. He now lives in Toronto, where his pursuits include law-studying, out-rocking, fiction-writing, and Sasquatch-trapping (don’t worry, if he does catch one, he’ll let it go).

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