In a season full of treachery, plotting, scheming, and above all else violence, Game of Thrones finally came to its thrilling finale, tying up some loose ends but unravelling far more for us to ponder over until next April.
The aftershocks of last week's titanic battle are still felt around King's Landing. A wounded Tyrion awakes to find he has been displaced from the Hand's tower now that his father has arrived to take the position. Bruised and bitter, he reflects on what he did to save the city, and how he has not received any credit. If it wasn't for Tyrion's heroic efforts, Stannis would be sitting the Iron Throne, but instead his father has taken all the glory.
What's worse, Tyrion is informed that the scar received from Ser Mandon Moore was part of his sister's plot to have him killed. Without power and confined to his bed, Tyrion seems to have lost it all. The only person still close to him is Shae, who begs they leave the city. But Tyrion knows that he was born to play this game as he says, "I do belong here. These bad people, are what I'm good at, out-talking them, out-thinking them, it's what I am, and I like it. I like it more than anything I've ever done."
Though Tywin is credited with saving the day at the Battle of the Blackwater, his army was made up of the new alliance between Lannisters and Tyrells. In a bid to be queen, Margaery is quick to jump ship and pledge her love to Joffrey. To stengthen the bond of this new alliance, a marriage pact is agreed meaning that Sansa is cast aside. Turning away and laughing, the Stark girl is barely able to contain her joy at escaping Joffrey's clutches, until Littlefinger reminds her, "He'll still enjoying beating you, and now that you're a woman he'll be able to enjoy you in other ways as well...Joffrey's not the sort of boy who gives away his toys."
One marriage that does go ahead is that between Robb Stark and the nurse Tulisa. Leading his northern horde through the Westerlands, the young wolf has unfortunately been separate from all the action of this season as he struggles to abide by his duties and constrain his desire. The romance between him and Tulisa has built up episode by episode, and so it came as no surprise when they said their vows and wed. As his mother, Catelyn, reminds him, he made a sworn promise to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters before and that, "Walder Frey is a dangerous man to cross...treat your oaths recklessly and your people will do the same."
Robb acerbically quips, "The only parent I have left has not right to call anyone reckless." Catelyn cannot take the moral high ground after she rashly released Jaime Lannister in a bid for her daughters' safe return. The two of them have both been irresponsible by letting their hearts rule their heads, similar to Ned Stark last season when he proclaimed Joffrey the rightful king in order to protect his children. That decision of course ended very badly for Ned; will these choices similarly prove costly for Robb and Catelyn?
Brienne continues to doggedly drag her captor towards King's Landing, slaying Stark men in order to continue their passage. Jaime, who constantly jests at Brienne and has not taken her seriously, is surprised to see how adept she is in combat; both quick and strong as she manages to kill three of the northerners almost effortlessly. Now that Tywin is in King's Landing, Jaime is all that is needed for the Lannisters to be united and at full strength once more.
Unlike the Starks who could not be further apart. After Winterfell is sacked, supposedly by Roose Bolton's bastard, Bran and Rickon head north to the wall in the hope of finding their half-brother Jon Snow. Little do they know that Jon Snow is no longer with the Night's Watch, as he turns his cloak and joins the wildlings when he kills Qhorin Halfhand. Qhorin had told Jon before the value he could hold if he infiltrated the wildlings and learnt their secrets, but with the likes of Ygritte getting closer to him, Jon will have to make a stand next season and choose which side of the wall he wants to belong to.
The last Stark to be left roaming Westeros is Arya. Escaping from Harrenhal with Gendry and Hot Pie, she is confronted by Jaqen H'ghar, as he offers to take her to Bravos and learn the secrets of his order, 'The Faceless Men'. Though refusing as she wants to find her family, Jaqen does give her a gift before departing, a mysterious coin and the words "Valar Morghulis". What could they mean? We shall have to wait until next season to find out.
Playing the Game
After spending most of this season complaining that she should be on the Iron Throne, Daenerys finally took charge this week after her dragons were stolen by the warlocks. Upon entering the House of the Undying, she is presented with multiple doors that seem to take her to different worlds. At one point Daenerys finds herself in King's Landing, only the place is deserted as snow descends around her and the roof of the throne room has been completely torn apart. In another room she encounters her deceased husband Khal Drogo, cradling the baby that died in her womb. It is left ambiguous as to whether what Dany sees is a dream, an alternate reality, or another realm altogether. After defeating the warlocks, she imprisons Xaro in what turns out to be his empty vault, teaching her an important lesson. If the first season was about Dany finding her own identity, outliving her demented brother, and becoming a leader after her husband's death, then this year has seen the lengths people will go to take away her power, and that in order to keep it she cannot trust anyone.
Perhaps the saddest and most pathetic of all the people in Westeros this season has been Theon Greyjoy. Capturing Winterfell in a bid to seek his father's approval, he instead finds himself surrounded by thousands of furious northmen, with no hope of keeping the castle. His desperate speech in order to rally his men is abruptly ended when he is knocked out and thrown in a sack by the Greyjoys. Roose Bolton was right when he coldly stated, "I expect his countrymen will turn on him the minute they hear the offer." After being so desperate for approval from anyone, Theon is not even dignified with a valiant death as he is given over to the northmen. No one on Pyke will be singing songs about that.
The Battle of the Blackwater might have been a vicious bloodbath that kept Joffrey in power in King's Landing, but it was only a trifling skirmish in relation to what's to come. Out at the Fists of the First Men, The Night's Watch hears the horn blow a dreaded three times, meaning that 'The Others' are descending upon them. Poor Sam, too fat to catch up with the rest of the group, discovers to his horror who these Others are. With piercing blue eyes and riding on a ghostly white horse (a nice comparison to Tywin Lannister at the start of the episode), the White Walker leads an army of thousands of zombies across the snow. The battle might be over, but the war has just begun.