As the story lines (in general) clicked back into the groove of the novels, the season finale got better and better, and harder and harder to watch. This episode seemed designed to build hope only to crush it. Perhaps I am a literary masochist, but I am pleased.
In an otherwise good episode, Dorne gave us the worst line of dialogue in the entire series to date: “You want the good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” Seriously, what the hell? It’s like they hired writers from Skinemax, but told them to dumb it down. I was also thrown by Jaime admitting to Myrcella that he was her father, but then the show killed her off, so I guess it’s okay. I’m assuming this is going to mean war between Dorne and King’s Landing, but this storyline is such a train-wreck that it’s hard to know for sure.
Meereen had good dialogue on a weakened version of that plot (as has been the case most of this season). It’s pretty facile that Varys returns at exactly the moment Tyrion is left in charge. Their dialogue at the walls of the city also lacked the impact of their conversation on the walls of King’s Landing. But really, they were just wrapping up. They could just have easily left Meereen alone until next season, and maybe that would have been better.
Arya’s storyline provided some very satisfying blood. It felt redemptive and just. But, as she blinded Trant, so the faceless men blinded her (again, justice). If I may nitpick for a moment, while she got where she needed to go, it felt like the show runners lost their faith in the dramatic power of Martin’s original plot. They brought in Trant, they made him worse by adding pedophiliac sadism, gave her an incredibly bloody execution, and a dramatic blinding. None of that was needed, and it all felt just a little forced. It really didn’t have to be like that, but that forcing has happened more and more over the last two seasons.
It was nice to see Brienne get vengeance for Renly, and in the unfortunate absence of Lady Stoneheart, there wasn’t much else for her to do. And Stannis’s death felt justified. In fact, there had been so much death that felt just, you might have been inclined to feel something close to hope. Thankfully, the series crushed that hope just as harshly as the novels.
Cersei. Has there ever been a less sexy nude scene? Crap on a cracker, that was hard to watch. When I was reading that scene, I said out loud, “Come on, don’t make me root for Cersei and the damn Mountain!” Allow me to reiterate that now. I feel dirty rooting for Cersei, but that High Sparrow is a world class, slut-shaming prick. I want him to die so badly, but then again, Cersei is a terrible human being. Damn you, George Martin!
And then there’s Jon Snow. I was pretty shaken when this occurred at the end of A Dance With Dragons, and I had convinced myself that Melisandre had cast a glamor on Jon and Tormund to allow Jon to travel down to Winterfell in the guise of a minstrel, leaving Tormund to protect the wall. Martin has been pretty clear about his intentional ambiguity regarding Jon’s death. The show had no such ambiguity. And I really don’t think they would kill off Jon if he were alive in the books. All I can hope is that Melisandre raises him as the Red Priest did to Beric Dondarrion. I should know better than to have hope. So should we all.