Summary: Selyse commits suicide and half of Stannis' army leaves. Melisandre returns to Castle Black. Stannis attacks Winterfell anyways and is destroyed. Brienne arrives to kill him. Sansa escapes her cell and Myranda threatens to maim her. Theon kills Myranda. He jumps off Winterfell's walls with Sansa. Arya violently murders Meryn. Jaqen punishes her by blinding her. Jaime leaves Dorne with Myrcella but Ellaria poisoned her and she dies. Tyrion reunites with Varys and is tasked to keep Meereen safe. Dany lands far away and Drogon is tired. She ventures out and is confronted by a khalasar. Cersei confesses to her crimes and is forced to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing to get to the Red Keep. Sam goes to Oldtown to become a Maester. Jon is betrayed and killed by the Night's Watch.
The Good: Cersei's walk of atonement was fantastic, one of the show's finest moments. To make us feel so much sympathy for such a despicable character is undoubtedly brilliant, providing a ton of conflicting emotions from within yourself as you are left trying to figure out how to feel about this character. It's great, deep storytelling which adds an extra layer to Cersei's character. Furthermore, Lena Headey delivered her best performance so far as she begs to the High Sparrow and portrays Cersei's pain during the humiliating walk. This wouldn't have worked without a tremendous performance, and Lena Headey knocked it out of the park.
I thought Jon's scenes were very good. Sam's departure was a nice moment and I really appreciate the idea of him going to Oldtown to become a Maester. It's also a good storyline to show us more of the world of Westeros and has potential to provide us with a lot of history which I'm always excited for. The final sequence was dampened a little by the rest of the episode (see: The Bad), but it was impactful for the most part. After this season had failed at combining surprise and storytelling in almost every way, it finally succeeded here. This scene was Jon's red wedding as he pays for the mistakes he made as Lord Commander by dying a brutal and painful death, fitting of what has been presented in this show. Jon kept Alliser at The Wall, he didn't do enough to ensure the loyalty of his men while accommodating the wildlings and practically walked straight into his terrible fate. Of course there are some questions to be asked (see: The Unknown), but even if this isn't Jon's true death, it's powerful. It's hard to watch Jon gutted by his own brothers, and is a sad culmination of all of Jon's efforts to save Westeros from the White Walkers.
The Bad: Unfortunately everything else has to be in The Bad because this episode did not deliver. There were so many climaxes in this episode, and almost all of them (barring Cersei) felt rushed and squeezed into an already busy episode. Because of that, the writers once more played these scenes for surprise over emotion, and that meant that all of these scenes fell flat and didn't feel like a climax worthy of the stories being told.
The Stannis storyline was a colossal failure. With him dying so anticlimactically without accomplishing much, it makes his entire storyline pointless. And to clarify, I don't mean his story this season, I'm referring to his entire storyline since the Battle of the Blackwater. Think about it, had Stannis died at Blackwater Bay, would any of these characters be in a different place emotionally? Would the plot be any different? The answer is a resounding no, which is really poor. If we are getting an entire story for Stannis, there needs to be a purpose to it, and sadly there wasn't here. Now I just feel like the past three seasons of Stannis were a waste of time with absolutely no pay off from a lot of interesting story building.
But the fact that the Stannis storyline is meaningless isn't even the worst part here. The biggest offense was this "climax" of his story. Everything was so rushed. It was almost comical how swiftly Stannis kept getting bad news before he was staring death in the face. The pacing was so rushed that it didn't allow any of these moments to stick. Stannis loses his wife and his men and we hardly get any time to see how he feels about this. Without moments showing us how a character reacts to a big event, that event means nothing to us. Everything that happened to Stannis ended up meaning nothing, which is astoundingly disappointing. All we needed were some moments for Stannis to reflect and realize the destruction of everything he held dear and to show some actual emotion. Just putting on a frowny face and telling Brienne to "do her duty" is not how to make us feel emotion for this character. It's all done wrong, and it causes me to feel nothing even though I just watch a character lose absolutely everything. So many other great TV shows have understood that its not the event which causes the emotion, it's the character's reaction, so why can't this one figure that out this season?
Also, Brienne's kill of Stannis is really bad. Again, I have to ask where is the emotion and drama? Brienne did nothing to earn her reward of killing Stannis which makes his death just feel like another moment and not like the culmination of an entire revenge arc for Brienne. All we needed was for Brienne to overcome some obstacles to earn her reward, it's basic storytelling. But just like how the show failed to understand that reactions cause emotion, it also failed to understand that characters need to earn their rewards just like how they deserve their deaths. Because of these fundamental failures at writing, Stannis' storyline, character, and death are all ruined in this episode, continuing the downwards spiral that "Game of Thrones" has been experiencing this season.
Theon finally abandoning his Reek persona failed because of similar reasons. This storyline was three whole seasons in the making, yet the big moment where Theon finally acts against Ramsay is rushed into a two minute scene. Once more, the drama is lacking and I never feel anything for Theon which is awful considering how much his storyline has done. The stupidity of this show has led to Theon's return to form to be played for surprise instead of emotion, ruining any impact the moment could have had. Where was Theon wrestling with the decision of what to do before he killed Myranda? He just killed her for the sake of surprise, creating another unintentionally funny moment when Myranda died. We really needed to get a "Darth Vader saves Luke" moment here. And I'm not talking about Darth Vader killing the Emperor, I'm talking about Vader looking between the Emperor and Luke as he makes his decision. That scene was dramatic and emotional because we got to see Darth Vader wrestling with a decision. Had he just killed the Emperor out of nowhere, it would have been flat and disappointing, just like how Theon's sudden choice was flat and disappointing.
An how about that final moment? We are left with a cliff-hanger that Theon and Sansa jumped out and we don't see their fate. What? Are we supposed to believe that they died? Because that is an awful cliff-hanger to manipulate our emotions like that. Even if we weren't supposed to think that, it's an awful ending. Those walls are huge and snow will never soften a 40 foot fall like that. Sansa and Theon are fatally injured at the very least, so an escape can't be possible. Something like this is a perfect example of how bad this show's writing has gotten.
Even Arya's story was wasted, this time by the show's tone-deaf will to just provide the viewers with horrific experiences. Where is the restraint? Did we need to see Meryn torture and beat minors? No, but it was shown anyways because... just because! Hell, even Meryn's death was robbed of any satisfaction as it was also painfully brutal to an extent that it was uncomfortable. If only this show would make these moments of brutality few and far between, it would mean something when it actually happens. Instead, the show opts for providing us with endless misery and brutality instead of telling us an actual story. Furthermore, it's this endless misery which took away from Jon's death as well, making that scene just feel like another empty piece of despair in a show which seems to have forgotten that brutal moments have to be presented for a reason just like any other moment in an episode. Thankfully, Jon's death had the appropriate storytelling to make it overcome this flaw. It's clear that his death, along with Cersei's walk, was taken straight out of the books since it wasn't butchered badly on the show. I'm sure that the fall of this show has been brought on by the departure from the books.
Speaking of a departure from the books, Dorne was awful once more. The story ended in such an underwhelming and disappointing way. So Myrcella died. Who cares? We hardly know her and the writers once again opted for torture porn as Myrcella gets to have a sweet moment with Jaime before dying in his hands? Why was this necessary? Because misery and pain! It hurts me so much to see what was once one of my favourite show's stoop down to bad television like this. The entire existence of Dorne seemingly served no purpose. Jaime and Bronn didn't go through any kind of story this season and I learned nothing new about their characters. No new characters from Dorne made an impression either, so I really am not interested in seeing more from them. Some of the dialogue between Bronn and Tyene was absolutely atrocious.\
Even the scenes in Meereen were poor despite nothing particularly bad happening story-wise. The writing of the characters was just ridiculous. Tyrion doesn't even sound like himself anymore due to some weak dialogue. Apparently Tyrion wants to fight now, which is nothing like the character we knew before. Tyrion never liked fighting, so what value would he see in going to bring Dany back? The fact that Daario had to take the wise guy role to convince him to stay behind was out of character for him. Furthermore, what was with the verbal sparring between Tyrion and Jorah? It was petty which is insulting to their intelligence, calm demeanour and wisdom.
Lastly, I think I found the one moment that perfectly encapsulated the failure of this season finale. That moment is Davos learning about Stannis and Shireen's deaths. He was given maybe 5 seconds to react to this. Then he was gone. Where was the emotion behind this? The sadness? This man just lost everything he was fighting for and yet we didn't get to spend a single minute to see how he processed this. The pacing is all wrong and the emotion just isn't there, just like the rest of the episode. Awful.
The Unknown: Did Sansa and Theon survive the fall? I hope they did and I would be surprised if they didn't. Don't put it past this show to "surprise" us by having them die though. If they do survive, where do they go? Who can they go to for help? Stannis is dead and so is Jon. Where would they find help?
Arya's blinding is a really odd moment. I know it's meant to be that way, and I think the scene was nicely put together. But what does it all mean? Why was Arya blinded? Did Jaqen do it or was it actually the faces? Also, who was it that actually died? Was it the Waif? Was it all just an illusion? I'm not sure what to make of this.
What happens to Dany now that she has been found by a khalasar? I presume she will recruit them to her army.
Is Cersei's new bodyguard the reincarnated Mountain? What did Qyburn do to him? How has he been changed by this?
Is Jon actually dead? I know it seems like an odd question, but hear me out. I get the sense that Jon is too important of a character to die. Will he be brought back to life? Melisandre just arrived at Castle Black, so would she bring him back to life? Beric's resurrection was an important plot point that hasn't paid off since it has been introduced. Is this the moment it pays off?
Best Moment: Cersei's walk of atonement was fantastic, a rare scene that I actually enjoyed in this episode.
Character of the Episode: Cersei.
Conclusion: This was a pile of garbage with one shining jewel inside of there. Cersei's fantastic moment prevents this from being one of the worst episodes of television I have ever seen, and coupled with Jon's death brings this episode to a slightly more respectable score. But this still wasn't good. It hurts to see this great show derail in quality and the fact that I love this show makes this episode even more painful than it already is. This episode had so many fundamental flaws. A lack of emotion, rushed pacing, no drama and senseless brutality should be avoided by any good TV show. The fact that this episode was a victim to all of these makes it excessively bad.
The season as a whole has to be looked at as a massive disappointment. It's a sharp drop-off in quality following the fantastic season 4, and I'm left scratching my head and wondering what happened to this show. It started off fine with some good set-up but then the middle of the season started to lose focus. I was expecting this to just be some stumbles on the way to a great conclusion, but that wasn't the case. The story worsened to an extreme amount afterwards and it all culminated in a season finale which failed in pretty much every possible way of providing a fitting climax to the season. It was genuinely painful watching some stories get built up really nicely only for the pay off to fall flat, character arcs to be ruined, and twists to be meaningless. But, I will give credit where credit is due. "Hardhome" was awesome and is this season's sole saving grace. I shudder to think about how terrible this season would look in hindsight without that episode. I am extremely disappointed by where this season went and I desperately hope that season 6 can put this show back together.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.