“Mother’s Mercy” is filled with mid-scene cuts, jumping around from mini cliffhanger to mini cliffhanger as it attempts to close out its fifth season in a satisfying manner. It’s a way to bridge the gap between one season and the next, but it’s also a stylistic choice that serves to highlight the uncertainty of the characters’ positions–and the franchise as a whole, to be honest–at the moment. In this land full of power struggles and violence and torture, there’s no telling when an empire can come crashing down in an instant, when a character can be reduced to nothing more than a sack of flash, when your own families can turn on you. It’s an intriguing world to watch, but at the same time, it’s certainly a bit overwhelming.
“Mother’s Mercy” contains both an intriguing element and an overwhelming element, with the latter being a given considering how many storylines the writers need to stuff into 60 minutes here. Nevertheless, the main theme the episode touches on–families and alliances and relationships either crumbling or re-forming–can still be fascinating to explore; of course, what we mainly see is the “crumbling” part, which should come as no surprise to regular viewers.
In terms of “re-forming”, however, we see several instances of this idea. First of all, Daario and Jorah team up so that they can go save the queen and take down a few baddies along the way, and Tyrion and Varys reunite in Meereen so that they can continue their lovely bickering. In addition, Reek/Theon ends up saving Sansa by killing Myranda, and he and Sansa end up jumping off the castle wall together. One of my favorite moments, however, is one of the first few scenes of the episode: Jon and Sam sharing a drink and talking about what happens next. It’s a fantastic moment for Sam, who says “the last thing I’ll see in this world before I die is the look in their eyes as I fail them. I’d rather see 1000 White Walkers”. He’s referring to the people he cares about dearly here, and it’s a relevant scene because it’s a moment of connection between two people who will never meet again. The people we hold onto in this life are essential, and there are some who will simply never turn on us; there are also some we must protect at all costs.
Back to the bloodshed, though. Jon Snow ends up lying dead in the snow, stabbed to death by his own people. This is about the relationship between Jon and the rest of the Night’s Watch crumbling, but it’s also about the connections between a child and his parent. It’s the same thing with Arya, who can’t really put aside her need for revenge for her family when she goes after Meryn Trant (who suffers a very satisfying death). The Ned/Cat influence is seen clearly with both of these characters–whether it be through decision making, personality, history, or otherwise–and consequences result from it; it comes as no surprise that the promise of a family member is what gets Jon outside. It’s the wheel of history turning, and it’s the crumbling of relationships and alliances with others they thought had their backs: Jon with the Night’s Watch, and Arya with Jaqen. That’s okay, though. A blind Arya can still kick the rest of Westeros right in the ass.
As for Stannis, we see him at his most beaten down when he sits against a tree, alone as Brienne carries out his execution. The burning of his daughter last week was the catalyst for a crumbling of his family and of his support system, and this is the worst possible fate for him because he doesn’t really die with any legacy intact; his wife has hanged herself, Melisandre has left him, his army has deserted him, and his daughter is dead. It’s the ultimate punishment from the world to Stannis.
And speaking of punishments, the major sequence of the episode is Cersei’s “walk of atonement”, something that’s been building up for a while now, yet is still incredibly difficult to watch. As much as it may be satisfying to see her confess to the High Sparrow, it’s also devastating to see people throwing objects and insults at her as she’s in her most vulnerable state. It’s a powerful performance by Lena Headey, and it’s certainly the type of clip that’d be worthy of Emmy consideration.
“You’ve learned that the world is a complicated place,” Jaime tells his daughter right before she dies. It’s a very true statement, and it also seems to sum up this season of Game of Thrones well. Not much is black and white in this world; they all live in a gray area of sorts: uncertainty reigning supreme, loyalties shifting, and each day a possible final one.
SEASON GRADE: B
-I’m not surprised that we didn’t see the Stannis battle. This is a television show, after all, and there’s only so much money it can spend per season (even as popular a show as this is). I’m pretty sure most of the budget went toward the Hardhome battle, and it was worth it for sure.
– “He’s the toughest man with no balls I’ve ever met.”
-Ser Robert Strong is here.
-The aerial battle shots continue to be fantastic.
-Dany also ends up leaving her “family” here: she left Meereen last week, and now, she leaves Drogon and ends up being captured by Dothraki. Not a smart move, Dany.
-Jon Snow, early on in the series, was far from the most interesting character in the show. He recently started to improve, though.
-The Jaime-Myrcella scene is a poignant moment for both characters, but it’s unable to be as effective as it would’ve been had the writers built up the storyline better earlier on in the season. A lot of this is due to the handling of the Dorne stuff, all of which was part of a complete misfire by Benioff and Weiss this year; what a horrible way to build on Oberyn’s death.
-Thoughts on this season? It seems to be a bit more controversial than most, but I think it’s the pretty standard GOT season for me: several great episodes–including one masterpiece–several stinkers, and the rest all average and middling. I’ll be back next season, although I’ll only cover a select few episodes. From what I’m hearing from book people, we’re pretty much caught up at this point! Benioff and Weiss, it’s up to you now.
-I don’t review Silicon Valley or Veep, but I’d just like to say that both finales were excellent.
Photo credit: Game of Thrones, HBO