Recap: ‘Game of Thrones’ S5E10 “Mother’s Mercy”
In true Game of Thrones season finale fashion, the final episode of Season 5 brings some storylines to a close, complicates and embroils others, and as always leaves us dangling by merely our fingertips on the cliffhanger’s edge. After the events of The Red Wedding, nothing seemed to neither surprise nor traumatize in the same way – even Oberyn’s gruesome end. But “Mother’s Mercy” leaves us begging, wishing, and praying for a miracle as we now must wait almost 9 months to know our character’s fates, some more precariously placed on the knifes edges than others.
“Mother’s Mercy” begins its clean up of the somewhat slow season with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and his final march on Winterfell. After the death of his sweet daughter by his own order, rather than the Lord of Light granting all favor, the snow melts, but those not fully loyal abandon the king, leaving him with even smaller numbers than he already had. Piece by piece, Stannis’ victory has been taken away from him, his death assured when Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) is found hung and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) rides out on her own as her visions of victory over the Boltons prove incorrect, or at least incorrect for now. In true Stannis the new Mad King fashion, however, he decides to march on anyway. Expecting a siege, his gutted army is surprised when Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) meets him head on, surrounds him, and destroys him. Though Stannis limps to the woods as a survivor of the massacre, he comes face to face with his inevitable death as Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) takes her vengeance for Renly’s murder. With nothing left to live for, Stannis accepts his death and the final true Baratheon is wiped from the face of Westeros.
Within the walls of Winterfell, Sansa (Sophie Turner) takes reckless advantage of her husband’s absence and lights her candle of rescue for Brienne to see. Unfortunately, with Stannis’ approach, Brienne misses the signal, and Sansa watches the massacre from the tower’s height. Returning to her room, Sansa comes face to face with Reek (Alfie Allen), who has told the jealous, sadistic Myranda (Charlotte Hope) of her disappearance. Faced with her husband’s wrath, Sansa begs for death, but as Myranda only threatens a painful maiming, Theon suddenly springs to life and kills the vindictive wench. All of Sansa’s torture at the hands of the Boltons seems to have finally broken the spell, though Theon is far from what he used to be. As the Bolton army begins to filter in through the gates of the citadel, Theon and Sansa know they will not survive Ramsay’s return, mentally or physically, and they instead choose to jump from the wall into the snow below. Sansa is once again on the run for her life, and with hers and Theon’s stories still without an end in sight, we will certainly see them again next season. With Stannis now dead as well, there seems to be no one left to challenge the Boltons for rule of the North, but perhaps the lands south of the Wall now populated by Wildlings will come into play, unless the end of “Mother’s Mercy” keeps them from moving too far towards Winterfell.
Across the sea, more death awaits us as Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), and Trystane (Toby Sebastian) begin their journey from Dorn to Kings Landing. However, things do not go smoothly by any means, as Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) exacts the first declaration of war by poisoning Myrcella, who dies in the arms of the man she has just accepted as her father, having known all along. As suspected, Ellaria’s quick, inexplicable turn into weeping submissive before Doran (Alexander Siddig) was a sham – though hopefully he can still wield power over her in some way – and we can only expect that war will break between the two kingdoms. Luckily for Trystane at the moment, Jamie has developed a much cooler head, and exacting vengeance upon the innocent prince, who will clearly be grieving along with him, isn’t his style anymore. However, for another Lannister waiting for them in Kings Landing, vengeance is the name of the game, and hers will be brutal.
Before we are taken to Kings Landing, however, Arya (Maisie Williams) has some personal business in Braavos, but she learns quickly that personal is not the way of the Faceless. Wearing the face of a dead girl, Arya seizes her opportunity and brutally kills Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), all the while taunting him with her true identity. Upon her return, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) and his companion (Faye Marsay) show Arya what it really means to be no one. H’ghar pays the price for Arya’s misstep and kills himself, but as Arya mourns his passing, his face appears once again on that of his companion, and H’ghar lives on. As Arya questions the probability of what she has seen and the identity of the man she wrongly considered a friend, she suddenly begins to lose her sight.
We knew right from the moment that Arya refused to give up Needle that she would face this sort of test in the name of becoming a Faceless, and time and again her loyalty to her identity has kept her from truly becoming what she says she wants to be but does not truly understand. Throughout this season, Arya’s struggle with realizing what exactly it means to be no one has been an interesting one, and as much as she grew attached to H’ghar, so did we, and the realization that we really don’t even know who he is, nor have we seen his true face, is just as jolting as Arya’s own revelation about the man she thought she knew. Arya’s story is becoming more and more interesting as she slowly comes to terms with giving up her Stark name as a small price to pay for what she wants, and hopefully next season she will emerge out of the darkness of her blindness and exact her revenge in the name of the Faceless.
After the disastrous end to Meereen’s fighting pits, the city finds itself without a queen and on the brink of becoming lawless. Left in the throne room, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), and Daario (Michiel Huisman) are joined in their contemplation by Messandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and a recovering Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson). Surprisingly, it is Daario who sets forth their plans for next season, and as he and the still infected Jorah ride out to find Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the triad is left behind to be the voice of the queen. The only one with experience ruling a kingdom in any fashion, Tyrion still finds himself feeling woefully inadequate and lost, even when Varys (Conleth Hill) makes his presence known by the dwarf’s side once again. Meereen will be in interesting standing next season, as Tyrion, along with his own Small Council, will clearly develop the skills to rule a divided kingdom, and with the developments in Kings Landing, knowing how to rule a divided kingdom will certainly come in handy as Game of Thrones lumbers on. The other side of this story, Daario and Jorah, is without question a travelling storyline marked by bouts of jealousy and the possibility of Jorah’s illness raising its scaly head.
Looking highly disheveled but no worse for wear, Daeny and Drogon rest from their escape. Though she demands that her rebellious child take her home, Drogon refuses, and Daney goes on the search for food, resolving to try again later. However, she doesn’t get a later, as she suddenly finds herself surrounded by a tribe of Dothraki soldiers, the people who abandoned her. This is an intriguing turn for Daeny, as no fire rains down from the sky signaling Drogon rescuing her again, and she may find herself back at square one. The questions become whether Drogon brought her to Dothraki lands on purpose, seeing as they are the people who inadvertently gave him life, and how much Daeny will be able to connect with this new tribe. Will they become allies for her to take back Meereen, joining her Unsullied, or will they refuse but agree to be her army against a weakened Westeros? Daeny’s story has opened up a realm of possibilities, and especially after the seemingly insurmountable struggles with an entrenched society, it will be a welcomed break to see all that she has learned as a ruler come into play in a different setting where she more than likely doesn’t have power.
In her cold cell under the sept, Cersei (Lena Headey) decides that she cannot endure any more, and she confesses her sins to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), thinking she will be given her full freedom. However, far from being broken, Cersei holds strong as her confession is filled with lies and superficial revelations. She names Lancel (Eugene Simon) as her lover, and denies that her children are not the late kings. She is allowed to return to the Red Keep, but she must perform the walk of shame from the sept all the way home, and as her hair is shorn and her body bared to a sneering, jeering crowd of commoners, Cersei’s hate, anger, and full blooded wrath boil. As she enters the gates of the castle, she breaks, but a reveal by Qyburn (Anton Lesser) calms and steels her resolve for wide spread vengeance upon the High Sparrow, his faith, and the whole of Kings Landing.
With Tywin (Charles Dance) gone, Cersei this season has become more and more unhinged as her orders and actions no longer come under scrutiny to the point that they aren’t enacted. Taking full advantage of her son’s naïveté has been her play all season, and until her poorly placed plan for revenge upon Margaery (Natalie Dormer) backfired, Cersei looked almost untouchable. Though she got a taste of humiliation and shame during one of the most brutal scenes she has ever been a part of, Cersei is yet again untouchable, especially with a resurrected, fully loyal Mountain doing her bidding. Though there is still a trial that the High Sparrow promises will happen for Cersei, whether he remains in power to that point is in question. His fate and that of Margaery hang in the balance, and we fear for all in Kings Landing next season, as Cersei’s wrath is released. Lest we forget, her dead daughter is on her way home as well, and though Jamie may hold his sword against Trystane, Cersei will surely be the boy’s death and light the spark of war against her enemies.
Even with all this death and the fate of characters hanging in the balance, it is to the Wall where “Mother’s Mercy” bears its teeth and makes us beg the showrunners for even just one more episode this season. With the Nights Watch holding their tongues but scowling none the less at the decisions of their young Lord Commander, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finds himself the most hated man at Castle Black. As Sir Davos (Liam Cunningham) is refused aid in Stannis’s battle for Winterfell, the fate of both the would-be king and the citadel are brought to bear as Melisandre rides into the stronghold alone. This is the last we see of either of them for the whole episode, but it can be surmised that with their king and all that remains of him dead, Davos and Melisandre remain at Castle Black, and though she doesn’t reveal how all the Baratheons died, it is inevitable that Davos will discover that it was she who suggested Shireen’s death, sealing her fate at his hands.
Separation and abandonment seem to be overriding themes in the season finale, as Jon’s last obvious ally, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) begs for Jon to send him and Gilly (Hannah Murray) away for her safety and so that he can become a Maester, a more fitting role for him than warrior. As Sam drives away from Castle Black and his friend, little does he know that he is sealing Jon’s fate, as the Nights Watch no longer has one of their order to answer to for Jon’s life. In an ending that leaves our eyes tearing, mouths gaping, and blood boiling, Olly (Brenock O’Connor) tells Jon that a Wildling has arrives with news of his lost Uncle Benjen, and Jon is led into the square by Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), only to be faced with a placard with a simple, bludgeoning word written on it: “Traitor”. In truly Roman fashion, members of the Nights Watch take turns stabbing Jon, punctuated by the phrase, “For the Watch”, Olly landing the final blow (we knew there was reason to hate him!). The episode ends with those who are too blinded by their hatred for the Wildling to see the bigger picture leave Jon in the snow he is named after, blood pooling beneath his still form.
As we sit and contemplate how the show can continue without someone reliable, or even a main voice in the North – with Bran absent for the full length of this season, he is not nearly as important as Jon – hope begins to grow that perhaps Jon’s story isn’t yet finished. After all, we have seen three people die in “Mother’s Mercy” who fall within the bounds of what constitutes sure death in Game of Thrones.
The first is Stannis, who had already proven himself unstable and unfit for rule, and began losing ground very quickly this season from the moment he and his army left Castle Black. Men were abandoning his cause left and right, and due to his blind determination to win, he brutally killed his only daughter, one more nail in his coffin. From there, he managed to loose everything he had left to live for – his wife, his men, and his crutch, Melisandre. Faced with nothing else to live for, and with nowhere for his story to go but dusty death or to repeat itself to no end until someone killed him, Stannis’ story is clearly at an end.
The second is Myrcella, who is merely a pawn in a much bigger plot for war between Westeros and Dorn. She was never going to survive as she was meant for only one purpose. The final sure death is Meryn Trant, who completely had it coming as he was also placed as a pawn for Arya to learn the truth of the life she had chosen and what it would require. Pawns in Game of Thrones are placed exactly as we would expect, merely as vehicles to advance another’s story, and both Myrcella and Trant performed their sacrificial duties accordingly. Others who have died in Game of Thrones are those whose stories have come to a clear end with nowhere else for them as characters to advance, evolve, or mature (Joffrey, Tywin, Ned).
When considering Jon’s probable death, all elements of what it means to die in Game of Thrones come to bear, and our hope glimmers as we realize that Jon’s story has so many loose ends, so many unanswered questions, and so much symbolism associated with it that he still has so much to offer the story as a whole. Melisandre’s presence at Castle Black and our knowledge of the fact the that Lord of Light can resurrect the dead at will – Beric Dondarrion, the Lord of Blackhaven – are only the possible tools to Jon’s return to the fray, but Melisandre and her visions of power, snow, and Bolton banners burning are reasons that we hold out hope that Jon will be back.
More reason that anything is the mystery still surrounding Jon’s parentage and the power Melisandre feels within him. With the true identity of Jon’s mother being the key question that George R.R. Martin asked of the showrunners, Jon is clearly a massively intriguing and important character, possibly more so than Arya, Tyrion, or Daenerys, and the show has built him up to be so important that his death – should it be true death – would be one of those that might detract audiences from carrying on, with the aforementioned three being the other obvious characters to illicit such a reaction. It is for these reasons and more that even though his blood has stained the white ground that wishing for Jon Snow’s life to be saved is not beyond reason, regardless of what the showrunners and Harington himself have to say.
For a season that started out perhaps a bit more quietly than others, Game of Thrones Season 5 has ended on a whopper of a note, and very powerfully found its feet halfway through. Though not as action packed or surprise riddled as other years, this season has still kept with the feel of the show, and the story has progressed so that we will, as usual, await next year with baited breath as we anticipate answers as to the fates of our characters as well as the return Bran and Hodor.
“Mother’s Mercy”: (4.5 / 5)
Game of Thrones Season 5: (4 / 5)
(Photos copyright: HBO)