Season 5 of Game of Thrones just came to an end with “Mother’s Mercy,” an inconsistent episode with some truly great sequences in some areas but some frustrating moments in others. Unlike last year, when major climaxes were spread over the last three episodes of the season, every storyline reaches its climax in this hour. Obviously there is always more story to tell in the future, and finales have often serve not only to end season-long threads but tease future ones. However, “Mother’s Mercy” leaves many of the conflicts that had been built up to throughout this last season without their resolutions. Even some of the best sequences of this episode leave dangling threads to be explored in the future. The direction of many of the stories we’ve spent roughly ten hours following this year is uncertain – even for one of the seemingly more final fates of the episode! Despite a handful of truly wonderful and well-executed scenes, I found much of this episode frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying. Continue reading
“Hardhome” had the responsibility to deliver on two huge developments that the audience had been waiting for since its earliest episodes. One was the first real interaction between Daenerys and Tyrion, and the other (of course) was seeing just how much of a threat the White Walkers are. And boy, did the episode deliver. The episode provided strong transitional moments for its characters, and shined brightest in a one-on-one between Daenerys and Tyrion that was somehow better than my ridiculous expectations. And while I tend to prefer the human conflicts in the series more than the fantastical ones, the last third of the episode at Hardhome provided strong character moments, thrilling action, and made the White Walker threat that had been looming since the first episode so much more real. Continue reading
“Kill the Boy” is the most focused episode of Season 5 so far, featuring only four of the major storylines of the show. Oftentimes, focusing on a smaller handful of characters allows the show to take its time and really develop some satisfying material for each group (as opposed to making visits too brief to really leave a strong impression). I’m not sure this episode did a great job taking advantage of that laser sharp focus, though. Some of the plot developments felt rushed, the character interactions paled in comparison to previous episodes this season, and even the significant investment of time in each storyline only moves the respective plots slightly forward. Personally, (and I do feel like I’m in the minority here, so feel free to disagree in the comments), this was my least favorite episode of the season so far.
Maybe you disagree, but let’s just do some quick comparisons, starting with the character who had the most consistently strong material this episode (and season): Jon Snow. I really liked his scene with Aemon, and his advice to “kill the boy” and stand by your convictions was a great theme that felt present in other storylines (especially Daenerys’). I also loved his confrontation with Tormund, and then the Night’s Watch. This was the kind of political conundrum that I personally loved in the fifth book: Jon Snow is fighting for something that is unquestionably the correct move morally and pragmatically, but it seems almost impossible to lead others where he wants to go (even his strongest supporters). This episode put Jon in a more intriguing and perilous position, and strengthened him as a character. Continue reading