**SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE GAME OF THRONES SERIES FIVE FINALE!**
So you thought all the big shocks had already happened this series? You know nothing, TV viewer.
Yes, as with the last few weeks, the majority of this episode is massively overshadowed by one brutal scene, which saw Kit Harington’s Jon Snow get Julius Caesared by his disgruntled Night’s Watch “brothers”. Et tu, annoying little kid?
Of course, while some viewers might be railing against the death and claiming Jon could be coming back, perhaps by Melisandre’s magic, I don’t think that’s the case. While the character’s death in the books has been interpreted by many as ambiguous, Harington has confirmed he’s definitely gone for good. So, is there anything to stand in the way of the White Walkers now – and do we even care?
As a whole this series has been unremittingly grim – after six very slow episodes, Sansa’s rape, Shireen’s burning, Jon’s death and even Stannis’ failed attack on Winterfell ground all joy and hope out of a show that wasn’t really known for its sunny disposition anyway. Will this last shock be too much for a battered and traumatised viewership, finally prompting some to switch off and watch something a bit less horrible?
After all, what’s happened this year was clearly too much for one character in the series as a haunted and defeated Stannis found himself truly alone. Sure, he’d already lost his wife, daughter and most of his soldiers, but it was power-behind-the-throne Melisandre whose desertion really finished him off. If she’d lost faith, then it was all for nought.
While many might feel Stannis’ downfall is a rare Game of Thrones comeuppance after his actions last week, for me the whole thing is really just too tragic to take any satisfaction from. A man who was once vaguely OK – a rarity in the Seven Kingdoms – went on to betray his family, was utterly defeated in battle and then (presumably) executed so soon after he’d seemed to have a real chance at taking the reigns. Again, very depressing and the end of a storyline that had been building up for years. At least Ser Davos is still around at the Wall to be gruff and honourable.
Still, as some plotlines ended, others went in new directions. Arya’s shockingly sadistic murder of the nasty Ser Meryn Trant (the first name on her “kill list’) had consequences, as she was shown that her friend Jaqen H’ghar was genuinely No One through an unsettling montage of the different faces beneath his own. Then she promptly went blind, proving without dispute that Arya definitely has the worst internship ever – and that there really is no-one left to be there for her.
Her sister Sansa might finally be faring a little better, though, escaping Ramsay’s clutches with Theon and leaping from the Winterfell battlements. Unless the next series opens with their bloodied and broken bodies at the foot of the castle walls, things are finally looking up for the pair. In other words, they’ve escaped from torture and sexual assault to go break their legs and die of hypothermia, which is about as cheerful as Game of Thrones ever gets.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing Cersei took her intense “walk of shame” which saw the Queen mother, her hair cropped short, paraded naked through the streets of King’s Landing (with judicious use of a body double and a CGI Lena Headey face) as she was verbally and physically abused by the populace. It’s a shame that such a major moment for Cersei took place in this rather busy finale, but it was a good cap-off to her downfall at the hands of religion this series – and nicely set up what she’ll be up to next year as Jonathan Pryce’s High Sparrow started planning her trial. Considering her hunky new zombie bodyguard, do we smell another trial by combat?
The programme-makers also seem to be setting up new storylines for Daenerys and her merry band of followers, with the queen instantly regretting her slightly inexplicable flight from peril on the back of her dragon as she’s surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Basically she’s back where she started in Game of Thrones series one and I think it’s a breath of fresh air for the character just as the Meereen storyline was getting old. It should be interesting to watch Daenerys on the back foot after seeing her in control for so long.
And back at the Meereenese ranch, Tyrion’s also returning to what he does best – attempting to control an unruly city full of corruption, doing for Meereen what he did for King’s Landing back in series two. And he even has Varys back on his side! So it’s not all bad.
But it’s hard to look forward with hope for any characters when Jon (protagonist Jon!) can be snuffed out in the middle of his greatest challenge yet. Sure, we knew nobody was safe in Game of Thrones – but Jon had important, selfless things to do. I certainly felt like the series’ true arc would revolve around the fight against the White Walkers, but I just can’t see narratively how it can focus on that struggle without Jon (and with Sam off learning to be a Maester after a lovely final conversation with his friend). Was four series worth of build-up and character development for nothing? Are we just watching medieval pain and cruelty for no reason?
Basically Game of Thrones has left me feeling like life is pointless, full of horror and with nothing good ever happening to anybody. Great Monday feelings.
But there is one tiny ray of light to seize onto over the next nine Game of Thrones-less months. One little shred of hope and joy to warm us through the dark and cold, to give solace to those weeping through the night for the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, or the innocent Princess Shireen, or even poor Myrcella as she was snuffed out this week in her newly-admitted father’s arms.
Despite all the horror, death, existential ennui and sadness, we can take one thing away to make us feel better – Jaime’s finally out of the tedious Dorne storyline.
Thank the Gods.
Game of Thrones will return next year
Game of Thrones Season 5 is available now to digitally download via Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, Google Play™, iTunes, Wuaki.tv, Xbox Video and BT TV