Game of Thrones Season Two, Episode 10 – Valar Morghulis
Directed by Alan Taylor
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Starring Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Emilia Clarke, Liam Cunningham, Charles Dance, Stephen Dillane, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Aidan Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Conleth Hill, Carice van Houten, Harry Lloyd, Richard Madden, Patrick Malahide, Rory McCann, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, and Issac Hempstead-Wright
When I reviewed the Season 1 finale of Game of Thrones, I felt that episode played more like the first episode of the second season, more than it felt like a closer. There were too many hanging plots, with few elements drawing to a close. In retrospect, part of that feeling may have come from the fact that I truly felt that Ned Starks’ death would have been an amazing way to end the season, but I understand wanting to provide some sense of finality to that first season and Ned’s death would not have been the way to accomplish that goal.
After “Blackwater” last week, I was concerned that the show might pull the same trick twice (considering the ending structure for both Season 1 and Season 2 played out in a similar fashion – huge, event, water-cooler worthy penultimate episode, followed by a slower, picking up the pieces episode to close out the season). However, I was glad to see the show draw some of the various plots to pause, rather than an end.
I’d say that most stories in the episode came to a logical conclusion, but even then, there’s still something unfinished about them. Part of that is due to the nature of show (it’s a massive hit for HBO, the finale hit a record 4.2 million views on Sunday night – a series high) and the other part is this: I’ve really, really enjoyed the show this season. So much, in fact, I’m considering picking up the third book in George R.R. Martin’s series, A Storm of Swords, so I can find out what happens next.
I think that’s the mark of a great work. There’s a conclusion, but it leaves the reader, watcher, etc., wanting more. As things draw to an end for each character, it feels satisfying, even though we all know there’s plenty more story to be told.
As noted, there is a certain sense of parallelism here between last season. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) didn’t suffer the same fate as Ned Stark did during his time as Hand of the king, but Tyrion is better served with his head on pike than in his current position. Stripped and removed of his power, the true savor of King’s Landing is nothing but one of his self-proclaimed ‘crippled things.’
As I reflect upon the episode, the theme of botched escapes comes to mind for most of the Starks and those surrounding them. After refusing to take an out last week, Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) fate in King’s Landing becomes worse than ever. With nothing to truly protect her, Littlefinger (strong>Aidan Gillen) gives her another option and reminds her that everyone in King’s Landing is a much better liar than her. That’s a fact she better remember if she plans to survive. Same for Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his arranged marriage. There’s strength in lies, but only if the person is strong enough to carry the burden of those lies.
Yet, it’s Winterfell that befalls the greatest tragedy in terms of escape plans. Theon’s (Alfie Allen) entire storyline this season has been a case study in horrific decisions and I’ve loved every minute of it. The progression of his character brought major changes to the North and changed that landscape forever. Theon and Bran (Issac Hempstead-Wright) both have failed escapes, as each character is forced to cut their losses and run, leaving behind a wreckage of a placed they both called home.
Across the sea, Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) story limped to an obvious, but emotionally satisfying ending. The overall ending was very predictable, but man if there weren’t some amazing character moments for her throughout this episode.
As I sit here and reflect upon the season, I’m happy with the events and how they played out. Game of Thrones proved to me that the show isn’t a one-trick pony and that the outstanding level of narrative can continue to be interesting week-to-week (even if it’s slow at times).
– This is a topic for a different day, mind you, but I think it’s amazing that Benioff and Weiss were able to kill off such a high profile actor like Sean Bean, who served as the closest thing to a main character the show had during the first season, and replace him with Dinklage and then elevate Dinklage to a point where he’s become the show’s real breakout star. As I said, amazing work.
– I’d watch the hell out of a buddy comedy between Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie).
– I didn’t spend much time talking about it, as it contains major spoilers, but all the events north of the Wall have me beyond excited to see what happens next.
Most importantly, I want to thank you all for reading these reviews this season. Hopefully I’ve provided you with some level of entertainment and maybe helped you to engage with the show on a level that you hadn’t done before. I know I’ve had a good time and I look forward to coming back next season to talk about the show with you all.