Recap: Game of Thrones 3.10 - Mhysa
This is going to contain spoilers for this episode, and also for the books. Deal with it.
And that's the season, folks.
I can't help but feel like last night's episode, Mhysa, was a little anticlimactic. Then again, after the events of last week's episode, pretty much anything would feel anticlimactic. I watched The Rains of Castamere a second time on Saturday, and even knowing what was coming, the Red Wedding was still a remarkably brutal piece of television.
This episode felt like a mirror image of the first; whereas Valar Dohaeris was all about moving the chess pieces to the correct spots on the board, this was sort of like those pieces being reset after someone got upset and flipped the board over.
The Lannisters are victorious and Jaime is back in King's Landing. Bran is undertaking his quest beyond the Wall. Sam and Jon are both back at Castle Black. Daenerys has an army. A bunch of creepy men are now in charge of the North. Theon has been castrated and awarded his new name: Reek. Yara is going to lead a contingent of Ironborn to find Theon. Stannis is turning his attention north instead of south. Arya remembers she has a coin given to her by an assassin from a faraway land.
Everyone is ready to move on to the next phase of the story, even though there isn't a lot of actual movement. There's resolution to some of the storylines from this season, even if a few of them got only a passing nod (like Jon and his abbreviated jaunt with the wildings).
It also made me wonder how different I would feel about the proceedings had I not read the books. The most interesting bits of this episode were the ones where I could recognize the seeds being planted for upcoming character shifts, betrayals, and deaths. So, for example, I can appreciate the confab between Shae and Varys because I know how that's going to pay off, but I have to wonder if that enhances my enjoyment of it, or detracts from it—can the people unaware of her impending nuptials to Hodor still appreciate it?
Oops. Spoiler alert.
And what about the "reveal" on Ramsay Snow? They play it off on the show like it's a big deal, but I wonder if, at this point, it even matters. If it hasn't been ruined by people like me (it's a pretty low-level spoiler), it doesn't seem like such a burning mystery that it demanded an answer, like the true intentions of Bob Benson on Mad Men. (Seriously, what is that guy up to?!)
That concern aside, the show hit some big home runs on the themes that make it so timeless and engrossing. There's the theme of family and how far families are willing to go for each other. Last week Catelyn was ready to die for her son, and this week Cersei admits she would have killed herself if not for her children—even that dickbag Joffrey. Incredibly powerful stuff. And Tyrion and Tywin share an actual tender moment—as tender as things can get between two people who despise each other—over the one thing that unites them: Their familial bond.
It was even a little sweet to see the reunion between Cersei and Jaime (despite the implication of amputee incest sex).
There was the theme of power, and what it actually means to wield it. Best demonstrated, of course, in the palpable horror displayed by the small council when Joffrey scolds Tywin. Truly, wearing a crown does not a king make.
My favorite, though, were the themes of social stratification, and the plight of the lowborn versus the highborn. Whether it was Shae, who has the opportunity to improve her lot but refuses, or Davos, who took the opportunity and lost his son in the process. The reason this show about dragons and ice zombies and impossibly hot women is so easy to identify with is because, in the end, it's really about people trying to fix things and fucking it up. Who can't identify with that?
All this being said, I'm a little surprised about where they chose to end the season. It's certainly an epic, stirring image, to see Daenerys hailed as a liberator by a city of slaves. And it creates a nice counterpoint to the other people struggling for control of Westeros—she is the only one who is loved by her followers. Compare her to Stannis, who is being undermined by his own religious fervor, and Joffrey, who is a dickbag.
Still, it feels a little less immediate than last season's cliffhanger: A frozen army of the undead, led by screeching ice monsters, marching south. They're a threat lingering on the horizon that will shuffle some of the game pieces next season. Though, given the sheer horror of the Red Wedding, it's nice to end on a positive note. And good for Daenerys—if I were Westerosi, I'd want her to be my queen. And not just because I have a crush on her.
She's the least insane of the bunch, after all.
So even though this episode felt a little uneventful, it was still a strong piece of television. That's the fun thing about Game of Thrones—even if there are some cracks in the veneer, they're so minor it doesn't even matter.
Definitely, the most effective decision the showrunners made was to split the third book into two seasons. It's easily the best of the books (sorry if you haven't gotten to books four and five yet), and there's still a lot of ground to cover. Trying to cram all of it into one season would have been a disaster, and they effectively used the time they had, and (mostly) found an even keel between moving the story and exploring the world and the characters.
There weren't any massive structural changes from the books, but the ones they made were intelligent choices—cutting unnecessary characters, or in the case of Gendry, giving him someone else's story, so that he could stay in play. It was also smart to keep Theon on board, despite the gruesome nature of it. He disappears until the fifth book, where we meet a character named Reek and slowly learn that he's Theon, psychologically and physically ruined from his torture. Cleary that wouldn't fly on the show, as viewers will immediately recognize Alfie Allen when he's reintroduced (just like they couldn't hide the identity of Barristan Selmy). I hope there's a little less torture porn next season, but given the impact he's had on the story thus far, it would be an injustice to take him off the board for the next several seasons.
The showrunners were helped along in their adaptation of the book by the fact that there was a good middle event to build this season toward (the Red Wedding) and another big event to build the next season toward (Hodor's revenge).
Adapting the fourth and fifth books is going to be a clusterfuck, and that's where the big changes have to come into play, to make the storylines make sense, and also so fan-favorite characters like Tyrion and Daenerys don't disappear for an entire season or two. I hope they enjoy this ease of interpretation while they can.
So, who was this season's MVP? It's a tough call to make, because there are so many good performances, and the show is so impeccably cast. I'm really down to Michelle Fairley, who delivered a powerhouse of a performance last week as Catelyn Stark, and Sophie Turner as Sansa. Turner may not be the obvious choice, but she's taken a difficult role (because it's a little boring compared to the people wielding weapons and dragons) and she added an incredible level of gravity to it. I'm not incredibly interested in Sansa from the books, but Turner makes me interested in Sansa from the show. Good on her.
Also, Gwendoline Christie is awesome as Brienne.
What's to come...
Or am I? No one is safe on this show.
So I won't spoil what you're going to see, but I will give you a few hints: The Royal Wedding is coming up next season, and don't worry, weddings continue to be incredibly fucked up in Westeros. Expect to spend a lot of time at Castle Black.
And, spoiler alert, Hodor wins the Iron Throne!
- I think Ser Davos is Hooked on Phonics, or should at least get a sponsorship deal from them. He's making great progress!
- George R.R. Martin appeared on Conan O'Brien and joked that Staten Island was his inspiration for Westeros. As a Staten Island resident, I can confirm that there's a cultural divide between the north and south shores. So when Tywin was referring to the clash between the north and the south of Westeros, I thought it was funny. Me, and no one else.
- I love the sly reference to Podrick Payne as a sexual dynamo. It's such a little detail, and not even necessary given how much ground the show has to cover—but it's still a pretty great detail.
- There were a lot of great lines in this episode, but my favorite was from Tyrion: "It's not easy to be drunk all the time. Everyone would do it if it were easy." Words to live by.
- BOOBWATCH: None. Sorry, pervs!
- WANGWATCH: Mercifully, no. Given that this show does not shy away from gore, I'm really happy we didn't get the extreme version of Dick in a Box.
- True Blood, truly one of the greatest shows in the history of television, returns next week. I won't be recapping that because I haven't read the books, and also, I don't think I have the skill to properly capture its majesty. So, tune in, enjoy, and have a nice summer. Try to go outside every once in a while.
Hash it out folks. What did you think of the episode? How about the season?
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