Game of Thrones Revisited: 3.10 Mhysa
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Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world and now we reach the season three finale and a world changed forever after the horrors of the Red Wedding...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
Mhysa opens moments after the death of Catelyn, Robb and Talisa Stark at the end of The Rains of Castamere, with the graphic and brutal slaughter of Robb's men at the Twins. For the audience, this is a tragic and shocking moment, the severed head of Robb's direwolf Grey Wind and the burning of the Stark flags a grim reminder that the North has lost terribly in the War of the Five Kings. Of course, this is worse still for poor Arya, who witnessed the slaughter outside the gates in horror; thankfully Sandor Clegane, the Hound, does the right thing and sweeps her away in time.
This dark path leads her to her first kill a grown man; she accidentally killed the stable boy in season one's The Pointy End but this is the first example of her deliberately and vengefully committing murder. He deserved it, bragging to his comrades about his role in the slaughter of the Stark but the malice in which she stabs him repeatedly in the neck is still grim stuff. If her life was changed by her father's execution, then witnessing the murder of her people at the Twins is what truly takes her down the dark path of a killer in the seasons to come.
In King's Landing, there is sorrow and despair aplenty; after a brief moment where Tyrion and Sansa seems to connect, the news of her family's murder delivers another blow. And Tyrion continues to struggle with his new situation; he might be able to stand up to Cersei and Joffrey but he is no match for his father who demands he put a son in his new wife. Tyrion tries his best, asking whether Tywin would ever put his children before their family's honour; Tywin's rebuke of not casting him into the seas as a baby is a cold response indeed.
That being said, Tywin does get the audience on his side by sending the spiteful gleeful King Joffrey to bed without his supper. We've seen him play the cordial Hand to his brat of a grandson, but the stern ability to have Joffrey carted away shows he will only take it so far. And of course, Joffrey continues to be a monster; his delight at the deaths of Robb Stark and his mother are odious, as is his suggestion that he will serve Robb's head on a platter to Sansa at his wedding. At least Tyrion is able to stand up to him to try and protect his wife from the King's cruelty.
Once again, Game of Thrones manages to add some sympathy to Cersei's character, thanks mostly to Lena Heady's nuanced performance. The scene where she shares a glass of wine with Tyrion exposes a mournful aspect to her personality; the suggestion that she would have thrown herself off the Red Keep if it hadn't been for her children speaks to the fact that she isn't a completely ruthless monster...yet.
Sibel Kekilli is an equally sympathetic character and we learn something more about her character as Varys' attempts to send her away with diamonds fails. Her love for Tyrion runs deep but the pain of having to watch him marry Sansa obviously cuts deeper. But the proclamation that she would die for pure and innocent Sansa reveals just how much heart she has. It's a shame of course that she didn't take Varys' offer, considering her fate in next season's finale.
Talking of doomed romances, we get a final, heart-breaking encounter between Jon and Ygritte who hunts him down with vengeance. Both their hearts are broken; Jon professes his love for her and she obviously feels the same but the betrayal is too strong. Rose Leslie and Kit Harington are terrific in this scene, particularly Leslie. You feel every bit of her pain as she shoots Jon full of arrows. It's a miracle he survives all, making it back to Castle Black finally after two seasons away.
Sam also makes his way home, but not first without encountering Bran and co as they prepare to pass beyond the Wall. It's a great little convergence of two storylines and there was something mournful about watching Bran, Hodor and Jojen and Meera head out into the wilderness and the dangers that await. And while we don't see the dead this episode, Sam's words of warning to Maester Aemon are enough to convince him to send ravens to all the major players, warning them of the threat to come.
Fortunately someone is listening as Davos learning to read pays off and he is able to warn Stannis and Melisandre. Not without another act of betrayal first though; his connection to fellow Flea Bottom-born Gendry is enough to cause him to free Robert's Bastard and set him free. There was an on-going joke after this episode that Gendry was still rowing for three seasons; he won't return until season seven.
Liam Cunningham is another exceedingly good actor too, his performance as Davos full of gruff humility and courage in light of the cold nature of Stephen Dilanes' Stannis and Carice van Houten's dangerous Melisandre. There was something heroic in Davos's ability to stand up to his King, putting one life over many, even knowing it would lead to his death. Fortunately the warning from Castle Black was enough to sway the Red Priestess and save him, setting up a surprise turn of events in season four.
Stannis and co heading North is one of many new plotlines set up for the show's fourth season. Mhysa sees Theon finally broken. adopting his new name of Reek but Ramsey's taunts to Theon's father Balon Greyjoy fail to temper the Ironborn; Theon's sister Yara is quick to gather the Iron Island's most dangerous killers and set off on a rescue mission. We also see a haggard Jamie finally arrive at King's Landing and his experiences in season three will reveal a very different side to his season one days before his capture.
But for all the darkness and despair in the fallout of the Red Wedding, the season three finale ends on a hopeful note, as Daenerys and her armies wait before the gates of Yunkai as the freed slaves pour forth. She has had perhaps the greatest journey in season three and her role as the breaker of chains is a huge part of what makes her a great character. To the slaves she is Mhysa, mother, and the shot of them lifting her off the ground, hundreds of freed people cheering her is a wonderful uplifting shot to end the season on.
Overall, season three was the strongest yet; it didn't fall into the scatter-brained approach of season two, flitting trough so many stories there wasn't time to concentrate on any one fully. Each episode took a handful of characters and explored them a little deeper, while introducing some fascinating new players into the mix like Olenna Tyrell and Ramsey Bolton. But, as Mhysa shows, there were three key stories that made this the strongest yet - the fall of Robb Stark, the doomed romance of Jon and Ygritte and Daenerys Targaryen's rise from the ashes. A lot happened this season, but the finale was able to deftly reflect on everything that had happened, tying up loose threads while setting up new ones.
And there were plenty more surprises still to come...