Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 10 “Mother’s Mercy”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It’s another season-ending episode. Hang on!!

Braavos: Mace Tyrell’s guard is back in the brothel, with three young girls lined up in front of him. He beats two with a stick, eliciting cries of pain. He beats the third, but there is no response. Trying again gets not a sound. He gets an evil gleam in his eye, says he needs to work on this one some more, and dismisses the other two girls. As he turns to face the third girl, she pulls off a blonde wig and reveals herself to be Arya! She attacks the man, stabbing him in both eyes with a dagger, then a few more times for good measure. When he’s incapacitated from pain, she talks to him.

She says her name is Arya Stark, and he, Meryn Trant, is the first person on her list of people she has to kill. Because he killed Syrio – her swordsmanship teacher from way back in season 1 (episode 8)! Reading back on my notes for that episode, I recall that I never even realised that Syrio was dead. The scene cut before seeing him get killed, so I’d always assumed he may have escaped and we might see him again. Well, I guess I was wrong about that one. Anyway, Arya tells Meryn why she’s killing him, then dispatches him with another thrust of her dagger, about 5 seconds after I learn his name. Characters really do die a lot in this show. And we’re only warming up for this episode.

Arya returns to the House of Black and White, with Meryn’s face peeled off his body, and she goes to place it among the thousands of other faces in the giant hall, but is interrupted by Jaqen and the older girl. He says Arya took a life that she wasn’t supposed to, and that the price for a life is a death. He takes out a small vial, no doubt of poison, and the other girl grabs Arya from behind. I think he’s going to force it down Arya’s throat… but Jaqen drinks the liquid himself! And falls to the floor, dead! Okay, this makes no sense whatsoever.

Arya is shocked, but then the other girl turns into Jaqen, and says that the other person was never Jaqen, he was No One. Arya drops to the floor and peels of Jaqen #1’s face, and someone else is underneath. She repeats this, pulling off mask after mask, until finally her own face is revealed. Shades of Luke Skywalker in the Dark Side tree on Dagobah. All right, so all of this stuff is weird and magical and allegorical. And then the new Jaqen says that wearing a face before one has become No One is like poison… and Arya is magically struck blind!

Whoa. I wonder if this is a reflection of what she did to Meryn Trant, blinding him in both eyes. And also, is Arya going to be blind from now on, or is this a temporary condition? So many questions. I dare not speculate, but I hope Arya isn’t going to be blind permanently. Or if she is, that she becomes some sort of hyper-aware blind fighting master and it doesn’t slow her down.

Body count: 1
Cliffhanger count: 1

Mereen: Daenerys is gone with Drogon, and Tyrion, Daario, and Jorah have to decide what to do. They want to go look for her. Grey Worm, still recovering from his wound, and Missandei enter, and they all discuss options. The men all want to go search for Daenerys, but Daario says that someone has to stay behind and run Mereen. He says the people will listen to Grey Worm since he’s one of them, and Tyrion can provide advice using his political skills. Tyrion reluctantly agrees.

So, Tyrion has been here, what, all of one day, and he’s already in charge of the whole city. Pretty good! As he surveys his charge, a familiar voice sounds behind him. It’s Varys! Varys says Tyrion’s job will be difficult; if only he knew someone with a huge network of spies all over the place… Tyrion says, “I’ve missed you, Varys.”

Off on top of a cliffside hill somewhere, Daenerys is sitting amidst a pile of animal bones with Drogon. Drogon is wounded and uninclined to fly her back to Mereen. He licks his wounds and settles down for a rest. Daenerys decides this is a good time to go wandering, and walks down the hill. She doesn’t make it far when a huge group of horsemen appear and surround her. I’d guess these are probably Dothraki, but it’s not entirely clear. They swirl around her, and she deliberately takes off a ring and drops it in the grass. I presume to hide the fact that she’s a Dothraki queen?? That makes no sense. Surely she’d want the Dothraki to recognise and respect her. Maybe the ring signifies something else? I don’t know – I don’t recall seeing her acquire that ring anywhere. If it was shown before, it must have seemed utterly unimportant at the time. Anyway, the scene cuts and we’re left wondering what the horsemen will do with Daenerys. Oh, and it’s also not clear if Drogon is dying, or if he’ll recover from his wounds.

Oh, and I just realised: Drogon isn’t just an uncreative name for a dragon, it’s a tribute to Daenerys’s fondly remembered departed husband, Khal Drogo.

Body count: 1 definite, 1 maybe
Cliffhanger count: 3

Dorne: Jaime takes his leave of Prince Doran Martell, and departs on a ship with Bronn, Myrcella, and young Prince Trystane. Before they board, Doran’s evil sister-in-law says goodbye, and gives Myrcella a kiss. On the lips. Which seems a bit weird at the time, but hey, maybe that’s the way they do things in Dorne.

On board the ship at sea, Jaime talks to Myrcella, and tries clumsily to bring up the fact that he’s her father. She says she’s known that for years, and she’s proud to be his daughter. Oh, it’s all so touching and lovely! Until drops of blood start falling from Myrcella’s nose, and then she collapses. The scene cuts to evil sister-in-law on the dock, wiping the lipstick off her lips, then downing a dose of the poison antidote that we saw her daughter give to Bronn in the prison cell earlier.

Oh my. She swore she’d behave, and she killed Myrcella with poison. Doran won’t find out for a while at least, by which time presumably she’ll have fled to somewhere safe from his wrath. Because if she doesn’t flee (or alternatively, kill her brother-in-law), he’s going to have her executed for sure. And now Jaime’s in a very bad place. His daughter’s just been assassinated and he has that to deal with. But he also has to return to Cersei and tell her the news, which is probably going to be a lot worse. His best option at this point might be to return immediately to Dorne and confront Doran about the assassination. Trystane certainly has little reason to go on to King’s Landing now.

Body count: 2 definite, 1 maybe
Cliffhanger count: 4

King’s Landing: The bad nun comes in and orders Cersei to confess again. Cersei has had enough and says she will. She’s taken to the High Sparrow, who listens attentively as Cersei confesses to having an adulterous relationship with her cousin Lancel Lannister (now a brother of the High Sparrow’s church, and the one who dobbed her in). The High Sparrow ask if that’s all. Cersei says firmly yes. High Sparrow says what about the stories of incest, and of her plotting to murder Robert Baratheon? Cersei denies these, saying it’s all lies. Sparrow narrows his eyes a bit, but says nothing. Cersei asks for the Mother’s Mercy, and Sparrow says he will grant her freedom to return to the Red Keep. Cersei perks up. Sparrow continues, “… to await your trial.”

Cersei is taken away and her hair cut short by the nuns. Then she’s taken to the steps of the church and told she must walk all the way back to the Keep, which she can see in the distance. Before she begins, Sparrow announces to the gathered crowd that the Queen is a sinner, and she must make the walk of shame. Cersei’s robe is pulled off, and she is left naked as she begins walking, with guards around her, and a nun following ringing a bell and crying “Shame!” every few seconds. The crowd boo and jeer and throw food and try to jostle and variously abuse Cersei as she walks, with the guards keeping them away for the most part. Cersei is in tears by the time she returns to the Keep, where she is welcomed in by the Frankenstein ex-Maester, as well as Pycelle and some others.

Frankenstein tells some servants to help Cersei away so he can treat her injuries sustained on the walk. But before she goes, he reveals a giant new guardsman – it’s no doubt Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, but his face is obscured by a helmet. Frankenstein says he is ready to serve, but he will not speak again.

Imprisoning Cersei? Bad move. Letting her go again? Terrible move. I can see Cersei, once she’s had a bath and put on some clean clothes, mobilising as many men as she can to raid the High Sparrow’s church, raze the place to the ground, and execute everyone in it. That nun who she threatened would see her face as the last thing before she dies? Yep, that’ll happen. No real cliffhanger here, but certainly a prelude to some serious action.

Body count: 2 definite, 1 maybe
Cliffhanger count: 4

Winterfell: Stannis wakes up to milder weather and melting snow. Melisandre claims credit for the Lord of Light, implying that sacrificing Shireen has paid off. But a captain reports that half the men have deserted during the night, and taken all the horses with them. That’s a bad start to a battle. Then another captain appears and tells Stannis he better follow him. He leads Stannis to a tree, where his wife has hanged herself. Also not a great start. Melisandre decides discretion is the better part of valour and flees the camp. Stannis orders his men to form up and begin marching on Winterfell.

There, Sansa uses the corkscrew she stole to pick the lock on her room and escape. But she drops the corkscrew and leaves it behind! Foolish: (a) she’s left behind a weapon, (b) she’s left behind a clue for anyone trying to figure out how she got out or where she went. She heads up to the Broken Tower to light a candle in the window to signal for help. But meanwhile, Podrick has seen Stannis’s army approaching and gone to warn Brienne. Brienne looks at the dark tower window for a few lingering seconds, then dashes off with Podrick to go intercept Stannis. And just a few seconds later, Sansa’s candle appears in the tower window. Oh dear… terrible timing. This is quite the anti-coincidence, and a little bit unbelievable in terms of storytelling.

Anyway, Stannis’s army approaches to within sight of Winterfell’s walls. He orders camp, stating that “the siege begins in the morning”. A captain says he doesn’t think there’ll be a siege, and points towards Winterfell, where on the snowy plain between them Roose’s army is riding towards them on horseback. Stannis sighs and pulls his sword to lead his men into battle. The cavalry surround them and it looks hopeless, and indeed it is. Before long we see Ramsay finishing off some of Stannis’s men, and then mounting up to head home.

Stannis himself is wounded, staggering through a stand of trees. He finishes off a couple of Bolton men, then rests by a tree, when Brienne appears. She says she’s Brienne of Tarth, and she served Renly Baratheon, the true king. She saw him murdered by a spirit with the shape of Stannis, and demands to know if Stannis did it. He admits it was his doing. She pronounces a death sentence on Stannis. He merely considers all he has lost, and tells her to get on with it then. She raises her sword and brings it down…

Actually, that’s another thing I don’t understand. Renly was Stannis’s younger brother, right? Why does Brienne think Renly was the true heir, and not Stannis? Did Stannis do something that made him ineligible in her eyes? (I mean, before he murdered Renly?) Maybe this was explained at some point, but I either didn’t get it or have forgotten.

Back in Winterfell, Sansa makes her way back from the Broken Tower, detouring to avoid some guards. But she runs into Theon and the young woman who Ramsay was having an affair with. She has an arrow drawn on Sansa. She’s going to shoot her, but then Theon regains some measure of his senses and grabs the woman and tosses her over the ramparts to her death on the stones below. He grabs Sansa’s arm and they flee together. They end up on the battlements, looking out to freedom beyond the walls. It’s a long way to the ground below… but with guards approaching and no other option, they jump…

Okay, the ground is snowy out there, but I don’t care how much snow there is, that’s a really long way to fall. It’s more likely than not that that’s a fatal fall, in my books. Or at the very least two broken legs and maybe more. They’re not going to be in any fit condition to hobble, let alone run for their lives.

And Stannis… what can I say? He threw it all away at the end, he trusted a god who shouldn’t have been trusted. He was doing so well up until a couple of episodes ago. Although I suppose his downfall really began back when he remotely murdered his own brother – yeah okay, that was a bit evil. But what’s this Lord of Light really up to, then, if all the promises and the royal blood sacrifices weren’t to guarantee victory? Is the Lord of Light harvesting souls for some other, darker purpose? What is Melisandre really up to?

Body count: Well, thousands, but for named characters: 5 definite, 3 maybe
Cliffhanger count: 5

The Wall: Sam has a favour to ask of Jon. Sam wants to travel with Gilly and young Sam to Old Town, to study at the Citadel there and become a Maester. Jon says he can’t spare Sam, but Sam says he’ll be more useful at Castle Black as a Maester, now that Aemon is gone, and besides he’s not much good at fighting anyway. And he wants to take Gilly somewhere where she won’t be killed. Jon sees the wisdom in Sam’s request, and gives him permission to go. They leave on a small cart.

Ser Davos arrives and asks Jon for reinforcements for Stannis. Jon says he can’t spare anyone. Davos asks what about the wildlings? Jon says they’ll never fight for Stannis. Then Melisandre arrives on a horse (where did she get a horse??). Davos and Jon realise what’s happened – that Stannis has been defeated.

Later, Olly, the boy whose village was wiped out by Tormund’s wildlings, sees Jon and says that one of the wildlings has seen Jon’s uncle Benjen Stark, and Jon should come listen to him. Jon races out, into an ambush which he realises when he sees a sign painted with “Traitor”. Ser Alliser stabs Jon with a dagger, saying, “For the Watch”. A few other men repeat the stabs and the words. Jon staggers and looks pleadingly at Olly, who walks up and stabs Jon himself before repeating the words again. Jon falls to the snow and bleeds out.

Holy cow. Seriously, Jon? Okay, I know this series is notorious for main characters dying, but Jon Snow? He felt like the number one main character of the entire series. And to die like this, so pointless. I’m left wondering aren’t there any characters in this story who are good people and get a triumphant story arc? He’s not going to have a triumph over the White Walkers. He’s never going to see Bran or Sansa or Arya again. He’s never even going to see Sam become a Maester. I hope Sam becomes a Maester.

And Alliser. Okay, fine, he’ll take command of Castle Black now and the men will follow him. But he’ll mess up the whole peace thing with the wildlings, and jeopardise any chance they have against the undead army. Aiy aiiy aiiiy. And Melisandre is there too now, and Davos. What are they going to do? So much is up in the air now. Bring on season 6.

Body count: 6 definite, 3 maybe
Cliffhanger count: 6

5 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 10 “Mother’s Mercy””

  1. Lauri T. says:

    Syrio’s fate has been the subject of some rather elaborate and/or outlandish fan theories, since, as you point out, we never get to see the outcome of his one-on-one with Ser Meryn in S1E8. Without spoiling anything, I suppose it can at least be safely said that at this point in the show’s chronology, Arya is convinced that Syrio was killed.

  2. Glen says:

    If I remember right Trant also beat and humiliated Sansa in the Great Hall before Tyrion intervened; way back in season 1. Actually if Arya knew all the things he’d done, she’d want to kill him twice. At least.

    Bronn makes reference to his preference for hurting little girls (rather than fighting men) early in Season 3 — it sounds like a reference to beating Sansa but turns out to be more than that

    Good writeup

    “I recall that I never even realised that Syrio was dead.” – yep, until this scene I assumed he could have engineered a miracle escape, but I presumed after that point that Arya’s belief is correct.

    “I wonder if this is a reflection of what she did to Meryn Trant, blinding him in both eyes” — oh, I totally missed that connection! It seems obvious in retrospect. Neat.

    “she deliberately takes off a ring and drops it in the grass. I presume to hide the fact that she’s a Dothraki queen?? That makes no sense.” — yeah, I didn’t figure it out at the time either — it took me a little while to guess what this was about.

  3. Javier says:

    “Actually, that’s another thing I don’t understand. Renly was Stannis’s younger brother, right? Why does Brienne think Renly was the true heir, and not Stannis? Did
    Stannis do something that made him ineligible in her eyes? (I mean, before he murdered Renly?) Maybe this was explained at some point, but I either didn’t get it or
    have forgotten.” <- at that stage everybody was claiming the throne. Stannis believes himself the true heir (he is) because Robert's sons are illegitimate, but nobody knows for sure. Renly wants the throne and believes himself a better candidate for it than his older, bitterer, brother, and Cersei defends Joffrey as legitimate even though she know he isn't… Renly was very popular at the time, being like a younger image of what Robert was on his own days, and a lot of people followed him, including Brienne who was in love with him (not explained on the TV series, sorry).

    "Okay, the ground is snowy out there, but I don’t care how much snow there is, that’s a really long way to fall. It’s more likely than not that that’s a fatal fall, in my
    books." <- bad move on the showrunners. On the books the snow was very very high and allowed such a jump. (Really man, you shold give the books a try ;-)

    "And Stannis… what can I say? He threw it all away at the end, he trusted a god who shouldn’t have been trusted. He was doing so well up until a couple of episodes
    ago." <- bad move on the TV show again, the story arc of Stannis is a lot more interesting, and not yet dead on books. A nice cliffhanger there waiting on the next book, perhaps he'll die, perhaps not. But surely he won't die in such a minimized way… *rolls eyes*

  4. Glen says:

    Since DMM is watching the series at present, he has to take that on its own terms – with whatever it explains or doesn’t explain.

    The series should stand on its own; if it fails to explain something or makes something difficult to believe, that’s a failing of the series, irrespective of what the books say (and by this point they’re starting to diverge more and more, so the series’ explanations would have to stand on their own anyway).

  5. Glen says:

    I recall thinking after Arya killed Meryn Trant … “who is still left on her list who isn’t already dead?”. That list is starting to get shorter. Figuring out who is left led to some interesting speculations.

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