"You have one name, as do I. Here only the family name matters." It certainly does matter, and family played the main theme for "Mhysa," the tenth and final episode for the third season of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. The events of the Season 3 cover parts of Martin's third book, A Storm of Swords. The season finale dealt with the fallout from the infamous Red Wedding in "The Rains of Castamere" and set the stage for the events of Season 4. [SPOILERS AHEAD]
Family has been the guiding theme in Game of Thrones. The society of Westeros is structured around family. Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, Targaryen, Greyjoy, Tyrell, Tully; the great families of Westeros guide armies and control politics, the common man only being their pawns. The entire series to date has been focused around one central conflict: the War of the Five Kings, most defined by the war between the Starks and the Lannisters.
With the death of Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark, and with the destruction of their entire army, the King in the North's rebellion is no more. The Starks have been destroyed and the Lannisters have ended that war. A new one is beginning, though, and it may be greater than any that came before it. This week in Westeros ...
1. Arya Stark
And now the rains weep o'er his hall, and not a soul to hear ...
What a dreadful scene to open up with. Poor Arya. She had just arrived as the Twins to finally reunite with her family when the massacre began. As Ser Sandor Clegane, the Hound, tried to carry her to safety, she saw a despicably grisly scene: her brother Robb's head had been removed, and that of his direwolf, Grey Wind, was sewn onto his body as the Frey men carried it around. That poor girl. They escape as the entire Stark army is completely destroyed by the combined forces of the Freys and the Boltons in a vicious surprise betrayal.
Later, she and the Hound are traveling when they come across some Frey bannermen. One is bragging about how difficult it was to sew the direwolf's head onto Robb's body. Arya walks over and stabs the man to death. His comrades come to save him, but the Hound takes care of them, simply admonishing Arya to give him a heads up the next time she plans to do something like that.
Importantly, Arya takes out the coin that the assassin Jaqen H'ghar gave it during season two's finale. Jaqen informed her that if she ever met someone from Braavos and wished to seek him out again, say the phrase "Valar Morghulis" and she will find him. She says it. After all, her family is dead. Why not go to Braavos?
2. Walder Frey and Roose Bolton
The great families of Westeros are well-known, but there are also lesser nobles who serve as bannermen to the great houses. Among these are House Bolton and House Frey, who orchestrated the wedding massacre at the behest of Tywin Lannister. In exchange for overseeing the destruction of Robb Stark's army, these two lesser houses would see themselves elevated.
As servants mop blood from the floor of his hall, Frey explains to Bolton that he hates the high lords of Westeros. "They all laughed at me, all those high lords. They all thought they were better than me," croaks Frey, gloating at having wiped out House Tully and House Stark. In exchange, Tywin has named Walder Frey as the new Lord of Riverrun. Roose Bolton agrees that he hates the high lords for their arrogance. He claims that he betrayed Robb Stark because the young king ignored his advice. Now Roose Bolton has been named Warden of the North, and has dispatched his son to take care of removing the Ironborn from his new lands.
3. House Greyjoy
Theon Greyjoy, who destroyed Winterfell, is currently the prisoner of Ramsay Snow, bastard to Lord Bolton. Most of Theon's part in this season has been annoying and dragged out. The recently-castrated fellow has been given a new identity by Ramsay: Reek. Seriously, Ramsay seems to be giving Joffrey a run for the "Most Sadistic Freak in Westeros" award.
Ramsay sends Theon's former "favorite toy" to Balon Greyjoy in a box, ordering the Iron Islands to take their men out of the northlands, or else he'll start ending other body parts. Balon refuses the order, forsaking his son and declaring that Theon is not a man anymore. His daughter, though, fights for family loyalty. In spite of her father, Yara takes a ship and the "fifty best killers" in the Iron Islands and sets off to save her brother.
4. The Lannisters
After a session of learning even more of sweet Sansa Stark's naïveté, Tyrion has been summoned to the small council, setting up one of the best scenes in the series. Joffrey is gloating about the Red Wedding, and says that he wants Robb Stark's head at King's Landing at once. He wishes to feed the head to Sansa. Tyrion stands up for his new wife, threatening the king once again. "I am the king! I will punish you," shouts Joffrey.
"Any man who must say 'I am the King' is no king," intercedes Tywin. All season, Tywin has been saying that he can control Joffrey since no one else can, but we have not been able to see him really slap down the brat king outside of their brief chat in the throne room a few episodes ago. Tywin dismisses Joffrey and orders Cersei to send him off, causing Tyrion to remark, "You just sent the most powerful man in Westeros to bed without his supper."
Tywin then states what everyone pretty much already knows: "You really think a crown gives you power?" Tywin is the real ruler of Westeros. He orchestrated the Red Wedding, drawing condemnation from Tyrion for such a betrayal of custom and honor. Tywin brings up an interesting moral conundrum though: why is killing 10,000 men on a battlefield different than killing them at dinner? Tywin claims he did what he had to do in order to defend the Lannister family.
A House must put family first above everything if it wishes to be victorious. When members of great families act out of self-interest, they are destroyed. This is an interesting commentary on Robb Stark. Rather than obey his oath and serve his family by marrying one of Walder Frey's daughter, he chose to pursue personal love and marry the beautiful Talisa. Now House Stark is gone. Tyrion accuses Tywin of always being self-interested, and asks his father if there was ever a time he was not selfish. Tywin cruelly says that he wanted to cast Tyrion into the sea but did not because he was a Lannister.
Cersei later visits drunk Tyrion and they talk on family. While Cersei generally seems to agree with everyone else that her son is a monster, she still protects him because she remembers him being a jolly little baby, and she loves him, and no one can take that away — not even Joffrey himself. Tyrion asks how long the fighting will go on. "Every time we deal with an enemy, we create two more," muses Tyrion sadly. "Then I suppose it will go on for quite a long time," responds Cersei. It was a touching moment between these two siblings who otherwise hate each other.
Jaime returns to King's Landing with Brienne. No one recognizes him on the streets; without being recognized for his family name, he is nothing.
5. Bran Stark
Bran is continuing his journey to go north of the Wall, Hodor and the Reeds joining him. While camping out in the Blackfort, they meet none other than Samwell Tarly and Gilly — who are just returning from beyond the wall. Sam tries to convince Bran to come with him to Castle Black, but Bran insists that the only way to save Westeros is for him to complete his journey. Sam gives Bran and the Reeds the dragonglass he used to kill a White Walker, and wishes them luck as they head under the wall and into the north.
6. Jon Snow and the Night's Watch
In the last episode, Jon Snow fought off the Wildlings and abandoned his lover Ygritte. She has caught him to him, and they confront each other. It is an oddly touching scene. Ygritte continues her oft-meme'd phrase, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." He dejectedly replies: "I do know some things. I know I love you. I know you love me. I have to go home now." Ygritte then shoots him three times and cries as he rides away. Loving relationship, that.
Jon arrives at Castle Black, where Sam and Gilly have also recently arrived. Sam, after informing Master Aemon about the destruction of the Night's Watch mission north, is continuing to reveal himself to be a man of tremendous courage and honor. Maester Aemon at first suspected that Gilly's son (whom she has touchingly decided to name "Sam") belonged to Sam, but he explained that it was not his. The maester asks if Sam remembered his oath. Sam then recites it. "I am the shield that guards the realms of men. The realms of men. That means her as well as us." Sam points out that they did not construct the Wall to keep out other men, but to keep out the great darkness that is now coming for them all. Powerful scene.
Aemon seems to accept Sam's words, and Gilly is invited to stay at Castle Black. He orders Sam to send out every single raven they have to all the lords of Westeros. Winter is coming, and as Lord Commander Mormont said in the very first scene of this season: "We have to warn then, or before winter is done, everyone you have ever known will be dead."
7. Stannis Baratheon
At Dragonstone, Ser Davos the Onion Knight is once more Hand of the King to Stannis Baratheon. Despite his high position, he is a low-born and not of one of the great and noble families. As he explains to Gendry, he was elevated to his position through service to King Stannis. He builds a relationship with Gendry, whose life he is trying to save from Melisandre. The fire priestess wants to sacrifice him to the fire god because apparently all the gods except Tyrion's god of tits and wine are just as sadistic as Joffrey and Ramsay. In order to save Gendry, Davos jailbreaks the boy and sends him in a rowboat back to King's Landing (sidenote: Gendry can't swim and has never been in a boat before).
Stannis is pissed off and sentences Davos to death. Before he is sent off, though, the Onion Knight hands Stannis a letter from the Night's Watch and tells Stannis that he is going to need Davos' assistance. The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is dead, their numbers are depleted, and winter is coming. He'll need Davos to build an army to head to the wall and, in a genius political move, position himself as the savior of Westeros. Ironically, Melisandre agrees and Stannis lets Davos live. "This war of the five kings means nothing," she says. "The true war lies to the north. Death marches on the wall: only you can stop him."
8. Daenerys Targaryen
The Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains has just defeated the great city of Yunkai. She stands outside of the city, waiting to see if its slaves will welcome her as a conqueror or a liberator. She and her commanders are nervous as a mob of ex-slaves exit the city gates, but they soon begin to cry out to Dany: Mhysa, which is Valyrian for "mother."
The Khaleesi's growth this season was tremendous, and the season ends with her triumph. She has grown from spoiled princess who thinks she deserves the Iron Throne because of her name to an accomplished queen who is earning her title. With dragons and hordes of freed slaves at her side, the other claimants to the Iron Throne have every reason to be worried at her continued success. That said, the ending of this season did not have that oomph of the other two season. I mean, the dragons flying over a a mob praising Daenerys was cool and all, but it lacked that adrenaline.
— Bran's description of the Rat Cook and the importance of guest rights was very important to help understand how much of Westeros may react to the Red Wedding. As Tyrion warned, the North will never forget. As much as Tywin shrugged it off, it is considered a great violation of honor and religion and humanity to kill your guests.
— Lord Varys, via Conleth Hill's tremendous work, remains one of the best characters in the series. His exchange with Shae on the importance of names in Westeros, and his insistence that Tyrion is perhaps the only one with both the intelligence and the decency to save the kingdoms, was great.
— The scene with Ser Davos practicing his reading was very sweet.
— Tyrion had a lot of great quotes this episode:
"There's nothing worse than a late-blooming philosopher."
Season Three was, hands-down, the best season of Game of Thrones so far. Dany's dragon-led destruction of Astapor, the loss of Jaime's hand, Brienne versus the bear, Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, Lord Baelish's "Chaos is a Ladder" speech, Sam versus the White Walker, that terribly powerful Red Wedding — there were so many great parts of this season. The showrunners did a great job keeping this sprawling world together for us.
And now Season 3 has ended. The Starks have been defeated, and the War of the Five Kings is essentially over. The Lannisters, with the help of the Tyrells, have consolidated their power. The Night's Watch has been weakened at a terrible time, their commander killed by infighting. Stannis Baratheon, reeling from his defeat at Blackwater, has found a new purpose and will now march north to the Wall to defend Westeros from the darkness. Across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen has gained an army of loyal followers.
The stage is set for Season 4. We have a long way to go before HBO treats us to more of this great series. The wait will be dark and full of terrors; pull together as family as survive. It's been fun.
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