Game of Thrones S5E10 “Mother’s Mercy”
The season five finale of Game of Thrones is named “Mother’s Mercy” and it is a perfectly ironic name for the episode. Season five has certainly been a dark season of Game of Thrones, and “Mother’s Mercy” solidifies season five’s claim as the darkest of them all. Whether it’s Jon dying because no one else can see the bigger picture, Stannis being brought so low that his eventual death is a release from the pain, Cersei being humiliated in the streets, or Jaime enjoying fatherhood for the first time only for it to be taken away five seconds later, these season conclusions are all so grim and merciless. “Mother’s Mercy” is a jam packed finale. Along with the plot lines we just mentioned, we also have Arya paying the price for her choice in identity, Dany’s entourage going their separate ways, and Reek taking the first steps to returning to Theon Greyjoy. And so we begin.
We’ll start things off in Dorne. Our misadventures in Dorne have seemingly come to an end as Jaime, along with Bronn, Trystane, and Myrcella say goodbye to the Martells, Ellaria going out of her way to kiss Myrcella on the lips as a goodbye. At sea, Jaime gets Myrcella alone and tries to get something off his chest that’s been a long time coming. Jaime awkwardly and unsuccessfully tries to tell Myrcella that she is his daughter. Mrycella stops the attempt by admitting that she already knew that she was his daughter, much to the relief of Jaime. Myrcella admits that she’s glad that Jaime is her father and Jaime is overcome with joy, being allowed to feel a sense of fatherhood for the first time. The two share a hug but their first happy father daughter moment is cut tragically short when Myrcella starts bleeding from her nose and eventually collapses. Back on the shores of Dorne, Ellaria is seen taking an antidote, confirming that her kiss on the lips of Mrycella was done with poisoned lipstick. It is admittedly a very sad moment for Jaime, but one has to wonder if the journey there was worth it, and what will follow is also worth it. Getting here in Dorne was already very shaky. Why Ellaria would poison Myrcella when Jaime can now easily hold Trystane as a hostage or even take revenge is extremely questionable. What’s stopping Jaime from turning the ship around and confronting Ellaria? Even if Jaime just decides to go home instead, Doran isn’t dumb. When he hears the news, he’ll immediately suspect Ellaria. Ellaria is likely done in season six, the question now is, was that all really worth it?
Meereen is next and we find Dany’s entourage in the great pyramid, wondering what their next move is going to be. Tyrion saw Drogon flying north and everyone is in agreement that north is the direction they should look. What isn’t so clear is who will go. Daario takes command of the situation, saying he and Jorah will go in search of her. Tyrion will stay in charge of Meereen, seeing as he’s the only one with political experience in the group, as will Grey Worm, who needs to command the Unsullied and keep the city’s peace, and Missandei, as she is Dany’s most trusted adviser and friend. Later on, Tyrion watches as Jorah and Daario ride off north of the city, when an old friend makes his arrival. Varys returns after a long break which spanned the majority of the season, and Tyrion isn’t surprised in the slightest that Varys found him. Varys being Varys, also already knows that Tyrion met with Daenerys and is now ruling the city in her absence. The two play the “if only” game, signifying that Varys is confident in Tyrion’s ability to maintain order in the city and will provide his vast network of spies to help Tyrion out. The end of season four and start of season five made it look like Varys and Tyrion were in for a whole lot of teamwork, which didn’t really shake out. This reunion scene though sure does feel like they’ll be holding the fort in Meereen in season six, together.
Dany herself has been flown northward into the Dothraki Sea. It’s a beautiful landscape for sure, but it’s far away from home and isn’t putting any food on the table, and Drogon is content to solve neither of those problems, sleeping his days away to recover from his injuries. Dany goes out on her own to get some food but ends up getting more than she bargained for. Instead of running into food, Dany runs into a massive Dothraki Khalasar and ends up being surrounded. She wasn’t even that popular back when she was a Khaleesi, the other members of the khalasar just couldn’t do anything about it because she was married to Drogo. If this khalasar is a spinoff of Drogo’s original Khalasar, Dany may be in trouble as we know the dothraki are a brutal people as is, you can forget about it if they have something against you. Dany knows all of this though, and wisely tosses her ring into the ground, hoping to lead anyone who is looking for her, to follow the trail and hopefully find her. Dany flew away from her problems in Meereen and only found new problems in the Dothraki Sea, let’s hope that ring works because right now, things aren’t looking very good for her.
In Braavos, Arya decides that she isn’t quite ready to be no one just yet. She steals a mask from the hall of faces and uses it to disguise herself as one of the younger girls at the local brothel, so she can get close enough to kill Meryn Trant. She gets him alone by being the only girl of the three not to yell when Meryn whips them, causing Meryn to send the other two outside. Bad move Meryn. Once alone, Arya takes off the mask and reveals herself to Meryn. She reminds him of the fact that he killed Syrio Forel and tells him that he’s now going to pay for the fact. In a brutal kill scene, Arya stabs Meryn in both eyes, repeatedly in the chest, and tells him he is no one before finishing the job with a slitting of his throat. Arya is a fan favorite so we’re supposed to feel good when she gets something she wants, but when that something is just a brutal kill, it makes you stop and realize that Arya has lost all her innocence and decency and is now a cold blooded killer. She chooses to be Arya instead of no one here, but how long until Arya is fully gone and she becomes no one because of the dark passions of Arya? That’s a sad question to ponder.
Innocence and decency aren’t the only thing Arya loses as she soon learns on her return to the hall of faces. Arya thinks she’s gotten away with it when she returns the mask to the hall but is confronted by Jaqen and the Waif, who know what she’s done. Jaqen berates her for taking Meryn’s life, as it wasn’t her life to take. He reminds Arya that only death can pay for life and the Waif restrains her as Jaqen takes out a vial of poison, seemingly for Arya. This turns out to be a bait and switch though, as Jaqen drinks the poison himself. Arya cries out in grief at the loss of her friend, the Waif wondering why she feels so strongly about this. The Waif reminds Arya that Jaqen was no one, as she takes her face off and uses the face of Jaqen. A stunned Arya struggles to figure out what’s going on as Jaqen tells her that the faces are only for “no one”, and because she is still someone, the face is as good as poison to her. Arya slowly starts to lose sight and screams out in horror as she becomes completely blind. Now there are so many questions that could be asked in regards to who is who, is Jaqen real, is this the same Jaqen from season two, but I’ll leave you to wonder that yourselves. The faceless men is the one plot line that’s allowed to be confusing. There is a line that can be crossed into being frustratingly cryptic, but I don’t think we’ve crossed that just yet. So think away, because I’m not touching those questions.
In King’s Landing, Cersei reaches her breaking point and decides to confess to the High Sparrow. Cersei admits to sleeping with Lancel while Robert was her husband but denies her role in Robert’s murder and that her children are born of incest. Cersei asks for the mother’s mercy and the High Sparrow allows it, saying she will be allowed to return to the Red Keep. Her denial of murder and incest, still means there will be a trial for those crimes and even the confession comes at a price, as she must now atone for those sins. In Cersei’s walk of atonement, Cersei’s hair is cut short and she must walk from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep completely naked, as the entire city watches her make the walk. They don’t just watch though, the people of King’s Landing make this walk traumatic for Cersei. Cersei has treated the commoners so poorly for so long and she got away with it because she was the queen. Now stripped of her power (by a man she ironically brought to power), she slowly walks home as people call her insults, heckle her, and throw food and filth for a scene that lasts over five minutes. A bloodied Cersei Lannister arrives at the Red Keep after the worst five minutes of her life and finds no sympathy waiting for her save for Qyburn. He immediately gets something to cover Cersei and asks to take a look at her feet which are badly injured. Qyburn then introduces the newest member of the kingsguard, an undead and unsightly Gregor Clegane who towers over everyone, much as usual. Gregor carries Cersei to Qyburn’s chambers to tend to her wounds as Qyburn tells Cersei that Gregor will not rest until all of Cersei’s enemies are defeated. That look that Cersei gives at the end of the scene, shows that she fully intends to make Gregor keep that promise. You do absolutely feel sorry for Cersei during her walk, but she is still a hateful woman and has been given new purpose in getting back at the High Sparrow and a new weapon at her disposal in undead Gregor. It was a bad season for Cersei, but watch out for her in season six, she is most definitely coming back with a vengeance.
Stannis and Sansa’s story lines in the episode are separate but nearly simultaneous. It would be hard to intercut the two so we’ll just take them one by one, starting with Stannis. The blizzard has cleared and a joyful Melisandre goes to Stannis to confirm that the sacrifice worked. Stannis pulls away, still clearly distraught that it had to come to that. One of Stannis’ generals approaches Stannis shortly afterward with bad news. Nearly half of his troops marched home in the night, seemingly not wanting to fight for a man who burns his child alive. And they took all of the horses. Another general comes by with bad news and Stannis tells him to come out with it, joking that it can’t be worse than mutiny. Stannis is brought into the woods and is horrified to find Selyse hanging from a tree, having killed herself after being unable to live with what she did to Shireen. Even more bad news is delivered to Stannis when the first general reports that Melisandre was seen leaving the camp. Mel’s seemingly victorious sacrifice quickly turned more and more sour and she likely left with grief that her vision was so clearly wrong (and to avoid the wrath of the unforgiving Stannis). With all of that out of the way, there’s nothing left but to march on. Stannis tells his general to prepare the troops to march for Winterfell.
Stannis and his troops come close to Winterfell and Stannis gives out orders to prepare for a siege. His general tells him that there isn’t going to be a siege as it seems Ramsay got his way and the Boltons are meeting Stannis in the field. The Boltons have a much larger force and have horses, while the Baratheon troops are exhausted, malnourished and completely on foot. Stannis leads them to battle but it’s an extremely one sided battle, that ends with the complete defeat of Stannis’ army. A badly injured Stannis managed to survive the battle and manages to kill two Bolton soldiers who were looking for strays, but he gets even more injured in the process. Stannis sits underneath a tree to rest when he is confronted yet again, but not by a Bolton soldier. Stannis is confronted by Brienne, who brings the charges of murder of Renly via blood magic against him. Stannis confirms that he killed him and it’s a huge moment of vindication for Brienne. She has believed with all her heart that Stannis murdered Renly with a demonic shadow but no would believe her given how ridiculous it sounds. Even worse, she is blamed by most everyone for Renly’s murder. Having heard Stannis’ confession, Brienne sentences Stannis to death and asks if has any last words. A defeated Stannis sees the reality of his situation and doesn’t fight back. In the most Stannis last words imaginable, he tells Brienne to do her duty, and the dutiful to a fault Stannis Baratheon is no more.
We flash back to before the battle for Sansa’s story. Sansa uses that corkscrew she pocketed to break out of her room and she walks to the broken tower herself to light the distress candle. She gets there a mere few seconds too late as Brienne who was still staring at the tower is notified by Podrick of Stannis’ closeness and decides to go after Stannis immediately before the candle is lit.
The castle does offer Sansa a great view of the battle though and she sees that this is going to be a quick one sided massacre. Realizing she’ll have lost her chance if the Boltons return, Sansa tries to make a break for it herself, but is stopped by a sorry looking Reek and Myranda on the ramparts, the latter aiming a bow directly at her. Myranda means to mutilate Sansa and a defeated Sansa instead asks Myranda to just kill her now, while she still has some of her left. Sansa closes her eyes and braces for the worst but is saved by Reek, who tackles Myranda, making the arrow go wide. Reek then kills Myranda by throwing her off the ramparts, where she meets her death with an instant thud to the ground. Reek and Sansa then hear the Boltons returning and realize that time is running out. The two climb to the top of Winterfell’s walls and realize their only shot now is to take their chances with a jump. Reek and Sansa take each other’s hands, share a look, and leap as we cut away.
We’ll wrap up season five at Castle Black, where Jon finds himself with Sam, recalling the horrors he witnessed at Hardhome. Jon gets the feeling Sam wants to ask him something and this proves correct, Sam asks Jon to allow him to go to Oldtown along with Gilly and her baby so he can train to be Castle Black’s new maester. Jon is hesitant, saying he needs him to advise him and is a rare loyal friend but Sam is able to convince him that this is what’s best for him, and for the night’s watch. Jon reminds him that the Citadel will make him swear off women and is surprised to find out that Sam has gotten intimate with Gilly. The two share a laugh and a drink, and before long, Jon finds himself sending off Sam to Oldtown.
Later on, Davos arrives at Castle Black and pleads for Jon to send the wildlings to Stannis but Jon reminds him that the wildlings will never fight for Stannis after what he did to Mance. The discussion is interrupted by the surprise arrival of Melisandre to Castle Black. Jon and Davos quickly approach her for information about Stannis and Shireen. Mel only gives them a solemn look, seemingly confirming to Davos and Jon that things did not go well.
Jon’s last scene of the season may also prove to be the last scene he’s alive for. Jon is in his chambers reading letters when he is interrupted by Olly, who has important news. Olly tells Jon that one of the wildlings has information on his uncle Benjen, who has been missing for years now. An elated Jon heads outside where Thorne briefs him on what he’s heard. Thorne leads him into a waiting group of night’s watch brothers and Jon is perplexed to see the word “traitor” written on a post. Jon is too late to realize what’s about to happen and Thorne stabs Jon, while saying “For the Watch”. One by one, the officers of Castle Black take turns stabbing Jon while uttering “For the Watch”. A shocked Jon stares at Olly, who has been given the honors of killing Jon. Jon looks into Olly’s eyes and Olly tearfully looks back before stabbing Jon in the heart, saying “For the Watch”. The brothers leave Jon all alone in the snow to die, as he bleeds out and succombs to his fatal wounds. An inarguably dark season of Game of Thrones saves its worst gut wrenching moment for last as one of the last genuinely good people in Westeros dies at the hands of his own men in a mutiny. Rest in Peace Jon Snow, you had a good heart, and it got you killed.
Game of Thrones usually makes it blatantly obvious when someone dies so it was a bit odd that there were some not so obvious final scenes for characters in the season finale. I’ll run through them quickly. Myrcella is definitely dead. Stannis is definitely dead. Theon and Sansa likely will survive that fall, albeit with some injuries. No point in killing them there as Reek finally turned a big corner in defying the Boltons. That and that blizzard dropped a lot of snow on Winterfell. That should cushion their fall. Lastly, Jon is most definitely dead. That being said, stabbing is the killing method that probably leaves the body most intact. Melisandre has just arrived at Castle Black and while she hasn’t brought anyone back from the dead, Thoros of Myr is a fellow red priest and has revived Beric Dondarrion six times, one such case happening on the show. The ingredients are there for Jon to be resurrected, but as of now, he’s dead.
With all that talk of death, let’s get a starring cast death count for the season. With Stannis and Jon dying, season five has a star death count of two. That’s pretty damn low considering that this is the darkest season of Thrones to date.
Seems kind of odd that the Lord of Winterfell didn’t fight in the battle of Winterfell doesn’t it? Roose, where were you?
That walk of atonement really should be called the walk of shame, considering Septa Unella methodically says “shame” thrice before ringing a bell and doing it over and over again.
Jon was rightfully worried that he wouldn’t have any friends if Sam left and Sam tries to comfort him saying he’s got Edd. Where the hell where you Dolorous Edd? Doubt you could have stopped a mutiny all by yourself, but half of the watch voted for Jon to be Lord Commander, he probably could have rallied some loyalists to try and end the mutiny before it started.
RIP House Baratheon. Tommen is using the name but we all know he’s a Lannister. The only one still out there with Baratheon blood is Gendry. Is he still rowing? I suppose it doesn’t matter because even if he comes back, who would legitimize him and make him a Baratheon? House Baratheon is as good as dead. It can’t even falsely be continued right now because Margaery is in jail. No heirs for Tommen if his wife is in jail.
“Mother’s Mercy” ends the darkest season of Game of Thrones to date with the season’s darkest episode, featuring Cersei and Stannis hitting rock bottom, and a mutiny that ends Jon’s life.
Episode Grade A
Season Grade B