A STARK-LESS NORTH
The season finale picks up where last week’s episode left off. And if the Red Wedding was not disturbing enough, this week’s episode takes it a step further by showing the head of Robb’s direwolf sewn onto the body of the deceased King in the North. And all in time for Arya to catch a glimpse of her dead brother with a wolf’s head atop his corpse.
A conversation ensues between Roose Bolton and Walder Frey about the past, present and future of the North. Lord Bolton notes that Blackfish, Catelyn’s uncle, has escaped, though Walder pays it no mind. With Edmure Tully his prisoner, Walder Frey is now Lord of Riverrun. And with no Stark heir in the North, Lord Bolton names himself warden of the North, but notes that he will not rule from the seat of Winterfell, which was burned to the ground by Theon Greyjoy. Which brings things back full circle as we find out where good old Theon has been this entire season, and more importantly, who has been torturing him. Though, in truth, for those paying very close attention, you may have already known it was Roose Bolton that was holding Theon captive.
Last season, at the time of Winterfell’s sack by Theon, Robb Stark was marching towards King’s Landing and could not afford to turn back to retake Winterfell. So, Roose Bolton, who was supposed to be a loyal bannerman and trusted Lord to House Stark, offered to send his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, with a small army back to reclaim Winterfell. Several episodes later, it became clear that Roose Bolton was a traitor, when he sent Jaimie Lannister back to King’s Landing rather than returning him to King Robb. Once having realized Roose Bolton was a traitor, if you recalled that Roose Bolton was the one in charge of retaking Winterfell and capturing Theon, you could have then concluded that it was Roose Bolton that was holding Theon captive, rather than bringing him to King Robb.
In retrospect, we see just how long Roose Bolton had been plotting against Robb and House Stark. And now, with King Robb dead and no heir to Winterfell in the North, Lord Bolton proclaims himself warden of the North, a title House Bolton has fought House Stark for countless times over the several-thousand year history that the Starks sat at Winterfell as wardens of the North.
THEON’S FAVORITE TOY
Without it, he cannot further the Greyjoy bloodline. So, Balon sees no use in surrendering his position in the North for a son he can no longer consider an heir to the Iron Islands. Despite the promise of more body parts to come from Ramsay Snow, Balon refuses to have his men retreat from their position — he would rather let his only son endure more miserable torture and inevitable death. Theon’s older sister, Yara, feels differently and sets sail with 50 of her strongest men to rescue her little brother.
Despite having lived apart for most of their lives, Yara has demonstrated several times to have a strong love and connection for her little brother. She empathizes with the struggle he had to endure, being taken captive by the Starks and raised as one of their own, only to return many years later to a father who had completely turned his back on Theon. To save his life, she is willing to risk her own.
What is also interesting in Theon’s story is the constant change of perspective that George R.R. Martin evokes in readers/viewers. After he turned his back on the Starks, killed so many good Northerners and burnt Winterfell to the ground, we all hated Theon so much and wished nothing more than for him to be tortured for his actions. Yet when this exact thing happened and Theon had been tortured so bad that he begged for death, most of us probably went from hating Theon to feeling sorry for him, especially when considering the reasons that he had done the savage things that he had done. The story-lines that continue to unfold in this world are very much about perspective; one moment we think we know how we feel about a character, and the next we have a completely new perspective on how we may look at that character, perhaps understanding why they are the way they are.
“A GOOD MAN DOES EVERYTHING HE CAN TO BETTER HIS FAMILY’S POSITION”
These were the words spoken by Lord Tywin when Tyrion questions the actions of his father, who supported, if not orchestrated The Red Wedding. Tyrion speaks of the violation of guest right and disapproves of the way his father brutally murdered King Robb and his company. Yet Lord Tywin remains firm and justifies his actions in the name of protecting the Lannister family. Tyrion responds that it is easy to protect the family name when Lord Tywin has never had to make any sacrifice of himself. Lord Tywin tells Tyrion that his greatest sacrifice was fighting the impulse to discard of Tyrion when he was born. He also reminds Tyrion that he must put a baby in the stomach of his wife, Sansa.
Prior to this exchange, King Joffrey appears ecstatic at the news of King Robb’s death. He intends on serving Robb’s head to Sansa at his wedding, to which Tyrion objects in defense of his wife. When Lord Tywin steps in, Joffrey shows just how mad he is, by threatening the man that currently holds the true power. Like a child, he throws a fit and claims that during Robert’s Rebellion, Lord Tywin was in hiding at Casterly Rock, while Joffrey’s “father”, Robert Baratheon led the fight and slayed Rhaegar Targaryen in battle. Lord Tywin sends Joffrey to bed and tells Tyrion that he is a fool to believe that the man who wears a crown is he who holds the power.
Also in King’s Landing, Varys offers Shae diamonds in order for her to leave Westeros and start a new life, away from Tyrion. He tells her that she is a distraction to a man that he believes could do much good for Westeros. It is unclear whether these words were true and whether or not this was the actual reason he wished her to leave.
ARYA’S FIRST KILL
After passing by a group of Frey bannermen, Arya overhears one bragging that he was the man to sew Grey Wind’s head onto King Robb’s corpse. Arya jumps of her horse and approaches the men, asking to share the warmth of their fire. She then offers the coin that Jaqen H’ghar once gave to her; as the Frey soldier reaches for the coin, she stabs him repeatedly. Luckily, the Hound was there to easily slay the other Frey bannermen. After her first kill, Arya glances down at the coin and says “valar morghulis,” which means “all men must die.”
BRAN CONTINUES NORTH OF THE WALL
Bran tells the others an ancient tale of a chef who was turned into a rat after he killed a guest under his own roof. He adds that this is something the gods simply cannot forgive. What fate will Lord Walder Frey suffer, having committed the same crime?
Samwell and Gilly cross paths with Bran and his company and despite Samwell telling them of the White Walkers north of the Wall, Bran explains that he must continue north in search of the three-eyed raven. Samwell takes them to a tunnel that will let out north of the Wall and provides them with a Dragonglass dagger.
Samwell returns to Castle Black with Gilly, where he informs Maestar Aemon of the White Walkers he has seen north of the Wall. Maestar Aemon tells Samwell to prepare to send all of Castle Black’s ravens across Westeros to inform the realm of the imminent threat.
“DEATH IS UPON THE WALL”
After crediting King Robb’s death to the sacrifice of king’s blood that Melisandre withdrew from Gendry, Melisandre now tells Stannis that a larger sacrifice is needed. She persuades him to sacrifice Gendry and despite Davos’ attempt to talk Stannis out of it, Stannis remains steadfast on killing the boy. “What is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?” he asks.
Knowing that he may well die for doing it, Ser Davos releases Gendry from his cell and helps him escape from Dragonstone. Perhaps he wanted to save the boy’s life as he felt remorse for the death of his own son, who he earlier told Gendry, died following him into battle. Stannis sentences Davos to death after learning of his actions, at which point Davos presents him with a scroll from Maestar Aemon which speaks of the threat beyond the wall. Davos tells Stannis he will need him in the coming days, yet Stannis is intent on sentencing Davos to death. That is until Melisandre looks into the fire and confirms that Stannis will indeed need Davos in the war to come. She tells that “death is upon the wall” and finally makes the explicit statement that she has been alluding to for two seasons: The war for the Iron Throne is insignificant compared to the impending war that is coming from north of the Wall. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors.
LOVE HAS ITS PRICE
As Jon Snow stops for some water, Ygritte creeps up behind him with arrow drawn. He tells her that he loves her and he knows that she loves him, but it is time for him to go home. Ygritte shoots him in the leg with an arrow before striking him with two more as he rides off. It is unclear whether she was trying to kill him, but it is clear that there is a price to love.
As the once enslaved people of Yunkai walk out from their city walls, Khaleesi tells them that though she liberated them, she cannot give them their freedom — it is something they must each take back for themselves. One by one, they each began to chant “mhysa”, the Ghiscari word for mother.
What is most interesting about this is the historical context. Nearly 4,000 years prior, as they expanded the Valyrian Freehold, the Valyrians crushed most of the Ghiscari people during the Conquest of Ghiscar. Ironically, thousands of years later, in her conquest of the Iron Throne, Khaleesi liberates the descendants of these very same people. Now with three dragons, an army of more than 8,000 Unsullied and the liberated Yunkish behind her, Khaleesi has proved her military prowess and quickly strengthened her position.