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Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones, "Mhysa"

Season 3, Episode 10
Grade: B
Verdict: In this episode, Game of Thrones takes the volume down several notches and ends the third season on a less shocking note. Small moments with Danaerys, Arya, and Joffrey/Tryion are nice touches, but the finale feels a little unceremonious relative to the rest of the season. 

It's kind of hard to top the developments of last week's Red Wedding episode, so Game of Thrones takes its usual approach of not even trying, intentionally toning things down instead at the season's end. That's not to say there aren't shocking moments, including some nice bonus content we don't see in the book that help move character development along nicely (spoilers follow). 

The third book of this series ends with an epilogue that contains a small piece of information that is a shocking twist and an interesting set up for the next book. Because season three only uses half of the book's material, they decided to save that twist for season four. This feels like a mistake to me; previously we've seen seasons end with game-changers like Dany's dragons coming to fruition. A successful formula for this show's end involves character deaths and shocks in the penultimate episode, followed by world-level changes in the finale.

The show takes a stab at that formula this time by ending with Melisandre and Stannis deciding their efforts would be better-focused by moving to the wall to defend the north from the white walkers, but this comes off more as a hopeful-king's strategy than a world development.

So, small disappointment in the end aside, this episode did contain a few accomplishments and victories. The first and most glaring one in my mind was Arya's storyline. After spending all season talking about who she's going to kill, Arya unleashes her fury on a stranger who brags about decapitating her brother. Much earlier than we see it in the books, we see Arya's first murder. I really liked the choice to do that here; it made sense, as a reaction to her grief, and it's pulled off in a way that is completely believable thanks to the presence of the Hound. 

My next-favorite scene was a conversation between the Lannisters. Joffrey's been teetering on the edge of madness for a while, and he's completely plunged into the depths this season, exhibiting psychopathic behavior. Tywin's always seemed like the highest figurehead that still had some clout with Joffrey, but in this episode Joffrey rallies against Tywin's control, acting like the foolish child that he is. Tywin has reproached Cersei for her inability to control Joffrey, but we see Tywin's discomfort and rage when he realizes he's in the same position. 

The episode also gives us a slight feeling of closure with the use of Sam and Gilly's plot lines. Sam intersects with Bran and instantly recognizes his direwolf as a member of the Stark clan; he's quickly able to let Bran know about his relationship with Jon. This feels like the closest to a happy reunion any Stark family members will get lately, and I'll take it. Sam also reunites with Jon, who's been attacked by his scorned lover, Ygritte, in the episode's final moments.

I'd be remiss if I didn't close the episode with a mention of Dany's final scene, the episode's namesake. Dany has already freed many slaves when she purchased the Unsullied, but the Unsullied are quiet and stoic. So when the freed slaves pour out of the city and declare Dany their "mother," rising her above their heads for some old-fashioned crowdsurfing, we get a sense of satisfaction. More importantly, the shot of this scene gives us a sense of scale. I felt completely shocked by the sheer number of people surrounding Dany at this point. What do they do? Where do they go? She essentially has a city-sized army wandering with her now, and you can't help but wonder how she'll shelter and care for that number of people. 

Overall, this season continues Game of Thrones' excellence. I'm both completely excited for next season and completely depressed that I'll have to wait a whole year to get there. In spite of knowing what happens in the book, I look forward to the show's continued ability to pepper in new stories, characters and developments that keep the readers on their toes.
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