After last episode’s epic battle, where the show truly benefitted from being singularly ‘focused’ on one place, the finale spreads its colossal wings back to the other characters, tying up loose ends whilst simultaneously setting things up for Season 3. And a grand job it does too, never lingering too long on one group, but keeping each scene interesting, with very little vain exposition.
Everything races along, concise…and at ease with its own excellence.
We are given just a single scene with a host of characters, including Brienne and Jaime, Sam, and Bran, but each is dramatic in their own way – involving the death of a major-minor character in Bran’s scenario, a cringe-inducing (but wholly satisfying) bandit killing by the ‘Maid of Tarth’ as she journeys with her charge, and a final, series-wrapping set piece with Sam (barely seen in most of Series 2) involving a chilling glimpse of the White Walkers.
Overall, the episode handles everything finely, with Danys’ descent into the House of the Undying a focal point for the narrative…if there be one. If anything, this part was one of the weakest, with her escape from Qarth slightly rushed and contrived, but that is nit-picking with so much to get through in a mere hour and twenty minutes. And as the shackles start to come off, we are afforded looks at different facets of some of the characters, with Stannis almost in tears (amazing in itself), Varys being unusually frank with Tyrion, and Joffrey buying Sansa a large bunch of flowers, apologising for his behaviour and agreeing to getting spanked by Catelyn Stark…actually the last one isn’t true, and it would be abhorrent if it was. The king is wholly wicked, and should stay so.
Despite the great characterisation, a handful of characters still seem rather superfluous, though that is unavoidable in such an adaptation from epic novel to TV. Hot Pie and Gendry are mere monosyllabic sentinels next to Arya, and the absence of Roose Bolton and his Bastard in the schemes of Theon and Winterfell are a touch baffling. That said, they are but mere annoyances, saved only for those with a fastidious interest in Martin’s universe.
Conclusion – Bring on Season 3!
Rating: 9 out of 10