Power is a dangerous thing, likely to attract the worst and corrupt the best, and as those in power learned last night on Game of Thrones, that statment really hits the nail on the head. “Mother’s Mercy” might have been the title, but there wasn’t much forgiveness left to go around.
Let’s start with Cersei (Lena Headey), the recipient of the eponymous clemency so graciously given by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). Cersei’s agonizingly long walk through Flea Bottom was so unsettling that it did the seemingly impossible in making us sympathize for her. The walk might have ended at the Red Keep (and hopefully with a long bath), but it also left Cersei at a fork in the road. She’ll either take after Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and use this humbling to pave the path toward redemption, or she’ll make good on her promise to burn the city to the ground. If I were a homeowner in Flea Bottom, I’d think about relocating.
Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) learned that power does not keep you safe, but only after his eyes had already been gouged out. Arya (Maisie Williams) might have successfully crossed another name off her death prayer list, but it came with a consequence, as Jaqen H’gar proved to be a fan of both literalness and Hammurabi by taking away her eyesight.
Daenerys’s tumultuous day started with an indolent Drogon and ended surrounded by a menacing Dothraki army. After five years of attempting to rule, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has ended up exactly where she started – surrounded by strangers and no closer to Westeros.
But at least Cersei, Arya, and Daenerys are alive, because “Mother’s Mercy” wasn’t as kind to many of its other characters. As I alluded to last week when Stannis (Stephen Dillane) sacrificed his daughter, the Baratheon line was nearing extinction, and with Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) committing suicide and Stannis finally dying at the hands of Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), the Baratheons are no more. Stannis’s death is still fresh for me (he’s still currently alive and waiting to attack Winterfell in the books), so I haven’t had enough time to figure out how I’ll look back on him. He’s always been the embodiment of iron – strong, yet brittle and likely to break rather than bend – and I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing. I think he’s a tragic character – perhaps one of the most tragic in the series – but I’ll never truly sympathize with a man who burns his daughter alive, even if it is for the good of the realm. You’re a conundrum, Stannis Baratheon, and all I know is you’ll be missed.
Now it’s time to talk about the biggest death of the episode, and this week’s Faller.
Faller of the Week: Myrcella Baratheon
Not who you were thinking, huh? Before you leave, or try to coax me out of my home with news of a long lost uncle, please hear me out. The murder of Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is an absolute bombshell of a death, for multiple reasons. First, as Jaime noted, the Lannisters and the Martells have long been enemies, and although Oberyn died as a result of a Lannister feud, he volunteered to fight. This is completely different, as Ellaria (Indira Varma) straight-up poisoned the royal princess and heir to the throne. It turns out it was Cersei, not Oberyn, who was right last season – little girls are hurt everywhere. Second, Trystane (Toby Sebastian) has essentially become a captive of the Lannisters, and Doran (Alexander Siddig) isn’t going to be happy about that. And finally, and most importantly, what would happen if King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) dies? There is no clear successor to the throne. I don’t doubt for a second that someone will try and lay claim (the Tyrells, Martells, and Lannisters stand out as favorites), but legally, with no heirs in the Baratheon line, the throne would technically fall into the hands of Daenerys, although she’s a world away, and I don’t think anyone is going to be too keen about inviting three grown dragons into King’s Landing. The responsible thing to do would be to call a meeting of the great houses of Westeros and elect a leader, but when has anyone behaved responsibly on Game of Thrones? It’s funny, when you think about it – the entire world is preposterously close to total chaos, and Tommen, a mere boy, is the glue holding the realm together. Not since Ned’s death has the loss of a character threatened to disrupt Westeros so much. And now, with a Martell versus Lannister war seemingly on the horizon, who knows how much longer King Tommen has left?
Honorable Mention: Myranda. Come on, even Bran did a better job of falling down.
Riser of the Week: Tyrion Lannister
There weren’t exactly many choices this week, but Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has risen quite a bit this season, going from boxed contraband to Meereen's ruler. Bringing peace back to Meereen is going to be a difficult task, but if anyone’s capable of doing it, it’s Tyrion – especially with handy old Varys (Conleth Hill) back in the mix. My favorite Tyrion moments are from when he served as Hand of the King, and I am excited at the prospect of him ruling once again. Hopefully this time, he’ll stay in power longer, especially since it might be a while until Daenerys returns.
Honorable Mention: Sam, for taking advantage of the end of the world. Off to Oldtown we go!
Backstory of the Week: Benjen Stark
I have to hand it David Benioff and Dan Weiss, they fooled the utter crap out of me with their “Previously On” segment when it showed Benjen Stark. In case you don’t remember, let me remind you of the forgotten Stark (and I don’t mean Rickon). Benjen is a member of the Night’s Watch and serves as its First Ranger. He appeared in the series premiere (ominously titled “Winter is Coming”), having traveled south from The Wall to take part in the feast being held at Winterfell for the arrival of King Robert Baratheon. It’s Benjen who encourages Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) to join the Night’s Watch, and almost as soon as Jon arrives for training at Castle Black, Benjen departs on a ranging mission north of The Wall. That’s the last time we see him. Later on in Season 1, Benjen’s horse returns to Castle Black without him, and two of the men who accompanied Benjen are found dead.
The disappearance of Benjen could turn out to be one of the greatest slow-play setups in fiction, or he could very well be the ultimate red herring. Either way, that hasn’t stopped fans from theorizing, and Benjen has been argued to be alive and masquerading as everyone from a Greyjoy, to a mysterious wight (we miss you, Coldhands), to Daario. Time will tell us what Martin has in store for Benjen, but as Jon Snow ran from his chamber with anticipation of news about his long lost uncle, I too was eager to hear more. Unfortunately, the wait continues…
Item of Power: The Many Faces of the House of Black and White
It was hard to catch, but you may have noticed that before Arya presents herself to Meryn Trant, she was wearing the face of the same young girl who she helped comfort in the House of Black and White earlier this season. The only problem is that Arya had not yet earned the right to wear any of the faces, and her refusal to move on from being Arya Stark has literally blinded her. It seems like it will be a long time until Arya truly becomes No One.
- Geez, Sam (John Bradley) sure got the hell out of Dodge at the right time. While in the books, Jon orders Sam to travel to Oldtown to become a maester, I liked how the show had it be Sam’s idea. He’s much bolder in the show, and I look forward to seeing even more parts of the wide world of Westeros next season.
- Is it me, or does the Frankenmountain look even bigger than he did before?
- Poor Davos (Liam Cunningham). He knows Shireen is dead, but wait until he finds out how she died.
- I was hoping for more from Theon (Alfie Allen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) this episode. I know they’ve been setting up Theon’s redemption for a while now, and pushing Myranda over the ledge was certainly a step in the right direction, but he seemed to have changed his tune way too quickly. Also, I spent all season waiting for Sansa to emerge as a player. She had been the victim long enough, and last season’s ending made it seem like she was ready to emerge. But that didn’t happen. And it seems that Ramsay’s rape of Sansa on their wedding night was strictly a vehicle meant to deliver shock value, which is disappointing. I wanted Sansa to stand up, to find her voice, and to fight back. Instead, she jumped off the walls of Winterfell holding the hand of the man who destroyed her family and is presumably running headfirst into winter, which as a Stark she should know has finally come.
- I know Stannis had to die, and I’m glad Brienne got to be the one to carry out the deed, but I winced when she referred to Renly as “the rightful king” when it was clear to every single person in Westeros that he did not have a lawful claim to the throne.
- It wouldn’t be proper of me to end my discussion of Season 5 without first complaining some more about Dorne. While I like what the death of Myrcella means for story’s plot, the way in which we got there was terrible. The Sand Snakes ranged from downright unbearable to laughably clichéd. This was typified last night by the cringe-inducing dialogue spoken by Tyene Sand (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) to Bronn (Jerome Flynn): “You want a good girl, but you need bad pussy.” No, Tyene, I wanted to like Dorne, but all I got was bad acting and bad writing. Furthermore, I get that Ellaria poisoned Myrcella with her venomous lipstick, but why the hell would she wait as long as she did to take the antidote? I guess she just wanted to look cool in front of the camera? To the Game of Thrones’ writers, please, for the love of all things that are dead but may never die, next season when you finally give us the Greyjoy plot, don’t try and make up your own story – stick to the books; it’s better that way.
- Speaking of Greyjoys, not too long ago, we found ourselves in The War of the Five Kings. Well, now with Stannis dead, we’re left with only one King standing: Balon Greyjoy. Come on up and accept your throne – I'm sure they'll just let you have it. Melisandre’s leech has nothing on you.
- And finally, I’m sure you’ve been reading this whole thing waiting for me to discuss Jon Snow. But I don’t see the point. It’s not like I’m in denial or anything, but he can't be dead. He’s definitely not dead. Right? RIGHT?! Someone hold me.
- Oh, and one last thing. Fuck you, Olly.
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
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