It is time to close the book on season 2 of “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s epic fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s much-loved “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. The 10-episode second season was packed with gripping storylines, new and returning characters, and more intrigue and cunning than we saw in the first season. In this Sunday’s 70-minute finale, the show managed to wrap up each character’s season arc, while setting the stage for where “Game of Thrones” will take us next season. So, what happened in this episode? (Beware, spoilers ahead!)
Let’s start with King’s Landing: The first 5 seconds of this episode allowed us all to breathe a collective sigh of relief as it was revealed Tyrion is still alive. (Last week’s “Blackwater” episode left us hanging after he was slashed in the face. But did we really think “Game of Thrones” would kill its most beloved character?) Tyrion’s bravery and intelligence saved the city from Stannis’ fleet, and yet he was cast aside and left forgotten by his family. The battle left him disfigured – a large slash across his face – and he was stripped of the title of Hand of the King (which was given to his father, Tywin). Tyrion’s whore, Shae, came to see him, and Tyrion assumed (incorrectly?) that he paid her to lie to him and pretend to love him. And yet, it certainly seems that she does love him. Tyrion insists on staying in King’s Landing with this family who has abandoned him, because he feels that he truly belongs there among them.
Meanwhile, in the throne room, King Joffrey names Tywin Lannister Hand of the King, awards Lord Baelish the castle of Harrenhal, and agrees to marry Margaery Tyrell (Loras Tyrell’s sister and former wife of Renly Baratheon). It would seem Sansa is off the hook, and indeed she walks away grinning like a fool, thinking she is free. But Lord Baelish quickly quashes her idea of leaving King’s Landing and going home by telling her Joffrey is most certainly not done with her, regardless of whether he is marrying her.
In the Stark camp, Robb Stark insists that he will break his word of marrying the Frey girl and instead marry Talisa, because he loves her. Regardless of what Catelyn tells him to try and sway his decision, we later see the two married beneath a tree, saying their vows for the old gods and the new. Fans of the book will know that this is going nowhere good.
In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy is losing control – the Stark bannermen are coming to reclaim the castle and kill Theon and his men. Aflie Allen gives a most compelling performance as the conflicted, tortured Theon, who talks bitterly of how he was told his whole life how lucky he is to have been a prisoner of the Starks. Maester Luwin advises Theon to run, but Theon insists that he has spent so much time pretending to be a man that he is not, that he must see it through to the end. He tries to rally the 20 men with him into fighting and dying there in Winterfell, with the promise of glory. At first, it seems they’re really into it, until one thwacks Theon on the back of the head, knocking him out. They put a hood over his head and leave Winterfell with him in tow. But not before stabbing Maester Luwin and burning the castle to the ground.
Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor watch the burning castle from afar. They stumble upon Maester Luwin as he is dying, and say tearful goodbyes. Maester Luwin urges them to head for the Wall, where they will find help.
En route to King’s Landing, there is a short scene with Brienne and Jaime, where they stumble upon hanged bodies. This scene gives us more insight into Brienne’s character and morals, setting the stage for the continuing storyline of Brienne transferring the prisoner Jaime back to King’s Landing in exchange for Sansa and Arya (who, unbeknownst to them, is actually not even there).
Arya has managed to escape Harrenhal with the help of Jaqen H’gar. She finds him on the road, where he gives her a coin and teaches her the words of this episode’s title: “Valar Morghulis.” He tells her that if she ever needs to find him, to give that coin to anyone from Braavos and utter those words. He then tells her that Jaqen H’gar is dead, and turns toward her to show that his face looks completely different. “What magic is this?” we all ask, waiting for season 3.
There is also a short scene with Stannis and Melisandre, who we haven’t seen since she birthed that black smoke Renly-slayer from her nether-regions. Stannis feels betrayed by Melisandre – he killed his brother, stormed King’s Landing, and lost everything, all on her word that her god foresaw Stannis’ victory. She convinces him that it’s not over yet, and asks him to gaze into the fire. Apparently he saw something there, but we didn’t, not this season anyway.
In Quarth, Daenery’s finally heads into the House of the Undying to find her dragons. This mysterious place offered many puzzles – Dany found herself in the Iron Throne room before finding Khal Drogo and her unborn son. Dany and Khal Drogo’s reunion was a beautiful scene, but Dany knew it wasn’t real. With difficulty and a broken heart, she turned away from them and left, only to find herself in a room where her dragons were chained up. The dragons were thrilled to see her, and Pyat Pree was as well. He told her the dragons made his magic stronger, and she made the dragons stronger, which is why he had to chain her up and keep her there forever. But Dany commanded her dragons to attack, and they breathed fire, burning Pyat to a crisp and releasing her (and themselves) from their chains. Dany then discovered that Xaro Xhoan Daxos was a fraud with no money, and she locked him and her traitorous hand-maiden Doreah in his empty vault. Then she took his fake fortune (which looked real enough) and set out to buy a ship to sail her back to Westeros.
And, finally, Jon Snow. He and Halfhand were travelling as prisoners with the Wildlings to meet Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Halfhand had convinced Jon to go rouge in a previous episode, and in order to win the trust of the Wildlings, Jon had to kill Halfhand. Once he did, the Wildlings released his bindings and counted him among them. The Night’s Watch believed Mance Rayder was forming an army of Wildlings to march south and try and take the throne. But it seems as though he is uniting them for a different reason – to fight the White Walkers. The gripping conclusion to this episode and season 2 showed us a vast army of White Walkers (frightening, undead creatures) as they marched onward.
In the very first episode of season 1 of “Game of Thrones” the characters reiterated that “winter is coming.” Now, with the finale of season 2 and the onslaught of White Walkers, it is clear that winter has finally arrived.