Welcome to our final installment of our weekly column Compare the Throne. This is a scene-by-scene, play-by-play dissection of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series and how it differs from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Last week, we examined the death of Shireen and the great opening melee of the fighting pits. This week’s episode might just be the highest body count in the series’ history save for the infamous Red Wedding episode. Now, let’s take a good look at the final episode of this season of Game of Thrones.
Episode 10 Mother’s Mercy
This episode opens shortly after Shireen is burned alive at the stake by Melisandre at King Stannis’ order. Melisandre sees that the weather has taken a sudden turn towards warmth and feels pleased that her omen seems to have come true. She approaches Stannis to solidfy the obvious, that their sacrifice has paid off, but Stannis, clearly vexed after killing his own daughter is cold to her. She tries to comfort him, but he marches off eager to give orders. His remaining lieutenants give him respective notes of supremely bad news. On the one hand, half his army fled before dawn, and on the other his wife Queen Selyse has hung herself near the campsite. As Stannis views the grim scene of his wife dead, his lieutenant gives him even more bad news that Melisandre has already left too, riding away from the camp. Nevertheless, he gives the order for the men to organize into marching ranks. As with the death of Shireen from last week’s episode, none of this takes place in the books… at least as of yet. The show’s creators hinted last week that the burning of Shireen came from George R.R. Martin himself, but as of the end of book five, Shireen, Selyse and Melisandre are all at Castle Black and alive.
Speaking of the wall, Jon Snow recounts in horror the events at Hardhome and the fearsome power the White Walkers clearly posses to Sam over drinks. Sam asks if Jon can send him and Gilly to Oldtown. He fears another attack on Gilly, and eventually one he’ll fail to defend her from. Also, he expresses his interest in becoming a maester. This is essentially what happens in the books, just in a very different order. In the books, Jon makes the choice to send off Sam, Gilly and Maester Aemon. There, he fears that Stannis and Melisandre (at that point still both at Castle Black) will try to burn either Aemon or Mance Rayder’s newborn son. So, he sends Gilly off with Rayder’s son lying that it’s her own, keeping her son at Castle Black as if it’s Rayder’s child. The idea for Sam to become a maester is Jon’s in the book, and Sam is initially hesitant even though it’s a lifelong dream of his. Of course, Maester Aemon dies on the voyage, not at Castle Black.
Stannis and the remnants of his army finally arrive at Winterfell. Inside, the Bolton army is gearing up for the attack. Sensing the commotion, Sansa picks the lock to her cell and heads towards the broken tower. There, she lights the candle she was told to light if ever she was in danger. Podrick Payne spies Stannis’ army almost at Winterfell and runs to tell Brienne. Naturally, Brienne looks away from the tower and heads off right before the candle is lit. Again, nothing of this happens in the book as Sansa has not returned to Winterfell and is safely in the Eyrie. Brienne is captured at this point by the remnants of the brotherhood without banners and a certain other character not yet re-introduced by the show.
Sansa looks on in horror from the broken tower as Stannis’ army is surround, flanked and decimated by the mounted horse of the Bolton’s led by Ramsay. In the aftermath of the battle, Stannis is wounded, barely able to stand and cornered by two Bolton soldiers. In spite of his wounds, he kills both ably and then sits on a tree knowing he’s close to death. Brienne appears before him. She introduces herself and her role as Kingsguard to Stannis’ brother Renly. She questions him as to whether Stannis did indeed have his brother killed using blood magic. He doesn’t trouble to deny it. Brienne sentences him to die, and then apparently cuts him down. We’re not shown him dead, but it’s decently apparent she does in fact kill him. For the same reasons as discussed above (and because Stannis hasn’t yet besieged Winterfell by the end of book five) Stannis is not dead in the books, nor has Brienne had a chance to confront him.
Ramsay gleefully ponders on their decisive victory and returning to his “wife” Sansa. Inside, Sansa tries to flee back to her room and is caught by Theon and Miranda. Miranda threatens Sansa and is eager to begin torturing her unless she quickly returns to her room. Sansa makes her stand in defiance. Right as Miranda is about to shoot her with a bow Theon finally finds his courage and throws Miranda off the balcony to her death. Hearing that the army is returning they run. Finally they find a free spot on the high curtain wall and jump for their lives to the high snow below. Their fate is not shown.
All the way back in Braavos, Meryn Trant has three girls present in his quarters and is apparently beating each of them with a stick because he feels enjoyment at their screams. The last girl won’t scream. He sends the first two girls away. Right as he’s about to seriously start beating girl number three, she reveals herself to be Arya Stark with a faceless mask. She jumps on him and stabs both his eyes out one at a time. Then she stabs him a half dozen times in the chest. Then she drags him to his feet, stabs him in the back and in the side while taunting him with her true identity. She finally slits his throat telling him he’s “nobody.” She returns to the House of Black and White to place the face she used to pull off the con back in its slot. There the Waif and Jaqen H’ghar confront her on how she disobeyed her orders. Jaqen indicates the old Game of Thrones adage that a debt is owed and only death can pay for life. He looks at that moment like he’s going to poison her, but instead poisons himself, apparently dying. As Arya screams at his demise, the Waif questions why she’s crying. While Arya insists he was her friend, Jaqen’s voice comes from behind her saying, “He was no one.” The first Jaqen was apparently not Jaqen at all. As Arya frantically pulls faces off the corpse, she reveals many different masks until finally she gets to one that is her own. Her vision goes blurry and she starts screaming as she goes blind instantaneously. This is an approximation of events from the books. In A Feast for Crows, Arya meets the Night’s Watch brother Dareon and Samwell. Upon learning how Dareon has broken his vows and deserted the Night’s Watch to return to his life as a minstrel, she kills him. There, the Kindly Man expresses disappointment, gives her a glass of milk and she wakes up the next morning blind. Ser Meryn is still very much alive by the end of book five.
Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane all say farewell to Prince Doran, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes. Ellaria gives Myrcella a full-on kiss on the lips as a goodbye wishing her well in her voyage. The group departs and onboard the ship Myrcella reveals to Jaime that she knows he is truly her father. She claims she’s somehow always known. For a brief moment, they embrace and it seems there is a true familial love there that Jaime has never been able to show her openly. Right as they pull away from each other Myrcella’s nose starts bleeding and she collapses in his arms apparently poisoned. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes watch the boat sail away from the docks. Ellaria’s nose also starts to bleed and she takes a drink from an antidote vial she has around her neck, clearly the kiss from earlier being the delivery method for the poison. This differs greatly from the books too, as there, as of the end of book five Myrcella is still alive. She is slightly disfigured though, having lost an ear at the hands of Darkstar in Arianne’s failed abduction plot. Also, as we’ve discussed in previous posts, Jaime and Bronn never head to Dorne to retrieve Myrcella. That’s an invention of the show.
Back in Mereen, Jorah, Tyrion, Daario, Grey Wurm and Missandei consider their options following the disappearance of Daenerys. Daario and Jorah plan to head out on their own to track down the lost Queen. Daario reasons that Grey Wurm, Missandei and Tyrion should stay behind and lead the city—hopefully preventing all-out war—until they can return with Daenerys. Tyron later stands on a balcony and watches Jorah and Daario ride off from the city. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Varys appears at his side, cheerful at the prospect of being back in Tyrion’s presence. He deftly explains how Tyrion will need him and his vast network of spies to both understand and dismantle the enemies that have been threatening Daenerys’ rule. Needless to say, none of this happens in the books as Jorah and Tyrion have not met up with Daenerys and end A Dance of Dragons just having escaped slavery and find themselves now under contract to Brown Ben Plumm’s Second Sons sellsword company. Also, Varys has a completely different re-appearance in King’s Landing as the very last chapter of book five.
Daenerys is then seen with Drogon atop a plateau. Bones of dozens of carcasses are strewn everywhere around his makeshift lair. Daenerys tries to convince him to take her back to Mereen but he is apparently wounded enough following their ordeal in the fighting pits that all he wants to do his rest. Knowing she doesn’t even have food, she heads down the hill by herself. There, she is confronted and apparently captured by over 1,000 Dothraki riders. This is similar to the end of Daenerys’ tale in A Dance of Dragons. In the books Drogon just seems unwilling to leave the mountaintop. After a few days she ventures out on her own out of necessity. It’s several days of wandering before she stumbles upon a single Dothraki and once she does, Drogon miraculously appears to be flying nearby. She jumps on his back and he runs down, burns and eats a horse from the nearby Dothraki horde. The horde finds her with Drogon eating meet right off the carcass.
Then, the longest scene of the episode. Cersei finally confesses to the High Sparrow, but opts to only confess that she slept with her cousin Lancel. The High Sparrow agrees to let her free, but only after she completes a walk of atonement. Her hair is cut and she is cleaned. They announce her confession to a throng of several thousand people outside the High Sept. Then, she is made to disrobe and walk from there all the way to the red keep while four members of the faith militant keep the press at bay. The grim septa that was her jailor follows close behind, ringing a bell and endlessly chants, “Shame.” By the end, Cersei’s feet are bleeding. She finally arrives at the Red Keep and is solemnly greeted by her uncle Kevan and Grand Maester Pycelle, both utterly speechless upon seeing her. Only Qyburn seeks to comfort her, covering her in a robe. He then introduces what he’s been working on for a good long while. He names him only as the newest member of the King’s Guard and that the monstrous, armored man has taken a vow of silence until all of her Grace’s enemies have been defeated and evil has been scourged from the land. No one is saying it officially, but this is likely the Frankenstein’s monster remnants of Gregor Clegane, reanimated by Qyburn following his poisoning at the hand’s of Oberyn Martell. Minus that in the books Cersei also confesses to sleeping with the Kettleblack brothers—characters not included in the show—this is also exactly how this scene plays out in the books.
Up at Castle Black, Davos is attempting to convince Jon Snow to provide the aid Stannis requested. Melisandre arrives alone, looking completely defeated and heartbroken. She says nothing, but it instantly becomes apparent to Jon and Davos by the look on her face that Stannis, his army and Shireen are all dead. This does not happen in the books as Davos is away trying to win Wyman Manderly to Stannis’ cause in White Harbor. Also, Melisandre never left the wall to head South with Stannis.
Finally, the moment no one will want to believe, and hopefully isn’t the end of his story on the show, Jon Snow is killed by mutinous members of the Night’s Watch. His squire Olly and Alliser Thorne lie to him and tell him there’s a wildling that has seen his Uncle Benjen Stark. As he rushes to find out the info, he’s greeted only by a sign that says traitor. The night’s watch members and Olly all stab him in the gut one-by-one saying only, “For the watch.” In the episodes final scene, he lies in the snow apparently dead or at least bleeding to death. While there is no ruse about his Uncle Benjen,–in the book there is pandemonium as the giant Wun Wun kills one of Stannis’ men–this is actually how the last Jon Snow chapter in A Dance of Dragons plays out. He is killed by numerous high ranking members of the Watch for his role in trying to help the wildlings. Though, Alliser Thorne is not present since he was previously sent off in a ranging.
Is Jon Snow gone? Will Melisandre bring him back from the dead? We’ll have to wait until next season to see.
For those that want to look back, here are editions 1 – 9 of our Compare the Thrones column: